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lupine promises

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There is pain flooding through him so intensely that he can barely see through the spots in his vision, let alone tell where he’s running to. His ribs feel like they’re contracting and contracting and contracting and not expanding at all, starving him for the oxygen he so desperately needs to keep himself going. He thinks, passingly, that if he was healthier, he’d be twice the distance he is now. That maybe, if he weighed a little more, if you couldn’t count the nobs of his spine through his shirt, that they’d be further behind him. They wouldn’t be gaining so quickly. Maybe, if he’d managed to get his collar off before his escape, he’d be faster.

Then suddenly they’re not following him anymore. His pursuers had just stopped, like they’d run into a wall that he’d by some miracle been able to pass through. He kept running though, because he didn’t know if it was a fluke or not and he couldn’t afford to stop on a fluke. For all he knew, they were just planning the best way to cut him off, or-

Or he’d managed to cross the territory line. He slowed down, the fatigue catching up with him all at once, slamming into him with a force that would’ve knocked him off his feet if he hadn’t been actually knocked off his feet so many times before. He was vaguely aware of the pain in his arm, bleeding and twisted in a way that was nowhere close to normal, but he couldn’t focus on it. The electric shocks being shot through his body from the collar around his neck were keeping him from healing, but he couldn’t focus on that, either.

There were a pair of red eyes in front of him, a beast coming toward him on two legs. It was barely a yard away when it threw back its head and howled, loud and long and with the promise of violence. His claws were dripping in something that had to be blood, and the brown fur covering his almost-wolf-almost-human body was caked with mud.

He’d run straight from the talons of one Alpha into the jaws of another. He knew which territories had surrounded the one he’d come from, and as soon as he saw the creature, he knew whose territory he was trespassing on.

It wasn’t until the Alpha’s lupine face was inches from his that he found out he was crying. Despite everything, he didn’t want to die. He didn’t want to be just another Omega found in the gutter, someone no one would mourn because he’d disappeared- he’d been taken- years ago.

He crumbled to his knees in front of the Alpha, stared at the ground. “Please.” He found himself whimpering through the pain; even though he wasn’t sure how his throat could be working with the way it was burning. “Please, I don’t want to die.” He begged, squeezed his eyes closed.

He knew the rumors. ‘More wolf than man,’ they whispered, ‘Feral.’ He’d stolen the title of Alpha when he killed the man who killed his father and turned his friend. He’d taken territory with a ruthlessness that hadn’t been seen since anyone had been able to change into an actual wolf. Rumors said he could do that, too, and some of them claimed he was never human to begin with- a wolf parading as a man.

When he opened his eyes, there were human feet in front of him, and a clawed hand was tilting his chin up to force him to look into red eyes.

“Okay.”

Stilinski.

 

*

 

“You can’t just bring him here,” Someone was growling.

“I can do whatever I want,” Whoever replied was snarling; he could feel it as it vibrated through their chest- whoever it was, they were carrying him.

“He’s not yours!” The other voice argued, getting decidedly more irate.

You are mine,” The one carrying him reminded the other, the words bitten out around fangs, coming out with more than a little wolf behind them. He heard a whimper in return, and then faded back into unconsciousness.

 

He woke up with a jolt, hands coming up to the collar still locked around his neck, gasping for breath. Someone stronger jerked them back from it, holding him by the wrists so he couldn’t go for it again. Through his bleariness, he could make out two glowing eyes. Red. He stopped resisting with a whine. “Good boy.” The Alpha praised with as little inflection as possible, before he dropped his wrists.

“Can you talk?” The Alpha asked. He nodded in reply, but did not, in fact, talk. “Name.” The Alpha grunted, not even a question.

“Derek.” He answered, swallowing.

“Derek, do you know what class your collar is?”

“Yes Alpha,” A pause. “Class five.”

 

The snarl took him by surprise so much that he flinched back, curled in on himself with a whine, inwardly hating himself for being so weak the entire time. “Stop that,” Alpha said, pulling him until he was lying flat again. “Do not move.” The Alpha said it very clearly, as if Derek wouldn’t comprehend him. Derek didn’t move.

He watched with a sort of abject horror as the Alpha- Stilinski- transformed into what he’d seen in the forest when he’d first crossed the territory line. Derek didn’t whine when the fangs closed around his neck, but he wanted to. He wanted to beg for his life and apologize for whatever he’d done wrong and plead forgiveness, and he hated himself for it, but he didn’t whine.

For a second, the jaws around his neck closed so tightly that he couldn’t breathe, and then there was a terrifying, sickening crunch, and then nothing.

For one blissful, horrifying moment, Derek was sure he was dead.

“You should heal now,” Stilinski said tonelessly; already back in his human form and picking up the pieces of the collar that were littered on and around Derek. Derek nodded.

“Your arm is broken, you’re emaciated, your ankle is fucked to hell, and you’re littered with cuts and bruises that show signs of prolonged abuse,” He went on, voice still as emotionless as ever. “I’ve stitched your arm and given you a makeshift casts to keep everything set until it heals properly, and the rest of your injuries are minor. Sleep.”

He wasn’t asking, and Derek couldn’t really cling to consciousness any longer anyway; he was happy to follow the order, even if he had no idea why the Alpha was bothering with him at all.

 

When he next woke up, he felt better than he had in months. By the way the sun was filtering in through the blinds; it was probably just past noon. Last he could remember, it’d been night time. He glanced around the room- it was empty, unexpectedly. One inhale had him choking on how strongly it smelled of the Alpha- wild and earthy and uncontrolled enough that it sent a tingle of fear straight up his spine. Derek tried to get out of the bed, but whined as soon as he did; even the slightest bit of pressure on his ankle had him about to double over in pain.

He sat on the edge of the bed, glowering at his injured ankle like that would make it heal faster, then sighed and took stock of the rest of his body. He’d been stripped at some point, which didn’t surprise him; he was wearing a pair of boxers that didn’t belong to him, and that was it. The stitches the Alpha had told him about were gone now, scar tissue left where the wound on his arm had been. It still hurt to move it, a bit, but the bone had healed enough that he could lift it to almost above shoulder level without much difficulty. Most of the smaller cuts were gone, and nearly all the bruises were faded or gone. He could see his ribcage and the edges of his hip bones, but he tried not to think about that. His body couldn’t heal starvation.

As if on cue, Stilinski walked in holding a tray of what smelled like soup. Derek stared at him like a deer in the headlights, and for a second, Derek looked into his red eyes without knowing what else to do. Then his sense of self-preservation came back to him, and he averted his eyes to the floor. Stilinski snorted, and the noise sounded almost amused- but Derek had no idea. It wasn’t like he was an expert on Alpha Mannerisms.

“Here,” He grunted, sitting down beside Derek and shoving the tray into his lap. Derek looked at it like it was a foreign concept to him. “What?” Stilinski asked, raising a brow. “Is there a specific way I should be feeding you? Have you never used utensils before?”

“I- I know the mechanics of a spoon,” Derek said before his brain-to-mouth filter had time to work. His mouth snapped shut with a click, and he glanced nervously over at the Alpha next to him. He was unfazed; looking at Derek in a way that seemed to say ‘Prove it.

Just to prove he could, Derek ate a spoonful of the soup, resisting the urge to moan at the way it tasted and how it soothed his throat. He hadn’t even realized how dry it was until it just wasn’t anymore. A glance at the Alpha said that he hadn’t fooled him, he knew exactly how pleased Derek was, and he was smirking smugly about it.

“How’s your ankle?” He asked after Derek had eaten half the bowl of far-too-good soup. Derek glanced at the ankle in question.

“Better?” He hadn’t meant for that to come out as a question.

“You tell me.”

“I don’t know.” Derek tried. “I don’t remember what it felt like before a few minutes ago.”

“And how is that?” Stilinski didn’t even miss a beat.

“It hurts too much to walk on,” He answered honestly, knowing the Alpha would hear if he lied.

“I see.” He replied, and the next thing Derek knew, he had an Alpha on his knees in front of him. He was halfway to attempting to crawl away when Stilinski pinned him with a red-eyed glare. He stopped moving, but he couldn’t force the way his mind screamed no no no no no no please god no. The Alpha paused, looking up at him with his brows knit in confusion. “Your heartbeat is going insane,” He prompted. Derek said nothing, just kept looking at him with what he could only imagine was terror in his eyes. “You smell like prey,” Stilinski growled, teeth going pointed. Derek whimpered. “Keep eating,” The Alpha said unexpectedly, hands locking around Derek’s ankle and making him whine. As suddenly as the pain had come, it was gone, and Derek risked cracking his eyes back open to see that all the Alpha was doing was sitting in concentration, black veins crawling up his arms as he leeched away the pain from Derek’s ankle.

After a tense minute where he waited for something else to happen, Derek started eating again. When his bowl was empty, the Alpha stood back up, looking distinctly more like a wolf than he did an actual person, red eyes glowing brightly. “Here,” He grunted, snatching something up from the bedside table that Derek hadn’t even noticed until that second. “This will speed your healing.” There were two pills in his outstretched palm, and a glass of water in his other hand. Derek took them, only flinching a little bit when he made contact with the Alpha. “That’s the bathroom. You can clean up there, if you want, but don’t leave this room otherwise. You can wear my clothes. Do whatever you want on the laptop and watch what you like on the TV- in fact, I really don’t care what the hell you do; as long as you stay in this room.”

He left Derek to contemplate that as he spun around and exited the room, door clicking closed with finality. He stares at it for several minutes, then takes the pills and drinks the entire glass of water greedily. He doesn’t feel full, because it was a bowl of soup and a glass of water, not a full meal, but he feels better than he did before he ate it, so he counts it as a win. He slides the tray over onto the bed, and tries to see if he can walk now.

Thankfully, the Alpha’s touch seemed to having some lasting effects, because while the pain is still there, it’s much more bearable. He manages to limp his way to the bathroom, relieve himself, and slip out of his borrowed boxers and into the shower without too much effort on his part.

The shower is amazing. He obviously hadn’t been washed down before, if the way the water runs dirt-brown and swirls down the drain is any indication, and the water pressure is just enough that it doesn’t abuse his sore muscles but does the job at getting him clean. He only hesitates a bit before using the Alpha’s hygiene products- convincing himself to do it by the logic that smelling more like him probably wouldn’t hurt, since he was, apparently, being kept.

He found with relief that nothing was strong-scented, most of it just intended to clean and nothing more. His nose had always been sort of sensitive, so he was thankful that there was nothing overpowering that would give him a headache.

By the time he got out of the shower, the water had run cold, but he felt infinitely better for having taken it. He dried himself off with the towel hanging from the bar beside the shower, then wrapped it around his hips when he remembered he didn’t have any clothes to wear. The thought of being around the Alpha naked made his skin crawl, but he’d been told he could wear his clothes, so with a quiet breath of determination, he left the bathroom to search for some.

There were clothes laid out on the bed when he got out there- a long-sleeved, well-worn white shirt, a pair of plain black boxers, and faded-black-checkered pajama bottoms. He limped his way over, displeased to find that the Alpha’s touch was starting to wear off, but happy enough at the clothes he was given. They were soft, smelled like Stilinski, and covered him as completely as possible. In a word, they were perfect.

He crawled back on the bed once he was dressed, hair mussed and towel-dried, and pulled his knees up to his chest as he leaned against the headboard. The sun was setting, and the house was silent, from what he could hear. He couldn’t even tell if there were any other heartbeats but his own in it, but, when he thought about it, the room could just be enchanted to be soundproof. That or his hearing wasn’t as great as he’d thought.

He glanced at the TV that was sitting atop a dresser directly across from the bed, then at the desk with the laptop, then at the rest of the room. There wasn’t much- another dresser, the door that the Alpha had taken to leave, and another door that Derek guessed led to a closet. He sank a little further down the bed; let his head fall back to his knees, arms wrapped around his legs.

This place was better than where he’d been before, but really? Anywhere was better than there. That said, he didn’t even know Stilinski’s intentions. He’d snatched him out of the forest, bloody and broken, and then brought him here- wherever here was- and then patched him up and gotten rid of the collar and fed him and clothed him. That was all nice on the surface, but… Why? Derek couldn’t figure out his motives.

Most of the rumors he could remember described the man as less than that; as someone to be feared. Alpha Stilinski wasn’t nice, he wasn’t known for niceness. He was known for the time he’d literally stuck his hand through another Alpha’s chest when they took his Beta. He was known for patrolling his borders so well that even other Alphas were wary to cross them unannounced. He was known for carnage. For being wild; an animal.

A thought crossed Derek then- what if he wanted him for animalistic reasons? It would fit the rumors, but… The thought made Derek whimper. He was an Omega, and the relationship Alpha had with their Omegas was clearly defined, one of dominance and submission and sex-

The Alpha was suddenly there, in his space, touching him everywhere, murmuring soft, uncharacteristically gentle things. “Shh, shh, you’re alright,” Alpha whispered, running his hands along his neck and shoulders and face. “Don’t cry, shh, breathe, you’re okay, Derek, shh,” Derek hadn’t even realized he was crying, or not breathing, or that he was in the midst of a full blown panic attack until that moment. He couldn’t really do much about it even then, though.

Shh, come here, you’re okay, breathe with me,” Derek let the Alpha arrange them so that they were plastered together, back-to-chest. He closed his eyes, tried to focus on the way he could feel Stilinski inhale and exhale, on the soothing timbre of his voice as he murmured things that Derek couldn’t even make out right in his ear.

Eventually, Derek managed to match his breathing to the Alpha’s, even though they were shaky and sounded like sobs even to his own ears. Minutes or hours after that he was just exhausted, no longer running off adrenaline to keep him hyperventilating.

“Are you okay, now?” He heard the Alpha rumble from behind him, still running his hand up and down Derek’s back.

Derek just nodded; he didn’t want to hear how wrecked his voice sounded.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Was his next question. Derek shook his head- it wasn’t like he was about to voice his concerns about getting raped to the very person he was worried about getting raped by. If it wasn’t a thought already, Derek wasn’t about to be the one to plant the suggestion.

“Okay, that’s okay,” Derek wasn’t sure if the Alpha was trying to convince him or himself, “Do you want to sleep it off? I’ll leave you alone if it’ll help,” He offered, and Derek wasn’t sure what to say. Yes, he did want to sleep it off, yes, he did want the man to leave, but no, he didn’t want to lose the comforting feel of a body next to his that seemed to have no intention of hurting him. He hadn’t been allowed to just sleep beside someone for- for longer than he wanted to think about.

“If- If you stay,” He was right; his voice was wrecked. It hurt to talk a little, too. “Will you just make me sleep?” He hated that he sounded so weak, but he was weak. He was skinny and frail and injured, and if the Alpha wanted more, he wasn’t even sure he had the motivation to fight him off.

Yes,” The Alpha said, sounding slightly hurt- no, Derek was probably imagining that- and tired. “Yes, if you want me to stay, we’ll sleep. Just sleep. I’m…” He paused, took a deep breath, and then sighed. “I’m a lot of things, Derek. A rapist is not one of them. If I wanted to have sex, I’d find someone healthy and consenting. You’re not either of those things, and I’m not going to touch you.” Derek felt some of the tenseness ease from his shoulders as the Alpha talked, because he didn’t hear a single lie through the whole conversation. Then he pulled away from him, leaning back out of his space. Derek was still settled between his legs, but the Alpha’s hands were now lying on the bed, and he wasn’t bent over Derek to talk into his ear anymore. They were really only touching now where the curve of Derek’s spine met Stilinski’s stomach, and Derek hated himself for it a little, but he missed the contact.

It’d been so long since someone touched him without the intent of hurting him. Even longer than that since he’d had an Alpha that just wanted to be an Alpha to him.

“I- Thank you,” Derek managed to stutter out, whining a little as he jostled his ankle on the way to get out of the V of the Alpha’s legs and scramble to sit beside him instead. “For that, I just. I haven’t had a choice about it in a long time.”

Derek was probably imagining the whimper he thought he heard the Alpha let out, because when he looked over, the Alpha was glaring at the window, pointedly not looking at him. Derek could feel that he was mad, so he inched a little further away from him, earning a look. It was a wilting look, going from mad to nothing to something almost comforting all in a few seconds. “Go to sleep,” Stilinski said, then looked back toward the window. He looked for a few more seconds before slipping under the covers, back turned toward Derek. He let out an exhale and slid as carefully as he could under the covers too, trying not to jostle his still-healing ankle in his post-panic-attack exhaustion.

He lay awake for a long time, simply staring at the wall in his line of vision until the last of the evening sun went down and the room went dark. The sheets rustled next to him as the Alpha rolled over, talking to the back of Derek’s head. “Can I scent you?”

Derek hadn’t been expecting that. “Um.”

“I won’t touch you beyond what’s appropriate, and if you tell me you’re uncomfortable, I’ll back off,” He elaborated, and then stopped talking, waiting for an answer.

“I- Yeah, okay.” He answered after what felt like too long, deciding that it couldn’t hurt, and if it made the Alpha feel better, then it was to his benefit too.

The Alpha moved forward and closed the few inches between them then, pressing his chest up against Derek’s back and his nose into the nape of Derek’s neck and sliding his arm around his waist. Derek tensed at first, but  then relaxed when the Alpha didn’t move after that.

After a bit, something rumbled against Derek’s back that he could only really interpret as a purr. “Y’smell like me,” Stilinski hummed, voice heavy with sleep, nuzzling into the back of Derek’s head. “M’sorry you were scared before,” He went on, trailing off, sounding blissed-out and ready to pass out at any second. “Don’ worry though, m’gonna keep you safe f’r’now on.”

Then his breathing evened out, and Derek was left wondering what the fuck that meant, and feeling begrudgingly pleased about it. Part of him protested that he didn’t need any protecting, thank you very much, but the other, more sensible part, was happy for the gentle warmth of another wolf, and for the promise of finally being able to sleep without worry.

So, true to his sensible side, sleep he did.

Chapter Text

Derek’s heart was racing when he woke up, drenched in a cold sweat, alone. For a minute, he thought he was back there, and that it’d all been some sort of elaborate dream. The door slammed open, revealing a frazzled-looking alpha wielding a spatula, red eyes already zeroing in on Derek. “What, what’s wrong, what happened?”

Derek blinks, then blinks again. “I-“ He chokes. “I panicked.” He swallows thickly and hides his face in his hands, wonders how many more mornings he’ll wake up like this, with the ghost of warmth next to him reminding him of the things he’d somehow managed to escape. He wonders if he’ll ever stop having nightmares he can’t remember.

“Well, stop panicking,” Stilinski says, like it’s that easy, still standing in the doorway. When Derek glances at him, he looks like he’s not sure of his welcome, even though it’s Derek that’s staying in his house. It’s passes over him quickly enough, leaves his face looking stoic. Derek wishes he could get a read on the man.

“I- it’s not as easy as that,” He breathes, runs a hand through his own hair, glared at the injured ankle he had half-hidden under the covers. Maybe if he was just a little stronger, he wouldn’t feel so panicked. It’d be nice, he thinks, to feel comfortable in his own skin. Without thinking that it, like everything else, might fail him in the end too.

“Look around,” Stilinski says from the doorway, almost sighing. He leans on it, gestures to the room when Derek looks at him. “Take stock of your surroundings; what can you see, smell, hear? You’re safe. There’s nothing to panic about.”

Derek understands the logic of that, sure, but it doesn’t stop his thoughts from wandering to all the times he’d thought he was safe before, only to be rudely reminded that nowhere was safe. Not his room, not in bed, definitely not in the cellar. Not here, either, despite what Stilinski was saying. Derek was a lone wolf, sitting in an alpha’s bed, unfamiliar pack and territory surrounding him. Regardless of how accommodating he’d been, Stilinski was-

“You’re panicking again,” His thoughts were cut off by an exhausted exhale. “Look, no one is going to hurt you here, whatever you think this is, it’s not. I’ll keep you safe.” There was a pause. Derek couldn’t help but think the alpha was lying, despite his perfect heartbeat. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d heard truth in deception. He refused to hold onto the hope that pulled at him. “Don’t work yourself up into an attack, alright? Calm down, and when you’re done,” He waves the spatula around lazily, “Come downstairs. There’s gonna be food, and I brought a doctor in to look over your condition better. I’ve only got life-saving medical expertise; I’m shit with long-term injuries. So,” He gestures at the stairs. “Lemme know if you need some help down the staircase, okay?”

Derek manages a weak nod, and watches Stilinski disappear down the hall through the open door. He sits for another long few minutes, lets his thoughts run back and forth, eventually settling on needing a shower. He limps the whole way there, because his ankle is still healing, and he thinks he slept on it awkwardly, too, because it feels sort of stiff. The shower is nice, just like the previous time he’d used it, but Derek refuses to linger. When he peaks around the corner this time, there’s no clothes laid out on the bed for him, but the door is closed again, so he figures that means it’s okay for him to pick what he wants and come down when he’s ready. He finds another long-sleeved shirt, a dark blue one this time, and a pair of boxers that fit, then he decides to just slip on the pants he’d been wearing yesterday, because they were comfortable, and he thinks he’s allowed that, now.

When he gets to see the stairs in full, he sort of wants to whimper. There are roughly thirty of them, give or take, spanning from an impressive living room to the hallway he’s standing in. There’s another two hallways branching off from that, three total. One to the left if you’re coming up the stairs, one to the right, and one straight ahead. Derek can’t recognize what any of the rooms are from the doors alone, so he doesn’t attempt it, just resolves himself and takes the first step.

He promptly trips and almost falls flat on his ass. The only thing that saved him was the banister, and he’d made enough of a racket that Stilinski was now standing at the bottom of the stairs, brows furrowed. “You alright?” He asks, gives him a look he can’t decipher before his eyes flicker to Derek’s ankle.

Derek nods. “I’m fine,” He says, lies. His mouth snaps shut with a quiet click as soon as he realizes what he’s done, and he feels a prickle of fear shoot through his spine. Never lie to an alpha. They always knew, always-

“Okay,” Stilinski says, and he shrugs. Derek’s not sure if he’s a real person, but then, his mind wouldn’t hallucinate something as terrifying as an alpha who always seemed just on the brink of control, eyes never changing from that awful bloody color. The last alpha he’d seen hadn’t had eyes like that, so he wonders if that’s just a- just a Stilinski thing.

He struggles to get back up for a few seconds, and after deciding it’s futile, lets out a defeated breath. “H-help?” He asks, quiet. He doesn’t want to request things from the man, doesn’t want to owe him- but, he already owes him, doesn’t he? Stilinski had killed the men that were chasing Derek in the forest, he’s sure of it, and he’d taken off that collar, and he’d been more than hospitable. He owed his life, if not more, and that was- that was an awful feeling, be indebted to someone he didn’t know.

Stilinski moves up the stairs in an easy way that Derek hasn’t been able to manage in years- since before he got taken. It’s unburdened, powerful, relaxed. Derek envies him that, but takes his hand and lets Stilinski manhandle him to standing again, throw his arm over his shoulder, and help him down the stairs. It feels a bit like gliding, honestly, because of how little he weighs at the moment and how strong the alpha beside him is.

“Okay?” Stilinski asks, letting him go on the last stair while he’s still holding the banister. Derek nods. “Yes,” He answers, and then, “Thank you.”

“Mm.” Stilinski grunts back, and it sounds almost tired. Sleepy. As if he hadn’t only gotten up to fix breakfast an hour ago. Then again, maybe it’d been earlier. Derek couldn’t remember the exact time that the alpha stopped aggressively spooning him in his sleep.

Derek follows him to the kitchen, which is large and industrial themed, all chromes and black granite. There’s another man sitting at the island in the middle of the kitchen, a dark skinned, tall man who smells like ozone. Derek’s wary of him immediately, because that’s the scent of magic, and magic wasn’t something to be tampered with. Ever. Even his old... pack had known that.

“It’s not polite to gawk,” The man says, eyes never leaving the expensive-looking tablet he’s got in front of him. Derek spooks a little, takes a step back- directly into Stilinski. “Oof.” He grunts, not sounding like he cares a single bit, then carries on what he was doing.

“Alan, this is Derek, Derek, this is Alan Deaton. He’s the doctor I told you about. Also, he does magic and stuff sometimes, when he’s bored.”

“Lying is unbecoming of you, Stiles.” Alan says without missing a single beat. “And Derek is the name you saw on the illegal class five collar he was in, Stiles, did you even ask if that was his real name?”

Derek looks at Stiles, sees his brow furrow in frustration. He looks almost like a scolded child, except, that comparison would only be accurate if the five year old was holding an assault rifle. “It’s- that’s my name,” He manages, stares at the floor because he doesn’t want to look at their reactions. “Derek. It’s my real name.”

He glances up, and Alan is staring at him, and Stiles is staring at Alan like something important is happening, but for the life of him, Derek can’t think of what it is. After a solid minute of looking at him like he’s dissecting him in his brain, Alan says, “Didn’t you make Derek a plate, Stiles?” and the tension in the room breaks.

Stiles nods, gestures to the plate sitting at the stool next to his own, then goes back to looking at Alan for a second, before pulling out a phone from his pocket and doing something on it. Derek sits at the stool obediently and because he’s hungry, and eats the entire short stack of pancakes, bacon, and eggs on the plate. He’s halfway down the glass of milk when Alan suddenly turns to him and asks, “Do you know why it’s illegal to have a class five collar on an omega, Derek?”

Derek shakes his head. “I didn’t,” He pauses, his voice drops a little. “I know it was illegal at all.”

Stiles growls in outrage and makes Derek flinch, but Alan doesn’t react. “They’re illegal because the electrical current they produce is strong enough to impair an alpha’s healing ability, and on an omega, freezes it completely. That’s not all, though; there’s a failsafe mechanism in them that’s meant to inject concentrated, liquefied wolfsbane directly into the carotid artery.” Derek swallows thickly, whines at the back of his throat, and rubs at his neck just to make sure the collar is gone. “They’re only used in prisons, and only on alphas and betas. Every time an electrical current was running through that collar, you weren’t healing at all. Any injuries you sustained, you kept until it was turned off.”

That explained a lot of things. But, “The- the failsafe,” He felt sick to his stomach.

“Gave Stiles a run for his money when he crushed it upon removal of the collar, but it’s only fatal when injected directly into the bloodstream; the enzymes in saliva neutralize it.” Alan turned to give Stiles a look, and got a sneer in return. Derek felt almost like he was watching a father and son and an age-old debate. “Which isn’t to say that he didn’t wretch over the toilet for five hours, because, he did.”

Derek sipped on the glass of milk he had quietly, nodding. “Regardless,” Alan went on, oblivious or uncaring to how uncomfortable Derek felt now, “The collar was illegal for use outside of a prison area, and a prison wouldn’t use it on an omega. So, the question is- who thought it was okay to use it on you?”

Derek froze like a deer in the headlights, didn’t even breathe. If he told them, they’d send him back, right? Omegas can only belong to one pack their whole lives, that’s what She’d told him. He couldn’t go back, they couldn’t send him back there-

Something bumped lightly into the side of his head, and when his eyes flickered over, they met Stiles’. He had his forehead pressed to Derek’s temple. “Look around,” He reminded him, quiet, soft, like he was talking to a scared animal. Derek guessed he was, in a sense, but that made him feel like a pet, a dog, and he didn’t want to think he was a dog, so he pushes that train of thought from his mind. “You’re safe here.” Then he pulls away, gives Alan a nasty look.

“You’re supposed to be helping, Deaton, not scaring the shit out of him.”

“Language,” Deaton reprimands easily, tapping at something on his tablet. “What exactly do you want me to help with, Stiles?”

“Prolonged abuse with illegal torture devices, traumatic injury, panic attacks, emaciation.” He gestures at Derek, and Derek tries to look as small as possible in his seat. “I don’t know where to start, so, I was hoping you’d help me out. Sit him on a table and see if his knee jerk reflexes are correct, or something, I don’t know. I’ve never dealt with this before.”

Deaton just nods along as Stiles talks, and stands when he’s finished. “You want me to give him a physical exam and treatment plan based on the results,” He surmises, and Stiles nods.

Derek swallows around the lump in his throat, unsure and uncomfortable on new levels he doesn’t want to explore. “Is it going to hurt?”

Stiles gives him a pained look, and Deaton’s gaze is almost sympathetic.

 

*

Derek rubs the crook of his elbow uncomfortably, thinking that he can still feel the ghost of a needle, even though he’d watched Deaton pull it out himself. Stiles looks a little like he’s going to be sick, which is a bizarre thing to see, considering he’d supposedly stuck his fist through someone’s chest without blinking.

Deaton is saying something about blood cultures to Stiles, but Derek doesn’t pay attention, focusing instead on just how bad he looks. Deaton had put a proper splint on his ankle, prodded at where he knew there was slow-healing, pink scar flesh on his back, given him a shot of something that had made him feel lightheaded enough that he had to sit down, and then taken blood. Derek feels lucky that he’s managed to keep his breakfast down.

They escort Deaton to the door after he’s dressed again, but Deaton stops just outside it, turns to Stiles again. “I think you should bring Scott over to see him,” He says, and Stiles gives him a look like he’s a crazy person.

“You know how he is right now,” Stiles says, incredulous, “There’s no way he’d be comfortable around a new wolf, not when Allison’s so far along. There’s a reason they’re both stuck at home for the next month,” Deaton gives him an unimpressed look.

“Just do it,” He instructs. “I think you’ll be surprised at the result.” Deaton says that like it’s something significant, but Derek doesn’t know what, and if the look on Stiles’ face is anything to go by, he doesn’t either. He leaves without another word, and Stiles watches him go like he’ll figure out his mystery, but closes the door after a minute.

There’s a few minutes of awkward silence, so, tentatively, Derek says, “Who’s Scott?”

“My best friend,” Stiles answers, moving to sit on the couch. “He’s one of my betas, my first beta, actually. We got turned together.”

Derek blinks at the admission, surprised by the admission. He knew the rumors, sure, but he wasn’t expecting that he’d actually been human before. He wasn’t expecting to be told something like that, either. “Why does that doctor want me to meet him?”

“I don’t know,” Stiles shrugs, tapping at his phone screen. “He’s sort of like my second in command, if I had to pick someone. He’s nicer than me, usually.” Again, Stiles shrugs. “Right now, though, his wife is pregnant. He’s okay with the pack, but he’s been stuck at home since he almost killed a guy that bumped her in the grocery store. To be fair, the guy was an asshole, and I don’t blame him for it.”

Derek nods, because he doesn’t know what to say to that. To his knowledge, he’s never been around any pregnant women. He can’t say he’s ever felt protective over someone to that extent. Honestly, he’s not even sure if he’d ever been to a grocery store.

“He’s going to be over in a few minutes,” Stiles tells him a few seconds after he sits down on the couch next to him, but not too close. “Stay behind me after I answer the door, though. Like I said, I don’t know how he’ll react to you. You still smell like..” He trails off, the look on his face unreadable. “Wherever you were before. It’s… It doesn’t make you seem very safe.”

Derek nods, because he understands. He’s hardly a threat, with his bum ankle and skinny frame. Not that he’d try to hurt a pregnant woman, whether he was fit or not. He has some morals, somehow, despite coming from Her pack.

Minutes pass quietly, and Derek’s surprised that the silence doesn’t make him uncomfortable. There’s nothing lingering in the air, no threat of punishment if he so much as breathes the wrong way, no one to please, no sadistic betas to attack him unprovoked. Just him, sitting at the opposite end of a supposedly homicidal alpha, while said alpha continues punching animatedly on his phone, completely disregarding him.

Derek gets jarred from his thoughts by a knocking at the door, which Stiles gets up to go answer. He can only guess it’s Scott, if the way the alpha greets him is any indication. “I really don’t think this is a good idea,” Scott says, as he’s being led into the living room. Derek stands when Stiles stops, and Scott turns to look at him for the first time, over Stiles’ shoulder.

There’s a loud, pained whine all of a sudden, that makes Derek startle. Stiles turns to Scott, confusion clear on his face. Scott nearly sobs.

“Stiles,” He says, carefully. “That’s him. That’s my Derek.” Derek doesn’t even begin to understand, and Stiles goes pale. “You found him. You found my brother.”

Chapter Text

“Scott, no.” Stiles says firmly, sounds almost angry, frustrated if nothing else. “Not right now- not again.” He sighs, like this is something that’s happened a thousand times, like this is a thing Scott does regularly. Derek feels a prickle of something uncomfortable in his gut, something like dread.

“Stiles, listen,” Scott insists, but Stiles shakes his head.

“No, Scott. I know you miss him. I know,” He emphasizes, gaze sympathetic. “But you’ve gotta stop waiting on someone who isn’t coming back. It’s been ten years, buddy,” His voice goes quiet, like he can soften the blow. “He’s gone.”

“No!” Scott snarls, makes Derek flinch back and trip over the coffee table. He falls on the couch, thankfully, doesn’t injure his ankle further. “Sorry,” Scott says, voice falling back to normal, gaze on the floor. “But, Stiles, look at him,” He goes on, giving Derek a meaningful look over Stiles’ shoulder, but Derek has no idea what it could mean. He doesn’t have any family. Hasn’t, for a long time. They died in a fire- he can remember that.

“I have looked at him, Scott!” Stiles growls, and Derek can sense his frustration, the tension in the air palpable enough to cut with a knife. “You know what I see? I see a guy who’s been through hell and somehow managed to get out of it. I see a scared, hurt man, and you’re not helping, Scott!” All the anger boils out of Stiles, though, at the look on Scott’s face. It’s hurt, as if Stiles had just slapped him.

“He’s hurt?” Scott asks, and it’s the last thing Derek expects, so he doesn’t meet his eyes.

“Yes,” Stiles sighs, exasperated, keeps himself firmly planted between Scott and where Derek’s sitting on the couch. “Deaton’s already been over, says he’ll be alright if I keep him rested and fed. That’s not the point,” Stiles rubs his temples, groans. “No one in this room can handle the false hope you’re exuding, Scott.”

“Call Laura!” Scott shouts, suddenly, startles Stiles into looking up at him sharply. “I know it’s him, and she’ll know it, too! Don’t even tell her his name, just send her a picture, I don’t care, she’ll know! Trust me,” Scott begs, and Derek thinks he’d crumble in the face of that puppy-dog face, too. He stares at his hands, wonders what’s going to happen to him when they learn he’s not Scott’s long-lost-brother. Will the alpha still want him if his best friend thinks he’s someone he’s not?

“I’m sending you a picture of someone,” Derek hears Stiles say. “No, it’s not a naked picture, you fuckin’ weirdo,” It’s almost fond, the way he says that, but Derek doesn’t pay attention to it. “Just look at it, call me back. Yeah. Yeah, okay. Bye.”

“Derek,” Stiles says, but Derek doesn’t look at him. “Look at me,” He says, but Derek still refuses. He can’t pose for a picture that’s going to cause disappointment. He can’t.

“Stay.” He hears Stiles murmur, then there are hands tilting his face up. He whines a little, quiet, three fourths worried and one fourth uncomfortable. “You’re okay. S’just a picture, s’not gonna hurt anything. Worst comes to worst, Laura’s confused about why I sent her a picture of a random dude. No harm done, okay?” Derek’s eyes flicker over to where Scott is, he’s watching, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot. Stiles makes an unhappy noise, some sort of grunt in the back of his throat. “Look at me,” He reminds, and when Derek does, Stiles snaps a picture of him. The flash blinds him momentarily, and he closes his eyes against it.

“There,” Stiles says at the same time as Derek hears the sound of an outgoing message. “Wasn’t so bad, huh?” Derek nods a little, goes back to looking at his hands.

“Has she repl-“ Scott starts to say, but he’s cut off by the loud ringing of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” coming from Stiles’ pocket. He fishes out his phone, answers it.

“Sorry for-“ He doesn’t even manage half a sentence before there’s a loud sob, audible even from the speakers of the phone.

“Let me talk to him,” The girl, Laura, on the other end demands. “You let me talk to him right now, or I swear to fucking God, Stilinski, I’ll-“

“Okay, okay,” Stiles cuts her off, face in clear shock, staring at Derek like he’s never seen him before. Derek feels like the expression is mirrored on his own face, because there’s no way. Everyone died. In a fire, he remembers, there had been- she’d been there, after, told him what happened, took him away. Someone would’ve looked for him if there was anyone left.

Stiles hands the phone over, and Derek moves on autopilot to hold it to his ear. “H-hello?” He asks, swallows thickly.

“You’re in so much trouble,” Laura sobs. Derek tenses. “So, so much- You asshole. It’s been ten fucking years, Derek. Where the fuck have you been?” Derek’s quiet, listens to this girl he doesn’t know cry over the phone, feeling helpless and sort of like he’s drowning. He can’t have family. He just can’t.

“Where have you been?” He counters, choking on some broken noise of his own. He hears something awful on the other end, wailing, maybe, but it’s distant. He doesn’t realize Stiles has taken the phone back until he can hear him mumbling something indistinct about calling her back. Scott’s whining in distress, but he sounds far away, too, hasn’t come any closer than where Stiles had told him.

“I’m taking you back upstairs,” Stiles says clearly from right in front of him. Derek looks up, eyes watery, just in time to see Stiles descend on him; he closes his eyes tightly, ready for something to happen, something painful.

He clings pitifully when Stiles hoists him up, no more injured than he’d been a second before. He can feel Stiles moving around, not fast but not slow, jostles him a little when they go up the stairs but not again. Derek feels like a three year old, getting carried around and crying into an alpha’s shoulder.

Derek cries for a long time, and doesn’t let go of the fabric clenched in his fists, not until much later, when he’s cried so hard he’s hiccupping with aftershocks. He slumps, tension flying out of him in one last sob.

“Feel better?” He hears Stiles ask, and startles a little when he realizes he’s been crying on him the whole time. Derek jerks from his grip, and Stiles lets him go, doesn’t force him to stay. He shakes his head a little, curls around himself.

“They, we,” Stiles tries, stops, thinks for a minute. “We looked for you. Seven years, it was all we did. I never really knew you, my Mom was sick a lot when I first met Scott, so I didn’t spend a lot of time at his house, and I guess we never met, or whatever, but I remember the night you went missing.” Derek’s only barely listening, the pounding in his head a sharp pain at the forefront of his attention.

“There was a fire,” He starts, and Derek would cry again, if he could. He can’t, though, so he just takes in another shuddery breath. “It was arson, we know that much. We never found out who did it, though. It was almost too late, but me and my Dad were driving over so I could see Scott, and we saw the flames. Dad called it in, and ran in while the house was still burning. Your Dad was trapped, but mine got him out. They got Melissa and Scott, but they couldn’t find you. They kept looking until the roof started caving in, and even then, the firefighters had to drag them out.” Stiles doesn’t have any inflection in his voice, but one glance at him tells Derek that he’s remembering, his gaze distant and cloudy.

“They put the fire out, looked-“ He swallows, brows furrow. “Looked for a body. There wasn’t anything in the house, but there were scraps of clothes outside. Blood. A trail of it that ended abruptly at the road, so we all figured someone had taken you. Omegas are…” He trails off, and a look of disgust crosses his face. “Valuable.” He doesn’t go on, and Derek doesn’t need him to; he knows.

“Scott has been whimpering downstairs for the past half-hour,” Stiles changes the subject easily, gaze sliding over to Derek. “Do you want to talk to him? He’s nicer than Laura. He’ll probably just cry on you and hug you a lot, and stuff,” Stiles shrugs a little, like it can’t be helped one way or another. Derek shakes his head.

“N-o,” He croaks, voice rough and throat raw. “N-not yet.”

Stiles nods and stands up, moves to leave the room. “You l-looked, though?” Derek whispers, doesn’t look at Stiles.

“For years, Derek. We looked for years. Scott never really stopped.” With that, he shuts the door behind him with a quiet click.

 

*

 

“Hey, wake up,” Someone says, and Derek’s eyes snap open. He jerks away, a thousand thoughts hitting him at once, but relaxes when he sees familiar red eyes looking at him from the dark. He swallows, and his throat clicks audibly. “You slept through dinner,” Stiles explains, leaning out of his space to stand at full height beside the bed. “Scott tried to stick around and wait for you to wake up, but I sent him home. I told him you might be up for the big brotherly reunion tomorrow.”

He holds a bottle of water out to him, and Derek takes it thankfully, drinks huge gulps and nearly downs the whole thing. “Slow down, it’s not like that’s the last one you’ll ever get,” Stiles chides, sitting on the corner of the bed. Derek obeys, but hesitantly. His throat is still scratchy and uncomfortable, but the water had helped a little.

“Laura is picking up Cora from Florida and flying in three days from now,” Stiles tells him, quiet. “She didn’t know that you don’t,” He struggles for a second, sighs. “Doesn’t know how I found you, or the details. I’m gonna go ahead and guess you don’t remember anything, right?”

Derek shakes his head. “I- I was told about the fire,” He says, quiet. “I remember that. The smoke, and the pain, and then- they told me everyone died. It felt like it.”

Stiles nods, like he’d guessed that all along. “A lot of things happened, after that. Do you remember anyone, from before the fire?” He asks, curiosity in his gaze. Derek shakes his head solemnly, he doesn’t cry again, but he feels like he could.

“Your father got custody of you when he divorced your Mom, when you were three. Talia kept Laura and Cora, and your dad got married to Scott’s mom. Then she got pregnant with Scott, so technically, you’re only half-brothers. He was born human, and he had asthma really bad. You were really protective of him,” Stiles sighs a little, like the memory pains him. “Every summer, you and Scott went to Talia’s. It used to just be you, since Talia wasn’t Scott’s mom, but he threw a fit the first time you left, so they just started taking him along. Laura said you were thick as thieves, all of you got along really well. I guess it was a sibling thing, I dunno.”

“Who’s Cora?” He chances asking, not meeting Stiles’ eyes.

“Your little sister.” Stiles answers, then goes on. “You had an Uncle. His name was Peter. He- some bad things happened to him, alright, and losing you didn’t help. He went crazy. He,” Stiles breath changes, a sharp inhale like it hurts to talk about this. “He killed your mom so he could be an alpha. He wanted revenge on- on someone, we don’t know, he was too far gone by then. But he attacked Scott, turned him. Wrong place, wrong time, I guess, because he got me too.” Stiles stares at his hand, curls and uncurls his clawed fingers, like he’s seeing them for the first time, like they disgust him. “Neither of us would listen to him. He threatened our families, but we thought we could protect them. We thought-“ He growls, suddenly, a loud, painful noise, closes his eyes like he can’t bear to look at himself anymore. Derek sees his claws digging into his thigh and he whines. Stiles grip loosens, but Derek can still see his wound bleeding sluggishly, not healing like it should’ve. “Your dad got sick, and Peter wouldn’t give us the money to save him. We think Peter poisoned him, since he never got sick before. My dad was next.” Stiles’ voice falls quiet, too quiet. “Peter murdered him.”

Derek whines again, can feel the alpha’s distress as clearly as if it were his own. It’s pulling at something fundamental inside of him, eliciting instincts he doesn’t know what to think of. Stiles turns to him suddenly, and his eyes look like they’re brighter than before, like there’s a fire behind them. “It was the last mistake he ever made.” He says, and Derek’s pinned under the weight of that, frozen to the spot in a terror that isn’t even his own. He’s scared for an uncle he can’t remember, because if Stiles had looked at him anything like the way he looks now, then Derek doesn’t doubt that Peter went out screaming or choking on his own blood.

“I’m compelling you,” Stiles is on the other side of the room before Derek can blink. He doesn’t know what compelling is, either, so he just blinks owlishly at him, confused and worried. “I’m not doing it on purpose.” Stiles tells him, and he nods if only because he doesn’t know what it is that Stiles isn’t doing on purpose anyway.

“You hurt yourself,” He says, instead of asking. Stiles looks down at the injury, then at his own, bloodied fingers.

“I guess I did,” He snickers, but there’s no humor there. “That hasn’t happened for a while. Sorry if I scared you,” Derek watches the claws disappear into blunt, human fingernails, “I forget that most people don’t use pain as an anchor anymore.”

Derek feels sick, suddenly, because pain has always been his anchor. He hadn’t picked it, it’d been forced on him, but to think that the alpha that took him in, The Beastly Alpha Stilinski, was hurting himself to keep the animal side under control? That he had been, since Derek’s own uncle had turned him when he was no older than seventeen?

“Don’t do it again,” He says before he can even think about it. “Please.”

“Don’t worry about me,” Stiles says, and Derek looks up to see him standing right in front of him, a worried expression on his face. “Look, it already healed. I’m fine, alright? Don’t work yourself up by worrying about me.” Stiles moved like maybe he was going to reach out and touch him, but thought better of it at the last second, and his hand dropped to his side in a fist.

“Why are your eyes always red?” Derek asks, frowning. There was no way that was right, no way he was fine if he couldn’t even control his shift. Derek didn’t need to listen to his heartbeat to know he was lying.

“Because you’re the first omega I’ve been around since Lydia sent Jackson to England.” Stiles replied bluntly, none of the tenseness easing from him.

“I’m not much of a threat,” He replies, gestures at himself for emphasis. Stiles sighs.

“And I’m sure you believe that,” He says, “But you can do more damage like that than you think. The house is only empty right now because my instincts are telling me to be aggressively protective of you until you’re healthy again. And my instincts have always been right before, so.” Stiles seems to struggle between saying something and not, seems to decide against it, because he’s quiet for the next few minutes.

“You’re making my instincts weird, too,” Derek admits, quiet. “If that matters at all.”

“Of course it matters, idiot,” Stiles says, but it’s not cruel; in fact it’s just on that side of playful. He seems a little more relaxed now, or at least, he’s not clenching his fists anymore. “It’s- natural, though. So don’t let it get to you. You’re supposed to feel- whatever you’re feeling, when you’ve got an alpha. At least one that’s worth a shit, anyway,” He sneers that, no doubt a jab at who Derek had been with before, “There are other things, too, more complicated things. But I’m not going to get into that tonight,” He says, as if he knew Derek was going to ask- he was, for the record. He wants to know what’s going on with his own body, now that he’s got agency over it. “I think you’ve been overloaded with enough, for tonight. And you look like you just want to crawl under the covers and go comatose, so.”

Derek does sort of want to crawl under the covers and go comatose, yeah. “I, um.” He furrows his brow, feels embarrassment rise to color his cheeks. “I haven’t eaten anything, yet.”

“Shit,” Stiles curses. “That’s the whole reason I came up here, and I totally forgot.” He groans and heads out the door, mumbling about coming right back, and Derek watches him go with a myriad of emotions whirling in his gut.

At this point, Derek’s fairly sure he’s safe- Stiles isn’t going to hurt him, and his pack isn’t, either. He breathes out, allows himself to relax a little. This is as safe as he’s been ever, that he can remember, and he’s not alone anymore- he’s got a brother, sisters. They’re part of this pack, so, that means he is, too, right? The pack takes care of the alpha just as much as the alpha takes care of the pack, and if he’s pack, he should be returning the favor, shouldn’t he?

“Macaroni and a sandwich,” Stiles announces, and sits the proffered food down on the bedside table to Derek’s left. “And more water. Deaton said it was important to keep you well hydrated.” Derek glances at the one-fourth full water bottle he’s got at his side, nods his understanding, and shifts the plate onto his lap so he can start eating. Stiles lingers for a second, probably only to check that he likes what he’s eating, then heads to the bathroom, only stopping to grab some clothes from the dresser along the way.

By the time Stiles comes back out, Derek’s already done with his food, curled up under the covers and trying to figure out where to go from here. Stiles is fully clothed, and he just sort of collapses in the empty space beside Derek, face down in a pillow, hair still wet from his shower.

“Does this mean I’m pack, now?” Derek asks, cautious. He can see Stiles go tense, but when he turns his head to look at him, he’s relaxed again.

“Do you want to be?” He asks. Derek nods a little, can’t quite meet Stiles’ eyes.

“Yeah,” He answers.

“Then yeah,” Stiles parrots, like it’s common sense. “You’re pack.” Derek can feel it as soon as he says it. It’s like nothing he’s ever felt before; a missing piece slotting into place, something that finally fits and feels right. Something thrumming through his veins- invisible strings attaching him to the others in the pack, tying them together so they all shared a collective strength. He could feel Stiles, too, stronger than the others. Derek was guessing that was because he was the alpha, or just because he was physically closer, he wasn’t sure which.

“I’m gonna get some calls about that in the morning,” Stiles mumbles, and Derek sniffles a little, tries to deal with the emotions flooding him like he’s burst a dam. “Derek, you’ve gotta calm down. We can all feel that, now, y’know?” He says it softly, like he’s afraid to spook him.

“Wha- how?” He swallows around the lump in his throat, focuses on keeping his breathing even and Not Freaking Out.

“You’re our omega,” He says, just as quietly as before, and Derek feels a gentle hand run through his hair, something fond and easy. “It’s complicated, and I promise I’ll explain it to you, but you’ve had a rough day and you really look like you could use some sleep.” Derek doesn’t lean into the hand in his hair, but he doesn’t pull away from it, either. The contact is soothing, grounding him in a way that’s- it’s another thing he’s never really felt before, but he doesn’t mind it. It’s almost nice.

“All of it?” Derek asks hesitantly, already feeling better. Maybe it was a new rush from forming so many bonds at once, because they’ve since quieted, moved to the back of his mind instead of the front. It could be something Stiles is doing, but he’s pretty sure you can’t leach emotional pain from someone.

“Every detail.” He swears, nodding. He pulls away and shifts around, then, getting under the cover and plopping back down. He holds his arm up, though, looks at Derek expectantly. Derek gives him a confused look in return, not sure what he wants. “Well, c’mere,” He says, rolling his eyes. “I’m not gonna be able to sleep with you over there overthinking everything and spilling emotions all over me.”

“So you want me to… cuddle..?” He clarifies, unsure.

Stiles shrugs a little. “It always helped Scott when he got nightmares, and no one else has minded. ‘Sides, it’s better when you smell like me, makes you seem like you’re safer.” Derek nods, and shuffles his way into Stiles’ embrace because he can see the logic in that.

Alphas were meant to protect, after all.

 

Distantly, before he falls asleep, Derek thinks; isn’t this a little too good to be true?

Chapter Text

When Derek awoke, the room was empty, and it smelled as though Stiles hadn’t been there for several hours. He wasn’t sure how he’d managed to miss the man leaving, since he’d gone to sleep so completely wrapped up in him. He sat up, stretching his arms out far above his head and relishing the relief it brought to his muscles. Then he slumped back against the headboard, stared up at the ceiling and thought about how thoroughly his world had been flipped on its head in the last week. He couldn’t even remember if it had even been that long- all the days were sort of blurred together and confused. He could very clearly remember the night he got there, bloody and broken and sure he was going to die. The subsequent events after, though—they all just blurred into one long, confusing mass of days where he was emotionally tested more than he thought possible. He had a new alpha, a new pack, a family. He felt safe for the first time in so, so long.

And yet, there he sat, feeling for all the world like there was still another shoe that hadn’t dropped yet. Stiles had promised that he would explain everything, but he wasn’t there, and Derek didn’t hear him in the rest of the house either. He felt… Alone. He could feel the bond of the pack thrumming through him, and it made him feel stronger, but no less lonely. No less confused. What if Stiles came back and told him that an Omega’s place was exactly where he’d always been—at the bottom, on his back, throat bared?

Derek didn’t think he could stand it. He brought his hand up and rubbed at his throat, swallowing thickly as he felt the phantom clutch of a collar there. He could feel panic worm its way up his spine, but he tamped it down, forced himself to breathe in and out, slowly and deliberately. Even if that was where an omega belonged, he didn’t think Stiles would force him to do anything he didn’t want to. He hadn’t so far, and Scott had seemed to genuinely care about him, and he didn’t think he would let him, either. Logically he knew that a beta wouldn’t stand a chance against an alpha, but he let himself forego logic for once and let the thought comfort him.

Derek got up, showered, and got dressed before he started to feel as though something was wrong. Stiles still hadn’t come back yet, leaving the entire house an eerie, empty quiet. He turned on the TV just to have some background noise while he ventured downstairs. The kitchen was empty, and there wasn’t any food waiting on him either, which was also a first. Derek stared at the fridge for a long moment before reaching for the handle, hesitating at the last second, and putting his hand back down. He stared at it for another long moment before turning around and walking away from it, still feeling like it wasn’t his place. He sat at the island for a while, looking around at everything. The counter was black marble and all the appliances were cold steel, but the cabinets were a warm, red wood that matched the legs of the bar stools at the island. There was a coffee maker in one corner of the counter, large and expensive looking, with a rack of mugs and different jars of coffee on next to it. Other than that one appliance, everything looked like it had come with the house- nothing was personalized.

He turned his attention to the living room that he’d only briefly ventured into. A few pictures hung on the walls, small and nondescript, and Derek couldn’t picture Stiles having taken any of them. They were all of smiling, gleeful people—he saw one of Scott and a girl with long black hair, both of their eyes closed and ridiculous, silly expressions on their faces. He smiled a bit, felt warmth bloom in his chest for Scott. He didn’t know him as his brother, couldn’t remember him, but he was happy for him. There were more pictures, most of them featuring a blonde woman and a red-haired woman, neither of which Derek knew, and some featuring a tall, curly-haired man and a broad man with dark skin. He couldn’t put names to any of the faces he saw except Scott’s, so he let his attention wander father.

The couch was huge and L-shaped, and could have easily sat seven people comfortably. The TV was equally as large, but it had gathered dust and seemed wholly unused. There was a system attached to it, but Derek wasn’t really sure what it was- his last pack had a DVD player that he’d seen, once, in passing. This was much larger than that, and stood vertically under the TV. There were, what he assumed, controllers set out next to it, four of them, but he couldn’t be sure. After a while, his attention turned to the large, oak door in front of the stairs.

Derek knew where that door led. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been outside, and the thought both terrified and excited him. He wanted to feel the grass under his feet again. Wanted to feel the sun on his face and the wind in his hair. Simultaneously, he wanted to never leave the house. The house provided some measure of safety, just being inside—walls to block anyone from seeing him that he didn’t want to, walls to keep people out. A place easily protected if someone came for him. Outside, he was vulnerable. He curled in on himself thinking of it. The last time he’d been outside, he’d been running for his life. Derek could still feel adrenaline rushing through his veins when he thought of it.

Swallowing, he shook the thoughts away. He looked at the clock that displayed on the microwave—2:30—well past noon. Derek felt the worry coming back in full force. Stiles had never been gone this long, not while Derek had been awake. He didn’t feel anything was wrong, and he figured that he would, since they were pack, but he couldn’t be sure. What if Stiles had gone out and something happened to him? What if it was all a lie, just a huge, elaborate lie to make him think he was safe when he wasn’t? He could feel the exact moment that the panic gripped his heart, because all of a sudden, he felt other things, too. Like the pack was trying to soothe him- and they felt like they were moving closer, too, and then it stopped. Derek breathed hard, clutching his chest and looking back and forth out the windows as if he might see one of the standing there at any second. He’d broken out in a cold sweat during the ordeal, sighed out a shaky breath and wiped his brow as he calmed down.

Still, Stiles hadn’t come.

Warning signals went off in Derek’s brain, and he suddenly felt too out in the open. He gingerly made his way back up to Stiles’ room and closed the door, hand shaking as he locked it. He didn’t feel better until he was in the attached, window-less bathroom, that door closed and locked as well. Stiles had never not come when he’d felt panicked. Derek didn’t know what to think of that. He pressed his head back into the cool tiles, closed his eyes and breathed. He decided he would just stay there until Stiles got back, or until he fell asleep again, whichever came first.

The howling woke him up.

 

Chapter Text

The howling sounded like it was coming both from all around the house and inside it—it was loud, it was angry, and it made Derek want to shift. He couldn’t stop his claws from coming out and his fangs from dropping down, but he didn’t move other than that. Then came the furious pounding of feet on the staircase.

Someone tried to open the bedroom door, and when it didn’t they snarled. Derek heard wood splinter and curled up and a smaller ball, pulling his knees up to his chest. Heavy footfalls stopped in front of the bathroom door, and then claws dragged down it. Derek was absolutely petrified, staring wide-eyed at the doorknob as it twisted, the metal groaning as the person on the other side forced it to keep going despite the lock. Before the door opened, there was another sound, and Derek recognized that one; that one was Stiles. He’d made the same sound when Derek had first met him.

There was no commotion, there was just the sharp, snarl-like noise Stiles made in the back of his throat, and then there was silence. The silence lasted for an eternity. Then, quietly, came Stiles’ voice, “Derek?”

Derek bit his lower lip, didn’t want to answer but a whine clawed its way from his throat without his permission. “It’s me, Derek. It’s Stiles.”

“I know,” He whispered back.

“Everything is okay now. You’re safe. Everything’s alright.”

“What.. What just happened?”

“Can I come in?” Stiles asked instead of replying, voice even and reassuring. Derek hesitated, but nodded. “Yes.”

When Stiles came in, he was bloodied. Covered in it, really. He reeked of other wolves and of desperation, and Derek wondered what exactly he’d gone through. Stiles stepped into the bathtub, walked to the end, and sat down next to where Derek was. There was a beat of silence. “I don’t think those were the same people that were after you.” He said.

“… then.. who?”

“Challengers, I think. They must’ve gotten excited when the smelled you on the edge of the territory. Arrogant fucks- they already thought they were going to be able to take me, so they decided they were going to take you from me too. Six of ‘em jumped me while I was patrolling this morning.”

“Why didn’t the rest of the pack help?” Derek asked, heart still beating furiously in his chest. He’d felt them closing in when the howling started, but they’d stopped.

“They aren’t allowed. If a challenger comes, and the pack helps me, my position is undermined. I don’t seem as strong to the other alphas anymore. It would mean that more would come, increasingly violent, and in increasing numbers.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah. So, it was better for me to just take them out myself. They weren’t a strong pack, just large. Like I said, six of them jumped me this morning. They had me in wolfsbane ropes, it took me a while to get free. I was hoping to have dealt with them before you knew anything was wrong. I should’ve sent Scott to look after you. I’m sorry.”

Derek’s silent for a long time. “Does that.. Happen often?”

“No.” Stiles told him simply, and looking at him, covered in blood and dirt, Derek didn’t need to wonder why.

“I think the only reason they came was for you. I get a lot of challengers who make it as far as the border, but never any further, because they realize that it would be suicide if they came. An omega to a young pack, though? You were worth the risk.” Stiles gives him a meaningful look, but Derek doesn’t understand.

“Why? What makes me so special?” Stiles frowns slightly at the question, and Derek feels vaguely like he’s disappointed him, somehow.

“Wait downstairs with Scott for me, I’m going to shower and then I’ll come down and explain, okay?” Stiles tells him, inclining his head toward the door. Derek nods and stands his whole body stiff as a board from sleeping in a curled up position against the wall. Derek thinks for a second that Stiles will reach out and touch him, and a part of him yearns for it, but he doesn’t. Derek pulls the door as closed as he can when he leaves.

Downstairs, Scott is waiting for him, and he looks ecstatic. “Hi,” He says, looking for all the world like a puppy with a wagging tails. Derek spares him a small smile.

“Hello,” He replies, and Scott looks even happier for it.

“Can I hug you?” Scott asks, out of the blue.

“Um.” Derek replies.

“No, I mean, it’s just- Stiles said it would be okay, as long as I asked you first, and I’m careful.”

Derek thinks about it for several long, drawn-out seconds. Scott is the epitome of happiness, Derek can smell how excited he is on him and he’s grinning ear-to-ear. He hasn’t seen anyone with a smile that large before. There isn’t a hint of malice about him. “Okay,” He finds himself saying, and hesitantly opening his arms.

Scott slots between them instantly, both arms going under Derek’s and burying his face in his neck, breathing in deeply. As promised, the hug is firm, but not so much that Derek feels like he can’t breathe. He debates it for just a second before he relaxes into the touch, the solidness of Scott there and in front of him and smelling familiar, like a place he could call home. The hug lasts for a while, longer than Derek thinks hugs are probably supposed to, before Scott pulls away. “I missed you so much,” Scott tells him, eyes brimming with unshed tears. Derek feels himself break open inside. No one had ever missed him, before.

“No one has ever said that to me.” He tells Scott, unwillingly. Something about the beta makes Derek want to pour his heart out to him, tell him every secret and painful memory he was trying to keep buried. Scott puts a hand on his shoulder, squeezes. It’s a grounding touch, and Derek wants to thank him for it.

“Well, you were missed. By a lot of people. I heard Stiles tell you that we looked for you. Everyone else gave up, but I knew you were still out there.” Scott sniffles, and Derek decides to take initiative and pull him forward into another hug, and he doesn’t mind it when this time Scott’s arms make his ribs hurt a little, because he thinks he might be hugging him too tightly, too.

“We’re brothers now,” Derek says, his breath shaky.

“No, we’ve always been brothers.”

Stiles clears his throat at the top of the stairs and they break apart, but Scott’s hand lingers on his shoulder. He grins brightly up at Stiles, who doesn’t seem exactly happy, but definitely not in the mood he’d been when talking to Derek in the bathroom, either.

“Did Erica get rid of the bodies?” He asks, looking at Scott, who nods.

“Yeah. Her and Boyd drove them over the territory line already, they’re taking them back to town in case anyone knows who they are to miss them.” Stiles nods, and Derek notes for the first time that there is a strange absence of blood in a house that presumably just had several dozen people slaughtered in it. Scott notices.

“Only the one guy got inside. And Stiles didn’t kill him in here.”

“Oh.” Derek says, as if he understands.

“Blood is one of those smells that never leaves a place, and I’m not going to make you sleeping in a room that stinks of it. Or live in a house that smells like it.”

“I’m used to it.” Derek says, and Scott flinches when Stiles growls under his breath.

“You shouldn’t be.” Is all he says before storming into the kitchen. “Are you hungry?” He demands. Derek makes a mental note to not say certain things around the alpha, anymore. He didn’t like the way it felt in his gut when he knew he was the reason for Stiles being upset.

“Yes,” The way he says it must leave the unspoken Alpha hanging in the air, because Stiles stops what he’s doing.

“I’m not upset with you, Derek. I’m upset because of the circumstances you were kept under, okay? I just want to keep you safe, and hearing all the ways that they didn’t makes me want to go out, hunt them down, and rip them into shreds.”

Derek wants him to. He knows that somehow Stiles can feel that, through the pack connection probably, because he gives Derek a meaningful look as if to say ‘If you want me to, I’ll go do it right now.’ Derek says “I haven’t eaten today.” Instead.

Stiles nods, just slightly, and Derek can somehow tell in the set of his shoulders that Stiles is storing that information away for later. Scott makes a quiet noise at Derek, pushing him toward the kitchen. Derek goes and obligingly sits at the counter to wait for a meal.

Stiles makes steaks. He gets angry again, just once, when he asks how Derek likes his cooked and Derek tells him he doesn’t know, but other than that it goes without incident. Scott doesn’t eat with them, but he does sit with him, and chastises Derek in a friendly way when Derek doesn’t touch the vegetables on his plate. He ends up eating them anyway, because Stiles says he needs to nutrition, but he enjoys the steak much more. Stiles gives him half of his own steak, and Derek thinks that means something, if the look Scott gives them when he does it is any indication. He doesn’t bother trying to turn it down, instead says thank you and tries his best not to mind when Stiles watches him like a hawk as he eats it.

Once he’s finished and full, Stiles tells them to wait in the living room as he cleans up and does the dishes. He takes a handful of phone calls while he’s in there, but Derek doesn’t listen in after he says the word ‘condolences.’

Half an hour later, Stiles sits down in front of him on the coffee table. “An omega is every bit as important as an alpha in a pack, if not more.” He starts. Derek gives him a confused, skeptical look, but he doesn’t interrupt.

“An omega is the glue that holds the pack together. You can feel everyone much more deeply than I can, and you can influence them more, too. In the bedroom, when you felt my anger? Everyone in the pack could feel it, but you the most. When you told me not to hurt myself, I couldn’t help but listen to you. There was literally nothing I could do except listen to you and try to make you feel better. It’s instinctual. The betas follow your command just as much as they do mine, if not more. I protect the pack, but you keep us sane, you keep us from killing one another.”

Derek frowns. “Are.. Are you sure?” He asks.

“Yes. When you’re healthy, and you’ve been with us long enough to strengthen your ties with me, and with the pack, you’ll see. Not even I will be able to resist doing what you say. It takes some practice, though, you have to.. There’s a certain inflection you have to use. For example, I could tell Scott to get up, go to the grocery store, and buy me all the pineapples there—“

Scott interjects. “But unless he commands me to do it, I don’t have to.”

“I… I don’t think that’s right.” Derek tells them, frowning hard.

“Why not?” Stiles asks, and his head tilts a bit in confusion.

“If I tell you, it will upset you.” Derek warns, crossing his arms over his chest. Stiles nods for him to go on. “I used to tell them to stop, to let me go, to do all sorts of things in my last pack and they never did. No matter what tone of voice I used or how much I wanted them to.”

Stiles, to his credit, doesn’t make a sound. Derek thinks that’s because he knows that the growling still triggers him, but he’s not sure. He does, however, calmly snap off a piece of the solid-wood table his sitting on with the force of his grip. He looks at it for a second and then puts it down. “Excuse me,” He says, then to Scott, “Stay.” And then he walks out of the room, through the kitchen, and out a back door that Derek hadn’t noticed before.

“He’ll come back,” Scott says, rubbing Derek between his shoulder blades, as if to ease some of the tension there. “He’s just blowing off some steam. He’ll probably rip apart a deer and be back in like, fifteen minutes.” Derek glances at Scott, who sounds the same, but has his jaw set in a hard line.

“I’m sorry you went through that.” Scott says, and Derek really believes he means it. “Have you… Have you told Stiles who it was that had you?” He pauses briefly, then a thought seems to cross his mind that makes him even sadder. “Do you even know?”

Derek takes a deep, calming breath. “I—I can’t. Not yet.” He whines quietly, shaking his head. Scott moves his hand to the back of Derek’s neck, grips him with a gentle, reassuring pressure. “That’s okay. You know we would never force you to tell us before you’re ready, right? Never.”

“Thanks,” He says quietly, and means it.

It’s nearly an hour before Stiles gets back, just as clean as he was when he left. It’d started raining while he was gone, a torrential downpour, so that isn’t surprising. There’s water dripping from the hair plastered to his forehead and down his bare chest. He’s leaving small, muddy puddles on the tile floor where he walks. Derek and Scott had spent the time talking about their family, Scott trying to fill Derek in on their childhood as much as possible. “Time for you to go home, Scott.” Stiles says, waving his phone at him. Derek doesn’t understand, but Scott must, because he stands up.

“Allison called? Is she okay? Is the baby coming?”

“Yes, yes, no. She just misses you.”

“Oh. Okay,” He looks at Derek, and Derek stands to give him a farewell hug. He likes Scott. Scott makes him feel comfortable, not hunted or hated or like something to be taken. Stiles still sets him on edge sometimes, but Scott feels safe. “You’ll have to meet her; Allison. She’s the love of my life, Derek. She’s perfect. Not until after the baby comes, though. New people make her hostile right now.”

Derek nods. “Congratulations,” He tells him, smiles a little. Scott beams back at him like he’d given him everything he had ever wanted, hugs him again, and then leaves.

Stiles gets some towels from the bathroom downstairs, comes back to stand in front of Derek with them wrapped around him. “Can we go to bed?” He asks, and it’s such a strange, foreign thing to Derek—that someone asked him if they could go to bed, that he asked because Derek’s opinion mattered—that he just stares at him blankly. “Derek,” Stiles repeats, shifting foot to foot. “It’s cold. Please?”

Derek nods. “Okay. Yeah, we can.” He says, trying to sound confident.

“You don’t have to sleep if you aren’t tired. Just... Sit in the room with me while I do? It makes me feel better when I can hear your heartbeat.” Derek nods again, and follows him up to the room. He doesn’t pretend he isn’t tired. He felt emotionally drained as soon as he climbed into the bed, curling up under the covers and letting out a sigh of relief at how right it feels there. Stiles changes his clothes and finishes toweling off in the bathroom before he comes back, and wastes no time getting into Derek’s personal space. He stops just short of touching him though, red eyes looking up into Derek’s searchingly.

He can’t say the worst ‘you can touch me’ out loud yet, so instead he lifts up his arm in what he hopes is a clear invitation. Stiles shuffles into the space he’s allowed him, nuzzles up under his neck and breathes a heavy sigh of relief as he slumps against him, one arm curling around Derek’s back. Derek settles his arms over him as if he’s hugging Stiles’ head, as their current position doesn’t give him much room to do anything else. He tugs the covers up over Stiles’ shoulders and matches his breathing to his, feeling a comforting sense of calm overtake him as he falls asleep.

Derek’s last thought before he falls asleep is of Laura and Cora, the two sisters he couldn’t remember, but knew he would be meeting soon. If they were anything like Scott, he thought he would like them.