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Alive

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I’m a beast in the night
I’m on the prowl and I’m hoping to find some light
You call it Heaven – I do too; we feel the same
Ain’t nothing wrong, I’ve been feasting on something brave
A sexy lady who’s pure, she has the cure
I hope she can a man within the beast and
I hope she saves me from the curse I have to beat
I hope she figures out a way to save my soul
Yeah, to save my heart, hey hey.

-

The first time Stiles Stilinski set eyes on Derek Hale, the aforementioned man was beating another man to within an inch of his life. Well, "man" and "life" were both relevant terms; both men were werewolves, and because of this their wounds, which would have been deadly to a human, were merely uncomfortable. It was exceedingly violent.

Stiles had already sat through three other fights that night, leg jiggling nervously, breathing shallowly through his mouth, trying not to puke. He'd already seen more blood spilled that night than he ever had in his life and now, at this point, he'd kind of just tuned it out.

He still didn't understand why he was there. He and Peter could have just talked at Peter's office, like they usually did, but the alpha seemed to think he was treating Stiles by bringing him to a werewolf version of Fight Club. He kept leaning over to Stiles, telling him little tidbits about each of the fighters, real conversational stuff like, "He bit another fighter's hand off last month," or "She won the championship three years ago while pregnant.”

"Wow," Stiles kept saying. "Impressive." It probably was, to anyone who was interested in that sort of thing, but he didn't really get the allure of fighting leagues. They were playing some sort of shitty music that sounded like metal and electronic had had a baby at a volume so loud Stiles could feel it pulsing in his bones, even over the roar of the crowd.

He was bored, slightly nauseous, and not really paying attention when he came back from the bathroom and Peter said, “That’s my nephew.”

“Huh?” Stiles said guiltily, sliding into his seat. “Which one?”

“The one with the spleen in his hand,” Peter replied smugly.

Stiles looked and, whoa, shit, Peter’s nephew was standing with his foot on the other were’s chest, his arms dripping with blood and, yep, that was definitely some kind of internal organ in his hand. He tilted his head back and roared, the noise shaking Stiles’ bones. All the betas in the crowd howled.

“Do people usually die in these things?” Stiles muttered to Peter, who smiled slightly.

“Not often, but they know the risk.”

“He’s an alpha, though? I thought he was your nephew. Isn’t he part of your pack?”

“He wasn’t satisfied with that,” Peter replied casually. “He went off and challenged another alpha. As you can see, he’s a good fighter.”

“He’s too wild, Peter.” A tall, tanned man with pale blue eyes pushed his way through the crowd and sat down on Peter’s other side.

“Chris,” Peter said warmly, but his eyes were wary. “Can I help you?”

Chris jerked his head toward the ring, where Peter’s nephew threw down the spleen and stalked out of the arena, rolling his shoulders casually. “He’s out of control.”

Peter shrugged. “And?”

“He’s your family. Control him. He’s bordering on rabid. If he gets any worse, we’re going to have to take care of him.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Peter said, his tone even. “I’ve got a plan.”

He must have motioned at Stiles because the other man peered around Peter to give Stiles an incredulous stare. “You think he’s going to work?”

Stiles frowned at him, not understanding what was going on. The man looked back at Peter. “Really?”

Peter shrugged again. “Thought it’d be worth a try.”

Chris snorted and rose to his feet. “Good luck with that. I’ll be keeping an eye on him all the same.” He disappeared back into the crowd, which was beginning to disperse; it seemed that that had been the last fight of the night.

“Hey, look,” Stiles said, “I really appreciate you bringing me out here, but I’ve got to get home.”

Peter smiled, but the look didn’t reach his eyes. “Oh, no,” he said, shaking his head. “You owe me money, Mr. Stilinski. You’re not going anywhere.”

Stiles swallowed. This was true. He owed Peter a lot of money. “I thought you said—”

“You signed an agreement,” Peter reminded him, quite gently. “You’re going to work for me.”

“Yeah, okay,” Stiles agreed. He grew nervous, and he knew Peter could smell it, but he tried to bluster on anyway. “But when you say ‘work’—”

“No,” Peter said shortly, his voice still pleasant. He rose to his feet, crooking a finger at Stiles. Stiles followed him reluctantly, the pit at the bottom of his stomach deepening. He knew he was in trouble; he’d fucked up somehow and the worst part was that no one knew he was here. His roommate hadn’t been home when one of Peter’s wolves showed up at the door, politely taking him by the arm and hauling him out of the apartment. He didn’t even have his phone on him.

Peter led him through a warren of dark hallways and Stiles grew more anxious by the minute. Maybe Peter was going to kill him and hide his body away somewhere he’d never be found. Oh God.

The werewolf in front of him stopped at a door that looked just like the rest they’d passed, as far as Stiles could tell, and he rapped on it. It was jerked open a second later by Peter’s nephew. He looked just as crazed as he had out in the ring, his handsome face and bare, muscular chest splashed with blood. His lower arms were almost black with it. Oh God, what if Stiles was going to be fed to him? Were werewolves cannibals?

“What?” he snarled uninvitingly. He looked at Peter, then at Stiles, who looked away quickly, shuddering at the red light burning in his eyes.

“Derek,” Peter said lightly, “this is Stiles. Stiles, Derek. Can we come in?”

Derek glared at his uncle before stepping back, holding the door open for them. Stiles slipped past him, his skin crawling. He didn’t need wolf senses to know that there was something wrong with Derek. He seemed more animal than human, even for a werewolf.

There was just a single room beyond the door; it seemed to be a dressing room. There was a couch and a low table and some clothes and not much else. A door on one side seemed to lead to a bathroom, but that was it.

“Well,” Peter said cheerfully, “nice job out there tonight. A little much, though, don’t you think?”

Derek shrugged, his eyes straying to Stiles. Stiles avoided his gaze. Why were his eyes still red? Didn’t werewolves’ eyes only glow when they were in danger or angry or whatever? Maybe Derek felt threatened by Peter or something. Stiles certainly wasn’t a threat.

“Yes,” Peter said, putting a hand between Stiles’ shoulder blades and shoving him so he stumbled forward a few feet. “He’s for you, Derek.”

“What?” Stiles yelped. Derek’s nose flared and one side of his mouth raised up in a feral grin. Stiles whirled around to look at Peter. “What the hell are you talking about?” he exclaimed. “This is not what I agreed to!”

Peter gave him an infuriatingly calm look. “You said, and I quote, ‘Mr. Hale, I will do anything for the money.’ You signed the papers. You got yourself into this. And now you are going to do what you promised to do.”

“I didn’t promise this!” Stiles protested. “You can’t pimp me out to pay off my debts! That’s – it’s illegal, not to mention morally reprehensive!”

Peter laughed. “Like I give a damn about either. You’ve found another way to pay me?” He spread his hands wide. “You owe me damn near a half a million dollars, Mr. Stilinski. If you’ve found another way, please, tell me – I’m all ears.”

Stiles shut his mouth, his face burning.

Peter’s smile grew wider. “No? I didn’t think so.” He looked over at Derek. “He’s all yours. Use him however you’d like – just don’t kill him.”

“You can’t do this!” Stiles tried one more time.

Peter paused, turning on his way to the door. He gave Stiles a soft smile. “Oh? And who’s going to stop me? Your daddy, the big bad sheriff?” Stiles made a choked, hurt noise and Peter turned again. He nodded at Derek. “Have at him.”

The door closed behind Peter, leaving Stiles and Derek alone. Stiles looked anywhere but Derek, burning so hot with anger and embarrassment that he thought the top of his head might burst into flames.

“So,” Stiles began, filling the silence with one-sided conversation, as was his wont. “So, this isn’t going to happen, right? You know this is a bad idea; you won’t do this. I’m not a wh-who—” Stiles noticed Derek moving out of the corner of his eye, advancing on him, and Stiles began to back away, babbling furiously. If there were ever a situation he needed to talk himself out of, this was it. “Okay, okay. How about this? You stay right there – right there, ok, no, now you’ve passed it – you stay there, and I’ll just tootle out the door and I’m sure Peter can come up with something else, anything else, and—fuck.”

His back hit the cool cinderblock wall with a quiet thump and Derek was in front of him, his heavy brow furrowed. Stiles held up his hands weakly.

“Okay, just stop, okay? Please? This isn’t fair. I owe your uncle, not you. I shouldn’t even be here—”

Derek growled and put a hand on Stiles’ throat. Stiles’ breath caught in his chest with a hitch, his pupils dilating. He expected fingers to crush his windpipe next, but they just forced him to turn his head aside. Exposing your neck was a sign of submission among the werewolves, he knew, but he didn’t really think it counted if someone forced you to do it.

Stiles’ breath hitched again when Derek put his face to Stiles’ neck, just millimeters from touching. The werewolf breathed in deeply, his frown deepening. Stiles licked his lips nervously, skin rising up in goosebumps at the feeling of Derek’s hot breath against his skin.

“O-okay,” he said. He put his hands against Derek’s chest, trying to push him away, which was about as effective as pushing at a mountain. “You’ve had your fill, right? You can let me go now. Please.”

“Shut up,” Derek rumbled warningly, speaking for the first time. His voice was cold, uncaring.

“No, no, I really have to insist,” Stiles said, bracing his back against the wall and pushing as hard as he could against Derek. “C’mon—shit!”

Derek grabbed him by the wrists, pinning his hands against the wall. He shoved his face in the crook of Stiles’ neck, inhaling his scent which, as far as Stiles knew, was just laundry detergent and anxiety. He tried not to freak out, but there was a panic attack rolling in on the horizon.

Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe this was all it was going to be. He was sure the scent thing was some kind of werewolf fixation. He himself tried not to breathe in too deeply, because Derek’s scent was all up in his face, blood and sweat and smoke, and it made him want to gag. Maybe he could make himself puke on Derek, but that might backfire on him if Derek didn’t care. Then he’d smell like blood and sweat and smoke and vomit.

“Please,” Stiles tried one last time, and it was embarrassing how badly his legs were shaking. “Don’t do this. I’m—” He cut himself off, a whimper escaping his lips when Derek sunk his teeth into the tender stretch of skin where his neck met his shoulder. “Oh fuck, fuck!” This was happening. He was going to raped by a fucking werewolf, all because he’d wanted to help his dad. This was happening.

“No!” Stiles went mad, struggling against Derek’s grip, trying to twist out of his way, cursing as the alpha’s tongue slid across his skin. Derek made a rumbling noise, low in his chest, and his hands tightened on Stiles’ wrists so hard it hurt. Something in his right arm cracked and he cried out, tears springing to his eyes. Derek straightened, dropping his wrist like a hot coal. Stiles pulled his arm to his chest, pulse pounding so loud in his ears he barely hear Derek sigh, “Fragile fucker.”

Stiles stared up at him, heart hammering in his chest as Derek slipped a hand into his pocket and pulled out a phone. He dialed a number, casually staring back at Stiles until someone answered on the other end and he said, “Get me Deaton.”

Stiles heard the person on the other end, a girl, screech with laugher and crow, “You broke your toy already?!” Stiles flushed angrily, jerking his eyes away from Derek’s to glare at the cement floor instead.

“Shut up,” Derek told the girl. “Send Deaton down. Now.” He snapped the phone shut and narrowed his eyes at Stiles, gesturing at his arm.

“No,” Stiles said, keeping his eyes averted. “The fuck do you care, anyway?”

Derek huffed out an irritated sigh and grabbed Stiles’ elbow, running his big fingers down Stiles’ forearm. Stiles bit his lip when they hit his wrist. “Fracture,” Derek said.

You did it,” Stiles said furiously.

“Mmhmm,” Derek agreed. He jerked his head toward the couch. “Sit.”

Stiles narrowed his eyes. “No.”

Derek grumbled something under his breath and lifted Stiles by the front of his shirt, pulling him across the room and pushing him down onto the couch. Stiles had to jerk his injured arm into the air so it wouldn’t hit the armrest. “Stay,” the wolf commanded. “Run and I’ll break the other arm.”

Stiles glared at him. The alpha glared back and then spun on his heel, marching into the bathroom. The shower started a moment later. Stiles pulled his knees to his chest, clenching his teeth to keep them from chattering as his entire body began shaking. “Fuck,” he muttered under his breath, tears welling in his eyes. “F-fuck.” He pressed his face to his knees, breathing shallowly. This month was just getting worse and worse. He touched the place on his neck where Derek had bitten him; it was hot to the touch and he panicked in his head, wondering if he’d become a werewolf now.

Five minutes later, there came a gentle tapping on the door. Stiles brought his head up, looking at the door uncertainly. The tapping came again, he swung his head to look at the bathroom door instead. Was he supposed to open it?

Derek answered his question by bellowing from the bathroom, “Answer the fucking door!”

Stiles scrambled off the couch and yanked the door open with his good hand. A stocky black man with a calm expression on his face stood before him. “Hello,” he said evenly, holding a hand out to Stiles. “Alan Deaton.”

“Hi,” Stiles mumbled. He held up his arm limply. “Can’t shake, sorry.”

Deaton’s eyes slid to the bathroom door, where the shower still ran, and back to Stiles. “May I come in?”

Stiles shrugged and stepped back, giving Deaton room to enter. The man set his bag down on the floor and said, “I’m a doctor. Can I see your arm?”

Stiles held out his arm and watched Deaton gently touch him up and down his arm. He shook his head when he touched Stiles’ wrist. “No break, just a small fracture. Sit, please.”

Stiles sat back down on the couch while Deaton knelt on the floor and reached into his bag. He watched the doctor take out a bowl and pour in some powder and water, blending them together before pulling cotton bandages from his bag. As Deaton began wrapping Stiles’ arm in a cast, he said, with a jerk of his head toward the bathroom, “He doesn’t know his own strength.”

Stiles breathed in through his nose slowly, his wrist throbbing. “Pretty sure he does, actually.”

The corners of Deaton’s mouth turned downward. “Maybe so.”

Stiles swallowed, muttering, “He bit me.” A rush of nerves coursed through him. “A-am I—”

Deaton paused in his ministrations, lifting his head. “Where?”

Stiles bent toward him, showing him the bite at the crook of his neck. Deaton eyed it carefully. “You’re fine,” he said eventually. “Looks like human teeth, no fangs.”

Stiles nodded, straightening again. Behind him, the bathroom door clicked open and he went stiff, panic surging through him again. Derek emerged, fresh and bloodless, dressed in dark jeans and a white t-shirt. He was handsome - hot, even. Stiles could admit that, even if it made him bitter. Derek sat down on the couch on the opposite end as Stiles, but Stiles still contrived to scoot further away until he was crammed up against the arm rest. Derek gave him a flat look, like he knew exactly what Stiles was up to.

“Derek,” Deaton said in his even tone, “you need to be more careful.”

Derek scowled darkly. “Whatever. Can I go?”

“The cast needs an hour to get firm,” Deaton replied.

“I’m not waiting,” Derek snarled. “Finish it up so I can leave.”

Stiles gritted his teeth. He wasn’t sure which was worse; Derek’s attention or being treated like he wasn’t there. He didn’t want either; he wanted to be at home, sitting on the couch with Danny, getting stoned and doing his best not to think about his dad. Normal stuff.

Deaton finished the cast and left and Derek was on his feet immediately, slinging on a leather jacket and gesturing at Stiles to get up, up, up. Stiles followed him numbly, not knowing what else to do, and they would through the maze of hallways under the area, down a cement stairwell, and into a parking garage. Derek had some sort of tiny, flashy black sports car that Stiles might have been impressed by if he was into cars but, unfortunately, just like fighting leagues, Stiles had no interest in cars. Two hours ago, he might have made a snarky comment about compensating for something, but he didn’t dare now.

Derek did not speak to him, and Stiles was fine with that. He didn’t know what was going to happen with him later, but he was fine with keeping his mouth shut if he wasn’t getting shoved up against a wall and assaulted.

Gods, all of this had seemed so easy a month ago. After everything that had happened with his dad, Stiles spent all of his time worrying about money and he didn’t even know werewolves existed. A month ago, he hadn’t paid Danny for his share of this month’s rent, and Danny hadn’t pressed it. His credit rating was terrible; no bank would loan him any money. It had seemed like such a godsend when one of his coworkers mentioned a local businessman known for his generous loans and given Stiles the business card of one Peter Hale, owner and CEO of Dark Sky Entertainment. Peter had been more than happy to meet with Stiles, listen to him carefully, nodding and smiling and patting his shoulder, saying, “I know it’s hard, but it’ll all work out.”

Stiles wasn’t stupid. He knew that people didn’t just give money away, especially not nearly half a million dollars, but he was desperate. He wasn’t surprised when the “entertainment” part of Dark Sky Entertainment turned out to be porn. Partly porn – the other part, it seemed, was this illegal fighting ring that Derek was a part of it, and yeah, the whole werewolf thing. He’d just caught it one day, in a meeting with Peter, when the man was distracted and irritated with something else, and he’d probably said something stupid, and Peter’s eyes went red and then back to blue just as quickly. And Peter had just patted him on the arm again and said, “There’s something you should understand,” and that was that.

Well. Not quite that simple, maybe, but it didn’t really shock Stiles as much as one might believe. He’d always been big into the whole crypto-zoology thing – he was one hundred percent sure he’d seen Bigfoot on a camping trip once – and after the initial shock, he found himself spending a lot of time on the internet, researching. Which was how he knew about the whole submitting-by-exposing-your-neck thing.

Stiles was faintly surprised when they left the city and entered the suburbs. He’d kind of expected Derek to have some swanky penthouse in a high-rise somewhere, not the small, slightly shabby two-story house he pulled up in front of. Not that Stiles cared, of course, but if he was always as vicious a fighter as he’d been tonight, he probably won loads of fights and tons of money. Or maybe he spent all his money on cars. Whatever.

Stiles’ cast was mostly dry now, and he could heave himself up out of the car with only a little difficulty. Derek didn’t bother to help him; he strode up the front walk, keys jangling in his fingers. Stiles followed him, glancing around like maybe there’d be a neighbor out and he could call for help, but even if there was, what would he say, really? “Uh hey, can you call the police? I think I’ve just been sold into prostitution.” Yeah, that was definitely believable.

Derek unlocked the front door and disappeared inside. Stiles stepped inside and stood just beyond the doorway, looking around. The house was empty, pretty much; there were no decorations on the walls, and very little furniture. The front door opened into the living room, and all it contained was a couch, a tall lamp, and a television sitting on the floor. Beyond the living room he could see a table and chairs and, presumably, a kitchen. To his right, a flight of stairs rose into the darkness of the second story. It looked dismal. He got the feeling that Derek didn’t spend a lot of time here.

Speak of the devil, Derek came out of the living room and he frowned when he saw Stiles standing there. “Shut the door,” he snapped and Stiles jerked guiltily, shutting the door behind him. He regretted it; the house instantly felt about ten times smaller. It felt like a trap. Derek didn’t move, though; he stood by the couch with his arms crossed, watching Stiles. Stiles shifted uneasily, watching Derek from under his long eyelashes.

Derek looked like an L.L. Bean model, all broad shouldered and stubbly jaw line, narrow nose and heavy brow. Stiles would have been attracted to him in the normal way, if he’d seen him in passing on the street or shared an elevator with him, the type of guy he’d watch out of the corner on his eye and think “It’s not fair.” He was hot, definitely, but Stiles couldn’t think about that now, not when Derek had shoved him against a wall and sunk his teeth into his neck. The bite mark gave a hot throb at the memory, sending Stiles shuddering. Derek’s brow furrowed and he advanced on Stiles again.

It was a sad repeat of their moment just an hour ago in the dressing room, Derek encroaching on Stiles’ space with a determined look on his face, Stiles shuffling backward until his back hit the front door. Derek lifted his hand, put it to Stiles’ neck, his palm flattening over the hot bite he’d left there earlier. Stiles stared into his mad red eyes. Derek’s touch reminded him that he was locked in a house with a man who’d sexually assaulted him – not that he’d forgotten. He didn’t know what was going to happen next and no one knew he was there. No one would be swooping in to save him.

The panic attack he’d mostly fought off while the alpha was in the shower took advantage of the moment and hit him hard. Stiles gasped as the world seemed to narrow in his vision and he clutched at Derek’s wrist unthinkingly, his limbs shaking so badly he could hardly stand. He bent his head, breath skittering rapidly in and out of him, trying to keep pace with his wild heartbeat.

“The hell is wrong with you?” he heard Derek ask, dimly, like he was in another room. He felt the wolf put a hand over his heart. If anyone else had done it, it would have been comforting.

“Please,” Stiles gasped, pushing at Derek’s arms. The werewolf let him go, surprisingly, and Stiles sunk to his knees, crossing his arms over his face. He forced his eyes shut, shoving back the tears prickling in his vision, and made himself breathe. He felt Derek crouch down next to him, breathing deeply, and suspected the wolf was using the opportunity to smell him again. At that moment, he couldn’t care less.

Eventually, his breathing evened out and he slid the rest of the way to the floor, pushing his legs out before him with a long sigh. Derek frowned at him.

“What’s wrong with you?” he asked again.

“Panic attack,” Stiles replied weakly, passing a hand over his forehead. It came away wet with sweat. “They’ve been happening a lot lately.”

The way Derek stared at him made Stiles feel distinctly uncomfortable. He turned his eyes to the floor when Derek asked. “Why are you so scared?”

“Uh, because you fucking assaulted me?” Stiles replied. He tried to sound angry, but his words came out high and frightened. “Because I don’t know what you want from me. I don’t know why I’m here. Because I saw you rip out a guy’s fucking spleen earlier and I don’t know, maybe you’re going to do the same to me.”

Derek stood, but Stiles kept his eyes on the floor. He didn’t want to know what Derek’s face looked like. It came as a shock when the alpha said, “I’m not going to touch someone who isn’t willing. I got carried away earlier, and I apologize.”

Stiles’ heart skipped a beat. “What?” he breathed, looking up at the wolf.

“That’s the only apology you’re getting from me,” Derek replied haughtily. He held his hand out to Stiles. “Get up.”

Stiles hesitated before taking it slowly and Derek hauled him onto his feet. “Come on,” the wolf said shortly, and headed up the stairs. Stiles didn’t follow him, his heart pounding in his chest. Derek turned halfway up, a frown darkening his face. “I told you I’m not going to touch you. Come on.”

Stiles bit his lip and followed Derek upstairs. There wasn’t much up here, either, just two bedrooms and a bathroom. “Wait here,” Derek commanded, disappearing into one of the rooms. He remerged a moment later, a pile of clothes in his hands, which he shoved into Stiles’ arms. “Wear these. You can sleep in there.” He nodded toward the other bedroom.

“I have clothes,” Stiles said sullenly.

“Wear them,” Derek snarled, and disappeared into his room without another word, slamming the door behind him. Stiles stood on the landing for a moment, staring after him, before turning and quietly entering the second bedroom. He flicked on the light and shut the door carefully. This room was just as empty as the rest of the house; the only furniture it contained was a bed and a cheap-looking dresser. There were a few cardboard boxes in one corner. Stiles wondered if Derek’s room as just as barren.

He slipped off his clothes, glancing worriedly toward the door, half expecting Derek to come bursting in, but the house remained quiet, and Stiles slipped on the t-shirt and sweatpants that Derek had passed him. They hung off him like a tent; he was a little bit taller than Derek, but had about fifty percent less muscle mass. The clothes smelled clean, at least, and so did the sheets when Stiles climbed into bed.

He laid in bed for a long time, staring up at the ceiling, the room dimly lit with red light from the street. He wondered how long he was going to have to do this. How long would it take to pay off half a million dollars of debt? He doubted that Peter would explain anything to him, but if he was going to be trapped doing this for the rest of his life, maybe he could see his dad one last time.

-

The next morning, Stiles was awoken by a pounding on the door.

“Get up!” Derek growled. “We’re leaving in ten minutes.”

“Where are we going?” Stiles asked, but there was no response; he could hear Derek’s feet pounding down the stairs. He stifled a groan, rubbing a hand over his face, and pulled himself out of bed. Stiles shucked off the clothes he’d slept in and pulled his jeans and t-shirt back on, zipping his hoodie up over his chest. He opened the bedroom door cautiously; there was no sign of Derek, so he scuttled over to the bathroom. He spent a few seconds snooping through the drawers – not much to see, just razors and hair gel and q-tips, mostly – then pissed and washed his face. He tilted his head, trying to see the bite mark on his neck. It was difficult to see at that angle, but it looked like it was bruising. “Great,” he mumbled, zipping his hoodie up higher, and headed downstairs.

He found Derek in the kitchen, aggressively washing dishes. “Eat,” the werewolf said, not turning, jabbing a finger toward the table. Stiles looked and saw a plate of eggs and sausage waiting for him, a cup of coffee to the side. “Thanks,” he muttered, and sat down to eat.

Derek turned to look at him and whatever he saw must have displeased him, because a sour expression like he’d bit into a lemon crossed his face. “Why aren’t you wearing the clothes I gave you?”

“Because I don’t like looking like a circus clown,” Stiles replied, sass level automatic, not thinking. He glanced over at Derek, saw the darkening look on his face, and swallowed nervously. “I’m not going out in sweatpants,” he muttered. “That’s so yoga mom.”

He shrank in his seat as Derek crossed the kitchen and pulled him out of his seat, wrapping his arms around him in a kind of backward bear hug. Stiles went very still, his heart rate spiking, limp in Derek’s arms like a teddy bear. Derek rubbed his cheek against Stiles’ neck, the feeling of his stubble scraping against Stiles’ chin sending his skin pimpling up in goosebumps.

“Um,” Stiles said quietly, his voice barely more than a whisper, “you said you wouldn’t touch—”

Derek dumped him back into his seat unceremoniously. “Do what I say next time and I won’t,” he snapped, and stalked back over to the sink. Stiles hunched in his seat, eating his breakfast unenthusiastically.

-

Ten minutes later found them in Derek’s car, heading back into the city. Derek hadn’t said a word to him, and Stiles was okay with that. He didn’t bother to ask where they were going; he had a feeling Derek wouldn’t answer, though he had to bite back his curiosity when they pulled up outside of what looked like a warehouse. Following Derek inside, he found it seemed to be a gym – a gym for werewolves, because one of the guys in the ring at the center of the room had just snarled at his opponent, his eyes flickering gold and his mouth full of fangs. Stiles picked up his pace unconsciously and ran into Derek’s back. The werewolf growled quietly and grabbed Stiles by the upper arm, pulling him over to a row of benches against the wall. He pushed Stiles onto a bench and snapped, “Don’t move. Don’t talk to anyone. Don’t make any trouble.”

“Fine,” Stiles muttered, crossing his hands in his lap. He could feel the other members of the gym staring at him curiously. “You could have at least warned me. I would have brought a book.”

Derek gave him a furious look and spun away. Stiles spent what felt like the next several years sitting on the hard bench, swinging his legs back and forth and trying not to make eye contact with any of the other gym members. He kept catching sight of Derek from time to time, looking enticingly fit as he beat up a punching bag. Stiles tried to keep his eyes on the floor instead, though he couldn’t help looking up every time he heard the gym door open. He didn’t recognize any of the people coming in, though he thought maybe one of them had been fighting last night, then Peter Hale came in, flanked by a few tough-looking men. Stiles’ head came up sharply. Here was his chance to convince Peter to let him do something else, anything else to pay off his debt.

Stiles glanced over at Derek, who seemed completely bent on killing his punching bag, and slid off the bench, sidling over to where Peter stood over by the ring, watching two female werewolves boxing.

“Oh, Mr. Stilinski,” he said pleasantly upon spotting Stiles. Stiles noticed his nostrils flared and wondered what he was trying to smell. “Before you ask, the question’s no.”

Stiles stared at him. “But—”

“You owe me nearly half a million dollars,” Peter told him, his voice soft. “The only way you are ever going to be able to pay that back is by staying with Derek until you’ve paid back what you owe.”

“But how is that supposed to work?” Stiles asked anxiously.

Peter looked over at Derek, who was still mauling his punching bag. “My nephew is a very unhappy young man,” he told Stiles. “You heard Chris Argent last night. If he continues down the path he’s on, he’s going to get killed, and if my best fighter dies, I’m going to lose out on a lot of money. Your job is to make him happy using whatever means necessary, and I do mean whatever, Mr. Stilinski.”

“But—”

“There’s nothing more to discuss,” Peter said dismissively. “You’ll stay with him until he wins me enough money to cover your debts. Really, I don’t know why you’re so upset about this. I get my money, he gets happiness, and you get to sleep with a very handsome man. You better get over your issues fast, Mr. Stilinski. Derek is good at a lot of things, but being patient is not one of them.” And he turned his back on Stiles, as clear a dismissal as anything. Stiles stared at Peter’s back, his shoulders slumping with defeat, and went back to the benches.

There was a guy around his own age sitting where Stiles had been, a casual grin on his face. He was dark-haired and tanned, shorter than Stiles or Derek, and stocky. “Hey,” he said cheerfully. “I haven’t seen you around before.”

“Nope,” Stiles replied uncertainly, sitting a bench away, mindful of the instructions Derek had left him with.

The young man slid down his bench toward Stiles. “I’m Scott. You are?”

“Not supposed to talk to anyone,” Stiles muttered.

The guy’s eyes flickered over to Derek. “Oh, Derek doesn’t have to worry about me. I’ve already got a girlfriend.”

“What?” Stiles yelped. “No, no, it’s not like – I’m not – this is a business thing.”

“Sure,” Scott agreed, maddeningly cheerful. “That’s why you’ve got his scent all over you.”

“Huh?” Stiles lifted his shirt, but all he could smell was laundry detergent. Then he remembered Derek getting so mad about the clothes this morning, and rubbing his face on Stiles’ neck. “Oh.” So it was a scent thing. He got mad, thinking about it. He didn’t belong to Derek, no matter what Peter said.

Scott raised an eyebrow at him. “So…your name?”

“Stiles,” he replied, watching Derek across the gym with a frown on his face. Derek was staring back at him, looking angry. Stiles knew the feeling. He swung his head away to look at Scott. “So you’re a werewolf too?”

“Yeah,” Scott said jovially. “Omega. There’s no omega league so I’m fighting betas right now, but once you get a hundred wins, you’re allowed to start fighting in the alpha league. I’m at ninety-three,” he added proudly.

“Very nice,” Stiles began to say, but then Derek was between him and Scott, rumbling furiously in his chest. Stiles stared at Derek’s broad back, at the unfamiliar symbol that peeked above his tank top, tattooed between his shoulder blades.

Scott’s eyes flashed blue, but he raised his hands peacefully. “Hey, Derek,” he said merrily. “Nice work last night.”

Derek shifted, some of the tension going out of his shoulders. “Thanks,” he said, sounding resentful.

“Well, I had dibs on the ring next,” Scott said, getting to his feet. “Nice meeting you, Stiles.”

“Sure,” Stiles muttered. When Scott had walked away, Derek whirled on him.

“What did I tell you?” he hissed furiously, his eyes burning crimson.

“He talked to me,” Stiles protested. “I was only being polite!”

Derek snarled and gestured at Stiles to get up.

"What now?" Stiles asked warily.

"We're leaving," Derek replied bluntly, turning on his heel. He nodded at Peter as they passed. Peter smiled at Stiles, who gave him a reluctant half smile, the corners of his mouth barely lifting. He really hated the fact that he no longer seemed to have any control over his life.

Outside in the parking lot, Derek shoved him against the side of the car, pressing his body up against Stiles’.

“Stop,” Stiles said breathily, his voice high. “I’m sorry, all right? Just stop!” He shouted the last word, so loud that two crows sitting on a nearby telephone wire took off, cawing raucously.

Derek pushed away from him, looking displeased. “Learn to listen,” he said furiously. Stiles nodded silently, his hands shaking.

After picking up sandwiches from a deli down the street, Derek headed back out of the city. Before he could get too far, though, Stiles, who'd been having a quiet argument with himself in his head, carefully said "Uh, Derek?"

"What?" The response came flatly, unenthusiastically, but it was better than a grunt, he supposed.

"Um...look, it seems like I'm going to be with you for a while and I was wondering if we could stop at my place so I could get some stuff? Like my toothbrush and some clothes? If you want me to s-smell like you, you can, uh, roll around on them or whatever." Stiles watched Derek nervously.

For a long moment, it seemed as though Derek was just going to ignore his request and keep on driving, but then he said, without changing his expression, "Where?"

Stiles sighed with relief and directed Derek to his apartment building. He wondered if Danny was home, and he was torn between hoping he was and he wasn't.

"Um," Stiles said, as Derek pulled into a parking space out front, "you don't have to come in. I'm not going to try and run away."

Derek gave him an incredulous look that seemed to say, "Yeah right," and climbed out of the car.

They rode the elevator up in silence and it was only when they reached his floor when Stiles realized he didn't even have his keys. There had been no time to grab them yesterday. Damn. Danny better be home. He was sure Derek could break open the door, but Stiles was also sure Danny wanted to get their security deposit back. He reached the door and knocked, ignoring Derek's raised eyebrow.

"Coming!" Stiles heard Danny call. Derek's nostrils flared and Stiles found himself being shoved out of the way as the door opened. Derek snarled at Danny who, instead of looking shocked, pressed back against the door, his eyes flickering to gold.

Stiles groaned, pushing past Derek to point an accusing finger at Danny. "C'mon! You too?"

Danny nodded, his eyes on Derek, who hadn't stopped growling. "Cut that out," Stiles snapped at Derek, feeling more confident with Danny there. "He's just my roommate."

"You didn't say you lived with another werewolf," Derek snarled at him. "I could smell him all over you."

"I didn't know," Stiles replied irritably. He gave Danny a pointed look. "It never came up."

"Hoped it never would," Danny said quietly, moving his eyes to the floor.

"Who's your alpha?" Derek hissed.

Danny shrank back, apparently trying to push himself through the wood to escape Derek. "Jackson Whittemore," he muttered.

"What?" Stiles yelped over Derek's snarl. "Your ex Jackson?"

"Yeah," Danny murmured.

"Ugh," Stiles groaned, taking Derek by the arm and pulling him past Danny into the apartment. "This week just keeps getting better and better."

He headed to his room and felt Derek follow him, his body tense. If the werewolf had hackles, they would be raised. Derek stood sideways in the doorway so he could keep one eye on Stiles, one eye on the rest of the apartment. Stiles puttered around, digging his duffle bags out from under his bed, dumping clothes and other necessary items into them. It wasn't like he had a lot of stuff; it just tended to get spread around. He found his glasses under a pile of old exams and slipped them on, then shoved his textbooks into his backpack.

Stiles crammed as much as he could into the three bags and looked around. There wasn't much left. It was a strange feeling to know he could pack up his life so easily. He hefted his backpack up and tried to lift the duffle bags, but they were pretty heavy, and he was only working with one arm.

"Uh," he said. Derek rolled his eyes and lifted the two bags easily, throwing them over his shoulders. In the living room, Stiles spotted his phone sitting on the coffee table. He was about to slide it into his pocket when Derek cleared his throat and made a "give it to me" gesture. Stiles sighed.

"Are you serious?"

Derek made the gesture again, more forcefully. Stiles muttered a string of swear words, handing his phone to Derek, then turning as Danny sidled his way into the room. Stiles noticed how he stayed as far away from Derek as possible.

"So, uh, are you moving out?" Danny asked uneasily.

Stiles glanced at Derek. "For a little while."

"Are you, uh," Danny's eyes flickered to Derek and he lowered his voice, even though they all could still hear him. "Are you in trouble?"

Stiles smiled unhappily. "You could say that," he said. "I owe someone a lot of money."

Danny looked worried. "You're not going to disappear, are you?" Another thought seemed to cross his mind. "I’m not going to disappear, am I? For seeing you right now?"

"I don't think so," Stiles assured him. Beside him, Derek shifted impatiently and he said, "I've got to go."

Danny followed them to the door, still looking extremely worried. "When are you going to be back? Should I rent out your room?"

"That's probably a good idea," Stiles told him unhappily, pausing in the doorway. He thought about giving Danny a hug, but Derek probably would have thrown one or both of them out a window. He shoved his hands in his pockets instead and said, "Well, see you around, I guess."

“Okay,” Danny said, the expression on his face clearly saying “I don’t like this.” “See you.”

Derek made an impatient noise then, basically dragging Stiles away down the hallway and back outside, where Stiles tried not to laugh watching him cram his bags into the tiny trunk of the sports car. There wasn’t much to laugh about, really. Derek’s face was curiously guarded when he turned to look at Stiles.

“What?” Stiles asked. Derek didn’t reply.

The drive back to Derek’s house passed in silence, as seemed to be the norm. Stiles watched Derek out of the corner of his eyes, frowning slightly. It was weird. He could have sworn that he’d seen Derek before. The city was a big place; maybe it had just been in passing, but he thought he recognized his profile, the curve of his lips. Strange.

“Why are you staring at me?”

Stiles jumped in his seat, caught. “Oh. I just. I’ve seen you before.” And as he said it, he knew where it had been. “When I was in high school, I worked at a bakery. You used to come in.” Beside him, Derek had gone very still, his jaw tightening. He pulled up in front of the house as Stiles continued, “I remember. You used to look happy. This blonde lady would come in with you and she—”

Derek lunged across the seat at him, slamming him against the window hard enough to make his ears ring. “Shut the fuck up,” he snarled. “You say another word and I’ll break your other arm in as many places as possible. You hear me?”

Stiles nodded mutely, not even daring to apologize. Derek kept him pinned there for a few long seconds before pulling away abruptly, exiting the car. Stiles waited for his heart to stop hammering quite so hard before clambering out, grabbing his backpack. Derek had already pulled his duffle bags out of the trunk and headed for the house, not a backward glance at Stiles which was okay, really.

Stiles spent the afternoon avoiding Derek. He stayed in his room – he supposed he had to call it that now – putting clothes in the dresser and balancing everything else on top. He spread his school books out on his bed and tried to pretend he was distracting himself by doing some of the exercises his mentor had assigned him for the summer. When the light in his room started to go, he gave up and went downstairs. The television was on in the living room – baseball, boring – and he could see Derek’s feet sticking off the end of the couch.

“Um,” Stiles said, “would you like me to make dinner?”

There was a long pause. Stiles stood in the doorway, shifting uncertainly. Maybe Derek was asleep.

“Fine,” the alpha said finally. Stiles paused, waiting for any instructions the werewolf might have, but it appeared that was it. Not even a Don’t burn the house down. Stiles wasn’t sure if it was confidence or lack of concern.

He slunk around the couch, not looking at Derek, and disappeared into the kitchen. Stiles spent some time poking through the fridge – it was the most cluttered place in the house – and decided on chicken. Stiles could cook pretty well; he’d taken care of his dad after his mom died, and he’d taught himself a lot over the years.

He got the chicken into the oven, a pan of vegetables roasting below it, and sat down at the kitchen table, his back to the living room. He slumped over the surface, playing idly with the salt and pepper shakers. They were in the shape of cats, which seemed like a delicious irony, considering who owned them.

After a while, with the scent of roasting chicken filling the air, Stiles heard Derek shift behind him, standing from the couch and coming into the kitchen. He heard the alpha pause behind him, then his fingers pressed against the back of Stiles’ neck, his thumb sweeping across his skin in an almost repentant manner. Stiles’ breath hitched in his throat but then the touch was gone and Derek stood at the sink, filling a glass of water.

They ate dinner in silence and then Stiles joined Derek on the couch to watch more baseball. He hated baseball, but he felt obligated to keep Derek company - not that he could tell if Derek appreciated it or not. He probably didn’t, but Stiles remembered Peter’s words from earlier, about keeping Derek happy. He was slowly coming to the uncomfortable conclusion that there might not be a way out of this, that he might be stuck here for a while, and if that was the case, he probably should put in the effort to make Derek happy, if only to make his own life more bearable.

-

When Stiles got up late the next morning – at least, he was pretty sure it was late; the only clock in the house was on the stove, and it said 3:42, which he was fairly certain was wrong – he found the house empty and a note from Derek on the kitchen table.

Be back tonight, it said. Very informative, Stiles noted. Don’t touch anything.

Stiles scoffed at the note. Like there was anything personal in the house to get into, anyway. He had a leisurely breakfast and then started on a hopeful search for his phone, because surely Derek hadn’t bothered to bring it with him. He looked through all the kitchen drawers and cabinets. Most of them were empty. Derek didn’t seem to have a full set of anything; his cups and plates and silverware didn’t match each other, like they’d been picked up at random at yard sales and thrift stores. He had exactly one pot and one pan, the roasting dish Stiles had used for the chicken the previous night, the baking sheet he’d used for the veggies, and a motley assortment of Tupperware.

Stiles frowned to himself. He hoped that Derek’s fights paid well and he was just a miser, because if the state of his house was any ruler on which to measure his wealth, Stiles was probably going to die before he paid off his debts to Peter. He went upstairs and took a shower, then stood on the second floor landing, wondering what to do with himself. He didn’t dare go poke around in Derek’s room – which was probably where his phone was, shit – but then he remembered the cardboard boxes in his room. Don’t touch anything. Hah.

When Stiles opened the boxes, he immediately realized that this had probably been what Derek was referring to. The air inside the boxes was dusty and smelled of fire, but the objects inside were obviously precious, because no one would hold onto half burned toys, charred tablecloths, books that looked more like bricks of charcoal unless they really meant something to their owner. He closed the flaps of the boxes hurriedly, feeling like he’d intruded on something very, very personal.

My nephew is a very unhappy young man.

No shit, Stiles thought, remembering Peter’s words. The memory came at him like a tidal wave; his father had just been elected sheriff when the Hale house burned down, killing the ten family members trapped inside. He hadn’t put two and two together before, but it made sense now, Peter’s last name was Hale, so Derek’s must be too. Not that he’d paid much attention when it happened – he’d been in high school, with other things on his mind – but he remember how quiet his father had been for the days after. Arson, he’d told Stiles softly. All those lives destroyed. Stiles knew now that his dad had been thinking of his mom when he’d said that, and the memory hurt.

When Derek came home, Stiles was in the kitchen pan-frying some steaks he’d found in the back of the fridge, the television on in the living room for some noise. Derek was in a foul mood; Stiles sensed it immediately, could tell by the way he slammed the front door so hard the windowpanes rattled. He went storming upstairs. Stiles listened carefully and relaxed slightly when he heard the shower turn on.

Derek came back downstairs ten minutes later, moving more quietly, some of the anger drained from him. He came up behind Stiles, standing close enough that Stiles could feel the heat of his body, and he put his face close to Stiles’ neck, breathing in deeply. Stiles took the steaks off the heat and went still, allowing Derek to get close. He’d given it some thought earlier, and figured it had to be some wolf thing, probably related to the way Derek wanted Stiles to smell like him. He was mostly okay with it, as long as Derek didn’t start getting pushy for other, more intimate stuff.

Stiles was just about to make a quiet joke about long days at the office when Derek went stiff, leaning in closer. He grabbed Stiles’ uninjured hand and inhaled deeply against his palm, his brow furrowing into a heavy vee.

“I told you,” the alpha growled, fangs sliding out, “not to touch anything.”

Stiles jerked his hand out of Derek’s grasp, taking an unconscious step sideways, away from the furious look building on Derek’s face. “Uh,” he said, his mouth going dry. “I’m sorry. I just – I didn’t mean – I was just trying to find a place to put stuff, and it was in there—”

“Liar,” Derek hissed, advancing on him, his eyes burning. “Liar. You really don’t know how to listen, do you, you nosy little fucker?”

“Look, I’m really—” Stiles cut himself off, diving for the little half bath off the kitchen at the same moment Derek leapt at him. He managed to get the door shut and locked before Derek slammed into it, rattling the doorframe. “Shit, shit, shit,” he muttered, putting all of his weight against the door, bracing his feet against the toilet. “Aw, fuck.” He winced as Derek slammed against the door again, snarling wordlessly with rage.

Stiles didn’t know how long he stood there, leaning against the door, listening to Derek rage and claw at the wood, but he was shaking by the time silence fell in the kitchen. He could no longer hear Derek, but he didn’t dare open the door, so he slid the floor with a sigh and accidentally fell asleep there.

-

When Stiles woke up, he ached in all sorts of unpleasant places. He didn’t know how much time had passed, but when he opened the bathroom door, he could see the living room and kitchen were lit with a soft grey light that seemed to indicate early morning (though the clock on the stove now said 10:08). The house was very quiet and there was a new note on the kitchen table. It just said:

Sorry.

Stiles pursed his lips and padded across the living room to check the street. Derek’s car wasn’t outside, so Stiles set about making himself a massive breakfast, since he hadn’t gotten supper the day before. Derek must have eaten, because one of the steaks was gone, but the other sat in a container in the fridge. Stiles glanced over at the bathroom door and shuddered at the sight of the claw marks gouged deep into the wood.

Derek came home in the early afternoon. Stiles sat on the living room floor, his books spread out in front of him. When he’d gone up to his room to grab them and change out of yesterday’s clothes, the cardboard boxes that had caused so much trouble were nowhere to be seen. Stiles didn’t mind, if it meant less trouble. He didn’t need that sadness cluttering his room, anyway.

When the front door opened and Derek came in, it was with much less energy than yesterday, and he shut the door quietly, which was an encouraging sign. Stiles didn’t turn to look at him, but kept working diligently, and he felt Derek pause, watching him, before carrying on into the kitchen, where Stiles could hear bags rustling, like he’d gone grocery shopping. A few minutes later, Derek passed by him again and disappeared upstairs to take a shower.

Derek came back into the room a third time fifteen minutes later, smelling like soap. He sat down on the couch behind Stiles without a word, stretching out his body. His thigh touched against Stiles’ shoulder, a warm point of contact between them, and Stiles didn’t bother to move. He listened to Derek’s breathing, slowing, calming, and when Stiles turned to look at him his eyes were closed, face relaxed.

“Are you asleep?” Stiles asked quietly.

“Soon,” Derek muttered. “Why?”

“I was—I was just wondering where you go during the day. Do you spend all day training?”

“Usually.” Derek cracked one red eye open to look at him. “Why?” he asked again.

“Just curious.” Stiles scratched idly at the tip of his nose. “Why haven’t you taken me there again?”

“You were bored there. Are you bored here?”

“A little,” Stiles admitted.

“Okay,” Derek said, and silence settled over them again. Stiles didn’t ask any more questions, letting Derek sleep until it was dark out. When the evening news came on, Stiles turned and poked at Derek’s leg with his pencil until the alpha cracked an eye at him again. Stiles shuddered at the way it glowed in the dim light of the living room.

“What do you want for dinner?” he asked. “Any requests?”

Derek shook his head, unfolding his body from the couch in one long movement. He stood over Stiles, fingers brushing against the top of his head. “My turn to cook,” he said, and wandered into the kitchen. Stiles watched him go, then closed his books and pulled himself up onto the couch, into the warm space Derek had left behind. It wasn’t that he liked Derek or anything, definitely not, but he was getting used to sharing the alpha’s space. It had only been three days, but it felt like a lot longer. He wasn’t sure what Peter was so worried about, because apart from that first night, Derek hadn’t been so bad. Except for the day before, when he’d tried to rip through the bathroom door to get to Stiles, and the day before that, when he’d thrown him against the car door. Okay, so he’d yet to spend an entire day without Derek getting angry, which was kind of the opposite of what Stiles was supposed to be doing there, but he was doing his best.

Stiles didn’t realized he’d fallen asleep until someone shook his shoulder and he rolled over to see Derek looking down on him, his lips thin. Stiles couldn’t tell if the alpha wanted to frown or smile. “Dinner,” he said instead, and disappeared from Stiles’ view.

Derek made them a really nice dinner of salmon and rice and vegetables, which Stiles suspected was more of an apology for the night before than the note on the table had been. Whatever. Stiles could move past that; it had only been mildly traumatizing. He was more surprised that Derek could cook; based on the meager contents of the kitchen, he’d guessed that Derek didn’t spend much time in there.

“So,” Stiles ventured after a while, “you’re an alpha. Do you have a pack?”

Derek’s eyes flickered to him, then back down to his meal. “Yes.”

Stiles raised his eyebrows. “You do? Where are they?”

“Does it matter?”

“I thought wolves were all about pack,” Stiles replied, jabbing his fork in Derek’s direction. “Aren’t they supposed to be like your family?” He saw the way Derek’s face flinched at the word family, but soldiered on. “Do you guys ever hang out?”

Derek breathed out slowly, like he was forcing himself to be patient. “No.”

“Why not?”

“They’re all idiots.” Derek sounded like he was grinding his teeth together.

“But you turned them,” Stiles pointed out.

“I was an idiot, too.”

“Oh.” Stiles poked at the grains of rice left on his plate. “Can I meet them?”

Derek gave him a long, suspicious look, like he didn’t understand why Stiles was so curious. Stiles wasn’t sure why, himself. “Eventually,” Derek said finally, and it seemed that was the end of that.

As they cleared up the dishes, Stiles cleared his throat and said, “Hey, um, can I see my phone?”

Derek placed a pan (the pan, the only pan) in the sink and turned to look at Stiles, leaning back against the countertop. “You expecting a call?”

“Yeah,” Stiles said, his throat tightening.

Derek frowned at him, then nodded toward the sink. “Start these.”

Stiles moved obediently, stepping around Derek to start water flowing into the sink. Derek watched him for a few long moments before walking out of the kitchen. Stiles listened to him going upstairs, his heart pounding in his chest. It seemed like hours before Derek reappeared, leaning against the doorway to watch him, his arms crossed over his chest.

“One missed call,” the alpha told Stiles evenly. “From a Dr. Paquette—”

Stiles flung himself around, scrubbing his soapy hands on his pants. “Where is it?” he exclaimed, throwing himself at Derek, trying to pull his hands away from his chest. “Do you have it? Where is it?”

“Tell me something,” Derek said calmly, almost pleasantly. All of Stiles’ tugging didn’t move him an inch. “Is this connected with Peter? The money you owe?”

“What do you care?” Stiles asked bitterly. “Can I have my phone?”

Derek shook his head. “No. You don’t smell sick. Who is it?”

Stiles gritted his teeth, nails digging into his palms from where his fists clenched so tight. “My dad,” he snapped. “He—he got shot.” It hurt just saying the words. “He got shot, and there were complications from the surgery, and he could be dead and I wouldn’t know because you’ve kept me trapped here and would you please just give me my phone?!”

Derek tiled his head, considering Stiles in a maddeningly calm manner. “Your father’s the sheriff,” he said. “I read about it, when it happened.”

“Do you think this is a fucking game?” Stiles exploded, his cheeks flushing red. “Do you get off on being a controlling asshole?”

Derek grabbed him by the front of his shirt without warning, slamming him against the wall, smacking the breath out of him. The alpha pressed his body against Stiles’, their faces inches apart. “Maybe,” he hissed. “What are you going to do about it?”

There went another day without making Derek angry, but Stiles was angry too, this time. “Get the fuck off me!” he yelled, shoving at the werewolf, fury pulsing loud in his ears.

Derek grinned, the first time Stiles had seen him do so. It wasn’t a pleasant expression. “I like you better when you’re angry,” he growled, leaning in to press his face against Stiles’ collarbone. “You smell like me. Like mine.”

“I’m not your plaything!” Stiles snarled, punching Derek in the arm as hard as he could, which only resulted in his own aching hand. He couldn’t believed he’d started to think Derek was an okay person. “My dad is fucking dying in the hospital! I don’t have time for your bullshit! He—” Stiles pulled in a ragged breath, furious tears burning in the corners of his eyes. “Your family died! You know how it feels!”

Derek jerked away from him, his face twisting with anger and something that looked a little like shame. “Fine,” he snapped, reaching into his pocket and pulling out Stiles’ phone. He slapped it into Stiles’ hand so hard it stung. “Call your fucking doctor.” Stiles curled his fingers around his phone and turned to leave, intending to go upstairs, but Derek caught him by the arm, keeping him in place. “Here,” he growled.

Stiles glowered at him but flipped his phone open. One voice message from Doctor Paquette, like Derek had said, and a whole slew of text messages, most of them from Danny and a couple from Lydia. Stiles’ spirits fell further, remembering that he’d had dinner plans with her. He didn’t dare read them now, not with Derek breathing down his neck like this, and dialed his voicemail instead.

“Stiles,” Dr. Paquette’s voice rang over the phone and Stiles stiffened, readying himself for the bad news. She always sounded so upbeat, even after more than a year of failed treatments. “I wanted to let you know that we began the round of new antibiotics we discussed the last time you were in, and there seems to be some improvement. The infection in your dad’s lungs looks like it’s clearing up a bit, and his breathing’s gotten a little easier. I don’t want you to get your hopes too high, but we’re going to do some brain scans this week and see if there’s been any change in his activity. Melissa said you missed your Wednesday visit. I hope everything’s well.”

Stiles shut his phone, tears welling in his eyes. He forgot Derek was standing right next to him, forgot where he was. All he could think about was his dad, who hadn’t opened his eyes since the night he’d been shot. He’d said one word before going under the knife. Emily. Stiles’ mom’s name.

It had been one early morning more than a year ago that Stiles got the call from the county dispatcher. Routine traffic stop gone bad. That’s what all the papers said. Some asshole redneck in a pick-up truck didn’t take kindly to the local government interfering with his right to drive as fast as he wanted and he’d shot up the sheriff’s car while the sheriff sat in the front seat running his plates. His dad had nearly died in surgery, the heart Stiles had worked so hard to keep healthy stopping on the table, but they’d brought him back. He laid in recovery for a long time, weak from surgery, never waking. The doctors said there was bleeding in his brain, or something – everything had gone hazy at that point in Stiles’ life. He didn’t eat, couldn’t sleep. He nearly failed the final semester of his senior year. Lydia swooped in, saved him, pushed his grades back up, but there was no one to see him cross the stage at graduation.

In the months since then, Stiles’ dad had contracted pneumonia, his body barely able to fight the inflammation in his lungs. Nine months after being shot, their insurance ran out, leaving Stiles to figure out how to pay a bill that grew by the thousands with every passing week. His graduate program was paid for by scholarships, but he had his undergrad bills to pay on top of the medical bills and that was when he’d been pointed in Peter’s direction.

Derek plucked the phone out of his fingers, breaking Stiles from his reverie. He wiped at his cheeks quickly, embarrassed to find them wet with tears.

“Go to bed,” Derek told him quietly. Stiles turned away from him without a word, feeling raw and angry still. He didn’t sleep well that night, tossing and turning and dreaming about his dad sitting in his cruiser, bleeding out all over the seats with a bullet in his stomach and left temple. That wasn’t his imagination; Stiles knew how to get into the sheriff’s office computer system and had seen the pictures of his dad’s car afterward. The guy who’d shot him had gotten a minimum of twenty years in jail for attempted murder of a police officer, and Stiles couldn’t even remember his name.

-

Stiles spent the following week and a half avoiding Derek as much as he could, and it seemed like Derek was doing the same, because he was usually gone when Stiles woke up, and he came home late at night, long after the ten o’clock news. Stiles was mostly fine with this arrangement, but he was bored stiff. He’d done all the work he could on his thesis, which left him the option of cleaning or watching tv, and by the end of the week, everything in the house practically sparkled and he’d seen more reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond than he could shake a stick at.

Derek came home early one night and said, without any preamble, “We’re going out.”

Stiles didn’t move from where he sprawled on the couch, a position he’d held most every evening that week. “What if I don’t want to?”

“Not an option,” Derek snarled. “Get up and get showered. You smell like you haven’t washed in two days.”

“Three, actually,” Stiles said smugly, but lifted himself off the couch before they could start another argument. He showered, then reluctantly allowed himself to be subjected to five minutes of Derek rubbing his face against his neck. It really didn’t feel sexual any more; tonight, Derek looked angry and distracted while he did it, almost on autopilot mode, and he let Stiles push him away when his skin started to burn from too much stubble contact.

They drove into the city and Derek pulled into a familiar-looking parking garage. Stiles wasn’t at all surprised when he followed the alpha from the car into a series of confusing hallways before they went through a door and ended up in Derek’s dressing room. Stiles threw himself down on the couch without invitation from Derek, which earned him a glower.

“Are you fighting tonight?” Stiles asked Derek, distracting him.

The alpha shook his head, his brow furrowing. “It’s the beta night.”

“Oh.” Stiles deflated. When the hell did Derek fight? How was he supposed to pay Peter back? “When’s your turn?”

“I fought two nights ago,” Derek said dismissively, leaning against the brick wall.

“And you didn’t bring me?”

Derek raised an eyebrow. “You’re interested?”

“Not really,” Stiles admitted, “but it would have been nice to get out of the house.”

“Well, here you are now,” Derek said, looking irritated.

“Yeah, and? Why’d we come here on a night that you’re not even fighting?” Stiles slumped down on the couch, kicking his heels against the cushions.

Derek nodded as someone knocked on the door. “Deaton wanted to check on your hand, and I need to talk to Peter.”

Derek crossed the room, opening the door and, sure enough, Deaton stood there, smiling faintly.

"Derek," he greeted, with a nod of his head. He stepped into the room and smiled at Stiles. "And Mr. Stilinski."

"Hi," Stiles said. He watched Derek, though, not Deaton, as the man sat down on the couch next to him and picked up his arm. It seemed strange that Derek would bring him all the way out here just to get his arm checked over. He looked over at Deaton. "Don't you need, like, an X-ray or something?"

"Medicine is not my only talent, Mr. Stilinski," Deaton replied, smiling faintly.

"Oh. I wondered why they needed a doctor here. What hurts a werewolf?"

"More than you might think," Deaton said, running his fingers along the length of Stiles’ cast. "Wolfsbane, for one."

"Wolfsbane?" Stiles glanced over at Derek, who frowned, like he didn't like the direction this conversation was headed.

"It's a plant," Deaton explained. "There are many subspecies, most of which are extremely poisonous to werewolves. Once wolfsbane gets into the bloodstream, the wound will not heal until more wolfsbane of the same variety is burned and placed in the wound. If the wound is left for too long, it can cause permanent damage, or death. It's the only thing beside fire which can scar a wolf." Deaton nodded toward Derek. "He knows. Will you show him, Derek?"

Derek nodded shortly and turned his back to them, lifting the back of his shirt. Stiles' eyes widened at the sight of a massive scar mottling Derek's lower back, a web of white lines radiating out from a central spot on his spine.

"The poison got into his bloodstream," Deaton said. "See those lines? That's where it started to decay his veins."

"What's it from?" Stiles asked softly.

"Hunters," Derek replied shortly, jerking his shirt back down. "Shot me with a wolfsbane bullet, right in the spine. I couldn't move, let alone get help."

"Peter found him in the woods two days later," Deaton added. "It was a very close call." Stiles thought he almost sounded fond, like he liked Derek. Weird. "Anyway, your arm looks good. Another few weeks with the cast and you'll be fine."

"Okay," Stiles said. "Thanks."

Deaton left and Stiles followed Derek through the labyrinth of tunnels. He could hear heavy music, growing louder and louder, until they pushed through a pair of double doors and emerged in the arena. Stiles made a face.

"You have to talk to Peter here?"

Derek rolled his eyes. "You'll live," he said. "Go sit. I'll join you soon."

"Are you sure that's—” Stiles began, but Derek had already turned, pushing away through the crowd. Stiles stood there for a moment, feeling lost. Some of the people around him turned to stare and he moved off before anyone could become too inquisitive.

He found a mostly empty row of seats up near the back, where it was quieter. The only other person in the row was a pretty, dark-haired girl. She gave him a quiet smile as he sat, which he returned cautiously. He almost wished he was a werewolf, because it would make knowing who was human and who was a wolf so much easier. Humans he could relax around.

Stiles turned his eyes to the fight currently playing out before him, and started when he realized that one of the fighters was the omega who'd introduced himself at the gym the other day - Scott, Stiles thought his name was. He seemed like a good fighter - not like Stiles was any judge – and even as he watched, the other fighter kneeled and submitted to him. Scott threw his arms up with a whoop and excitedly yelled "Ninety-four!" Stiles couldn't help but snort.

The girl a few seats down turned at the sound, a smile on her face. "Hey," she called, her voice soft, just audible above the noise of the crowd, "do you know Scott?"

"Uh, not really," Stiles replied with a shrug. "I met him the other day. He told me he only had a few fights left before he can fight in the alpha league."

"Oh," the girl said, still smiling. "You must be Stiles. He told me about you."

"Did he?" Realization dawned on Stiles. "And you're the girlfriend."

"Guilty as charged," she laughed, and held out a hand to him. "Allison."

Stiles shook the proffered hand. "Hey. I don't mean to pry, but are you..." He jerked his head toward the ring. "Like them?"

Allison grinned and moved a few seats down so they wouldn’t have to half shout at each other. "I'm human," she assured him. "My dad would kill me if I got turned. That’s not a joke."

"Doesn't it make you nervous?" Stiles asked her. "Being human with all these werewolves around?"

Allison shrugged. "Not really. I grew up knowing about it, and I can take care of myself." She gave him a knowing look. "You're nervous."

"Well, yeah," Stiles said uncomfortably. "I only found out about all this stuff a month ago, and now I'm living with one."

"Scott said you were with Derek," Allison said quietly. "Why? It's not your choice?"

"It's a long story," Stiles muttered. Allison gave him a concerned look.

"Scott thinks he's dangerous."

"He's right," Stiles mumbled. Someone dropped into the seat next to him and he jumped, heart surging into a panic thinking it was Derek, who would have heard every word. But it wasn't; a bombshell of a girl sat next to him, her long legs bare to the mid-thigh, her blonde hair curled in long waves.

"Uh," Stiles said, trying not to look at her chest; she wore a tight leather dress that pushed her cleavage up. The girl smiled, like she knew exactly what he was trying to avoid looking at, and her canines were long and wickedly pointed.

"Hey, sweetheart," she grinned, leaning toward him, pushing her boobs out further. "Are you all on your own tonight?"

"Uh," Stiles said again, his voice sticking in his throat. He didn't need wolf senses to know this girl was dangerous. "Uh."

"Back off, Erica," Allison said, leaning around him. "You know who he belongs to."

"Oh, I know," Erica said, flipping her hair over a bare shoulder. "Derek hasn't fucked him. He doesn't belong to him. Or anyone." And she leaned into Stiles further, pressing her breasts against his arm, smiling beguilingly up at him. "You don't want Derek touching you, do you?" Her voice dropped to a purr. "I'm much softer than he is."

"I don't think that's a good idea," Stiles told her, finally finding his voice. "Uh, no," he added as she dragged her fingernails up his thigh. "No. No, thanks."

Erica's mouth rounded in a pout just as she was yanked backwards. Derek stood behind her looking livid, his eyes burning like fire. He twisted the hand he had in her blonde curls, pulling her to her feet. "I told you," he snarled, "to stay the fuck away from him."

"I was going to keep him warm for you," Erica whimpered, her eyes flashing gold.

"I don't need your help," Derek growled, pulling her up further, until she was stretched onto her toes. "If I see you near him again, I'll rip your throat out, pack or not." He shoved Erica away from them, making her stumble in her high heels. She turned, eyes flashing, to snarl at Derek and he shoved her again, forcing her onto her knees. Erica snapped at him but turned her head, exposing her neck to him, submitting. Derek stood over her for a few long seconds before brushing his fingers against her throat. Acceptance. Erica climbed to her feet, looking distinctly relieved, and disappeared as fast as her heels could carry her.

Derek turned around and came to bend over Stiles, cupping his face in his hands, running his fingers against his skin, making sure he was okay.

"Stop, stop," Stiles said, batting Derek's hands away. He felt claustrophobic. "I'm fine, really."

Derek nodded shortly and dropped into Erica's vacated seat, putting a possessive hand on Stiles' thigh. Stiles let him; he'd rather have Derek protecting him than Erica accosting him, and anyway, it was kind of comforting.

"Um," Allison said, and Derek turned his head, lips going thin like he'd noticed Allison's presence for the first time. He frowned. "Hi, Derek," Allison offered meekly.

"Allison," Derek said grudgingly. "How are you." It wasn't really a question, Stiles noticed, like Derek didn't want to start a conversation.

"I'm good," Allison replied, getting to her feet. She seemed just as reluctant as Derek to talk. "I'm going to go see Scott. It was nice meeting you," she added, looking at Stiles.

"Yeah," he said with a grin. "You too."

Allison smiled and descended the rows. Stiles and Derek sat in silence for a time. Stiles watched the fight in front of them absently, more focused on the feeling of Derek's fingers curling and uncurling against his jeans.

"Did you talk to Peter?" Stiles asked abruptly.

Derek shook his head, slouching down in his seat. "Couldn't find him."

"Oh." Stiles looked around the crowd, full of faces he didn't recognize. "Did you say that girl was pack?"

Derek growled low in his throat. "Told you I was an idiot."

"Well," Stiles said fairly, "I can see why you were reluctant for me to meet her, anyway."

Derek snorted, but his eyes weren't glowing any more, so that was good, at least. They sat for another ten minutes before Derek shifted restlessly and said, "Do you want to leave?"

"Sure," Stiles said easily. He got to his feet and followed Derek out of the arena. He saw Scott and Allison standing near the ring and they both waved as he and Derek passed. Stiles smiled back. It felt good to know someone other than Derek.

They didn't drive directly home, which was a little strange. Derek seemed anxious about something; he kept shifting in his seat and reaching over to touch Stiles, like the alpha was afraid he might disappear. Instead of going home, they stopped to get dinner from a fast food place and sat inside under the bright lights, eating. Even then Derek didn't stop moving, his eyes flickering around the restaurant like he thought they might be attacked. On the road back to the house, Derek finally spoke.

"Why haven't you tried to leave?"

"Huh?" Stiles had been staring out the window, jiggling his leg up and down unconsciously. "Oh." He'd been thinking about that a lot over the past week. It wasn’t like he was locked in the house. "Well, all my worldly possessions are at your house, dude, and I can't carry all of it with my arm broken."

Derek didn't say anything, but Stiles could see the frown forming on his brow. He sighed and tried again. "Look, my dad raised me to keep my promises, so that's what I'm doing. I made an agreement with Peter, and I have to stick with it."

"What is your agreement?" Derek asked carefully.

Stiles swung his head away from the window. Derek didn't know? But then...that made sense. Peter probably didn’t want Derek worried about being killed. Stiles probably shouldn’t tell him about that part.

“It was vague,” he said, which was true. “I told Peter I’d do anything. I didn’t know he was going to, uh, assign me to you.”

They pulled up in front of the house, but Derek didn’t make a move to get out. “And?” he pressed. “What are you supposed to do for me?”

“I don’t know.”

Derek pointed a finger at him. “Lie.”

Stiles winced. “Jesus, dude, rein back the wolf powers, would you? It’s creepy.”

Derek jabbed his finger at him again. “Avoidance. Tell me.”

Stiles flushed and turned his head. “Make you happy,” he muttered.

Derek went very still. Stiles hoped he wasn’t going to slam him against the window again. That had kind of hurt. “Typical,” Derek muttered under his breath. “Fucking typical.”

“It wasn’t my idea,” Stiles began, but Derek shook his head.

“Not you,” he snarled. “Fucking Peter. I don’t know why he thinks he needs to butt into my life. I’m doing fine.”

“Are you?” The words slipped out of Stiles before he could pull them back and he winced, but all Derek did was frown at him. “I mean, you fight people for a living. Are you happy? I think he’s just worried that – that you might get too angry and lose control.”

“My anger is my anchor,” Derek snapped. He did get out of the car then, slamming the door behind him. Stiles trotted in his shadow up the front walk. He knew he was pushing his luck, but Derek hadn’t gotten angry at him yet.

“Do you want to be?” he asked, as Derek opened the front door. “Happy, I mean?”

“I don’t see the point,” Derek replied, kicking off his shoes. “Why would I?”

“You shouldn’t just wallow in misery, dude,” Stiles pressed. “That’s not healthy.”

“Why should I be happy?” Derek barked, turning to look at him. “My entire family is dead. All I have left is a weird uncle who makes his money from porn. And yeah, I make my living punching people in the face. Where’s the happiness in any of that?”

It was the most he’d ever heard Derek say, and Stiles couldn’t give him an answer. Derek snorted softly. “I know what Peter thinks. I know Chris Argent wants to put me down, and sometimes I think I should let him. They think I give in to the wolf too much, but I like the wolf. It’s more civilized than any of them.”

“You know they want to kill you? Why don’t you change?”

Derek stared at him for a long time before replying, his voice quiet. “I don’t know any other way to be.”

-

The next morning, Derek was gone, but Stiles’ phone sat on the dining room table. No note accompanied it, but Stiles understood Derek was trying to tell him he was grateful. For what, he wasn’t quite sure, because their conversation hadn’t seemed all that fruitful to him, but maybe it had helped Derek.

Stiles spent some time sitting at the dining room table, eating a huge bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios and replying to all the various messages he’d received over the past week and a half. He assured Danny he was alive, apologized to Lydia for missing their dinner date, and paused when he reached a message from an unknown number.

It’s Derek, the text said. Text me if you need anything.

It wasn’t much, but at the same time, it was everything.

-

Three days later, Stiles stumbled downstairs to find Derek home for once. Stiles paused in the doorway of the kitchen, watching him turn bacon in a pan on the stove. Derek looked over his shoulder at him, his face smooth and relaxed. “Yeah?”

“Why are you home?”

“I’m taking you to the hospital.”

Stiles, halfway to the kitchen table, froze. “What? Why?”

“It’s Wednesday,” Derek said evenly, handing him a plate full of hash browns and bacon and toast. “You visit your dad on Wednesdays, don’t you?”

Stiles nodded, his throat gone tight. He’d already missed two visits being stuck at the house, and he’d tried hard not to think about how shitty of a son that made him feel. “Thank you,” he mumbled.

After eating and washing up, Derek drove across the city to the big hospital where his father quietly lay in long-term care. Stiles’ favorite nurse was at the station when he and Derek came out of the elevator. Her face lit up when she saw him.

“Hi, hon!” she smiled. “It’s been a while.” The nurse nodded at his arm. “You all right?”

“Fine, Melissa, thanks,” Stiles grinned, though he had to force it. Going to the hospital drained him; he hated coming here, hated seeing his dad so weak, so unlike himself. Maybe Derek sensed it, because he stepped closer to Stiles and put a hand against the small of his back. It helped Stiles keep his focus.

Melissa smiled at Derek cautiously and said to Stiles, “I believe you met my son a couple days ago. Is that right?”

Stiles frowned. “Who?”

“Scott,” she said fondly, and both Stiles and Derek blinked in surprise.

“Oh,” Stiles said. “Oh, yeah, I did. He seemed nice. Allison, too.”

Melissa smiled. "Well, he's always happy to make more friends, especially with humans. He thinks Allison feels left out, sometimes."

Stiles paused. "You - you know?"

"For a long time," Melissa replied. She nodded toward Derek. "I assume you know he's one, right? Those eyes aren't exactly subtle."

Derek scowled and Stiles rolled his eyes. "I think he's stuck that way."

Melissa laughed and said, "Well, you know where your dad is. I'll see if I can track down the doctor so she can give you an update."

"Thanks," Stiles sighed, and headed off down the hall, Derek trailing behind him like a shadow. When he reached his dad's room he had to pause outside the door, steeling himself. Even after a year, he couldn't shake the pain it caused him to see his dad lying there. Derek shifted closer.

"I've always hated hospitals," the alpha offered quietly. "My younger brother was human and he made it out of the house - my father pushed him out a second story window, but there was damage, you know, from the smoke." Derek gestured toward his chest helplessly. "He was in the hospital for a long time, and my sister and I used to come sit with him every day. I was there when he stopped breathing."

"Sorry," Stiles mumbled, swallowing. Maybe Derek was human after all. Or. Human as he could be, in the circumstances.

Derek sighed. "Do you want me to stay out here?"

Stiles shook his head and Derek nodded. Stiles took a deep breath and pushed open the door.

The sheriff had a small room to himself, filled with machines that hummed quietly to themselves. There were always fresh flowers on the bedside table; Stiles had a suspicion that Melissa put them there. His dad lay in the bed, his tanned skin gone pale, dark circles under his eyes. Stiles sat on the edge of the bed while Derek leaned against the wall by the window. He swallowed, feeling uncomfortable; usually he spent the time talking to his dad, but Derek's presence made him self conscious. He just sat in silence instead, staring at his dad's hands, folded across his stomach.

Stiles and Derek both started when the door opened and Dr. Paquette, a short, smiling brunette woman came in, hands tucked in the pockets of her white coat.

"Morning, Stiles," she said cheerfully. "Who's our guest?"

"Derek," Stiles replied, without explaining further, and Dr. Paquette cast a friendly smile in Derek's direction before turning back to him.

"You got my message last week?" Stiles nodded. "Excellent. So it looks like the new antibiotics are working like they should. He's breathing well enough on his own that we took him off the oxygen—”

Stiles twisted back around to stare at his dad. He was so busy trying not to look at his face that he hadn't noticed the lack of oxygen mask.

"His temperature's back to normal as well," the doctor smiled. "We're very pleased with his progress."

"You-" Stiles could barely trust himself to speak. "You said you were going to do some brain scans?"

Dr. Paquette nodded. "Also looking positive. We got some subconscious responses to stimuli that are very encouraging."

Stiles breathed in slowly, trying to keep calm. "Do you think he's going to wake up?"

The doctor pursed her lips. "It's still too early to know," she told him cautiously. "I don't want you getting your hopes too high. There's a chance, yes, but I've also seen patients at this stage slip into deeper comas."

Stiles' shoulders slumped and she patted him on the arm. "Keep visiting," she said. "We're doing all we can."

"Yeah," Stiles said heavily. "Thanks."

Dr. Paquette gave him an encouraging smile before leaving the room. Stiles sat in silence, his head tilted toward his dad. If he listened, he could hear the faint sound of the sheriff breathing; it was nothing like the last time he'd been in, when each inhale and exhale rasped painfully. He jumped at a touch on his shoulder.

"Let's go," Derek said, his voice more gentle than Stiles had ever heard. He didn't argue; he'd had his fill of the hospital for that week.

As they rode the elevator down to the parking garage, Stiles stared at the fake wood paneling and asked, “Why didn’t you give your brother the bite?”

Derek stiffened next to him. Stiles thought he might ignore the question, but he eventually replied, “I wanted to. Laura and I argued about it every time we saw him. It wouldn’t have worked, though; fire’s one of the few things we can’t heal. The bite wouldn’t have changed anything.”

“Oh,” Stiles said quietly.

They were halfway to the car when Derek said, “I could bite your father,” and Stiles froze. “If you wanted me to,” the alpha added carefully. “He’d heal.”

Stiles shook his head. “No,” he said quietly. “He’d hate that. He’d say it was cheating.”

“All right.”

Stiles cried on the way home and he hated himself for it, hated even more that Derek saw it. The wolf didn't say a word, but slid his hand over Stiles' thigh and Stiles, not knowing why, put his hand over Derek's.

-

"Why haven't you tried to fuck me?" Stiles asked a few days later. They were eating dinner - chili, Stiles' secret recipe - and Derek choked on his cornbread. Stiles laughed, because it was just about the most un-wolf-like thing he'd seen from Derek so far. Derek still managed to glare at him as he gulped down a glass of water.

"Why the hell would you ask me that?" he snapped.

Stiles shrugged. "You tried, that first night," he said. "You would have, if you hadn't hurt me, right?"

Derek made a face. "That was a mistake."

"Oh?"

"I told you," Derek said coldly, "I'm not going to touch someone who's unwilling, but when you came in, I was still worked up from the fight. It was too close to the full moon."

"I thought you said you had control."

Derek shrugged uncomfortably. "I do," he said carefully, "but the pull of the moon is too much, sometimes. Peter did that on purpose," he added bitterly. "He likes testing me."

"So you wouldn't do it now?" Stiles asked.

Derek glared at him. "Tell me," he said. "You're supposed to be gauging my happiness. Do you think it would make me happy to take someone against their will?"

Stiles shrugged. "I don't know," he said lightly. "I don't know your sexual preferences."

Derek kept glaring at him, his eyes burning. "Hey," Stiles said, his voice still light, "what color are your eyes? Your real eye color, I mean?"

Derek blinked, confusion crossing his face, then the frown was back, deeper than ever. "What do you mean?"

"Your eyes," Stiles replied patiently. "I've only ever seen them red. That's not - I mean, you weren't born like that, right?"

"No," Derek said, sounding confused. "I didn't realize - that's the one part of the change I can't feel."

"Is it because you're so close to the wolf, you think?"

Derek rubbed a hand across the back of his neck. "Maybe. I don't know."

"Maybe it's because you're mad all the time," Stiles suggested.

"I am not," Derek snapped. Stiles raised his eyebrows as if to say "oh really?"

"You little shit," Derek muttered. Stiles laughed.

-

Derek had a fight a few nights later, so he brought Stiles along.

"Not because I want to go," Stiles said when Derek told him, "but the house is getting boring again."

Which was true, but Stiles also did kind of want to see Derek fight. He wanted to see him move, face full of concentration, eyes gleaming under the bright lights. He didn't know when it had started, but he'd begun dreaming about Derek, about doing things with him, to him. He'd woken up that morning with his boxers uncomfortably damp, dick still hard. He wasn’t really afraid of the alpha any more; now Derek made him nervous for different reasons. Maybe that should have been worrying, but he was finding it hard to care. He liked the way Derek always touched him, always had to be close.

They were getting along pretty well; things had changed after the visit to the hospital. Derek hadn’t gotten mad at him for anything for nearly two weeks, which Stiles was pretty pleased about, because he knew how antagonizing he could be. Derek was talking more, letting Stiles ask questions and actually answering some of them. It was a huge turnaround from the first week, when most of his sentences had been three words long, at best.

They parked in the parking garage and Derek guided him to the arena. Stiles didn’t think he’d ever be able to navigate his way through the warren of hallways in the building.

"Hey," Stiles said, as Derek turned to head to his dressing room. Derek paused, red eyes meeting amber. "Good luck."

Derek paused. "Thanks," he said, then quickly turned. Stiles wandered through the crowd. He spotted Erica, who blew him a kiss, and turned away from her, taking a tangent through the crowd so their paths wouldn't cross. The place was packed; it seemed like the alpha fights drew a much bigger crowd than the beta fights. Stiles had just spotted a few empty seats a couple rows down when someone grabbed him by the arm.

"Hey," he snapped, turning to find his arm in the grip of Chris Argent, the man who wanted to kill Derek. Stiles stilled. "Oh."

"Excuse me," Chris said politely, releasing his arm. "Didn't mean to startle you."

"Okay," Stiles said warily. "Can I help you?"

Chris shoved his hands into the pockets of his jacket. "I'm just curious how Derek's doing," he said. "I'd like to know if Peter's plan is working. Is it?"

"I don't know," Stiles said shortly. "I guess you'll just have to see tonight, won't you?" Maybe that was a stupid thing to say, because he had no idea how Derek was going to act.

"I guess I will," Chris said evenly. He watched Stiles with his pale blue eyes. Stiles opened his mouth to say something rude but before he could, someone else said, "Dad!"

Chris and Stiles both turned to see Allison coming up the stairs toward them, a puzzled look on her face. Stiles raised his eyebrows. Melissa was Scott’s mom and Chris was Allison’s dad? The world kept getting smaller and smaller.

"What are you doing?" Allison asked suspiciously.

Chris smiled at his daughter. "Just having a little chat."

"Well, chat later," Allison said. "Come on, Stiles. You can sit with us. Dad can find his own seat," she added pointedly, and pulled Stiles away by the sleeve of his hoodie. "Was he bothering you?" she asked, after they'd gotten some distance away.

"Not really," Stiles replied. "He's, uh, kind of intense, isn't he? I mean, he's not a-"

"He's human," Allison said firmly. "My family comes from a long line of Hunters. He hates werewolves."

Stiles glanced over his shoulder, but he couldn't see Chris Argent any longer. "What's he doing here then?"

"It's kind of a long story," Allison said, "but basically Peter Hale started this fighting league, and when he did he made an agreement with the local Hunters that the local werewolves would come here to take out their aggression during the full moon instead of running around in the woods, potentially hurting humans. In return, the Hunters agreed to leave the werewolves alone, and my dad watches the fights in kind of a supervisory role."

"What's he watching for?"

Allison shrugged. "I'm not sure. Too much aggression, maybe?"

"What does he think about you and Scott?"

Allison rolled her eyes. "Oh, he hates it, but we're both adults, so there's nothing he can do about, and if Scott were to die mysteriously, everyone would know who did it."

"And you think that's safe enough?" Stiles asked, half laughing as she pulled him down a row of seats, where they joined Scott.

"It'll do for now," Allison replied, sitting down next to her boyfriend. Stiles sat on her other side.

"Hey, dude," Scott grinned at Stiles.

"Hey," Stiles grinned back. "I saw your fight the other night. Good job."

Scott beamed. "Thanks! Only six more to go!"

"Congrats. Hey - I didn't know your mom worked at the hospital," Stiles said. "She's been my dad's nurse for a year."

"Oh, yeah, she likes you," Scott laughed, then paused, looking embarrassed. "Not that it's a good thing you're at the hospital so often," he added hurriedly.

Stiles shook his head. "Don't worry about it. I'm just glad my dad's well taken care of."

"Shhh!" Allison elbowed both of them in the ribs as the first fighters of the night stalked into the ring. Stiles shut his mouth and hunkered down in his seat, mind wandering as a bell rang and the two alphas threw themselves at each other. It felt good to just talk and laugh with people. He and Derek talked, but they didn't laugh, and Stiles tried to be careful when he talked, trying not to always say the first thing that came to mind. He liked Scott and Allison.

Stiles barely noticed when the first fight ended; only looked up in time to see the loser limping out of the ring, one clawed hand clutching a gaping wound in his side. He sat up straighter when Derek strode in, bare-chested, dressed only in loose gym shorts. As he turned, Stiles could see the scars on his back, and the tattoo between his shoulder blades. A short woman followed him into the ring, grinning fiercely all over her impish face. They stood facing each other, tensing for the sound of the bell, and Stiles saw the way Derek's eyes flickered over the crowd. Looking for him? The thought made his mouth go dry.

Before Derek could find him, the bell rang, but neither of the alphas moved. They appeared to be studying each other, eyes narrowed in concentration. The girl moved forward slightly, and suddenly everything was a blur of motion. Derek swung at her and she ducked nimbly under his arm, only to meet Derek's knee, rising up to catch her in the stomach. She flew backward, skidding across the concrete, but she was on her feet before Derek could spring on her, driving a shoulder against his chest, pushing him backward. Stiles was impressed; though she was small, the female alpha's supernatural strength seemed a match to Derek's.

"Hey, so," Scott said conversationally, and Stiles pulled his attention away from the fight to look at him. Scott jerked his head toward the ring, indicating Derek. "How's it going with him?"

“All right,” Stiles shrugged.

“You sure?” Scott’s brow furrowed. “You didn’t seem so positive a few weeks ago.”

“It’s gotten better,” Stiles replied, his eyes sliding back to the fight. Derek’s skin shone with sweat, his muscles taut as he and the other alpha circled each other, looking for an opening. Stiles tried not to think about pressing his mouth again that chest, licking down those abs, burying his nose in the trail of hair leading down from Derek’s bellybutton. Fuck, when had he started thinking like that? Down in the ring, Derek’s head swung around, his nostrils flaring, distracted enough to let himself get tackled by his opponent.

Scott reached across Allison and punched Stiles in the arm – not hard, but strong enough to break him from his thoughts. “Dude,” Scott said, flushing faintly, “don’t distract him.”

Stiles stared at him, open-mouthed, then looked down at Derek. He could tell? He could smell him? Jesus Christ. He quickly thought about how much money he owned Peter, dead puppies, his dad in the hospital, anything other than how Derek looked, mouth open in a snarl as he flung the woman off him, his claws ripping four red lines across her torso.

It must have worked, because Derek didn’t let his attention drift again, attacking his opponent with vicious intent. He kept slamming her with attacks, kicking, punching, sinking his teeth into the forearm she raised to defend herself. It was kind of like watching someone play Mortal Kombat and he had to resist the urge to shout “Finish her!” The other alpha looked caged, like prey, and soon she bent her knee and turned her neck to Derek. He bent and sank his teeth into her neck, blood welling up from the bite mark, and when he straightened, the alpha turned to look directly at Stiles and smiled ferally, his mouth and chin red with blood.

“That was boring,” Scott sighed. Stiles didn’t answer, staring after Derek as the alpha turned, strolling nonchalantly out of the ring. The other alpha staggered to her feet and disappeared, hunching her shoulders at the boos from the crowd that followed her. Stiles leaned back in his seat, breathing out slowly. That…had been something. Not what he’d been expecting.

“You okay?” Allison asked him.

“Yeah,” he sighed, running a hand through his hair. “Yeah.”

Derek came out ten minutes into the next fight, dropping into the seat next to Stiles with unnerving quietness. It took Stiles a moment to realize he was there and when he did, he nearly jumped out of his skin.

“Jesus, dude!” he hissed. “Tone down the werewolf skills, remember?”

Derek smiled lazily. He’d showered, changed back into jeans and his leather jacket, which Stiles could smell faintly if he leaned in close enough. He didn’t lean in, though, still on edge about what happened earlier and the way Derek had smiled just a few minutes ago, his mouth full of blood.

“Hey,” Scott said to Derek, “congrats.”

Derek gave him a thin smile, his hand sliding into its usual possessive place on Stiles’ thigh. “You haven’t been doing badly yourself, McCall.”

Scott looked pleased. Stiles tried to relax under Derek’s touch, which was a lot more difficult than it sounded. He tried to concentrate on the fight in front of him – a wiry black woman versus a very skinny Asian man – but it was near impossible. He jerked upright, out of his seat before he knew what he was doing. Derek raised an eyebrow.

“Bathroom,” Stiles said, and almost dove across Derek to escape, slipping off through the crowd. The bathroom, when he finally found it, was empty and he pissed in relief, pushing away all the frantic thoughts in his mind. The door opened while he washed his hands, but he didn’t look up until he realized whoever it was was standing behind him, watching him. His head jerked up to stare into the mirror and he met the red eyes of an alpha he’d seen before, though Stiles hadn’t known he was an alpha at the time, hadn’t even known werewolves existed then.

“Hey Stilinski,” Jackson said, smugness radiating from his stupidly handsome body. The dude was like an Abercrombie and Fitch model, with the douchiest attitude Stiles had ever had the misfortune of coming across. It made you wonder if there was a god, sometimes. Stiles had seen him half-naked before, coming out of Danny’s room, perfect abs and perfect lips slack from sex. That didn’t change the fact that he was an asshole. And an alpha. Stiles needed to tread carefully.

“Jackson,” he said, carefully shutting off the water. Stiles rubbed his hands on his thighs before he turned, dropping his eyes. Not submission, but not challenging. “So, this whole thing was a bit surprising.”

“Really?” Jackson looked so infuriatingly smug. Stiles wanted to smack him. “You’re astoundingly slow sometimes.”

“Yeah, okay,” Stiles agreed. “Well, it was nice seeing you—” He made to move, and Jackson surged forward, seizing his arm.

“How is it,” the alpha hissed, “that you enter this world and immediately befriend both Peter and Derek Hale?”

“I think you’ve misunderstood the meaning of the word ‘friend,’” Stiles said nervously. “Look—”

“So what is it?” Jackson pressed, shoving him back against the sink. He was close – too close, his hips pressing into Stiles’. “You smell like Derek, but you don’t smell of him. You couldn’t stop him from taking you if you tried, so what’s stopping him? Maybe he’s waiting for the full moon to give you the bite. Man, he’d be so pissed if his little pet got bitten by someone else first, wouldn’t he?” Jackson smiled, and his fangs were long and wickedly sharp. Stiles made a low, frightened noise and tried to pull back, but there was a sink in his back; he couldn’t go any further.

“Maybe I should do that,” Jackson murmured, one hand sliding up to cup the back of Stiles’ neck. “Or maybe I should just fuck you and ruin you for him. He won’t want you after another wolf has touched you.”

“Don’t,” Stiles whispered, his heart banging against his ribs like a caged animal.

“Why?” Jackson laughed. “Do you think he has trouble finding people to fuck? That you really matter? Does he stay out late? Where do you think he goes? You’re just a human, Stilinski. You can be thrown out at the end of the day. He doesn’t care about you.”

Stiles shoved at him, fury suddenly pulsing through him. “You’re fucking jealous,” he hissed, and the way Jackson’s cheeks went red told him he was right. “You want him, but I have him.”

Jackson moved rapidly, his hand sliding up from Stiles’ neck to fist in his hair and he slammed Stiles’ head back, cracking sharply against the mirror. Stiles groaned, his vision flickering. He tried to push Jackson back but he was no match for the alpha’s unnatural strength. Jackson slammed him down again, bashing his face against the porcelain sink. Stiles pulled weakly at his arms. He could feel something wet rolling down the side of his face.

Just as Jackson prepared to slam him down one more time, the bathroom door exploded open and a blur of motion pulled Jackson off Stiles, throwing him full force into the wall, so hard the tiles behind him shattered. Derek stood in front of Stiles and roared with fury, the noise rattling the mirror and shaking Stiles’ bones. Jackson pulled himself up from the floor, looking trapped. He tried to scrabble sideways as Derek advanced on him, but there was nowhere to escape to. Derek picked him up and slammed him onto the ground, stomach-first, and knelt on his back, one foot pinning his head down. Derek leaned in close, his face in full, horrible shift, no mercy anywhere in his expression.

“So you thought you could bite someone and the omega would become an alpha, huh?” Derek snarled, pressing Jackson’s face into the tiles. Stiles wasn’t sure if he was seeing things because of his head, or if Jackson’s eyes really were changing colors, flickering from red to blue to gold, over and over. “You thought it would make you powerful. Stronger, better. Didn’t you? Didn’t you?”

“Yes,” Jackson whimpered.

Derek sneered. “You’re no alpha,” he hissed into Jackson’s ear. “You’re a weak boy too stubborn to listen, too cowardly to lead.”

“Please,” Jackson whined. “Please—”

“I gave you life,” Derek rumbled. “I’m taking it back. Now.”

Jackson, his eyes stopped on gold, sobbed, body bending under Derek. Stiles couldn’t let him do it. “Der,” he said thickly, slurring his name. God, his head hurt. Derek looked up at him, moving off Jackson to come crouch by him. “Der’k. Don’. Need you.”

“Okay,” Derek said easily, putting his arms under Stiles’ armpits and hauling him upright. Stiles reeled, fisting his hands in Derek’s jacket to help stay vertical. Derek glanced behind him where Jackson still lay on the floor. “I see you again and I’ll break every bone in your body,” he said, his tone even, almost conversational. “You’ve got an hour to get as far as you can.”

Jackson nodded, hardly daring to breathe, and Derek hauled Stiles out of the bathroom, one heavy arm around his waist. People were starting to gather around the bathroom but Derek pushed through them, ignoring the questions everyone threw in his direction. He kicked open the double doors that led to the hallway and pulled Stiles through, leading him down, down, through the halls and into the parking garage. At the car, Derek pushed Stiles up against the side, putting a hand under his chin, forcing him to lift his head.

“Stiles,” Derek said quietly, nosing against his neck, huffing worriedly.

“’m okay,” Stiles murmured, fisting his hands in the front of Derek’s shirt. It was difficult keeping Derek in focus. Derek pressed his whole body against him, pressing him against the car.

“Liar.”

“Okay, maybe not.” Derek’s hands moved and Stiles let his head fall forward, resting against Derek’s shoulder. “’m I bleedin’?”

“Yeah.”

Stiles could feel Derek’s fingers against his skull, hot and gentle. It felt like liquid gold running through him, the heat from Derek’s fingers filling his mind, sliding down his spine all the way to his toes. “What’re y’doing?”

“Taking the pain,” Derek replied.

“Wolf powers,” Stiles muttered. He could feel Derek’s heart beating beneath his fingers, slow and steady.

Behind them, someone shifted, their shoes squeaking against the concrete, and Derek tensed, growling low in his throat. “Back off, Isaac.”

“Um,” Stiles heard a soft voice venture. “Deaton wants to see him, Derek.”

"Then bring him out here," Derek replied shortly. "He's not going back inside."

"Okay," Isaac said, and Stiles heard him hesitate. "Is he okay?"

"Go, Isaac," Derek snapped. Stiles heard footsteps and listened until they faded away.

"Who was that?" he asked. "More pack?"

"More pack," Derek confirmed.

"I like him," Stiles decided. He was feeling more clear-headed now, even if his head pulsed like the dickens. "He asked if I was okay. He didn't try to push his boobs in my face."

"Isaac's a good kid," Derek said. He slid his hand against the back of Stiles' neck. "How are you feeling?"

"Like someone smashed my face against the wall a couple of times," Stiles replied. "Oh wait, someone did."

Derek growled. "I should have been there."

"'S okay," Stiles sighed, turning his face against Derek's neck. "You can't follow me everywhere. And you did come."

"You took too long," Derek said, his tone softening. "I came to find you and heard your heart."

"Creepy," Stiles muttered. Derek pressed a hand against his chest, palm over his heart. "Wait...were you inferring in there that you bit Jackson?"

"Yeah," Derek said, sounding bitter. "He was the first person I bit after I became an alpha, but he wanted power, not pack. When someone rejects the pack like that, they become an omega. He probably thought that by biting your roommate he could become an alpha, which is technically true, but the alpha power is either inherited or earned by fighting another alpha. It doesn't just appear by biting someone."

"Who bit Scott?" Stiles asked. His head still throbbed, but it didn't feel like he was bleeding any more. "Do you know?"

"Yes," Derek said carefully, but before he said any more, Stiles felt him turn. "Deaton's coming. Here." He pulled Stiles away from the car, keeping him steady with an arm around his waist, and opened the door, pushing him down to sit. Derek turned to watch Deaton approach and Stiles reached out, slipping his hand into Derek's. The alpha looked down at him, brow furrowing slightly, but his fingers curled tightly around Stiles'.

There were other people with Deaton; Scott and Allison and Chris Argent, and a tall kid with curly brown hair that had to be Isaac. Peter strolled behind all of them, hands in his pockets. Derek threw Isaac an angry look but the beta shrugged and said, "They all insisted."

As Deaton crouched down to take a look at Stiles, Chris Argent stepped forward and said angrily, "Who did it? Was it you?"

Derek snarled. "I didn't touch him."

"Derek was with us," Allison told her father angrily and he raised his eyebrows, clearly unsure why Allison was defending Derek.

"And where was he?" the Hunter asked, jabbing his finger toward Stiles.

"In the bathroom," Stiles replied, wincing as Deaton gently probed at the gash on his temple. "It was Jackson Whittemore."

"Jackson?" Chris repeated. He looked over at Peter, who shrugged.

"He broke the rules," Peter said. "We have an agreement. Do what you want."

"Are you going to kill him?" Stiles asked.

"He broke the rules," Peter repeated, and Stiles took that as a yes. He felt sick. Peter turned his pale eyes to Derek and said, "That boy he turned will become part of your pack."

Derek made a disgruntled noise but didn't argue.

"Fine," Chris Argent said. "We'll take care of it." He turned on his heel and strode off among the parked cars, looking only too glad to be gone. Peter gave Derek a long look before leaving as well.

"So, doc?" Stiles asked. "Will I ever dance again?"

Deaton smiled faintly. "I should think so. I'm going to have to put some stitches in, and you've got a mild concussion, but nothing to worry about long term."

As the doctor set about cleaning Stiles' cuts with something so strong it made his eyes water, Derek leaned against the car and said, "Thanks," to Allison.

She shrugged and said, "We're not all evil. I just wanted you to know that."

Derek gave her a long look before nodding. Allison put her hand on Scott's arm and they disappeared among the cars. Stiles winced as Deaton began stitching his cut shut, the feeling of the needle and thread pulling through his skin making him shudder. Derek watched his face, frowning.

When Deaton finished, he sat back on his knees and said, "That should do it. Derek, you'll have to wake him up every few hours and make sure his pupils react properly to the light. As long as he's not throwing up, he should be fine."

"Thank you," Derek told him, Stiles echoing his gratitude. Deaton nodded, collecting his things as Derek moved around the car, sliding into the driver's seat. Stiles leaned over carefully, trying not to move his head too quickly, and pulled his door shut. Derek started the car and as they pulled out of the garage, Stiles began to shake.

"Stiles," Derek said, reaching over to touch his shoulder. He dug his fingers into Stiles' tense muscles. "Stiles, you're all right."

"I know," Stiles said, his teeth chattering. "Just a-a little overwhelmed."

"You were running on adrenaline," Derek said, and when they stopped at a red light the wolf twisted, reaching behind the seat to pull out a blanket, which he draped across Stiles.

"Thanks," Stiles mumbled. Derek touched his cheek, then pulled his hand away as the light turned green. Stiles wished he'd kept it there.

He fell asleep on the drive home and woke when Derek opened his door, sliding his hands around Stiles' body to lift him out.

"I can do it," Stiles muttered sleepily, pushing at Derek's hands. He tried to pull himself out of the car but it was like all the blood had pooled in his feet, weighing him down, and he slumped back in his seat.

"Let me help you," Derek said through his teeth.

"Fine," Stiles said tiredly, letting Derek pull him up, steadying him as the world spun. "God dammit."

"Relax," Derek told him, pulling one of Stiles' arms across his shoulders. Stiles leaned against him, feeling the heat of his body.

They made it to the house, then Derek helped him up the stairs and into his room. His room. Weird that he thought of it that way now, Stiles thought as Derek helped him sit on his bed. His bed, his room, his things in Derek's house. Their house.

"Wait here," Derek told him, and left the room. Stiles swayed slightly with nothing to support him, but he was conscious of the face that there was blood on his face and he didn't want to have to wash the comforter. Derek came back in with a wash cloth in his hands and he sat down next to Stiles, gently pulling his face closer. Stiles closed his eyes as Derek rubbed the warm, damp cloth against his skin, his other hand braced against the other side of his head. Stiles could smell the blood, thick and coppery, and he was glad that Derek had showered after his fight, because he didn't think he'd be able to stand it if the smell was any stronger.

"Are you okay?" Derek said quietly.

"Mm," Stiles replied. "Tired."

"Understandable." Derek increased his pressure, scrubbing at the blood that had dried in Stiles' hair. "Tell me if I hurt you."

"Nah," Stiles breathed, his eyes still closed, head wilting toward his chest. "You wouldn't."

He couldn't hear the way Derek's breathing paused, just felt his hand slow before moving again. “No,” the alpha said quietly.

When Derek finished cleaning his face and left the room, Stiles laid back on his bed carefully, his head protesting the change in angle. He was nearly asleep when Derek came back and pushed a glass of water into one hand, two pills in the other. Stiles took them without asking what they were; Derek had proven he was reliable this evening. They probably weren’t roofies.

“I’m not doing my job, am I?” Stiles asked, cracking his eyes open to look at Derek. “I’m supposed to be taking care of you, not the other way around.”

“I don’t care about that,” Derek said, shifting uncomfortably.

“Oh,” Stiles sighed, his eyes settling shut again. “Cool.” He felt Derek pull the glass of water from his hand and caught the alpha’s wrist without thinking. “Will you stay? I mean,” he added, “if you have to wake me up every few hours, you might as well stick close. Right?”

Derek didn’t reply for a long time, and if he’d been more clearheaded, Stiles probably would have begun stammering an excuse, but he was tired and kept his mouth shut. “Okay,” Derek finally agreed, and Stiles relaxed. He heard Derek set down the glass of water, then the mattress dipped as Derek settled down next to him. Stiles moved automatically, shuffling close to the alpha so the sides of their bodies were pressed against each other. He felt Derek relax against him and the warmth of the wolf’s body was enough to push him from drowsy to dreaming.

-

Stiles awoke the next morning and the space in the bed next to him was empty, and so cold he had to wonder if Derek had even stuck around after he’d fallen asleep. He vaguely recalled being shaken awake a few times in the night, Derek shining a bright light in his eyes. That didn’t mean that Derek had stayed with him, though, and he wondered why the idea was so disappointing. When he rose, however, there was a note on his dresser, stuck under a glass of water. Two aspirins sat next to the glass and Stiles smiled.

Take it easy today. I’ll be back in the evening. Call me if you need anything.

Anything was underlined twice. Stiles smiled again.

He lounged around for most of the day, too bored to even watch tv. He spent a good fifty percent of the time catnapping on the couch, waiting for Derek to come home and entertain him. When Derek did come home, he breezed through the front door looking oddly relaxed. Stiles sat up when he heard the door open, leaning over the back of the couch to watch the alpha. He noticed Derek carried a six-pack of beer in one hand and a bottle of whiskey in the other.

“I didn’t think werewolves could get drunk,” Stiles said curiously.

“We can’t,” Derek replied, kicking off his shoes. If Stiles had tried that with his hands full, he definitely would have tipped over. Wolf skills again. It wasn’t fair. Derek lifted the six-pack. “This is for you,” he said, then raised the bottle of whiskey, “and this is for me. Present from Peter. It’s laced with a type of wolfsbane that’s not deadly; it mimics the effect of alcohol.”

“Couldn’t you just put it in water then?”

“Where’s the fun in that?” Derek asked with the ghost of a grin on his face.

“So we’re getting drunk?” Stiles asked, and Derek really did grin, then, his teeth bright and white. Stiles stared at him, entranced by the unfamiliar expression on his face.

“We’re getting drunk.”

-

“So where’d you go today?” Stiles asked, popping the cap off his fourth beer. He was in the delicious light-headed stage of drunkenness, though this next beer would push him to the edge of the dangerous realm where he started getting handsy. “The gym again?”

Derek rolled his shoulders, the ice clinking in his third Jack and Coke. “Only for the morning. I had to go talk to your old roommate.”

“Oh, right,” Stiles said, some of the happy edge wearing away. “Because of Jackson.”

“Because of Jackson,” Derek agreed.

“What did Danny say?”

“Not much,” Derek replied. “He smelled relieved.”

Stiles wrinkled his nose. “TMI. Anyway, you should do something with them – the pack, I mean.” Derek raised his eyebrows and Stiles continued, “Not like, a day at the beach or whatever, but a dinner or something. It’s important for them to be close, right?”

Derek shrugged, his mouth tightening.

“How many are there, anyway?” Stiles asked. He ticked them off on his fingers. “Isaac, Erica, Danny…is there anyone else?”

“Boyd,” the alpha said heavily. “That’s it.”

“Okay. That’s manageable, right? If you’ll have them over, I’ll cook. How’s that?”

“Maybe,” Derek conceded. “But not right now. Next week, after the full moon.”

“Okay,” Stiles agreed easily. “Hey, you never told me who bit Scott.”

Derek’s mouth went thinner. “Does it matter?”

“Why?” Stiles asked, picking up on the dangerous tone in his voice. “Is there a reason I shouldn’t know?”

Derek hesitated. “It was my sister,” he finally admitted. “She – she went a little crazy after the fire. The alpha powers overwhelmed her. She attacked him – didn’t ask his permission to turn him, which is against our code.”

“Your sister?” Stiles straightened. “You mentioned her before. Where is she?”

Derek’s mouth worked for a moment, like he was rehearsing the words. “Dead.”

Stiles winced. “Aw, shit, dude, I’m sorry—”

Derek shook his head. “No. It…it wasn’t the best thing that could have happened, but she wasn’t getting better. After the fire…she…we both went a little crazy. I pulled it back, somewhat, but she became obsessed with finding whoever set it.”

“And did she find out?”

Derek hesitated again. “The…Hunters have a code too. They only kill weres that have killed humans, only if they’re dangerous. Chris Argent, he…had a sister. She didn’t follow the code. She’d kill any were she came across. I didn’t know that when I met her.” He turned his head, a bitter expression on his face.

“That’s the woman that you used to come into the bakery with,” Stiles said, and he didn’t need Derek to nod to know it was the truth. “She used you.”

“To get to my family,” Derek agreed, hissing between his teeth.

“So what happened?”

“Laura killed her,” the alpha said, very quietly, “and Chris killed Laura. He didn’t know that Kate set the fire. When he found out, he…tried to apologize. He gave Peter and I a lot of money. Peter started the league with it.”

“Peter became the alpha after Laura died?”

Derek nodded, his mouth thin. He poured more whiskey into his drink and swirled it around, watching the ice clink against the glass. Stiles watched him, feeling guilty for being so curious, but it was strange for Derek to be so open, and he didn’t want to waste the opportunity.

“And how’d you become alpha?”

“I didn’t want to challenge Peter and lose the only family I had left,” Derek replied, still watching his drink. “But being a beta wasn’t enough. I felt weak, not in control, so I abandoned Peter, became an omega, fought my hundred fights in the beta league. I killed the first alpha I fought and that was that.” He smiled bitterly, spreading his hands wide. “Tada.”

Stiles was silent for a long moment. “What about the scar on your back, then? When did you get it?”

“Chris did it, after Laura killed Kate,” Derek replied, his mouth going thin again. “They were hunting both of us, and he left me for dead.”

“Jesus.” Stiles shotgunned the rest of his beer and set the bottle down on the table. “Can I try some of your whiskey?”

Derek gave the bottle of Jack an uncertain look. “It’s not poisonous,” he said, “but it might make you hallucinate.”

“Bring it on,” Stiles said, wriggling his fingers. “I went through an experimental stage in college. I took every hallucinogen you can think of.”

“Not sure you should be bragging about that,” Derek replied, but poured him a shallow glass. “Coke?”

“I thought we were trying to get drunk,” Stiles grinned, and knocked back the glass with practiced ease.

“Touché.”

-

Stiles was drunk enough to know he’d be ridiculously hung over tomorrow, but he was too far gone to care. He and Derek were sitting on the couch, leaning against each other, watching a late night James Bond marathon on tv. The bottle of whiskey sat on the couch between them, the only thing keeping their thighs from touching. Stiles wanted to be touching and he’d tried to make this vocal to Derek, but either the whiskey or the wolfsbane had numbed his tongue, making talking difficult, and Derek was acting weird, but trying to act like he wasn’t, so it was a lot like sitting next to a robot.

“Favorite Bond?” Stiles asked, his words slurring slightly. It only occurred to him just now to even wonder if he was supposed to be drinking while he had a concussion. Probably not.

“Dalton,” Derek replied, his eyes shifting to look at Stiles. He was weirdly pale, or maybe it was the light from the television. “Yours?”

Stiles thought about it. “The new Bond, I think,” he replied. “Daniel Craig. He’s got those blue eyes, you know.” Stiles looked up to meet Derek’s eyes and his lips parted, because Derek’s eyes were blue, looking at him steadily. “Like yours.”

Derek frowned. “My eyes aren’t blue.”

“But—” Stiles watched them flip from blue to red then back. “If that’s not—” He twisted around and could see lights flashing outside. Police lights, red and blue and white. “Oh.”

He staggered to his feet as behind him, Derek said, sounding mystified, “Stiles?” Stiles pushed aside the curtains and saw a cruiser sitting by the side of the road, lights on, its door hanging open. He could see the officer inside, slumped over, and Stiles moaned, backing up. He smacked into something solid; Derek had risen and was standing behind him.

“What’s going on?” Derek asked him suspiciously, but Stiles was already staggering for the front door, yanking it open and tumbling out onto the lawn.

“Dad,” he groaned, his heart aching. He could see his dad’s bloody face resting against the wheel, his eyes closed. “Oh no, no, no.”

“Stiles!” Derek caught him by the arm and Stiles sobbed, fighting his grip.

“Let me go,” he moaned. “Let me get my dad!”

“Dad?” Derek sounded perplexed, then understanding filled his voice. “Stiles, no, there’s nothing there. It’s the wolfsbane.” He pulled Stiles back against him, covering his eyes with one hand. “Relax. It’s not real.”

Stiles’ breath hitched with sobs and he had to cling to the arm Derek had around his chest, because he thought he might fall over if he didn’t.

“It’s not real,” Derek repeated. “I’m going to uncover your eyes, okay?”

Stiles nodded, hiccupping, and Derek lifted his hand away. The street was empty, no cruiser, no lights, no dying dad slumped over the wheel. Stiles shuddered. “Fuck.”

“Come on,” the alpha said, his voice gentle. “Come on.” And he led Stiles back inside, shoving him back onto the couch, dropping down next to him. Derek slid an arm around Stiles’ shoulder and Stiles leaned against him without shame, the heat from Derek’s body calming him like it had last night. He fell asleep without meaning to, head hazy with emotion and drink.

-

When Stiles woke, sitting bolt upright from his reclining position on the couch, the living room was still dark, and the clarity in his head told him that he was probably still drunk. Derek was nowhere in sight and Stiles stood, feeling a little lonely.

“Derek?” he called quietly, but there was no response. He wandered out into the hall and up the stairs, flicking on the hall light, but he couldn’t see Derek in his bed or, for that matter, Stiles’. He went back downstairs, peering out the front door, but Derek’s car was still out front. Where had he gone so late at night? It had to be at least three.

Stiles went into the kitchen to check the time, since he’d finally synchronized the clock on the stove to the time on the tv, and when he turned on the kitchen light, there was Derek laying stomach down on the floor, a pool of black liquid by his head. For a moment, all Stiles could do was stare down at his prone body, at the way Derek’s shirt had ridden up on his hip, revealing skin that was way too pale to be normal.

“Derek?” Stiles knelt next to his head, carefully avoiding the pool of black liquid. He thought it was blood for a moment, but it looked too thick, and smelled almost sweet, not coppery at all. He saw there were trails of it running from Derek’s nose, the corners of his mouth, and he shook Derek’s shoulder. “Come on, Derek. Can’t hold your booze?” He pressed his fingers to the alpha’s neck and his skin was clammy, his pulse so slow Stiles could barely detect it. “Shit.”

Stiles tried shaking Derek harder, slapping him lightly on the cheek, then more violently. Derek didn’t move, didn’t even flutter his eyelashes like people always did in movies. Stiles tried not to panic. Surely the wolfsbane wouldn’t have done this to him. Right? Unless getting knocked completely and totally unconscious was something that Derek was into in which case, really, he might have mentioned it, but Stiles knew that this wasn’t right. He knew, and so he did the only thing he could think of, which was to shove his hands into the pockets of Derek’s pants and grope around until he found Derek’s phone.

Stiles thumbed through his contacts hurriedly. He was mildly offended to find himself in the list simply as the annoyance but whatever, he could be offended later. Stiles’ finger hovered over Peter’s name, but stopped for two reasons; one, Derek had said the whiskey came from Peter, so it wasn’t unfeasible that Peter might have something to do with it and two, he had a feeling that it would be bad to admit to another alpha that Derek wasn’t in the greatest shape, like that might threaten his territory or something. It was a relief when he found Deaton’s name, and he hit the call button, hoping that the doctor would answer his phone at – Stiles glanced at the stove clock – 3:47 in the morning.

“Derek?” Deaton’s voice came at him, sounding both blurry from sleep and wary. Maybe Derek never called him.

“It’s not Derek, it’s Stiles,” he said, his throat going tight. “I’m sorry to call, I just – something’s happened to Derek and I don’t know—”

“What is it?” Deaton asked, his voice going sharp.

“I-I don’t know,” Stiles said, then admitted what he’d been fearing. “I think he’s been poisoned. He came home with a bottle of whiskey that he said had wolfsbane in it, but I don’t think it was the right kind, and there’s this black stuff coming out of him, and—”

“Stiles,” the doctor said, speaking gently and quickly, “you need to get into the basement.”

“Basement?” Stiles wondered out loud. “But there’s no—” He thought of a door in the hallway that he hadn’t bothered with since the first day alone in the house, when he’d tried the knob and it had been locked. “I don’t have the key.”

“Look for Derek’s keys. He keeps them with him at all times.”

Stiles searched Derek’s pockets again, and found the keys in one pocket of his leather jacket. He stood and hurried into the hall, where he tried the keys on the ring until one slid into the lock and the door swung open. Stiles flipped on the light and almost tripped down the steps. He paused at the bottom, his eyes going wide. “What the fuck?”

The basement was mostly empty; there was a work bench against one wall with some tools and miscellaneous items, but most of the space was taken up by a metal cage with closely spaced bars.

“Stiles?” Deaton said in his ear. “Don’t worry. That’s where Derek goes on the full moon. You need to hurry – go to the work bench and look for a small tool box. It’s blue, if I recall correctly.”

Stiles swallowed and hurried across the cool floor to the bench. He found the box underneath on a shelf, just as Deaton described. “Okay?”

“Bring it back upstairs,” Deaton instructed, and Stiles did as he was told, shutting the door on that freaky cage and reentering the kitchen. Derek looked even paler, if that was possible. “Inside the box you’ll find multiple samples of wolfsbane. You need to find the one that Derek took, which means you have to burn each sample until you find the right one.”

“How will I know which one’s right?”

“It will react strangely – the flame may be blue or purple, or it may spark as it burns. Once you find it, make a cut on Derek and press the ashes into the wound. It’s the fastest way to get the cure into his bloodstream.”

“Okay,” Stiles said. “Okay. I’m going to put the phone down so I can do this.”

“Quickly,” Deaton urged. Stiles set the phone down on the kitchen tiles and flipped the tool box open. Sure enough, inside was a lighter and many small vials of what looked like herbs, each meticulous labeled with the plant’s Latin name. Stiles went through nearly fifteen strains, dumping the vials on the floor and setting the lighter to sample after sample. Each burned with a regular flame until he set alight Aconitum reclinatum and the flame burned neon green. Stiles scrambled to his feet and lunged across the kitchen for a knife. It took him a moment to steel himself before cutting into Derek’s arm but he moved quickly, and even as the blood welled up, he crammed the ashes into the wound. They burned green again and he jerked his hand back, but the would was already closing under his fingers. Wolf powers.

Stiles wiped his hands on his jeans, regardless of the blood and ash, and picked up the phone. “Okay, I found it. How long will it take before he’s okay?”

“It depends on how long the poison was in his system.”

“We started drinking at like ten,” Stiles said, feeling ill.

“You were very lucky, then,” Deaton remarked. “Much longer and it may have been fatal. Derek should be all right, but he may sleep through most of the day, possibly the next. Call me if anything seems wrong, but as long as he’s breathing normally, he should be fine.”

“Thank you,” Stiles said.

“You’re welcome, but be careful. The full moon’s in three days, and Derek may get aggressive.”

“Okay,” Stiles said. “Thanks for the warning.”

He set Derek’s phone back on the floor and looked at the alpha. Maybe he was just wishing it, but Derek’s skin already seemed to have a healthier tone to it. Stiles sat back on his heels, wondering what to do with him. Getting him upstairs would probably be impossible, as Derek had at least another thirty pounds in muscle on him, but the couch might be feasible.

Stiles carefully flipped Derek onto his back, away from the puddle of mysterious black vomit, and pulled him into the living room by his ankles. Shoving him onto the couch was difficult, and probably would have been hilarious for an outsider to watch, but he managed it, eventually. Stiles went upstairs and pulled the blankets from his bed, not quite daring to touch the mess that was Derek’s bed, and spread some on Derek and some out on the floor for himself. He thought about cleaning up the mess in the kitchen, then decided it could wait until morning.

Stiles laid on the floor for a long time, listening to Derek’s breathing deepen and steady out until his own breathing grew deep and he drifted off to sleep.

-

Stiles woke up some time later feeling just as hung over as he’d suspected he would be, and for a while it was all he could do just to lie there and moan softly at the way his head pounded every time he even blinked. He wondered if werewolves got hangovers and that made him remember Derek sleeping on the couch above him. Stiles shot up on one elbow and before he could really focus on Derek, his stomach protested the quick movement with a wave of nausea and Stiles was up on his feet, dashing across the kitchen to puke in the bathroom.

Stiles spent some time in the bathroom hating his existence before he was able to find some aspirin lurking under the sink and downed it and about a gallon of water. When he was finally able to make it back to the living room, Derek was in the same position he’d left him in last night, his breathing steady. Stiles collapsed back to the floor and laid there for an hour or so, until his head wasn’t pounding quite so badly. After that, he staggered into the kitchen, groaned at the mess he’d left for himself, and made a truly astounding amount of eggs and bacon.

The greasy food helped settle his stomach a little, and Stiles set about sweeping up the ash and putting all the little vials back in their box. The black liquid had solidified into something that looked and smelled like tar, and Stiles spent nearly an hour scraping it off the floor and trying not to gag. When he finally went back into the living room, Derek hadn’t moved and Stiles sat on the floor, his back against the couch, to continue watching Bond movies.

The day passed slowly. Derek never moved. It didn’t seem like sleep to Stiles; more like unconsciousness, because Derek didn’t shift or flip or turn or anything. Or maybe he always slept like that. He didn’t worry about it, because Derek’s breathing sounded fine, anyway.

Stiles spent some time wondering what had happened. Had there been a mix-up and the wrong wolfsbane had gone in the bottle? That seemed like an innocent enough explanation, but what if it was more sinister and someone was out to get Derek? That someone had to be Peter, since the bottle had come from him, but why? Stiles didn’t know anything about the relationship between the two Hales, but if Derek hadn’t been willing to fight Peter to become an alpha, what could Peter be afraid of? Stiles wished his dad was awake, because figuring out this sort of thing had been his living.

That set Stiles off on a whole other train of thought, where he sat and worried about his dad for a good hour or two. He thought about taking Derek’s car and going to the hospital but really, his dad was in okay condition right now, and he wouldn’t feel right leaving Derek.

The day turned into night and Stiles spent another uncomfortable night on the floor. He could have gone upstairs and slept, but that didn’t feel right, either.

Derek woke up late in the afternoon of the second day, as Stiles sat on the floor eating a sandwich, watching Maury and giggling shamelessly. He heard Derek shift behind him and twisted around to see the alpha propping himself up on one elbow, looking around blearily.

“What,” Derek began, and made a face. Stiles offered him his glass of water and Derek consumed it in three large gulps, then tried again, “Did I pass out?”

Stiles crossed his arms over the cushions and said, “More than that, dude.” He told Derek everything that had happened and Derek’s expression grew progressively more stony with every word.

“I don’t know it was from Peter,” he said finally. “Not for certain. I went to my room at the arena and it was already there.”

Stiles raised his eyebrows. “You didn’t think that was suspicious?”

Derek shrugged. “Peter’s done it in the past, so I thought nothing of it. There was no note, though. It could have come from anyone.”

“Is there anyone who’d want to kill you?”

Derek shrugged again. “I’m an alpha. Who wouldn’t would be a shorter list.”

“Okay,” Stiles said, resigning himself to the idea that maybe they’d never find out who poisoned Derek. “No more accepting gifts, though.”

“No,” Derek agreed, putting out a hand and rubbing his fingers against Stiles’ cheek. He wasn’t looking at Stiles, though; he was staring at Stiles’ sandwich sitting on the floor.

Stiles didn’t miss the look. “You want me to make you one?”

Derek nodded. “Two?”

Stiles climbed to his feet and patted Derek on the head. “Anything for Mama’s growing boy.” He laughed at Derek’s unamused growl and disappeared into the kitchen.

-

Derek didn’t leave the house the next day, though he seemed to want to; he kept ranging around, staring out the window, touching Stiles incessantly. Stiles nearly asked him what was wrong, until he remember Deaton mentioning the full moon and his warning: Derek may get aggressive. Instead, Stiles asked, “Are you going in to fight tonight?”

Derek jerked away from where he was staring out the window to flop down on the couch next to Stiles. He shook his head. “No. I’m still healing, and the others don’t need to know I’m weak right now.”

“Would having the pack over help?”

“I told you; not until after the full moon!” Derek snapped, and Stiles blinked; he’d just been trying to be helpful. Derek made an apologetic noise and pressed his face to Stiles’ neck, breathing in deeply, as though Stiles’ scent calmed him.

He grew worse as the day went on, snarling at every comment Stiles made until Stiles gave up talking to him at all. By the time the sun went down, Stiles was surprised he hadn’t worn a path in the rug from pacing back and forth in front of the window. As soon as the light began to fade, however, Derek turned and said, “I need you to lock me up.”

“Downstairs?” Stiles made a face. “I thought you said you had control.”

“Control is one thing,” Derek said tersely. “Taking chances is another.”

“Okay,” Stiles said, following Derek down into the basement. Derek pointed to a number pad on the wall.

“This controls everything. I don’t actually need anything from you, because it’ll unlock automatically at nine tomorrow morning, but just in case anything goes wrong, the key code to unlock the door is 41152,” Derek said, pressing the numbers as he spoke. Beyond him, the cell door unlocked with a click and Stiles watched him step inside. Derek pushed the door closed and turned to face Stiles. “Don’t come down here tonight.”

“How will I know if something’s gone wrong, then?” Stiles asked. “And what could go wrong, by the way?”

Derek rolled his eyes. “Nothing’s going to go wrong with me, but if the house is burning down, I’d like you to know how to let me out.”

Stiles sucked in a breath. “That’s not what happened to your—”

“No,” Derek said bluntly. “Go upstairs. I’ll be back up tomorrow morning.”

Stiles nodded reluctantly and retreated back up to the living room. He tried to distract himself by making dinner and that didn’t work, because after he’d made it, he realized that Derek hadn’t eaten, so he opened the basement door and shouted down, “Do you want dinner?”

Derek didn’t reply and Stiles shut the door after a few minutes, resisting the urge to go down. What did it look like when an alpha transformed? From what he’d gathered from research, the betas’ shift didn’t go further than the sideburns and hairy brow, but the alphas…his research hadn’t been definite, but every source seemed to agree that there was another form, something more wolf-like and monster-ish. The thought both horrified and piqued Stiles’ curiosity. If he had been a cat, he would have lost his nine lives years ago.

Things got hard when, sometime around the time the moon began to rise above the houses, he could hear Derek downstairs crying. Not crying like a human crying, but crying like a trapped beast, miserable wails and howls rising from the basement. Stiles turned the television up, trying to ignore it, and he did for a while. The Bond marathon was still on, and he watched nearly all of Tomorrow Never Dies before giving up. The sounds went straight to Stiles’ heart; Derek sounded well and truly unhappy and that – well, it was his job to make him happy, right?

Stiles hovered outside the basement door for a long time, his hand on the doorknob, his curiosity battling for dominance over his fear of Derek. Derek be damned; he was stuck in a cage until tomorrow and so his ability to take his wrath out on Stiles was that much further away. Stiles opened the door and descended into the basement. Snarls greeted him before he’d even touched the cement floor and when he turned to face the cage, Stiles froze.

Derek wasn’t there any more. Well, he was, but he was a massive wolf now, and Stiles’ jaw dropped. He’d thought that, if that was indeed the form that the alpha took, he’d be some big black thing, but the wolf in front of him was mostly grey and white, though his eyes were the familiar red. The wolf snarled furiously at him, standing stiff-legged in the middle of the cage, its hackles raised.

It was strange the way Stiles wasn’t scared. That probably should have worried him, but he didn’t even stop to think about it. Really, it made sense; he’d been living with a wolf for a month and now, to see him in this form, it just seemed right.

“Hey,” Stiles said, his voice low. “I’m sorry. I know you told me not to come down, but you sounded miserable and I thought – I thought maybe you wanted some company. It’s gotta suck, being all penned up in there.” He moved cautiously, stepping over to the number pad and keying in the number. The cage unlocked with a click and Stiles stepped toward it, while inside Derek didn’t stop growling, watching him with furious red eyes.

“I know, I know,” Stiles said lightly, pulling at the door and slipping inside. The wolf snarled again but backed away, moving stiffly. “I’m an idiot. You don’t need to tell me how stupid this is. Look, I’m just going to sit over here – in this corner, okay? And you can ignore me or rip out my throat – please don’t do that, if you can avoid it. I know it’s an option, but I’m sure I wouldn’t enjoy it.” Stiles sat down in the corner opposite Derek, spreading his hands peaceably. “I’m here, okay? Now there’s nothing either of us can do about it. Okay.”

Stiles folded his hands in his lap and tried to be as passive as possible. The alpha watched him, still growling, but Stiles looked down at his hands. He should have brought a book.

Eventually, Derek stopped growling and began pacing instead, much like he had earlier in the day up in the living room. He kept to the other end of the cage and Stiles remained still, though he watched Derek move from under his eyelashes. He watched Derek nose at the iron bars and huff when they didn’t give.

Derek eventually gave up and collapsed with a sigh. Stiles watched him for a while, then returned his gaze to his hands, thoughts drifting. He thought about his dad. The day before had been Wednesday, so he'd missed yet another visit. He wondered if there had been any improvement. Probably not, if the past year was anything to judge by. Stiles must have done some shitty things in a past life, because this year - no, his whole life, really - had been one shit show after another.

Stiles' thoughts drifted further, back to his mom. He didn't think about her often; his clearest memories of her were in the hospital, so thin she was nearly skeletal, all of her beautiful dark hair gone. If he thought hard, though, he could remember sitting on her lap while she read him a book, or picking him up from school in her old Jeep with a smile on her face. Stiles had loved that Jeep; after he'd gotten his license it had become his car and he'd driven it for six years before it finally died last winter and he hadn't been able to afford the repairs.

Stiles became aware that Derek was standing next to him and he lifted his head, smiling unhappily. "Sorry," he said, "am I bumming you out?"

Derek shook all over like a dog getting out of a bath and stepped closer. Stiles held a hand out to him and Derek snarled, white teeth flashing alarmingly close to his hand. Stiles jerked it back quickly. "Right, right," he muttered. "You know what I smell like anyway."

Derek made a huffing noise and Stiles sat still, letting him move on his own time. The wolf stepped in closer and sniffed him cautiously, breathing against the denim of his jeans, then up the cotton of his hoodie. He shoved his nose against Stiles' armpit and Stiles had to choke back a giggle, because he was ridiculously ticklish. Derek huffed again and raised his nose to Stiles' neck, his breath warm and damp. Stiles stilled, his heart beating faster at the thought of those teeth so close to his throat. Coming into the cage had been a bad idea, maybe the worse idea he'd ever had. People talked about sense of preservation, but Stiles definitely did not have that. Natural selection was not his ally.

He could smell Derek, a thick musk that seemed heavy with the scent of dirt and petrichor and, faintly, leather. Derek didn't move for a long minute and Stiles raised a hand cautiously, touching Derek's long fur. Derek made a low noise, but it didn't sound angry, so Stiles ran a hand through Derek's fur. It was soft and clean and Stiles lifted his other hand, scratching his fingers through the thick fur under his neck. Derek made another soft noise and sat on his haunches, resting his head on Stiles' shoulder.

"You were right about the wolf," Stiles said quietly. "It's very civilized."

Derek pulled his head back and for a moment, Stiles thought he might have offended the alpha, but the wolf just turned and laid down at Stiles' side, head on Stiles' thigh. They sat like that for a long time, Stiles pulling his fingers through Derek's fur absentmindedly. It was weird how he wasn’t scared of Derek, but then, Derek had stopped scaring him days ago. He thought he understood why Derek turned to the wolf, because it was pure and organic, and it didn’t have to worry about things like his family being dead. Stiles knew loneliness; he’d felt it deeply this year without his dad, and he’d felt it a long time ago after his mother died and his father threw himself into his job. He knew that Derek was lonely but if they stuck together, maybe neither would be lonely any longer.

-

When Stiles woke the next day he found himself in his own bed and his entire body ached. He didn't remember coming up to bed after the cage unlocked, or Derek carrying him, if that was the case, but his bed felt pretty awesome considering he'd spent the last three nights on the floor.

Stiles eventually got up two hours later when his stomach started grumbling in one long continuous noise. He was unsurprised to find Derek gone, no note on the kitchen table. That was fine. Derek was probably mad at him for going downstairs last night, even though Stiles was maybe ninety percent sure he'd made the night a little easier on the wolf. He could smell Derek on him, his earthy scent clinging to his clothes, and he made the conscious decision not to change, reasoning that Derek might not get so mad if he could smell himself all over Stiles. And, okay, he kind of liked the scent.

His suspicions proved correct; Derek came home late, long after the sun had set, slamming the door behind him as he entered the house. Stiles twisted to look at him from where he sat on the couch and Derek looked back furiously. "You," he began angrily, then shook his head and stomped upstairs.

Stiles blinked. Okay then. He headed to the kitchen to start on dinner and when he heard Derek coming back downstairs he expected the wolf to come into the kitchen, but he didn't, dropping down onto the couch instead. Stiles shrugged to himself.

They ate dinner in silence. Stiles didn't try to make conversation; Derek was still visibly angry, and there was no need to antagonize him, not when the full moon had been last night. They sat on the couch later, watching tv in silence, and when Derek rose to his feet, apparently to head to bed, Stiles said, "Is everything all right?"

Derek frowned down at him, his nostrils flaring. "You," he said flatly, "are leaving tomorrow."

Stiles stared up at him, mouth slack with surprise. "What do you mean?"

"You're not staying here any longer," Derek said firmly, anger building behind his tone.

"I can't leave!" Stiles protested. "I owe Peter money!"

"No, you don't," Derek snapped. "I wrote him a check."

"Then I owe you—”

"You don't owe me anything," Derek snarled, and Stiles shrank back against the couch.

"Is this because of last night?" he asked quietly.

"Yes," Derek snapped, and turned toward the stairs.

Stiles surged up from the couch. "Look, I'm sorry," he said. "I know that was a stupid thing to do, but I just - I wanted to be close to you."

"That was not your job," Derek said furiously, already halfway up the stairs. "I could have killed you. Pack your shit and be ready to go tomorrow morning." He disappeared upstairs and Stiles heard his door slam shut a moment later.

"But you didn't kill me," Stiles muttered. He went upstairs quietly, going into his room and shutting the door softly. He sat on the edge of his bed. His bed. Their house. Fuck.

He sat there for a long time, thinking hard, before rising and leaving his room. He stood in the hallway for a while, knowing that Derek could probably hear his heartbeat, before crossing over to Derek's room and pushing the door open.

Stiles had never been in Derek's room. He wasn't a wolf, but he could sense the need for a private space, and even in his most irritating moment he wouldn't violate that. Except now, of course.

It was definitely the most lived-in space in the house. There were bookcases crammed with books, and a huge bed. Derek sat in an armchair by the window but he leapt to his feet when Stiles burst in, a furious snarl twisting his face.

"Get out!" Derek roared, but Stiles stood his ground, folding his arms over his chest. Maybe he would have moved a month ago, probably would have dropped to his knees in fear, but he'd been locked in a cage with Derek on the full moon and hadn't been hurt. Derek wasn't going to hurt him now.

"No," Stiles said firmly. "Tell me why you paid Peter."

"I want you gone," Derek snarled. "I never asked for you, and I don't want you."

"So you would pay half a million dollars just to get rid of me?" Stiles asked, raising an eyebrow. "That's pretty desperate. Tell me the truth."

Derek glared at him and mirrored his position, crossing his arms over his chest. "If you stay, you're going to wind up hurt or dead."

"No I won't," Stiles replied calmly. "If you didn't hurt me last night, you're not going to."

"I've already hurt you," Derek said bitterly, jerking his head at the cast on Stiles' arm.

"You made a mistake."

"I'll keep making them," Derek muttered, dropping his eyes.

"You controlled yourself last night," Stiles pointed out. "What did your wolf know that you aren't listening to?" He watched Derek closely, but the alpha wouldn't look at him. Stiles dropped his voice. "Did I do my job? Did I make you happy?" Derek didn’t reply, but the way his cheeks went red told Stiles everything. “Tell me,” he requested, for the third time.

“You smell strange,” Derek said after a long pause, his voice low, rubbing a hand against the back of his neck. “The wolf – I – figured it out last night, and I can’t have you staying here when it was never your choice to be here. I can’t have you here for months and then have you leave, because I – It’s hard enough now.”

Stiles leaned against the doorframe, his heart beating faster. “What if I told you,” he said quietly, “that I want to be here? Would you let me stay?”

Derek looked at him, then away quickly, licking his lips. “Yes,” he said, very quietly.

“Then…I want to be here. I want to stay with you.”

Derek’s head jerked up to stare at Stiles. “You mean that?” he asked uncertainly.

“Use your wolf powers,” Stiles said, smiling slightly. “I want to be here.”

“You’re not lying.”

Stiles shook his head. Derek took a hesitant step toward him, then stopped, looking almost apprehensive. Stiles crossed the distance for him, stopping short a foot from the alpha. Derek lifted his hand cautiously and cupped the side of Stiles’ face, then slid his hand to the back of his neck, pulling him forward gently, so their foreheads touched.

“I want you,” Derek breathed, his breath warm against Stiles’ lips.

“Kind of got that, with all the touching and whatnot,” Stiles replied, his eyes closed. Tone softening, he added, “I want you too.”

Derek made a soft, almost pained noise, his other hand sliding around Stiles’ waist, playing with the hem of his shirt. “Don’t deserve it,” he muttered, sounding hurt.

“Hey,” Stiles said seriously. He put his hand over Derek’s heart, felt it beating under his fingers. “You can hear that, right? You’re not a soulless beast. Maybe you were a little aggressive that first week, but you took me to the hospital to visit my dad. You saved me from Jackson. If you only thought of me as an object, you wouldn’t have cleaned me up and sat with me all night. You could have ripped me to shreds yesterday, but you didn’t. So stop beating yourself up, all right? We’ve both had shitty lives and I think we deserve something good for once. Right?”

Stiles watched a faint smile spread on Derek’s lips. “Right,” the wolf said quietly.

“Good.” Stiles lifted his arms, pulling them tight around Derek’s neck. “So are you going to fucking kiss me or what?”

Derek made another low noise Stiles couldn’t interpret but it seemed to be good, because Derek dipped his head obligingly, pressing his lips to Stiles’. Stiles sighed against him because even though everything about Derek was harsh and solid, his mouth was soft and warm and completely inviting and Stiles just wanted to sink into him as deep as he could go. They kissed languidly, teeth pulling at lips, fingers digging into skin. Stiles tilted his head back with a soft moan when Derek’s mouth moved to his neck, licking and biting and sucking at his skin until he felt like melting wax in Derek’s hands, all soft and moldable. He pulled at Derek’s shirt, wanting his mouth on the alpha’s skin, and Derek helped shrug himself out of his top. Stiles ducked his head, biting down on one of Derek’s nipples and making the alpha hiss.

Derek pushed Stiles gently backward until his legs hit the bed and he sat, leaning forward to bite at Derek’s stomach. He pressed his nose against the trail of hair below Derek’s bellybutton like he’d dreamed about during the fight, inhaling Derek’s scent, his hands fumbling with the button of the alpha’s jeans. Derek groaned as Stiles shoved his jeans and underwear down, freeing his dick. Stiles echoed the noise, palming his own hard-on through his jeans as he leaned forward, licking a long line up the underside of his shaft before taking Derek into his mouth.

“Jesus,” Derek moaned, his hips moving in tiny, aborted movements as Stiles’ head moved up and down, one of his freckled hands at the base of Derek’s dick, the other digging into his hip. Derek slid a hand through Stiles’ hair, tugging at him. “Are you fucking kidding me, Stiles?”

Stiles pulled back to grin up at him, his lips red and swollen, amber eyes heavy-lidded with lust. “You know I’ve been dreaming about you? I wake up hard every morning, wanting you.”

“Clothes,” Derek said, his voice strangled. He curled his fingers into fists at his side, trying to keep his claws under control. “Off. Now.”

Stiles grinned wider and pulled his shirt off, then unzipped his fly and shimmied out of his boxers and pants, revealing creamy white skin dotted with freckles and moles. Derek shoved him back against the bed, kicking his way out of his jeans. He pressed their bodies together and Stiles tilted his head back at the way their dicks ground against each other, his mouth hanging in a slack oh. Derek grinned against his throat, sinking his teeth into Stiles’ collarbone and Stiles made a high-pitched whine, squirming under him.

“Do you—” Stiles asked, cutting himself off with a gasp as Derek jerked their hips together. “Can we—”

“You’re okay with it?”

“Dude,” Stiles panted, “you think I’d be asking if I didn’t want it?”

“It’s just – sudden.”

“No, it’s not,” Stiles laughed. “You touch me all the time.”

Derek shifted, looking equal parts uncertain and embarrassed. “That’s more of a pack thing but…I do like it. Touching you.”

“See?” Stiles nuzzled his face against Derek’s neck, smiling at the low noise the wolf made. “So can we?”

“I don’t have any lube,” Derek admitted and Stiles brought his head up.

“Not any? You don’t—other people—”

Derek turned his head. “The wolf—I—That’s not what I want.”

“So this…”

“Is important,” Derek said, and Stiles wasn’t really sure what he was talking about, but he wasn’t about to shut Derek down.

“Okay,” Stiles said. “I—I have some. In my room.” Derek frowned at him and he flushed. “I grabbed everything from my apartment, okay?”

“Okay,” Derek said, leaning forward to kiss him briefly before flopping onto his back. Stiles slid off the bed, feeling weirdly exposed, and hurried across the hall. He nearly ripped his bag trying to get the bottle out of the pocket and crossed back into Derek’s room, where he paused. Derek lay stretched out on his back, his feet hanging over the edge of the bed, arms folded under his head. Stiles still wasn’t quite sure how he’d ended up living here but he couldn’t complain, not any more. Stiles padded over to the bed, climbing up beside the alpha.

“Hey,” he breathed, “can I ride you?”

Derek looked over at him and grinned, which Stiles took as a yes, fuck, please. At least, that’s what he was saying a few moments later, kneeling over Derek’s chest and keening as Derek stretched him slowly, two large fingers sliding in and out of him almost painfully slow.

“Talk to me,” Stiles panted, looking down into Derek’s eyes.

“What do you want me to say?”

“Tell me what I smell like.”

Derek’s fingers slowed, then moved faster, curling inside of him and Stiles bent his head, breathing quickly, hips jerking. “You smell,” the alpha rumbled, “like cotton and summer air and…”

“And?” Stiles prompted, groaning as Derek slid a third finger in him. “You said – oh, fuck, Der – you said the wolf realized something you didn’t. Come on, please.”

Derek’s fingers slid out of him and Stiles sat back, feeling for Derek’s dick, lining it up with his entrance. Derek watched him, his eyes half shut, deep crimson burning against his cheeks. Stiles watched his face as he lowered himself onto Derek’s cock, mouth open, small noises escaping from him.

“You’re really working hard right now, aren’t you?” Stiles gasped, taking Derek in so deep his thigh rested flat against Derek’s sides. “Controlling it.”

Derek nodded, lips parting, and Stiles could see his fangs, sharp and dangerous but carefully kept away from Stiles’ skin. He pushed a hand up Derek’s chest, rocking his hips minutely. “You’ve been fighting it all along, haven’t you?” he murmured, rolling forward to press his forehead against Derek’s. “This whole month.”

Derek made a low noise, his hands digging into Stiles’ hips, and Stiles rocked faster, loving the friction of where his dick rubbed against Derek’s stomach. “You – ungh – you know something I don’t, don’t you? Fuck, fuck.”

“Stiles,” Derek rumbled, tilting his head, biting at his neck. “Shut up.”

“No,” Stiles gasped as Derek pumped his hips, slamming into him. “I did my research when – oh my fucking god – I found out about this whole stupid mess. Jesus, Derek. I smell weird to you, and you don’t sleep with other people. Fuck, I’m—” He tilted backward, arching his back. “Shit, I’m your fucking mate, aren’t I?”

Derek snarled and surged forward, flipping Stiles onto his back. The alpha fucked into him with total abandon, desperate and animalistic. Stiles dug his heels into Derek’s back, moaning with every thrust, nails digging so deep they probably would have made a normal person bleed. Derek pressed his face to Stiles’ neck, breathing in his scent, licking at the sweat pooling in the hollow of his throat. He was so deep inside Stiles that he felt like they were one being, tugging and pulling at each other in an effort to stay connected.

Stiles slid a hand between them, jerking at his dick, his eyes rolling back in his head at the pleasure overload in his brain. Derek’s hand folded over his and they brought him to climax together, finger slick with sweat and lube and precome. Stiles came so hard spots danced in his vision and it was all he could do to keep his legs around Derek, holding him tight so Derek could find his own orgasm. The alpha came with a howl, jerking out of Stiles to paint his stomach with cum.

They lay together for a long minute, riding the aftershocks of their orgasms. Derek leaned over him, pressing a hand to Stiles’ stomach, spreading their cum against his skin.

“That’s kind of gross,” Stiles told him. Derek gave him an expressionless look and leaned forward, sliding his tongue through the mess on his stomach. “And that’s super gross…but kind of hot.”

Derek half smiled and laid down on his stomach next to him, arms folded under his chin, but he didn’t look entirely happy. Stiles nudged his knee into Derek’s thigh. “What’s wrong? The mate thing?”

Derek sighed. “I just don’t want you to feel like…like you have to stay.”

"C'mon," Stiles admonished. "Do I seem like the type of person who'd just fuck you and leave?"

"That's not…this is different," Derek said uncertainly. "This is the wolf, not my human side. You won't feel—”

"Let me decide how I feel," Stiles told him, his voice softening. "Don't assume that just because I'm not a wolf, I can't feel it too."

Derek gave him an uncertain look and Stiles sighed softly. He pushed at Derek's side, forcing him to roll into his back. Stiles pulled himself on top of him, stretching out so their bodies slotted against each other. "You feel that?" he murmured. "I've never fit against anyone so well before.” He paused to press his lips against Derek’s jaw line, the wolf’s stubble prickling against his skin. “Look, we’ve known each other for a month, and I know that’s not a very long time, but doesn’t it tell you something that I don’t want to leave? Stop trying to talk yourself – and me – out of this. You deserve happiness. We both do."

Derek sighed softly, but he sounded more content. “Thank you,” he said quietly, lifting a hand to cup the back of Stiles’ head. Stiles made a contented noise, settling his head against Derek’s neck. They lay pressed together for a long time, Stiles remaining still despite the itchy feeling of cum drying on his skin.

“I think I’m going to quit fighting,” Derek said suddenly, and Stiles picked his head up.

“Oh? But how are you going to get all your anger out?”

“I don’t need the anger,” Derek replied, smiling faintly. “I’ve got you.”

Stiles grinned, pleased and then his breath hissed out of him. He lifted his hands, clutching at Derek’s face.

“What?” Derek asked, his voice slightly muffled.

“Your eyes,” Stiles breathed. All the red had bled from Derek’s eyes, leaving them a pale hazel, flecked with brilliant emerald green. “They’re fucking beautiful.”

Derek grinned and Stiles tilted his head back, laughing. “I did it!” he crowed. “I tamed the beast!”

“Stiles!” Derek barked, but he was laughing too, and Stiles pressed a kiss to his lips.

“Wolf,” he whispered, “meet your match.”

“Mate,” Derek corrected and Stiles, smiling against his lips, didn’t argue.

-

Your fate will be whatever it shall be.
I’ll fight no more, I let these things just be.