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Set Your Burdens Down

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Derek sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose as he listened to Erica squeal out of his driveway. He hated getting onto any of his betas. And not just because they were always upset afterwards. Being an alpha was hard. What made it even harder was not being a Dom, like most alphas. Derek was a sub - a sub who was very quickly losing his mind. He knew he needed help. But who? Oh, he knew who. The only person that wouldn't take advantage of this, that wouldn't just laugh him out of the building, and that wouldn't try to fight him for his title of alpha. Stiles. Derek swallowed hard, reaching out to grab Stiles’ arm as the others started to leave. "Need to talk to you," he muttered.

Stiles rolled his eyes. "What is it now?" he complained.

"Just don't leave yet." Derek frowned, waiting until the others were out of earshot before sighing a little, letting his shoulders slump, and finally, just about collapsing onto the couch. "I need your help," he admitted after a long moment..

Stiles stared. He had never - never - seen Derek like that. "Uh - what is it?" he asked after a minute.

Derek couldn't help the flush that fought to cover his face. He managed to force it down, leaning forward so he could rest his elbows on his knees, face in his hands. This put him even closer to Stiles, the scent of him making his chest rumble with what he called a growl, but his sister...his sister had always said it was a purr. "I'm - I'm a..." Come on, Derek, spit it out. "I'm a sub," he finally managed to force out, unconsciously trying to tuck his shoulders up, his eyes flashing even though they were covered. He was a sub. An alpha sub.

What. The fuck. Stiles bit his lip, hard, so he wouldn't say any of what he was thinking. Derek, a sub? With the shoving, and the growling, and the leather jackets? But even as he thought it, Stiles could think of all the times Derek had let him shove back. And the way Derek had let Peter lead him, just because Peter was his family. And how awkward a leader he had been at the start. "You're a sub?" Stiles asked quietly.

Derek just nodded, unable to say it again. God, it was hard enough to admit the first time. "I need help," he managed to say. "I can’t..." He trailed off, his hands shifting to clutch at his hair, his eyes flashing alpha red. He knew Stiles would pick it up. The constant emotional reactions, the temper issues. All because he wasn't able to stop dominating because of the alpha title. Fighting his own biology...

Well, shit. It's not like subs really needed to be submissive all the time, despite the societal bullshit that implied they did. But when stressed, Doms usually found it reassuring to be in control for a little while. And subs found it relaxing to not have to control anything. If Derek was a sub, with every stressful situation for the pack forcing him to take on more and more control... "When was the last time you subbed?" Stiles asked, worried.

Derek couldn't help his snort. "Last time I completely subbed? Or just answered to someone else?" he couldn't help but ask, his voice dry. Oh, he remembered the last time he'd been in subspace, alright.

"Either." Stiles was a switch, and he'd subbed platonically for Scott a few times when his anxiety was really bad. Not that he'd gone into his space or anything, but something like that could help ease things a bit.

"Last time in subspace was two hours before the fire," Derek forced out, fighting his shift at the memory. "Subbing in general was before Laura came here."

Fuck. "That's pretty shitty, dude," Stiles said, for lack of anything better to say. He wasn't going to speculate on whatever happened in the scene before the fire. Not now, anyway. "Tell me what you need."

"If I knew that I'd be a little more eloquent," Derek snarked, his voice weary. "I just. I need to submit. But it won't be easy, I can tell. I just...alpha." He groaned. "Instincts are going to fight, but I need to, I can't keep going like this, I'll end up doing something horrible without thinking."

"To the pack or to you?" Stiles asked, worried.

*

"Both." Derek fisted at his hair again, his claws slipping out and cutting at his scalp.

"Hey," Stiles said sharply. "Derek, don't do that. Don't hurt yourself."

Derek groaned, forcing himself to put his hands down, though he couldn't bring the claws back in.  He had to listen to Stiles, had to let him help. He only wanted Stiles.

Stiles came closer, reaching out tentatively. "Derek? Is it okay if I touch you?"

Derek's eyes flicked up to Stiles before managed to nod. "Safe," he grumbled softly. "I won't hurt you." He'd never hurt Stiles. Not on purpose, not again.

"That's not what I meant," Stiles muttered, coming over to sit next to Derek. He rested his hand on Derek's forearm. "It's okay, dude. Really."

"Oh," Derek murmured, for some reason a little calmer just from Stiles’ reassurance. Just enough so he could recognize things. "Yes, you can touch me," he confirmed, his hands still trembling.

"That's good, Derek, thank you," Stiles said quietly. "I'm going to hug you now, okay?"

Derek nodded, still fighting an internal battle, but a hug sounded nice. He hadn't had many of those lately.

Stiles wrapped one arm around Derek's shoulders, tugging him in. It wasn't a proper hug, not a real Stilinski Hug (TM), but it was a start. "I'm not going to try to put you down in your space right now," he murmured in Derek's ear. "I'm not going to try to Dom you at all. Right now, I just want to be your friend, someone you don't have to look after or watch out for. You don't have to be an alpha right now. You can relax."

Derek sucked in a breath, leaning into the embrace, the words loosening something in his chest. As much as he knew subspace would help, right this second trying to get there would cause more harm than good. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," Stiles replied, his mind racing as he tried to think of the best thing to do. "Okay, so, I'm a switch, right? So sometimes I hypothetically would Dom and sometimes I'd sub. So maybe what we can do is that we can hang out, and whichever way you feel, I can go with that. Not that I'd actually, like, blindly follow you or anything, but it's not like it's gonna hurt my ego if you don't submit, yeah?"

Derek nodded, as usual, wanting to slow down the rambling that tended to pour from Stiles' mouth. This could help though. It'd be hard enough to work past his instincts to submit; this way it could be a bit more balanced.

"But dude, whenever you need to relax, you can come hang out with me, okay?" Stiles went on. "Well, not when I'm at school and stuff, obviously. But you can hang out with me when I'm at home. And if you wanna - if you want to try kneeling, at any point, then that's cool too."

Derek watched Stiles for a moment, his heart warming without his permission. Stiles really did care and was trying to make him comfortable. "That may work. Sooner or later it may come to the point you're going to have to force it though." he warned, wanting Stiles to know what he was getting into.

"Derek," Stiles said seriously. "When you want to try going down, I will be there, and I will help you as much as you want me to help you. Okay?"

Derek nodded. "It won't be that easy though,” he admitted. "Not with me being an alpha."

Stiles frowned. "It's more than that, isn't it," he said grimly. "It's like how hearing my name after Mom died would give me panic attacks."

*

Derek closed his eyes, nodding. "But I can't keep on like I have been," he forced himself to admit, his clawed hands going back into his hair.

"Derek, don't do that," Stiles said instantly, then softened it with a quiet, "Please." He reached up and took Derek's hand, drawing it gently down and away. "You shouldn't hurt yourself. Please don't."

Derek blinked at the sharp order, the quiet plea just making him look over in surprise. "You really can Dom, can't you?" he mused, letting his hand be led away from his hair.

"Being a switch is a real thing, you know," Stiles said wryly.

"Doesn't mean I could see you too much into an actual stern Dom." Derek snorted, his claws finally melting away.

"There's no point 'playing Dom' when everyone reads you as a sub," Stiles said, not too bitterly. "Easier to just not project,"

"I didn't read you as a sub," Derek offered, flushing and putting his face back into his hands. "And you're the only one I can trust with this."

Stiles had his own opinions about that, but he could see why he was the obvious candidate. "Hey, it's okay," he promised. "We'll work this out."

"I don't trust the others with this," Derek managed to say, trembling. "I wouldn't be asking for help if it wasn't so bad. God, why can't I keep myself under control!" he snarled.

"Hey," Stiles said firmly. "Derek. This isn't an easy thing you're trying to do. You're doing a good job. It's okay that it's hard."

"How is feeling like I'm constantly fighting myself a good job?" Derek stood, pacing back and forth across the living room rug.

"Are your betas doing a good job on the full moon?" Stiles pointed out. "They feel like they're fighting themselves."

*

Derek took a deep breath. "They're still learning," he murmured. He crossed his arms, his claws digging into his biceps as he slowed his pace.

"Okay, hang on a sec," Stiles said, getting up to rummage in his backpack. Bingo! He kept a stress ball with him usually, because having something to occupy his hands with helped keep him focused. He tossed it gently to Derek. "If you need to claw something, claw that."

Derek snatched it out of the air, raising his eyebrows at the stress ball before curling his first, claws digging into it, but not puncturing it or his hand. He sat down where he was, flexing and relaxing his hand, transfixed on the ball. "Where'd you get this? Never seen one this strong."

Stiles smiled, relieved to see Derek distracted from hurting himself. "The internet holds many marvels," he said.

Derek snorted in amusement, continuing to play with the stress ball, the holes in his henley already showing unblemished skin. "Thank you."

“You're welcome," Stiles said. "Keep it. I'd rather you had it, and weren't cutting yourself up all the time."

"I heal," Derek shrugged, looking up to Stiles. The simple height difference between Stiles on the couch and himself on the floor made his stomach swoop.

"It still hurts," Stiles countered. "It's the hurting I care about, not the scars."

Derek lowered his head back to watch his claws attempt to puncture the ball. "I hurt a lot," he murmured. "And not just me."

"You help, too," Stiles said quietly.

Derek just shook his head, his eyes flashing. "I have to stay in control," he insisted, more to himself than to Stiles. "I have to. All the time. I.." He took a deep breath. "I can't do it all the time. I can't continue on like this. But I have to. I'm the alpha."

"Not with me," Stiles replied firmly. "You're my packmate, but I don't need you to be my Alpha. You can just be my friend, Derek."

Derek's hold on the stress ball tightened. "And if you're in trouble?" He asked.

"Then I need you to be my badass werewolf friend," Stiles said with a shrug.

Derek relaxed, watching Stiles closely. "And if I need more?"

Stiles frowned, confused. "Like what?" he asked.

"What if being a friend isn't what I need at that point?" Derek asked, gripping the ball so hard his hand was trembling. "If I end up hurting someone or myself, if I lose control..."

Oh. "I'd stop you," Stiles promised, coming over and resting his hand on Derek's shoulder, crouching to meet his eyes. "I won't let you have that memory to live with."

"You sure you can?" Derek asked, not even meaning it rudely. He just wanted to make sure Stiles could. He was the alpha, after all.

Stiles pulled out from under his shirt the necklace he always wore these days - a vial of mountain ash on a silver chain. "I'll stop you," he promised again.

Derek's eyes locked onto that little vial, relaxing again, unable to keep from leaning forward, resting his forehead on Stiles' shoulder.

"I can control you if I need to," Stiles murmured, glad he'd found something that reassured Derek. "I can keep you safe."

"Thank you." Derek whispered, his hands still trembling. "It's going to end up going that route, I know it will."

"Maybe it won't," Stiles said hopefully. "Maybe we can get this sorted before it gets that bad."

"Hopefully. But Doubt it. " Derek was a pessimist, he knew this.

"I'll do my best to help you," Stiles promised. "And if it's not enough, I'll stop you. Okay?"

Derek listened closely to Stiles' heart, relaxing even more when it didn't skip. "Thank you."

 

"I'm really impressed by how well you've been handling this, you know," Stiles said quietly. "It can't be easy."

Derek unconsciously relaxed at the small bit of praise. "It drives me insane. Feels like two halves of me are constantly fighting."

"I can imagine," Stiles replied. "Well, I can't, not really. But still. It must suck,"

Derek nodded, taking a deep breath. "I'm sorry if my grabbing you like that caused you any pain." He didn't know how hard he gripped sometimes. "I just didn't know exactly how to get your attention when everyone was leaving..."

"Hey, no, you're good," Stiles promised, pushing his sleeve up so Derek could see pale, unmarked skin. "You're much better calibrated than the others with this stuff."

"Calibrated." Derek couldn’t help but snort, taking Stiles arm carefully, turning it this way and that, trying to sniff out any bruising.

"Do you have a better word?" Stiles pointed out. "I'm fine, Derek. And I'm glad you stopped me. You did good."

Derek let out a small sound, ducking his head and letting go of Stiles' arm. He had a tiny smile on his face, his chest tightening, even as part of him rejected it fiercely.

Shit. Was there a way to praise Derek that wouldn't make him tense up like that? "You're a good alpha," Stiles tried. "You do a good job looking after us."

Derek shook his head, smelling the way Stiles felt bad for a split second. "It's not that I don't like the praise," he murmured, forcing words out. "I just have one part of me screaming while the other purrs like a kitten."

"Well, Doms should get praise too," Stiles said, frowning. "And so should alphas. That part of you doesn't need to be screaming, so why is it? What's wrong with being praised?"

"Sometimes I don't know why it's screaming," Derek admitted. "Though I think this time it's because it knows what I need, and it's not happy with it. Demanding more control."

"Let's try something," Stiles suggested. "How about I stay down here and you get up, and you ask me things. You're in control then, right?"

"Ask you what?" Derek was a bit bewildered, to be honest.

"I dunno," Stiles said with a shrug. "What I think of you, I guess. Whatever you feel like you need to know."

Derek shook his head. "Don't think I would work." He stood up anyway. "I am curious on what you do think of me though."

 

Stiles settled, cross-legged on the floor and tilted his head back to look up at Derek. Being here would be kind of nice if Derek wasn't having these issues, but he was, so... "Well, I used to think you were kind of a dick," he admitted. "I know you better now, though. You have a guilt complex the size of the sun and it's freaking you out all the time."

Derek blinked, shifting from foot to foot. "What changed your mind?"

"Getting to know you, I guess," Stiles said. "I mean, I disagree with a lot of things about how you handled the kanima situation, but looking back, I can see you were just really worried, and you had this sense of urgency about it, you know? And it meant a lot to me, the way you saved Scott. He's never been supportive of you, and especially then he wasn't being anything but aggressive towards you, but you prioritised his well being over your own, and over your need to catch the kanima."

Derek shifted again. "You're very perceptive," he admitted. "Tell me, Stiles," he leaned over just a bit, "do you dream of me?"

Stiles' eyebrows flew upwards. "Oh, wow, that's, uh...what? I mean...what?"

Derek grinned toothily. "I hear you say my name an awful lot during my rounds." he admitted. "So it made me wonder. And you did say to ask anything I'd like."

"Can I call veto on this?" Stiles asked awkwardly, rubbing the back of his head. "Because, uh, I kinda want to call veto on this."

Derek nodded, going over to plop down on the couch. "Of course," he said. "I'm not going to make you do something you don't want to."

"Thanks," Stiles replied, drawing his knees up to his chest. "Just...my dreams are for me."

"Sorry," Derek murmured, feeling that he may have crossed a line he shouldn't have.

"It's...it's fine," Stiles muttered. "I told you to ask whatever."

"Stiles," Derek sighed, steepling his hands, his elbows on his knees as he leaned forward. "What, exactly, bothered you with that question?"

Stiles sighed. "Do you know how embarrassing it is, to look back on the last decade of my life and know that everyone who's known me in that time knows that I pined, constantly, pointlessly, and pathetically, for Lydia? I want to keep my private life private."

"Stiles, I wouldn't have told anyone, or made fun of you, or anything like that. And who cares if you wanted Lydia? Your feelings are your own." Derek reached out, running his fingers through Stiles hair, trying to soothe him. "And I'm sorry if I made you feel like you felt when you'd talk about how much you wanted Lydia."

Stiles looked up, trying to gauge Derek's sincerity. "I'm easy to make fun of," he said quietly. "I've gotten good at brushing it off, but that doesn't mean I like it."

"I would never make fun of you,” Derek promised. "Especially with who you care about."

Stiles made a face. "Sure."

"Stiles," Derek said softly. "What's the face for?"

"Just drop it, Derek," Stiles said wearily. "We don't need to talk about this."

"Fine." Derek leaned back into the couch. He watched Stiles for a moment, sucking in a deep breath to try and figure out why he seemed so weary.

 

Stiles shook his bad mood off as he often did, and said, "Enough about me. We were trying to help you with your problems."

"Doesn't mean we can't help yours." Derek shrugged, staying where he was, spread out on the couch, weary and exhausted. "I don't like fighting myself. It's exhausting, and it's taking it's toll on me."

"Is this gonna be a 'if you would have peace, prepare for war' situation, or do you think you might be able to reconcile them?" Stiles asked.

"What?" That got a startled chuckle from Derek, rolling his head to look over to the other man. "If you're asking if I'll be able to make both of them happy, I have no idea."

Stiles grinned, glad for the change of mood. "So let's be logical about this shit. Do some research. What do you, as an alpha, need?"

"Control over the pack, care for them, protect," Derek shrugged, keeping his body loose.

"Okay," Stiles said, thinking it through. "What happens if - hypothetically - I'm not pack?"

Derek sat up, his eyes widening. "Who said you weren't pack?" he growled.

"Woah, woah," Stiles said hurriedly, holding up his hands in surrender. "It's okay, dude, I'm pack, everyone knows I'm pack, it's all good. Question retracted."

Derek grumbled, shifting on the couch. "Sorry. But you are pack, Stiles. If you meant not a were. I'm not sure"

"It was just a thought experiment, dude," Stiles explained. "I was thinking that the recursion of you trying to control your pack, including me, and me trying to control you at the same time would probably not be the most helpful thing.”

"While that may be truem you're one of the only ones that can push past the instincts. And the only one I trust." Derek sighed, rubbing his face.

"Thanks," Stiles said quietly. "Okay. What about - what does it mean, to 'control your pack'?"

"Helping control their shifts. As well as making sure they don't do stupid shit," Derek shrugged.

"I don't shift," Stiles pointed out.

Derek nodded. "You're pack, but you aren't a beta. Does that make sense?"

"I guess," Stiles agreed. "What does 'controlling your pack' mean to me, then?"

"Like what I do to control you?" Derek raised an eyebrow. "Mainly to keep you safe. And to make sure you don't do something stupid."

 

"What would happen if I ordered you to do that?" Stiles wondered aloud.

"Ordered me to do what?" Derek asked, tilting his head to the side, curious.

"To keep us all safe, and stop me from doing something stupid," Stiles explained.

Derek shivered. "I'm not sure?" he offered. "I'm not sure if that would appease both sides or not. Or for how long."

"Well, keep it in mind, okay?" Stiles said. "If I was your Dom, I'd want you to keep your betas under control, and keep the pack safe."

Derek shivered, watching Stiles closely. "Are you giving me that order?" he asked softly.

"That depends," Stiles said, leaning forward. "Are you going to accept my orders?"

Derek looked up at where Stiles was leaning over him a bit, licking his lips. "I want to," he finally settled on.

"Okay," Stiles said, a little shakily. "Okay. Then these are your standing orders, for all the time. Control your betas. Protect our pack. Stop any of us, including me, from doing stupid things without thinking about them. Avoid getting hurt when there's another option. Tell me when you need me. Got that?"

Derek took a deep breath, closing his eyes and letting the orders sink in. Oddly enough, his alpha instincts were happy with it - he got the impression of an eyeroll from them more than anything else. "Yes sir."

Stiles wrestled with himself for a moment, then tentatively replied, "Good boy."

Derek sucked in a breath, all but turning into a puddle on the couch, his muscles loosening and his posture easing. He didn't think about it, but praise had always affected him nicely. And no amount of grumbling from his instincts would ruin the warmth growing in his chest.

Stiles smiled when he saw Derek relax. "That felt good?" he checked. "No conflict from your alpha side?"

"Nothing more than a snort," Derek murmured, his eyes closed. "And yeah, it felt good."

Stiles reached out to take Derek's hand, turning it over and exploring it with touch. "You're so good, Derek," he said quietly, searching for things Derek would find reassuring. "You're a good alpha, and you're caring, and you look after your pack..."

Derek let out a soft sound, hand completely relaxed as Stiles played with it, comfortable for the first time in a while. The praise falling from Stiles’ mouth even making his instincts calm, purring at the validation.

Stiles didn't think he'd ever seen Derek like this. Content. The expression was foreign, but so, so welcome on the other man's face.

 

Derek enjoyed the touch, the relaxation. That is, until he felt one of the pack bonds twang like a plucked cord. He breathed in sharply, shooting up. "Stay here," he said as another cord was yanked. "Something's wrong." His eyes were red, voice low and gravelly.

"What is it?" Stiles asked, clambering to his feet. "What's going on?"

"Something's wrong with Scott and Isaac. They're hurt. Stay here." Derek stretched, focusing on the bonds to see where his betas were.

"I want to help," Stiles objected. "What if you need me?"

"Then I will tell you I need you," Derek turned. "Please. Stay here. You'll be safe here. I'll bring them here too. If you want to help, get cleaning materials and the extra clothes. Please."

"I really, really don't like this," Stiles muttered. But if he challenged Derek now, right after establishing that he respected Derek as alpha...he could only hope that Scott and Isaac didn't need him to help more than Derek needed him to stay. "At least get someone else to help you? Boyd, maybe."

Derek could only nod. "I'll call him in on my way." He gave into the instant press in his chest, pulling Stiles into a tight hug. "I'll be back with the boys," he murmured. "Promise." He went ahead and shed his shirt, hooking it over Stiles' shoulder, trying to get his scent on the other man. He took a deep breath through his nose before bolting out of the door, following the pack bonds and calling Boyd at the same time.

 

"Good luck," Stiles called, wishing there was more he could do. Except maybe...he texted Lydia. There's weirdness in the pack bonds. Can you sense trouble?

Not currently. Don't feel like busting any eardrums either- LM

Thanks. That's reassuring - SS

After a moment's thought, he also contacted Allison. Derek says there's trouble. Any word on your end? - SS

Kinda busy. Shooting fairies. Fast little buggers - AA

Fairies. Okay. That was manageable. Fairies were mischief makers, and certainly no-one wanted to get elf-shot, but given a strong enough defense, they were likely to retreat, and they could be placated. Stiles finally relaxed.

Chapter Text

It was over an hour later that Derek opened the door, panting softly and holding his arm where it was still healing, Isaac and Scott behind him being held up by Boyd and Allison. "Stiles."

"Shit!" Stiles exclaimed, hurrying towards them. "Okay, who's shot? Did you get the arrows out?"

"Wolfsbane." Derek growled, his eyes still bright red, though he leaned forward, breathing deeply, still smelling himself on Stiles. "I have an arrowhead in my arm, but Isaac and Scott got shot with arrows dipped in wolfsbane."

"What." Faeries never used wolfsbane. They had their own concoctions that they preferred to use. Stiles shook his head. "Okay. Isaac, Scott, you get the couch. Allison, Boyd, get the arrowheads out and put them on the table where I can have a look at them. Derek, let's get you sorted out."

Derek tripped toward him, his free hand curling lightly around his arm. "Are you safe?" he murmured, trying to sniff out any injuries and only smelling his betas. He didn't pay attention to the other four, knowing they were already shuffling to do as Stiles bid.

"I'm safe," Stiles promised quietly, leading Derek into the bathroom. "Sit. I'll get the tweezers."

Derek sat on the toilet, shivering softly now that his adrenaline was fading. "T-took one for Allison," he panted softly, feeling the need to explain the wound in his arm.

Stiles took hold of Derek's arm, examining the wound - and thinking gratefully that at least he'd gotten better about blood in the last few years. "This would have been worse for her than you," he told Derek, taking hold of the broken-off arrow shaft with his tweezers and tugging lightly. There was resistance, and he winced. "Okay, this is going to hurt, but I've got to get it out so you can heal. Ready?"

Derek gripped his own thigh, taking a deep breath and nodding, gritting his teeth and refusing to let any sound out.

Stiles smiled grimly at him and pulled the arrow out, wincing at the fresh spurt of blood that followed. "Okay, good job Derek, that's perfect, it's out now," he murmured, quickly pressing a wad of gauze to the wound to stem the bleeding. "Can you hold that there for me while I get the salve?" For elf-shot, Stiles had a jar of salve made from feverfew, red nettles and plantain, mixed with beeswax to set it.

Derek pulled his claws out of his now bleeding thigh, those wounds healing before he even took hold of the gauze, panting softly.

Stiles sighed at the sight of Derek's bloody leg, but there were more important things to worry about right now. He found the right jar in his kit, and hurriedly unscrewed the lid. "Lift the gauze," he told Derek, and smeared salve over the wound before wiping his fingers on a clean towel and getting some tape to keep the gauze in place. "How are you doing?" he asked.

"Okay," Derek panted, using his non-bloody hand to pull Stiles close. He buried his nose in Stiles' neck, needing to ground himself.

Stiles only flailed a little. "Derek," he said quietly. "I'm okay. You're okay. But we need to look after the pack now."

"Kay," Derek murmured, taking a deep breath, running his cheek along Stiles' jaw before pulling back and standing. "Bring that jar. It might help with the others."

Stiles shook his head, picking out a fairly large plastic tub. "This one will be better," he said. "If we can't identify the type of wolfsbane, the healing will still be slow, but this will help."

 

Derek nodded. "Okay." He trusted Stiles. With a lot. He led the way back down to his betas, leaning over to suck the pain out of Isaac, watching as the boy relaxed into the couch. He watched as Boyd did the same for Scott, smiling his thanks.

"Alright, guys, what's the damage?" Stiles asked. "Derek, can you try and identify the wolfsbane, please?"

Derek nodded, already sniffing the arrowheads and trying to shift through the smell of his Betas blood.

"Isaac's worse off," Scott panted, clutching his thigh. "I just got one in my thigh. He got two in his legs, one in his side."

"All wolfsbane?" Stiles checked, shoving his worry back. "Sorry, Isaac, you're gonna need to take your pants off."

Derek frowned, looking up. “Smells like that kind we keep in the back garden near the treeline.”

"Okay, good, that makes things much easier," Stiles said, relieved. "Allison, when you're done there, get some gloves on and get me some, please. You know how to burn it and everything. Isaac, I'm sorry, but this is gonna suck and I have very few options to make it suck less. On the upside, when we're done, there's soup on the stove."

"All hail Stiles' soup," Isaac managed to groan, his face pale.

Derek watched as Allison bolted from the room, listening as she went out to the patch in the backyard, tucked under a tree. "Anything I can do to help?" he asked, his own wound almost healed.

"Pull pain, and when I tell you to, hold him down," Stiles directed. "Are you gonna be okay without pain relief for a little while, Scotty? I can put some nine herbs salve on the spot to help contain the poison until we're done with Isaac."

"Yeah, I'm good, help him," Scott said instantly, trembling, but obviously not in as bad a shape as Isaac.

Allison quickly came back with a small ceramic bowl of ashes, panting softly.

Derek nodded, moving to stand behind Isaac's shoulders, hands on them and pulling pain constantly while Boyd grabbed Isaac's arms. "Thighs first?"

"You got it," Stiles said grimly. "Isaac, science says that swearing actually helps, so feel free to do your worst." He took a pinch of ashes, steeled himself, and pressed it into the first wound.

Isaac let out a small laugh. "Why would that he-MOTHERFUCKER!" he shouted, his eyes flashing gold as he fought against the hands pinning him.

Derek held him down, flashing his own eyes at him, growling that rumbling purr again to try and soothe him. Boyd was holding on tightly at Isaac’s knees, Allison at his ankles.

"You're doing good, Isaac," Stiles promised, moving onto the next wound once Isaac's thrashing calmed. "Here we go again."

"FUCK!" Isaac screamed, tears streaming down his face as the ash was pressed into the next wound. Not even Derek's grumbling purr was enough to make him stop whimpering.

"Almost there, Isaac, just one more," Stiles promised, watching the black tracery on Isaac's skin retreat back to the offending wounds. "One more and then you're good, okay? Do you want a break first, or do you want to just get it over with?"

Isaac opened tearful gold eyes. "J-just do it," he panted around his fangs, keeping his eyes on Derek's face.

"Here we go," Stiles said grimly, pushing Isaac's shirt up and applying a pinch of wolfsbane ash to the wound.

Isaac screamed louder than before, this arrow having gone deeper than the other two. He finally collapsed, crying softly but healing. The only reason he wasn’t hysterical was Derek’s grumbling purr.

"You're done, buddy," Stiles said shakily, cleaning off his fingers and smearing some nine herbs salve on the still-healing wounds. "Now, this is just in case there's any extra poisons in that concoction, alright? I'm not worried, but it'll help promote healing regardless. For now, you take it easy."

Isaac merely panted and nodded, already falling unconscious. Allison scooted closer to Isaac's head, brushing his hair back and keeping watch over him as Derek and Boyd slid over to Scott.

Scott was paler than he’d been earlier, from seeing Isaac in so much pain. "This is just gonna be a walk in the park, huh?" he said weakly, his voice higher pitched as he laid down,, Derek taking his hands by his head, eyes already bright red, and Boyd taking his ankles.

"I'm not gonna lie, Scotty," Stiles said, getting ready as quickly as he could. "It's not gonna be great." He shoved wolfsbane ash into the wound, not waiting a second longer than he had to.

"GODFUCKINGDAMMIT" Scott yelled, arching his back and struggling before flopping back onto the couch, tears in his eyes. "That never gets easier," he panted.

Boyd carefully tugged Derek back, giving him a look and pushing him toward Stiles before sitting next to Scott's head, hand on his friend's shoulder to suck the pain away as he talked in hushed tones.

 

Derek stumbled, his face pale and his hands trembling. He grabbed Stiles, unable to voice what he needed, just tugging lightly at Stiles’ arm.

Stiles glanced up, then jumped to his feet, hugging Derek close. "You okay?" he asked softly. "What's wrong?"

"N-need," Derek croaked, falling silent and just leaning on him. He didn't even notice when Boyd looked toward Stiles and gestured up the stairs, giving the human a small smile of understanding before turning back to distract Scott.

"Okay, Derek, it's okay, I've got you," Stiles murmured, leading Derek, inch-by-inch, over to the stairs. "You've done such a good job today, are you going to let me look after you now?"

Derek sucked in a breath, burying his face in Stiles' throat. "Yes sir," he murmured, almost inaudibly, though he knew the others probably heard it. A part of him didn't care though. His betas would understand, and Boyd especially knew the toll it was taking on Derek.

Oh, wow. Derek was definitely not okay. "Good boy," Stiles reassured him. "Let's get some privacy, okay? Up we go."

Derek managed to stumble up the stairs, his hold on Stiles and the hold Stiles had on him the only things keeping him from dropping to his knees. Even his alpha instincts were in just as bad a shape, curling up in his chest and mind like a whipped dog.

"Tell me what's wrong, Derek," Stiles asked, as soon as the door to his room was shut. "What's upset you?"

"I didn't keep them safe," Derek whispered, pale, falling to his knees as soon as the door clicked shut, his head bowed as he hugged himself. "I can't even do that. God, what am I? The world's biggest fucking idiot?!"

Shit. "Stop," Stiles said firmly, running his hand over Derek's hair. "You did your best, and you brought them home. They're all going to heal, Derek, just like you're going to heal. You did a good job."

Derek wanted so much to just soak up the comfort Stiles was giving him, but he couldn't. "Couldn't keep them safe. They were hurt. Doing stupid shit. Got hurt myself. Can't do anything right."

Oh no. Stiles could hear his own words from earlier echoed back, and he knew this wouldn't be easy to fix. "You helped them. You made sure Allison didn't get hit. You brought everyone here to be treated. Maybe you made mistakes, but people do, Derek. I forgive you. What do you need to forgive yourself?"

*

"I don't know," Derek admitted, his claws digging into his thighs. "I'm fucking useless."

"No hurting yourself," Stiles said firmly. "Do you remember what happened to your stress ball?"

"Downstairs." Derek managed to say, slowly pulling his claws away from his thighs, trembling.

"Okay, just a second," Stiles replied, opening the bedroom door and sticking his head out. "Can someone bring me my stress ball?" he called out. "It'll smell like Derek and me, and Scott knows what it looks like."

Derek was trembling, curling tighter into himself.

Boyd scooped up the ball after Scott ID'd it, coming up the stairs and handing it to Stiles, "He okay?"

"Not great," Stiles admitted. "But I'll do my best. Are you good to look after everyone downstairs?"

Boyd nodded. "Everyone is doing much better. Me and Allison are talking about taking the boys to Deaton, just to make sure nothing is lingering. It'll also give you two some privacy."

"I'm pretty confident everything's going to be fine," Stiles said, "but that would probably be good. Call me when Deaton gives the all-clear?"

"Of course. Or text, one of the two. Just..." Boyd shifted on his feet, uncharacteristically hesitant. "He won't go down too easy, especially when he's feeling guilty," he warned before turning to leave.

O...kay. Boyd knew about Derek's thing, with the subbing and the Alpha instincts. When had this even come up? "You look after the others, and I'll look after Derek, okay?" Stiles said. "It'll be fine."

Boyd nodded, looking over his shoulder, taking a quick sniff before giving Stiles a toothy smile. "Sometimes, people forget I'm there, I'm quiet, and that's my advantage as the Second."

"Go to Deaton's," Stiles told him. "Seriously. And let Lydia and Erica know what happened, and that we'll be having a meeting about this." He glanced back at Derek. "Probably tomorrow sometime."

Boyd nodded, playfully saluting Stiles before hurrying out to get the betas loaded into Allison's car.

 

Derek was digging his nails into his thighs again.

Stiles turned and sighed when he saw what Derek was doing. "Here." He offered Derek the stress ball. "Don't hurt yourself more."

Derek reached out with one hand, shaking as he took the ball, squeezing it tightly. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I tried."

"You tried your best," Stiles agreed quietly. "You always try your best. And as long as you do, I'll be proud of you."

Derek's arms trembled harder, clenching the ball. "I still couldn't keep them safe. I'm a useless alpha."

"No," Stiles said firmly. "You're a good alpha. Scott and Isaac were hurt when you got there. You stopped Allison from getting hurt, Boyd didn't get hurt, and you brought them all here to heal. Everyone's safe now, and that's because of you."

"I should have sensed it before it happened," Derek argued, even though he knew that was impossible.

"That's not your job," Stiles told him. "Seeing the future is Lydia's job, and she didn't see this one coming. Do you blame her for that?"

Derek shook his head, his shoulders still hunched up around his ears were he knelt.

"Then it's no-one's fault we didn't know this was going to happen," Stiles reassured him. "You went as soon as you knew there was trouble, and you did a good job protecting them. You brought them all home, Derek, and now they're healed and safe."

"I still feel worthless. Useless," Derek whispered, his eyes flashing as he grew frustrated. "How in the hell can I be a good alpha if I can't even keep my pack from getting hurt?"

"Being a good alpha isn't counted in injuries, Derek," Stiles said quietly. "It's that as soon as you knew something was wrong, you went. And they know that. It's the way you soothed Isaac when I was treating them. It's making the decision to keep me at home so I'd be ready to look after them, even though I wanted to come with you."

Derek just shook his head, leaning forward to thunk his head against the floor. "I still feel like a failure."

"Derek," Stiles said, "I need you to tell me what I have permission to tell you to do, or to do to you." Just words was clearly not going to be enough.

"Just... anything," Derek finally groaned. "I trust you."

Stiles bit back a frustrated noise. He needed to fucking negotiate this, but Derek was too upset to really do that. "Tell me 'wolfsbane' if I do something wrong," he replied.

Derek could only nod, trembling and keeping his forehead on the ground, knocking it against the wood over and over again.

 

"Stop," Stiles said firmly, hoping desperately that he could make this work. "Explain to me what you're doing and why."

Derek froze, shivering and relaxing into the pose he was in as he order rolled over him, his alpha side not even twitching. "Banging my head on the ground. Because I'm a failure."

"Who decides that you're a failure?" Stiles tried.

Derek shivered. "I… I don't..." He took a deep breath, relaxing further. "You do, Sir."

Oh thank god. "Who decides what your punishment will be?" Stiles asked, grateful that he had at least that much submission from Derek.

"You do," Derek replied, his voice trembling.

"Good boy," Stiles said warmly, bending down to stroke Derek's hair. "And I didn't tell you a punishment yet, did I?"

Derek soaked up the praise, the stroking to his hair calming him a bit more. "No sir." His voice was still grumbling, but more weary than anything else. Almost petulant

"Now, I told you earlier, I don't want you to hurt yourself," Stiles reminded him. "Remember that?"

"Yes sir," Derek answered after a moment, his hands moving to grab his wrists behind his back, his forehead still on the floor.

Poor Derek was practically trying to become one with the floor. It was such a submissive posture for such a non-submissive man, and that, more than anything else, brought home to Stiles what Derek needed. The problem was, Stiles didn't want to use pain as a punishment for Derek - not that he'd have felt comfortable doing so, with so little negotiation up front. "If I give you a punishment, will you listen to me when I forgive you once it's over?" he asked.

Derek shivered. "I think so?" he finally managed to say. "I...can't promise."

"That's okay," Stiles said instantly, rubbing Derek's back. "I know you'll try, and I know it's hard."

Derek leaned into the touch, closing his eyes tightly. His alpha side was listening curiously, but the other side of him, the sub side, was rolling in the praise and touch, soaking it up like a sponge.

"I'm gonna get up for just a minute, but then I'll be right back, okay?" Stiles said. He had an idea for Derek's punishment, something that would hopefully help without pushing too hard.

"Yes sir. " Derek closed his eyes, focusing on his breathing. True, he didn't have much internal debate going on right now, but it was still the first time in a while that he was actually being dommed like he needed.

 

Stiles got up and rummaged in his desk for a blank notebook and a pen, writing at the top of an empty page, 'I am a good alpha. I care about my pack. I look after my pack. I protect my pack. I make mistakes, and that's okay.'

Derek listened close to what Stiles was doing, though he didn't move a muscle. He wanted this. Needed this.

"There's been too much hurting today," Stiles said, coming over to sit on the floor in front of Derek. "So you're going to be writing lines for your punishment. Is that okay?"

Derek nodded slightly after a moment, but he didn't lift his forehead from the floor.

"How many lines do you think is fair?" Stiles asked, stroking Derek's hair.

"I don't know, sir. Never really wrote lines," Derek answered honestly, his shoulders relaxing again with Stiles' hand in his hair.

"Let's say twenty, then," Stiles suggested. "You just have copy what I've written twenty times, and then you're going to read it out to me once, okay?"

"Yes sir," Derek whispered, still not moving, his eyes closed as he focused enough through his guilt to move.

"Good boy, Derek," Stiles reassured him. "It's okay if it takes you a while. That's fine. I'm happy to wait as long as you need."

Derek managed to calm himself down, forcing himself to sit up, looking up to Stiles. "Sir," he murmured without thinking, his hands slipping to rest on his thighs.

"Good boy," Stiles said approvingly, smiling at him. "Do you want to stay down here while you write?"

Derek nodded after a moment, holding his hands out for the paper and pencil. "Yes sir."

"Okay," Stiles said, handing them over. "I'll stay right here with you, unless you want some space?"

"Please don't go," Derek whispered, his hands shaky as he took the pad and pencil. He didn't know if he could do it if Stiles left. He read over the words he was to write, letting out a small sound.

"It's okay," Stiles promised, shifting closer so he was pressed up against Derek's side. "I'm right here with you."

Derek relaxed just that extra bit, slowly starting to write out the sentence, his brow furrowed.

Stiles watched as Derek wrote line after line, just being there for him.

 

Derek finally finished writing, tears on his cheeks. He couldn't make himself say it, opening and closing his mouth silently a few times. He took a deep breath, then forced each word out, even though he was trembling hard enough that his teeth were clacking together by the end of it.

"Good boy, Derek," Stiles said firmly, stroking Derek's hair. "That was really well done. I'm proud of you."

Derek almost fell forward when he leaned in, burying his face in Stiles' neck, breathing deeply, letting their mixed scents and the pride rolling off Stiles in waves settle his nerves.

Stiles waited, letting Derek settle.

Derek was almost ashamed of how much he clung to Stiles, his fingers fisting the back of the other man's shirt.

"It's okay," Stiles soothed him. "I know it's a lot."

Derek slowly calmed, his alpha side stirring, but apparently unfussed, which actually confused Derek more than anything.

When Stiles thought Derek was calm, he quietly asked, "Derek? Would you do one more thing for me?"

"Hmm?” Derek hummed, unwilling to lift his nose from Stiles' neck.

"When you're ready, okay? There's no rush," Stiles promised. "But I want you to look me in the eyes and tell me that stuff one more time, okay?"

Derek let out a small whine, though he sat back up after a moment, his eyes on Stiles' mouth when he said it again, the words coming just a bit easier. “I am a good alpha. I care about my pack. I look after my pack. I protect my pack. I make mistakes, and that's okay.”

"Good boy," Stiles said, grinning at him. "You made mistakes today, but that's okay, right? And you've done your punishment, and know you're forgiven. You're good, okay?"

Derek chewed on his lip, forcing himself to put away the fangs that wanted to drop. "I'm good," he kept repeating, over and over again, trying to make himself believe it. He definitely felt lighter.

"That's right," Stiles said firmly. He leaned in, pressing his forehead against Derek's. "You're good, Derek. A good alpha, a good sub, a good person. You're good."

 

Derek shivered, licking his lips, breathing Stiles in. His hands slipped up, cupping Stiles' cheeks and slipping through the short cropped hair, just long enough to slide between his fingers,

Stiles smiled tentatively, his heart racing.

Derek's ears honed in on the sound, his eyes trailing along Stiles' face as he leaned closer, nuzzling their noses together, breathing deeply through his nose.

"...Derek?" Stiles said, his voice cracking. Was this going where he thought it was going?

Derek hesitated, leaning forward, his eyes locked on Stiles' mouth, wanting to kiss him and giving him plenty of time to stop it if he didn't want it.

Stiles' lips unconsciously parted as he stared.

Derek let a small smile tug at his lips, closing the distance and kissing him carefully.

It - the kiss, holy fuck - didn't seem real, but at the same time, it was the realest thing Stiles had ever felt, or done, or wanted, and he couldn't help the noise that escaped him.

Derek let out a shuddering breath through his nose, tilting his head, inviting Stiles to deepen it, but not pushing him at all.

When he realized that this was really happening, that Derek was really kissing him, Stiles leaned in eagerly, arms coming up to wrap around Derek and draw him closer.

Derek let out a small groan, parting his lips, his eyes fluttering closed. He felt warm, his wolf brushing inside of his skin in happiness, soaking up the feel, the taste and smell, of Stiles.

Oh. Stiles licked at Derek's lips, tentatively, then into his mouth, exploring.

Derek moaned softly, trembling in Stiles’ hold, pressing close as he basked in his attention.

When Stiles broke away for air he was panting and embarrassingly hard in his pants. "Please tell me that wasn't just because I praised you," he begged.

"No," Derek managed to pant. "Not just because you praised me." He licked his lips, his nose flaring as he took in the scent of want from Stiles. He wanted to just blurt it out, but honestly he was scared. He didn't want to freak Stiles out.

"You actually want me?" Stiles blurted out, his voice cracking embarrassingly.

Derek blinked, giving Stiles a small grin. "Yes," he admitted, shifting. He opened his mouth to explain, then fell silent.

Stiles mouth dropped open in surprise, and then, slowly, he began to grin.

Derek blinked, watching Stiles face transform, feeling his own lips quirk at the sight. He loved seeing Stiles happy. Maybe he wouldn't be scared. "Of course I want you," Derek murmured. "You're my mate. And even if you weren't, I'd want you."

 

Stiles paused, frowning a little. "What exactly do you mean by mate? Because there's a lot of...interpretation, out there."

"Not like you're my soulmate or something like that," Derek hurriedly explained. "More like...you're the one most compatible with me, with my wolf. That's how we find the perfect partner for us, our wolves finds someone completely compatible, and then if there's trust, it builds up until you're the one for me." He looked to the side, his cheeks pink. "I think that's one reason my wolf doesn’t mind me submitting to you as much as it did. You're the Alpha Mate."

"...does that mean something special too?" Stiles asked, focusing on his curiosity to avoid freaking out.

"What do you mean? That you're my mate?" Derek tilted his head in confusion, brows furrowed.

"Just, the way you said that, it was different," Stiles explained. "Like being the alpha's mate meant something more than just being your mate."

"It is though,” Derek agreed. "You're the other half of the alpha pair. While the alpha fights and protects the pack, the Alpha Mate is more for the caretaking and healer of the pack, like when you helped heal Isaac and Scott. And when you make breakfasts on Sundays."

"If you're about to tell me I can't fight with you guys anymore, I'm going to be seriously pissed," Stiles warned.

Derek hid a snort, rolling his eyes. "No, Stiles. You've already been doing the job of an Alpha Mate," he promised, burying his nose in Stiles neck. "You're perfect."

Stiles blinked, stunned. When in his life had he ever been perfect?

Derek pulled back  a bit to look at Stiles face, amusement shining through . "I made you speechless? You, the great Genim 'Stiles' Stilinski?"

Stiles reared back, making the sign of the cross with his fingers. "Not the name!" he yelped playfully.

Derek blinked, breaking out into deep laughter, his eyes crinkling. "Genim Genim Genim!"

"You are a child," Stiles said blankly. But...holy shit, he didn't think he'd ever seen Derek laugh like that. He'd barely seen Derek laugh at all.

"Says the one hissing like I just dumped water on you and you're melting." Derek's eyes were still crinkled and bright, even as he tugged Stiles closer.

"No, no hugs for you, mister," Stiles play-scolded. "Using my birth name means no hugs."

Derek let his smile drop into a pout, though his eyes still shone with his amusement. "But I like your hugs, Stiles." He pulled Stiles into his arms, a hand slipping into the Stiles’ hair to scratch lightly at his scalp.

"You're actually really tactile, aren't you?" Stiles commented, letting Derek do what he wanted as he tried to get over his reaction to that adorable pout.

"Werewolf," Derek deadpanned. "And so are you, I've seen how you are with the betas. Especially Isaac."

"Yeah, and I've seen how you aren't with the betas," Stiles pointed out. "Or at least, not much."

"I'm trying to be better," Derek murmured, slumping against Stiles a little.

"Oh, hey, are you feeling guilty about that?" Stiles asked. He hadn't realised.

Derek nodded. "I know I was a bit of an asshole,” he admitted. "I am trying. though. It's just hard to open up when my past has been shit."

"Yeah," Stiles agreed. "We all know, and we know you're trying."

"Especially with Isaac," Derek murmured.

"Hey, I saw how he looked at you earlier," Stiles pointed out. "Did you? He relies on you, dude. He trusts you."

"I wanted to rend those fairies apart again over the pain they put Isaac in,” Derek growled, eyes flashing bright before he settled. "Isaac hasn't had many good things. I want to make sure he feels safe."

 

"Wait, was there actual rending?" Stiles asked, sitting up. "Actually, what the hell even happened? No-one's told me yet, we've all been in crisis mode. Also, can we sit on something more comfortable than the floor, maybe? Unless you want to stay down here, but if so, I want to move over to where I can lean my back on something."

"Yeah, we can move." Derek stood, tugging Stiles up and moving to the bed. "And there was. I'm not sure what started it, but the fairies were attacking Scott and Isaac. I got there with Allison and Boyd  right after the second wolfsbane shot hit Isaac. I managed to rend that fairy to pieces, a warning to the others. It was the only one with wolfsbane in its arrows. The others didn't. They've been warned away from our pack and territory."

Stiles sighed, sitting with his back propped against the pillows. "I'll talk to Lydia and we'll figure something out for when they next show up. Alliance will be more productive, if we can manage it."

"If I smell wolfsbane on them, they die," Derek said lowly, his eyes flashing at the memory of Isaac's tearful face.

Stiles rolled his eyes. "Fine," he agreed. "We'll ban possession of wolfsbane in any future treaties."

Derek let out a pleased rumble, sprawling on the bed with his head close to Stiles' hip.

"It's so weird when you get nonverbal," Stiles muttered fondly, playing absently with Derek's hair.

"And yet you always know what I mean anyway," Derek rumbled, leaning into Stiles’ touch.

"You have some very evocative body language," Stiles said with a shrug.

"You're the only one I know that can read my face apparently." Derek shrugged as well.

"Maybe I just pay more attention," Stiles suggested.

"Maybe." Derek let out a soft sigh, closing his eyes. "The pack bonds have eased completely," he murmured, right before he heard Stiles' phone go off.

 

Deaton's given Scott and Isaac the all-clear - VB

He was impressed. At least, I assume so. - VB

"Everything's good," Stiles confirmed. "They're all safe. Boyd's got it all under control."

Derek turned, pressing his face to Stiles' thigh and heaving a huge sigh, the rest of the tension in his shoulders easing. "Thank god."

"You did good," Stiles murmured, rubbing Derek's back. "Everyone's fine."

Derek let out a happy rumble, keeping his face pressed where it was. "You did good too," he murmured after a moment.

Stiles ducked his head, looking away. "Thanks," he muttered.

"Why are you hiding from it?" Derek asked, keeping his voice soft, the rumble still vibrating in his chest. His pack was safe, and all he could really smell right now was his mate.

Stiles shrugged awkwardly. All he'd done was patch people up after the event, and they could have gone to Deaton for that.

"You saved them,” Derek whispered. "You cared for them."

"So did you," Stiles pointed out.

Derek hesitated. "We both did good?"

"...okay," Stiles conceded.

Derek smiled, nipping at Stiles pants, tugging on them lightly.

"Woah," Stiles exclaimed, lifting his hands up, palm out. "Um. Dude..."

Derek snickered. "Sorry," he murmured. "Didn't mean to freak you out.”

"I'm not freaked out!" Stiles objected automatically. "I'm just - uh - maybe some talking should be involved before you try to get my pants off?"

"As much as I would like them off,” Derek said, “I wasn't going to try without you being ready."

"Just teasing, then?" Stiles checked, still kind of unsure about this whole Derek-liking-him thing.

"Mmhmm." Derek nodded, smiling against Stiles' leg. "Again, teasing, as much as I want more. I'm not going to push, Stiles."

"We should talk, though," Stiles pointed out. "Because...I don't know what you do want. Or don't want."

Derek yawned, nodding and pressing close. "Tomorrow?" he murmured. "It's already late."

"Tomorrow," Stiles agreed. Derek looked exhausted.

"Stay with me? Please?" Derek added the please as an afterthought, his arms wrapping around Stiles' waist, clinging to him.

"You're in my bed," Stiles pointed out, but he ran his hand over Derek's hair in reassurance. It occurred to him then that, functionally, they'd kinda just done a scene. Which meant this was aftercare, not just snuggling. "Are you hungry or anything?" he checked.

Derek shook his head. "Kinda nauseous, honestly," he admitted. "Seeing Isaac like that..." He swallowed hard, the hand in his hair settling him. "And yeah, I am, but we can stay here, or we can go to my bed, or..."

"No Derek, we're staying here," Stiles reassured him immediately. "You don't have to move. And Isaac's fine now. I can call him if you like?"

Derek  shook his head, the steady feeling of the pack bond settling him. "He's okay, I can feel him. I just hate seeing him especially in pain."

"Alright," Stiles conceded. "But even if you're nauseous, you should drink something. You need fluids to replace that blood you lost."

"Fine," Derek conceded, letting out a soft sigh. "I think we have some coconut water downstairs? That's a good substitute? And I know i have sodas, since all of you drink them so much. As well as a few different juices."

"What do you prefer?" Stiles asked. "I'll go get some for you. And maybe some crackers."

"There's some peach juice somewhere in the fridge. I have to hide it from Lydia," Derek complained, but there was a smile on his lips.

"You love it, though," Stiles teased gently. "Are you going to let me up to go get it?"

"Mmm, fine." Derek flopped back onto his back, a small pout on his face. "And I do." He couldn't believe just how much he loved simple things like having to hide his juice from one of the humans in the pack. His pack. His family.

Stiles got up and then, after a moment's internal debate, kissed Derek's forehead before heading down to the kitchen.

 

Derek blinked at Stiles' back, a smile on his lips, then wrestled his bloodied clothes off and tossed them into the corner. He went to his room just long enough to grab a pair of pajama pants, wiping his arm and thighs with a washcloth before flopping back on Stiles' bed, burying his face in Stiles' pillow and inhaling deeply.

Stiles managed to find the juice, and tucked it under his arm with a box of crackers, grabbing the bottle of coke and a couple of glasses, and praying he wouldn't drop anything on his way up the stairs. He didn't, but by the time he got back to his room he could feel the juice bottle sliding out from between his arm and side.

Derek lifted his head, having a bite his lower lip to keep from laughing, standing to help Stiles bring everything inside, holding onto the juice bottle and the coke.

"Thanks, dude," Stiles said. "I was afraid we were gonna have an explosion there."

"Juice everywhere." Derek snorted softly, mouth quirking in a grin. "That doesn’t happen often," he said drily. Only once or twice a week.

"Hey, I managed to get it all up here, didn't I?" Stiles pointed out, setting the glasses down on the nightstand. "Here, have some crackers."

"A feat, I'm sure," Derek teased, wrinkling his nose at the thought of eating, but letting Stiles hand him a couple of crackers before he laid back down.

"Even if you're nauseous, you still need food," Stiles told him, pouring him a cup of juice. "Here. You'll need to sit up to drink it."

Derek groaned, having just shoved his face back into Stiles’ pillow. He sighed, sitting up and smiling a little, sipping at the juice and settling against the headboard.

"Good," Stiles said firmly. "Wait...is it awkward to, like, praise you in this context? When you aren't kneeling and stuff?"

"Is it awkward for me to tell you ‘good job’ when you do things?" Derek countered, raising an eyebrow. "I don't find it awkward, Stiles. If anything, it makes me want to melt into a puddle where I sit." He flushed, looking away and nibbling on a cracker.

"Ooooh, I want to see puddle-Derek!" Stiles said with a grin. "Is it just praise that does it? Like, should I just tell you how awesome you are and all the awesome things you did today? Or is there other stuff, too?"

Derek groaned, covering his face to hide the pink on his cheeks. "Well, there are other things too," he admitted, his voice showing how amused he was. "But other than that, mostly praise, and your hand in my hair for some reason."

Stiles hummed. "You get my hand in your hair when you eat your crackers, then."

Derek couldn't help his laugh, grinning as he finished the cracker he was playing with and picked up the next one.

"I like it when you smile like that," Stiles said. He immediately cursed himself for his lack of filter, but there was nothing really to do but to keep going. "You should do it more."

Derek blinked in surprise, giving Stiles a crooked, pleased grin before kissing his cheek and settling back to eat the crackers and juice. "You should smile more too," he murmured after a moment.

"Yeah?" Stiles said softly.

Derek nodded. "Even your scent smiles when you do. It's one of my favorite things."

Stiles blushed. "Um...thanks."

Derek grinned again, pulling Stiles into a light kiss before eating another cracker.

As promised, Stiles reached up to stroke Derek's hair.

Derek let out a soft sound, relaxing back and letting the content pack bonds and his mate’s hand in his hair lull him.

Chapter Text

Stiles had to admit, in retrospect, that they should have done more planning before going fairy-hunting at the edge of their territory. He genuinely thought it was a good idea to set up some sort of treaty that was more sophisticated than 'don't come here and you don't get gutted'. But, well...hindsight.

Derek was panting when the fairies finally left, and fell to his knees as a shock of pain went up his spine. He felt his wolf bristle, and just managed to shout, “No, go-!” before his voice was gone and all that was left was growling and snarling.

"I'm not leaving you alone," Stiles insisted. "Erica, help me get him back to the car."

Erica crept forward, hunched over. "Stiles," she called as she inched closer. "Something doesn't feel right."

Derek snarled, slipping into the shift and bristling, readying himself to pounce. His eyes were bright red, but the pupils were dilated and almost manic.

Boyd reached forward, dragging Erica back. "Stiles, something's wrong. Look at him."

"I'm looking!" Stiles said, frantically searching through his memory for anything that might make Derek act like this. "It's like he's been drugged, but - there's nothing I can do here! We need to get him home!"

Isaac swallowed, inching his way forward as the others tried to think of something. "Alpha?" he whispered, catching the attention of the werewolves, but also of Derek.

Derek snarled again, his head tilting as he took deep breaths through his nose. He stayed bristled, but he didn't snarl any louder as Isaac inched forward, at least until Boyd started to try as well.

Boyd backed up, but Isaac didn't, staying where he was and calling Derek softly. "Alpha..."

Derek swiped at Boyd, but not at Isaac, still snarling, head swinging between each member of the pack, locking onto Stiles.

"Oh fuck," Stiles muttered. Derek's glare was intimidating as shit. "Seriously, guys, I need info, what does he smell like?"

Erica sniffed, safely trapped in Boyd's arms again. "Ash?"

Isaac shook his head a bit. "Anger, loss."

Derek just watched as Isaac came closer, gradually letting him into arm’s reach.

Scott frowned. "Kinda like Peter did before we killed him the first time..."

"So, what, traumatized and mildly insane?" Stiles exclaimed, his voice getting louder without him realizing.

Derek flinched before continuing his snarls, eyes locked on Stiles.

"More feral than anything," Scott offered, eyeing Derek warily.

"Great," Stiles said flatly. "Derek, if you could give me some kind of proof of life I'd appreciate it."

Derek’s growling continued, only pausing briefly when Isaac moved in close.

"Well, he definitely likes Isaac," Boyd said pragmatically.

"He always likes Isaac," Erica pointed out.

"Yeah, but that means he's recognizing Isaac, if he's reacting to him differently," Stiles said. "We know he's not cool with Boyd or Erica..."

Scott took a few step forward, only to jump back when he was swiped at. "Not cool with me."

Derek snarled, putting himself between Isaac and the others.

"You try, Batman."

 

Mate, Stiles thought, over and over again as he edged forward, keeping his gaze on Derek, but not making eye contact. Come on, you said your wolf liked me, don't attack me now. "Derek?" he said tentatively. "I come in peace, dude, okay? It's me, it's Stiles. The annoying human dude in your pack. You know me, right?"

Derek swung his head to watch Stiles, growling lightly but not swiping at him. He stayed where he was, sniffing a little, his growl deepening when he smelled mate.

"Tell me that's a good thing," Stiles muttered desperately, glancing sideways at Scott.

"It...seems to be?" Scott guessed.

"Come on, Stiles." Isaac leaned forward, not scared of Derek.

Derek grumbled in his chest, reaching out to yank Stiles close, burying his fanged face into Stiles' neck, careful not to bite, even in his feral state.

Stiles yelped, flailing. "Oh my god, Derek, what the fuck are you doing?"

Derek grumbled, licking a path over Stiles' pulse point, scent-marking him.

Isaac grinned. "Awww, he likes you," he teased.

"You had better not be checking if I taste good," Stiles grumbled, tentatively bringing one hand up to rest on the back of Derek's neck.

Derek let out another rumbling sound, licking up the other side of Stiles’ neck.

"I think he's just wanting you to smell like him," Isaac guessed, shrugging.

Erica hesitantly started forward again, freezing and backing up with Derek let out a bark-like snarl, even as his face was buried into Stiles' neck.

"Hey, dude, we like Erica," Stiles scolded. He had no idea if he'd get through, but he figured it was worth a try. "She's our pack, remember? Just like Isaac."

Derek snarled, clutching Stiles to him. He backed away a bit, dragging Stiles with him before turning and running, going to where his instincts said home.

"We're fine!" Stiles yelled over his shoulder as he stumbled after Derek. "Just keep your damn phones on, okay?"

A moment later, Stiles was tucked against Derek’s chest as they ran.

-----

Derek slammed into the house, sniffing for a moment before heading straight for Stiles' room, where their scents were the strongest, letting out a rumbling growl as he closed the door, holding Stiles and Isaac close.

"Put me down!" Stiles insisted, shoving futilely at Derek's chest.

Derek grumbled, letting Stiles stand, but only that, keeping him close, his other hand on the back of Isaac's neck.

"Please tell me you have some idea what's going on," Stiles begged Isaac.

"He's trying to protect those he thinks are closest to him?" Isaac suggested, and shrugged.

"Mate," Derek growled, burying his nose in Stiles' hair. He scented him for a moment before tugging Isaac closer, almost under his arm.

"Dunno why he keeps me this close though," Isaac commented, though he couldn't help the contented sound at being curled up next to his alpha. The closest thing he’d had to an actual father.

"If he's trying to protect, I guess I get it," Stiles replied. "He's always done that with you. But why did he hate the others so much? They're pack too?"

Isaac hummed in thought, reaching up to pet Derek's chest and getting a rumbling purr in response. "Maybe we're closer? I don't know, I just know I see him almost like a dad." He shrugged.

Derek kept up the purr. "Mine," he growled, this time clutching Isaac tighter, looking around for danger.

"Jesus," Stiles muttered. "Okay. We're going to sit down on the bed now, alright, because everything is calm. We don't need to be on alert. We can relax. Okay?"

Derek grumbled, but let himself be led when Isaac started tugging him toward the bed lightly. "Pup."

Isaac blinked up at him, flushing softly and turning to Stiles. "That explains why I’m here," he said, utterly failing to hide the happy smile on his face.

Derek suddenly growled, his eyes flicking to the door.

"Hey, it's okay," Stiles said instantly. "Isaac, tell me what's happening as calmly as you can."

"They're downstairs. And Erica's whining about being chopped liver and ignoring when Boyd tells her to please stop."

Derek snarled, curling tightly around Stiles and Isaac.

"Okay." Stiles looked at Derek. "I don't know if you can understand me right now, but I'm gonna yell out in a second, and it's gonna be loud, but nothing is wrong, okay?" He waited a moment, then called out, "Guys, you need to leave! Go to my house or Scott's house or something. Don't come back until I call you!"

Derek flinched, but he didn't move or growl anymore than he already was.

Isaac hid a giggle in Derek's chest. "Erica's whining now about how she has to leave and that you didn't have to yell and Boyd had to drag her out."

Stiles sighed and shook his head. "Well, they're gone, anyway," he said. "Is that any better, Derek?"

Derek just let out a small huff, curling tighter around them.

 

"I have my phone, want me to text Deaton?" Isaac offered.

"I'd appreciate that," Stiles admitted. "Hey, Derek, do you think you could let Isaac go a little?"

Derek only grumbled, loosening his hold on Isaac as he relaxed, though he kept him close.

Isaac wiggled a bit until he had his phone in hand, typing away.

Stiles figured he'd try to distract Derek and, since words were obviously achieving fuck-all, he might as well try touch. Slowly, giving Derek plenty of time to see what he was doing, he reached up and threaded his fingers through Derek's hair.

Derek leaned into the touch, the rumbling purr starting back up now that the danger was gone from his mate and pup.

"Deaton said that if it was something the fairies used, it should wear off,” Isaac reported. “If it hasn't in the next couple of hours, to ask him again. Because fairies are mischievous little assholes, but not total dicks."

"If he used those actual words, I'll eat my laptop," Stiles said wryly, scratching lightly at Derek's scalp. "But I get the gist. A couple of hours, huh?"

"I embellished a little." Isaac grinned. "And yeah, Fairies don't normally make things like this permanent."

Derek was still making the purring sound, leaning into his mate's touch, even as he kept his ears and eyes open for danger.

"Well, dude's calming down, so that's a start," Stiles said, sighing. "Is he understanding me at all, or is it all tone, do you think?"

"Seems a mixture of both. And maybe your scent." Isaac offered, content to lay where he was, basically cocooned between his Alpha pair.

"Why isn't this bothering you more?" Stiles demanded. "He's - he's Derek, and it's like he's hardly there!"

"Honestly?” Isaac said. “Because the pack bond is still there. If he was actually feral, like about to kill us feral, the bond would have snapped like a guitar string. And because I can feel the almost possessive care he's radiating. Kinda soothing when you grew up with an asshole, you know?" Isaac snorted softly. "You two are better parental figures than my father was. Ever."

"We're the same age," Stiles pointed out helplessly.

"So?" Isaac shrugged, smiling happily.

"I'm your friend, not your...whatever!" Stiles exclaimed.

"You're my Alpha pair, Stiles." Isaac sighed. "And yes, you're my friend. but you've taken better care of me than my dad had. You and Derek both. It's not like I'm about to follow you around chirping Mommy or Papa or something."

"You're just snuggly," Stiles said flatly.

"Well yeah," Isaac murmured, cutting his eyes away. "Tactile."

Derek grumbled as he smelled Isaac’s shift in mood, pulling them both closer.

Stiles rolled his eyes. "Great," he muttered. "I'm going to die of boredom, you know."

Isaac shrugged a bit, but didn't say anything, unconsciously soaking up the comfort Derek was broadcasting, as Derek’s growl turned back into that rumbling purr.

Stiles fidgeted anxiously. He hated waiting, especially when it was something like this. He needed to be doing something.

"Calm down," Isaac murmured after a little bit. "Try talking to him some more? Maybe that'll help pull him out of it."

 

Stiles was fairly sure Isaac was just placating him, but it was worth a try. "Hey, uh, hey Derek?" he stuttered. "Are you... You know, I don't mind you non-verbal, we talked about this the other day, but it kind of freaks me out when I can't communicate with you. So I'd really appreciate it if you could - I don't know, do something to let me know you're still in there and paying attention?"

Derek glanced from the door to Stiles' face, the purring grumble heightening.

Isaac took a quick sniff, smiling softly. "He's starting to come back," he murmured. "Keep talking. I don't know if that's what's helping or the spell wearing off, but it might help settle him if he comes back to himself and not have you terrified."

"Okay," Stiles reassured himself optimistically. "You looked at me, that's something, right? It wasn't just because I was temporarily the most distracting thing in the room? You know, when I said I'd be looking after you, this wasn't exactly a scenario I had in mind."

Derek grumbled softly, his grip on his mate and pup tightening. "Mate."

Isaac muffled a soft laugh, nuzzling his face in Derek's chest.

"Well, that's a word, I guess," Stiles said. "I hope you were planning on everyone knowing, cause they're gonna know in pretty short order."

"We already knew." Isaac murmured. "It's a scent thing. And the pack bonds. They feel different with the Alpha pair rather than with another beta or human member."

"Pup," Derek grumbled, his muscles starting to relax.

"Seriously? When did it change?" Stiles asked.

"A couple of weeks ago." Isaac shrugged, patting Derek absently on the arm.

Stiles frowned. That was before Derek had asked him for help. Not long before, but still.

"What's the look for?" Isaac hummed, awkwardly petting Stiles' arm as well, unconsciously trying to soothe him.

Derek grumbled, though the sound was starting to sound more human and less wolf.

"We hadn't talked about it then," Stiles explained absently, trying to think of a reason why Derek might have settled then - since obviously Stiles hadn't.

"It may have happened when Derek realized it?" Isaac offered. "Or acknowledged it to himself?"

"I guess I'll have to wait until Sourwolf here," Stiles said meaningfully, "can tell me."

 

"What's with you and that name?" Derek grumbled hoarsely,  the red bleeding from his eyes, taking his energy with it. "Isaac?" He frowned, surprised.

"Hi." Isaac hid a laugh in his hand.

"Hey, you're back," Stiles said, pleased. "How are you feeling? What do you remember?"

"Like I've been hit by a truck carrying wolfsbane,” Derek admitted. “I remember telling you guys to run because something was going on. What happened? Where are the others? Why are you and Isaac almost under me? ...In Stiles' bed. ...did I do something weird?"

Isaac couldn't hold back the laugh anymore, laughing uproariously as he wiggled out of the puppy pile of three. "I'll just let you two talk it out. Bye 'Papa'. Bye, Alpha," he teased, then bolted, still laughing.

"Tell everyone he's sane again!" Stiles yelled after him.

"Yes, mother dearest." Isaac called back before slamming the front door, intent on finding his packmates.

Derek had to bite his lip to stop the snort that wanted to come out. "Little shithead," he said instead, his voice completely fond.

"Oh good," Stiles said faintly. "Insults. Achievement unlocked."

"Huh? You okay?" Derek asked, leaning forward to try and figure out what was happening through scent, letting out a soft, pleased rumble when he realized Stiles smelled like him. "What happened?"

"Again with the sniffing," Stiles muttered. "You got whammied when we were dealing with the fairies and went extra-wolfy."

Derek froze, his eyes widening. "Is the pack okay? Did I do something?"

"No one's hurt," Stiles promised. "No one - apart from you - was even a little bit damaged."

Derek relaxed, taking a deep breath. "What happened exactly?"

"Um. You kinda freaked out at us. Like, growling and stuff." Stiles ducked his head. "You didn't like Boyd, almost pounced on Erica, really didn't like Scott. And then you kidnapped Isaac and I and brought us here and aggressively snuggled us for a while. You were totally non-verbal, but you got growly when the others got here, so we sent them away again."

"I can understand you. But why Isaac?" Derek was confused, and his shoulders slumped as he found out how he treated the pack.

"You called him 'pup'," Stiles said warily.

Derek flushed, reaching up to rub his face. "Uh...I can explain?"

"I'd kinda appreciate it," Stiles replied. "Also, Isaac says the pack bonds changed two weeks ago. Which wasn't a landmark day for me, so...what happened?"

"I see him more like.... Mine, ya know?" Derek started to explain, his voice almost hesitant. "Took him under my wing. My first beta, things like that. So I see him more as the pup of the pack. And two weeks ago..." He froze, his cheeks staining pink again. "That was when I realized exactly why my wolf kept wanting you. Why I trusted you so much more than everyone else. And no, I'm not saying being my mate is the only reason I trust you as much, but it all kinda mashes together until I have an epiphany in the middle of a pull-up, just hanging there from the bar in shock."

 

"Why is he so different from Boyd, though?" Stiles asked, giving himself some time to think about the second part.

"He needs more." Derek sighed, "It's hard to explain. His father left some...wounds, let's say. And so Isaac needs a bit more care. Not really more attention, but a more...tender attention. Reassurance, that sort of thing."

"You picked all of them because they weren't okay, though," Stiles pointed out. "They don't all need help?"

"They do, in different ways,” Derek explained. “Isaac's is different than, say, Erica's need to feel validated. Erica needs friendship, and to not have to worry about seizures, as well as someone that actually cares. Boyd needs someone that would actually realize he's there, to be there when he actually needs them to be. Isaac, however, needs a more constant, tender care. Because of the shit he went though. I never said he was easy to understand."

"I guess," Stiles conceded, and sighed. "They're your betas, dude. Whatever you're doing, it works, so I guess you should just keep doing it."

"I seem them all as my pups,” Derek admitted softly. "But Isaac more so, because he needs just a bit more coddling."

"He seems fine with it, at least," Stiles pointed out.

"You haven't noticed he usually goes all content and floppy when you run your fingers through his hair or when I wrap my arm around his shoulders on movie nights?" Derek smiled. "And wait." He blinked. "Why was he saying ‘papa’ and ‘mother dearest’?"

"He and I talked about you and me being pseudo-parental figures," Stiles explained.

"Hmm. I can see why he'd see us like that," Derek murmured. "I take it it makes you uncomfortable?" he asked after a quick sniff of Stiles' scent. "Was that way he seemed a little petulant?"

"It feels weird," Stiles said, making a face. "Like, I'm the same age as these guys. I'm kinda less mature than some of them, too."

"In a way, yes, but you are actually very mature for your age group, Stiles," Derek murmured, tugging Stiles closer absently. "You're able to keep a calm head during something bad while the others get irrational and emotional. You can get things done. Just because you still laugh at fart jokes and sex scenes in movies doesn't mean you're less mature."

"I'm eighteen," Stiles said quietly. "I know I talk a big game about being old enough to make my own choices, but I'm still just eighteen."

"Yes, you are," Derek admitted. "And I'm only twenty-five. And I still don't feel like I have my life together. You're the glue that keeps us all together."

"Can we drop it?" Stiles said awkwardly. "I just...let's not talk about it."

Derek just nodded, burying his face in Stiles' throat. "I'm sorry."

"It's fine," Stiles reassured him hurriedly. "It's just, y'know, not the most pressing issue and I'd maybe like to put off thinking about it for a while."

"I've done that before," Derek said with a laugh.

 

Stiles smiled a little. "Now, are you okay? How are you feeling?"

"Like the fairies ran me over with a wolfsbane delivery truck," Derek said dryly. "But I'm okay."

"And emotionally?" Stiles pressed.

Derek gave Stiles a brittle smile. “Drained."

"You wanna tell me what that's about?" Stiles suggested quietly, shifting closer.

"Feeling drained?" Derek asked, curling around Stiles. "It's like...I didn't know what I was doing. I obviously freaked you out, and lashed out at my own pack..."

"None of which is your fault," Stiles pointed out.

"Doesn't stop it," Derek said, shrugging. "I'm sorry"

Stiles shook his head. "You don't need to apologize for your feelings, not ever."

Derek just hummed, burying his face back in Stiles’ neck, slumping a bit. "Still guilty," he admitted.

"Guilty about the feelings or about the stuff you did while fairy-whammied?" Stiles asked. "Do I need to get you to write lines or something again?"

"Stuff I did," Derek replied. "I'm not going to be sorry for feeling like the betas are my pups. I won't be sorry for how I feel for you."

"That's not exactly what I meant, but okay," Stiles conceded. He bit his lip, thinking things through. "Okay. I think you should apologize to Boyd, Erica, and Scott for snarling at them, and do something nice for each of them, and then it'll be okay. Does that sound fair?"

Derek nodded. "Yes sir," he murmured before slipping his hand into Stiles' hair.

"You don't have to do it right away," Stiles told him. "So long as by the end of today, you've spoken to all of them, and you've planned what nice thing you're going to do."

"I already know Erica's." Derek laughed softly, his face still tucked in Stiles' neck. "She's been eyeing this jacket and boot combo in the window at the mall."

"You're going to take her shopping?" Stiles asked.

"Mmhmm,” Derek replied, his fingers tracing idle patterns on Stiles’ chest. “That's something she actually doesn't get to do often. Window shop, yes, but actually buy the things she wants? Not often. Only when Lydia is doing the ‘you're with me and I'm buying’ thing."

Stiles nodded. "And Lydia and Erica don't get along that well."

"Like oil and water," Derek agreed. "Boyd...I'm not sure about him. Or Scott, really."

"Boyd would probably like some one-on-one time, too," Stiles suggested. "Isaac really loved getting your attention, and while I'm sure Boyd's smart enough to know it didn't mean anything that you pushed him away, he still, well..."

Derek pursed his lips. "I can do that. It's been a while since it was just me and him. He may not look it, but he's almost as tactile as Isaac."

"Well, he became a werewolf because he wanted pack, right?" Stiles pointed out. "So give him some pack time."

Derek smiled, nodding. "I'll spend some time alone with him during the day the very next movie pack night. Which I think is tomorrow if I'm remembering right. Scott's the one that's really hard to get a read on though."

"Yeah, well, you two don't get on that well normally," Stiles admitted.

Derek shrugged. "I still think he holds a grudge against me. No matter how often I try and tell him that the ‘killing the alpha that turned you will reverse it’ thing was a lie."

"You did a lot of things the wrong way back then," Stiles said simply. "And so did Scott, but it's easier to forget your own mistakes than forgive other people's."

"For most people," Derek said quietly, taking a deep breath to re-center himself. "Scott...I could always offer to play video games with him? Or lacrosse..."

"Lacrosse could be a good idea," Stiles said, smiling. "He usually practices with Isaac when he wants to use wolfy stuff, but you're better at agility things."

"Can use it as a fun training tool,” Derek murmured. "Have him goalie and try and make sure none make it past. Same vice versa where he has to try and get one past me."

"Is it bad that I think he'd have a lot of fun aiming them at your...face?" Stiles asked, biting back a grin.

"Honestly he probably will." Derek laughed. "Or my crotch."

Stiles snorted. "Yeah, I was trying not to point that out."

"Hmm, I'd rather him hit me in the face with them," Derek commented. "I have other uses for my crotch I'd rather it not be damaged."

 

Stiles blushed, his eyes wide. "Yeah?"

Derek grinned. "Yeah,” he murmured, kissing along Stiles' jaw before relaxing back, not pushing or wanting it to seem like he was.

Even after their kiss the other day (and holy fuck, that kiss), Stiles still found it kind of unbelievable that Derek wanted him like this. He leaned in tentatively and met Derek's lips in a soft kiss.

Derek let out a soft sigh, tilting his head back and pressing into the kiss, just enough so it was obvious he wanted it. He smiled against Stiles' mouth, one hand slipping into the other's hair.

"You actually like me," Stiles murmured wonderingly, cupping Derek's cheek and feeling the stubble there rasp against his palm.

"Yes," Derek replied softly, his lips quirking into a grin. "I really do."

"It's not just..." Stiles shook his head, dismissing that train of thought. "Why, though?"

"You're funny. Calm when you really shouldn't be, but upbeat and cheerful when you should be. You care for our pack, and you'd fight tooth and nail for them." Derek swallowed a bit. "You stick to your guns, no matter how often I threaten to rip your throat out with my teeth. You're stubborn, adorable, geeky, and amazing."

Stiles' mouth dropped open, and for once in his life he was speechless. It just didn't make sense that Derek liked him so much, but he did.

Derek laughed, reaching over to gently close Stiles' mouth. "Why does this shock you?"

"No one else thinks of me that way!" Stiles protested.

"I don't know why. You're amazing." Derek shrugged honestly.

Stiles was blushing furiously at the compliments, and blushing harder in embarrassment at his reactions. "Oh god," he said, hiding his face.

"Don't be embarrassed,” Derek soothed, pulling Stiles closer, letting him hide. "It's okay."

"This is ridiculous," Stiles muttered. "I'm being such a -" virgin, he thought. "Such an idiot about this."

"You are not," Derek insisted. "Your feelings are your own, Stiles," he promised, rubbing his mate's back.

"And now you're comforting me!" Stiles exclaimed, frustrated. "You're the one who needed help in the first place, and you're the one who had a shitty day!"

Derek hid his smile in Stiles' hair. "Just having you close is comforting me," he murmured. "And the fact that you haven't run away screaming is a plus. But it's hitting you, huh? Everything that's happened? You need to process it. And I'm willing to be a sounding board, or just a soothing entity."

Stiles snorted. "You are many, many things, dude," he commented. "But soothing you are not." And he completely ignored the fact that snuggling with Derek (seriously - snuggling. With Derek.) was making him feel better.

Derek let out the rumbling purr, grinning. "And that's why your heart rate is slowing down, hmm?" he teased.

"Shut up," Stiles muttered, but he was smiling.

"Yes sir," Derek teased, poking Stiles' side. "And really, it's soothing having you around. You're one of my constants. Sometimes it's constant annoyance, but even those moments serve to anchor me."

"To anchor you?" Stiles asked, surprised. "Really?"

"Surprisingly, yes,” Derek replied. “Because to me it shows that there's still a constant in my life. That it won't change. Your crazy puns and flailing and references won't change."

"I could change," Stiles objected, but he kinda got it. It was like Scott. No matter what happened, Scott would be Scott. Even if that was frustrating sometimes.

"You could, if that was what you wanted. I just meant you're not going to change for someone else. It's very refreshing," Derek soothed, slipping his hand up into Stiles' hair.

"It's not like I haven't tried," Stiles grumbled. It had just been embarrassing. And ineffective. And doomed to failure.

"No, it's a good thing you don't change for others,” Derek insisted. “You should never change who you are just for someone else."

Says you, who everyone wants to be, Stiles almost said, but his eyes widened in horror as he realized the implications. Because no, everyone didn't want to be Derek. And Stiles wouldn't wish Derek's life on anyone.

 

Derek made a rumbling, soothing, sound, scratching lightly at Stiles' scalp as he smelled Stiles' scent spike. "What's wrong?"

"Everything's fine, nothing is broken," Stiles recited immediately, automatically. "I just... It's fine."

Derek kept up the purr, holding Stiles tightly. "It's obviously not fine," he murmured. "But I'm not going to force you to say anything if you don't want to. But what do you mean, broken?"

"Look, I am a clumsy dude," Stiles explained, seizing on the new topic gladly. "I knock into things, or walk into things, or trip over things, like, constantly. If everyone stopped to check up on me every time that happened, it would be ridiculous. So...everything's fine, nothing is broken."

"That's...kinda adorable actually." Derek laughed softly. "Though, it's an odd thing to say when we aren't even moving."

"Just habit, I guess," Stiles said with a shrug.

"Well, I'm glad nothing's broken," Derek said, lightly scratching at Stiles' scalp, soaking up the contact.

"Yeah," Stiles murmured. "Nothing's broken." They were fine - everyone was fine. "This, um. This means you wanna date me, right?"

"Yes,” Derek answered, simple and to the point. "But I won't force you into anything..."

Stiles rolled his eyes. "Then maybe don't force me into not doing things by not saying you want them?" he pointed out. "I'd fucking love to date you, dude."

Derek pulled back, giving Stiles a startled look, his lips parting. An instant later, he lit up, his grin so wide his eyes crinkled and his cheeks hurt.

"Wow," Stiles breathed. Derek's smile was, god, it was like sunshine, and Stiles had never seen him so happy.

Derek leaned forward, kissing Stiles' forehead, holding him closer. "Thank you"

"Dunno what you're thanking me for, but you're welcome," Stiles said, snuggling in against him.

"For wanting to date me," Derek replied. "For being amazing. For being you."

"I could say the same thing," Stiles said.

Derek was the one to look away this time, the tops of his cheeks pink. "I don't think I'm amazing," he murmured.

"Let's agree to disagree," Stiles suggested. "Because I do think you're amazing. And good. And a good alpha."

Derek hugged him tighter, pressing his lips to the other's forehead. "Thank you," he said softly. "And I'm sorry for scaring you when I was whammied."

"You didn't - " Stiles began, then gave up on denying it. Derek would know he was lying anyway. "It's fine," he said instead. "I'll live."

"I don't like scaring you. Any of you," Derek admitted. "I need you to tell me if I ever do and don't realize it, okay? Even while whammied or something of the sort."

"You'll know," Stiles said seriously. "I've never known you not to realize when you're scaring someone. Sometimes you just do it anyway, or don't have a way around it."

"I don't like doing it,” Derek said again. "Sometimes it's the only way though, to keep you guys safe."

"I get that," Stiles said, "but...sometimes you think it's the only way, because you don't want to let us help you."

"I'm trying." Derek sighed, hiding his eyes in Stiles' hair. "I'm really trying."

Stiles sighed. "I know you are," he murmured. "And you're letting me help you, which is just...amazing, dude, really. I'm so impressed that you've asked for help, okay?"

Derek let a small smile cross his face. "Thank you for helping."

"Of course," Stiles said, rolling his eyes. "Have I ever not?"

"You always have, but that doesn't mean you would have with this," Derek replied.

"Well, I am," Stiles said firmly. "And right now I'm telling you that you'd better get up and eat something, and probably make sure everyone sees you're back to normal."

Derek groaned, not really wanting to move. "I'm not hungry," he grumbled, obviously lying.

"Then I guess you won't want any of the muffins I'm going to go make," Stiles said, extricating himself from Derek's grip and stretching as he stood. "I'm in a baking mood."

Derek groaned, not above making grabby hands at Stiles."Fine, I'm hungry," he admitted reluctantly. "Just didn't want to stop."

"We can snuggle more later," Stiles said unrepentant. "Are you going to come with?"

Derek groaned, rolling out of the bed and stretching. "Yeah, I need coffee too."

"Nectar of the gods," Stiles agreed, matter-of-factly. "Come on then."

Chapter Text

Stiles pulled his phone out of his pocket and texted the pack.

Muffins at the house in half an hour or so - SS

Derek fiddled with the coffee machine, finally getting it to work before turning to lean against the counter.

Stiles, meanwhile, was flipping through his recipe book, trying to decide what he wanted to make today. "Chocolate, lemon poppy seed, banana nut, or berry?" he asked. "Actually, what have we got?" There was no point starting on a recipe if he didn't have the ingredients.

Derek hummed in thought. "We have some lemons, though I'm not sure on the poppy seed. We have chocolate, and some raspberries that need to be eaten." He shifted through the fridge to double check. "Could try a mix of chocolate and raspberry ones?"

Stiles considered it. "Yeah, that works," he decided. "Is the chocolate in bars or chips? Do we have cocoa?"

"We have cocoa, and chips." Derek pulled both out of the cabinet, showing them to Stiles. "We might have a bar or two, but I wouldn't bet on it with this bunch."

"Chips are better anyway," Stiles said with a shrug. "Put them on the counter and then get me the raspberries?" Depending on how much they had, he might just put raspberries in with the chocolate chips.

Derek nodded, setting them down, impulsively kissing Stiles' forehead before heading for the fridge again, grabbing the raspberries and the fridge ingredients Stiles would need while he was at it.

"Thanks," Stiles said absently, going to the pantry for flour, baking powder, and sugar. "Put the oven on three-fifty for me, would you?"

Derek flicked the oven on, crowding Stiles against the counter afterwards, grinning before dipping down to steal a kiss.

 

"Guys! Is Derek no longer willing to snarl at me?" Erica hurried in, leaving the door wide open behind her for Boyd.

Stiles made a startled noise, hands automatically flying up to push Derek away.

Derek blinked, reaching up to trap Stiles' hands against his chest. "What's wrong?" he murmured, knowing that Erica could hear anyway.

Erica just raised an eyebrow, grinning. "Dayum, Batman, get some!"

"Um," Stiles said awkwardly. "That." Somehow, he'd kind of expected he and Derek would have some privacy for a while? But hell, who was he kidding, he never had any privacy around here.

"Hmm?" Derek was a bit confused, tilting his head a bit, reaching over to smack Erica's hand away from the chocolate chips. "Wait for them to be cooked, Erica."

"Never mind," Stiles said, shaking his head. "I've got muffins to make."

"Stiles." Derek sighed softly, pulling him into a brief hug and kissing his forehead.

Boyd finally made it in, looking around before letting out a soft sigh of his own. "Erica, I told you to wait."

Erica just snorted, pouting. "S'not like i knew what was going on."

"No, seriously," Stiles said, ducking out from Derek's arms. "Muffins."

Derek pressed his lips together, turning instead to his betas, knowing they could smell the small hurt, but shaking his head where Stiles couldn't see it. He wasn't going to push something when Stiles was probably uncomfortable.

Erica frowned, watching them both before stepping up to pull Derek into a hug. "I was so worried."

Stiles, grateful that they'd let it go, turned his attention to getting measuring cups and a sifter, fetching the bowl from the stand mixer.

Derek hugged her back, scenting her hair for a moment before pulling Boyd into the hug as well. "I'm sorry." he murmured. " I didn't mean to."

Boyd rolled his eyes. "We know that. We're just sorry we couldn't help you."

Stiles smiled as he listened, measuring out the flour. Boyd could always be relied upon for some common sense - something he could admit even he was lacking in.

Derek hid his smile in Boyd's shoulder. "I'm still going to make it up to you two. I haven't spent nearly enough time one on one with my betas in a while. I'll be fixing that."

Stiles couldn't help his pride when he heard that, or his amusement when he heard Erica exclaim, "Really?"

"Yes really." Derek let his amusement shine through, scenting Erica again before moving to Boyd.

"You kept Isaac with you for a while," Boyd commented.

"During the freakout?" Derek sighed, holding both of his betas close. "You two both know that he needs a bit more tactile reassurance. I'm not sure why I reacted that way, though." He shrugged. "Especially since I could have had you two here as well."

"Isaac would never challenge you," Boyd said after a moment. "Not that we would, but...we could."

Derek hummed. "Maybe?" He shrugged. "Still, All of you are very important to me." He softened his voice. "Very important."

"Which is why you guys should get over here and practice cracking eggs," Stiles interrupted them. Cracking eggs was serious business in this pack. Because with enhanced strength, it was way too easy to just smash them, and Stiles hated picking eggshell out of the bowl.

Derek hid his amusement, ruffling his Beta's hair before gently pushing them toward the kitchen. "Mini-training session for muffins."

Stiles rolled his eyes. "I trust you guys," he said, handing Boyd and Erica an egg each and pointing to the clean bowl he'd set out for them. "You know what you're doing."

 

Derek watched on in amusement as his mate basically mom'd two of their 'children' into helping with the cooking. "Stiles, can you come here for a sec?"

"What is it?" Stiles asked, glancing over.

Derek caught Stiles' wrist, gently tugging him into the living room. "Are you okay?" he asked, keeping his voice as soft as he could, worry on his face. Had he upset Stiles earlier with the kiss?

Goddammit, this was exactly the opposite of what he'd wanted. "I'm fine," Stiles said shortly.

"You seem a bit upset," Derek murmured, trying to hide his reaction to Stiles’ tone. He was already fucking this up. Great.

"I'm fine, Derek," Stiles sighed, running one hand through his hair and grimacing as he realized he'd need to wash again. "I just...a little warning would have been nice? You had to have known they were there."

Derek flushed, shaking his head. "I wasn't paying attention. At all."

"Oh." Stiles hadn't expected that. And actually, it made him feel a lot better.

"I was watching you," Derek admitted. "I didn't hear or smell or see anything but you. I'm sorry if you were upset. But. If you don't mind me asking. Why would it upset you for me to kiss you in front of them?" Was it really that bad?

"...I assumed you'd noticed them," Stiles said quietly. "Which would mean you'd kissed me just in time for them to see, without telling me in advance."

"I wouldn't do that,” Derek promised, pulling Stiles into a hug. "Though...does it bother you that much? To kiss in front of them?"

It sounded stupid. How many times had he seen Boyd and Erica kiss? Or Scott and Allison? Stiles looked away.

"I'm honestly asking, Stiles," Derek said. "I won't judge you either way, I just don't want to make you uncomfortable."

"I...think I want us to be just for us at the moment," Stiles admitted.

"A bit of privacy?" Derek asked, slipping his hand in Stiles' hair. "So I can kiss you now, since we're alone? Or should I wait until the actual house is empty?"

"As long as they aren't, like, actively listening in on us, it's fine," Stiles said. After all, when the hell was the house empty? "But...not making out where anyone might come in? Just kisses."

Derek smiled, leaning down just a bit to capture Stiles' lips with his, keeping it soft.

Stiles kissed him back, smiling when they parted. "Sorry I freaked out on you."

"It's okay,” Derek murmured, holding Stiles close. "It was a misunderstanding. those happen."

"Yeah," Stiles said. "Anyway, I'd better go check on those muffins."

"Or at least see how many shells need to be taken from the bowl. "he mused, kissing Stiles again before stepping back. "I hear Scott and Lydia." he murmured. "And Allison."

Stiles smiled at him. "Thanks for the warning." He returned to the kitchen and looked over what Boyd and Erica were doing. "So what did you get up to in my absence?"

 

"Eggs are beaten," Boyd reported, "and we mixed the milk in and melted the butter for that bowl as well."

Derek watched Stiles and his betas, smiling to himself and heading over to the door, opening it right before Lydia got there. He pulled all three of them into a hug before they could say anything.

Stiles watched fondly, glad that the kitchen door had become preferred to the main one round the front of the house. Even if it meant the kitchen was less private, he got to see these moments.

Derek let out an almost imperceptible sigh when the other three hugged him back, his nose buried in Scott's hair, scenting the beta.”'I'm sorry,” he said quietly.

Scott shrugged a little. "You don't really trust me, I get it," he said easily. It didn't bother him. "I'm just glad you're okay, it was kind of freaky."

"I do trust you," Derek insisted. "And I didn't mean to scare you. Any of you."

"We're fine," Lydia said briskly. "Now, let's get out of the doorway."

Derek snorted softly, patting Lydia's cheek as he let them go. "Like I told Erica and Boyd, I need to spend more one on one time with my pack. I don't do it nearly enough."

"You don't have to," Allison said, looking a little uncomfortable. She and Derek were still getting over the awkwardness of their pasts.

"I want to," Derek promised, smiling at her and patting her shoulder awkwardly.

"Hey guys?" Stiles interrupted. "This is your ten second mixer warning." The wolves did not like how loud the stand mixer was, so Stiles usually tried to give them a chance to get out of the general vicinity.

Derek winced, following the betas out of the kitchen, pausing just long enough to press a kiss to Stiles' hair.

 

Stiles glanced at the betas, then determinedly away. None of them were going to judge him for this. Rather than think about it, he started the mixer and watched the mess of ingredients turn mix into batter.

Lydia leaned over to watch the mixer, though she glanced up to Stiles and grinned. "So, you and Derek, huh?" Her tone was warm, not judgmental at all.

Stiles ducked his head, focusing on collecting up dirty dishes.

"I'm happy for you," Lydia insisted softly, helping with the dishes for once. "You both deserve to be happy."

"And you think that's me, for him?" Stiles asked, equally quietly. The mixer would cover their conversation so the others couldn't hear - a rare privacy in the pack house.

"You haven't paid attention to his face when he looks at you." Lydia leaned forward, meeting Stiles’ gaze. "I have never seen him that happy. He's calmer, more settled, and looks at you as if you hung the moon. You make him happy."

"You really think so?" Stiles asked. "Because I've pissed him off a lot."

"What couple doesn't get pissed off at some point?" Lydia pointed out.

"Well, yeah," Stiles allowed. "But there's a difference between occasional arguments and..." his and Derek's near-constant snark.

Lydia shrugged. "He's probably been fighting it, not wanting to admit when he needed help. Or that you make him as happy as it is."

Stiles maybe gave Lydia the side-eye about that. Because that was too close to what Derek had said the other day - how did she know?

"I'm not blind." Lydia snorted, leaning closer. "Don't make me full name you, Stiles. You deserve to be happy."

"What changed?" Stiles asked quietly.

"What do you mean?" Lydia asked, wrapping an arm around Stiles' shoulders.

"What was it, that two years ago made me so contemptible to you, and now you think I'm worth Derek's...affection?" He looked straight ahead, not leaning into her at all.

"Growing up, for one," she admitted. "And actually getting to know you. I'll happily admit I was a spoiled bitch queen. But this pack has shown me that that isn't a good way to live. So I grew up. I gained a family and friends. And I began to see exactly how amazing a person you are."

"So...it wasn't me?" Stiles asked, his voice cracking.

Lydia let out a soft noise, pulling him into a hug. "No! Listen to me, Stiles. You are an amazing person. I was too clouded by my own bitchiness to see it. We weren't a good fit relationship-wise, because we don't have the chemistry. But you are amazing. It wasn't you. You weren't the reason I was acting that way, at all. And I'm sorry I ever made you feel that way."

Stiles buried his face in her shoulder and didn't cry. At all. He'd swear to it in a court of law. He just hugged her back gratefully.

Lydia hugged him close, turning off the mixer before the batter was mixed too much. "You are amazing. And you deserve to be happy. And I think Derek can give you that," she whispered into his ear.

"Thanks, Lyds," Stiles muttered, feeling like kind of an idiot for how emotional he'd gotten. "God, this day..."

"It's been a day, that's for sure." She smiled. "C'mon, I'll help portion this out."

Stiles smiled back at her. "Thanks. I'll just mix the raspberries in while you get the muffin tins ready?"

Lydia gave him a sassy salute before rummaging for the tins and the liners.

Stiles poured in the raspberries, a half-handful at a time, and folded them in gently, relaxing a little at the simple task.

Lydia looked up from finishing placing the liners, smiling at Stiles. "Anything else?"

"Nah, that's cool," Stiles said. "The mix is done, so you can grab a couple spoons and help scoop if you want."

"Aye-aye." Lydia saluted him again, grabbing the spoons and handing some to Stiles before starting on one side of the pan.

They worked in silence for about half a minute, and then Stiles spent the rest of the time until they went in the oven talking about lemurs.

Lydia could only be amused, adding her own bit every now and then before slipping  the muffin tins in the oven brushing off her hands. "Seriously though, Stiles. Give yourself a chance to be happy, hmm?" she said, kissing his cheek.

"Thanks," he said quietly, smiling at her before heading out to the living room. "Anyone want to help me with the dishes?" he asked, a little wearily.

 

"Woah," Scott said when he looked at him. "Do you, uh...?"

Fuck. Scott was probably right, but Derek... "Um," Stiles replied. "Maybe? But not now."

"Dude," Scott replied.

Derek looked up, concern on his face. "What's wrong?" he asked softly.

Erica stood. "I'll help Lydia with the dishes, Stiles."

"I'm fine!" Stiles protested.

Allison made a sudden noise of understanding. "I think Scott and I should go," she said. "Maybe we could give you a lift home?"

Derek looked worried, sliding his hand into Stiles' hair. "What's wrong?" he asked again, seeing the weariness in Stiles' eyes.

"Okay, everyone needs to stop fussing over me right now," Stiles said, frustrated. "In twenty minutes, there will be muffins, and people will eat them and enjoy them, especially you, Mr Alpha, because you've hardly eaten all day. And in the meantime, you are all going to give me some fucking space."

Derek took a step back, his brow furrowing.

Allison pursed her lips, signalling to Scott before gently tugging Derek from the house. "Take care of him, Scott."

"Wait, what?" Derek frowned, his chest tightening as he finally caught up to what was happening. He looked behind him to the now closed door of the house.

"Stiles needs Scott right now," Allison said simply, leading Derek away from the house at a brisk pace. "And that's all I'm saying while I'm in earshot."

"Erica, Boyd, we need you to leave," Scott said, heading for the kitchen door. "Lydia, you can stay if you like, but could you leave the kitchen to us, please?"

Erica and Boyd both nodded, easily seeing how serious this was.

Lydia went upstairs, deciding to help by doing some of the laundry.

 

"Scott, what the hell!" Stiles objected, kind of stunned by the efficiency with which Scott and Allison had cleared the house. Talk about a power couple. "I said I was fine."

"Don't lie to me." Scott said, his voice firm. He'd already gone into Dom mode, standing with his arms crossed as he watched his friend, noting absently the tenseness in Stiles’ shoulders.

"Scott," Stiles objected. He didn't need this, it wasn't right to do this with Scott anymore, he had to be a Dom now.

Scott shook his head again. "No objections. Come here, hands to your side. Come on."

"Scott," Stiles said again, running a hand through his hair. He just - he wanted -

"Come. Here." Scott said again, pointing to a spot in front of him.

Stiles rolled his eyes and his shoulders slumped. "Fine," he said, grudgingly coming over.

~~

Derek frowned. He waited until he could no longer hear anything from the house before speaking. "You mean he needs Scott to Dom him," he growled, unable to keep the jealousy from rearing up. That was his mate...

"Yes," Allison said firmly. "He needs Scott to Dom him. Which they've been doing since Stiles' mom died. Platonically. So don't you growl at me like that."

Derek's shoulders slumped, sitting on a stump in the middle of the woods. "It should be me helping," he said. His voice tried to crack, but he wouldn't let it.

"Look, you and Stiles have been together for, what, three days? Five?" Allison pointed out kindly. "Have you even had the discussion about scening yet?"

Derek shook his head. "I know he's a switch, but that's really all I know. I - I can try..." He trailed off, knowing that him domming Stiles would never work. He wasn't a Dom.

"You could," Allison said, unaware of the main problem. "But you don't know what he needs right now. Scott does. And I promise you, Derek, there is nothing going on back there that's any more intimate than a hug."

"No, you don't understand." Derek's voice was soft and small, his shoulders slumping. "I can't do that for Stiles. And it frustrates me that I can't." He groaned, closing his eyes before admitting to himself that he was about to tell one of his weaknesses to an Argent. Even though it was an Argent in his pack that he was starting to trust. "I'm a sub, Allison."

~~

Scott hid his grin at his friend’s petulant behavior. "Good," he said softly, running his fingers through Stiles' hair. "We'll talk about things that are bothering you in a bit. For now, you're going to clean the counters for me, hmm?"

"I really don't need this," Stiles said, even as he went to the cupboard under the sink for surface spray, and the drawer next to it for a tea towel.

"You really do,” Scott replied steadily, sitting at the table to watch him. “You've been avoiding it, but we'll talk about that in a moment, it's not important right this second. Just clean the counter, and make sure to get under the mixer."

Stiles sighed, and turned his attention to the task, as much as he could, anyway. It wasn't make-work - Scott was usually pretty good about that - and it did help, to have a concrete goal to focus on.

Scott watched him closely, smiling as Stiles seemed to settle into it.

~~

"Oh." Allison's hand flew to her mouth, her mind racing. "You..."

Derek curled his arms around his stomach, jealousy, guilt, and sadness warring in his chest. He kept his eyes on the ground. "I can't do that for him," he whispered. "I would if I could, I just - I just..." He pursed his lips. "I should be the one doing it. Instead, my beta is domming my mate."

Cautiously, Allison rested her hand on Derek's back. "How about, 'your beta is helping your mate'?" she offered. "Or, 'Stiles' best friend is helping him'?"

Derek slipped his hands back over his face. "I should be the one to help though. He's my mate." Though, he had to admit, thinking of it that way helped.

"You are helping," Allison reassured him quietly. "You're giving him the space he needs to get what he needs from one of your pack. You could have stopped me and Scott from doing what we did."

"Why would I stop it?” Derek asked. “It's obvious he needs it. I just. I don't like that it's not me. I want to help."

"You could have stopped it if you didn't trust them," Allison said. "If you were too jealous. Just like I could have stopped it, a year and a half ago, or any time since."

Derek's shoulders slumped even further, still feeling bad. He felt useless. He couldn't help his mate. His Stiles.

~~

Stiles relaxed, slowly - and he kind of hated that he did, that he needed this when he got too tangled up on his brain. He kind of hated that looking after Derek wasn't enough for him.

Once the counter was clean, Scott stood, going to pull Stiles into a hug. "Good job, looks amazing. Take the muffins out of the even to cool and then do the dishes." They'd talk after that was done.

The hug helped, but when Stiles opened the oven, he did a skewer test before taking the muffins out, and - "They're not done," he told Scott. It was irritatingly jarring, the mental conflict of that, of having to think about an order that was wrong.

"That's alright. They can finish cooking while you do the dishes," Scott reassured him. "Good job on checking them, that was a very good thing to do." Scott rubbed Stiles' back. "Perfect."

The praise honestly felt really good. Like a warm blanket, fresh out of the dryer. "Thanks, Scott," Stiles said with a sigh. "Ugh, I shouldn't need you to do this." Why wasn't Derek enough for him?"

"Why is that?” Scott asked. “Because of Derek? That doesn't mean you don't need my help, bud. And you know I have no problems helping you."

"He's my - boyfriend," Stiles said, with only a short pause as he tried to figure out what the right word really was. "You having to do this now I've got him is even stupider than me making you do this once you got Allison."

Scott tutted, watching as Stiles did the dishes. "Who in the hell said you were making me do this?" he countered, frowning. "And just because you have your boyfriend, doesn't mean he can Dom you like you need sometimes, Stiles. But for now, that's not important, finish the dishes and check on the muffins."

~~

Allison sighed, pulling Derek into a hug. "You've had a tough day, haven't you?" she murmured.

Derek sucked in a breath, settling a bit at the scent of pack and leaning into the hug. "I just want to help."

"And you do," Allison promised. "Just...not this way. I'm sure Stiles is missing you as much as you're missing him right now."

Derek refused to cry, no matter how useless he was feeling. "Thanks, Allie."

"You're welcome," Allison murmured, rubbing his back. "That's what pack does, right?"

Derek could only nod, sniffing a little as he soaked up the comforting hug.

Chapter Text

Eventually, Derek got a text saying, 'You can come back now', and he and Allison returned to the house.

Stiles was waiting with Scott, in the clean kitchen, with the muffins, feeling better in one way, less...mentally cluttered, but guilty as well.

Derek immediately went to wrap himself around Stiles, burying his face in Stiles' neck to scent him, hiding the look on his face that he hadn’t been able to shift..

Scott watched them both for a moment, muffin in his hand. "These are really good," he said awkwardly, grabbing a couple more. "Come on Ally, let's take one to Lydia." He needed to let those two talk.

"Good plan," Allison agreed, and the two of them vacated the kitchen.

 

"Hey, hey, dude, are you okay?" Stiles murmured, hugging Derek tight, feeling guilty as fuck for making Derek feel this clingy. "It's alright, promise. We'll fix it."

"I'm sorry I can't do that for you," Derek whispered. "I want to help. I just… I feel a bit useless right now," he admitted. "What kind of mate am I, for not being able to help?"

"What kind of mate am I, for needing something you can't give?" Stiles countered.

"You can't help it that you're a switch, Stiles," Derek replied. He felt horrible, knowing that Stiles needed this, biologically even. (Though a small part of him was rejoicing that Stiles had called himself Derek's mate.)

"Yeah, but just because I'm bi doesn't mean I'm going to have a girl on the side," Stiles argued. "Why should being a switch mean I get to go outside this for a Dom?"

"Stiles...." Derek let out a soft sigh, sinking to his knees, his arms around Stiles' waist. "I can't be a Dom," he whispered. "As much as I want to, I know I can't. But..you need it sometimes. And that's okay." He swallowed hard, starting to tremble. "J-just..."

"Shh," Stiles soothed him, stroking Derek's hair. "It's alright, Derek. You haven't done anything wrong. You're doing your absolute best, and I'm proud of you. It's okay."

Derek buried his face in Stiles' stomach, clenching his eyes closed. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I'm sorry I can't be a Dom for you. I'm sorry." The thought, just the mere thought, that someone else had to be Stiles' Dom when he needed it hurt. The only thing that helped was that it was one of his betas. Like Allison had said, Stiles just needed one of his betas’ help.

"It's okay," Stiles said again. "I'm sorry I needed it, but we did okay, didn't we? It's alright, Derek. You're perfect, just as you are. I don't want you to be anyone different."

"D-don't be sorry," Derek stuttered. "You're perfect just the way you are too." He held Stiles tighter, hands twisted in the back of his shirt. "I just want to help."

Stiles closed his eyes for a moment, searching desperately for the best way to fix this. "I know you do," he murmured. "And you do help, okay? This time I - well, I guess I needed you to help by letting me have some time with Scott, but you're helping me right now with the hugging, alright? This is good. Thank you."

Derek hugged Stiles tighter, tears finally falling, though he didn't make a noise. "I don't mind you having time with Scott," he whispered, his voice wet. "I just wish I was able to do it. And I hate myself because I can't."

"No, Derek, please don't," Stiles said, dismayed. "You're perfect, I promise, you're so good, you're a good boy, my good boy."

 

Derek's shoulders started shaking as he cried, not sure why he couldn't stop.

"Derek - god, please don't - kochanie, please don't cry," Stiles begged, trying to crouch down, to get on Derek's level, but Derek's grip on him was too strong.

Derek loosened his grip, trying to get a hold of himself and failing, vaguely wondering what that word meant, his chest warming, but the tears wouldn't stop, and his shoulders shook as he let out a hitched sob.

Stiles dropped to his knees, pulling Derek into as tight a hug as he could manage. "Shh, kochanie, I've got you," he promised. "It's okay. It's all going to be fine. You're still good, you're still my good boy."

Derek clung to Stiles, slowly calming down. "I'm sorry," he choked out, his breath hitching as he fought to stop crying.

"It's okay," Stiles promised him, blinking back tears of his own at Derek's distress. "You're okay, Derek. You're still my good boy. It's all okay."

"I'm s-sorry I can't do that f-for you like Sc-scott can," Derek hiccuped, finally slowing the tears, though he didn't break his hold on Stiles.

"It's okay," Stiles murmured, rubbing Derek's back. "You're perfect, kochanie. Everyone has things they can't do. You're still good."

Derek sniffled, keeping his face hidden in Stiles' neck. "What does kochanie mean?"

"It's...my mom used to call me that," Stiles said quietly. "I couldn't tell you exactly what it means in English. Something like 'honey' or 'sweetheart', I think."

"I like it,” Derek murmured, still sniffling a little. "I am sorry though. Both for not being a Dom, and for crying."

Stiles shook his head. "No, I'm putting a stop to that right now. You don't get to apologize for things you don't have control over. You being a sub is not a bad thing, and it's not your fault, okay?"

Derek made a soft sound. "Th-then d-don't apologize because you need both,” Derek countered weakly, his voice still barely loud enough for Stiles to hear.

"Okay, that's fair," Stiles reluctantly agreed. "But...we are going to find a way to do this that means you don't get upset like this. That's something I do get to choose, and I'm not doing this to you again." He'd never seen Derek cry.

"I think part of it was I wasn't expecting it,” Derek murmured, feeling oddly shy. “I knew you were a switch, but knowing and seeing are different."

"Technically you didn't see," Stiles pointed out. "You saw me get cranky because I couldn't get my head on straight."

"Still clicked." Derek shrugged, unwilling to let go of Stiles, even to wipe his face. He hadn't cried like that in years.

"Well now you know," Stiles said. He sighed. "I really am sorry today's turned out like this. It's been kind of a clusterfuck."

"Can we have a do over of today?" Derek mused, leaning back just enough to wipe his eyes. He was still shaking, but he wasn't crying anymore. "Sorry for crying."

"You needed it," Stiles murmured. "And now you're probably dehydrated and hungry." He leaned in to kiss Derek's forehead. "A do-over sounds great. Let's start with breakfast."

Derek hummed, tilting his head back to return Stiles' kiss with one on the lips. "The muffins smell good." he murmured.

"Thanks," Stiles said. "You can eat one while I make you some bacon. You're in the mood for bacon, right? You need protein."

"It's bacon." Derek gave Stiles a small grin, even as he nodded, going to grab one of the muffins. "You eat too!"

 

"I smell muffinnnnns!" Isaac bounced through  the door, completely unaware of what had been happening. "Papa made muffffiiinnnnssss!"

"I did," Stiles agreed, miraculously not freaking out. "And don't call me Papa, that's really fucking weird when you're three months older than me."

"Better than Mama," Isaac countered, then froze, his head tilting as he took a deep breath and caught the scent of tears on the air. "What's wrong? What happened."

"We had a bad day," Stiles said simply. "And now we're having a do-over. With bacon, because any day is better with bacon. Right, Derek?"

Derek could only nod, though he did pull Isaac into a brief hug when the beta came closer. "And he made muffins."

Isaac relaxed at the hug and Stiles' words. "Sounds good to me. Where're the others? I thought they would be here?"

"They were, but we needed some privacy," Stiles explained. "Speaking of which..." He stuck his head out of the kitchen and raised his voice. "Scott! If you're still there, you guys can come down now!"

Derek tilted his head, listening. "I don't think they're still here," he murmured. "I don't hear them." He couldn't say anything about smelling them, his nose was still stuffy from crying.

"Great," Stiles muttered, pulling out his phone. Crisis is over, I'll make you bacon if you show up, and there's enough muffins for everyone to have two, he sent to everyone.

Derek stayed quiet, eating his muffin slowly. He still felt a bit guilty, but focused, instead, on apologizing to Isaac. "I'm sorry I scared you this morning.”

"It's fine," Isaac reassured him. "It was kind of nice, honestly."

Derek just hummed, his face showing his amusement. He turned to Stiles, watching him.

"Put some toast on?" Stiles suggested, flipping the bacon over. "Also, do you want eggs?"

"Can we have fried eggs?" Derek asked, standing up to grab the bread.

"I just like food," Isaac said, shoving half of a muffin in his mouth.

"You only get two muffins," Stiles warned. "But you can have some bacon, and eggs if you get me the carton."

"Yes papa," Isaac teased, fetching the carton from the fridge and setting it near Stiles, grinning at the other man.

"Seriously, no," Stiles warned. "And if you ever call me 'daddy', I'm going to stab you."

Derek hid his grin as he turned to the toaster, buttering pieces as they popped up.

"Someone's feeling shaaaanky," Isaac teased, though he did stop, grinning around another mouthful of his muffin.

"What, you never want me to call you that?" Derek couldn't help but add, loving the look on Isaac's face when he choked on his muffin.

"You're funny," Stiles said flatly. "Really."

Derek stepped up behind him, tucking his face in Stiles' neck for a moment, the grin still curling his lips. "So I guess that's a no?" he murmured.

"Do you seriously want to have a kink negotiation here?" Stiles asked skeptically. "In front of this apparently-a-child who sees you as a father figure? You'll scar him."

"I watch worse in porn," Isaac deadpanned, finally having cleared his throat.

"He started it," Derek whined playfully, kissing Stiles' neck. "Later then," he added in a low murmur.

Stiles nodded. It was a conversation they really had to have, preferably soon. "Pass me a plate?" he said. "This first batch is ready." The eggs, not quite, but almost.

 

Derek hummed, kissing Stiles’ ear before turning to grab a stack of plates, putting them on the counter and handing Stiles one.

"Thanks, kochanie," Stiles murmured with a soft smile.

The name made Derek's chest settle, a soft smile of his own on his face.

"You two are adorable." Isaac murmured, grinning. "I like it."

Stiles rolled his eyes. "Take some toast, take some bacon, and get out glasses and drinks, Isaac," he said. "No more commenting on our adorability."

"Doesn't make it less truuuue," Isaac sang, doing as he was asked.

Derek snorted softly, smelling contentment oozing from Isaac.

Stiles was secretly kind of glad for Isaac's teasing. It helped lighten the mood.

Derek watched his beta bounce around the kitchen, a soft smile on his face.

Isaac paused, tilting his head as he held the plate of bacon. "So, what are you two going to eat?" he said, his lips quirking.

"Some of that," Stiles said, examining the eggs. "Don't you take it all." These were done, he thought, so he grabbed a plate and scooped the eggs onto it. "Here you go, Derek, take what you want."

"Thank you." Derek slipped a couple onto one plate, repeating for another before quickly filching some of the bacon from Isaac for each.

"I'll do another batch later if I have to," Stiles decided, and he turned the stove off.

"I got us some anyway," Derek said, giving Stiles a small smile.

Isaac curled around the rest of the bacon protectively. "My preciousssss."

"Thanks," Stiles said, leaning in - a little awkwardly - to kiss Derek's cheek.

Derek smiled wider, returning the kiss before murmuring, "You're welcome," as he set down the plates, one in front of Stiles.

Stiles started eating and realized, holy shit he was hungry. For all he'd been trying to get Derek to eat since he came out of his weird feral thing, he'd probably needed food as well. Which might explain the not-breakdown earlier.

Derek watched Stiles eat, smiling to himself as he finished eating, sneaking an extra muffin onto Stiles' plate.

 

Erica hesitantly stuck her head into the kitchen. "Do I smell bacon?"

"You do!" Stiles said, smiling at her. Poor Erica. She'd had kind of a shitty day today. "And muffins. I'll make you eggs if you want?"

"No thanks, Batman, I'm good with bacon and muffins." Erica grinned, relaxing a bit at Stiles' smile.

"Come on, Erica." Derek gestured her to come in. "Before Isaac eats it all.”

"My precioussssss."

"Give Erica some bacon, you dick," Stiles said, rolling his eyes fondly. "Unlike the one ring, bacon is replaceable."

"But my precious,” Isaac whined, even as he slipped some of the bacon onto a plate for Erica, who just laughed and grabbed her muffins to go with it, ruffling his curls.

Derek hid an amused smile.

"Did Boyd not come with you?" Stiles asked. "He must be sick of the back and forth."

"I'm right here," Boyd said from the doorway.

"Gah!" Stiles exclaimed, almost knocking his plate off the table as he spun around.

Derek caught the plate, wrapping an arm around Stiles to steady him. "He's like a daisy, apparently."

"Pop, pop, pop." Boyd deadpanned, snatching a piece of bacon from Isaac.

"Hey!" Isaac exclaimed.

Erica just laughed at them all.

Derek smiled, watching his pack bicker and tease with each other. He settled something in his chest, seeing his Pack happy and enjoying themselves. He kissed Stiles cheek, hugging him close.

"See?" Stiles murmured, barely audible. "They're fine. Nothing's broken."

Derek gave him a relieved smile. "My pack," he murmured.

-----

"Poor Derek," Allison said, cuddling in close to Scott. They were at his house, having decided to go there after they'd left Stiles and Derek to look after each other. "Did Stiles tell you...?"

"No, he didn't." Scott held Allison close, one hand in her hair. "But that doesn't mean I don't know. I notice things."

"He felt so awful," she confided, face buried in his shirt.

Scott held her tightly, nodding. "Stiles helped," he reminded her softly.

"Derek might have gone for him like a port in a storm, but that doesn't mean the storm wasn't happening," Allison muttered.

"True." Scott admitted. "But he'll be okay. We'll look after them. Make sure they're both doing okay."

"It must be so much harder, doing a relationship with two subs, than with two Doms," Allison commented. "Not that Stiles is a sub - just, today, he kind of..."

"Today he needed it," Scott agreed softly. "But you and I both know Stiles can Dom with the best of them."

"I think..." Allison paused, not sure how much she should say. "I think Derek maybe needs that."

"Needs what?" Scott asked, rubbing her back. "Come on, Allie-cat. Talk to me."

"Needs Domming," Allison explained. "Maybe a lot."

"Then Stiles will give him that,” Scott replied easily. “And when he needs it, I'll Dom Stiles. Like I always have."

"You're a really loving person, you know that?" Allison said with a soft smile.

"Sometimes it's nice to hear.” Scott smiled back. “But I love them both. Not the way I love you - " or the way he was starting to feel for another sub, " - but still love."

"No, I get it, they're family," Allison reassured him. "I remember when we first had this talk."

"They're our family," Scott said, and kissing her hair.

 

"Scott..." Allison said thoughtfully. "Do you know who Isaac goes to, when he needs it?" He'd never said in so many words that he was a sub, but it was easy to guess, and if Derek wasn't a Dom...

"I don't know that he has anyone," Scott replied, his voice showing how sad that made him. "He should have someone..."

Everyone had someone. A family member or friend if they were single, but...someone to take the weight off their shoulders for a little while. Except Isaac didn't have any family, only the pack, and they were all paired up now. "Do you think he'd ever go to Stiles?" Allison asked carefully.

"Maybe? I don't see him doing it though, honestly." Scott gave a shrug before shifting to where he could hold Allison tighter. He wanted Isaac, he wasn't going to lie about it, and the way that Allison was talking... "Why do you ask?" Did she mean she wanted him too?

"I worry about him, I guess," Allison admitted.

"I do too," Scott said. "Don't know what to do though."

"...do you think he'd be insulted if we asked him about it?" Allison asked cautiously. "I mean, it's kind of rude to ask. And maybe he doesn't actually need a Dom at all."

"Doesn't hurt to ask. He'll be able to tell we're genuine." Scott shrugged.

"What would we do if he said he did need help?" Allison asked.

"...I don't know." Scott frowned a little. "Allie...what would we do? Get him some help I think, but..."

Allison bit her lip. "It wouldn't be like you helping Stiles, would it."

"I don't believe so, no." Scott shook his head, chewing on the corner of his lip.

The thing was, Allison knew Scott. She might not have a werewolf nose, but she saw how he looked at Isaac. "You like him, don't you?" she murmured.

Scott may be a werewolf, but he could still turn beet red. "Wh-what?" he flicked his eyes away, even though she wasn't looking at him. "Why do you say that?"

Allison hid a laugh with a sigh. "Because I know you."

Scott let out his own sigh. "Yeah, I do. But I'm dating you, so..."

"Do you not...want to be dating me?" Allison asked warily.

"No, I love you!" Scott held her tighter, controlling the need to growl, but only barely. "I want you..." He just also wanted Isaac, and that was driving him crazy. How could he have or want Isaac when he had and wanted Allison?

"Okay," Allison said, relieved, and brushed a kiss against Scott's neck. "It's okay, I believe you."

Scott kept his hold tight, a hand slipping into Allison's hair. "That's why I'm ignoring my want for Isaac., he admitted.

"Scott..." Allison pulled back, enough to look Scott in the eyes. "Is this going to be a problem for us?"

Scott felt a moment of panic, his eyes widening. "Why do you say that?" he couldn't help but ask. "I'm with you!"

"You are," Allison said. "But you're thinking of him."

"Allie, I love you," Scott said simply. "I'm with you. Yes, I want him, yes there are some feelings, I'm not going to lie to you, but...I'm with you."

"And how long before you resent me for the lost opportunity?" Allison pointed out.

"I won't resent you. Ever." Scott shook his head. "Why would I? I love you."

"Love doesn't fix every problem, Scott," she said quietly. "We shouldn't just ignore this."

"What do you want me to do?" Scott asked, his voice cracking. "it's not like I can have you both."

"Oh, Scott," Allison sighed, giving him a quick kiss. "I'm not going to leave you. It's okay."

Scott let out a relieved breath, leaning into the kiss before closing his eyes, willing his heart to slow down.

"I love you too, Scott," Allison reassured him, reaching up to play with Scott's hair.

 

Scott leaned into the touch, the motion always calming. "So what do we do then?" he whispered.

"You like Isaac, and you want him," Allison summarized plainly. "I think friendship between you two is going to get harder, because of that."

"I've been hiding it pretty good, I think." Scott sighed, thunking his head back against the wall.

Allison shrugged a little. "It's not so easy to hide things in the pack."

"No, they probably all have figured it out," Scott complained, hiding his face in her hair.

Allison started playing with his hair again, trying to comfort him. "I think they've been kind of focused on Derek and Stiles," she suggested.

"That won't last forever," Scott said, leaning into her fingers. "I don't know what to do. I usually at least have some sort of clue, but right now I'm hopeless."

Allison bit her lip. Was she really going to suggest what she was thinking? "I think we should, uh, consider a...ménage à trois," she finally said.

Scott blinked, looking down with wide eyes when it clicked what Allison was saying. "Wait, explain exactly what you mean here, I don't want to misunderstand."

"I don't think you'll stop liking him," Allison said quietly. "You're very loyal that way. So I need to decide whether I can deal with that, and I think I can."

"Wait. Are you talking about me dating both of you?" Scott breathed, his heart racing at even the possibility

Allison's heart sank a little at the eagerness in Scott's eyes. "Maybe," she admitted. "For now, I'll just...you don't have to try to change your feelings."

Scott's nose flared, tilting his head and breathing deeper, something off about Allison's scent. "Allie-cat," he whispered, pulling her close yet again. "Don't offer it if you can't do it. I don't want to if it means I'll lose you."

"You won't lose me, silly," Allison said, mustering a smile. "That's the whole point."

"Allison, I'm serious." Scott slipped his hand into the dip of her spine, holding her close. "As much  as I like Isaac, I don't want to lose you, or hurt you."

"It's going to take me a little while to get used to this," she admitted. "But I'm serious."

"I didn't even know this could happen," Scott confessed, his voice whisper soft. "I don't want to lose you, but I can't ignore how I feel about Isaac either. And there's always the chance that he doesn't feel the same."

"He adores you," Allison said simply.

"How do you know?" Scott asked, his voice lowering to a soft grumble.

Because sometimes he looks at you like you look at me. "Call it women's intuition," she said with a mischievous smile.

 

Scott smiled in return, kissing the corner of her mouth. "Tell me your secrets, oh wise one," he teased. "Also, tell me what I can and can't do right now, because honestly I may make an ass of myself and I don't want to assume anything."

"Don't kiss him or anything," Allison said, adding, "Not yet. But I know you guys are tactile, and that's fine."

"When can I kiss him?" he wondered aloud. "And yeah, tactile kinda goes with the whole werewolf gig."

Allison raised her eyebrows. "Scott," she said dryly, "don't push it. If and when I'm ready for you to do more, I'll let you know."

"I wasn't trying to push it," Scott insisted. "I was just wondering."

"Well, my answer's 'maybe someday', and you're going to have to live with that," Allison said firmly.

Scott couldn't help the small chuckle that escaped, smiling crookedly at her. "Ma'am yes ma'am," he teased.

"And you be good," she countered, going along with it.

"Aw, you know I have issues with that," Scott mock-whined, grinning and slipping his hand back into her hair, tugging her into a soft kiss.

Allison smiled into the kiss. "I love you," she murmured, when they moved apart. "We'll be okay."

"I love you too.” Scott smiled softly, cupping her cheek. "And I believe so, no matter what."

Chapter Text

It was not a good day. Not that there was anything about it that made it that way, it just...wasn't. And Stiles was getting worried. "Derek," he said quietly, looking up at the pacing werewolf from where he sat at his desk. "Stop a minute."

Derek looked up at Stiles, eyes crimson as he finally paused, though he was still agitated. There was unease in the forest, and it was grating on his nerves, especially this close to the moon.

"I don't think there's anything more we can do today," Stiles said quietly, mentally shifting a little towards Dom. "What do you think?"

"We're kind of at a standstill, with Deaton out of town," Derek grumbled, his voice more growl than speech.

Stiles found it interesting, the way Derek had gotten more wolfy over the last few years. Maybe as the pack got more comfortable not being human? Either way, when he'd met Derek, Derek had been fully human-looking almost all the time. And now he wasn't. "So, if we can't do anything," Stiles said, "we should take some downtime, so when we can do something, we're fit to do it."

Derek watched him for a moment, his features flickering in his agitation before he managed to calm down enough to stop the shift. "That might be a good idea. Rest up,” he agreed. “Something's just wrong, and it's rubbing my fur the wrong way."

Stiles bit his lip, not sure of the best way to phrase this. "...would you like me to try to help you relax?" he eventually offered.

Derek shifted on his feet, still feeling the urge to pace, itchy in his own skin. "If we can,” he agreed.

"We could start with something simple," Stiles suggested. "Just kneeling? And me stroking your hair, since you like that."

"We can try," Derek said after a moment, unsure if it would even work. His wolf was prowling at the edges of his mind, unsettled by the subtle wrongness of the forest.

"Alright, then." Stiles stood, coming over and taking Derek's hands. "Kneel for me, kochanie."

 

Derek shivered a bit, his fingers curling around Stiles' at the use of that name. He liked it, even his wolf almost preening at the special name that Stiles only called him. But his eyes flashed when he tried to do what Stiles asked, his instincts and his biology fighting. His chest tightened, his face screwing up as the panic welled in him. Why couldn't he make his knees bend? Why couldn't he kneel? Was he that useless a sub? Why couldn't he have been a Dom?

The look on Derek's face, his quickening breathing, his harsh grasp of Stiles' hands - something was wrong, desperately so. "Derek?" Stiles asked. "What's wrong?"

"I..." Derek couldn't even say it, his chest tight with pain as he trembled, trying to force his knees to bend. He wanted this, damn it - why were his instincts holding him back?

"Okay, stop," Stiles said instantly. Fuck, what if this was some kind of spell or something? "Derek, stop, it's okay!"

"No! It's not okay!" Derek was so frustrated, almost to tears, and dammit he'd just cried only a week ago, what the hell? "It's not okay, Stiles. Why can't I be a normal sub? Or at least born a Dom! Why do I have to want to kneel so badly for you, but can't get my fucking knees to work?"

"You. Are. Perfect, Derek," Stiles insisted. "Now stop before you hurt yourself."

"I am not!" Derek was in a full blown panic now, trembling as he tried to get his lungs to stop seizing. "I can't even kneel like I want to!"

"Derek, I need you to breathe," Stiles said urgently. "None of that is important right now. Just breathe with me, please."

Derek's wide, panicked eyes landed on Stiles, trying to suck in a breath. His legs trembled, but his knees were still locked, and he stayed upright.

"Okay, um, counting things, let's count things, okay?" Stiles looked around the room. "Okay, counting books on the bookshelf, let's do that, you join in when you can. Top shelf. One, two, three, four..." Stiles tried to keep his counting slow-ish, letting it remind him to breathe slower.

Derek tried to match Stiles, his chest loosening bit by bit until he could rasp out "twenty."

Stiles gave Derek a quick smile and kept counting. By the time they reached thirty-two, and the end of the shelf, Derek's breathing had eased.

Derek was trembling harder, though at least now he could breathe. He clung tightly to Stiles' hands. "F-fuck"

"You're doing good, really," Stiles promised, squeezing Derek's hands. "Can you tell me what you can smell right now?"

Derek scented the air, falling forward a bit but his knees still wouldn't bend. "You," he panted. "Worry, concern. Wood floors, books."

"Thank you, Derek, that's really good," Stiles reassured him. "What's three things you can hear?"

"Rain." Derek tried to focus on just his hearing. "Your heartbeat, squirrels in the tree out front."

"Okay," Stiles' said, squeezing Derek's hands. "Now can you tell me five things you can see that are, uh...red."

"Your hoodie. Three books, the armchair by the window, cardinal in the bush outside the window, door," Derek replied breathlessly, nearly calm now.

“That's really good, Derek," Stiles said, incredibly relieved to see that the counting stuff was working. "How are you feeling?"

"Weak." Derek’s voice was softer now; his panic had exhausted him. "Tired."

 

Stiles frowned sadly. "How about we sit down on the bed for a bit?"

Derek just nodded, walking shakily, still holding tight Stiles' hands. He didn't trust himself not to simply topple like a felled tree. Not until he could gather himself.

Stiles led Derek slowly to the bed and sat down, letting go of one of his hands to wrap an arm around his shoulders.

Derek leaned into the hold, shivering as he fought to finish calming down, berating himself silently.

"That's really great, Derek," Stiles murmured, trying to be reassuring, but not wanting to cross any lines that might cause another panic. "You're doing so good."

Derek shook his head. "I can't even kneel," he rasped, turning his face away, not wanting Stiles to see the self-loathing that he knew was in his eyes. "What kind of broken sub am I?"

Stiles' heart sank. "It makes you a man who's had a hard life, and his trust abused," he said quietly. "You're not broken, kochanie. You're just guarded. That's okay."

"Broken and worthless," Derek murmured, his shoulders slumping. "I just want to be able to do that. I want to kneel for you so badly but I just can't bend my legs."

"You're not broken," Stiles objected. "And you're not worthless either. If you can't kneel, we can find another way to get you what you need. Or we can help you get to the point where you can. But it's okay that you can't right now."

"I want to." Derek kept his gaze averted, but he'd finally stopped trembling. "I feel broken though."

Stiles leaned in to kiss Derek's cheek. "I'm sorry," he murmured. "It's okay."

Derek turned, returning the kiss before burying his nose in Stiles' neck, breathing deeply. He finally just slumped against his mate, one hand going to fist the front of Stiles' hoodie, the other still twined in Stiles'.

"I'm really proud of you for trying," Stiles said, his words a little muffled in Derek's hair. "All I ever need is for you to try, okay?"

"I'll keep trying," Derek promised, his own voice muffled against Stiles' skin. "I want to. I want to make you proud when I can. I want to see your face."

Stiles smiled fondly. "That's really great," he murmured. "Just...stop trying before you get this distressed, yeah?"

"Can't promise that. I didn't know that this would happen." Derek shrugged, hearing the fondness in Stiles' voice as he nuzzled closer, mouthing at Stiles’ neck to scent him.

"Yeah," Stiles replied, "but like, if something's hard for you, you don't have to keep doing it. You can stop and try again later."

Derek grinned toothily, pulling back again, "Sometimes I like it when things are hard for me," he teased. He licked his lips, watching Stiles for a moment. "Though I know what you're saying. I'll try and remember, promise."

 

Stiles maybe blushed a bit at the innuendo, but he ignored it steadfastly. "Do you think you could maybe tell me some more about the kneeling? What it's like for you?"

"My knees lock up," Derek said quietly. "No matter how hard I try, my legs lock and I can't get them to bend. It's terrifying. And not just because i want to kneel."

"Because you can't control your body?" Stiles guessed.

"And because I want to kneel and my body isn't letting me," Derek agreed, shrugging. "I'm not honestly sure. It was just terrifying."

"Okay," Stiles said worriedly. "Are you feeling better enough to try some things? You can say no."

"I want to." Derek nodded. "I still want to try and kneel for you. Just...ease me towards it, I guess?"

"Absolutely," Stiles promised, squeezing Derek's hand. "I want to see if you can kneel if I'm kneeling first. Can we try that?"

Derek pursed his lips, nodding after a moment. "We can try," he conceded, standing after a moment, not letting go of Stiles' hand.

Stiles held tight as he slipped easily to his knees. It was weird, looking up at Derek like this. "Can you join me, kochanie?" he asked.

Derek swallowed hard, carefully lowering himself, only to end up kind of falling onto his ass. "Ow," he huffed, flicking his eyes away as he automatically began to berate himself.

"Hey, that's awesome!" Stiles said, making light of the way Derek had fallen. "You're down here with me!"

Derek flushed, peeking back at Stiles. "I wasn't able to kneel," he pointed out.

"Yeah, but this is more than you could do before, right?" Stiles pointed out. "Seriously, I'm proud of you."

"True, last time I didn't fall on my ass," Derek joked, finally cracking a small smile. The praise from Stiles helped.

"Okay, so, here's some options," Stiles said, smiling back at Derek. "I can stay down here and we can see if you can shift to be on your knees. Or I could get up, and we could keep going just with you sitting. Or we can just stay like this, if you want."

"Can we try the first two?" Derek asked softly. He really wanted to kneel properly for Stiles. Wanted to so badly.

"Of course," Stiles agreed instantly, reaching for Derek's hand again. "You want to see if you can get to your knees from here, first?"

Derek nodded, taking a deep breath and squeezing Stiles’ hand. After a few moments he slowly started shifting, his hands trembling as he pushed himself to his knees, his gaze fixing itself on the floor.

"That's so good, Derek," Stiles murmured, awed. "Seriously, dude, I am just...so proud of you right now. Well done, kochanie."

Derek bit off a choked whimper, the praise literally pouring from Stiles making him relax a little, though he was still trembling.

The praise seemed to be helping, so Stiles kept it up. "I'm so proud of you for trusting me enough to keep trying, when it was so hard and scary for you before, you're so brave, really."

Derek leaned forward, interrupting Stiles with a kiss, smiling softly. "Thank you," he whispered.

Stiles beamed at him. "You're welcome," he replied.

 

Derek stayed leaning forward, trying to relax completely into the pose.

Stiles reached up tentatively and threaded his fingers through Derek's hair.

Derek sucked in a breath, pressing into the touch, his chest letting out the rumbling sound that he'd refuse to liken to a purr.

Stiles relaxed, leaning closer and smiling. "You like that?" he murmured.

"Mmhm." Derek nodded carefully, not wanting to dislodge Stiles' hand. It soothed him a bit, as well as Stiles' voice.

Stiles smiled wider, incredibly relieved that something he was doing was working. "That's so good, Derek," he said quietly. "I'm really glad."

Derek settled a bit more on his knees, relaxing. The panic wasn't back, and his wolf was rumbling in contentment with Stiles' hand in his hair and his mate so close.

"I'm so proud of you," Stiles murmured. "Kneeling for me so well like this. Do you think you can look at me, kochanie? Let me see your face?"

Derek flicked his eyes up, carefully tilting his head to look up at Stiles, starting to tremble again slightly. The praise and the pet name kept him from freaking out, just.

"That's so good, kochanie, well done," Stiles reassured him instantly, feeling Derek shivering under his fingers. "Thank you for letting me see you, you can look down now if you want."

Derek flicked his eyes back down, but his gaze paused on Stiles' chest instead of the floor. He let out a soft sigh, licking his lips. "Sorry."

"Derek, that was perfect," Stiles said firmly. "I asked you to look at me and you did, right? That was really good."

"Sorry I keep needing to look down," Derek explained, shifting in place, his cheeks pink under his stubble.

Stiles shook his head. "It's not a problem, Derek," he promised. "You're doing really well, okay?"

Derek nodded, taking in a deep, calming breath. "Yes," he said, relaxing a little, eyes trained on Stiles' chest.

"Good boy," Stiles praised. It was kind of heart-breaking, how difficult this was for Derek, but at the same time it was really amazing to see him get through that.

Derek gave Stiles a tiny smile, his hands gripping the cloth of his jeans stretched over his thighs.

Stiles smiled softly back. "I'm so proud of you, Derek, I really am." He licked his lips nervously. "Can I...could I kiss you?"

Derek flicked his eyes back up to Stiles' before settling on his lips, licking his own. "Yes. Please," he said, his voice kind of gravelly as Stiles' nerves tickled his nose along with his pride. That was a new scent from anyone Domming him.

 

Stiles bit his lip, leaned in carefully, and met Derek's lips with his own.

Derek sucked in a breath through his nose, leaning into the kiss. With the taste and scent of Stiles surrounding him, he slowly relaxed.

Stiles gently explored Derek's mouth, the kiss more comforting than arousing. (Though he got aroused too, Jesus, he could still practically count the kisses he'd had.)

Derek let out a soft sound, one hand curling in the front of Stiles' hoodie as he responded to the kiss, his eyes finally fluttering closed. There was something about Stiles' kisses that was different, that he loved. Maybe because they weren't always hot and hungry. Maybe it was the tinge of genuine arousal and want that spread through the air around them. Maybe it was just the fact that Stiles kissed like he did everything else. Fully and with abandon.

Stiles smiled into the kiss, sliding his hand down a little from Derek's hair to cup the back of his neck, holding him close.

Derek let out a soft whimper, now completely relaxed into the kneeling pose, sucking lightly on Stiles' lower lip. All he could smell, hear, and taste was Stiles.

Stiles pulled away slowly, a gentle smile on his face. "Thank you, kochanie," he said quietly.

"Hmm? What for?" Derek asked, his eyes opening, flicking over Stiles’ face before sliding down to his chest.

"For the kiss," Stiles said simply.

Derek smiled hesitantly, leaning up to give him another, his heart racing.

Stiles grinned back and accepted the kiss, but pulled away after only a few moments. "Thank you, kochanie," he said again. "That's really...really good."

Derek licked his lips, chasing the taste of Stiles with his tongue, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "Thank you."

Derek's smile was...really, really good to see. "God, I'm so proud of you, dude," Stiles admitted. "Do you want to try to go any further, or are you happy with this?"

"Want more if I can," Derek answered after a moment, almost shy, and avoiding Stiles’ eyes.

"Well, you're kneeling just beautifully right now," Stiles said, "which is so great to see. So I think the next step is for you to stay like that while I get up off the floor - maybe to sit on the bed?"

Derek nodded, swallowing hard. He wanted to try. Wanted to kneel properly.

Stiles smiled at him encouragingly. "Alright, kochanie," he agreed. "Whenever you're ready. And if it gets to be too much, you can just call red and I'll drop right back down to the floor, okay?"

"Want to try," Derek insisted shakily.

"That's so good," Stiles praised, leaning forward to give Derek one last kiss. "Okay, here we go." Slowly, Stiles got up off the ground.

 

Derek shivered, clenching his fists against his thighs, lowering his eyes to the floor. Though. He didn’t feel as...loomed over, as he had in the past.

Stiles sat on the bed, resting his forearms on his knees and bending over a bit so the height difference wasn't as pronounced. "How are you feeling, kochanie?" he murmured.

Derek took a deep breath, licking his lips and peeking up. "Okay," he said shakily. "Just. Keep talking?"

"I can do that," Stiles agreed instantly. "Hell, it's harder to get me to stop talking, right?"

Derek let a tentative smile cross his face. "I like that though," he admitted.

"Well, I'm glad you do, because if you didn't it would just be awkward," Stiles replied, stroking Derek's hair.

Derek gave Stiles another small smile, leaning into his touch.

"I've been thinking about why this is so difficult for you," Stiles said, then realized it was a bad idea. "Actually, let's have that conversation another time, right now I'd rather just enjoy the moment."

Derek sucked in a breath, then buried his face in Stiles' knees, taking long, measured breaths. "Sorry," he whispered.

"No, you've got nothing to be sorry for, kochanie, it's not your fault," Stiles reassured him instantly. "I'm sorry I brought it up."

Derek shook his head, taking a deep breath. "It needs to be talked about. Just...after?"

"Of course," Stiles said, bending down to kiss Derek's forehead. "For right now, we've got everything we need."

Derek let a small smile cross his face, relaxing into the pose again. Though he still didn't meet Stiles' eyes.

"You're really beautiful like this, you know?" Stiles murmured. "I mean, you're sexy too, you always are, but you're so...I can see how peaceful you could be."

 

"I want to do it properly," Derek murmured. "I want to kneel for you, to do it right. I just..." He pursed his lips, hiding his face in Stiles' knees again.

"Derek..." Stiles said slowly. "What does that mean, doing it right?"

Derek hesitated. "You standing up and me kneeling correctly."

"What makes it 'correct'?" Stiles was starting to have some unpleasant suspicions.

Derek hesitated. "The right way to kneel?" he asked, feeling nervous. "Hands on ankles, back arched and head back?"

"Well, I mean, that's a way to kneel," Stiles said uncomfortably. "But it's really not my preferred way for you to kneel."

"What's that?" Derek asked softly, rubbing absently at the denim on his thighs. Honestly he hadn't understood that ‘improper’ ways were even an option.

"I guess...with your hands on your knees, or behind your back?" Stiles replied, trying to picture his options. "Back straight - I like seeing you comfortable. And, uh, head bowed, I guess? But you know I like seeing your face too, so..."

"But...those aren't..." Derek clamped his mouth shut, cheeks burning.

"Derek?" Stiles asked gently. "I'd really like it if you could tell me what you're thinking right now."

"Those aren't proper ways," Derek finished, his voice small, shoulders hunched.

"Then maybe I'm not a proper Dom," Stiles said, shrugging a little as he attempted to set Derek at ease. "Because that's what I'd like."

"Don't say that." Derek shook his head. "There's no wrong way to Dom...mostly," he added, his face pinching in thought.

"Well if there's no wrong way to Dom, how come there's a wrong way to sub?" Stiles pointed out.

"I..." Derek felt his brows furrow, and he shifted on his knees. "I..."

"I'm Domming you right now, right?" Stiles said gently, petting Derek's hair. "And what I want you to do is kneel with your back straight."

Derek took in a shuddering breath, letting Stiles’ voice and touch soothe him. He straightened his back, hands still fisted on his thighs. "Yes sir."

"That's very good," Stiles praised. "Now, you can either rest your hands flat on your knees, or put them behind your back. Can you do that?"

Derek hesitated, taking another deep breath before letting the praise guide him into moving his hands into the small of his back, clasping his wrists.

Stiles beamed at him. "That's perfect, Derek. Really. Just like I said."

Derek gave him a tiny, barely-there smile. He was trembling, his eyes fixed on Stiles' knees.

It made something ache in Stiles, to see Derek so unsure, so vulnerable. "You always know when I'm lying, kochanie," Stiles said quietly. "So you know I'm not, right now, when I say that you are kneeling exactly right."

Derek's ears locked onto Stiles' steady heartbeat, his own heartbeat racing. "This one's right too?" he asked, his voice embarrassingly small.

"That one's right too," Stiles confirmed steadily, hating with all his heart the bitch that had given Derek this much fear and uncertainty. "This is how I'd prefer you to kneel."

Derek let out a soft, almost relieved sigh, relaxing into the pose. "Yes sir." He gave Stiles a tentative smile. This was much easier to hold than the other one anyway.

Stiles smiled back gladly. "And look at you," he pointed out. "Half an hour ago, would you have thought you could kneel for me so well?"

Derek flushed at the praise, even as he soaked it up. "Wanted to," he admitted. "But it's...hard"

"It is," Stiles agreed. "And you did it anyway. I'm so proud of you."

Derek cursed himself silently as his eyes watered, quickly flicking his eyes back down to try and hide them.

"Shit, Derek, please tell me those are happy tears," Stiles said, dismayed.

Derek hesitated, wanting to tell him yes, but... "Both," he finally murmured, his voice wet, though he kept his teary eyes hidden.

 

"Oh, Derek," Stiles said sadly, sliding off the bed onto the floor and taking Derek carefully in his arms.

Derek tucked his face into Stiles' neck, sucking in a shuddery breath. "I'm sorry."

"It's okay, kochanie," Stiles murmured, rubbing Derek's back. "I'm glad you feel safe enough to cry."

"Still sorry," Derek whispered, sniffling and nuzzling into Stiles' neck.

"Well, I'm sorry to remind you of things that make you sad," Stiles said softly.

"It's good crying too." Derek sniffed, swallowing back a sob. "Promise. Just...she..."

Stiles forced himself not to speak, to let Derek take his time and figure out what he could tell.

"She…’There's only one pose that's correct, or else that's a punishment’. ‘Don't look me in the eye or I'll punish you again, boy’," Derek quoted, keeping his voice soft and quiet.

Stiles hated her. "I'm sorry, kochanie," he murmured.

"Sometimes I wouldn't actually earn one,” Derek revealed. “Or at least I thought. Said I needed to make sure and know my place, so that's why I'm being punished. Or because I looked at her wrong, or that the face I made wasn't one she liked. Or she didn't like the look in my eye."

Stiles waited, offering silent support.

" ‘Arch that back, don't look me in the eye, bare your throat for me, wolf’." Derek was crying again, chest heaving.

"I'm sorry, Derek," Stiles said again. "It's over now. She's gone."

"I'm sorry," was all Derek could say, trembling. He wanted to be a good sub, but he wasn't.

"You don't have anything to be sorry for," Stiles reassured him.

"Still sorry," Derek whispered. "I want to be good."

"So far you've been very good," Stiles promised. "Really. You're great, Derek."

*

"I don't feel it," Derek whispered. He hadn't moved his arms at all during this, claws digging into his wrists.

Stiles, wrapped around Derek, glanced down and suddenly noticed the blood. "Derek," he said quietly. "I need you to either pull your claws in or let go of your wrists."

Derek whimpered, trying to calm down enough to bring in his claws, not wanting to let go of the pose. After a moment he let out a small sob, letting his still-clawed hands fall to the side. "I'm sorry!"

"No, kochanie, you're okay," Stiles said hurriedly. "I know you couldn't help it. Just...listen, okay? Can you do that?"

Derek nodded, not raising his face from where he had tucked it in Stiles shoulder, the wounds on his wrists healing quickly.

"Okay, that's good," Stiles praised. "So, I really wasn't sure about giving you rules, because I figured you needed me to only be your Dom sometimes, but maybe that's going to be helpful? So these are the rules I'd like you to follow, and if you don't like any of these, you can tell me and we can adjust them, okay? Promise me you'll do that."

"Promise," Derek managed to say after a moment. He'd tell Stiles. Even if he was afraid of what it would bring.

"Good boy," Stiles said, giving Derek a reassuring smile. "Okay, rule one: if you feel unsafe, I need to know. You can tell me out loud in so many words, you can call yellow or red, you can squeeze my hand, we'll work out whatever signals you need, but I need to know. That is the most important thing to me, because if I don't know, I can't help you."

Derek hesitated, chewing on his lower lip. "I won't get punished for saying no?"

"I will never, ever punish you for saying no," Stiles said, horrified.

Derek listened closely to Stiles' heartbeat, relaxing as the only reason it changed tempo was in reaction to the horror pouring off him. "Thank you."

"That's..." Stiles closed his eyes. Derek shouldn't have to say thank you for something like this. "You're welcome," he said quietly.

Derek nipped absently at Stiles' neck and pressed close, his hands fisting in Stiles' hoodie, claws finally back to his normal nails.

"Are we good with rule one?" Stiles checked. "You'll make sure I know if you feel unsafe?"

"Yes sir." Derek nodded, shifting until he was leaning completely on Stiles.

Stiles smiled, shifting a bit so he could support Derek's weight better. "Okay. Rule two: if you're upset, or hurting, you can't just go off on your own. If you need quiet, or time to yourself, we can do that, but you need to come to me first. I can't look after you if I don't know you need looking after."

"...yes sir," Derek murmured. "I can't promise I'll always remember though."

"If you genuinely forget, that's okay," Stiles said. "I won't blame you for that. But I want you to try."

"I can do that." Derek nodded, feeling safer with Stiles more or less holding him up.

"Good boy." Stiles smiled, turning his head to kiss whatever bit of Derek's skin he could manage. "Rule three: no hurting yourself."

Derek whined, his shoulders hunching up. "Sorry."

"I know, kochanie," Stiles said sadly. "We'll talk about this more some other time, but I just want you to know that I understand you don't always do it consciously, and I know sometimes it's hard not to. But I want you to try."

"I can try," Derek finally said, breathing deeply to help ground himself. "I'm sorry I'm so broken."

"Derek, you're not broken," Stiles said. "You're wounded. That's not your fault."

"Sometimes I feel like it is," Derek admitted.

Stiles sighed, rubbing Derek's back. "I know. But it's okay. I just have one more rule for you, okay? And it's more of a guideline, I guess, but it's something I want you to keep in mind. If you have a choice, and one option means you don't get hurt, I want you to choose things that don't hurt you, okay?"

"I...can try," Derek conceded. "But I can't promise. Because if it's between me getting hurt and one of you guys...."

"I understand," Stiles promised him. "I just want you to remember that your health is as important as ours."

"I'll try to remember."

"Good boy." Stiles smiled, leaning back to see if Derek would let him see his face.

Derek hesitantly raised his face, chewing hard on his lower lip. His eyes were still wet.

 

Stiles brought his hand around to gently wipe the tears off Derek's cheeks, smiling at him gently. "How are you feeling, kochanie?"

"Tired," Derek murmured, leaning into Stiles' touch. "I want to be good for you."

"You've been very good," Stiles promised him. "But I think we've pushed you enough for today, so how about we call that done and just cuddle on the bed for a while?"

"I want to try with you standing!" Derek insisted, determination in his tear-rimmed eyes. "Please, sir."

"Alright," Stiles agreed, leaning in to kiss Derek quickly. "But once we do that, we're done for the day."

"Yes sir," Derek said, his hands slipping behind his back again.

Stiles smiled at him. "Are you ready?"

Derek took a deep breath, nodding and forcing his back to straighten.

"There you go, that's really good," Stiles praised. "Here we go." He got to his feet, looking down at the top of Derek's head.

Derek clenched his wrists tighter, taking some steady breaths. "T-talk?" he asked, almost silently.

"Of course," Stiles agreed, reaching down to stroke Derek's hair. "You're doing that perfectly, you know? You've got that position just right."

Derek relaxed bit by bit, hesitantly leaning into the fingers in his hair, keeping his eyes on Stiles' thighs.

"That's wonderful, Derek, you look just lovely." Stiles kept his touch gentle and reassuring. "Now, do you remember how I told you there are two ways you could kneel for me that I'd like? One with your head bowed, and..."

Derek hesitantly peeked up, tilting his head back until he was staring at Stiles, his cheeks pink and his eyes hesitant.

Stiles beamed at him. "Oh, look at you," he murmured. "God, Derek. You're so good, kochanie."

A look of wonder spread across Derek’s face. He didn't see that look on Stiles very often, and rarely for him.

"I really do love seeing you," Stiles said softly. "Thank you, Derek. You've been so brave today."

Derek finally let out a small whimper, relaxing completely, eyes locked on Stiles.

"My good boy," Stiles murmured, cupping Derek's cheek. "I'm so proud of you."

Derek leaned into the hand on his cheek, breathing deeply and giving him a tiny smile.

Derek nodded, taking a deep breath, letting it out slowly. "Thank you"

"You're very welcome, kochanie." Stiles smiled down at him, offering Derek his hand. "Cuddle time now?"

Derek nodded, slipping his hand into Stiles before carefully standing, almost pale under his stubble.

Stiles squeezed Derek's hand and got onto the bed, drawing Derek after him.

Derek crawled along the bed, and fell against Stiles' chest.

Chapter Text

Stiles hugged Derek close. "We'll get something to eat later, yeah?"

"Yes sir," Derek breathed, curling close and soaking up the touch, nuzzling Stiles' neck.

"Are you feeling more relaxed than you were this afternoon?" Stiles asked. He hoped so.

Derek nodded, scenting lazily. "Yeah, a little more worn, but more relaxed."

Stiles smiled, snuggling closer, tilting his head to give Derek access.

Derek nipped at his skin, worrying his scent into Stiles' pores.

"You have such a neck thing," Stiles muttered fondly.

"I have a you thing," Derek muttered back, grinning toothily against Stiles' neck.

"You have a 'my neck' thing, then," Stiles countered.

"Mmm, I've been found out." Derek laughed, relaxing completely as he worked his way up Stiles’ neck to his jaw.

Hearing Derek laugh like that, after everything that had happened in the last hour...it was amazing, and Stiles couldn't help his beaming grin.

Derek sucked lightly at Stiles jaw, moving to his lips and sinking into a light kiss, letting Stiles lead.

Stiles was still getting used to the fact that he got to kiss Derek now, because seriously, kissing Derek was amazing.

Derek let out a soft, moaning sound, his hand going to cup Stiles' jaw. He still let Stiles be in control, but he happily let himself get lost in the taste.

 

Even though Stiles had been Domming Derek this whole time, it was a thrill to realize that Derek was submitting to him right now, letting him guide the kiss.

Derek panted against Stiles’ mouth, his dark eyes flicking up, a thin ring of red showing around his blown-wide pupils. "Stiles," he breathed, rolling his body closer.

"Yeah?" Stiles murmured, his hands smoothing down Derek's back.

Derek pressed into his hands, rolling his body again as he sucked Stiles’ lower lip into his mouth, instincts guiding him.

Oh god. Stiles moaned, his legs parting a little.

Derek slipped a thigh between Stiles' legs, grinding forward.

Stiles blushed hard, embarrassed by the noise he made when Derek did that, Christ. But it felt so good...he was going to decisively prove how inexperienced he was in a minute, he could tell.

Derek was trembling, at the scent of his mate more than the touch. "Stiles," he breathed, rocking his hips.

"I am - " Stiles groaned. "Fuck. Okay, um, if the aim of this isn't to make me come, you kinda need to stop."

Derek sucked in a breath, his nose flaring as his eyes flashed. God, he wanted to see it. Wanted to smell it. Hear Stiles’ heartbeat trip over itself. "Not making me want to stop," he rasped, his own cock pulsing in his pants.

Oh god. That was Derek's cock he was feeling against his thigh. "Fuck," Stiles panted. God, this was actually happening.

Derek let out a soft, breathy laugh, his arms trembling as he tried to pull Stiles closer. "Th-that can be arranged," he whispered, licking his lips. "N-not now though. Ne-need to talk first before that. God, please." He groaned, rocking his hips desperately. It took a lot to make him come without permission, but god, he was so close.

"Oh fuck," Stiles said, that mental image kind of colonizing his brain and making it completely impossible to think about anything else.

Please," Derek begged softly, a hand going down to cup Stiles hip, rocking and grinding against him.

Stiles shuddered. Everything was more intense with Derek here, and he couldn't - no matter how much he tried, he couldn't hold it back, couldn't stop himself from coming any longer.

Derek groaned, quickly following Stiles in coming, trembling and biting down hard on his lip to keep himself from biting down into Stiles shoulder, knowing they'd need to talk before doing anything about mating. He whimpered, unable to keep his shoulders from tensing against the expected punishment, but he forced himself to relax, breathing deeply to remind himself that this was Stiles, not Her.

 

Feeling Derek coming against his thigh was... "You're amazing," Stiles said huskily, still panting. "Fuck. That was amazing."

Derek's tongue swiped away the blood from his healing lip, sagging against Stiles as the praise sunk in.

Stiles flopped onto his back, not even caring about the drying mess in his pants. "Wow."

Derek let out a soft laugh, not realizing he still had blood on the corner of his mouth. "Yeah, that's a word."

Stiles reached up languidly, wiping his thumb over Derek's lip, cleaning it.

Derek's tongue flicked out, cleaning the blood off of Stiles' thumb. Leaning forward, he kissed Stiles lazily. "Sorry," he murmured.

"For what?" Stiles asked.

"I bit my lip to keep from biting you," Derek said truthfully, blushing.

"Are you sorry about you, or about wanting to bite me?" Stiles asked, unsure.

"A bit of both." Derek shrugged. "The bite shouldn’t happen without permission...and especially not before talking about it. And you had said to try not to hurt myself."

Oh. Stiles had, for a moment, forgotten what it would mean if Derek bit him. "I - I really don't think I'll want the bite, Derek," he said quietly. "I'm not...always happy, about who I am. But I don't think I'm meant to be a wolf."

Derek let out a soft, almost wounded noise. "No! Not that." He took a deep breath. "Not that one," he confessed. "A mating bite. It won't turn you,” he promised. "If I remember right, the mating bite will keep you from being turned unwillingly anyway."

"That's...how does that even work?" Stiles wondered, side-tracked by his own curiosity. "Is it like a vaccine or something? And I mean, I know intent matters with magic, but I didn't realise the bite could be directed like that - are there other times an alpha could bite someone and not turn them?"

Derek flushed darkly. "There may be other times, but I think it's all tied to the mating bite anyway. And the mating bite is only done...well, during mating." He shifted, tucking his head to try and hide. "It's more like a perfect mixing of both of us. And then you can't be turned with a bite, unless you want that bite to take or if your life was in peril. Like if you were three seconds from death and I bit you again. Which...if you don't want that happening...you need to tell me..." He trailed off, starting to panic a little. He couldn't lose Stiles.

"Oh, sweetheart," Stiles said, dismayed, cupping Derek's cheek. "That's absolutely fine with me, I promise."

"Stiles." Derek took a deep breath. "Wh-when - if - I give you the mating bite, there's no turning back. No leaving. Well. You can. I just..." He furrowed his brow, conflicted about how to explain.

"Let me clarify what I just said first, okay?" Stiles said carefully. "If I am dying, I give you permission right now to do anything you can to save my life, except give yours up. That includes turning me. I'd prefer you'd ask me if I'm able to answer at the time, but you have my consent."

Derek relaxed a bit, holding Stiles tightly. "I can't lose you." he whispered. "I wouldn't be able to handle it."

"Hopefully we never have to find out," Stiles replied quietly.

 

Derek nodded, clinging to Stiles tightly. "Mating bites are forever, Stiles," he whispered.

"Tell me what that means, please," Stiles said, trying to hide his nerves.

"I...I only have one mate," Derek murmured. "Only one that I want. And once I give you the mating bite...That's it for me. You're my forever. While you could walk away if you wanted, I can't."

"What does that mean, that you can't?" Stiles asked worriedly. "Like, what's stopping you?"

"Once I give you the mating bite, you're it for me." Derek frowned, trying to explain. "Nothing will be physically stopping me, but I won't fall for anyone else. I won't fall to others’ seductions." Not that he’d mind that. "There won't be another Mate for me."

Stiles...kinda didn't like the sound of that. "You'd just always feel the same?"

Derek let out a frustrated sound, he wasn't explaining it right. "It's not like I'd pine away if you break my heart. I just won't have another mate at all."

"So...you'd become functionally asexual and aromantic?" Stiles tried.

"I'd still be interested in sex, but it'd be more my choice, not if someone was trying to seduce me,” Derek said, “if that makes sense. But I wouldn't want that same connection I'd have with you with anyone else. It's not like I’d want it and couldn't have it. I just won't want it at all."

Stiles wasn't sure he understood what Derek meant about the sex, but he let it go. That wasn't really the important part. "Could you be happy like that?" he asked slowly.

Derek hesitated, thinking. "If I had to be like that," he admitted, his voice tiny. Did this mean that Stiles didn't actually want him?

"I just - if your happiness was entirely up to me for the rest of your life if we got wolf-married, I don't..." Stiles shrugged awkwardly, grimacing a little. "I don't think that would be a good idea. For either of us."

Derek flinched, hesitantly pulling away. "Who said it was just up to you?" he asked, his voice small and quiet. "Who says this isn't what I want? But...I can understand if you don't want it...I should go." He pulled himself off the bed, trembling, looking around, then shook his head and bolted out the door.

"Derek!" Stiles called after him, rolling off the bed and running, stumbling, down the stairs. "Derek, wait!"

Derek wasn't listening, not even pausing to pull on shoes before he was out the house and running into the woods, tears running down his face. Rejection always hurt, but from Stiles...

Stiles followed, but there was no chance of him catching up, and it wasn't long before he was bent over, wheezing a little as he caught his breath. "Derek!" he yelled, one last time.

-----

At last, in the middle of the forest, Derek fell to his knees, panting and crying. He felt the earth under him rumble and shake, and he cried out in shock.

"Soil and stone, you'd think you weren't even from here," a voice grumbled. Except something about it, some quality said that the words weren't being spoken aloud. "And would you stop making such a racket?"

Derek clutched at his chest, barely aware of the faintly familiar voice when the rejection ached so sharply. He stared straight ahead, tears rolling down his cheeks. His mate. His mate rejected him. God, it hurts.

The scent of earth filled his nose, at odds with the rough hair brushing against his cheek and the snuffling he could hear. "Hmph. I'm not going to get to sleep again anytime soon, am I?"

"I..." Derek sobbed, digging his free hand into the earth below him, his other over his heart.

"Check your pack bond, you silly idiot," the voice said, not unkindly. "Nothing's broken."

"He said..." Derek choked out, the scene repeating in his head. Even the proof of the pack bonds wasn't enough to calm him down, to prevent the panic trying to set in.

"Words," the voice said disparagingly. "Words won't feed you."

"I don't know what to do," Derek sobbed, looking around to try and find the source of the soothing voice.

The Bear (and something about its presence demanded the capital letter) shook itself, and the ground shivered.

Derek whimpered as the ground moved, rocking forward.

"This is the alpha that woke me up?" the Bear said. "Where's the iron in you? You've got to have some."

"it's kinda been a shitty day," Derek grouched.

"Shit's how things grow," the Bear replied. "Come on. Up."

Derek pushed himself to his feet, tears still running down his face. "He rejected me."

"Is he still in your pack?" the Bear asked patiently. It was huge, its shoulders almost level with Derek's.

Derek stared at the Bear, inwardly checking each packbond. "Yes," he breathed, still hurting, but calmer.

The Bear snorted, and started walking south. "Then he didn't reject you. He said no."

"He said no to being my mate. To having the mating bite. I just..." Derek pressed his lips together, following The Bear hesitantly.

"Until he leaves your pack, he hasn't rejected you," the Bear said, shaking its head. "I haven't met a mate yet that said yes the first time they were asked."

"I don't know where I am," Derek finally murmured. "And I just want him. He said..." he replayed the scene in his head again, his chest clenching at Stiles’ ‘I can't do it’.

The Bear took a pointed sniff. "Smells like he wants you," it said, matter-of-factly.

 Derek flushed, having forgotten what they were doing right before the 'talk'. "He rejected me after that."

"Then I don't think he was rejecting what you thought he was rejecting," the Bear replied.

"I didn't tell him about the mating bite until after that," Derek whispered. He wrapped his arms around himself, looking around, trying to hear where Stiles was. He may have been in a panic, but he didn't want the other scared. Then again, why wasn't he scared or worried about the random huge Bear?

 

The place was familiar, in that he'd always been told not to go there. Except once, his first full moon shifted, when he was young…

Derek blinked, looking around. "What..." He turned back to the Bear, surprise in his eyes. "Wait. You're..."

The Bear huffed, amused. "You remember now?"

"I'm sorry," Derek whispered, falling to his knees. "I'd forgotten."

The Bear snorted. "Get up off the ground, kneeling doesn't get anything done. Now why don't you tell me what's happened between your mother dying and now that means I've got a whole pack of unknown wolves on me?" The Bear, Talia had said, when she'd introduced them, was the territory. Derek hadn't really understood at the time, but Talia had said that was fine. He didn't have to understand, as long as he accepted it.

"It's a long story," Derek offered, standing up and brushing off his knees, feeling calmer than he had before, though his chest still hurt. "But...is Stiles okay? I think he tried to follow me." If Stiles got hurt...

"How would I know?" the Bear pointed out. "We haven't Met yet."

Derek watched thoughtfully. "You capitalized the M, didn't you? What does ‘Meeting’ him mean? Like Mom did me and my sisters?”

"It means I've Met him," the Bear said, as if it was completely self-explanatory. "How am I supposed to recognise someone I've never Met?"

Derek snorted softly to himself. "Okay,” he murmured, growing sad. “It’s a long story.” The memories spilled out of him, one by one, leaving him crying again, feeling wide open.

"No wonder you're a mess," the Bear said sympathetically, nuzzling against Derek's cheek. "It's always hard on a cub to lose his pack."

Derek pressed into the comfort, the Bear smelling of earth, pack, home, and safety. "I have another," he murmured. "It's not the same, of course, but..."

"Pack is pack," the Bear said firmly. "I should Meet them."

"I'm sorry," Derek said, frowning. "I had forgotten about the Meet. And it's not like I had a chance to learn. I'll bring them as soon as possible."

The Bear snorted. "The full moon is soon enough. But let's go find your mate, shall we?"

"If he wants me," Derek murmured, and they began to walk. "You don't think I’m weak?" he asked suddenly. "For being a sub Alpha?"

"You think you're the first?" the Bear countered. "The, hmm...fourth Alpha here was a sub, and then again maybe five after her."

"Did they have the problems I did?” Derek wondered. “The sub and Alpha instincts fighting?" He took a deep breath. They were getting close to the house.

The Bear thought back. "They served the pack," it said. Which didn't really answer the question, but then, how much would a bear, even a Bear, know about human relationships? "All alphas have their troubles."

"I want to be his. And yet, I know, that I need to be in total control." Derek sighed, climbing over a tree that had fallen during the quake, the inside almost rotted away. He wasn't surprised it had fallen.

"Total control is impossible," the Bear scolded. "You need more realistic expectations."

Derek hunched a bit, his shoulders coming up to his ears. "I'm trying to do right. Though I have no idea what I'm doing, Laura was supposed to be doing this, not me."

"If wishes were fishes, we'd never go hungry," said the Bear. "It's time to plant your own seeds and see what grows."

Derek felt his heart jump into his throat as the house came into view, smelling Stiles and hearing movement in the house. "What do I do now?" he whispered. "I ran away from him. He'll hate me."

"You're remarkably dramatic, do you know that?" the Bear commented, butting Derek gently between the shoulder blades, nudging him forward. "Go. Find what I broke in my waking. And bring him here to Meet me."

Derek whined high in his throat, looking over his shoulder at the Bear. "I'll be right back then," he promised, taking a deep breath and heading into the house.

Chapter Text

Stiles was talking to himself - mostly cursing, really - as he went over the house, sweeping up what had broken, and collecting what needed repairs but was too important not to keep. It was all very well for Derek - he could feel that Stiles was fine. But Stiles didn't have that mystical fucking pack bond to reassure him, so here he was, pottering around at home after an earthquake, with no idea whether Derek was okay, and yes, he could have tried texting Derek, funny you should mention that, because Derek had left his phone at home.

Derek stepped into the open doorway and hesitated, watching Stiles for a moment. "I'm sorry," he whispered, his eyes wet. "I'm sorry."

Stiles almost didn't hear it, but something caught his attention and he turned. "Shit, Derek!" he cried, his eyes searching for any sign of injury. "You're okay?"

"I'm okay," Derek promised, the worry dripping off of Stiles making him feel even worse. "I'm sorry I ran off."

"God, didn't I - " Stiles' fists clenched as he tried to control himself, and he took a deep breath. "Didn't we just agree that you wouldn't isolate yourself when you're upset?" he said, trying to smile.

Derek flinched, whining softly. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I just...you rejected me and..." He swallowed hard. "I - I have something I want to show you outside"

"I didn't reject you," Stiles objected. "You misunderstood me, and then you didn't give me time to fix it. You just...ran away." Despite himself, the hurt showed on his face.

Derek let out a desperate sound, stepping closer. "Stiles," he begged, reaching out.

Stiles sighed, rubbing his face with one hand. "Look, I get that you have issues, okay? It's kind of hard to miss. But until the day that I unambiguously say 'I don't want to be with you anymore', you've got to give me a chance to fix things. Give us a chance. And running like that - not even taking your phone? Anything could have happened. And I wouldn't have known." That was the worst part. That he'd had no way of finding Derek, not without involving the rest of the pack, which would have caused even more problems.

"Yes sir." Derek flushed, looking down. "I'm sorry," he said softly. "I didn't mean to scare you. I just..."

"You panicked, and you ran," Stiles summed up. "Because when you panic, you either run or fight, and you weren't exactly in the mood to fight with me."

"I don't like fighting you," Derek agreed, coming forward to stand right in front of Stiles. "I'm sorry I ran." He paused for a moment, one hand slipping up to cup Stiles' cheek hesitantly.

Stiles smiled a little. Crookedly, true, but he did smile. "You know I'm not letting you leave my sight for the rest of the day, right?" he said wryly. "We'll call that your punishment for running off or something."

Derek let a tiny smile cross his face, leaning forward to kiss Stiles' forehead, scenting him a bit. "Come on, I have something to show you," he murmured, curling his hand around Stiles before tugging him toward the door.

 

"You said that already," Stiles pointed out, following. "It's kind of susp- holy shit that bear is huge please tell me it's not about to eat us!"

Derek couldn't help the snort of laughter, a grin growing wider on his face. "It's the territory," he explained, tugging Stiles closer. "It wants to Meet you. And no, not eat you."

Stiles frowned, hanging back nervously. Seriously, that bear was like...ten times his size. Twenty times. A hundred and fifty times. "He's the what? Did you legit just go out into the woods and bring a bear home? Is this a 'can I keep him, mom?' moment?"

Derek laughed, shaking his head. "Bear is the territory. In spiritual form. That's why you weren't able to find out what was going on, it was close to waking up, that’s all."

"Waking up?" Stiles asked. Seriously, what? He'd never read anything like this. "Was he hibernating? Is he like actual bears? Why is the spirit of the territory a bear anyway?"

"It," Derek insisted. "The Bear. It." He shifted on his feet. "And that I don't know? I just vaguely remember Meeting it when I was a pup."

"Calling him/her/them 'it' seems rude, though," Stiles pointed out. "Like 'it's' a thing."

"Are you planning on introducing us any time soon, alpha?" the Bear said, not too patiently.

Derek flinched. "Sorry." He gave the Bear a small, shy smile. "Stiles, this is the Bear. Territory spirit of this land. Bear, this is Stiles Stilinski. My Mate."

"Okaaay," Stiles said, clearly a little skeptical still. "Hi."

"Hello," the Bear said, and it echoed in Stiles' mind.

Stiles scrambled backwards. "Holy shit!"

Derek caught Stiles, holding him close. "Sorry, Forgot about that." He rubbed his hand along Stiles' back, trying to calm the racing heartbeat.

"You forgot that he talks?" Stiles exclaimed.

"I am not a 'he'," the Bear said, amused. "And to answer your earlier questions, I was indeed hibernating, form shapes mind, and I am a Bear because I am not something else."

"I forgot that Bear talks in your mind, not aloud." Derek slipped his hand into Stiles' hair, trying to calm him still. He gave the Bear a small smile, sensing its amusement.

"I can see why you like this one," the Bear said to Derek.

"He's my heart." Derek said, that tiny smile still on his face. "He's smart, amazing, gorgeous, and sarcastic sass, all rolled into one talkative human."

Stiles' jaw dropped, and he flung himself at Derek, catching him up in an enthusiastic hug. "You are so sweet, oh my god!"

Derek squawked in surprise, catching Stiles and holding him tightly, blinking with wide eyes at the Bear. "What did I do?"

"You told him how you feel in so many words," the Bear said, amused. "Words are important to humans."

"They damn well are!" Stiles added, unable to help his beaming grin. "You think you're the only one who freaked out about our relationship today?"

"What do you mean?" Derek asked Stiles, cupping his cheek, soaking up the look on his mate's face. "Sometimes we need to hear feelings, Bear, we don't have the talents you do."

The Bear snorted. "You wouldn't need words if you paid close enough attention."

"Well I, for one, like words," Stiles said firmly. "And I particularly like hearing that this one," he poked Derek's chest, "isn't giving up on me because I'm uncertain."

"I told you," Derek said with a sigh. "You're my mate. The only one for me. It just so happens you're the only one I want."

 

"See, I don't get this," Stiles said, turning to look at the Bear. "Is it unreasonable that I don't get this? That I, a human, who has spent absolutely zero time with mated werewolves, am confused by that explanation?"

"A mate is like the moon," the Bear explained patiently. "No matter how far away, the tide follows."

"So that's where my mom got that analogy,” Derek mused. "And it's right. Even us werewolves get confused with the explanation. I just know that I'm yours. Just as much as you're mine."

"No, see, I need to know more than that," Stiles objected, getting more and more worked up. "Because it's not consent if 'yes' is the only option!"

"It's not though!" Derek frowned, confused. "Why would you think it was? You could walk away right now if you wanted to, Stiles." Though that thought hurt almost as much now as it had earlier.

"I mean you!" Stiles yelled. The silence that followed was deafening. "...I mean your consent, Derek," he said quietly.

Derek blinked. "Stiles..." He sighed. "You wouldn't be my mate if I didn't want it," he said softly, hugging Stiles close. "That's part of it. I do get a little bit of choice. If I hadn't wanted you, you wouldn't be my mate. You'd have the potential to be it, but that'd be all. Unless I wanted you. And I do. God, I want this so badly. I didn't just run out of the house in a panic earlier for nothing. I ran because I felt like my heart was being ripped to shreds, because the only thing I could think was you were rejecting me..." Derek pressed his lips together as he took a steady breath. "It hurt, feeling like you pulled my heart from my chest."

"You don't get to blame me for worrying that your instincts might be taking you somewhere that wasn't going to work out for you," Stiles said, slowly relaxing. "Not when all this started because your instincts were stopping you getting something you needed."

Derek didn't say anything to that, burying his face in Stiles' hair to hide his embarrassment. "I'm working on it."

"I'm not worried about what happens to me if this doesn't work out," Stiles said quietly. "I'm worried about what happens to you."

Derek's arms tightened around Stiles. "I'll be okay." And he would be. He'd figure out something if he had to. But he'd rather not have to.

"I'm not going to let you commit to something that doesn't have an escape route," Stiles said, giving Derek a serious look. "You think I don't know about good relationships going bad? I need to know that you have choices. That you will always have choices."

"Then let me have my choice!" Derek finally exploded. "And my choice will never change. I. Choose. You," he growled, burying his face in Stiles neck. "I want to have you forever. I want to wake up every morning at two am because you decide that my back is the perfect finger warmer. I want to fight and bicker and argue like we have for years, only to make up and have amazing makeup sex where the others could possibly hear and be scarred from...."

 

"You are not listening to each other," the Bear said grumpily. "You both have legitimate concerns. But you cannot hear them. Alpha, the most beloved home is a cage if you cannot leave. Mate, a wolf's heart is steadfast once a choice is made."

"I don't care if I can't leave it," Derek grumbled. "As long as I have Stiles. Even if I didn’t, I wouldn't care, because I had as long as I had with him."

The Bear huffed. "You are young. Seasons turn. Your mate is wise to fear."

"I may be young, but I've been through hell. Pardon me if I want to keep the little bit of heaven I've found." Derek huffed back, looking up at the Bear. "I'm not saying his being scared is wrong. I'm just saying that it is my choice. and I'll happily make this choice time and time again."

"What options would you have?" Stiles asked. "This isn't about if you want to, or plan to. This is about me knowing what the 'just in case' is.”

"What do you mean?” Derek asked, frowning. “Give me a scenario, Stiles."

"Let's say that ten or twenty years down the track I end up an alcoholic," Stiles said. "And when I'm drunk, it turns out I'm careless of your needs. Or maybe I'm still careful, but when my options are sober and sceneing or drunk, I keep picking drunk instead, so you're being neglected. What are your options there?"

Derek shrugged. "Then I do what I need to do. Go to Scott or maybe Boyd."

"What about the rest of it?" Stiles pointed out.

"I don't think you'd ever be like that. But I'd get you into rehab, and talk to Boyd or Scott and do what needs to be done," Derek answered honestly. "And I'd support you in your recovery."

"If I turn into a piece of shit person, you shouldn't feel obligated to stand by me," Stiles grumbled.

"Who says I would feel obligated?” Derek asked, hugging Stiles close. “I would stand by you because that's what I choose to."

"What if your feelings change, though?" Stiles said.

"They won't," Derek insisted. "You are my choice. My heart. Forever."

"A wolf is steadfast," the Bear explained. "Few ever change their minds and hearts."

"What it said." Derek gave the Bear a smile before turning back to Stiles, tilting his chin up. "My heart," he murmured, kissing Stiles lightly before burying his face in his neck.

Stiles hugged Derek close, but he was still frowning. He liked Derek a lot, but...he didn't know if he loved him yet. He certainly didn't know if he'd love him forever. "What happens if a mate changes their mind?" he asked the Bear.

"Then they leave," Derek whispered, his chest tight. "And the wolf continues to live on."

"The wolf will not wither," the Bear promised. "They mourn, but they endure. They turn to their family and their pack for love."

Derek nodded, kissing Stiles' neck. He stayed quiet, knowing that Stiles was soaking up this information, could almost hear the gears grinding in his head.

 

"That doesn't bother you?" Stiles asked. "Knowing that you could never fall in love with someone else?"

"Honestly, it doesn't," Derek said, shrugging. "If it's not you, I don't want it."

It was intimidating, a little, that wholehearted devotion. Stiles didn't really feel equal to it. "I'm not saying no," Stiles said slowly. "But I'm not saying yes yet, either."

Derek tightened his hold, his heart thumping. "Why not?" he asked hesitantly. " ‘Yet’… So just for now?"

"Derek, we haven't even been on a date yet," Stiles pointed out. "Is it that weird that I'm not ready to marry you?"

"No, it's not," Derek promised, cursing himself silently. He kept forgetting that Stiles and the others weren't raised in a werewolf pack, so they wouldn't understand.

"Look, I can believe that someday, I'd say yes," Stiles said. Probably. He just wasn't sure. "Can you wait? For me to be ready for that?"

Derek buried his nose just behind Stiles' ear, taking deep breaths of his scent. "I will wait forever, if I have to," he whispered. "As long as I have you in the meantime. Even if it's just the way we are now."

"Can you understand that this isn't me rejecting you?" Stiles asked. "That me saying 'no' doesn't mean 'never'?"

"I do now," Derek answered, not removing his head from Stiles' neck, his lips brushing the skin behind his ear. "That it means ‘not now’."

"Good," Stiles said firmly, pulling back so he could look Derek in the eye. "Are you going to run away from me again?"

Flushing, Derek averted his eyes. "I'm going to try not to," he promised. "Though I can't say for sure that I won't."

"If you run away without your phone again, I'm going to have to ask one of the pack to track you," Stiles said seriously. "We can work out a length of time that has to pass before that happens, but with our lives, I'm not taking chances."

Derek just nodded, giving Stiles a small smile. Just the fact that Stiles cared about him enough to say that made him feel a bit better about the ‘no’. "Yes sir."

"Hmph," the Bear said. "That's better. I'll be on my way now."

Derek blinked, turning to the Bear. "That's all you were wanting? And I'll bring the others soon to Meet you."

"At the moon," the Bear replied. "But you come visit whenever you like. You too, alpha mate. You ask interesting questions. The alpha will show you the way."

"At the Moon," Derek agreed, smiling.

 

The Bear lumbered off, and Stiles let out a long breath. "Is it just me, or does that guy - sorry, not guy - does the Bear have a ridiculous presence to him?"

"It's intense,” Derek agreed, looking at Stiles with a smile. “But also comforting. It reminds me of my mom."

Stiles looked at Derek. "You're going to be spending a lot of time with it, aren't you?" God knows he would, if something reminded him of his mom.

"Probably," Derek admitted, shrugging. "At least you'll have an idea of where to find me if you can't."

"And...it caused the earthquake, was that what it said?" Stiles checked.

Derek shrugged and nodded. "The Bear caused it when it woke up."

Stiles frowned. "Is that going to happen often? Why was it asleep? What woke it?"

"Not often,” Derek said. “It had just been asleep for years. Since Mom died... As for what woke it, from what it said, probably the distress I was in earlier. I had to tell it all that had happened."

"Everything?" Stiles asked worriedly. "And how come your distress woke it today and not before?" It's not like this was the first time shitty things had happened to Derek since he became alpha, unfortunately.

"I think it's the kind of distress. And because when I ran, I got really close to where it was sleeping." Derek shrugged. "And yeah, everything. What happened to Mom, on up to now."

"Oh, sweetheart," Stiles said, biting his lip. Poor Derek, jeez. "God, you've had a day of it, haven't you?"

Derek shivered, flushing and burying his face. "I'm sorry."

"Sweetheart?" Stiles asked, concerned. "What are you sorry for? Specifically?"

"I'm sorry for running away earlier, for scaring you. And I'm sorry if I seemed pushy." Derek kept his voice quiet, hiding his eyes.

"Not so much pushy as..." Stiles couldn't find the right words, and he shook his head. "Never mind. Thank you for the apology. I appreciate it."

 

Derek sagged against him, the day leaving him weary and worn out. "Take me home?" he asked, even though they were already in the yard. "I just...I'm so tired..." And he wasn't talking physically, though he was exhausted.

"Yeah," Stiles agreed, wrapping his arm around Derek's waist and gently turning him so they were facing the house. "Naptime, definitely."

"You need to eat, sir," Derek murmured. "Afterwards." He rubbed his eyes with one hand, the other gripping Stiles.

"I will," Stiles promised, leading Derek into the house. "But I'm staying with you for the rest of the day. Your room or mine?"

"Mine, please," Derek murmured. "Want my bed to smell like you and you to smell like me."

"Got it." Stiles kissed Derek's cheek as he helped him up the stairs, dodging glass from where a couple of picture frames had fallen.

"Sorry about the mess," Derek said as he eyed the broken frames. "Didn't mean too."

"It's the Bear's fault, not yours," Stiles told him. "You don't need to apologize."

"I woke it," Derek insisted, pushing the door to his room open. "Sleep," he grumbled as he dropped onto his bed, wiggling out of all of his clothes save his boxers.

Stiles made a face, starting to strip off as well. "You have a terrible habit of taking on the blame for things that aren't your fault, you know," he commented.

"It's a thing." Derek turned over so he could watch Stiles, licking his lips. "After I met her."

Down to just a t-shirt and boxers, Stiles got in. "Well, I'm not planning on holding you responsible for things you didn't do."

Derek scooted closer, his eyes already half-closed, sucking in deep lungfuls of the mixture of Stiles scent on his sheets before pressing his face to Stiles' chest. "Thank you." He pressed closer, curling around him like a Koala, face buried in his Mate's chest.

"Rest now, kochanie," Stiles murmured, rubbing Derek's back nice and slow. "I've got you."

Derek let out a small noise of comfort as he relaxed, drifting off to the feel and smell of Stiles.

-----

"So...what are we doing, exactly?" Scott asked skeptically. Derek had been kind of vague so far, just saying that they were going out to the woods to 'familiarize themselves with the territory'.

Derek shot Stiles a conspiring grin. "We're going to greet the territory." He shrugged, swinging Erica around when she tried to tackle him from the tree. "Nice try, Erica," he teased. "Gotta try harder than that. Try it on Jackson, he keeps whining about dirt."

"Hey!" Jackson whined, grumbling under his breath about being in the woods this late in the day of a full moon.

"It's not that far," Stiles said comfortably. Derek had taken him to see where the Bear lived once already - and to be honest, Stiles couldn't help wondering if the Bear's home was where it was because of the Hale house, or vice versa.

Derek couldn't help the pride he felt when he suddenly heard Jackson squawk out a choked 'Erica!" right before a thud of bodies on the ground. "Just remember, Erica, squishy humans aren't pouncing toys."

Isaac looked around at the trees, sniffing softly. "Why does the air here smell thicker? Almost like a house at Christmas?"

"It feels like...something's welcoming us," Scott said, glancing at Allison. "Do you feel it?"

"No," she said, looking around suspiciously. "What's going on?"

"It's all good, promise," Stiles said, grinning. "You don't have to second guess this one."

"You may not feel it right now, Allison, but you will," Derek assured her.

"It feels like...home," Jackson whispered suddenly, goosebumps rising on his arms. "An actual home."

Lydia looked at him sharply. Jackson's house hadn't felt like home to him for years. "Stiles...Derek..." she said sweetly, steel in her words, "if one of you doesn't stop being cryptic and explain what is going on right now, you will regret it."

 

Stiles raised his hands in surrender. "We're here for that," he said, nodding at a large, lumpy rock in the centre of a clearing.

Erica, her usual full moon jitters turned into something bouncier, happier, by whatever-the-hell this was, ran over and vaulted on top of the rock. "How come?" she said.

Just then, the rock...unfolded, somehow, transforming into a huge brown bear.

"Guys, this is the Territory. Bear, this is my pack." Derek stepped forward, absently noting Erica now almost cooing in happiness atop the Bear, burying herself in its fur. "Allison, Jackson, Lydia, Scott, Boyd. Isaac, And the one on your back is Erica."

Jackson stared in surprise, still covered in goosebumps, but feeling more settled than he had in a long time.

Isaac was watching Erica for a moment, stepping forward only to come face to fur with the Bear. "Oof… Hi."

"Hello," the Bear said, amused. The reactions from the pack were...varied.

"Fuck, it talks?" Jackson exclaimed.

"That wasn't verbal," Lydia said, eyes wide.

"Why is nobody paying any attention to the fact that it was a rock a minute ago?" Scott complained.

Erica just laughed brightly, helping Isaac climb onto the Bear's back. "It's so soft! Hello Bear!"

Isaac smiled at Erica, patting the fur of the Bear. "Hullo."

Derek couldn't hide his laughter, turning to the pack that wasn't using the Bear like a jungle gym. "Yes, it talks telepathically. And it's the spirit of the Territory, Scott, it could be a butterfly if it wanted to."

The Bear huffed. "A butterfly would be a ridiculous thing for me to be. No longevity."

"I was wondering about that," Stiles said. "But then, you've been around for way longer than a bear would normally live, isn't that an issue?"

"I am not a true bear. Surely that is obvious."

"Home," Jackson murmured again, still slightly in shock about that. He hadn't felt or smelled this in a long time.

"You wouldn't be a true butterfly either." Derek couldn't help but tease, pulling Stiles close for a moment, scenting behind his ear.

"I'm queen of the mountain!" Erica sang out. "Or Bear, in this case."

Boyd rolled his eyes. "Erica!"

"It seems kind of...disrespectful to climb on him," Allison whispered to Scott.

"I have been climbed on by generations of Hale children in their first moon," the Bear said, startling her. "It does not bother me."

"Did Daddy Derek climb on you?" Isaac asked, giving Derek a teasing grin.

Derek snorted. "I insisted on sitting on his head where Laura couldn't get to me." He'd given up on getting Isaac to stop the ‘parents’ thing, finding it oddly endearing.

Erica grinned, leaning over the shoulder of the Bear. "Come on Boyd! It's fun! And it's so soft!"

Hesitantly, Boyd came closer, reaching out to touch. His fingers sank into the dense fur on the Bear's side, and he looked up at Erica in wonder at the sensation.

"You guys do realise Derek was like, seven?" Stiles pointed out. "When he Met the territory? And you are all at least a decade older?"

"Shush, Papa Stiles," Isaac said, pouting playfully. "It's not like we got this when we were seven. And besides, still makes me feel like a little kid again." A kid that had a good life.

Derek could only hide his chuckle in Stiles' neck at Isaac's retort.

Jackson hesitantly creeped up, sinking his own hand into the Bear's fur, eyes watering for a moment before he hid his face in the Bear’s surprisingly soft fur.

"So why is Jackson like that then?” Lydia demanded. “What's going on?"

"For wolves who have been without a pack, meeting me can be intense," the Bear reassured Lydia. "It is nothing more than comfort, where comfort has been scarce."

After another moment watching Jackson to make sure he wasn’t in distress, Lydia nodded, conceding the point.

Scott hesitantly stepped forward, watching the Bear warily. "You won't change into a rock again, will you? Not going to lie, that kinda freaked me out more than a giant bear that speaks in my head."

"I will, eventually, return to stone," the Bear told him, swinging its head to meet Scott's eyes. "But not tonight."

 

"It's like the Pied Piper of Hamelin here," Allison said to Stiles, softly. "What's going on?"

"It's the territory," Stiles explained. "It literally is the territory. And the only thing more important to werewolves than territory is pack."

"During a pup’s first full moon shift, they Meet the territory,” Derek added. “It's a soothing feeling. Like home, or belonging. It's comforting."

The three of them watched as Lydia climbed up onto the Bear’s back, tugging Jackson along with her.

"Why haven't I heard about this?" Allison asked.

"Because it is very, very secret," Stiles told her seriously. "I'm not kidding. Werewolves don't ever talk about this. Usually, after the first Meeting, werewolves aren't even allowed to come back to visit unless they're the alpha. No one ever writes it down. If we'd...if we'd lost Derek, at some point, then we never would or could have known."

Derek let out a small sound. "As it was, I only stumbled on it by accident. It's not like most people would remember something they Met once when they were seven, only to never talk about it again..."

"You mean...they won't get to do this again?" Allison asked, looking at the rest of the pack and how happy they were.

Stiles looked at Derek, deferring to him.

"I'm not sure if that was just tradition or if they really can't..." Derek drifted off, turning his head to the Bear. "Would we be able to come back? The whole pack?"

"It is better for you to grow stronger connections with each other, and with me when I am not in a single avatar," the Bear advised. "Visiting me will distract from the home that you can create. But for special occasions, perhaps once or twice a year, that would be possible."

Derek relaxed a bit into a smile, watching as Erica and Isaac cheered from their spots curled up in the Bear's fur. "Thank you," he whispered, seeing his pack happier than they’d been in a long time, knowing that it was the feeling of home and belonging the Bear gave off that had Jackson play-wrestling with Boyd and Lydia crawling over Isaac as she tried to steal her headband back. "Just...thank you."

"You're welcome," the Bear said. There was a note of fondness in its voice as it added, "It is good to play with the pack again."

Derek hugged Stiles close, tugging him to sit on the ground next to the Bear, leaning against its leg. "It feels nice here."

Stiles wriggled around, trying to get comfortable, and the Bear huffed. "Careful where you put your elbows," it warned. "I've a scar there."

Derek blinked, looking down at the scar parting the fur between them. "What happened?" he asked, tugging Stiles into his lap so he was the one elbowed, not the Bear.

"You know what happened," the Bear replied. "You told me."

Derek's eyes watered, and he ran his hand gently along the scar. "Would the pain drain power work on you?" he asked, wanting to take away some of the pain he'd caused.

"Better to work it upon yourself," the Bear said kindly. "It is the pain of the pack and the territory that made this wound."

"I'm trying," Derek whispered, tucking his face in Stiles' neck.

"You are," Stiles reassured him. "Look, dude, it's healing. That's a scar."

"Listen to your mate, alpha," the Bear agreed. "The wound no longer bleeds."

Derek gave the Bear a watery smile. "Thank you," he told Stiles, kissing him softly.

"You're welcome," Stiles replied quietly.

 

Derek looked over his pack, feeling his heart grow a little lighter, laughing brightly as Erica shoved Isaac off the Bear, holding Lydia close for a second to steady her and shouting, "You're it!"

As soon as she jumped down, she got tackled. "No, you’re it!"

"We'd better move before we get trampled on," Stiles said, laughing at the mess that was happening around them.

Derek just laughed along with him, shifting him and Stiles to the sidelines of the all-out tackle war. "Remember there are squishy humans!" he reminded them all.

Jackson just grinned and started stalking towards Lydia. "You're it, Lyds!"

Lydia just raised an eyebrow and poked Jackson's nose. "You're it, no tag backs." He pouted, then ran after Boyd.

Stiles' eyes sparkled as he watched Scott, unnoticed by the others, get to his feet on the Bear's broad back and prepare to jump. "Death from above!" he yelled, and leapt down to tackle Boyd to the ground.

Derek muffled his laughter in Stiles' neck as his pack cried out.

"TREASON!" Boyd screamed, rolling Scott over to try and pin him.

"Go on," Stiles said, nodding towards the chaos. "Go play."

Derek gave him a bright smile, tugging him into a hungry kiss before standing up and letting out a battle scream as he tackled both Boyd and Scott.

Chapter Text

After some consideration, and discussion with Allison, Scott invited Isaac over for a game night as the setting for their conversation. He didn't want to make a big thing of this - maybe it wasn't a thing at all - but if it did turn out to be a problem, it would be a good idea to have some privacy to discuss it. And then Scott maybe chickened out and spent an hour playing COD before he actually brought it up. "Hey, Isaac," he said.

Isaac grunted in question, eyes on the screen. "What's up?" Sensing the nervousness in Scott’s voice and scent, he paused the game, turning his head a bit.

"What do you...I mean, feel free not to answer if you don't want to, obviously, I know this is a little rude, but...you are a sub, right?" Scott eventually managed to ask, fumbling with the words.

"Yessssss?" Isaac blinked, setting down his controller and turning to Scott. "Why?" The nerves pouring from Scott's pores intrigued him. Why was he so nervous?

Scott bit his lip. "What do you do when you, uh, need to...?"

Isaac flushed, ducking his head a bit. "I usually push on." He shrugged. "Or there's a club not that far from here that I can get someone..." He didn't like it, but it was better than how he got if he didn’t go. Luckily he only absolutely had to about once a month.

Scott was aware that his flare of possessiveness at the idea of Isaac going to a club to get a Dom was irrational, but that didn't stop him feeling it. "And that helps?" he asked.

"It does what it can." Isaac shrugged, lowering his gaze. Considering Scott was with Allison, he was giving out pretty mixed signals right now. Didn't stop Isaac from wanting though. "I go when it gets way too far." Isaac didn't like the clubs, but he couldn't afford the depression a sub could fall into if they pushed too long.

"I just, um..." Scott had practiced this, but actually saying it to Isaac? Nope. Any semblance of fluency was gone. "AllisonandIweremaybewonderingifyoueverneededaDomlikeStilesdoesifmaybeyou'deverthoughtaboutaskingus?"

Isaac could only blink as he slowly processed what Scott had just said. "Wait...Are you asking to be my Dom? You and Ally?" He tilted his head, leaning closer to Scott. "And you're serious? This isn't a joke?"

Scott let out his breath in a whoosh. "Kind of. And yeah, we're serious."

Isaac flushed, happiness (and some arousal) swelling in his chest."What do I need to do?" he asked, leaning even closer, looking up at Scott from under his lashes.

 

Woah. That was...way more of an immediate yes than Scott had been expecting, or even hoping for. "I, um...Isaac..." Scott looked up, trying to get his thoughts together. "Look, Allison's my girlfriend, right? So, whatever we do, it can't make her unhappy."

Isaac knew it was too good to be true, but nothing at that point in time could dampen the excited thumping of his heart. He nodded. "So tell me what to do," he urged. "Tell me limits or even what Ally doesn't want us doing yet. Just...something. Please!"

"Allison needs us to...be platonic in how we act, even if it's not how we feel, I guess," Scott explained it. "So whatever we do together, it'd be like what I do with Stiles." That was honestly his rule of thumb at the moment for what was okay. Would he do this with Stiles? If not, he shouldn't do it with Isaac.

"Will it stay that way?” Isaac wondered, crawling into Scott’s lap and curling close. “Or is it a just for now thing?" He was testing the waters, sure, but he didn't want to push them too much.

Oh wow. Scott's arms came around Isaac automatically, and yeah, maybe it was a little awkward with how tall Isaac was, but they were making it work. "...Allison would prefer we didn't ask that question," Scott admitted, remembering her reaction to him asking when he could kiss Isaac. "But the answer is maybe."

Isaac just nodded, leaning forward to scent along Scott's neck, relaxing a bit. "Just...tell me if I push too much," he murmured. "I don't want to make you upset, or make Allison unhappy." After all, she was letting him have Scott. Even the little bit they were allowed.

"No kissing, hands above the waist, no more nudity than shirtlessness, no dates," Scott said, trying to think of everything up front. "If, um. If one of us gets hard when we're...doing stuff, we'll take a break."

Isaac nodded, a little disappointed that he couldn't even kiss Scott, but for now, he'd take what he could. "Thank you," he said softly.

"Would you be okay with Allison supervising sometimes?" Scott asked cautiously.

Isaac nodded, giving Scott a tiny smile. "She's your S.O.," he said, simple and to the point. "Why would I have an issue with it?"

"Scening's private," Scott replied. "Just because the situation's weird doesn't mean you shouldn't get that privacy if you want it."

"I just......"he thought for a moment. "If she wants to, can you ask? I don't have a problem with it usually, but sometimes..." He feels very vulnerable in some situations.

"Of course!" Scott agreed instantly. "I'm not expecting blanket permission, for that or anything. I just need you to know that it's a possibility, okay?"

Isaac let a smile cross his face. "Yes sir," he teased, hugging Scott tightly.

 

Scott blushed hard when Isaac said that. It was the first time anyone had ever called him...that, and it felt really good.

"Are you blushing!?" Isaac grinned, leaning up a bit so he was straddling Scott's lap, poking his cheeks.

Scott ducked his head away, embarrassed.

Isaac let out a small cooing sound, nuzzling and scent marking against Scott’s cheek. "Why are you blushing?"

"No one's called me 'sir' before," Scott admitted. "It was...nice."

"I like calling you sir," Isaac said, his voice softer than it was a moment ago. "S'not like I hadn't called you that in my head while jerking off or anything. But, seriously, I like it."

"Oh fuck." Scott swallowed hard. "You can't say things like that when you're in my lap, dude."

Isaac let out a snort of laughter, hiding his face in Scott's neck.,"Sorry sir." he quipped, not in the least bit sorry.

"No you're not," Scott said easily. "So, uh, yeah. Let me look after you when you're having issues?"

Isaac gave him a crooked grin, nodding and nuzzling his jaw. "Yes sir," he murmured. "For now though, I'm going to trounce you at Call of Duty."

"Oh yeah?" Scott challenged, grinning.

"Yup!" Isaac grinned, moving off to the side, but leaving his legs in his Dom's (his Dom’s!) lap.

Scott snagged his controller and started up the game again, getting a head-start while Isaac was still getting settled.

"Rude!" Isaac yelped, scrambling for his controller and elbowing Scott in the side, flashing his eyes at him.

Scott flashed his eyes back, laughing.

-----

Scott took an unconscious step back as Lydia approached him, her tightly reined-in anger unmistakable.

"What do you think you're doing?" Lydia hissed, backing Scott against his locker. "Explain. Now."

"I'm...getting my books for English?" Scott said hesitantly.

"I mean with Isaac! Why are you cheating on Allison? What the hell do you think you are doing!?" Lydia snarled. "Is dating Allison not enough for you? You have to be with Isaac too? And don't bother denying it, I've seen you two."

"I'm not cheating on Allison!" Scott objected. "I would never!"

"Then explain yourself! Because it's obvious you're in love with Isaac, being all couple-y with him!" She crossed her arms, narrowing her eyes as she leaned forward. "Stop it. You can't have both, pick one. It's not fair to Allison to be cheating on her like this!"

"I'm not doing anything with Isaac," Scott insisted. "There is literally nothing me and Isaac have done that I haven't done with someone else in the pack - apart from Allison."

"Yes, there is." Lydia frowned. "You don't feel like that with other people in the pack. You claim to love Allison, why does it seem like you love Isaac? Explain to me what is going on then!" Just because Scott wasn’t physically cheating on Allison, Lydia could see that he was emotionally.

"I love Allison, I do," Scott promised. "I - "

Saved by the bell. Scott made a grateful escape.

-----

But it seemed like the world had it out for him, because the next day it was Erica who cornered him. "So, why does it seem like everytime I turn around you seem to be leading Isaac on?" she growled, her eyes flashing brilliant gold.

"Erica!" Scott hissed. "Someone's gonna see! And I'm not leading him on!"

"It's not fair to make him think he has a chance with you!" Erica ignored the bit about someone seeing, too upset with Scott at that moment. "If you're just going to keep dating Allison, leave Isaac alone. It's not nice, leading him on, no matter how much you like him. "

"Isaac knows I love Allison," Scott objected. "He knows I'm not going to leave her."

"You sure aren't acting like it. Giving him mixed signals all the time!" Her eyes flashed again. "No hurting Isaac!"

"I don't want to hurt Isaac," Scott insisted. "We have actually talked about this, Erica. He knows I'm with Allison, he knows that's not changing, he knows she sets the limits for my relationship with him."

She just growled. "And yet I smell the disappointment from him whenever you go off with Allison."

Scott's heart sank. "Leave it alone, Erica," he said. "Me, Isaac, Allison...it's none of your business."

"Stop leading him on," Erica snapped, right as the bell rang.

-----

When Scott went home that day, he just wanted to...he didn't know what he wanted. He wanted to believe that he wasn't fucking this up with Isaac and Allison. He wanted to go to Isaac and just...know that he could make Isaac happy. But what if Lydia was right? He didn't know what to do.

Allison knocked on the door, humming thoughtfully. Lydia was acting odd, and frankly it was worrying her. Had something happened to Scott?

"Hey, Ally," Scott said quietly, letting her in. "What's up?"

"Are you alright?" Allison asked, looking him over, cupping his cheek. "Lydia seemed to think something was wrong."

Scott made a face. "Yeah, she's...not happy with me right now."

"Why? What's wrong?" Allison stepped into the house, taking off her backpack. Something was definitely off....

"I think she found out I was, uh, hanging out with Isaac the other day," Scott admitted. "She doesn't like it."

"Well it's none of her business." Allison frowned, watching him closely. "Scott. What's wrong? I can tell something's wrong."

"Am I doing the wrong thing, helping Isaac?" Scott asked her. "Is it...are you sure you don't mind?"

Allison sighed softly. "I don't mind." The past couple of weeks had shown how much it settled Scott. "Why would you think it's the wrong thing?"

"Because Lydia says I'm functionally cheating on you, and Erica says I'm leading Isaac on, and I just...how can I make either of you happy if I'm forcing you to share?" Scott said helplessly.

"Are you forcing me? Honestly, if I said no more right now, you'd stop, wouldn't you?" Allison paused. "You aren't forcing me to do anything."

"Of course I would, but it's still..." Scott shook his head. "You should be enough to make me happy."

"You do know it's possible to be with multiple people, right?" She sighed, getting out her phone.

Get over here. I need your help - AA

Where's 'here'? What do you need? - IL

"Yeah, but...that doesn't mean it's fair on you," Scott argued weakly.

"I think I'll be the one to decide what's fair for me," Allison insisted

Scott's house. We also need to talk - AA

That's not ominous at all. - IL

Nothing bad. But for now, come on! - AA

On my way - IL

"I don't know what to do, Ally," Scott admitted, slumping. Everything was just out of control and he didn't know what to do about any of it.

"It'll be okay," Allison promised, running her hand through his hair. "Go take a shower, kay? I'll see if your mom has anymore of those cookies made."

Scott rolled his eyes. He didn't need to be looked after. He needed... And now he felt even worse. "Okay," he said, walking away so he could pretend he wasn't wishing Isaac was here.

Allison watched him go, noting the tension in his shoulders. Isaac needed to hurry up.

 

It didn't take long before Isaac was knocking at the door, confused.

Allison hurried to answer it. "Hey, come on in, Scott's in the shower," she said, ushering Isaac to the living room.

Isaac gave her a tiny smile. "What's going on?" he asked, taking in deep breaths and clutching his chest at the pain practically radiating from Scott upstairs.

"You can feel that?" Allison asked, raising her eyebrows.

"He's hurting. What happened?" Isaac’s brow furrowed,and he turned to Allison. "What's wrong with him?"

"I just need to know first," she said, "does our, um, arrangement...does that bother you? Do you feel like it's unfair at all?"

Isaac hesitated, chewing on his lip. "There are things I want to do, yes, that I can't at the moment," he admitted. "But nothing bothers me really. Because even though it might seem like I'll never be able to do anything like kiss him, it's not like you said outright that I never could. The ‘maybe’ is okay with me."

Allison sighed. Yeah, okay, she could kind of see where Erica was coming from. "What if I never said yes, though? What if, a month or two from now, I decide that I can't deal and I need Scott to stop being with you altogether?"

Isaac gave her a pained look. "I would," he promised. "I wouldn't like it, but I would. Because he was with you first. It would hurt but..."

Allison nodded. "The pack has started noticing you and Scott spending more time together," she explained. "They think Scott's not being considerate of our feelings."

Isaac's eyes flashed. "And they took it out on him, didn't they?" he growled. He tilted his head up to stare at where Scott was. With the pain rolling off of him he wouldn't be surprised if his Dom was crying.

"Yeah," Allison admitted. "So...before we do anything else, we - you and I - need to figure out if we can make this work. Because I don't want to go up there and tell Scott everything's fine if it's going to be a lie."

Isaac took a deep breath, nodding. "Alright." He sat down on the couch, twisting his hands.

"I love Scott," Allison said, sitting down and looking at Isaac. "And so do you, don't you?"

Isaac looked down at his hands, flushing. Silently, he nodded. "I haven't told him."

"I appreciate that," Allison said with a wry smile. "I'm still adjusting."

"I'm sorry," Isaac whispered. He didn't know what to do or say. He wanted Scott desperately, but...Allison had him first.

"He's lovable," Allison said, shrugging. "And he has a big heart. "I'm just, well...can you see where I'm coming from?"

Isaac nodded again. "I just… I don't know what I would do in your place," he admitted.

"If you'd had him first, could you share him, you mean?" Allison asked. "That's kind of the problem here, isn't it? The two of us trying to decide whether we can share."

"I think… I think I could," Isaac finally said. "With someone I trusted anyway."

 

Allison looked at him steadily. "Do you trust me?"

Isaac looked up, flashing his eyes. "You're pack. And one of the ones I trust with Scott's heart."

"You didn't trust me when I joined the pack," Allison pointed out. For good reason. Things weren't so great back then.

"You were trying to kill us," Isaac deadpanned.

Allison shrugged. "That's kind of my point. After that, do you trust me?"

"After all we've been through since you've been fully on our side and in our pack... yes." Isaac smiled, taking her hand and putting it against his pulse point so she could feel what werewolves so easily hear. "I trust you."

"Oh." Allison relaxed a little, and a smile spread over her face. "How about this, then: I won't try and take Scott away from you if you don't try and take Scott away from me."

Isaac smiled back. "I won't try and take Scott away from you. I just want a chance to be with him too. And everything that entails. Though... I don't want to make you uncomfortable..."

"Take it slow?" Allison offered. "And...I think I'd feel better if I could be there, when you tried new things. Would you be okay with that?"

Isaac hesitated. "Every new thing? Or just like new scenes? Because the thought of you being there if I end up teasing him into pinning me against a wall would be a little weird, but only because that means it's planned."

"You know, that idea isn't all that reassuring?" Allison pointed out. "In that I'd like to have some advance warning before you and Scott move up the bases. I mean, I get that you want spontaneity. But not so much for first times?"

Isaac nodded. "I can warn you what I'm doing?" he offered. "If I was trying to drive him nuts or something like that. And the first I don't mind you being there, promise, I just like teasing." He grinned.

"Some warning would be nice," Allison agreed. "You don't have to it all the time, I just...I'd rather be cautious and make sure I was comfortable up front, you know?"

Isaac nodded again. "I will do my best. I just..." He flushed. "Sometimes I forget, and I'm sorry in advance if I do." He looked up toward the ceiling. "He needs to be in control, doesn't he?"

"I think he does." Allison considered things, then leaned in, murmuring. "So when I 'sub' for him, here's what he likes..."

Isaac's eyes glimmered with mischief, leaning closer so he could hear.

-----

Scott really couldn't get any cleaner at this point. He was just letting the hot water beating down on his back distract him from things he didn't want to think about. It wasn't working that well; he didn't even notice when the door of the bathroom opened.

Isaac watched Scott through the curtain for a moment, then took his shirt and pants off and kneeled on the bathmat in his boxers, leaving room for Scott to get past if he wanted. Behind him, the door was open, and Allison was watching from the hallway. "Sir," he said softly.

Scott almost didn't hear him. Then he flung the shower curtain open, grabbing for a towel to hide his junk. "Isaac?" he hissed, glancing around the bathroom, his eyes catching on Allison in the hall. "We said no nudity!"

"It's okay, Scott," Allison said quietly. "He has my permission. Does he have yours?"

Isaac gave Scott a small smile and covered his eyes. (Though he couldn’t stop himself from checking Scott out before he did.) "Do I, sir?"

Scott turned the water off, staring at Allison. "Ally?"

"Isaac and I have come to an understanding," she said, coming inside, but not much further. "I'll tell you if you cross a line, but it really is alright."

Isaac smiled, smelling mixed emotions on Scott before he peeked out between his fingers. "She wants to be there for firsts, like this, but I'm okay with that." And he was. Especially because most of his teasing he planned on doing after that first time, and with a warning to Allison so she could tell him tricks of the trade, so to speak.

"So..." Scott glanced at Isaac with dawning hope, reaching out unconsciously. "What is this, Ally?"

She smiled at him. "This is you needing to take care of someone. And us wanting to know you're okay."

"This is you getting to have both," Isaac murmured. "This is us both getting to have you. And we're both happy with it."

Goddammit, Scott had thought he was done crying today, but when he spoke, his voice cracked. "You don't resent me?"

Isaac blinked in surprise, unconsciously reaching up for Scott. "Why would I resent you?" he asked, confusion on his face. He took a deep breath in, smelling the tears and wanting to press close.

"For not choosing," Allison explained softly, still hanging back. "For having room in his heart for two of us."

Isaac's face softened, and he sat up on his knees to reach out for Scott. "I would never resent you, sir."

Scott took Isaac's hand, clinging to it like a lifeline. "Even when my...first loyalty, it isn't - can't be - to you?"

Isaac sucked in a breath, giving him a tiny smile. "I'll take what I can have." It would hurt, if that day came, but he'd have no regrets.

"It's - that isn't fair," Scott objected, but his grip on Isaac's hand didn't loosen. "It isn't fair on either of you. What sort of person am I, that one isn't enough?"

Allison frowned. "What sort of wonderful, loving person are you," she corrected, "that you have room in your heart for two?"

"There is such a thing has having room for more than one, sir." Isaac tugged carefully on Scott's hand, trying to draw him closer. "As long as everything is consensual, then it's good. You have so much room in your heart, and I feel honored that you have room for me."

 

"Isaac," Allison said. "I think Scott would like it if you helped him dry off and get dressed. Scott?"

Scott couldn't help but stare at her. Was this really happening? He cleared his throat. "...yeah," he admitted. "I'd like that."

Isaac beamed, reaching under the sink to get one of the towels and gently tugging Scott from the tub. "Yes sir," he murmured, peeking up at Scott through his curls before starting at his feet and working his way up with the towel.

Oh. Isaac was...Scott couldn't take his eyes off him, off the way Isaac was kneeling for him so naturally, so completely comfortable.

Isaac leaned forward, nuzzling Scott’s hip briefly before standing so he could finish drying Scott off. He ran his hands through Scott’s hair when he was done, licking his lips at the look in Scott's eyes, before turning to grab the pajama pants that were on the counter and kneeling again.

"Thank you, Isaac," Scott said lowly, stepping into the pants, then hesitantly added, "Good boy."

Isaac let out a soft sound, his cheeks flushing as the praise sunk in. He gave Scott another grin as he pulled the pants up, nipping lightly at Scott’s belly sitting back on his heels, hands tucked behind him at the small of his back. "You're welcome, sir."

Allison's heart ached as she watched them, but she was smiling too, hugging herself. They looked so natural together, so at ease.

Scott stroked Isaac's hair, smiling down at him in awe. "You probably want to get off that bathmat, huh."

Isaac closed his eyes, his lips parting as he leaned  into the touch. "I'm okay if you are," he murmured, a slow, content smile spreading over his face.

Scott shook his head. "Come on. Let's go somewhere more comfortable."

Isaac stood, looking over at Allison with a smile. "Where to?"

It eased something in her, to be included like that. Like she wasn't on the outside looking in. "Scott's room," she said, meeting Scott's eyes.

"Yeah," Scott agreed. He gave Allison a long look, but he agreed. "Let's go, Isaac."

Isaac pressed close to Scott, absently running a hand down Allison's arm as they passed her. "Why were you hurting?" he asked Scott softly.

"What?" Scott frowned.

"When I got here. You smelled of pain." Isaac turned once they entered Scott's room, scenting along his jaw, trying to cover up the lingering pain he smelled.

"Oh." Somehow it hadn't occurred to Scott yet to wonder why Isaac was here, but now... "You invited him, didn't you?" he asked Allison. "Because..."

"Because you need us both today," she said firmly. "You need to know that despite what Lydia and Erica have to say, we don't think you're hurting us."

"We really don't think you're hurting us," Isaac whispered, still nuzzling Scott's cheek. "And besides," he said, loud enough for Allison to hear, pulling back with a grin. "Me and Ally needed to talk to help feel things out."

 

Allison bit her lip, trying to figure out what she could handle. "I think..." she said slowly, "you should kiss him, Scott."

Scott stared at her, shocked. "...Ally?"

Isaac sucked in a breath, turning his head to look at her, eyes pleading for her to not be joking. "Really?"

Allison searched Scott's gaze, trying to reframe it in her head. This wasn't her not being enough for Scott. This was Scott looking after Isaac, because Isaac loved him, and Scott was good at love. "...Yes," she said at last.

Isaac gave her a small smile and turned back to Scott, tilting his head to watch him.

Tentatively, Scott leaned in, eyes flicking to Allison once, twice...and then his lips were on Isaac's and he couldn't think of anything else.

Isaac’s eyes fluttered closed, and he whined as he melted forward, heart in his throat. God, he'd wanted this for ages. Never thought he would get it and honestly he was close to crying he was so happy. Even if all they were ever going to be able to do was this, he'd be okay.

Part of Scott was cataloguing all the differences between kissing Isaac and kissing Allison, but most of his was caught up entirely in the sensation, drinking in the kiss like water in the desert.

Isaac wrapped one arm around Scott's neck, pressing close as he tilted his head. He let out a breath through his nose, the softest of whimpers leaving him, probably not even audible to Allison.

Scott hummed in reply. It was strange, tilting his head up into a kiss, but strangely perfect, too.

Isaac reluctantly pulled back just a bit, his eyes fluttering open as he panted into Scott's mouth. "Oh."

"Oh," Scott agreed, a soft smile spreading across his face.

Isaac let out another inaudible whimper, his knees weak just from the kiss.

"You okay, honey?" Scott asked, the endearment slipping from his lips automatically.

Isaac shivered, giving him a tiny nod and a smile. "I'm okay, sir, promise. Just...." He chewed on his lip, his voice softening even more. "Wanted that a long time. Thank you, Ally." He peeked over at Allison, clinging to Scott.

Scott reached out to her, his other arm wrapped around Isaac's waist, and she slowly came closer. "Are we okay?" Scott asked her.

She considered the two of them, and took Scott's hand. "Kiss me?" she asked.

Isaac smiled, tilting his head onto Scott's shoulder, watching.

Scott drew Allison in and kissed her, and it was soft and sweet and loving and everything she needed. "We're okay," she said.

-----

Isaac moaned softly into Scott's mouth, straddling his lap on the pack couch, arms wrapped around his neck. Every now and then they'd hear a clink of Allison messing around in the kitchen. Their first kiss had quickly turned into them making out at every possible moment, and luckily Allison seemed more amused by it than anything else.

They didn't notice the click of high heels against the floor, the shocked gasp - but they certainly did notice when Lydia snapped, "How dare you!"

Isaac pulled back, blinking in surprise up at Lydia. "Huh?" he asked, snapping out of his half-punch-drunk haze. "How dare I what?"

"Oh you know exactly what you're doing, Isaac Lahey," Lydia hissed. "And you!" She stalked closer, jabbing Scott in the chest. "If Isaac wasn't practically fucking you in the living room I'd rip your bastard balls off and cram them down your throat and we'll see how werewolf healing does with that! I don't care what excuses you're making to yourselves, I - "

Lydia fell silent as Allison came in, walking up to the couch and twining her arms around Scott’s neck from behind. "He likes his hair tugged," Allison told Isaac matter-of-factly, then looked up, meeting Lydia's eyes in challenge.

Isaac shrank back in the face of Lydia's ire, confused, but growling at the threat to Scott. At Allison’s words he stopped, smiling at her. "Like this?" he asked, slipping one hand into the hair on the back of Scott's head, tugging lightly. He looked back over to Lydia. "Now, why in the hell were you yelling at us? I was quite happily sub-drunk, thank you. And you ruined it." Yes, he was borderline whining, but dammit, he’d been having fun and she ruined the mood with the snarling.

"I understand why you did," Allison said quietly. Lydia had her own reasons for doubting men's fidelity. "But it wasn't necessary. Thank you for watching out for me, but in future, check with me first." She raised her voice. "Could everyone come down to the living room, please?"

Isaac whined, reluctant to move, opting to nuzzle his face under Allison's arm and against Scott's shoulder, letting out a soft sigh as he heard the others clatter down the stairs. He rolled his eyes at the confused outcry.

Scott hid his face in Isaac's hair, not wanting to deal with the situation, pathetically grateful to Allison for doing it for him.

"You've all noticed, I'm sure, that Scott has been closer with Isaac lately," Allison began, her voice sharp. "And some of you have some very strong opinions about that fact." She gave Erica a cutting look; she hadn't missed that Erica's concern had been all on Isaac's side of the equation. "So I'd like to remind you that it's none of your business. Anything Scott does is with Isaac's and my fully informed consent."

"Plus holy shit have you ever kissed him? Heaven," Isaac sassed, voice so low the other wolves barely heard him.

"But..." Erica objected, even as Boyd tried to tell her to stop.

Allison glanced at Isaac, and mentally nodded. "But nothing," she said firmly. "So we'll thank you to leave our boyfriend alone."

Isaac inwardly preened at being included, his hand snaking out for Allison's as he pressed closer to Scott, basking internally at the sputters of the pack. "Awwww, my sub-drunk feeling is completely gone. I call foul..."

 

Stiles took that as his cue and started ushering everyone out. "Alright, show's over, move it everyone, nothing to see here," he said, adding over his shoulder, "and if there is something to see, you guys are banned for a week. No defiling the couch!"

Scott grinned at him gratefully. "You got it."

"And you owe me a bro night sometime soon," Stiles said firmly. "You went and got yourself a whole boyfriend and didn't tell me? I'm hurt, Scott, really."

"A whole boyfriend? As opposed to a half a one?" Isaac grinned widely, peeking over to Stiles

Derek snorted, shaking his head and watching as his mate shooed everyone out. "You're buying a new one if you mess up the couch." He reiterated, wrapping an arm around Stiles as they started walking back upstairs.

"That went better than I expected," Allison said, relaxing.

"Lydia ruined my mood." Isaac grumbled, kissing Allison's arm before Scott's cheek. "Did it not occur to them what this is?"

"Polyamory isn't all that common," Allison pointed out.

"Surprise, we get to teach them. Well, I get to distract Scott while Ally goes all scary lady and rips them apart. Win win." Isaac grinned toothily.

"Thank you," Scott said abruptly, still kind of in shock from the whole...everything. "That was... They..."

Isaac tugged lightly on his hair again. "It's okay," he promised. "We gotcha."

Scott tilted his head back, looking up at Allison. "You guys are great," he said. "Thank you."

"No, thank you," Isaac murmured. "For having room for both of us."

Chapter Text

"So, that happened," Stiles said when he and Derek got upstairs to Stiles' room, where they'd been hanging out. "Did you know that was happening?"

"I had an inkling." Derek shrugged, flopping over onto the bed and stretching out. "They always smelled of each other. And they aren't discreet about making out on our couch."

" I never caught them," Stiles countered, but he was grinning.

" You aren't sneaky," Derek said with laugh. "And you don't have a werewolf’s nose." He reached out a hand for Stiles, comfortable where he was.

"So, boyfriends," Stiles said, lying down next to Derek and rolling in towards him. "Do you think they're actually dating, or just making out a lot?"

"Right now?” Derek said. “Probably making out a lot." He tugged Stiles closer to scent along his neck. "Though they're probably planning dates..." He blinked, frowning suddenly. "We haven't been on one yet."

"So technically, we're the ones just making out a lot," Stiles teased, kissing Derek's neck. "Shame, Derek. If we never have a first date, how are we going to know when our anniversary is?"

Derek let out a soft rumbling purr as Stiles kissed his neck. "Hmmmm, pick a day?" He laughed. "June 19th?"

"We could choose a different day every year," Stiles suggested. "For maximum confusion of everyone else."

"Perfect." Derek grinned. "But we would know the real date," he murmured, grabbing Stiles’ hand and kissing his palm. "May 28th...The day I admitted to you that you were my mate."

"Mm." From Stiles' perspective it was less...concrete, than that. It was a whole series of days, a whole collection of moments that lived in the space between Stiles and Derek, and Stiles-and-Derek.

"Better than not knowing for sure ourselves," Derek shrugged, nipping at the pads of Stiles' fingers. He took a deep breath, blinking, then reaching out to cover Stiles’ ears. "WE TOLD YOU NO DEFILING THE COUCH, ISAAC LAHEY!"

"Oh, fucksticks," Stiles muttered. "I WILL MAKE YOU CLEAN IT, SCOTT!"

Derek pulled Stiles closer, hiding a laugh in his hair before pulling back again, making sure his hands were covering Stiles' ears. "I DON'T CARE. YOU'RE BUYING A NEW ONE!" He listened to the whining for a bit before turning back to Stiles, uncovering his ears and laughing. "Fucksticks?"

"What? It's a thing!" Stiles objected.

 

"I like it," Derek said, amused, as he listened to the others leave. He waited until the car engine he heard faded into the distance to pull Stiles into a hungry kiss, pulling away after a moment. "Go on a date with me?" he breathed against Stiles’ mouth.

"Absolutely," Stiles agreed. "What do you want to do? Dinner? Movie?" He made a face. "Bowling?"

"You in bowling shoes would be a menace," Derek commented. "How about dinner and a movie? Isn't a new Marvel movie coming out soon?"

"Not until October," Stiles complained. "Unless you're thinking of the new Iron Man one? But that was like, a month ago."

"Aw man, I thought it was closer than October," Derek replied . "Any other movies that sound good?"

"I mean, I haven't seen the Star Trek movie yet," Stiles said. "But...I'm kind of eh about the reboot. Um...Man of Steel? Ooh, or Pacific Rim, I've heard that one's fantastic ."

"There's also Hansel and Gretel, The Croods, Evil Dead, and ones like that," Derek suggested. "Though Pacific Rim has gotten some really good reviews...."

"Yes, but most of those are like, mocking movies," Stiles pointed out. "And seeing them in the theatre means I'll just piss off everyone else there. We could see Wolverine? He's practically your twin."

"Rude." Derek snorted, grinning. "What about that new magic movie? Now You See Me?"

"...what I'm getting here is that you and I are going to be going to a lot of movies," Stiles said, grinning back.

"Hey, nothing wrong with movies," Derek laughed, pulling him into a light kiss. "The only thing wrong here is this: which one do we watch first?"

"In order of release date?" Stiles suggested.

"Deal," Derek said, poking Stiles in the side.

"Hey!" Stiles objected, ducking away. "What was that for?"

"To see what would happen," Derek answered, grinning widely. "Are you ticklish?"

" No ," Stiles said firmly, biting his lip to help suppress his grin, knowing his heart would betray the lie.

Derek's grin turned toothy. "Oh realllyyyyy," he teased, wiggling his fingers.

Stiles shrieked, rolling off the bed with a thump in his attempt to get away. "...ow."

"Are you okay?" Derek asked, leaning over the side of the bed before scooping him up and back onto the bed. "Sorry."

"Don't worry," Stiles told him. "Only my dignity's hurt, and I don't have much of that anyway."

"You're still amazing, if a little clumsy, but that's okay, I can be too." Derek smiled, hugging Stiles tightly. "Okay, so where should we eat dinner?"

"You know me. I'll eat whatever," Stiles said. "...oh, shit."

"Huh?" Derek blinked. "Why did you say that?"

"My dad," Stiles explained. The Sheriff knew about the pack by this point - it would have been impossible for Stiles to spend as much time as he did at the pack house otherwise. "How do you feel about him knowing about us? Because if we go on a date in public, he will. Like, that day. This town gossips like nothing on earth."

Derek sucked in a breath. He hadn't thought about the Sheriff. "I… He won't shoot me, will he? I know Chris gave him those bullets..."

Stiles rolled his eyes. "What the hell, Derek! Of course he won't shoot you!"

"Then I'm fine," Derek promised. "And you can't act like that. You know for a fact he's threatened me before."

"Not since he actually understood the pack," Stiles countered. "He's not a, a freaking gun-happy...I dunno, he's just not , okay? He doesn't just go around shooting people."

"I'm not trying to upset you," Derek said. "I just...you're his son. I'm an older guy dating his son..."

"You're not that much older," Stiles objected. Derek was only twenty-five. "And it's not like that."

"Okay, I trust you." Derek gave Stiles a small smile, holding him close. "Now, back to dinner...."

Stiles went back to the planning, but a part of his brain stuck on the whole telling-his-dad thing. Giving him some advance warning might be a good idea...

-----

John grumbled, stabbing viciously at the salad Stiles had given him for lunch. "Parrish, how much would it take for you to go get me a burger?"

"It would take infinite money," Stiles said, leaning against the doorframe. "In that the prospect of my wrath is a terrifying disincentive. Hey, daddy-o."

"Oh look, the food king himself," John replied, a grin tugging at his lips. "Come on, son, it's one burger! I'm not going to keel over! I promise to not even get any bacon on it." He stood, rounding the table to pull Stiles into a hug. "Hey kiddo, what's up?"

"No burgers," Stiles said firmly, hugging his dad back tightly. "I've got a date." His first, actually. Ever.

John whine was cut short. "Wait, what?" He held Stiles back a bit, looking him up and down. "With who?"

"Wiiiith someone who really likes me and is super great to me and I like a lot?" Stiles hazarded, knowing his dad had some preconceptions about Derek.

"Well that's good, son, but that's not what I asked." John raised an eyebrow at Stiles, crossing his arms. "Name, age, how’d you meet them, things like that."

Stiles' shoulders slumped. "It's Derek," he admitted. "Hale."

John frowned. "This isn't you being pressured, right? I know he's the boss of the pack, but you can say no to him.”

"No!" Stiles said instantly. "No, Derek's great, he'd never do that! Not that he could ." More quietly, he added, "I like him, Dad. And...he likes me too."

John looked Stiles over with a critical eye, then smiled. "Why wouldn't he?" he said. "I'm happy for you, though. You deserve someone that likes you for who you are."

Stiles heaved a sigh of relief. "Does this mean you're not gonna freak him out next time you see him?" he asked hopefully. "He really doesn't need to be interrogated about his intentions."

"I'll ask him questions, but I won't go Spanish Inquisition, on one condition: I at least get a loaded baked potato,” John bargained, grinning. “And I mean loaded ; that includes the bacon bits. Deal?" He held out his hand.

"Fiiiine," Stiles said, mock-complaining, as he shook John's hand. "You don't appreciate the things I do for your heart."

"I do, but dammit sometimes a guy just needs pork and grease." John laughed, sticking his head out of his office. "Parrish! I'll give you five bucks if you go get me a loaded baked potato. LOADED!!"

Stiles rolled his eyes. "Love you, Dad," he said. "I'll see you at dinner. Healthy dinner."

"Make that extra loaded," John called out, grinning at Stiles. "You know, some pork and grease every now and then is healthy," he teased. "And I love you too, buddy."

"Indulge while you can," Stiles teased, heading out. "And be safe!"

"Oh, I will!” John promised. “See you tonight, Stiles. Bring Derek if he's up to it!"

-----

That thought stuck with Stiles as he drove away from the station - bringing Derek home for dinner. It kind of felt too soon in one sense, but in another... When Stiles got home, he texted Derek.

How do you feel about coming over for dinner some time? - SS

When my dad is here, I mean - SS

Derek looked down from the TV and blinked at his phone. Chewing his lip, he shrugged.

Well, as long as I don't get nailed to the wall, I'm up for it  - DH

Unless YOU'RE the one doing the nailing - DH

Stiles blushed hard, glad Derek wasn't here in person to see him stammer.

I don't think he will - SS

I mean, he's gonna ask you questions and stuff, but I don't think he'll be too mean about it - SS

Derek grinned at the way Stiles dodged the topic change.

Then I'm okay with it. When?  - DH

Stiles bit his lip. Was he more nervous about this than Derek was?

...Dad suggested tonight - SS

You're really okay with this? - SS

Derek hesitated, shifting in his seat and curling up.

I want to try. Just...don't leave me alone with him? - DH

Stiles could manage that. Right?

I'll do my best - SS

Derek looked up at the clock, getting up and heading towards the shower.

Thanks. I'll be there in about an hour if that's okay? - DH

I won't start cooking until, like, five thirty - SS

But you can come by early if you want - SS

I'll be there in an hour - DH

Because I want to - DH

I'll see you then - SS

-----

It didn’t take long for Derek to shower and get over there, knocking on the front door.

"Hi!" Stiles said, grinning as he opened the door. "Dad's still at work, so we've got the house to ourselves."

Something in Derek's chest eased with the sight of Stiles’ smile. "Oh good. I figured I'd use the door for once," he joked.

"If the aim is to convince my dad our relationship is normal, seems like a good idea," Stiles replied.

Derek pulled him into a hug, kissing his forehead. "So, what's going to be for dinner?"

"Crustless quiche," Stiles said. If his dad was going to go for high-carbs, high-fat meals during the day, he'd have to live with the opposite for dinner.

"Sounds good to me." Derek shrugged. "Probably good I had something a bit healthier, I probably out-ate you in curly fries for lunch."

"So, what do you want to do until it's time for me to cook?" Stiles asked, leading Derek in towards the living room.

"I was watching food shows at home, though I'm open to suggestions," Derek said.

"...how do you feel about making out on the couch for a while?" Stiles suggested.

"I think that's a wonderful idea," Derek agreed, tugging Stiles onto the couch, sitting and guiding him to straddle his lap.

 

"Hi," Stiles said, feeling uncharacteristically shy.

"Hi." Derek gave him a tiny smile, cupping his jaw. "I missed you."

"I saw you yesterday," Stiles pointed out, but he blushed, pleased.

"I always miss you when you aren't with me," Derek admitted, thumbs tracing the blush on Stiles’ cheeks.

"If you'd told me a year ago that you could be this sweet," Stiles said, "I never would have believed you."

"You probably would have laughed in my face," Derek murmured, his lips twitching into a smile. He slipped his hand around into Stiles’ hair, tugging him slowly forward.

Stiles' gaze flicked from Derek's mouth to his eyes and back again, and his lips parted.

Derek scented the air, his mouth parting and eyes dilating at the scent of Stiles, then tugged him closer, kissing him tenderly.

Stiles drank in the kiss, arms twining around Derek's neck.

Derek moaned softly, wrapping his free hand around Stiles lower back and waist, holding him close, but letting him have control of the kiss.

Tentatively, Stiles dipped his tongue into Derek's mouth, experimenting.

Derek sucked in a breath, moaning and parting his lips further, spreading his legs a bit to give Stiles more stability.

Stiles pressed in closer, his tongue twining around Derek's.

Derek groaned as he slipped both of his hands down, thumbing at Stiles' hip bones just under his shirt.

Stiles shivered, breaking away to gulp a breath, before diving back in, sucking on Derek's lip, humming into the kiss.

Derek's eyes flicked over Stiles’ face with a soft whimper before letting them close again, his hips rolling without his say so.

Oh god, that was Derek's cock. Stiles groaned, shifting his hips to meet Derek's.

Derek let his hips fall still, hands clutching at Stiles, urging him on. He sucked on Stiles' tongue, eyes flashing under his lids.

Stiles ground down eagerly, fingers tangling in Derek's hair.

Derek moaned tilting his head back into Stiles' fingers. "Fuck," he groaned, sucking Stiles’ lower lip into his mouth.

Stiles pulled back, panting, his heart racing. "You're wearing too many clothes," he decided.

Derek gave him a breathless grin. "So are you," he panted, already reaching to tug off his shirt, tossing it to the side.

 

Stiles squirmed a little, kind of uncomfortable with showing off his underwhelming physique, but he did at least shrug off his overshirt.

"Is this okay?" Derek asked, scenting Stiles’ nerves as he slipped his fingers under Stiles' shirt, tracing over his abs and ribs.

"You like it, right?" Stiles checked, biting his lip.

Derek nodded as he continued running his hands over the skin he could feel. "I like it. I like you," he promised.

"It's just...you're so..." Stiles waved his hand, a gesture somehow encompassing all of Derek. "And I'm..."

"You're wonderful," Derek insisted. "And you aren't nearly as ‘whatever’ as you think you are."

Stiles made a face. "Skinny. Pale. Generally weird-looking."

"You’re lithe,” Derek grumbled. “And you are not pale and weird-looking, You have a pale complexion, yes, but that isn't a bad thing, and you don't look weird."

Stiles blushed, and tried to hide it by being flippant. "Ah, yes. Certified 'not weird-looking'. I'll make a cross-stitch and hang it on my wall."

"I'll make a skyplane fly it across the world that I think you're fucking hot," Derek said, kissing along Stiles’ jaw.

Stiles' mouth dropped open. "Yeah?" he asked quietly.

"Yes." Derek nodded, giving Stiles’ a small smile as his fingers traced his skin.

Stiles beamed at him. No one had ever thought he was hot before.

"So, no, you aren't weird looking," Derek said lowly.

Stiles shivered, biting his lip as his eyes grew dark.

Derek slipped Stiles’ shirt up to the armpits, eyeing him hungrily.

If not for that look on Derek's face, Stiles might have objected, but as it was, he just started breathing faster.

"This okay?" Derek asked, licking his lips and flicking his eyes up to Stiles' face. "I don't want to push you any farther than you'd be willing to go."

 

"Well, that's reassuring; but next time, keep it to a bedroom and not my couch? That fabric stains easier than a white shirt at a chili cook-off," they heard from the doorway, where the Sheriff had backed out as quickly as he had walked in.

"You weren’t getting home until five!" Stiles exclaimed, grabbing hurriedly for his shirt. "What the hell, Dad!"

John peeked in warily before coming back in."Slow day, and it's already four, Stiles. I'm not home that early."

Derek had to hide a laugh in his shirt. "Sorry, I was distracted. I couldn't smell or hear him."

"Great," Stiles said grumpily. "I'm just going to die of embarrassment now, don't mind me."

"No, no dying allowed." Derek pulled Stiles into a hug as he re-dressed.

John just clapped him on the shoulder. "At least I didn't catch you further along like your dziadek did me and your mother."

Stiles' jaw dropped. "He didn't . You never told me that!"

"That's just something I didn't want to share with my son," John said with a chuckled.

Stiles glanced at Derek, automatically checking in. He looked fine.

Derek gave him a small smile, a little tenser than before. He didn't exactly relish the thought of any questions, but John seemed not too worried about it.

Stiles smiled back at Derek reassuringly. " We'll be fine," he mouthed.

Derek couldn't help but relax, leaning forward without thinking to kiss Stiles' forehead. "I trust you," he breathed.

John watched that interaction, a slow smile crossing his face. "So, what are you torturing me with tonight, Son?"

Stiles' soft smile turned into a grin as he shot back at his Dad, "Crustless quiche. Vegetarian quiche."

"At least tell me there's real cheese in it," John begged.

Derek hid his smile in Stiles' hair.

"There's no such thing as fake cheese," Stiles objected. "Cheese is cheese."

"There’s that low fat nasty crap you tried to feed me last week," John deadpanned.

Derek just laughed, shaking his head. "Stiles!"

"For Derek's sake," Stiles said firmly, "I'll use the nice cheese. So you should be grateful to him and not ask weird questions."

Derek just snorted, his eyes sparkling in mirth. He peeked up at John, giving him a small smile.

John sighed. "What do you classify as weird?"

Stiles narrowed his eyes, thinking. "Anything you wouldn't have asked Lydia if she was here instead," he decided.

"Well, that actually didn't take away too many questions." John grinned, turning to Derek and asking, "So, are you on top or bottom, Derek?"

Derek sputtered, eyes widening as his face flushed. "You'd ask Lydia that?"

Stiles flailed backwards, tipping off Derek's lap and giving his dad a death glare. "Dad!"

 

Derek pulled Stiles back up onto his lap, using the weight of Stiles to anchor himself just as much as checking him over for injury.

John just laughed. "Come on, it’s just a joke, Stiles. Though I am curious. Do I have to worry about you being collared?"

Stiles gave Derek a careful look. Did Derek want his dad to know about the sub thing?

Derek blinked at Stiles, giving him a small smile and a nod before hiding his face in Stiles' neck. "Yes, sir," he whispered, making sure that John couldn't hear him.

"Other way round, Dad," Stiles said quietly. He didn't know how his dad would take it, considering he'd been mooning after a Dom for basically ever.

John blinked, watching how Derek curled around Stiles, his shoulders hunched. "Oh. That makes a bit of sense now that I think about it," he commented, giving them space so Derek didn't start freaking out.

"Really?" Stiles asked curiously, rubbing Derek's back.

"It doesn't sit well with him a lot of times, right? There have been interactions I've had with him, that now seem more like not being able to decompress and let things go than it did anger or resentment." John speculated, sitting in his chair. "Is he alright?"

Derek was trembling softly, breathing deeply and carefully as he fought not to panic. He was fine. John wasn't upset with him, wasn't laughing at him, wasn't trying to keep him away from Stiles...

"Shit." Stiles looked at Derek worriedly, then back at his dad. "Just...close your ears for a minute, okay?"

John raised an eyebrow, but cupped his hands over his ears so sounds would be muffled.

Derek let out a soft whine. "Sorry," he rasped out.

"No, you're so good, kochanie," Stiles murmured, stroking Derek's hair. "Do you want to tell me what's going through your head right now?"

"I was scared he'd laugh at me," Derek confessed. "Or get mad or say I'm lying...something. I just... I didn't expect..."

John raised an eyebrow, the word 'kochanie' making it through his hands. Oh, this was serious...

"You didn't expect him to believe you?" Stiles guessed. "Accept it?"

"Accept it," Derek finally answered. "I didn't think he'd let me...." he swallowed. "I was afraid he wouldn't let me keep you. That he'd arrest me or something, I don't know, sir, it's not making sense." He was slowly starting to calm down, trembling so hard his teeth were chattering.

"That's okay," Stiles promised. "Brains don't, always. Or feelings. You're fine, though."

*

Derek wrapped himself around Stiles, peeking over his shoulder at John before taking a deep breath, digging his claws into his palms to try and ground himself faster. He didn't like having a breakdown to begin with, much less when things had been going okay. He felt like such a dumbass.

Seeing that Derek still hadn't settled, John got up and quietly left the room. The boys deserved some privacy.

"You're doing really good," Stiles said quietly. "Remember how I said you should tell me when you're upset? And you did. That's really good."

"I...." Derek curled tighter. "I just hurt myself," he whispered, shame welling up in his chest.

"Oh, Derek," Stiles murmured sadly, stroking Derek's hair. "We need to find something for you to do instead, don't we? It's habit by now."

"I'm sorry," Derek choked out. "I don't know what to do...."

"You don't have to, sweetheart," Stiles promised. "What you're going to do is cuddle with me until you feel a little better, and then you're going to wash your hands and help me make quiche. Okay?"

Derek took a deep breath, nodding his head and burrowing close. "Yes, sir."

"Good boy."

Derek let out a soft sound at the praise, relaxing a bit. He didn't know what he could do with the self-harm....

"It doesn't get better overnight," Stiles said quietly, "but you are getting better, I think. I have this theory, too, about you getting upset like this?"

"What's that?" Derek asked. Curling tighter, he nuzzled along Stiles’ jaw, scenting him.

"I think you kept everything locked up tight for a long time, and now you're safe enough to let it out, it kind of overwhelms you sometimes, even if in that moment , it's not actually that much," Stiles suggested. "Does that make sense?"

"...that makes a lot of sense," Derek said, still trembling. "I'm sorry."

"Sweetheart, it's not something you can help," Stiles told him. "And I'm glad you feel safe enough with me to do this."

"I feel stupid and worthless,” Derek said, fighting the urge to rebury his claws in his hands. “Why can't I control something like this?"

"You can and you have," Stiles said firmly. "You're just...you're tired, Derek. Controlling it is hard, and you're tired."

"So tired," Derek whispered, his voice showing how weary he was. "Don't want to..."

Stiles sighed. "Let me look after you? You don't have to do it alone anymore."

Derek sucked in a deep breath. "I don't want you to get irritated with me," he admitted. "I know it's hard, and I keep messing up."

"That is so unlikely, dude, really," Stiles promised. "But how about, if I need a break - not altogether, just like, a few hours or a day or whatever, I can tell you, and then outside of that, you'll know we're fine?"

Derek hesitated, nodding after a moment. "I can try. It'll be hard, for me to let go like that..."

"I get that," Stiles agreed. "But maybe it'll help you feel like you have control and stuff? Knowing that you can cope without me for a little while."

Derek nodded again. "But I mean, it'll be hard for me to - to not have control over myself for awhile. I'm so used to it."

"Dude, you're already doing it," Stiles pointed out. "I mean, look at this."

 

Derek pulled back enough to look up at him. "What?"

"Look at what we're doing right now, what we've been doing," Stiles elaborated. "Have you not been giving up your control?"

Derek hesitated. "I have. It's just hard for me to." He pulled his hand around, eyeing the blood on it. "I need to not have the control all the time, except when I need to do Alpha things. But it's hard, and it almost hurts, having the control leech out of me. A good hurt, but a hurt."

"We'll figure it out," Stiles promised, frowning a little as he looked at Derek's hand. He needed to do some reading, clearly. "We've got time."

Derek gave him a small smile. "Thank you," he whispered. "For not giving up on me."

"Never," Stiles said firmly. "Are you feeling better now?"

"Yeah, a little bit," Derek admitted. "Still feeling a bit...off. But better."

"Good." Stiles smiled at him and gave him a quick kiss. "Come on, then. Quiche time."

Derek soaked up the kiss, giving Stiles a smile before standing up and setting Stiles carefully on his feet. "Yes sir," he teased.

Stiles glanced around, relaxing a little when he realised his dad had left, and led Derek to the bathroom to wash his hands. He hated seeing the blood there.

Derek let lead him, leaning against the counter as he watched the water wash the dried blood away. "I'm sorry."

"We'll work on it," Stiles replied. It was obvious that using pain to ground himself was automatic for Derek now - he wasn't doing it on purpose.

"Yes, sir." Derek gave Stiles a small smile, fighting the urge to hang his head in shame.

*

Stiles smiled back, and tentatively kissed Derek's cheek. "I'm proud of you, you know."

Derek blinked in surprise, staring at Stiles. "Why?"

"You didn't run away," Stiles replied quietly. "You stayed, and you let me help."

"I didn't think of it that way," Derek admitted, smiling more as he made sure his hands were clean.

"Well, I did," Stiles said with a shrug. "So yeah, I'm proud of you."

Derek turned, kissing Stiles hard. "I think I love you," he blurted out. His eyes widened, and he fled the room, his face bright red. Oh fuck. He loved Stiles...

Stiles stopped stock still, his mind gone entirely blank. Derek loved him? Derek loved him. Fuck. He...could he just not deal with this? For a little while? Was that a thing that could happen?

Derek stopped when he got to the kitchen, leaning on the counter, eyes wide in shock. Oh shit, he loved Stiles. "Sorry, sorry, sorry," he mumbled, shivering as he remembered Stiles’ reaction.

 

After a minute or so, Stiles shook himself out of it and went looking for Derek. "Kochanie?" he called quietly.

"Sorry,” Derek whimpered, slipping to the floor. "I'm sorry, don't hate me, please."

"Derek - why would I - what are you doing?" Stiles sputtered.

Derek licked his lips, straightening his back, hands on his thighs. "Kneeling," he murmured. "I'm sorry." He actually felt a bit more grounded, and he had no idea why he could kneel so easily now of all times.

"No, I mean, why are you apologising?" Stiles clarified. "You didn't hurt yourself again, did you?"

Derek shook his head, wanting to dig his claws into himself, curling his fingers but not letting them out. "No, sir. I just...I could smell the panic..."

Stiles dropped to his knees on the kitchen floor, cupping Derek's cheeks. "Hey," he said gently. "Derek. It's okay. You're not responsible for my feelings, okay?"

"I caused it though," Derek whispered, claws breaking through denim and almost into skin.

"You aren't responsible for my feelings," Stiles repeated firmly. "Is that clear?"

"Yes, sir," Derek whispered. "I'm still sorry I freaked you out."

"It's fine," Stiles reassured him, stroking Derek's cheek with his thumb. "I'm...not there yet, but it's okay. As long as you're okay with that."

Derek leaned into the touch, soaking it up as much as he could. "I'm okay with it," he whispered. "I can smell that you want me, that you like me. And that helps, too."

"Okay," Stiles said. "Thank you, kochanie."

The endearment made Derek relax, and he smiled at Stiles. He had holes in his jeans now, but no blood. "Quiche?"

"Yeah, quiche," Stiles agreed. "Do you want to crack eggs or chop vegetables?"

"Crack eggs, please," Derek replied. "I like quiche."

Stiles grinned at him. "Good."

-----

Derek sat close to Stiles, eating carefully. He was still shaky, though the soft banter as they cooked had helped.

John watched the two of them closely, not wanting to say anything about Derek's issues earlier, but curious about their dynamic. "So, what are you boys planning for your date?" he asked.

"We're going to see a movie," Stiles told him happily, gesturing with one hand because his other was on Derek's knee. "Did we end up deciding which?"

"I think last time we talked we were stuck between Wolverine, The Croods, and Now You See Me," Derek answered, humming lightly. "Guess it depends on showtimes."

"The Croods?" John said doubtfully. "Really?"

"It could be fun," Stiles protested.

"It's supposed to be hilarious. Actually it's got the highest rotten tomatoes rating of the three," Derek defended, patting Stiles' knee.

"It's animated cavemen called Ugg," John said flatly.

"And a sloth named Belt," Derek shot back. "And it's about not being afraid.."

John glanced at Stiles and raised his hands in surrender. "Alright, if you want to watch a kid's movie on your first date, you boys go right ahead."

"Family movie." Derek was grinning now. "At least it's not Frozen."

A few key plot points from the trailers flashed through Stiles' mind and he winced. "For the record," he said, "we are not watching Frozen." 'Conceal, don't feel' was not a message Derek needed to hear right now.

Derek laughed brightly. "No, that's not on our list."

"It doesn't come out until December anyway," Stiles added. "So..."

"Still not on the list." Derek popped a piece of bell pepper into his mouth, eyes sparkling with mirth.

John smiled at the two of them. They clearly cared about each other a lot, and they were good together. Still, he did have some concerns. "Derek, son," he said. "It's not my business to pry, but I can't help wondering if you've considered seeing a therapist at any point."

Derek hesitated, shifting in his spot. "A lot of this I can't really talk to a therapist about. Either I clam up or it’s to do with werewolves and...everything," he finally answered, searching for the right words.

"There's no therapists in the know?" John asked.

Derek shrugged. "It's not like I can ask them...not without being committed."

"We could try asking Deaton," Stiles suggested. "There's gotta be somebody ."

"True,” Derek conceded. “We can ask him tomorrow or this weekend."

"If we find someone you can talk to...would you go?" Stiles asked, watching Derek carefully.

Derek tucked his shoulders up a few notches. "I can try," he said, his voice soft. He didn't know if he could. But he'd at least try.

Stiles smiled at him. "Only if you're ready," he murmured.

"I want to try," Derek insisted, keeping his voice low. "I want to get better. And even though you're helping, I'm irritated at myself for being broken to begin with."

"You're not broken," Stiles said firmly.

John nodded, backing Stiles up. "Son, you've been through some hard things. I'm sure I don't know about all of them, but from what I do know, it's completely understandable that you've got some trouble dealing with them."

Derek gave John a hesitant smile, his hand slipping onto Stiles’ leg, squeezing lightly in thanks. "Thank you, Sheriff. I'm trying to deal with things. And Stiles helps a lot, too."

"I could see that earlier," John said quietly. "But I want you boys to keep in mind the possibility of burnout, okay? Helping other people is important, but you need to look after yourself, too."

"I'll be fine , Dad," Stiles argued.

"We already have an agreement on that, Sheriff," Derek murmured, curling his fingers around Stiles’, but his voice was soft, self-doubt creeping into his mind. Was he letting Stiles get the care he needed?

Stiles squeezed Derek's hand reassuringly.

John nodded approvingly. "Just remember that if either of you need support, you can come to me, and I'll do my best to help you out." Derek might be older than Stiles, but he was still practically a kid in John's eyes.

Derek nodded, picking at his food a bit, the reassuring squeeze calming him a bit. "I don't want to be a burden."

"It's not being a burden to need a little looking after," John said firmly.

"Sometimes I think I need more than a ‘little’," Derek admitted.

"That's fine too," Stiles reassured him, squeezing his hand again. "Just don't lie to me about it, and we're good. Fair?"

Derek nodded. "I can try." He gave Stiles a small smile. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," Stiles said, nudging Derek with his shoulder, then turning his attention back to his food.