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            Derek was pretty sure his camera footage was shaky and slightly grainy, but he was no professional with this. He was using his phone camera for goodness sake—the front one at that, so that he could see what he was recording. He’d created a tripod to prop up his phone with a stack of boxes and books settled on top of his desk, and every time his knee bumped into the desk’s leg, the phone shook.

            Halfway through his first sentence, Derek got a phone call from his dentist’s office which immediately cut off the recording, so he had to restart the whole thing fifteen minutes later, one bi-yearly appointment scheduled later.

            “Uh, hello YouTube. I’m Derek.” Derek waved, then felt stupid about waving, gave up halfway through the motion and scratched at his scruffy chin instead. “I’m eighteen, uh, an orphan? I don’t know how to start this.” He sighed. “It was suggested to me to start making these video blogs to help with my transition into… adulthood? God, this is stupid.”

            Derek turned the phone over, so that the camera was no longer recording his face. He covered his face with his hands and took a deep breath, then another, then another. After a minute, he sniffled, cracked his knuckles, and flipped the phone back up. He could do this.

            Derek smiled sheepishly at the camera. “Hey, sorry. Um. I have a lot of anxiety issues. This,” he waved a hand at the phone, “is supposed to help with those too. The counselor at my high school had read something about vlogs helping people, and she knows I like video editing and stuff, so,” he shrugged, “Here I am! We’ll see how long this lasts.”

            Two years, apparently. Or, at least, it had been two years since he posted that first video introducing himself, titled I’m Derek because he had no idea how else to introduce himself. A week after that video, he recorded and posted his second. The camera footage was even worse because he’d been walking around through most of the video. He had been touring cheap apartments in Beacon Valley and decided to document his trip. At the time, he had been staying at his foster family’s house still, but most of his belongings had been packed up and stored safely in his locked car; he didn’t have many belongings. He hadn’t planned on living with his foster family after he turned eighteen, and he thankfully only needed an extra three weeks before he found his own place.

            His foster parents weren’t bad to him, or anything. They’d just never formed a connection They gave him a place to sleep, a way to get to school, and a weekly allowance. Derek had saved up all of the money they’d given him so that he could purchase a used car when he turned seventeen. As soon as Derek was gone, he knew they would be taking in another child who had been in the same position as Derek, so he didn’t want to postpone that opportunity.

            Derek’s third video had been a rant video; it was basically him just declaring his hatred for the job industry and his frustration with the inability to find a job that he enjoyed. He was back then employed at two different establishments: barista by day at Starbucks and a bartender at a gay club in Beacon Valley by night. He had those jobs for a few months, just to keep a steady-enough income. As cheap as rent was, it wasn’t that cheap.

            He’d posted at least two videos every week for the first six months, and it was around that same time that his videos began to gain traction. One morning, Derek woke up and found one of his first videos to have 500 thousand views. By the next day, several more had reached a similar high count, and were still growing. Granted, his video had gotten notice because he’d been talking about his exercise routine, and apparently videos with shirtless men were popular, but that popularity soon bled into his other videos. And he developed a fan base from it.

            Derek wasn’t one to create a “name” for his fans (what rhymed with ‘Derek’ anyway?), but because his channel name, one he created at the age of 14, was imthealphanow (inside joke that he’d completely forgotten at this point), his fans called themselves his ‘betas’. He hadn’t expected anything when he started making videos, so he hadn’t put the effort into making a brand new channel. So he kinda shot himself in the foot with that one, but whatever, Derek didn’t really mind.

            Despite his initial rise to fame being due to hormonal adults, his fanbase was mostly made up of teenagers. Derek often went back to his first video to read some of the comments, and many were about their own personal struggles with the adoption or foster system, or even just being an orphan. So that was what Derek decided to foster (no pun intended); his channel became a safe home for those who felt disconnected from family, or just didn’t have any to speak of. That was how he got his second title, though he was only nineteen, ‘Internet’s Foster Dad’.

            At least, that was what he was labeled as when after one year of making videos and having almost 700 thousand subscribers, Beacon City’s nightly news cast decided to do an anniversary piece on him. Derek had been shocked. Who would want to see him on TV? For any reason? Sure, his big dream was to work with movies someday, but way behind the camera, in the editing studio, cutting scenes and pasting them together.

            Granted, Beacon City’s nightly newscast was only seen by Beacon City and its surrounding towns, so it wasn’t that widespread of a deal, but still. They did a short feature on him, a little background on his life, and they brought him into the studio to interview him. Derek had been a mess of nerves the morning before. He’d almost called to cancel. But he’d posted about his anxiety over the event on twitter, and it wasn’t long before he was flooded with thoughtful comments and people wishing him well. So he went through with it. The segment on television was less than five minutes, but it was the last story of the night, which he found to be flattering. And though his voice telling bits and pieces of his story took up only two of those minutes, he felt very proud of himself.

            Over the next year, his popularity only grew. He made sure that he was posting at least two videos a week, if not more. He discussed his high school experience, he did the ‘Draw My Life’ challenge, and he just talked about his daily life and how he was feeling. At least once a month, he sat down for hours to record a video reading letters from fans and answering their questions. Helping out others was very therapeutic for himself. His anxiety never went away, obviously, but he was able to see past it and realize that he could make it through the day because he had people to talk to and help.

            He was making enough from YouTube that by the end of the first year that he didn’t have to keep up with two jobs. He kept his nightly bartending job so that he could concentrate on gaining video editing experience besides his own, taking up online internships. He was able to take community college courses during the day to improve his skills as well.

            His video footage got much better. After two months of only recording on his cell phone, he finally had made enough from tips to purchase a real video camera. It wasn’t the most advanced piece of technology, but it fulfilled its function much better than a cellphone. Over the two years, he’d upgraded twice, and now he had an entire room in his apartment just for filming, because he needed the space.

            People recognized him on the streets. At least three times a month, he was stopped in the grocery store or Target by his ‘betas’, wanting to take a picture with him. People had been recently requesting him to set up a meet-n-greet, which blew Derek’s mind that they wanted to talk to him in person.

            But it wasn’t until his second anniversary of his channel arose with fanfare that he realized the full scope of his reach.

            Derek had taken his weekly trip to his P.O. box to pick up new letters and packages when he came across a thicker envelope that caught his eye. As soon as he got home, he sorted the rest of the mail into their correct piles (some to open on camera, some to read on his own), but kept out the larger envelope. Needing a bit of a pick-me-up, as he was not looking forward to going to work that evening, he decided to read it. Inside, right in the front, was a handwritten letter on thin loose-leaf paper, so he ignored the other items in the envelope and pulled that out first.

Dear Derek,

            I don’t know how to address this letter. I’m not even sure if you want me sending you a letter. I found your YouTube channel a couple of weeks ago and since then have watched almost every one of your videos. Going by my research and from what I could gleam from your videos about you, I think I am correct in stating that I think I am your mother.

            Derek’s heart stopped. His entire body had frozen after reading those words. His hands began to shake, and he licked his lips and swallowed; his mouth had suddenly gone dry.

            I don’t expect for you to believe me. I’m not even 100% sure. But as soon as I saw you, something in me recognized you. And I had to say something.

            Almost twenty-one years ago, I found out I was pregnant. I was seventeen. My boyfriend at the time was not the father. I hid the pregnancy from him, broke up the relationship, and graduated high school when I was two months pregnant. I took a gap year between then and college. My parents were supportive in my choice to keep the baby, at first. But once he was born, my parents changed their minds. I guess knowing about the baby was fine, but once they were a real, live being, they didn’t want the hassle. They didn’t want to raise another child while I was in school. They kicked me out. I tried for months to change their minds. I stayed at a friend’s house for a while, but that couldn’t last forever. I had no money to support myself, let alone a child. So I had to give him away. My son was born on Christmas Day, and I gave him up for adoption on—

            “March 17th,” Derek murmured, knowing the date by heart.

            —March 17th. This was in Beacon Hills. My parents took me back, paid for my college, and I moved to New York. I haven’t been back since for longer than two days.

            The reason I am telling you this is because I am going to be returning to Beacon Hills in a few weeks. My mother passed away last month, and my father has been gone for two years. She left me their house in her will, which is located in Beacon Hills. I have to visit to decide what I want to do with it, whether I want to sell it or give it up to the county. While I am there, I was hoping to meet you. Only if you want to meet me, of course.

            I know this must be difficult for you to believe. So I provided my proof. Inside this envelope I’ve added a copy of your birth certificate and a few photos.

            Derek scrambled to snag the envelope which had almost fallen off of his lap and onto the floor. He dumped out its contents, and it indeed housed a few pictures, paper-clipped to a paper copy of a birth certificate. His birth certificate. Derek’s fingers trembled as he took off the paperclip and set the paper aside to look at the photos. The first was a picture of two young women, the blonde girl seemingly older than the dark haired girl, grinning and hugging each other. The writing on the back read Talia and Claudia ’87. The second photo was one of the dark haired girl, staring at her slightly distended stomach, shirt pulled up to show it off. She was smiling. Penned in red ink, sloppily enough that it took Derek a moment to make out Talia and baby ’90. The third photo made Derek catch his breath, because he’d seen that one before. It was the only baby picture that he had of himself. The back stated baby Derek- 1 month old 1-25-91, just like his copy of the photo did.

            Derek took a deep breath, then another. He felt a stinging sensation in his nose, and he swallowed back the lump in his throat.

            The first photo is me and Claudia. She was the friend who I stayed with. She and her husband were close friends of mine, though they were much older than I. Claudia was my babysitter growing up, but we stayed very close. Around the time I gave birth, Claudia found out she was pregnant, so we easily bonded over that. The second picture is me and you. And the third is you. And if I’m right, you already know this. That was the photo I left with you when I gave you away to the orphanage.

            “You didn’t give me away!” Derek shouted at the letter. Tears clouded his vision. “You left me on the front stoop! With nothing!” he snarled, and the letter crinkled in his tight grasp.

            I know you must be angry.

            It was as if she was right there with him, Derek thought to himself, wiping a hand across his face.

            And if you never want to meet me, that’s fine. I will never approach you. But if you do, I would be more than delighted. Take some time to think about it. Let me know if you want to.

            A phone number and email address are scrawled onto the next couple lines, as if Talia wanted to put them down and forget she had. Maybe she wasn’t as blasé about this whole thing as the letter made her seem.

            I’m sorry. But I made the right choice all those years ago. I would not have been able to raise you. I hope you can come to terms with that. I will never be your mother, but I do hope to be your friend.

With love,

Talia Hale

            Derek tossed the letter aside, leaving it on the desk, and stormed into his room. He flopped down onto his bed and screamed into his pillows. What the hell was he supposed to do now? Yes, he was angry at Talia, but there had always been a part of him that wondered about his real parents. Every orphan dreamed that their parents would come back to rescue them, at least that’s what Annie taught the world.  

            But now that the opportunity had presented itself to Derek, did he want to? It wasn’t like he needed parents anymore. He was making plenty of money to keep himself alive on his own, and he didn’t need anyone. But didn’t he deserve some kind of closure? Derek always assumed his anxiety stemmed from a lack of familial connections. Could meeting with Talia soothe the anxious part of his brain, or would it just make it worse?

            After an hour of staring at his ceiling and contemplating his choices, Derek decided that the best way to decide was to ask for advice.

            Derek crept back into his filming room, wary. The letter sat right where he left it, and the pictures and birth certificate as well were face up and staring at him. Derek swallowed his fear and went to set up his camera.

            “Hey guys,” Derek breathed as soon as he started recording. He ran a hand over his face. “It’s been a long morning, for me. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. And I think that the best thing to do would be to hear from you guys. So I want you to comment down below, tweet me, comment on my Facebook page, and let me know what you would do.

            “As many of you know if you’ve been here for a while, I am an orphan, or was. If you are new here, now you know. I lived in an orphanage for many years of my life. It wasn’t bad or horrible, but it wasn’t great. When I was thirteen, I got placed in a foster family and I lived with them until I turned eighteen. Now that you’re all caught up… Today I’ve been thinking about my biological parents. And I want to ask you guys, if you were in my place and had the chance to meet them, would you take it? Despite all of the anger and frustration being an orphan has put on your life, would you meet them?

            “I know this is a super short video, and I promise my monthly Beta Day is coming at you by the end of this week. I’ll probably end up deleting this. But you guys are like my family, and I want to hear from you.”

            3r!k@r3y3s says: I would do it. If a moment comes around with a new chance and you don’t take it? You may live to regret it. Would you regret it? That’s what I would ask myself. If I would regret not taking part in something, I snatch that up as soon as I can. Be brave, alpha. We’ve got your back.

            @isaaclahey: Im not in the same position you are in but if I had a chance to say goodbye to my dad even though he was the biggest ass on the planet I would take it

            boyd8743 says: Do it.

            “Well then,” Derek murmured to himself as he scrolled through the comments section. He glanced over to the photos, which he’d stacked in a neat pile off to the side with the letter and birth certificate, and smiled back at the grinning photo of Talia Hale. “Why the hell not.”

            “John.”

            Talia’s voice washed over the man as soon as he opened the front door, and John pulled her into a hug without even letting her in the door. Talia reciprocated easily, though, despite the fact that it was chilly outside.

            “It’s so good to see you,” John told her, and Talia grinned at him.

            “Talia!”

            Talia turned, and her smile widened when she took in the sight of John’s son, Stiles. “Stiles, you’ve grown so much!”

            Stiles laughed as he hugged her, squeezing her tightly. “It’s only been a month since you last saw dad and me. I can’t have grown that much,” he protested. Talia just pressed a kiss to his cheek, before they moved further into the living room, front door clicking shut softly behind them.

            Stiles’ father snagged Talia’s bags and set them over by the stairs. She would be staying with them for however long it would take for her to figure out what to do with the house. However, Talia’s smile seemed to tighten and fall as soon as the familial greetings ended, and Stiles furrowed his brows in confusion.

            “You alright, Talia?” he asked.

            Talia blinked, as if she had been lost in thought, and patted Stiles’ hand. “Yes. Yes, I’m fine. Long plane ride.”

            John raised an eyebrow as he settled into his recliner. “Are you sure? You thrive on air travel. You sure it isn’t something else?”

            Talia pursed her lips. “Well, I didn’t want to get into this right away, but I am here for something other than the house.” Stiles perked up, interest piqued. Talia cleared her throat and continued. “Stiles,” she turned to him, “you know the story of how I had stayed with your mother and father for a few months after…”

            Stiles ducked his head. Yes, he knew the story. Or most of it. But he didn’t know Talia knew he knew, nor did it matter to him. Talia had always been an important adult figure in his life, even though she was barely an adult when he’d been born.

            “Right. Anyway. I recently—well, a co-worker showed me this video on YouTube, and it was of a local from here in Beacon, so she thought I’d like to see it, because I was feeling a bit homesick.” John nodded his head, encouraging her to continue. “And I recognized him. John, it was my son.”

            The sheriff’s eyes widened. “You found him? You’re sure?”

            Talia nodded. Stiles stayed silent at her side, not interrupting, even though he desperately wanted to.

            “I sent him a letter, a few weeks ago. I had done some research into him, and everything I could find all pointed in the direction that it was him. So I told him what I knew and that I was coming here. And that I wanted to meet him, if he wanted to meet me.”

            “And he said yes?” John asked.

            Talia nodded, a genuine small smile tilting her lips. “Yes. He sent me an email last week, saying he’d decided to agree. We didn’t decide where yet, but—“

            “If he’s okay with it, you can definitely meet with him here,” John interrupted. Stiles had guessed that Talia was hoping to ask, but didn’t know if she could. The woman’s relieved expression confirmed his suspicions.

            “I’m meeting with him on Friday.”

            John stood and pulled Talia into a hug. “I’m proud of you,” he whispered, and she clung to him tightly. “Claudia would be too.”

            Even Stiles felt prickles of tears spring to his eyes.

            Talia sniffled and pulled out of the hug, wiping a hand over her face. She laughed, light and airy. “I’m gonna do it,” she declared, and Stiles grinned at her.

            “Awesome!”

            John smiled at his son. “Now,” he turned to Talia, “Let’s get you settled in the guest room. Stiles is making dinner tonight.”

            Stiles scrunched up his face in annoyance, but his father just rolled his eyes. Stiles enjoyed cooking, he just hated being told to do anything.

            The bright flashing lights usually annoyed Derek by the two-hour mark when he worked nights at Jungle, but he was welcoming the distraction tonight. Tomorrow was the day; the day he was going to meet Talia Hale. He’d been scrubbing down the bar obsessively all night at any time he wasn’t making a drink, and already two of his coworkers had commented on how stressed he looked.

            “I’m fine,” he’d told them, jaw tight, and they’d known better than to push him to explain.

            “Sheesh, you think you could give that glass a rest?” a voice piped up from Derek’s left, and the man snapped his gaze over to see the customer who’d spoken. “You’ve been wiping it for two straight minutes. I think it’s dry.”

            Derek scowled and set the glass down next to the rest of the clean ones before leaning over the bar to face the guy. The way the lights in the room hit the man’s eyes, they seemed to dance. He had a joking smirk on his face and moles that Derek was surprised to find he wanted to count. Derek blinked, realizing he’d been staring for probably too long.

            The man didn’t comment on it, though. He just smiled and said, “I’ll have a beer.”

            “License,” Derek demanded on auto-pilot, and the man passed him what was obviously a fake. Derek poured the guy a coke instead.

            The guy outright laughed when he was passed his glass and fake, and Derek couldn’t help the smile he gave in reaction. The man’s eyes met his before sweeping up and down as much of Derek as he could see from the other side of the bar. “What’s your name”  he asked before he bit his lip.

            Oh. Flirting. This Derek could do.

            “Derek. Yours?”

            Okay, maybe ‘do’ wasn’t the correct term. ‘Handle’, maybe.

            The guy sucked the thin straw floating in his drink into his mouth, and Derek watched his cheeks hollow. Derek swallowed thickly.

            “Stiles.”

            Derek blinked, startled. “A what?”

            The guy smirked. “Stiles. That’s my name.”

            “Stiles.” Derek rolled the name around on his tongue. It felt good.

            “Yep. So tell me, Derek. What’s a guy like you doing working in a place like this?” He gestured to the dancing crowd of people behind him. A drag queen came up behind him and ran her fingers through his hair and hummed in appreciation, but Stiles didn’t even blink. He must come here often.

            Derek narrowed his eyes, and the drag queen let them be. Stiles smirked at him, but Derek ignored it and instead answered his question. “The money, mostly. I’m a student, currently, and doing some unpaid side-jobs, so this works best with my schedule. What about you? You seem acclimated to the scene but I don’t think I’ve seen you around.”

            Stiles shrugged. “Used to go to a bar closer to home since they let me drink there, but it shut down. Probably because of that, actually.”

            Derek chuckled. “Well, the Jungle is happy to have you. Even if we won’t allow you to consume alcohol.”

            “Just the Jungle?” Stiles asked, leaning over the bar, closer to Derek. “Nobody else?”

            Derek felt his cheeks warm up and was glad for his stubble that mostly hid it. Plus, there was also the flashing lights and dark atmosphere. “Maybe,” he choked out.

            Stiles grinned, and his eyes practically sparkled. “What time do you get off?” he asked.

            Now that was very suggestive, and not just in the innuendo way. Derek ducked his head and took a deep breath before replying, “An hour. But… look, I’m not one for one-night stands, okay?” he admitted, shoulders raised involuntarily.

            Stiles face fell slightly, but he seemed to regroup and come back with, “Me either, usually. But I like you, Derek. There’s something about you.”

            Derek really felt himself blush that time. “Really?” he asked, slightly incredulous. It wasn’t like he never got asked out. It happened to every bartender almost every night, but there was something about Stiles that Derek… he wanted to say yes.

            “If you’re up for it, when I get off, we could go to one of those 24 hour diners,” he suggested.

            Stiles grinned, and his smile was infectious. “You have yourself a deal. I’m gonna go,” he waved a hand in the direction behind him, almost knocking it into someone’s face, “back to my friends for a bit, but I will be back in an hour to definitely take you up on that.”

            “Can’t wait,” Derek confessed. And he was surprised to find he wasn’t lying.

            As soon as Stiles disappeared back into the crowd, Derek was reminded about tomorrow, and Talia. But he wasn’t meeting her until the late afternoon at the friend’s house she was staying at, so he could spare a few hours of sleep for a few hours with Stiles.

            Derek remembered what that one commenter had said on his video, about taking chances. Derek didn’t want to regret not taking a chance with Stiles.

            When Stiles floated into his father’s house at 7AM, his dad, who was making breakfast, asked teasingly, “Fun night?”

            Stiles grinned goofily. Yes, it was a fun night. It was a very fun night. It was so fun that Stiles wouldn’t believe he’d enjoyed an activity without sex that much, but he did. All they’d done was eat and talk about themselves and their likes and dislikes. And they probably would have talked for longer except for the fact that actual breakfast customers had begun to trickle in and the diner needed the extra booths.

            Without responding to his father, Stiles stumbled up the stairs and into the shower before deciding to get at least three hours of sleep in. He was supposed to act as Talia’s moral support/third party with her and her son that afternoon, and he owed it to her to be mostly awake for the ordeal.

            He woke back up around eleven, and though he felt groggy, he didn’t want to sleep for any longer, otherwise he may just stay asleep for the rest of the day. His dad had left for his shift not long after he went to sleep, so it was only him and Talia in the house.

            Talia had taken over the kitchen table with her computer and all of the documents about the house. She was hunched over, head in her hands, and she sighed heavily. Stiles slid up next to her and pecked her cheek, earning a smile for his efforts.

            “Finally awake, I see,” she teased. “What time did you get in last night?”

            “More like this morning,” Stiles corrected, and Talia ‘ooh’ed, making him blush. “No, nothing like that. We just talked. All night. It was pretty great.”

            “Are you going to see him again?” she asked.

            Stiles nodded. “I want to. I hope he does too. I figured I’d text him tomorrow, see if he has any weekend plans.”

            Talia poked him in the shoulder. “Don’t wait, ask him now!”

            She continued to poke him until he relented with laughter, “Alright, okay! I’ll text him, god!”

            Talia ruffled his hair, and Stiles moved out of her reach as he pulled out his phone. He opened up the short text conversation he and Derek had last… well from just a few hours ago.

DEREK: I can’t believe it’s already light out.

STILES: I know! My ass is numb from sitting so long.

DEREK: It was worth it.

STILES: Yeah, I think so too.

DEREK: J

            They hadn’t even left the parking lot of the diner at that point. Stiles chuckled and shook his head at the memory.

STILES: Have any plans this weekend?

            Simple, easy to answer; Stiles was proud of the text he spent five minutes concocting. Talia rolled her eyes at him, but most of her attention had fallen back on her paperwork. She hadn’t said anything to Stiles or his dad (that Stiles knew) on what her decision about the house would be, and from the mound of documents it didn’t appear like she had either.

            Talia had done well for herself out in New York. She survived New York, for one. She started a company right out of college with a few friends. And even though Stiles didn’t know much about it, he knew it was doing very well. It wasn’t like she needed the money she could get from selling the house. But she didn’t live in Beacon Hills. And as much as Stiles loved when she visited, it was obvious she didn’t want to live here.

            Stiles almost jumped when his phone went off, signaling an incoming text.

DEREK: I have a thing this afternoon/evening. But most of my weekend is free. I work sat night, and I just have to do hw in the meantime.

            Stiles read the text to Talia, and she perked up, flailing a hand around, eyes wide, as she squealed, “Plan something for Saturday!”

            “But I want to be able to spend time with you,” Stiles argued.

            Talia rolled her eyes. “I’ll be here. We have plenty of time. Ask him out!” Stiles laughed and promised he would.

STILES: Would you maybe like to do something with me during the day on Saturday?

            The response was almost instant.

DEREK: Sounds nice. Do you have anything in mind?

STILES: We could go get coffee? I know a place near me that serves the best cinnamon rolls

DEREK: Well I’m sold. In Beacon Valley?

STILES: No, Beacon Hills. You live in the valley?

DEREK: It’s a bit more of a drive for me, but I think we can make it work.

DEREK: Got something against us valley dwellers?

STILES: Not as long as you don’t hate our hills.

DEREK: Does this make us star-crossed lovers?

STILES: Hope not. I don’t feel like being dead by Sunday.

DEREK: We’ll work around it.

            Stiles laughed outright, and Talia shot him a curious look. He waved a hand, trying to articulate while his other hand was typing out another text.

STILES: Perfect. I’ll send you the address later.

DEREK: Can’t wait!

            Stiles smiled stupidly at his phone, thumb picking at the edge of his case that was beginning to chip. He had an actual date planned. God, besides last night, Stiles hadn’t been on a date in months. Sure, college gave him opportunities, but Stiles was kinda a forever kind of guy. He still remembered how it used to be with his dad and mom. They were so in love. And Stiles had always wanted that for himself. But since, unlike his parents, he didn’t meet his soulmate in high school, he’d been hoping college would be that new start. Thus far, no success. Maybe Derek would be his success.

            But it was far too early to talk like that, after only knowing the guy for one night. He didn’t even know his last name! Stiles decided he would ask on Saturday.

            The closer the clock ticked towards four, the more visibly anxious Talia got. She’d given up on the pretense of doing work and had moved to the couch where she was just blankly staring at the TV.

            At two, she’d turned to Stiles, opened her mouth, then shut it abruptly. Ten minutes later, she’d tried again. “What if he’s just coming here to yell at me?”

            Stiles sighed. “If he is, I’ll shove him out the door and have Dad deal with him. Why do you think he took my Jeep today? He left the squad-car here as intimidation.”

            Talia smiled. “Your father always was protective. When I lived here, he never wanted me and my son alone in the house. Of course, he couldn’t always control that, but he was very worried anytime we were alone. He was always afraid my parents would, like, send him away.” She scoffed. “I did that all on my own.”

            “You had to,” Stiles reminded her sternly. “You know you did the right thing.”

            Talia sighed heavily. “Yeah, I know. Derek wouldn’t… I don’t like to think what would have become of us. We barely lasted as an ‘us’ for those first couple of months. I owe that to your parents. But I knew that couldn’t last for long. Your mom was pregnant with you, she had her own life to deal with. I had to choose my own path. And I know that I chose correctly, I mean he’s doing so wonderfully for himself!”

            “Then you shouldn’t be worried,” Stiles consoled. “He probably just wants to meet you. You know that anyone would have done the same.”

            Talia hadn’t responded, and Stiles didn’t push. Even though she was almost two decades older than him, Stiles had fostered more of a sisterly bond with her over the years. And though when Stiles was growing up, he never met Talia in person often, his mother had talked to her and about her enough that Stiles felt as close to her as any other extended family member. So he knew enough about her limits. Plus, on anyone’s tough day, it’s not good to push them. He just had to be there for support.

            A few minutes before four, Stiles squeezed Talia’s shoulder and said, “I’ll be right in the kitchen, if you need me.” He wanted to be out of the way when Talia’s son came. As curious as he was as to who her son was (if he’d been living here for years, maybe Stiles even knew him!), he would rather save that for a less tense day.

            Right at four, the doorbell rang, and Stiles could see from his spot leaning over the counter a tall, broad figure shifting in front of the glass door. He heard Talia take a deep breath before walking over and opening the front door.

            There was a silent pause, a cleared throat, then, “Can I come in?”

            “Oh! Yes, of course.”

            Footsteps retreated further into the house after the door clicked shut, and Stiles couldn’t help his curious nature. He had to listen in. At least, he would until it got too personal.

            “I…” the man started to speak, and his voice did sound familiar, “It’s good to meet you.”

            “It is?” Talia asked, relief obvious in her voice. “I mean, I agree. I’ve always—“

            “Yeah, me too.”

            Damn, that voice sounded really familiar. Why couldn’t Stiles place it?

            “I know that I said it before, but I just… I’m not sorry for my actions, or I don’t regret them, but I am sorry I didn’t try to connect with you sooner. I was terrified of the process of searching and finding nothing. But when your video came up, I realized I had no excuses and I didn’t want to make any.”

            The man was silent for a moment. “I can’t say I wasn’t angry. I was, very. But after I thought about it, I realized that you had to do what you thought was best. And that I had come to terms with not knowing who my parents were a long time ago. If we had met when I was a teenager, heck, even eighteen, I probably would have been pissed. But I get it. And it’s not worth it to be angry over something that should be a good thing.”

            Stiles didn’t even have to look to know what Talia looked like. She was probably smiling that fond and gleeful grin of hers.

            “I’m so glad, Derek. Me too.”

            Wait. Derek?

            But no, that’s right. She’d mentioned that name earlier. Stiles just hadn’t registered it. But it couldn’t be…

            Stiles figured there was no tension to need to break, so it would be totally cool to just walk in and—

            “Derek?!”

            Derek shot up from his spot on the couch and stared at Stiles in shock. He smiled, though he looked confused. “Stiles? Hey. I didn’t—“

            “You’re Talia’s son?” Stiles cut him off. He may have been shouting, just a little. “How did I not notice it? You have the same hair! And eyes!” His gaze went back and forth between the two Hales in front of him. “It’s so obvious!”

            Talia barked out a laugh, gaining both of their attentions. “So this is the guy from last—this morning?” Her smile was sly. Both boys blushed heavily.

            Just then, the front door opened and the sheriff stepped in, forcing all of the attention on him. Stiles rolled his eyes; his father had gone full-sheriff, hand settled next to his gun and everything. Probably in case things weren’t going well.

            Stiles’ father stopped short, however, when he noticed the tension in the room. “What I miss?” he asked.

            Talia giggled, Derek sighed, and Stiles smiled sheepishly at his father. “Dad. Um, this is Derek. Talia’s son.”

            Derek stuck his hand out and John shook it, but not before Derek stared at Stiles with wide eyes and mouthed, “’Dad’?”

            Stiles minutely nodded, and Derek swallowed thickly. The altercation did not go without the sheriff’s notice, and he narrowed his eyes at Derek.

            “You alright, Talia?” he asked, not taking his eyes off of Derek. Wow, she’d been right. He was protective.

            “Yes, John. We’re great. Derek and I were just about to sit down and catch up. Stiles, you can join us if you’d like. John, you too, after you change.” She eyed his gun holster and shot him a warning look. John stepped back, posture relaxed.

            “Got it. Be back in a moment.”

            The room collectively took a breath when the sheriff disappeared. Derek looked over at Stiles, and he looked nervous. “You’re not… angry, are you?”

            Stiles scoffed. “No, not at you. A little at myself. How did I not notice?”

            “You were probably a little distracted,” Talia suggested, and both boys blushed, again. Even though she really hadn’t been one, Talia had the knack for motherly embarrassment.

            Out of all of the things Derek expected to happen this afternoon, sitting down in between his birth mother and the guy he was dating (are they dating or they will be dating? Labels are difficult) while the sheriff of Beacon Hills watched them was not one.

            Any worries of his anxiety getting worse because of this meet flew out the window as soon as Derek had landed eyes on his biological mother. Any inclination to argue over anything melted away, because standing in front of him had been a woman just as nervous as he was.

            Stiles had smiled shyly at him when their hands brushed as they sat down. And Talia… Well, Derek wasn’t entirely sure how to feel about her.

            She seemed nice. They’d talked some things out and she told him about living in New York. She seemed happy, and Derek was happy for her, but it still felt weird. Maybe the whole situation was just weird?

            The sheriff—Stiles’ father—hadn’t said much since he took his seat. But he piped up every so often, recounting a memory from the few months that Talia and baby Derek had lived with him and his late wife.

            “I remember the first night, about a month in, maybe less, was the first night Derek did not sleep. He screamed the whole night. And Talia, Claudia, and I just took two-hour shifts rocking him and trying to get him to sleep. He finally went down early morning, but we were all so exhausted we just passed out on the couch.” Stiles laughed, and his father gave him a look. “And then you kicked at your mother’s bladder and forced her awake.” It was Derek’s chance to laugh, then. Talia just smiled at them all fondly.

            “So, Derek,” Talia caught his attention. “What are your plans? You’re currently living in Beacon Valley, right?” Derek nodded. “Any plans to move?”

            Derek shook his head. “No, I like it here. I grew up here, and maybe I’ll have to move away at some point for a job, but I don’t really want to. I enjoy my life right now. I make enough from YouTube so I can take classes during the day and work at night—“

            “Wait, what’s this about YouTube?” Stiles asked. He quirked an eyebrow. “Derek, do you make videos?”

            Derek’s face flushed. “Um, yeah. It’s only been a couple years, but I’ve collected quite a fanbase. I post videos a couple times a week, get sponsors—“

            “How come I’ve never heard of you?” Stiles prodded.

            Derek shrugged. “I’ve only got about a million subscribers, so it’s not like I’m a “celebrity” or anything.” Derek waved around air quotes. On his right, Talia scoffed at something.

            Stiles’ mouth dropped open. Derek furrowed his eyebrows, shocked at the reaction. “A mill—that’s not a small number!”

            Derek chuckled. “Yeah, but it’s not much in the grand scheme of things. And I’m not looking for followers, or anything,” Derek’s assurance directed at the other two adults in the room, in case they were getting any suspicious ideas. “I hadn’t expected for my channel to get big or anything. It just sort of happened. And I’ve started making a sizeable living from it, so I keep doing it. I square most of it away for savings. The cost of living here is much cheaper than any big city. That’s also why I wouldn’t choose to move.”

            Talia hummed and her eyes narrowed slightly. She said nothing, even when Derek thought she was going to.

            Going by the silence on his other side, Stiles must still have been stunned. Derek was a little afraid to look and see, so he kept his eyes on Talia, waiting for her to comment.

            “Makes sense,” she finally said, and Derek’s shoulders relaxed.

            He was a little weirded out by how not weird this whole situation was. He was meeting his mother for the first time, for goodness sakes! All signs pointed to this event either being the best or the worst. This just kind of… was. It was good that they got along, but Derek was an adult now. It wasn’t like he needed a mother to provide for him. He’d been doing that for more years than he’d been an adult. So it was good, he decided. It didn’t need to be anything but that.

            Eventually, conversation died down, and the sheriff clapped his hands together and stood. “Well, as much as I’d love to sit and chat for longer, I have to get back to the station.” Stiles made a confused noise and Derek glanced over at him. “I have a double, remember?” Stiles nodded, face clearing of confusion. Derek smiled at him, and Stiles caught his gaze.

            Talia said something to the sheriff, and the sheriff responded, but Derek wasn’t listening to them anymore. His gaze was locked with Stiles’. There was an eyelash on Stiles’ cheek. Derek’s fingers twitched at the urge to brush it away.

            “So this is weird, right?” Stiles whispered, leaning in close. His brown eyes twinkled like they had in the club the night before, and Derek was entranced.

            Derek chuckled softly and shook his head. “I guess. But a good weird. Fortuitous, one might say.”

            Stiles licked his lips, and Derek followed the path of his tongue with his eyes. “We’re still on for tomorrow, right? This doesn’t change anything?” Stiles looked anxious.

            Derek quickly assured him, “No, I’m still in. Like I said, I think you’re…” Derek stumbled over finding the right words to explain what he was feeling. “I like you. And I want to date you. If that’s okay.”

            Stiles bit his lip and grinned. He looked a little silly with his front teeth poked out like that, but Derek found himself smiling back anyway because he guessed he liked a bit of silly.

            Someone from behind them cleared their throat, and both boys snapped their gazes towards Talia who was watching them, arms crossed over her chest, smirking. At some point, the sheriff must have left, so it was just the three of them in the room now. Derek felt his face flush; how had he been so distracted? Stiles’ finger brushed against his, and even though it barely lasted a second, the touch seemed to linger. Oh, that’s probably how.

            Talia eventually turned her smirk into a normal smile and said, “Now I do have to meet with some people about the house soon. I’m sorry to cut this meeting short, Derek.” Derek found himself to be a little disappointed, but he nodded his agreement anyway. Since they seemed to be getting along fine, he figured they could always talk more later. Especially since she was staying at Stiles’.

            All three of them stood, and Talia seemed to hesitate for only a second before pulling Derek into a hug. Derek wrapped his arms around her smaller frame and embraced back, ducking his head against her shoulder, nose buried in her long dark hair, and breathed. They stood together for a moment, content, before breaking apart, and Derek spotted Stiles from the corner of his eye grinning.

            “We’ll talk again soon,” Derek promised.

            And then it was just him and Stiles, standing alone in the living room.

            Derek shuffled his feet. He looked slightly embarrassed, maybe? Stiles could see a bit of pink peeking out from atop the dark stubble on his cheeks. “Should I go?”

            Stiles wanted to laugh at Derek’s innocent expression, but he knew Derek would get the wrong idea about the laughter, so he held back. And as much as Stiles wanted to spend the rest of the evening talking with Derek, maybe even starting their date a little early, he decided to be adult about it for once.

            “We should probably call it a day,” he admitted reluctantly. Derek looked a little disappointed, so Stiles pressed on. “It’s not because I don’t want to, I obviously do. But it’s been quite a day already. I mean, Derek! You just met your mom! No matter how chill the whole thing went, you’re going to want time to process it.”

            “Shit, I promised the betas I would film a vlog,” Derek murmured under his breath.

            Stiles blinked, confused. But instead of asking he just nodded. “Yeah, you probably should. But we’ll see each other tomorrow, right?”

            Derek smiled at him. “Yep. I can’t wait.”

            Stiles leaned up and pressed a kiss against Derek’s cheek. He pulled back and was met with Derek’s dumb facial expression. It was cute.

            Derek blinked, cleared his throat, and then stepped back. “Right. I should go. I’ll see you tomorrow, most definitely.”

            Stiles showed Derek to the door, and when Derek turned to wave goodbye, Stiles suddenly remembered the question he had wanted to ask Derek tomorrow and decided to just ask him now.

            “Wait!” he shouted, maybe a little louder than necessary. Derek halted his steps and glanced back at him curiously. “What’s your last name?” Stiles inquired, grinning.

            Derek laughed. “It’s Doe. Like a John Doe. At the orphanage, they only knew my first name was Derek so they came up with Doe to put down on official records. It just stuck.”

            Stiles grinned back at him. “At least they didn’t go with something generic, like Smith.”

            “Thank god for small favors,” Derek teased. He lifted a hand and waved again. Stiles stood in the doorway and watched Derek back out of the driveway and drive away from the house.

            Stiles spent the next few hours google searching Derek Doe and his YouTube page. He started with watching a few of his more recent videos, but then went back to the first few which were helpfully saved in a playlist. He cooed at how much younger Derek looked in his first video compared to now, even though it was only a couple years ago. And he may have bookmarked the workout routine video with the thumbnail of Derek shirtless for later that evening, but he would never admit it to anyone.

            But overall, Stiles was impressed. Derek had managed to pique his interest in just a few videos. He could totally see how people had gotten attached to him and created a fanbase around him, calling themselves his ‘betas’. Stiles was almost willing to lump himself in with them, but because he actually knew Derek, that seemed a little weird. He subscribed to his channel anyway.

            Over the next two weeks, Derek’s life got a little crazy, but in a good way. He started talking to Talia over email and in person. He went on three dates with Stiles, and they all went very well. He’d posted seven videos, which made him even more active on YouTube than normal, because he was in such a good mood.

            After a week of getting to know Talia, he decided to ask her if she wouldn’t mind filming a video with him. Derek had always been very honest with his fanbase and didn’t want to hide such an important thing in his life from them, even if they’d already begun to suspect, so the day he met Talia he’d posted a vlog talking about how he’d met her, only telling the details he’d deemed most important to tell, for privacy’s sake. The majority of comments he read off of that video were supportive, but every once and a while he’d read something nasty about Talia. And because she was such a nice person who had her own business, Derek didn’t want any kind of negativity towards her, online or off, especially if it could get back to her and negatively affect her business. So he suggested they do a video together so that his fanbase could see that she was a real, actual person who had feelings and a job.

            That video became one of his most popular ones yet. A few articles picked it up and labeled it with ‘the benefits of finding your birth parents’. Derek didn’t know if he quite agreed with that; he hadn’t had any inclination (yet) to find Talia before she contacted him. But if people were finding happiness and the will to do their own search from his “success story,” then so be it. He did have to put a disclaimer in the video stating that not every time a child is reunited with their birth parents, things work out, just in case. Stiles had suggested it.

            He and Stiles were doing really well. Even though they had to work out their time together so that it didn’t interfere with class or work or sleep, they managed. Derek had even stayed overnight after having dinner with the Stilinskis and Talia. Nothing had happened. They’d kissed for a while, which was awesome, but it had been late, they’d both been tired, so they mostly just slept. Waking up next to Stiles the following morning was pretty awesome, too.

            But as soon as he walked downstairs, hand intertwined with Stiles, Talia was waiting for them, hands on her hips. Her computer was propped open on the kitchen table, but she seemed to be ignoring it, even when it flashed and beeped with a new email notification.

            Stiles seemed to know how to approach this better than Derek because he slowly let go of Derek’s hand and spoke softly, “Morning, Talia. What’s up?”

            Talia arched an eyebrow. “I’m not an animal, Stiles. I’m not something you need to worry about getting spooked.”

            Stiles straightened his spine, and Derek realized he’d been bending down slightly to Talia’s shorter height. He snorted, but that only dragged him under Talia’s intense stare.

            “Derek. I wanted to suggest to you something.”

            “Okay,” he replied, dragging out the word. “Should I be worried?”

            Talia scoffed. “Only if you’re afraid of real estate.”

            Derek furrowed his eyebrows. Talia rolled her eyes and gestured for him to follow her as she turned back to the kitchen table. Derek followed, still confused. He felt Stiles following at his side, and he slid his hand back into Stiles’, who squeezed it lightly.

            Derek took a seat next to Talia, and she tilted her computer so that he could see the screen as well. Stiles pushed into his space to see from the chair on Derek’s other side, and Derek swung an arm around his shoulder to pull him closer.

            Talia pointed to the screen. “This is my parents’ house.” She clicked through a few pictures; one of the entry way, one of the kitchen, one of one of the bedrooms, and one of the finished basement. Talia turned to Derek. “Would you like it to be yours?”

            Derek’s eyes widened. “What?”

            Talia smiled. “Two weeks ago, I had no clue what I wanted to do with this house. I could sell it, but I don’t need the money. I could donate it to the county, but they would just tear it down rather than repurpose it. But then I met you. And I got to know you. And the more I’ve come to know you, the more I see the Hale in you. I don’t expect you to take the Hale name or call me ‘mom’. But I did give you life. And as a mother, part of the job is providing for your children.” Talia swallowed thickly, and Derek reached a hand over to squeeze hers. “I wasn’t able to do that before. But I can now. So would you like to live in this house?”

            Derek turned to look back at the photos of the house. It did look nice, cozy; large but not overbearing. And he had been thinking about when he wanted to stop renting and buy a house for himself. Stiles was silent at his side, but when Derek glanced over at him, Stiles gave him an encouraging smile, one that told him to do whatever he wanted.

            Derek turned back to Talia. “I’ll have it on one condition: One of the rooms is designated as yours so that you can come visit.”

            Talia’s eyes got misty, and Derek pulled her into a hug. Stiles forced himself into it as well, and they maybe all started to cry a little bit.

            “Hey guys!” Derek waved at the camera, and Stiles smirked at him from behind the lens. “Today is the video you’ve all been asking for: the room tour. Er, well, house tour. So, as you may have noticed, during the last few weeks I have been filming in a new location. And that is because I have a new place!” Derek gestured to the entry way around him. “And I’m going to give you a quick tour.”

            Stiles followed Derek as he walked through the house, pointing out a few things every now and again. In the living room, he gestured to the fireplace that was roaring thanks to Stiles’ insistence even though it was almost fifty degrees today (“For show! It’ll be aesthetically pleasing, I promise.”). Above that, on the mantle was a large photo frame housing the three photos that Talia had sent him. Derek kept the written letter in his desk in a locked drawer with his other important documents, including his birth certificate and medical blood work documentation confirming that yes, Talia was his mother.

            As he headed upstairs, he bypassed his closed bedroom door (Stiles had done quite a number on it, and Derek, this morning, so it wasn’t fit for show), but allowed Stiles to angle the camera for a quick peek in the bathroom. However, the main attraction was the door at the end of the hall: his filming room. In this new house, Derek’s filming room was a fantastic upgrade. His other room wasn’t much bigger than a glorified closet. But this was a full-sized office with windows to let in natural light. He had shelves where he sorted and kept all of the fanmail people had sent him, and on the floor in front of it were packages that were getting ready to be opened in his next Beta Day video. He had several plush wolves the lined the top of the shelves.

            Stiles was holding the camera now, but his normal tripod was set up in front of the window, bracketed by extra lights. In the middle of the room facing the tripod sat the same black leather couch he had originally had in the living room of his apartment. He used that as his filming spot now, and it was much more comfortable than his old squeaky desk chair.

            Derek gestured for Stiles to strap the camera back into the tripod as he collapsed onto the couch, and then Stiles snuggled up next to him. Derek’s arm naturally fell around his shoulders. “Oh, and this is Stiles,” Derek introduced. Stiles finger-waved at the camera. “Stiles has designated himself as my new camera man—“ Stiles slapped his shoulder, and Derek laughed. “Okay, he’s my boyfriend. We’ve been together for almost four—five? Four months or so. I figured it was about time you guys met him.” Derek leaned in and whispered, “He’s very shy.”

            “Fuck off,” Stiles hissed, but he didn’t look all that agitated. Derek would have to bleep that in post.

            Derek grinned at the camera. “So, yeah! That about does it! Thanks for watching. If you’d like to subscribe and become one of the pack, click the button down below. You can follow me on Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook at imthealphanow for more updates.”

            “And Snapchat!” Stiles shouted excitedly.

            “Right! Got a snapchat recently. You can friend me on there? Is that how Snapchat works?” He smiled sheepishly at the camera. “I’m still new to it. But yeah, you can find me there.”

            “If you bug him enough he may even get an Instagram,” Stiles whispered the same way Derek had a moment ago.

            Derek shoved Stiles gently away, and Stiles squawked indignantly.

            “So yeah. See you lata’, betas.”

            Stiles retaliated by ticking Derek, and Derek spasmed as Stiles fingers penetrated his arm-armor that he held tightly around his stomach, and he barked out a laugh as he tried to squirm away. But it was no use. After a minute, he cried for mercy, tears of mirth in the corners of his eyes. Stiles let him go after a few more tickles and pulled him into a kiss instead, which Derek naturally fell into.

            The camera battery died soon after that.