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"Dad!"

The agonized cry echoed through the woods. A beat of silence passed before an enraged roar shook the trees. A dark blur tore past the frozen knot of teenagers at the edge of the clearing, leaping out at the intruding pack of werewolves they had been hunting all week.  

Stiles shook free of the hands holding him back and half ran, half stumbled to the collapsed form of his father, who should not have been there, heedless of the cries of his pack mates and the snarling form of Derek as the alpha defended them from the invaders.

“Dad, oh God, Dad! Please be all right, please, please, be all right...” Stiles wasn’t even aware what he was muttering as his shaking hands wavered over his dad, trying to work up the courage to turn his parent over and know for sure what the alpha of the foreign pack had done. Was he an orphan or would he be introducing his dad to all the secrets he’d been keeping for a year?

He couldn’t even contemplate the first option. It was bad enough losing Mom, but he and Dad had made it through by leaning on each other.  Losing Dad, especially when it was all his fault he was even taken in the first place, would completely break him. Stiles didn’t even know what to do when your only parent died. He’d probably be shipped off to his aunt’s place in Iowa. Who lived in Iowa? Not werewolves, he’d bet. Oh God, he’d never see the pack again!

The second option was almost worse. He’d lied to his dad so many times. They were barely on speaking terms anymore because he just couldn’t take that look of disappointment when he had to creatively explain various scrapes and bruises gained from supernatural shenanigans. Laying it all out there for his dad, since there was no way the man wouldn’t have noticed his abductors were a little hairy, may just end up with him never being allowed to see the pack again anyway.

He forced his racing thoughts back, but before he got up the guts to find out what he’d be dealing with, a hand gently pressed on his shoulder. He jumped and let out a sound he would later deny was a shriek. “Oh, Jesus!”

“Stiles,” sounded the reassuring voice of his alpha. Stiles clasped his still shaking hands together and turned his head to look up at Derek, fighting all the while against the tears he refused to let fall.

Derek’s eyes met his and, in that weird voiceless communication they’d somehow found after their initial mutual distrust faded, immediately reassured him.  In a surprise move, Derek also verbally followed up and said, “He’s alive, Stiles. His pulse and breathing are fine. He’s just unconscious.”

“Oh thank God.” Stiles closed his eyes and sagged back against Derek’s legs, willing the incipient panic attack away. He could deal with the left over adrenaline and anxiety after they got his dad settled.  He took a moment of comfort from Derek, who hadn’t moved his hand yet, lending alpha-style support.

Opening his eyes, he glanced around for the rest of the pack, feeling a pang of guilt for not having checked on his friends as soon as the fighting had ceased. Lydia was the closest, crouched at his level and patiently waiting for Stiles to get it together. Seeing his attention was on her, she gave him a small encouraging smile before gracefully rising and barking out orders to a hovering Jackson and Isaac. Both wolves, covered in slowly healing gashes that screamed about the ferocity of the final battle, glanced over at Stiles, waiting for him to nod that he was ok. Erica and Boyd had apparently already begun clean up, trusting their pack mates to tend each other.

It still amazed him sometimes, just how far they’d come as group since the whole supernatural craziness had started. Well, started for them anyway; Derek had always been part of that world. Not that he was a mermaid or anything. And now he was picturing Derek rising out of the ocean shirtless. Right, that was not helpful at the moment. Or any moment, really, when there were supernatural sniffers around, just waiting to embarrass poor smitten virgin teenage boys without a hope in hell of their crush ever being reciprocated. 

Yeah, he may have been getting a little too used to stressful situations if his brain recovered that quickly.  He shook his head to clear it, only then realizing Derek still hadn’t let go of his shoulder and was, in fact, gripping tighter.

“Hey, ow! What’s the deal, Sourwolf?”

Derek was not uncharacteristically glowering, but using his super Alpha Expression Decoding mental file, Stiles saw the underlying anxiety and, was that nervousness?

“Derek, what...”

He was quickly cut off as Derek used his grip on Stiles’ shoulder to somehow switch their positions. Stiles really needed to learn how he did that; it was unfortunate he was usually the only one being manhandled so he couldn’t observe the manoeuvre.  Not that being manhandled by Derek was something he really wanted to share. Nope, he’d totally developed a Pavlovian response to that, one which he refused to be embarrassed by. See previous: Virgin, Teenage, Boy.

Not that that was here nor there at the moment.  Derek was beyond tense. He was practically a wall of tight muscle that in any circumstance other than one involving his dad, Stiles would appreciate and store for later...use. The betas reacted to their alpha’s unease and promptly dropped what they were doing, literally in Isaac’s case as Stiles caught limp limbs falling out of the corner of his eye, and formed a circle around the sheriff’s prone body. 

Stiles grabbed on to the back of Derek’s shredded (And seriously? Could the guy not keep any piece of clothing intact? This was why they couldn’t have nice things) shirt and hauled himself off the ground.

“Dude, seriously, what’s going on? Is my dad ok?” He wasn’t panicking. Yet.

Derek’s response was rather less than verbal as he growled lowly.  It wasn’t his usual annoyed sound to put whichever beta in the dog house (Ha, those were never getting old), but it made the hair on the back of Stiles’ neck stand on end. He fisted his handful of cloth closer, determined to get an answer, but Lydia gently pried his fingers open and drew him a few steps back. He went reluctantly; Stiles may not be in love with her anymore, but only a fool refused to do what she wanted.

Stiles had a horrible suspicion that he knew what was happening, but his mind refused to accept it.

“Derek?” he pleaded, wanting reassurance that he was wrong.

A beat passed with Derek still rumbling before he said quietly, “I’m sorry, Stiles. I didn’t smell the blood from the bite.”

Oh.

Oh God.

His dad was bitten by an alpha werewolf. His dad was going to turn.

And it was Stiles’ fault.

Stiles was reeling.  The panic attack he’d narrowly avoided earlier was coming back with a vengeance as he started hyperventilating.  Lydia obviously saw the shock set in as her tiny hands immediately clamped down on his shoulders with a steel grip.

“Pull it together, Stilinski,” she commanded.

His breathing didn’t, couldn’t slow down.  Lydia shook her head in exasperation before saying, “Listen up; I’m only saying this once. You can handle this.  You walked Scott through the first few months after the change, after figuring out he was a werewolf in a world that said there was no such thing. You spend almost every hour outside of school playing mother to a pack of wolves, and keeping your best friend from going completely omega. You snark at an undead wolf for kicks. You face off against threats to the pack, which they only know how to deal with in the first place because of your research, with pretty much only your wits and incessantly running mouth.” She shook him hard. “You can handle this. You will be there for your father.”

Stiles blinked at her. That was pretty much the first time anyone had overtly acknowledged that he contributed anything to the pack. And to Scott, but that was a ball of tangled issues he couldn’t touch at the moment without getting really, really angry.

Oh, the pack always made sure he was included in their training or hanging out, and puppy piles made his day, but he never felt like he contributed that much. Sure, he did what he could to make life easier for his friends or to ensure they were able to actually continue living their lives.  Aside from the research, a lot of what he did was just instinctive anyway.  He was a caretaker by nature (Just ask his dad. Or not and avoid the complaints about tofu), and Lydia was right, of course, that he could handle being there to support his dad through this, too.  He owed him nothing less.

His panicked breathing eased off again with his rising determination.  Just in time, too, as the betas all grew visibly on edge and tightened their protective perimeter, enough so that Stiles couldn’t see his dad and that was not making him happy. But he didn’t have time to complain. Not that he would, really. He honestly knew when to hold his tongue in pack situations now.

Mostly.

Derek let up on the growl he’d returned to after breaking the news of the brave new world Stiles was going to exist in for the rest of eternity. “Sheriff, I need you to stay calm and focus on me. Everything will be explained, but right now, Sheriff, I really need you to block everything out except right here. The situation is contained and secure.  Stiles is fine, Sheriff, but staying calm is imperative to that.”

Stiles blinked again, stunned for an entirely different reason. That may have been the calmest Derek Hale had ever spoken. And when had he read a manual on how to deal with trauma victims? The even tone and the repetition of Dad’s title was part of police protocol in dealing with victims.

Stiles may or may not have been really bored one day a few years ago while under parental arrest, which basically meant his dad not trusting him out of his sight. It wasn’t like there was much choice of reading material in the sheriff’s office. And who knew when proper emergency procedures would be necessary? Stiles liked to think that younger Stiles had adequately prepared his future self for dealing with werewolves and werewolf-adjacent issues in a perfectly Whovian timey wimey twist.

Back to the situation at hand. Stiles cringed as an aggressive and definitely non-human sound came from the centre of his over-protective pack.  He could appreciate the need to contain a newly turned beta, especially one whose alpha was no longer amongst the living. (At least, Stiles assumed so. That was the plan, after all. The rogue pack was too violent to let live intact, not even counting the three deaths in the week they’d occupied Beacon Hills.) But seriously, this was his dad. He was basically the epitome of self-control, if not from being sheriff, then definitely from having dealt with Stiles for seventeen years.

But Stiles still trusted Derek. As much as he wanted to run over to see his dad for himself, or even just vocally reassure the no doubt confused man, he knew getting a grip on newfound werewolfitude was critical.

Lydia slipped her hand into his, first prying open his clenched fist, and gave a reassuring squeeze.

“Hale?” came his dad’s voice, a little hoarse and slightly panicked, but definitely human. “What the hell is going on?”

Before Derek could answer, Dad’s very sheriff-y tone sounded out, “Stiles? Where’s Stiles? What have you gotten my son into?”

Stiles stumbled forward a few steps almost against his will at the underlying fear in his dad’s voice, guilt hammering at him. Only Lydia’s grip on his hand called him back to his senses, ‘cause, yeah, newly turned wolf, highly alert pack, not a good combination.

“I’m here, Dad, everything’s ok.” He mustered a pathetic sounding laugh. “You know how you wanted to know everything I’d been keeping from you? Yeah, that’s pretty much a given now.”

Derek stepped in, sounding every inch the alpha he’d become in the past few months. “Sheriff, I know you’ve had a trying night so far, and what I’m about to tell you will seem far-fetched, but please, stay calm.”

Stiles still couldn’t see much with Derek, Jackson, and Boyd being the three closest wolves in their little huddle. Which, yeah, that wasn’t obvious strategy with the biggest wolves between the newly-turned sheriff and the puny humans. Even if he couldn’t see, he could still clearly picture the unimpressed look on his dad’s face, especially when Derek immediately started talking.

“Sheriff,” and Stiles really wanted to smirk at Derek’s continued use of Dad’s title, “werewolves exist.”

Leave it to Derek to put things as bluntly as possible. Lydia let out a sound that, coming from anyone other than her, would be a snort.

Again, the silence spoke volumes to Stiles. This time, the look was probably Dad’s ‘really, this is what you’re going with?’ expression. Stiles was intimately familiar with that one. Which probably said a lot about his life choices. But then, well, werewolves, so enough said.

Derek gamely continued, “The group that abducted you tonight were a rival pack, looking to take over my family’s ancestral territory. They were also responsible for the three open murder cases you’ve been looking into. I apologize for your being brought into this; Stiles is a human member of my pack and has tried to keep you safe by keeping you out of this world. Unfortunately, we didn’t predict that this particular pack would be bold enough to take the sheriff, let alone bite you.”

Stiles was grateful Derek had stressed that Stiles was still human, but he somehow doubted Dad had gotten the full point.

“Let’s say I believe you, which to be honest...ah, hell, he bit me.  That is not normal.” Dad was quiet for a beat and then sighed. “If what you’re saying is true, I assume that means what I think it means? And why you’re all standing between me and my son, who hasn’t even tried to check on his old man?”

Stiles grinned sharply. That was his dad. Lydia nudged him with a very pointy elbow that should probably be declared a weapon in the pack’s arsenal and gave him a very approving nod. Her expression went slightly calculating, which made Stiles’ blood run cold (he’d seen those looks directed at Chris Argent and had overheard a very scarring conversation about DILFS between Erica and Lydia), but she shook it off before he could react.

“I’m sorry, sir. I wasn’t able to get to you quickly enough to prevent you from being turned.”

Okay, enough was enough. Stiles burst out, “Derek, do we have to have another conversation about taking on unnecessary burdens? That would be fun for everyone, I don’t think.”

Stiles was so beyond tired of Derek thinking everything was his fault, a nasty habit unfortunately only reinforced by Scott’s recent actions.  He felt his heart start to race in fury at everyone who had forced Derek into his scapegoat state of mind; if he could raise Kate Argent from the dead (yeah, that had been a fun pack meeting when Derek ‘came clean’ about that bitch’s manipulation), he’d kill her again, but slowly. Maybe he should ask Peter for tips...but first to deal with his regressing alpha.

“Dude, there was no way you could get to him. We only found their trail when they wanted us to; this whole thing was practically scripted. But their whole plan literally went to pieces along with them, largely thanks to you, and we’ll get through this, so suck it up. There’s no blame going around,” he said, glaring at Derek’s tense shoulders.

Stiles smiled slightly as Jackson accidentally-on-purpose bumped shoulders with Derek, showing his alpha support in a totally Jackson sort of way.  And who would have thought Douchewolf would ever be a better friend than Scott?

“Hale, Derek, the kid is right, and Jesus son, is that your heartbeat? How much Adderall did you take?”

Oh shit. Dad was a werewolf. Dad was a werewolf with super hearing. Dad was a werewolf with super hearing that could pick out his heartbeat-and his lies. There went any chance of slipping things past him, the unalienable right of any teenager. Stiles-time was about to become a thing of the past. What was his life?

His traitorous pack mates were snickering at the severe suckitude of his life, but he took a page from Derek’s book and settled for glaring at them. Mostly at Derek, Jackson, and Boyd’s backs, since that was all he could see, but he was sending dirty looks with his brain. Or something like that. Maybe Dad had a point with the Adderall.

“But seriously, Derek. I do not blame you for this situation. You ended a threat to the people under my protection, one the law is not equipped to handle, and then contained a possible threat to my son without violence, while addressing the situation calmly and rationally. There’s no blame to assign here. Even if I would have liked to know this whole werewolf thing was possible in advance, which is on my son, not you, and do not think we aren’t having that conversation Stiles, something tells me there’s very little I could have done to prevent being knocked out from behind and dragged out here.”

His dad was awesome. Seriously, how many people could calmly accept that one, werewolves, for real dude, and two, hey, now you’re one? Scott as case in point. But what really made Stiles proud was the way the tension in Derek’s shoulders lessened.  Sometimes they all forgot Derek wasn’t more than a kid himself, and had been fending for himself for far too long. Having an authority figure, at least now that they were all past that horrific I’m-the-alpha stage, absolve him of guilt was a huge thing.

Dad continued, obviously having seen the same thing, albeit on Derek’s face, not his admittedly admirable backside, “So here’s what’s going to happen. You all are going to step aside so I can see my son. I won’t make a move until you’re satisfied I’m safe for Stiles, and who I assume is Miss Martin. We will then discuss just what this means and what we’re going to do about it.”

Having someone else layout the plan of action was having a serious calming effect on the pack, probably instigated by Derek’s emotions sweeping the pack bond. 

Yeah, his dad rocked. 

With a nod from their alpha, Boyd and Jackson took steps to the right and left, respectively, aligning themselves with Erica and Isaac.  Lydia gave his hand a squeeze before dropping it and also taking a step away, realizing this was a family moment.  Derek hesitated, glancing over his shoulder at the human pack members. Stiles hoped his expression reflected his approval and pride in how Derek had dealt with the situation. Derek obviously got something out of it, since he moved a half step to the right, turning so he could observe both Stilinskis.

And then there was Dad. Human shaped werewolf Dad, which was seriously weird. Again, how was this his life?

“Hey, Dad,” Stiles grinned and gave a stupid little wave. “Welcome to the Wonderful World of Werewolves. Not to be confused with the Wonderful World of Disney. Although we do have faeries.  And witches.  But no mermaids, leprechauns, time travel, or body swapping. Well, not yet anyway.”

Everyone just looked at him. Which, not an unusual turn of events.  Dad had that ‘why is that my son’ look, and Stiles noted he would pay to see the wolfed out version of that, since it so wouldn’t work without eyebrows.  Derek actually facepalmed, which totally made Stiles’ night.

Dad turned to Derek, after his alpha managed to pry his face off his hands, and they shared a look of commiseration, which, hey, so not cool.

Turning back to Stiles, Dad totally gave a wolfy sniff before asking, “So you’re all right, kid?”

“Yeah, Dad. I’m good. How are you handling,” Stiles made a circular gesture, ok flail, that was completely and obviously referring to werewolfdom and things, “everything?”

“Do not even think we won’t be discussing why you’ve been in dangerous situations with werewolves, Christ kid, only you, and didn’t tell me. Which I’m assuming has to do with a certain absent Scott.” Stiles looked down and scuffed his shoe in the dirt. His dad’s tone gentled as he continued, “But, I’m ok, Stiles. This is...way beyond anything I could have imagined, but this is not the worst case scenario from tonight.”

Yeah, he had that right. Stiles was just so looking forward to the nightmares tonight when his brain would pull on his major guilt and decide to play out every possible ending, other than the one that actually happened.

Dad made a move toward Stiles, obviously sensing his distress, but Derek gave a short growl that had him pulling up in his tracks.

Stiles didn’t often get to see his dad sheepish, but it was totally priceless. “Ah, right. No heading to the kid until approved. And what was that about? I take it there are layers of seniority, like a regular wolf pack? Something that gives you authority and can make the kids fall in line? And is the whole wolf thing only on a full moon? Because I don’t feel the urge to go chase bunnies for dinner.”

Stiles smirked at the blinking faces of his pack. What, he had to come by it somewhere.

Derek, as ever resilient to Stilinski ramblings, although minus the epic Hale eye roll Stiles usually received, focused on the key points. “Yes, sir,” and yeah that was never getting old, hearing Derek defer to Dad, “werewolves, either born or bitten, have ranks. The alpha is the leader, and the only one who can turn someone.  An alpha has some additional strength and other pack-related enhancements, while the betas are the most common members of the pack.”

Stiles snorted, since that was putting it mildly.  Derek wasn’t allowed to spar with the betas anymore, unless it was four-on-one. Or Peter, because dude was sneaky and a born wolf, and honestly, no one cared if he got hurt. (Okay, that wasn’t totally fair; Peter was slowly making amends in his second take on life and was actually a team player. Mostly. Sometimes. When he got something out of it.) They’d found out the hard way that as he emotionally settled into the role, Derek’s strength took off exponentially, notably when he had been fighting Jackson and accidentally threw him through all the remaining walls of the Hale house.  Incidentally, that sparked both Jackson’s loyalty and the currently on-going rebuild of the house.

Lydia picked up the thread of Lycanthropy 101 in Ten Minutes or Less, ready as ever to lecture the pack on Stiles’ and her research. “The moon has some control over the change, which is not a full wolf, but more of a hybrid form for betas and most alphas. However, once you learn to anchor yourself, which may take less time as an adult, you’ll be able to shift at will and will find your senses, already enhanced, even stronger.”

She turned to Stiles, saying sotto voce, “We should take the opportunity to observe the differences between the bite as affecting teenagers and adults. We’ve already seen that hormones have a direct impact on being able to control the shift, especially on the full moon, but adults have settled hormone levels and a general control teenagers lack. This could give us significant insight into the change itself.  We’ll have to establish tests for stress reactions over the course of a lunar cycle, perhaps two trials of emotional and physical stress, respectively.” 

There was no universe where Lydia and her brain didn’t terrify him.

While Lydia continued developing an entire experiment protocol, Derek stepped back in, giving Dad the basic rundown of senses that he should be experiencing and how to control them to mimic human. That part of the conversation inevitably led to a brief intro on hunters and the fact that there was a hunting family in town, but at least the remaining members seemed to keep to their (highly variable) Code.

Dad was doing that patented Stilinksi pulling together of inferences. Stiles knew that look of concentration and winced in anticipation. He tried to signal his dad to abort, but he either didn’t see it or ignored it as general Stiles-flail.

“Son, I’m sorry about your family.” It seemed like the whole clearing held their breath before Derek simply gave a short nod.

Dad obviously got the point that the subject was a no-fly zone and returned to his questions. “So, you’re obviously the alpha and a born wolf. The kids, then?”

Erica piped up, “We’re all bitten, Sheriff, but we all asked for it and it’s made our lives better.” Bless her for making it clear that everyone present had indeed made the choice to become a wolf, at least those for whom the bite had actually taken. Dad was big on consent issues, unsurprisingly.

Isaac, cementing his place as Stiles’ favourite, said with palpable sincerity, “Yeah, Sheriff, it’s really not so bad, being a werewolf, and we’re all really close. Pack is like Thanksgiving or Christmas, whenever you have those warm, fuzzy family feelings, but every day.”

Seriously, the pup was adorable now that he’d dropped his defensive psycho act and finally felt safe. Stiles kind of wanted to go over and pet him.

He even saw Derek hide a rare smile, and he should really do that more. Or maybe not for the sake of Stiles’ heart.

“So how does this pack thing work? I’m assuming lone werewolves are a bad idea, considering this hollow feeling in my gut.”

Dad was so cool. He was handling all of this like it was completely normal and matter of fact. There probably wouldn’t even be an incipient freak out like Stiles had pencilled in for a few hours from now.

“Yes, sir, lone wolves are what we call omegas, and they tend to go feral without a pack, but that doesn’t always happen if you’re a wolf with a strong anchor. Given that you have had a traumatic experience with a lot of information thrown at you and you haven’t wolfed out, I’d be inclined to say you’d do fine on your own.  If you wanted to join our pack, it’s really just a matter of training with us and learning to trust us.  The trust and familiarity leads to forming a pack bond, which basically means a subconscious recognition of the pack and their general state.  Even if you don’t want to completely join the pack, I’d still feel more comfortable with you spending a few days with us training with your wolf, and especially on the next few full moons until you find an anchor to balance out the call of the moon.” 

Stiles was in awe of Talkative Derek. That was a really perfect explanation and Derek got kudos for the ‘our’ instead of ‘my’.  Again, Stiles thanked every deity he could think of that the early days of Derek’s alphaness were long gone. Especially during moments like this, where he could actually see the true strength of Derek’s character, not the fire-tempered shell with which he’d arrived back in Beacon Hills.

The key thing was that Dad was looking extremely impressed, which should have made him relax that maybe Dad being in the know wasn’t the worst thing in the world.  Instead, it made a little bubble of panic rise up in Stiles’ chest.

“There’s always Scott’s pack,” his mouth said without any permission from his brain. Stiles grew more horrified as his voice continued, “Yeah, Dad, Scott would be a better bet for you. He’s totally into democracy and making sure everyone agrees with a decision.  He’d probably really appreciate your input. And he’s really against killing, so you know, no violation of that oath to serve and protect.”

Oh God, why couldn’t he shut up? And where was this coming from? Stiles himself wasn’t in Scott’s pack. He wasn’t even on speaking terms with the dude after the hundredth time his former best friend had screwed Derek over in favour of the Argents, or left Stiles hanging to go be with Allison. Hanging around the Argents and their prejudice had only made Scott’s resentment toward Derek and Stiles even bitterer.  Derek, for ‘taking away his chance to be normal’ by killing Peter, which, hello! Even if that worked, it would have meant Scott living with having killed someone. Or being an alpha, which, let’s face it, not the optimal scenario. And he was more than subconsciously blaming Stiles for getting him bitten in the first place, making it awkward the few times they had hung out before Stiles had had enough.  Hell, Scott hadn’t even bothered to come out to try to find Stiles’ dad, even after Stiles had left half a dozen voicemails begging for extra help.

Stiles clenched his eyes shut, not wanting to see the reaction (Derek’s reaction) to his basically treasonous speech. It was bad enough hearing the snarls from the betas. One was definitely Erica’s, higher and decidedly more vicious.  He didn’t want to identify the others.

“Stiles,” Dad said, gently. “Look at me, kid.”

Hesitantly, Stiles opened his eyes, finding his father right in front of him. He spared a moment to be fiercely proud of his dad for getting a handle on the whole wolf thing so quickly, since there was no way Derek would have let him move an inch if he wasn’t in control.  No matter how pissed Derek might be at the moment.

“You don’t really mean that, do you.”

Huh, maybe the lack of punctuation was actually just a thing that happened with werewolves old enough to not have ‘teen’ in their age (Stiles just couldn’t label Derek ‘adult’).

Stiles opened his mouth to affirm that no, he didn’t want his dad in Scott’s pack, but for once, nothing came out. He managed to shrug in defeat, but nothing more than that.

His dad sighed, and part of Stiles’ mind that wasn’t frozen in horror noted that it was decidedly less weary than even that morning. “Kid, you know that making the tough choices is what being a leader is all about. Scott’s just not the type of person who can handle that. Which I think you know, since I haven’t seen the two of you together in weeks. And I doubt the power dynamic of having his best friend’s dad as his...beta,” he stumbled over the unfamiliar terminology, “would do much in letting him mature into a real leader.”

His dad carefully clasped Stiles’ arms, making sure to telegraph the movement to the still-wary Derek. “And I think you know all that, and that it isn’t a viable option, so why don’t you tell me what that suggestion was really about.”

Despite the fact that it was a horrible, traumatic thing for his dad to have to go through, Stiles was suddenly extremely grateful that the Stilinski men were once again on the same wavelength. His dad hadn’t truly been able to read him like that in months. The last bit of tension from the lies and evasions dissipated, letting Stiles figure out just why his brain had taken a brief hiatus.

“It’s just...Dad, you’re really good at figuring stuff out and making plans and organizing what needs to be done, ‘cause, duh, sheriff, and you’re just a really great person overall. And Derek’s really a good person, too; he’s smart and really loyal and he can be funny when he’s not really trying, but that’s beside the point. He’s just completely grown into the alpha role and takes amazing care of the pack as a whole and as individuals. And if you’re really great at all that, and Derek’s really great at all of that, then neither of you is really going to need me anymore. Because all I’m really good for is research and you could totally do that better. Plus, you’re a werewolf and I’m not, so you wouldn’t be a liability like I am. And Derek can help you with the wolf stuff better than I can, but with Scott, you’d still need me because he’s hopeless and kind of really hates the whole wolf thing, so if you were in Scott’s pack, you’d both still need me.”

And the Stilinski Babble strikes again. Stiles kind of hated himself for that self-pitying rant, but every word of it was true. Derek really only needed him as researcher and tactician, and well, why would he need Stiles when he could have the man he’d learned everything from? And Stiles was totally not kidding about Scott being a useless wolf Yoda, especially since he seemed to spend most days actively trying to forget or ignore that he was a werewolf. But yeah, everything he’d just blurted out was a legitimate fear.

He knew his dad would never truly just abandon him, but the selfish part of Stiles, the possessive part normal people got rid of in kindergarten, didn’t want to share his dad with the pack, and didn’t want to share the pack with his dad.

“Seriously, Stilinski? You think you don’t do much for the pack?” came from Jackson. “You really are an idiot if you believe that.”

Lydia hissed at her boyfriend, but Stiles, batting aside the ingrained annoyance at Jackson’s existence, was actually grateful Jackson was being Jackson. They might get along better now, but the one thing Stiles could count on was Jackson always giving it to him straight.

“Stiles, even beyond the supernatural research, which we have Lydia or Peter for anyway and we just prefer you because you break it down plainly and usually accompanied by a plan, but even beyond that, how can you not see how you’re as much a part of the pack as any of us?” Isaac sounded genuinely upset that Stiles doubted his place. He’d been a bit fragile after the final fall-out with Scott; he’d gotten clingy with the pack as a result. The curly-haired beta chewed his lip and kind of side-eyed the others before blurting, “You’re the only one who I talk to about my nightmares. You never make me feel weird or pathetic and just listen when I need someone.”

Erica rode right over any awkwardness with her own confession, “I would have failed out of algebra and English without you.”

He blinked at her. That was news to him.

She saw the complete incomprehension on his face and snarled a bit at having to explain. “After the bite, I was so concerned with finally not being seizure girl and actually feeling attractive that I let more important things slide. I would have been held back last year if you hadn’t sat me down and made that rambling speech about how you were glad I was healthy, but missed me as a person.”

She blushed, which made Stiles, being the asshole that he often was, wish someone was taping this for the next time she decided humans were good practice prey.

Erica continued, “I know I didn’t seem like I was listening, but it really stuck with me until I finally clued in that being the me I wanted to be didn’t mean I needed a fake persona and a low cut shirt.” She glanced down at her admittedly impressive cleavage and just snorted, “Oh, you know what I mean.”

 Stiles remembered that conversation. He had been terrified, because duh, Erica was vicious, but his concern over her increasingly sexualized behaviour at school had outweighed any other thoughts. It had been short, no more than two or three minutes of him spitting out a largely jumbled mess of sentences before declaring a good talk and bolting for the door.  To be honest, he was kind of reeling that anything he said had made that much of an impact.

Boyd cleared his throat and just nodded when Stiles looked over at him. He knew he was being thanked for all those times when Stiles would quietly read with Boyd when the other boy was stressed.  Those were times when the stoic beta, used to being alone, couldn’t handle the rest of their vivacious pack, but didn’t really want to be alone again. Stiles sometimes needed time where he didn’t have to perform for anyone and Boyd’s quiet company and occasional conversation was appreciated, especially in the weeks since he split with Scott. He nodded back, not needing any further acknowledgement. Those times were not meant for the pack to know about.

Same with the significance behind Jackson’s eye contact. Stiles knew Jackson couldn’t bring himself to admit a weakness in front of the others, but he was grateful for the occasions where Stiles would let him loose on the gym in the sheriff’s department when he was stressed.

The thought occurred that they really were a rather high-strung group.

His train of thought was derailed as Dad yanked him into a tight embrace. “Jesus, Stiles. I knew you were carrying a lot on your shoulders, but this, son?” Stiles’ ribs creaked as his dad squeezed. He let go, only to clasp a hand around the back of Stiles’ neck. “Don’t you ever think you’re replaceable.”

Stiles nodded and leaned back in for a more moderate Dad-hug. He felt a bit ridiculous for causing all the fuss; none of his family, blood or chosen, was really open with emotions and there was likely to be douchebaggery involved in the fallout from everyone leaking their feelings.  Still, the validation made him warm all over.

When he happened to glance at Derek over Dad’s shoulder, however, Stiles was taken aback by the almost defensive crossing of the alpha’s arms.

Derek was glowering down at the dirt, but his slumped shoulders had a despondent cast that made Stiles itch to alleviate. He hesitated, however, because Derek might be better about communicating these days, but getting emotions out of him was still like pulling teeth.

Before he could decide how to deal with it, Derek went ahead and made the first move.  Stiles could actually see him come to a decision as Derek’s spine snapped up and he raised his head to glare with laser focus at Stiles.

“Do you seriously think that after everything we’ve gone through, everything this pack has fought against, that you’d just be tossed aside? How many times have you saved the life of every single person here, huh, Stiles, is that what you’d call being a liability? Do you think that we would just forget that and push you out? Is that what you think of our pack bond? That it’s something that easily discarded?”

Stiles actually couldn’t breathe for a moment. Derek was furious

Dad responded to his distress by shifting around to face the alpha.  He didn’t make sure to keep between Stiles and Derek though, and that kicked Stiles’ brain back into gear from its frozen state.

“Surely you know better than that, nephew. Stiles understands us to an astonishing degree for a human,” came a smooth voice from the edge of the clearing. Peter materialized out of the shadows and slunk forward, deftly navigating around the unconscious bodies and alpha bits (oh, Stiles was so throwing that box out when he got home) strewn across the ground. “He knows being pack is more than being useful or not needing to be protected.”

Which, you know, great. Uncle Zombie-Wolf was just what the situation needed with Derek already on edge. Sure, Peter may be a part of the pack, sometimes even a useful one, but Derek’s grief and anger over Laura had not faded. It was usually Stiles, and Lydia once she realized Peter’s remorse at using her and most of the actions he had undertaken while out of his mind from pain and severed pack bonds was enough to make him her slave, who ran interference between uncle and nephew.

Derek’s response to Peter’s prodding was to flash red eyes and partially shift to expose his claws in a definite threat.

“But,” Peter continued undaunted, raising his voice to be heard over Derek’s snarls, “But, it doesn’t do to forget he is just a human boy, with the emotional whiplash inherent to that state. Not to mention he’s recently lost his best friend and just witnessed his father’s turning after spending most of the day in a panic over finding him. Surely, he’s allowed a bit of a breakdown.”

Stiles knew he should speak up, knew that Peter was probably making it worse, but he was still shocked by Derek’s sheer anger at what he obviously took as an attack on their hard-won bond as a pack, not Stiles’ own messed up insecurities.

Surprisingly, however, Derek seemed to calm down.  Peter had drifted close enough to lay a gentle hand on the alpha’s shoulder, hesitating only briefly, and Derek relaxed further.  Stiles’ heart tugged, as it always did in those moments when he got a glimpse of the pre-fire relationship between the last of the Hales.  He’d never blame Derek for holding on to his emotions about his sister’s death, since that would make him a huge hypocrite, but he couldn’t help but wish Derek would at least realize Peter was still here.  Family, even guilty, only mostly-sane family, was something to be cherished.

Derek finally nodded and met Stiles’ eyes, asking forgiveness for his tirade with a promise of possibly talking it out later between the two of them.

Stiles nodded back, silently pledging to not let Derek weasel out of that discussion. There were definitely some underlying issues that needed to be dealt with for the sake of the pack, and the sake of his emotional stability.

He squirmed suddenly, realizing his dad’s arm around his shoulder had progressively gotten tighter. Stiles glanced over at his dad only to find him standing rigid in shock, staring at the Hales.

Oh, oops, right. Missing coma patient presumed dead standing right there. He started to explain the situation, but his dad’s whisper of “Peter?” cut him off.

The Hale in question obviously braced himself before turning away from Derek. “Alex,” he acknowledged quietly.

Stiles was a bit lost and he wasn’t the only one. Derek was glancing between the two older males with a puzzled look that cleared after a moment. His features lightened in realization and Stiles really wished he’d share with the class.

Dad’s voice was a little husky as he said, “I thought you were dead. After you disappeared from the hospital, I mean.” He drew his arm off Stiles’ shoulders to clench his fists and his voice rose in anger as he continued, “I looked for you! The case was only closed after a year because of policy, which I fought, because it was you, and I needed to know what happened! And all this time, you’ve just been walking around right under my nose? You never thought to come find me? That I might be worried about you?” 

Dad had wolfed out somewhere in the middle and, yes, it was just as weird as Stiles had pictured it.  He took a prudent couple steps away, not that he thought Dad was going to lose it, but to pacify an increasingly twitchy Derek.

Stiles was confused. He could deduce that Dad and the elder Hale had been close before the fire, duh, but why didn’t he know that? And that being the case, why didn’t Dad know about werewolves?

Of course, the next second his brain chose to remind him that, oh yeah, Peter hadn’t really been around that long after leaving the hospital, because they’d killed him.  Hence, why he hadn’t contacted his old buddy. Yeah, this day was just getting better.

 “Um,” he said intelligently. Everyone’s attention shifted to him abruptly. He noticed Erica and Lydia’s rapt expressions; the girls were focusing like this was the best soap opera ever. Stiles really regretted pushing for those two to be friends.

He looked down before glancing back up at his dad and said, “That’s not completely Peter’s fault, Dad. Um, he wasn’t really around much of last year, ‘cause, uh, wekindoflithimonfirebeforeDerekslashedhisthroat.”

Stiles paused for breath and hurriedly continued as he saw his dad parse that out. “But it was completely justified, because he was totes crazy from the fire and losing his pack and he was doing very bad things, so we had to stop him!”

Dad was apparently in the shock Stiles had been expecting much earlier in the evening.  He was still wolfed out and dazedly looking between his son and apparent friend.

“What,” he ground out. Okay, more proof about the lack of punctuation in older wolves.

Stiles’ thoughts raced frantically to try to spin the situation, but he was saved by Peter.

“Alex, that really isn’t pertinent right now. For one, obviously, it didn’t take, as I am standing here, in the middle of the preserve, at night, which leads directly to point two, that this really isn’t the place, especially after a trying day.  Point three, I’d rather like to discuss this sans audience.” He was doing his best, but Stiles could tell his composure was cracking. “Just know that once the initial issues were resolved, I wanted to come to you, but, well, werewolves. How could I explain the lack of burns?  Or walking out of the hospital? The timing was never right. With everything else going on, you didn’t need something else falling in your lap.”

Something uncomfortable niggled at Stiles, but before he could draw it forward, his attention was drawn by Dad finally dropping his wolf. “I would have understood, Peter, damn it all, you know I would have understood! Why didn’t you ever tell me before?”

Peter actually lost his cool and shouted, “I was afraid, all right! I couldn’t face explaining everything and having you turn me away. You were my best friend, Alex. I didn’t want to lose that.”

Dad sighed and wiped his hand over his face, obviously just done with the day. He paced over to a very still Peter and simply said, “Idiot,” before drawing him into a hug.

Peter stood rigid for all of a second before practically melting into the sheriff’s embrace.  The two were whispering to each other, but Stiles couldn’t make it out.  He turned back to his pack to give the reunited friends some privacy (and shake his brain loose from where it was boggling at his father and Peter of all people re-enacting post-Reichenbach Sherlock fanfic) and caught the tail end of big bad wolves hastily drying their eyes.  He smirked, then jumped as Derek apparently teleported to his side.

Glaring, he asked, “Was that necessary?”

Derek just looked at him, taking in all his twitches and scent, before asking, “How are you handling this?”

Stiles sighed. “I’m doing okay, big guy, really. I mean, yeah, this is a little weird and definitely not best case scenario for letting Dad in on everything, but I’m also kind of relieved? I think? I don’t know. And I’m sorry about the word vomit back there. I don’t know where any of that came from. It’s been a long fucking day.”

Considering the day had consisted of school, lacrosse, getting the call from Derek that Dad hadn’t been at the station when he had done his sweep of town, running all over the place trying to locate the extremely elusive pack, finally getting scrying to work, and then the roller-coaster of emotions after they’d found them, he didn’t think he was doing too badly.

“I hate to say it,” Lydia said, “but Peter had a point about moving this elsewhere. I, for one, do not find odeur de cadavre at all enticing.”

Derek did a really hilarious double-take at the remainder of the invading pack, like he had completely forgotten about the major beat-down he’d administered not an hour ago.

He jerked his head at his betas, who sighed and grumbled, but went back to their interrupted task of alpha corpse and unconscious beta removal.  Stiles had never actually asked what they did with the bodies or if they honoured werewolf traditions for those they killed in self-defence. He should probably take time to figure that out at some point; any knowledge of wolfy practice was important.

The betas left alive after a conflict were typically bundled into pack vehicles and driven to the edge of Hale territory.  Stiles hoped that was the majority in this case, since he didn’t want any of his pack to bear the burden of killing, even in self-defence.  Derek and he had actually had a lengthy discussion (read: argument involving wall slamming) over the alpha’s go-to strategy of permanently taking out invaders.  Derek’s point, that leaving a humiliated alpha alive to retaliate was a drastically bad idea, carried the day when backed up with his assertion that werewolf morality was a horse of different colour and kill-or-be-killed was the only law respected in pack conflicts which had escalated or bypassed the negotiation stage.  They came to an agreement that the betas would be trained largely to incapacitate, especially since that fighting style would confuse packs used to more deadly tactics.  Derek did reserve the right to mentor his wolves in understanding their new world; he didn’t want any of them to have blood on their hands either, but human instincts could get them killed.

Stiles moved to go help.  He may be a puny human and cause more harm than good on the battlefield, but he could at least help clean up after a fight.  Derek, however, seemed to have other plans as he caught Stiles by the arm.

Stiles looked at him questioningly.

“Just,” Derek shook his head as he searched for his words. “Leave your window unlatched, okay?”

Ah, the implied talk would be happening sooner rather than never. Interesting. Stiles would have bet money that Derek would have avoided it with everything he had. Probably why Stiles made a point never to gamble on pack game night.

He nodded, pleased that he’d have some Derek one-on-one time.  The promise of that should evaporate the last of the still-hovering melt-down from the completely emotionally traumatizing day.  He glanced over at his dad and Peter, wondering if he should get a crow bar to separate his parent from Lazarus over there.  But his dad deserved some comfort, even in the form of the walking dead, and having an adult werewolf to relate to could only make the transition period easier. 

Stiles was spared the uncomfortable idea of interrupting their reunion when both men started ambling back toward the head of the clearing, not pausing their easily flowing conversation.  He glanced at Derek to see an indulgent expression aimed at his uncle.  Stiles rolled his eyes in commiseration, since Peter feeling smug was never a pleasant thing and creeper wolf was radiating contentment.

 “And Derek.” Derek froze at the sheriff’s suddenly stern voice as the older men joined them. “Nicely done in containing the situation, son. We’ll be having a conversation about you joining the department at one of those training sessions. And having you explain just how werewolves fit in all my unsolved cases.”

Stiles’ jaw dropped and Isaac, having detoured just behind them at the moment, was practically hopping in place, visibly containing himself from running and burrowing into Derek’s chest in deference to the werewolf slung over his shoulder, but just as obviously proud of his alpha. Erica and Jackson started snickering at the thought of Deputy Derek.

Which actually...Stiles’ mind went to a happy place with that image.

That is, until his dad snorted out an “Oh, son, just...” and he was dramatically recalled to earth with the fact that oh yeah, Dad now had one of those aforementioned supernatural sniffers and Stiles had totally been emitting scents he’d much rather keep secret.

He blushed violently, awash in embarrassment and a growing despondency over his obviousness and Derek’s impending freak-out. He’d been so good about not reacting to anything specifically Derek, letting the wolves just think he had a super-charged libido. They probably would have written the moment off as just another Stiles thing if his dad hadn’t called attention to it.  Stiles looked at the ground, finding the leaves under his feet very interesting as his mood took a drastic nose-dive.

Erica, bless her black little wolfy heart, apparently took pity on him and started rounding up the betas, driving them toward their respective vehicles like a lethal blonde sheepdog. “C’mon, let’s get moving. We don’t want any of the cargo waking up before we dump them over the border.  I do not want to have to pay Boyd’s parents for new windows if one of these morons gets the bright idea to abandon ship.”

His friends good-naturedly snapped back at particularly painful slaps and prods, but allowed themselves to be guided away from the clearing. He heard Lydia’s faint commands for Jackson to bring her home, since the Porsche was useless for hauling bodies, before they were all too far away.  Probably just in time, too, given that Stiles was wracking his brain for a spell that might open the ground under his feet.  He decided to forgo that option when all he could think of were incendiary spells.  Effective, but perhaps a little bit of over-kill.  He’d gotten over Lydia’s constant rejection; Derek’s was likely to be more cold-shoulder and fumbling attempts for normality, but they’d get past it in time.

Stiles’ insides squirmed as silence descended on the clearing. He refused to look up, for once completely willing to stand still and quiet until the rest of the world passed on by and forgot him. Peter, it seemed, had other plans, as he said, “Well. That’s rather in...”

His words were suddenly muffled and Stiles really didn’t want to, but his sense of the absurd demanded he look up and see his dad’s hand clamped firmly over Peter’s mouth, an affronted expression on the visible upper portion of his face.  Stiles almost felt like laughing which was testament to the hilarity of the moment, given his otherwise extremely less than amused feelings.

Like a magnet, his eyes were drawn from the two grown men now tussling like children to his alpha still standing next to him.  Derek’s face was a careful blank and even Stiles’ skill at reading behind the mask failed to glean anything from it.

Dad, definitely earning his father-of-the-year steak and fries, started shoving Peter in a homeward direction. “Let’s go, Hale. I know you live to make people’s life miserable, but not today, pal. ‘Sides, I think you also owe me a conversation.”

Peter audibly gulped and looked around, obviously desperate for a diversion.

Dad wasn’t having any of that though and just grabbed a widely waving arm that was trying to fend him off and physically dragged the elder Hale out of the clearing.

Stiles really tried to keep the silence going, but had to burst out with, “Well. That was interesting. Peter totally cowed by my dad. Yep, definitely one of the highlights of my year.”

Ominously, Derek didn’t say anything.

Stiles sighed. “Can’t we just postpone this conversation, like indefinitely? Or at least move to a more comfortable place? I’m always much more comfy when you lay down the law in my cosy room.”

Shaking his head, Derek deigned to speak, “It’d be better to have it here, away from your dad’s new sensitive hearing...”

“Oh, right. Wolfy dad. Werewolfy dad who is the source of this fine awkward moment.”

Stiles actually wound down, not knowing what to say.

The silence was actually starting to get painful when Derek broke. “Was that serious, Stiles?”

He didn’t follow and said as much.

Frustrated, Derek huffed and grabbed at his words. “Do you seriously feel that way, about, about me? Or was it just a spur of the moment thing?”

“Dude, seriously?”

Derek growled, but Stiles stayed firm, figuring it was better to get it all out now so they could return to their regularly scheduled pack balance. “No, I mean it, Derek! How have you not figured out that I’m basically head over heels for you?  I may be incredibly smart and a bit magic, but subtle I am not. So can we please just skip the humiliating making me admit my feelings part and get on to the rejection?”

Derek gaped at him. Like, actual jaw-dropping gaped.  Stiles took a moment to review his word-spew and inwardly groaned. Yeah, way to admit those feelings anyway, Stilinski.

Admirably, Derek rallied and spoke, hesitating uncharacteristically, “I just...I mean, seriously Stiles, this is not the best time for this. I mean, your dad just turned so we’ll have to be really careful the next couple full moons, not to mention all the secrets that will finally come to light, the Argents are definitely gearing up for something, you’re neck deep in magic studies and school...Just, this really isn’t a good time to start anything.”

“Dude, it’s okay. You don’t need to make excuses. Just tell me no, and we can put this behind us,” Stiles scoffed, crossing his arms defensively.  The prevarication was uncommonly decent of Derek, but actually just made the situation more painful.

“No, Stiles, no! I’m not saying no, I’m not saying never, just, I’m just saying, not now.” He was agitated and practically yelled out the final few words.

It was Stiles’ turn to gape. He ran his hands through his hair, disbelieving that had actually come out of the alpha’s mouth.

Derek obviously took in his scent and emotional state and softened a bit. “Do you really think I wouldn’t want you? God, Stiles, seriously, you have no idea.”

He let out a breath, obviously bracing himself to go into that dreaded territory of emotions. “Sure, at first I just wanted to get vengeance for L...Laura and then leave as fast as possible, so I know I was overly defensive and not willing to let anybody in.  But after Peter, and becoming the Alpha, not to mention having you verbally and publically hand me my ass about what a pack meant and that I shouldn’t treat the betas as just soldiers, you kind of snuck your way past my defences.  Yes, like a ninja, Christ, shut up, I know what you’re thinking.”

Derek gripped his hair in frustration before continuing, “And that’s case in point, Stiles. For God’s sake, you’re basically my second and the only one I’ll listen to after I make a decision. That’s not just because you occasionally have good ideas; it’s because we’re so often on the same wavelength.  I can trust you to only have the good of the pack in mind, even when your plans are insane, which by the way, is almost always.  Why do you think I got so angry when you denied our pack bonds?   It felt like all of that was worth nothing if you really believed you were useless.” 

He paused and met Stiles’ eyes squarely. “I trust you. I rely on you. For God’s sake, I’m fucking gone on you. Can you please accept that?  It scares me when you can’t see how important you are.”  He smiled ruefully and said, “And if you tell the others I said any of that, I will hurt you.”

Mind officially blown.  Derek smirked a bit at his obvious mental blue screen, before softening to a small smile. He ran the back of his hand down Stiles’ cheek and Stiles couldn’t help but lean into it, making Derek’s smile larger.

“I do want this, you. But you have to admit, you’ve had better timing. So, we can, can we wait? Until things stabilize and we don’t have a villain-of-the-week?”

He had to be dreaming. His life just didn’t work this way. (He surreptitiously pinched himself on his tender side. Nope. Not a dream. Shit, that stung).  People didn’t like him back; it was like an unwritten law of the universe, keeping everyone blind to the wonder that is Stiles.

Or maybe not everyone, given the way Derek was looking at him. Which, granted, looked like it hurt his face to actually be expressing emotions other than rage, epic manpain, or annoyance. But the soft look was making Stiles’ insides all gooey.

Of course, Stiles, being Stiles, had to break their moment. “So what, we’d be like those ‘engaged to get engaged’ couples. ‘Cause I’ve always found that a really dumb idea.”

Derek huffed out a laugh and Stiles totally counted that as a win. The alpha shyly averted his gaze as he tangled their fingers together.

Stiles completely melted, which simultaneously strengthened his resolve. Giving Derek’s hand a squeeze, he said softly, “Do you really think that knowing how we each feel, but not doing anything about it, is going to go well? I have a hard enough time leaving you after pack meetings as it stands now.  And waiting for the chaos to end? Derek, our lives are made of chaos. We’re always jumping from one catastrophe to another. Case in point, the faeries last month immediately followed by this rogue pack. If we have to wait for peace, we’ll never be together.”

Derek didn’t respond, but Stiles was okay with this silence, since the alpha was obviously considering things.  He took his time playing with Derek’s fingers, revelling in the chance to hold some part of the alpha when he wasn’t covered in blood or in danger of losing a limb. 

He had a thought and, wanting to make it clear, said, “Derek, if you say no right now, if you want to wait, I promise I won’t push. I know what I just said sounded like, but I swear to you, I’ll abide by your decision. Just as long as you promise me that we will be together some day in the not too distant future.”

Oh, ugh, he sounded like a Lifetime movie. Quick, he needed to go shoot something, preferably on a computer for no messy clean-up.  He twisted around, looking for an escape from the overload of mush.

Derek shook his head at Stiles’ flailing and grabbed him by the shoulders, forcing their eyes to meet. “I do want this, right now. You’re right; there might never be a good time. But, Stiles, think. If we do this, if you’re with me, there’s no going back from that. Scott will never forgive you.”

Annoyed, touched, and perturbed (never let it be said he wasn’t a complicated special snowflake), Stiles burst out, “I’m really tired of my decisions having to revolve around Scott McCall’s tender feelings. His life sucks because he’s a werewolf, he hates himself because he’s a werewolf, his girlfriend’s family wants him dead because he’s a werewolf, and his girlfriend occasionally wants him dead because he’s a werewolf. Well, ok, his being a werewolf may be partly, partly my fault, but it’s over and done with, signed, sealed and delivered, congrats it’s a wolf pup and I don’t have to live the rest of my life trying to appease him.  Especially since he made it clear he doesn’t give a damn about me.”

He winced as years of best-friendship were disavowed, but it was like he didn’t even know Scott anymore. The teen wolf was definitely not the same sweet little boy who shared a fruit roll-up after Jackson had knocked Stiles off the swing in third grade. Or in many ways, he was still too much like that little boy. He saw the world in black and white and was being led astray by his incredibly big heart (or dick, the uncharitable part of his brain said, and then promptly shrivelled up as it rewound that particular elliptical structure), letting Allison and her father dictate his opinions without fully thinking the repercussions through.  

Stiles was usually the last to give any kind of benefit of the doubt, definitely more of the one strike and you’re out temperament, but he could acknowledge that Scott’s abrupt change in behaviour was completely due to his being utterly wrapped up in his first love.

For his part, Stiles couldn’t really imagine ever feeling like one person was the be-all-and-end-all. Lydia notwithstanding, as that was more a safe fantasy that he had allowed to get out of hand and Derek, well, they were too similarly jaded and too conscious of their responsibilities to ever be that wrapped up in each other.  But that was Scott all over. So he could only hope something would get through Scott’s holier-than-thou attitude, preferably with minimal bloodshed.

As for Allison, however, Stiles was definitely sticking with his system. The hunter, and she was fully Argent in his mind these days, had had way more chances that she kept blowing.  Oh, there was always an excuse, like my grandfather brainwashed me or I was grieving my mother, but if there was actually trust there for the pack, it fled as soon as they went contrary to her agenda.  Stiles wasn’t sure if Chris was pulling her strings, and for the sake of his buddy’s heart he hoped so, but even so, she had allowed others to guide her actions resulting in pain for pretty near the whole pack at some point.  Being easily led was not an admirable trait in Stiles’ mind. (Scott was exempt. He was Scott after all. No matter how much Stiles wanted to punch his face).

It was all going to come to a head soon; he too had seen the signs that the hunters were plotting something, probably revolving around Scott.

Derek, unaware of Stiles’ internal musings, or possibly just all too used to Stiles disappearing into his head, continued the conversation. “I’m sorry, Stiles. I really didn’t want to come between you. Despite what Scott says, I really only wanted to keep you guys safe and Scott joining the pack would have done that.”  His body language shifted just enough that Stiles could tell he was falling into a brooding reverie about how his existence was a plague upon the earth or something to that effect.

Not on Stiles’ watch. Especially not over Scott and his hopefully not terminal case of misjudgement.

“Shut up,” he growled, and made a note to be impressed with himself, even as he lunged forward to smash his lips into Derek’s. It was less than suave, more a collision than anything tender, but somehow was everything he’d ever hoped and thought about in those lonely nights when his brain was the only company he had to keep the terror and pain at bay.

To Derek’s credit, there was no hesitation as he gave as good as he got. They fought for dominance, making Stiles’ internal monologue, which couldn’t even shut up in the new and wondrous circumstances, giggle giddily at the thought that that pretty much summed up their relationship, past, present, and future.

It was almost too easy, the way they struggled and tangled and melted together.  It certainly wasn’t as awkward and disastrous as Stiles had anticipated his first real make-out session would go. Not to say that Stiles didn’t feel unaccountably self-conscious when tongues were introduced, but Derek patiently waited him out, demonstrating the fun to be had with that particular set of muscles when not talking. 

An indeterminable time later, right when they were at the terrifying-for-those-still-virgin cusp of moving from first contact to all systems go, Derek slowed their kisses, demonstrating an awareness and respect for Stiles’ limits that Stiles wouldn’t have credited even six months prior.  But he had to acknowledge that if anyone would be observant of respecting someone else in a relationship, it would be Derek and so mentally kicked himself for the thought. Someday he’d learn to not be an asshole, even inside his own head.

Taking the hint, Stiles reluctantly retrieved his hands, which had somehow insinuated themselves beneath Derek’s shirt, but only as far as placing them on Derek’s conveniently still extended biceps. He may have rubbed a little, entranced at their strength, but Derek’s focus was on his face. He was obviously making sure Stiles was still okay, and really, the gentlemanly act was a heretofore unknown turn-on.

Derek raised an eyebrow in wordless enquiry.

Stiles nodded and gave the muscled arms he was still gripping an affectionate squeeze.  Only after catching sight of Derek’s besotted little smile (one that even reached his eyes so point: Stilinski) did he become aware of his own likely goofy and starry-eyed expression. 

“Now, aren’t you glad we had that discussion here instead of anywhere near your dad?” Derek smirked.

“Gah! Not cool, man. Geez, way to break the moment, Derek. And you all say I’m bad?”

Stiles was completely unsurprised by the relief that swept over him at the final proof that they could still have their normal relationship, even with the added romantic facet.  He would almost rather not have ever kissed Derek if they were going to lose their snarky give-and-take.

Almost.

 Okay, no not really, but having Derek’s trust was always going to be more important than being involved with him. He’d go a long way to keep their friendship intact.

But, oh but, having both? Stiles still wasn’t sure he wasn’t dreaming. 

He startled from his thoughts at the brush of lips across his forehead. Derek pulled back and said, “With me again?” with a small smile and roll of his eyes.  Obviously Stiles’ woolgathering was getting to be far too commonplace.

Derek continued, “You should probably get on home. It’s late. You’ve got school in the morning and your dad is bound to be worried, especially with all of his new territorial instincts.”

Stiles groaned and leant his head on Derek’s shoulder. His voice was muffled as he said, “Why can’t the bad guys ever attack on the weekend? Seriously. I do not want to deal with Harris and his probable pop quiz tomorrow.” He shuddered at the thought and, wrapping his arms around Derek’s torso, burrowed into the deliciously firm chest in front of him. “Oh joy, and Dad’s gonna have sooo many questions, dude, I can’t even.”

Derek’s voice reverberated interestingly where Stiles had his ear pressed as he said, “You are the pack researcher, Stiles. You know probably everything he’ll ask and more.”

“I am not supernatural Wikipedia, Derek! Don’t you think this should be handled by, oh say, a wolf?”

“Better you than Peter. Who knows what he’s telling your dad right now.”

Okay, point. But still.

“Shouldn’t this be the alpha’s responsibility anyway?”

Derek tensed just the tiniest amount, probably undetectable to the eye but Stiles was in extreme close quarters with rather a lot of Derek and his muscle groups. 

Mind whirring, Stiles rapidly came to a conclusion. He leaned back and incredulously stared at Derek, who was doing his best to not look in any way flustered.

“Dude,” Stiles breathed, “you are so intimidated by my dad!”

He tried. He really, truly tried to stop the laughter that was threatening, but a snort made it through.  It was all downhill from there.

Derek scowled and refused to meet his eyes but tellingly didn’t let go from where his arms were still wrapped around Stiles’ midsection.

Realizing, or rather reminding himself of their position, Stiles sobered slightly. He still grinned because big bad wolf, afraid of the sheriff? Priceless.

But he could acknowledge that Derek was right to be concerned, given all of the events of the day. Night. Whatever. There was definitely going to need to be an adjustment period all the way around for the pack.

“Derek, Dad wouldn’t have left with Peter if he objected to this,” Stiles said, gesturing between them as he tried to head off the most critical argument that could send the alpha into brood mode.

“It’s not only that,” Derek protested.

Stiles took a page from the Book of Non-vocal Werewolf Communication and raised an interrogatory eyebrow.

Apparently his latent amusement still shone through, however. Derek glowered and muttered, “Okay, it’s largely that. But there’s also the fact that the father of the underage,” holding up a hand to forestall the objection at the tip of Stiles’ tongue.  “Yeah, your birthday’s coming up but you’re still legally underage, Stiles. And your dad, the sheriff, is now my beta, but wants to be my boss, basically my alpha. And I really don’t think turning the job down is on offer.  On top of that, as if that wasn’t confusing enough, in the eyes of the pack, you, as my second, rank higher than your dad, so your decisions feel like they should count more than his opinion, no matter how much I respect him.  All of my instincts are jumbled and I don’t really want to face him until I have to.”

Okay, the explanation made it less amusing than picturing Derek ducking behind Stiles’ admittedly narrower form every time Dad was around. Yeah, no, that was still funny. But Stiles could respect that Derek’s instincts regarding just who was alpha when were going to drive him a little crazier than normal in this situation.

“No, I get it. So I’ll trudge off and perform my duty as sacrificial lamb one more time. Ugh, my life, man,” he moaned.

Derek gave him a wry look at his histrionics, but Stiles was serious.

“Seriously. You don’t know my dad. You think I’m bad with poking my nose into things? I inherited that insatiable curiosity, Derek. And Dad has been trained to legally snoop. This is not going to painless.”

He blanched as a thought came over him. “Oh great, and once he learns about your healing, he’ll never stick to eating healthy. Can wolves get heart disease? Has anyone ever done a study of the build up of plaque and cholesterol in werewolves? All that meat cannot be healthy; I don’t care if you have advanced metabolisms! There has to be a limit to energy conversion somewhere.  And Dad’s tragically sedentary, not like you and your crazy work-out obsessed pack.   Oh my God, can werewolves get fat?”  

Stiles stared wide-eyed as Derek helplessly collapsed into gales of laughter.  He vaguely registered that he should be affronted by such a reaction to his serious spaz-out, but Derek’s uninhibited laughter was far too precious a thing to miss. Stiles sunk into the moment, wanting to remember it.  Even if they had agreed to embark on a relationship, their personalities were not going to change. Derek’s laughter would still be rare and something to be treasured.

It was also kind of adorably contagious. Stiles felt his lips twitch in sympathy with his now wheezing alpha.

“Oh, oh wow. Please, Stiles, never ever change,” Derek sounded out as he recovered from his laughing jag. “I’m sorry. I know you were serious, but that was just too...something. Only you would have your first worry be the heart health of a newly turned werewolf.  Of all the things to think about.”

Stiles horrifically felt himself redden. So he was concerned! It wasn’t a crime or anything.

Derek poked his shoulder. “Hey, it’s not a bad thing. I’ve always been amazed by how well you care for your dad, not to mention the pack. I was just laughing because that was a priceless look into your thought process.  I’ve always wondered how you go from point A to B at times.”

Blushing harder at the affectionate look on Derek’s face, Stiles didn’t say anything. Instead, he stepped back into Derek’s embrace and tucked his head against the alpha’s shoulder. He gave a happy little sigh as Derek’s arms closed around him firmly.

For once, he didn’t want to think. He just wanted to bask in the all too rare quiet moment before having to go and face his father and the Stilinski version of Twenty Questions.

Derek miraculously stayed with the program.  He was probably just as much in need of quiet contact as Stiles; the pack was increasingly touchy-feely, but not intimately.  Familial touching didn’t quite fill the gaps in lonely souls like their current embrace.

For once, Stiles was the responsible one and reluctantly pulled away first.

Derek softly whined in protest, only to flush immediately.

Smiling reassuringly, Stiles grabbed one of Derek’s hands and kissed it softly. “I know, big guy, but, and treasure this moment, you were right. I need to get some sleep.”

He took the hand he was holding and starting leading an extremely pliant Derek back toward where they had left the cars. He’d definitely have to remember that cuddles reduced the wolf to practically nonverbal. Stiles could only hope it took Derek a long time to realize it did the same to him. He had to take his advantages where he could find them.

 Neither wanted to leave, but they also didn’t want to drag out their goodbyes.  A few kisses later, Derek turned and headed to the Camaro. Stiles luxuriated in being able to appreciate the view without the immediate guilt of before. He watched his boyfriend’s graceful movements for a few moments before forcing himself to turn the key and head out.

Floating home on a high, barely aware of anything but the sheer unbelievable fact that Derek hadn’t rejected him, had actually reciprocated, Stiles didn’t register anything was off about the house.  He bounced out of the Jeep, grinning and most likely looking deranged, and practically bounded into the house. Stiles, feeling like the worst kind of teenage cliché but utterly unable to stop, shut the door behind him and leaned back against it, closing his eyes with a contented sigh.

How did such a horrible day turn out so well? Sure, Dad was a werewolf, but he seemed to be okay with it, or at least he hadn’t freaked out too much with all the truths revealed. But more critically for a socially isolated teenager, the guy he was completely wild about actually wanted him back.  Seriously, how did Stiles rate Derek?

He hummed to himself happily as he pictured Derek’s scowling reaction to that thought. Sourwolf never did like it when any of the pack put themselves down. And how gone was Stiles that the thought of Derek’s glare gave him a pleasant twist in his insides?

A rustle from further in the house interrupted his pleased little musings. Seriously? Could he not catch a break?  He tensed, listening hard before opening his eyes and, as quietly as possible, moved toward the living room. Stiles took a moment to centre himself like Deaton had taught him and took note of the not quite hostile tension in the house. Preparing his thoughts for defence, he stepped around the corner.

“Oh shit.”

Seriously, his life.