The bell tinkled overhead as Stiles left the ice cream parlor. His skin tingled when the late August heat enveloped him and the rocky road cone in his hand began to glisten and droop with every step he took out into the afternoon sun.
Shielding his eyes with one hand and taking a sweeping lick of his cone, he surveyed the Main Street shops of his new town. Beacon Hills wasn’t large, but he couldn’t see the entirety of the main thoroughfare from where he was standing. Wrought iron lamp posts boasted banners for an end-of-summer festival and riotous bursts of color adorned large clay flower pots dotting the sidewalk stretching out on each side of him. He was only a couple blocks down from the police station where his Dad was probably still moving into his new Deputy Chief office. There was a flower shop to his right, a drug store to his left, and everything from dry-cleaning to a cigar shop on the other side of the street.
It certainly looked like a place that could become his new home. He had only allowed himself to be cautiously hopeful that things would be better here. He was excited about getting to do things he hadn’t been able to do before like finally looking for a job. Nervous, but mostly excited. He spotted a bookstore down a block and across the street. That seemed like the perfect place to start picking up applications and he headed to the crosswalk as the unmistakable rumble of motorcycles sounded in the distance.
Motorcycles had always been a fascination of his, much to his father’s dismay. He’d never actually been on one and he loved his jeep, but there was something undeniably sexy about the deep rumbling raw power of a motorcycle. Especially ones like the Harleys that approached now. The bikes themselves were beautiful, sleek and dangerous, in various colors, but the riders were even more so. Seven of them cruised along in pairs with one bike in the lead and every single one of them looked the part, from their black boots and leather vests to the helmets strapped under their chins. In the front, a dark-haired woman effortlessly sailed on a candy apple red bike that sent vibrations up his legs the closer she got to him. Stiles thought she looked like a queen.
Flanking her on either side were two men, both tall and broad from what he could tell. Stiles startled when the more muscular one on the leader’s left jerked his head and locked onto Stiles despite his eyes being hidden behind dark sunglasses.
Stiles’ breath caught in his chest, a cocktail of fear and lust shooting through his veins. The man was beautiful even with his face half hidden. A ball of radiant warmth burst low in Stiles’s belly, scorching through him until he was nothing but the blood roaring in his ears, the heart pounding behind his ribs. All he could see was the man on the motorcycle. Dark hair peeked out from the edges of his helmet. The beginnings of a beard crawled over his sharp jaw line, framing the downward turn of his mouth. Broad shoulders branched out into muscular arms and Stiles could see the edge of a tattoo peeking out from under the sleeve of the man's t-shirt. Muscle rippled under tanned skin as the man twisted the throttle, revving the engine of the blacked out beast he was driving. Stiles startled at the noise and he felt his cheeks pink as his eyes jumped back to the man's face.
The biker’s face stayed turned to him until he was almost looking over his shoulder to keep Stiles in sight. Then just as quickly he snapped his face back towards the road ahead and the moment shattered. The rest of the bikes whizzed by, but Stiles couldn’t have described a single one so focused was he on that one particular leather clad back. The words Wolf Pack were emblazoned from shoulder to shoulder above a picture of a lone wolf howling at the moon on each vest that passed. Beneath the picture, the words Beacon Hills stretched from hip to hip with a three spiraled symbol in between.
Stiles stared until the growl of their engines faded into the distance, and the melting ice cream running down his hand jolted him out of his stupor. Licking his hand, he checked the street before walking across toward the bookstore. He felt like he was in a daze, moving on autopilot.
So that was the infamous Wolf Pack of Beacon Hills. You couldn’t really live in Northern California or anywhere on the West Coast and not have heard of them. They had chapters as far north as Tacoma and others all the way into Southern Arizona. While most people always spoke of them with suspicion, Stiles thought the entire concept was awesome. He imagined how exhilarating it must be to fly along with nothing between you and the horizon. Not to mention how it must feel to belong in the ranks of something like that.
Stiles had never felt like he really belonged anywhere. Certainly not at his old school. Definitely not in his old town. Just thinking of it, thinking of the man who’d made his life a living hell for the last few months, sent a chill down his spine, made him look over his shoulder. Of course there was nothing there - just an empty sidewalk. He glanced in the direction the Wolves had disappeared and prayed that things would be better here.
Derek’s hand slipped from his wrench and smacked into the fender of the motorcycle he was working on. “Dammit!” he growled, more as a reprimand for his wandering thoughts than for the split skin of his knuckle. It would be healed within the next five seconds, while his traitorous mind refused to keep certain things pushed to the background where they belonged. Derek wished he could forget. Wished like hell he’d never caught that scent in the first place.
“You’re up early,” Laura’s voice called from inside the open garage door. Hale Automotive had been in their family for generations, and in recent years had grown considerably. Derek was currently in their second garage, which was reserved exclusively for their motorcycle business. They’d carved out quite the name for themselves not only as honest mechanics, but for the custom bikes they built. He, Erica, and Boyd worked almost exclusively in the bike shop these days.
“Didn’t sleep great,” Derek grunted in his sister’s direction and wiped his bloody hand on his jeans, which he noted were already filthy. As was the white tank top he’d left exposed when he took off his Hale Automotive work shirt. The sky was still pink with the sun’s ascent, but already the heat had sweat pooling at his temples, under his arms.
“There a reason for that?” Laura asked as she walked into the shop and looked over the bike he was working on. She stopped on the other side of it and leaned her elbows on the seat so she was closer to Derek’s eye level where he was perched on a short, rolling stool. “Like maybe whatever caught your attention in town yesterday?
Derek huffed out a breath and shook his head. He should have known that she would notice. He took a deep breath. He wasn’t going to talk about this. Not with Laura. Not with anybody, because he wasn’t going to do anything about it. There was no reason to complicate things, and his sisters always complicated things. “I don’t want to talk about it,” he said picking up his wrench again.
Laura’s eyes widened. “But there is something to talk about?”
Derek felt his eyes flash red and a low growl rumbled up from his chest.
Laura’s own red eyes flashed right back, but she quickly raised her hands placatingly. “Right. Sorry. You don’t want to talk about it. But Derek...that scent.”
Derek was up off his stool with a snarl on his lips before he knew what happened. His wolf had been unsettled since he’d seen the boy yesterday and apparently someone else commenting on the boy’s scent had his hackles rising. Even his sister, which was ridiculous. Derek sucked in a deep breath and turned away, pushing the wolf back under his skin.
Laura took a couple steps back and towards the door - only then she stopped and Derek sighed. He should have known she wouldn’t let it go.
Laura didn’t speak right away, but when she did her voice was soft and she sounded so much like their mother that Derek couldn’t breathe. “I won’t pretend to know what’s going on in your head. I understand when you say you don’t want to talk. But Derek...don’t hide. Not from this. And if you do need someone to listen, I’m here.” When Derek turned to meet her eyes they were fierce. She was such a better Alpha than he was. “I’ve always been here. I always will be. I love you, little brother.”
Derek could only nod.
“Stiles! You need to get a move on or you’re going to be late!”
“I’ll be right down!” Stiles yelled through the bathroom door. His dad had really wanted to follow him to school since it was his first day, but Stiles had refused. The last thing he needed was to be the new kid that showed up with a police escort. It was already going to be weird enough starting his senior year in a new school. He was incredibly thankful to be away from his old school, but he still worried that he’d never fit in here, either. Especially since most of these kids had probably been going to school together since kindergarten.
Taking a deep breath and one last glance in the mirror, he thundered down the stairs. His dad was pouring orange juice into a glass that he quickly shoved towards Stiles, who weaved his way around the boxes they still hadn’t finished unpacking and accepted his juice.
“I think breakfast is going to have to be poptarts if you can find them,” John said as he watched Stiles chug his juice with assessing eyes. Stiles wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and turned to rinse his glass. “You’ll call if you need anything?”
“Of course,” Stiles said, moving to poke through a box on the counter labeled ‘food’ in black sharpie. His dad was hovering behind him and Stiles knew he was working up to some kind of speech.
“You know the school knows about the...situation and I’ll be just down the road at the police station.” John’s voice was gentle, but unwavering and Stiles was grateful. He just really wanted to leave the past where it was. Behind him.
“I know, Dad,” he said, grabbing a pack of poptarts and turning to his father’s concerned face. “But...fresh start, remember?”
A grin spread across his dad’s face, crinkling his eyes, and he pulled Stiles into a quick hug. “Yeah, kiddo. Fresh start.”
“Cora, let’s go!” Derek shouted up from the base of the stairs. After their family home had been burned to the ground with half their family inside, he and his sisters had moved into the apartment above the clubhouse, lovingly named “The Den,” that sat on the same lot as the garages. The main level was basically a giant hang-out spot equipped with a pool table, big comfy couches, a giant flatscreen, and gaming consoles that Scott and Isaac spent way too much time on. Its main function, though, was to serve as a meeting place for the pack and the club. There was a room in the back with a giant oak table his grandfather had built and carved the symbol of their pack into. He’d jokingly called it the ‘chapel’ and now whenever the club had a meeting they said they were going to ‘church’.
“Geez, chill out, brother dear. We’ve got, like, twenty whole minutes,” Cora said as she bounded down the stairs, back pack slung over her shoulder.
“Let’s just go.” Derek turned and headed outside towards his bike, a Harley Fat Boy S. It was really his pride and joy. The bike’s dark style suited him as he’d never been one for chrome, and from it’s blacked out straight pipes to the dark wheels, he’d fallen in love the first time he’d seen it. He’d chosen matte black paint and of course a triskele, their pack symbol, painted in white on the bike’s tank. There was some custom work he’d done as well. Really, he didn’t think there was a club member’s bike that he hadn’t worked on. He unfastened one of his saddlebags and dug out Cora’s helmet. Normally, Isaac picked Cora up, but he was riding with Scott this morning since Derek was still making some adjustments to Isaac’s bike.
Cora frowned at him as she took the helmet he was holding out to her and began strapping it on. “You’re more growly than usual this morning. Something to do with how you couldn’t decide between sleeping and pacing last night?”
“Cora,” Derek started to growl then huffed. He was not going to snap at his little sister. “Just...yes. And I’d appreciate it if that was the end of it.”
Cora narrowed her eyes, but thankfully said no more. He swung his leg over the side of his bike and straightened it, holding steady so Cora could climb on behind him. Once she was seated, he started it up, rumbling growl filling the air, and pulled out of the lot.
Stiles stumbled out of the jeep with barely ten minutes to spare. Thankfully, he’d been given a tour during registration and was almost 85% positive that he remembered where his first period class was located.
Ok, 70% sure...maybe 60%. But no lower. How hard could it be to find AP English in a school that only had one building?
He was digging in his backpack for his schedule and copy of the campus map when a motorcycle pulled up in front of the school’s steps, not ten feet away from him. He very nearly tripped over nothing and almost landed flat on his face. Flailing, he managed to keep himself upright, but dear lord, that was hot motorcycle guy. Sitting on his Harley, directly in front of Stiles and he was staring straight at him. Again.
Only this time, there were no sunglasses hiding his eyes and a truly impressive set of eyebrows. Stiles gulped. Something tugged low in his stomach then preceded to spread out under his skin until he felt like his whole body was vibrating. He felt himself flush from the top of his head to the soles of his feet.
Motorcycle guy was gorgeous .
He was also glaring. Glaring at Stiles like Stiles had somehow offended him just by being in the same vicinity, or like he was about to jump off his motorcycle and beat Stiles to a pulp.
The girl that had been riding along with motorcycle guy finished putting something in one of the saddlebags and touched motorcycle guy on the shoulder. He seemed to almost flinch then pulled his gaze from Stiles to look at her.
And Stiles...well, he didn’t like that at all. What the hell? Was he seriously jealous of some girl he didn’t even know? Over some guy he really didn’t know and who possibly wanted to maim Stiles just for existing?
Yes. Yes he was.
Huffing to himself, Stiles took the chance to dart away. He made sure to stay a good distance behind stupidly hot motorcycle guy then jogged up the steps.
“Goodbye, Derbear!” He heard the girl say as he pushed the school’s door open and ground his teeth together.
“Fuck.” Derek pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes and fell back against the garage door the moment it closed behind him.
The boy was a fucking high school student. Of course he was. It had taken every ounce of willpower Derek possessed not to get off his bike, grab him up like the caveman he felt like and drag him home. Or to just grab him so Derek could bury his face against the boy’s neck.
His scent had been anxious this morning. Not relaxed and hopeful the way it’d been when he’d been standing on the sidewalk with ice cream running down his hand. Derek wondered if it was just first day at a new school jitters, or something more. The scent was deeper somehow, like it had had time to dig in and take hold, permeate.
Derek didn’t like it at all. Wanted to wrap the boy up. Soothe him.
He was so fucked.
“Hey boss.” Erica’s voice tore through the haze currently wrapping itself around him. She and Boyd had entered through the side door and were taking out their time cards. They still had one of those old manual punchers from when his grandpa ran the garage. It used to be in the main building, but Derek had moved it to the motorcycle garage when it was first built. He didn’t have to punch in anymore, but he still remembered his dad making him his very own time card and letting him punch in every time they came to the garage. Laura hadn’t argued when he said they weren’t going to upgrade to one of the fancy fingerprint readers or a card swiper.
He knew she remembered too. Her timecard had always sat right next to his.
Stiles had managed to make it through his first three classes without any teachers trying and failing to pronounce his first name. Also, while he’d gotten some curious stares, there hadn’t been any barely concealed whispers trailing wherever he went, or bullying of any kind.
He walked through the door to fourth period chemistry and the man he assumed was Mr. Harris gave him a scathing look.
“You must be Mr. Stilinski.” Harris looked like he’d spent his childhood sucking on lemons.
“That’s me. Uh, I go by Stiles.”
“Take the open seat in the back row,” Harris said dismissively, and okay then. Apparently, he could still drum up some disdain just by existing.
The empty seat in the back row was at a table occupied by a dark haired boy with a happy smile. Stiles immediately likened him to a puppy and the way he perked up and turned to Stiles as he sat down did nothing to dissuade that notion.
“I’m Scott,” he said, and stuck out his hand for Stiles to shake. “Don’t mind Harris. He’s a douche,” Scott intoned when Stiles took his hand.
Stiles liked him immediately.
It turned out that Harris, regardless of his intention, had done Stiles a solid by putting him next to Scott. It was now lunch and Stiles hadn’t spent a second since he’d shaken Scott’s hand alone or feeling out of place.
They shared the same math class fifth period and after that Scott led Stiles to the cafeteria, warned him away from the mystery meat surprise, and pushed him towards a table where two other students were already sitting, a tall blonde boy with a shy smile and a lovely dark haired girl. The same dark haired girl that had been with hot motorcycle guy this morning, Stiles realized with a jolt.
“Stiles, this is Cora Hale and Isaac Lahey. Guys, this is Stiles Stilinski,” Scott said with a flourish.
Two curious gazes turned to him as he sat down with his tray across from Scott. Isaac seemed to take Scott’s approval as all the proof he needed of Stiles’s good character and offered a nod in welcome. Cora, though, she took her time in accessing him with narrowed eyes. Finally, she leaned forward a little bit and took a deep breath before her face morphed into something welcoming. “Hi Stiles,” she said. “What brings you to Beacon Hills?”
“Oh, uh, my dad transferred to the police department here. He’s the new deputy chief,” Stiles said then took a big bite of chicken strip. The poptarts he’d grabbed for breakfast were probably squished to bits in his backpack where he’d left them when nerves won out over hunger this morning.
“Well, welcome. If there’s anything you need, you let us know,” Cora said as Scott and Isaac nodded along.
“Thanks,” Stiles said with a nod. Then he pursed his lips. “Actually, I am looking for an after school job. Do you guys know anywhere that’s hiring?”
Cora tilted her head. “Well, if you’re ok dealing with people and answering the phone, we need someone to cover the office at the garage a couple nights a week. Maybe a Saturday morning every once in awhile.”
“The garage?” Stiles asked.
“Yeah, Hale Automotive. My family owns it. My sister Laura, my brother Derek, and me.”
“I work there too,“ Isaac interjected. “In the garage. Derek’s teaching me to work on motorcycles.”
“What about you, Scott?” Stiles asked, looking at his new friend and trying not to let his racing thoughts show on his face.
“Nope, not me. I help Dr. Deaton at the vet clinic. But I’m over there all the time with the Pack.”
“So…” Stiles hoped this wasn’t rude to ask, but he was so curious. “Are you guys, like, part of the Wolf Pack too?”
Cora’s grin turned sharp. “Yep. Technically, I’m a prospect, we all are.” She nodded toward Scott and Isaac. “But I was born into it.”
“Yes, princess, we know.” Isaac teased and threw a french fry at her. “We’ll be full fledged members once we’re out of high school,” Isaac explained.
“As long as we don’t do anything stupid and get ourselves kicked out,” Scott added.
“That’s awesome,” Stiles said. “I’ve never even been on a motorcycle before.”
All three of them turned to stare at him with wide eyes.
“I’m pretty sure that’s not natural,” Scott finally said. “And it’ll definitely have to change if you’re going to work at the shop.”
“Do you really think you can get me the job?” Stiles asked Cora.
Cora shrugged. “You know your way around a computer? Can help people set up appointments? Hand people their car keys and run a cash register?” At Stiles’s nod she continued. “I’ll have to run it by Laura, she manages the office and people side of things, but yeah, it should be fine.”
“Laura wants to eat lunch at the table,” Boyd said, coming back from getting some supplies out of the main garage.
Derek frowned. “Did she say why?” Calling everyone into the chapel in the middle of the week, in the middle of the work day, was something Laura rarely did. Not all members of the pack were part of the club. Only the leaders. The soldiers. The Wolf Pack had started with his grandpa’s love of riding and as a way to let their pack mentality show through in their everyday lives. It didn’t make pack members any less important to not be part of the club, but they generally weren’t on the front lines either. Every wolf and human in the pack was important - family - and the club protected the pack. Defended their territory.
Derek’s mother had been especially passionate about the club not only looking after it’s pack members, but keeping Beacon Hills as free from crime as possible. It made the police view the club with distrust, as they probably would anyone they considered a motorcycle gang or vigilante organization, but it bought the Wolves a reputation as dangerous outlaws and most of the criminal element decided it wasn’t worth their time to try to move into Wolf turf. Those that tried were shown quickly that they had been mistaken.
Boyd shook his head in answer to Derek’s question as he, Derek, and Erica made their way across the parking lot to the Den. Laura was already in the chapel setting a plate of sandwiches, bags of chips, and bottles of water on the table. She looked up as they entered, but didn’t smile and Derek closed the door behind them.
Derek sat at Laura’s left hand as her Vice President. Usually, in pack hierarchy, the strongest beta would be second-in-command, but about a year ago Derek had had to kill a rogue alpha, transferring his alpha power to Derek. Many of their pack members assumed Derek would have to leave and find territory of his own because it was very rare for two alphas to be able to co-exist in the same pack, but it had never been a problem for them. Laura was his alpha and had been since their mother died. Gaining alpha power himself hadn’t changed that.
Across from him, Aiden was already reaching for a sandwich. He served as the Sergeant at Arms. Third in ranking, but typically tasked with the less than savory dealings the club had to endure to keep their pack and town safe. They certainly hadn’t been dubbed outlaws for no reason.
Erica, Boyd, Ethan, Satomi, and Danny, the only human acting as part of the club, rounded out the rest of the table. Satomi was the only club member left from his mother’s days as president and often served as counsel for Laura.
“Thank you all for coming,” Laura began, bringing the president’s gavel down onto the table to begin their meeting and nodding towards Danny and Ethan especially, since they didn’t work on site and had to commute over. “I apologize for the short notice, but I believe we’ve got another rogue wolf on our hands.”
Everyone seemed to freeze in place for a moment waiting for Laura to continue.
“Chief Unser was attacked last night on a routine check out in the Preserve. He’s alive, but in bad shape. They’re keeping him sedated for now. Melissa called a little while ago, and the doctors are calling it an animal attack.” Laura let that hang in the air for a minute. Chief Unser was a good cop and a good man, even if he and the club didn’t always see eye to eye. “Of course, there’s a chance that it actually was an animal, but we all know how likely that is.”
There were grunts of assent from everyone.
“We need to be smart about this. We’ve had a fairly quiet stretch of months and I don’t want to draw any extra attention, but I’m putting us on high alert. Patrols will start immediately and no one goes anywhere alone. Danny, Ethan, please get the word out to the rest of the pack. Aiden, we’ll go to the scene. See if we can catch a scent. Derek, can you make sure the pups get home from school safely? Take Satomi with you. Erica and Boyd, please put together a patrol schedule.”
After they’d finished eating and hashing out details, Derek walked with Laura and Aiden towards the line of bikes parked outside. Aiden walked passed them to straddle his bike, strapping on his helmet. Derek caught his eye over Laura’s shoulder. “Keep an eye on her.”
“Always,” Aiden intoned with a nod. He started his bike then pulled away from the line, stopping just shy of the entrance, waiting for Laura while giving them a moment of privacy.
“You’ll be careful?” Derek asked quietly.
“It’s just scenting, Der,” Laura said, but started nodding at the sight of his lowered brows. “I’ll be careful. You be careful too, and get our little sister back here safely. The boys too.”
Derek nodded. “I will.”
“I know.” Laura gave him a half smile as she pulled her hair back and situated her helmet. “Is there...is there anyone else we should be keeping an eye on?” she asked gently.
Derek directed his glare to the ground and let out a slow breath before meeting her eyes. “No.”
If Laura was trying to hide the flash of disappointment in her eyes, she failed. Miserably. Then her expression morphed into something even worse as she squeezed his shoulder before throwing her leg over her Road King. The engine roared to life under her hands and she pulled away from Derek and straight out of the lot, Aiden right behind her.
He didn’t need her pity. Wouldn’t accept it. The safest place for the boy was as far from Derek as he could get. If no one knew what he was... who he was to Derek, then that would keep him safe far longer than anything Derek could do, despite what his instincts were telling him.
He sighed and went back to work.
“I’m here to see Deputy Chief Stilinski...I’m his son.” Stiles said to the unfamiliar deputy sitting at the reception desk inside the door of the police station.
“Nice to meet you,” the deputy said, standing to extend his hand. “Jordan Parrish.”
Stiles shook his hand. “Stiles. Nice to meet you, too.” The deputy gave him a genuine smile and Stiles couldn’t help think how different it was compared to the recent greetings he’d received at his dad’s old station.
“Your dad has had a pretty crazy afternoon, but he’s in his office at the moment if you want to go on back,” Deputy Parrish told him, and Stiles nodded his thanks.
The station wasn’t huge, but it was big enough for his dad and the chief to have their own offices plus a spacious bullpen, interrogation rooms, and holding cells. Chief Unser had given them the official tour just yesterday when his dad had started his new position.
He rapped on the his dad’s closed door and received a gruff, “Come in.”
“Hi Dad,” Stiles said to the top of his dad’s head where he was bent over a map on his desk. There were still partially unpacked boxes sitting around and an open container of half-eaten salad sat at his dad’s elbow on the desk. Parrish must not have been kidding about his dad’s day.
“Oh hey, kiddo.” John looked up at him with a tired smile. “How was your day?”
“I was about to ask you the same thing,” Stiles said, taking in the worry lines around his dad’s eyes. “But mine was good. Made a couple friends, I think. Maybe even found a job.”
“That’s great! Where at?”
“Over at Hale Automotive. I’m supposed to go after school tomorrow for an interview.” At his dad’s frown, he hurried to continue. “Cora Hale is in my class and I guess they need someone to help in the office after school a couple days a week. She normally does it, but she’s joined art club so...”
John had his cop face on when Stiles met his eyes again. “I know you have a thing about motorcycles, son. And I’m not trying to judge a book by it’s cover, but…” He sighed. “Well, half the people in this town think the Hales are a menace and the other half paint them as saints. But you know I trust you, so if you think working there is a good fit then I’m ok with it. As long as you stay out of trouble and keep your grades up.”
“Thanks Dad,” Stiles said, huge grin splitting his face.
This time his dad’s smile was bigger, but it didn’t last. “I’m afraid I’m looking at a long night here.”
“What’s going on?”
John sighed. “Chief Unser was attacked last night. He’s hanging in there, but the doctors think it was an animal. So, you are to stay out of the Preserve, you hear me? At least until we get this thing found.”
“No problem, Daddio. Was planning on homework and CoD tonight anyway. This guy Scott I met today plays too and we’re going to link up online.”
“Good. Don’t forget to eat actual food for dinner, not just cheetos. I’m going to try to be home before you go to bed, but if I’m not make sure you double check all the doors and windows, ok?”
Stiles knew that despite the brave face he put on his dad could still tell how his fear crept up on him sometimes. Especially at night. His dad was good enough to never point it out, but he did try to always be home before Stiles went to bed. It was not always possible, but Stiles was grateful for the effort anyway. He really had the best dad in the world.
“I will, Dad. And you’ll be careful?”
“Of course.” John stood and pulled Stiles into a hug. “Love you kiddo.”
“Love you too, Dad.”
Derek caught the scent a moment before he heard the voice. It smelled like the boy, only not. The scent was deeper, older, and with different undertones. Father, Derek realized with a jolt.
“Good morning. Miss Hale?”
Cool morning air moved around him as he stood from the parts he’d been sorting and crept closer to the open bay door. He normally didn’t bother, but if he focused his hearing he could pick up nearly everything from the main garage and office across the lot.
“Good morning, officer,” Laura replied.
“Stilinski. Deputy Chief Stilinski, but please call me John,” Stilinski said.
“What can I do for you, John?” Laura asked.
Derek listened closely. The police sniffing around was almost never good for them. The deputy chief who Stilinski had replaced had been determined that the Wolf Pack was involved in some sort of vast criminal organization doing things like running guns and distributing drugs. Derek wondered if his lack of success attempting to prove such a ridiculous theory had led to his resignation.
“As I’m sure you know, Chief Unser was attacked Sunday evening out in the Preserve.”
“Yes, we had heard. Wayne’s a good man. We’re certainly keeping him in our thoughts.”
“I am sure he would appreciate that.”
It sounded like Stilinski had taken a step closer and when he spoke again his voice was lower.
“What we didn’t air publicly is that whatever got him dragged him quite a ways from the road he was on. Wayne did manage to get a shot off, wounding it, and it dropped him right on the border of your land.”
Of course they already knew. The blood trail had gone on for nearly a mile before the wolf had healed and all traces disappeared. Whoever it was, they were good at covering their tracks. Derek stepped through the garage door and walked towards the pair. He knew what was coming next.
“I see,” Laura replied, locking eyes with Derek over the Deputy Chief’s shoulder. “And what would you like from me?”
“I’ve got a team of trackers with the National Wildlife Service coming in, and I’d like your permission to allow them to attempt to track the animal where it crossed over onto Hale land.”
“Absolutely not,” Derek heard himself growl, as much human in his voice as he could manage.
The older man spun around to face him, hand automatically going to his sidearm. His hair wasn’t as dark as his son’s, nor were his eyes, and Derek idly wondered if the boy had gotten them from his mother before he shook those thoughts away. No one had any business traipsing around their land.
“Derek.” Laura had stepped between the two men, leaving her back exposed to the Deputy Chief, and placed a hand on his chest. Her eyes bled red for a moment and Derek felt his face darken, but he lowered his chin a fraction. She turned back to face Stilinski, “I’m sorry about that. This is my brother Derek. Derek, this is Deputy Chief Stilinski.”
Derek accepted the man’s nod with one of his own before turning back around and storming off the same way he had come.
“I know you’re probably not familiar, yet, with some of the history in this town, but we lost nearly all of our family to a fire in the house located on that property,” Laura said, smoothing over Derek’s interruption. “As you can imagine, it’s still a sensitive topic for us.”
“My condolences,” John said, and he sounded for all the world like he knew exactly how that felt. “We have no wish to disturb anything. Just to find the creature that did this so it can’t hurt anyone else.”
Laura seemed to pause for a moment, but Derek knew she had already made up her mind.
“I’ll allow it, but I’d like to be present.”
“Absolutely. They were planning to arrive tomorrow morning and get out there at first light.”
“I will meet you at the station then.”
“Thank you, Miss Hale.”
“Please, call me Laura. And really, it’s no trouble.”
“This looks like a really nice business you have here, Laura. My son loves motorcycles.”
“Oh? Do you ride?”
“No, no. Too dangerous for my blood.” The man chuckled. “Thank you for your time. We’ll see you in the morning.”
Stiles licked at the bit of sweat that was collecting on his top lip. The day had started out cool, but it had turned into a scorcher in the afternoon. He was glad that the evenings were beginning to cool off, though. Fall was his favorite season and hopefully this year he’d get to enjoy all the bonfires and hot chocolate under the stars that he could stand.
It had surprised Stiles when two members of the Wolf Pack, in their leather vests and everything, had been waiting after school to escort Cora, Isaac, and Scott home. The two men, Ethan and Danny, he’d learned, climbed unto their respective bikes, one of them leading and the other following, and herded the teenagers out of the parking lot. They made quite the caravan, stopping first at the vet clinic to leave Scott for his after school shift then on to the garage.
The motorcycles in front of him turned left and Stiles diligently clicked his turn signal and followed. He’d never had a job interview before and was honestly a bit nervous. Cora had assured him that there was no reason to be, that she had given him all the recommendation he needed, but still.
He pulled the jeep into an empty spot down from where a truly impressive row of motorcycles were parked. Stiles recognized several of them from that first encounter a couple days ago in town. He glanced up and down the row, but didn’t spot the dark bike he’d seen hot motorcycle guy on. No, it was Derek, as Cora had informed him. He told himself he wasn’t disappointed.
Isaac backed his bike into place at the end of the row, while Ethan and Danny parked further up. The men climbed off and disappeared with a wave into the building behind where the bikes were parked. There was a sign announcing it as “The Den” over the door. A large awning stretched across the front, covering a concrete patio which held a boxing ring, a couple picnic tables, and a huge grill. Sitting perpendicular to The Den was a large garage with three huge bay doors making up most of the right side of the building and a walk-through door on the left with “Office” painted above it.
Cora motioned for him to follow and headed for the office door. Isaac shot him a thumbs up and started across the lot to a third building. It was obviously another garage, set directly across from the The Den, but farther back, leaving a large parking lot in the middle. There were two big tow trucks, painted black with “Hale Automotive” and that three spiraled symbol in white on their doors.
“Don’t sweat it, Stiles,” Cora said, falling into step beside him. “You’ve got this in the bag.”
“Easy for you to say,” he said with a grin. “You were born into it, remember?”
“Oh shut up,” she said and shoved his shoulder causing him to stumble, much to her amusement. She was surprisingly strong for her size.
“Cora,” a voice admonished from the office doorway and Stiles’s head snapped up. It was the leader. The woman on the red bike. She was even more beautiful up close in jeans and a black t-shirt, and Stiles still thought she looked like a queen.
“What? He can take it. Can’t you Stiles?” Cora said sweetly then turned to her sister. “Laura, this is Stiles. Stiles this is Laura.”
Stiles stuck his hand out. “It’s nice to meet you.”
Laura stared at him long enough to make him squirm, then seemed to come back to herself and shook his hand. “It’s nice to meet you too, Stiles. Cora’s told me a lot about you, and something tells me you’ll fit in just fine.”
Dawn had come in wet and miserable. Derek, Aiden, and Boyd had spent most of the night out in the preserve, patrolling for any sign of the rogue wolf. They hadn’t found anything. The wolf hadn’t been back on Hale land or near the Preserve since Sunday night. Derek had managed a couple hours of sleep, but something about shedding his wolf skin this time had left him unsettled.
He had tried to convince himself that it had nothing to do with the itch under his skin to find the boy. He even had a last name now, Stilinski, if his and his father’s were the same. Not that he wanted a last name, he growled to himself. Not that he wanted any name at all. The adamant refusal to seek the boy out had his wolf clawing at his insides as instinct tried to tear through conscious decision.
Pulling the Fat Boy to a stop, he parked in front of his favorite coffee shop in town.
He was going to need a gallon of coffee to get through this day.
Derek was reaching for the door handle when it was pushed open by someone using their back since they had one of those four cup coffee holders in each hand and a bag of pastries clenched between their teeth.
The boy spun, pushing himself off the door, and nearly ran straight into Derek’s chest. Pink lips jarred open in shock. The pastry bag fell. Derek had a split second to tear his eyes away from that mouth hanging open to grab the bag before it hit the sidewalk.
When he straightened back up, the boy’s eyes had gone big and round. “Um…”
Derek had to fight harder than he’d like to keep his scowl in place. He quirked an eyebrow and lifted the bag so that he held it by the bottom in front of the boy’s mouth. Confusion painted mole speckled features for a moment then the boy smirked and bit back into the top of the bag, lifting it out of Derek’s hand.
With a nod, the boy walked away toward an old blue jeep parked several places down from where Derek had left his motorcycle.
It took Derek until after he’d placed his order to realize that the itch under his skin, that had been plaguing him for days, had subsided.
“So, no luck today at all?” Stiles asked while he dished green beans alongside the chicken and potatoes he’d already put on his and his dad’s plates.
“Nada,” John said, wearily. “I’ll tell you what, though, that Laura Hale. She can certainly hike. Some of the guys were worried she wouldn’t be able to keep up. We could barely keep up with her. Oh, and they all said thanks for the coffee and donuts by the way.”
Stiles picked up their plates and walked to the table. “The donuts which you did not partake of, right?” At his dad’s unimpressed stare, Stiles sighed, “Sucks you didn’t find anything. Laura seems pretty cool though.”
“She seems like a smart, level-headed young woman. Her brother though.” John forked up some food before shaking his head. “He looks like he could be bad news.”
Stiles swallowed. “Maybe...but looks can be deceiving, too.”
John watched his son for a moment. “Fair point. Just be careful, ok? I know you start work there tomorrow and I’m sure it’s an excellent place of employment, but…”
“Dad, I’m going to be fine. Really.” Stiles felt his phone vibrate in his pocket. He pulled it out to check while his dad turned back to his food.
Wanna play some halo later?
“Now, there’s something I like to see,” his dad said motioning to the grin on Stiles’s face. “What’s going on?”
“It’s Scott. He wants to play some Halo later.”
John nodded, eyes crinkling up. “Once you’ve finished your homework.”
Maybe Stiles really was going to be ok after all.
Derek was beginning to think that the rogue wolf had moved on. Thursday had brought no more news than they’d had before. Laura’s little expedition with the police yesterday revealed nothing and last night’s patrol had been equally fruitless. On top of that, everyone was exhausted from pulling double shifts working and patrolling. He’d been grabbing sleep whenever he could and had sent Erica and Boyd home early today since they’d had patrol duty last night.
It was just the way Laura described the scent had them all on edge. That it was definitely wolf, but there was something wrong with it,a dozen little nuances she couldn’t put her finger on. Laura had one of the best noses in their pack. If she couldn’t place it then none of them could.
Derek wiped his oily hands on his equally oily shop towel and pushed off his stool to put it in the dirty bin and grab a clean one. He stopped at the sink beside the door to wash his hands when it swung open and the scent hit him square in the face.
He was standing not a foot away outlined by the orange brilliance of the setting sun. Derek froze, hands covered in gritty soap, and water running into the sink. The boy didn’t seem to be fairing much better. He’d stopped still half out the door and wide amber eyes met Derek’s. A note of anxiety crept into his scent, even as Derek watched his pupils dilate, and Derek felt himself scowl. He didn’t like that at all.
They stared. Normally, the alpha wolf in him would not let him lower his eyes first, would see it as submission, but he found himself breaking that contact to look down into the sink and rinse his hands. The boy’s heart rate slowed a fraction and Derek felt relief. He hated how this was affecting his instincts. Hated it and wanted to roll around in it all at the same time. One thing he did not want, though, was the boy’s unease. Something in Derek twinged at the thought of being the one to cause it.
“What are you doing here?” Derek asked with more force than he had intended.
“Um...S-sorry, Laura sent me to get the time cards?” The boy said, one hand flailing.
Derek ground his teeth to keep in a growl and forced himself to take a deep breath. Mistake. So close, the scent was nearly overwhelming and his wolf was howling, thrashing with his need to be closer. Closer to his...
Derek grabbed a clean towel and dried his hands, letting his breath out slow. It was the first time he’d let himself think that word. He slung the towel over his shoulder and turned back to face his mate, who still hadn’t moved an inch. “The time cards are over here.” Derek tilted his head toward the “office” space in this garage. It was really just an old dusty desk with an equally dusty computer and chair shoved into a corner. The old punch machine and slots that held Erica’s, Boyd’s, Isaac’s, and a few other time cards were attached to the wall beside it. He led his mate in that direction then stopped at the bike he’d been working on and watched as the boy plucked up the old cards with his slender fingers and replaced them with new ones Derek hadn’t even noticed he was carrying.
“What’s your name?” It came out sharp, and the boy jumped.
“Stiles,” he said quickly over his shoulder. He replaced the last card and turned to head straight back to the door.
Derek stood there staring even after it closed behind him.
Stiles made it back to the office, handed the time cards to Laura, and tried to focus on the things she was telling him about inputting them into the system.
What was it about that guy that shook him so badly? The man was undeniably attractive, but Stiles had never felt such a pull for someone before. It was magnetic, gravitational, like Derek was his own incessantly scowling planet and Stiles was helplessly caught in his orbit. Every time Stiles was in the biker’s vicinity, he could feel glaring eyes track his every movement. It left Stiles feeling trapped between hopeless intrigue and raw uncertainty. Stiles had to remind himself that whatever Derek was, the biker wasn’t the man who had stalked him, and the creeping unease he sometimes felt wasn’t Derek’s blatant stare, but phantom remnants of the man who had watched him from every darkened shadow.
He hadn’t gotten over the feeling of having eyes constantly on him. Eyes he rarely saw, but knew were there - crawling over his skin like thousands of ants. Glowing blue orbs fading into shadows behind buildings and outside the window of his old bedroom. That’s the only thing he never told his dad, afraid that claims of glowing eyes would finally be the push that left Stiles’s father as disbelieving as everyone else.
He only wants attention.
Who would even want to stalk someone like him?
What a joke.
Stiles squeezed his eyes shut and pushed those thoughts away. All that was over now. Behind him.
“Hey, Stiles, are you ok?” Laura had a hand on his arm and was looking at him with concerned eyes.
“Yeah, yeah sorry.” He licked his lips and took a deep breath.
At that moment, Scott walked in the door. “Hey Laura. Stiles, you want to go get some food after you finish up?”
“Yeah man, sounds great,” Stiles said, the corners of his mouth lifting. He was going to be ok. He couldn’t sleep through the night or leave his window blinds open after dark, and he was still just so confused about everything involving a certain dark haired biker, but he was making it.
This was his fresh start.
Derek was perched on top of the picnic table situated on the flat portion of the Den’s roof. He’d turned it into his hideaway long before he and his siblings had moved to live in the apartment below. Having the higher ground appealed to his wolf, being able to separate himself while still being able to observe. He watched now as Scott and Stiles, his mate’s name was Stiles , climbed into the old blue jeep and drove away. He tried to ignore the blunt press of guilt eating at his stomach. He didn’t even really know what he had done, but he knew he had upset Stiles and it was a feeling he realized with startling clarity that he’d like to avoid in the future.
“Stiles and Scott take off?” Laura asked, pulling herself one handed up through the roof’s entrance, two bottles of beer in her other hand. Satomi brewed it for the pack with just enough wolfsbane that they could actually feel the alcohol’s effect.
“What are you doing, Laura?” Derek asked, anger resurfacing.
“Me? I’m not doing anything.” She sat a bottle down beside him and took a long pull from the other, meeting his glare with one of her own. “Why do you ask?”
“You know why,” Derek grated. “What’s he doing here?”
“Answering the phone, cashing out customers, helping me input timesheets...Oh! And he swept out the office today without me even having to ask.”
There was a red tinge blossoming around Laura’s pupils, but Derek wasn’t backing down.
“That’s not what I meant and you know it! I thought I told you to stay out of it!”
“What was I supposed to do, Derek, huh? Cora told me she had someone perfect for the part-time spot we had open. I didn’t know it was him until he showed up here. Did you think I would just turn him away?”
“You damn well should have!” Derek exploded off the table with a growl.
Laura stepped right up to his face. “I almost did. I was going to respect your wishes, Derek.” Her voice was low, cold like shards of ice shoved under his skin. “And then I talked to him for five minutes. Just five minutes, Derek. And I found out that he’s hurting. Something has scared him so badly that fear has actually become part of his scent. Don’t tell me you haven’t smelled it. How could you want to keep him away?”
Derek’s nostrils flared. Of course he’d smelled the fear on Stiles. It was less prominent in the boy’s scent every time Derek ran into him. Getting away from whatever had caused that scent was working out for him. Derek thought given enough time that underlying thread of fear and anxiety would fade almost completely, and honestly his wolf salivated at the thought of breathing in the boy’s scent without it.
“He’s not pack,” he ground out, every nerve ending in his body flaring with how wrong that statement was.
“Bullshit,” Laura growled. “Even if he wasn’t your mate, he would be pack. Scott and Isaac have already latched onto him. Cora trusts him enough to bring him here. Offer him a place to make his own.”
“And what if that’s a mistake? What if he-”
“Stop it. Don’t you dare compare Stiles to her. That boy is good all the way to his core. Have you even stopped to think about him, huh? You’re so wrapped up in him being your mate. Have you considered what it means that you’re his ?”
Derek felt his eyes widen. He’d been so concerned with what he was feeling and with stomping down any of the instincts that Stiles brought out in him that he hadn’t even really taken the time to wonder how all this must be affecting Stiles.
Laura’s voice softened. “You know it goes both ways. He must be so confused. I’m not saying you should march up and tell him, but what would it hurt to get to know him? Spend a little time?” She sighed and shook her head. “I think he needs you, Derek, just like I think you need him.”
Derek felt the whine escape his throat before he could stop it and had to turn his face away.
Laura took his chin in her hand, turning his face back to her. “It’s time to stop playing the martyr, little brother. It’s okay to want things.” With that, Laura took her beer and disappeared back down the ladder.
It was dark by the time Stiles left the restaurant. Isaac had joined them after he and Scott had sat down and offered to drive Scott back to the garage to pick up his bike, so Stiles turned the jeep towards home and relished the feeling of a belly full of pizza and actually having shared it with friends.
It wasn’t like he’d never had a friend before. He’d had several in elementary school, but those thinned when his mom had gotten sick and then thinned even further after she’d passed. Out of the couple that had hung on, one moved away and the other, well, she couldn’t seem to weather being associated with a pariah - like Stiles had inadvertently become.
It was still hard to think about. The looks. The whispers. Like if they lowered their voices, that somehow made it acceptable to call him a liar, a fake, to say that he shouldn’t cry wolf. Stiles had kept his head up, though. Refused to back down. Refused to change his story. He’d gone to his dad first, then the police, who had seemed to take him seriously until he couldn’t give a detailed enough description or produce any physical evidence. The school had mostly been the same, but then someone on staff had let it slip to (or outright told) a student or students and it’d been over from there.
When his dad had been offered this job, it had seemed like a godsend despite them having to leave the only home he’d ever known. Leave the house they’d lived with his mom in. Leave the town where she was buried. Of course, moving was no guarantee the stalking would end. They were several counties away and his dad had been very careful, but still there was a paper trail, information available in public record, and if his stalker was truly determined, Stiles supposed a few hundred miles wouldn’t stop him.
He pulled up to a stop sign and with a jolt realized that he hadn’t been out this late by himself in nearly six months. Suddenly the shadows under trees and between the sparse houses seemed ominous. Stiles rolled up his window despite the sweat beading on his upper lip and checked the locks on his doors as that familiar racing feeling started up in his chest. A yellow car stopped opposite him and made it’s turn, and Stiles hit the gas only for the jeep to lurch and sputter, dying two feet into the intersection.
“No, no, no. Come on baby!” Stiles tried to crank it over again only to be met with some distant clicking from under the hood. His chest constricted with the need to breathe and he grabbed the steering wheel in a white knuckle grip and forced himself to calm down. “Ok, Stiles, you can do this. Everything is fine.”
Pushing out a long breath, he pulled the emergency brake and turned on his flashers. He opened his door and went around to the front of the jeep and popped the hood. The key was not thinking about it. He had to focus solely on what was in front of him. Lift the hood. Inspect the engine. Do not think about who might be hiding in the shadows of that giant oak tree over there.
Stiles leaned in and jiggled something that looked like it might be important and also loose. When the hand came down on his shoulder he startled so hard that he knocked the hood stand out of place. Then, Derek was just suddenly there catching the hood before it closed on Stiles’s arm.
“Oh my god,” Stiles wheezed and melted down to sit on the pavement, breath coming out in pants. “Oh my god.” He slammed his head back against the jeep’s grill, one hand splayed over his chest and the other covering his eyes. After a couple minutes, when his breathing was somewhere approaching normal again, he peeked through his fingers to find Derek had squatted down beside him and was watching him with guilty eyes.
“What the fuck dude?!” Stiles said as soon as he had enough air. “Can’t you freaking warn somebody?” The initial spike of fear and then the subsequent flood of relief had him feeling untethered. Dizzy. A little nauseous, and somehow braver than he’d normally be.
“I said your name,” Derek carefully told him. “About three times. I wasn’t trying to scare you.”
Stiles got the feeling Derek was talking about more than just this incident. His lack of glare helped with that theory.
“Also, my bike is loud. I...I thought you would have heard me pull up behind you.”
Stiles deflated. “Sorry. My mind was kinda...elsewhere I guess.”
Derek seemed to consider this then glanced at the jeep. “What’s going on with it?”
Shrugging, Stiles moved to stand up and Derek popped up to his feet and offered him a hand. Stiles took it slowly and then wished he hadn’t taken it at all. Derek’s hand was warm and softer than he imagined a mechanic’s hand should be, but also strong and firm, gripped around his. The older man seemed to expend very little energy pulling Stiles to his feet, but the momentum still caused Stiles to stumble, only finding his balance when Derek put a hand on his hip to steady him.
He was sure they should be pulling away, breaking the two points of contact between their bodies, but he found himself pausing instead. It was as if something had loosened in his chest. Some ever present shackle was crumbling into dust and letting him breathe for the first time, maybe ever. He lifted his wide eyes to Derek’s face only to find a similar expression reflected back at him.
He wanted to ask a question, reach up and pluck one from the hundreds buzzing around his head, but he couldn’t bring himself to disturb the quiet tension between them.
Derek swallowed, and Stiles found himself tracking the bob of the other man’s throat. He lifted his eyes only for his gaze to catch on Derek’s lips before reluctantly rising further. Only Derek’s eyes weren’t waiting to meet his. They were focused lower and Stiles’s tongue darted out of his suddenly dry mouth to to drag along his bottom lip. He watched enraptured as the biker’s eyes tracked the movement before darting his eyes back up to Stiles’s. Just as Stiles was thinking they might just stand right there all night a car honked then came around the jeep and sped through the intersection.
“Why don’t you get in and steer and I’ll push?” Derek said, releasing Stiles and already headed to the back of the jeep.
Stiles did as he suggested and they managed to maneuver the jeep onto the side of the road. Derek went back to get his bike and move it out of the road as well then came back to stand beside Stiles where he was once again poking around under the hood.
“Do you have any experience working on engines?” Derek asked.
Stiles sighed. “Not really. I mean, I can change my oil and change a tire, but that’s about as far as my car maintenance knowledge goes. Crap! I need to call my dad. He’ll freak if he gets home and I’m not there.” Stiles dug his phone out of his pocket and watched Derek do the same.
I’m going to be late getting home. Sorry kid. Don’t stay up too late. The text was from just ten minutes ago. Stiles typed out a quick reply then looked back up at his unlikely companion.
Derek had been typing something into his phone then he looked up at Stiles. “Put your ignition key under the back driver floor mat.”
“So Boyd can try to start it when he gets here with the tow truck. I should be able to figure out what’s going on with it tomorrow.”
“Dude, I don’t even know that I can afford to have it worked on. I mean, all the moving and my dad starting a new job and who knows what’s even wrong with it.” Stiles scrubbed a hand through his hair.
Derek smirked. “Well, there’s obviously a lot wrong with it. I mean, how old is this thing?”
Stiles felt his jaw drop. Was that sass? Had murder brows really just sassed him? While insulting his jeep?? Stiles narrowed his eyes. “I’ll have you know that this baby has carried me over many a rough road, mister, and you better show him the respect he deserves.”
“Yeah. Roscoe.” Stiles looked back at his baby. “He was my mom’s.”
Derek watched him quietly for a moment, then nodded his head. Stiles could tell he got it.
“Stiles, put the key under the mat,” Derek said again, gently. When Stiles still didn’t budge, Derek sighed. “You can’t just leave it sitting on the side of the road.”
“You’ll just figure out what’s wrong with it? Run diagnostics or something?”
“I will figure out what’s wrong with it,” Derek agreed.
With a huff, Stiles finally complied.
Once he’d climbed back out of the jeep, Stiles found Derek standing beside the Harley holding a helmet towards him.
“C’mon,” Derek said with a nudge of his head.
Stiles noticed there was another helmet hanging from the handlebars with that same three spiraled design the Pack seemed to have on everything painted on it’s side. The one in Derek’s hand was just plain black. He also realized that Derek was wearing a leather jacket under the leather vest he normally wore, the one with Wolf Pack and Beacon Hills bracketing the wolf howling at the moon on the back. It was also the first time he noticed the patches on the front of the vest. There were three: Vice President. Beacon Original. Apex.
“What’s with the vests?” Stiles asked, nerves fluttering in his belly. He supposed it was the first time it really hit him that he had been in town less than two weeks and somehow managed to befriend and come under the employment of a known motorcycle gang...er, club. And that he was about to get on the back of one’s bike.
“They’re called kuttes actually,” Derek said, then he stepped into Stiles’s space and gently placed the helmet on his head. “They’re a symbol of who we are. The patches identify us to other clubs. These patches,” he pointed to the ones on his chest, before reaching out and fastening the helmet’s straps under Stiles’s chin, “represent different things. Vice President is obviously my position in the club. And Beacon Original signifies that we are the original charter of the Wolf Pack.”
Stiles was transfixed. Fascinated. He didn’t know Derek knew that many words. “What’s Apex stand for?”
Derek stopped adjusting the strap, fingers like fire brands on the delicate skin under his jaw, and looked Stiles in the eye. Assessing. Predatory. “I’ll tell you someday. Now, let’s go.” He turned towards the bike.
Derek pivoted back towards him with questioning eyebrows.
“It’s just...I’ve, uh, never been on a motorcycle before,” Stiles admitted.
Dereks eyebrows shot up his forehead. Then, he reached back to grab something that he had left lying on the bike’s seat. He held what was obviously a hoodie out to Stiles.
“I won’t let anything happen to you, Stiles.”
The sincerity in Derek’s tone made that warmth he’d felt in his belly the first time he’d ever seen the biker spread like wildfire. He gulped and reached quickly for the hoodie to distract from the heat rising in his cheeks. “Thanks, but will I really need this?”
Somehow, Stiles did. He pulled the hoodie on, another three spiraled swirl decorating the back, and zipped it up while Derek fastened his own helmet and stepped toward the bike.
“Once you get on, you’ll want to hold on to me and then all you have to do is sit still. Don’t try to lean this way or that, ok?” Derek said turning back toward him. Stiles watched the other man’s eyes roam all over his torso where it was swimming in Derek’s hoodie before stopping to rest on his face, and he didn’t feel even the slightest bit uncomfortable. Quite the opposite actually.
Stiles nodded while Derek straddled the bike then stood the bike up and planted his feet. “Climb on. Just step up on the footpeg and hold onto my shoulder for balance, then throw your leg over.”
Stiles planted his hand on Derek’s shoulder, warm even through two layers of leather, and stepped up onto the little peg sticking out from the bike just behind Derek’s leg. He’d always imagined what it would be like to be on a motorcycle - often watching them cruise along the road with a wistful longing. Throwing his leg over one now, all he could think was the bike was so much bigger than it seemed from a distance, and that he’d never once imagined being the passenger of the hottest man he’s ever seen in his life.
Once Stiles’s ass met leather, Derek turned his face to the side and said, “Get comfortable and put your arms around my waist.”
Stiles blushed, but wriggled a bit adjusting his feet on the pegs and butt on the seat. Derek held the bike perfectly still while Stiles got situated then he sat down more fully, leather clad sides brushing along the inside of Stiles’s knees. Derek started the bike, vibrations shooting through Stiles’s body and making his heart speed up. He only hesitated for a moment before scooting forward and wrapping his arms around Derek’s firm middle. The movement brought his chest flush with Derek’s back and had Derek’s narrow hips settled snugly in the V of Stiles’s legs.
To his surprise, Derek lifted his hand and gripped Stiles’s where they were clasped against his stomach. He squeezed just once almost like he was saying, hold on , then let go and twisted the throttle pulling them out onto the road.
Laura had been right.
It should grate on his nerves to admit that. Send his alpha instincts on a rampage. But…
He couldn’t seem to muster the energy to hold onto his earlier objections with Stiles warm against his back and the joyous thrum of his heart in his ears.
Even taking the long way around, he found himself pulling into Stiles’s driveway far too soon. Bringing the bike to a stop, Derek squinted his eyes when a motion detector light to the side of the porch clicked on. Once his eyes adjusted, Derek noticed that activating that one light had caused bulbs all around the property to flare to life. Killing the engine, he set the kickstand and reached out a steadying hand when Stiles wobbled a bit as he got his feet back on solid ground.
“That was awesome!” Stiles crowed, huge grin splitting his face before turning into a half-hearted scowl when he couldn’t figure out how to unclasp the helmet’s straps.
Derek chuckled and stepped off the bike, reaching out to still Stiles’s fumbling hands. Stiles swallowed and pulled his hands away holding perfectly still while Derek removed the helmet from his head. It left his hair sticking up in every direction and Derek busied himself putting the helmet away and taking off his own to keep from running his fingers through it.
When he turned back, Stiles took one look at Derek’s hair and ducked his head trying to hide his grin.
Derek simply arched one brow pointedly at Stiles’s own tousled mess.
Stiles instantly lifted a hand running it through the chestnut mop. “This the downside of motorcycle riding?”
“There is no downside of motorcycle riding.” Derek replied instantly, then reconsidered. “Until you get caught in a storm.”
Stiles smirked and looked about ready to reply when Derek blurted, “Were all these security lights already here when you moved in?” Derek had driven past this house a million times over the years as this route led to some of the best lesser known trails in the Preserve and couldn’t remember ever seeing it lit up like this.
The hand in Stiles’s hair stilled and he shuffled his feet. “Um...no, my dad put them up. Cop and all that, you know?” He tried to laugh it off, but it came out flat. Suddenly, Stiles lifted his head and settled narrowed eyes on Derek. “How did you know where I live?”
It was Derek’s turn to look embarrassed. “I pulled it out of your employee file. I, uh...was actually on my way here when I ran into you.”
“Why?” Stiles asked, looking mystified.
Derek swallowed. Licked his lips. God, he was terrible at this. “I was coming to apologize. For earlier. At the garage.” Stiles’s eyes widened so Derek hurried to continue. “I was rude and I didn’t mean to...upset you.”
Stiles gaped at him then seemed to shake himself. “Um...thanks.” Notes of shame were creeping into his scent, filling Derek’s nose. “No worries.” The corners of Stiles’s mouth pulled up, but the smile went no further, leaving his eyes carefully guarded.
Derek felt the corners of his own mouth turn down. He wished he knew how to bring back the lighter mood from just a few moments ago. They watched each other for a moment, awkward silence filling up the space between them.
Finally, Stiles seemed to gather himself and started to unzip the hoodie Derek had given him.
“Keep it,” Derek said quickly and refused to look away when Stiles’s eyes snapped up to meet his.
“Are you sure?” Stiles asked looking like he wanted to ask an entirely different question.
“Yeah. I’ve got a million of them. We’ll have to get you some Hale Automotive shirts too, if Laura hasn’t already.”
“Ok,” Stiles said, looking - to Derek’s frustration - a little disappointed. “Thanks for the ride and helping with the jeep.” He started to take a step back and Derek took a step forward.
“Stiles.” A questioning eyebrow raised in his direction and Derek huffed, ducking his head. “I’m terrible at this,” he muttered to his feet.
A startled laugh punched out of Stiles and Derek lifted his head. “Well...at least you’re man enough to admit it.” Stiles walked up the steps to the door and looked back at Derek with a little grin on his face. “See you tomorrow?”
Derek nodded and watched his mate disappear into the dark house. He followed the sound of Stiles’s heartbeat as it went room to room, watched lights flare to life behind closed window blinds and sighed. He really was terrible at dealing with humans. At being human, sometimes. He tried to squash the little bloom of hope in his chest that maybe, with Stiles, he could figure it out. That maybe if they spent some time together, Stiles would be willing to give him a chance. Not that he deserved one, but standing there outside his mate’s house, for the first time in a long time, he wanted to.
Turning back to his bike, he paused as the wind shifted and brought a new scent to his nose. Acrid and bitter, but underneath definitely wolf. Derek scanned the surrounding area even as he straddled his bike and dug his phone out of his pocket.
Laura answered with a serious, “Hey, you know we’re not supposed to be traveling alone?”
“We need to keep an eye on Stiles’s house. The wolf’s been here.”
“Dammit Derek, is it still there?” He could hear rustling like Laura was putting on her shoes.
“Calm down. It’s long gone. A couple days at least.”
Laura sighed. “Ethan and Danny are on patrol tonight. I’ll let them know.” Laura paused. “I wonder if it’s targeting police? Chief Unser and now it’s sniffing around the deputy chief’s house?” Derek had honestly had the same thought, that they’d need to keep an eye on both Stilinskis just in case. Laura was muttering to herself about changing patrol routes when she suddenly went silent and Derek thought she might have hung up. “What are you doing at Stiles’s house, anyway?”
Derek exhaled, an edge of a growl sneaking in. “His jeep broke down. I gave him a ride. And...you...may have had a point. Earlier.”
Damn her, he could hear her smug smile even through the phone. “So, I was right? Is that what you’re saying?”
A five year old couldn’t have matched his petulance. “Yes.”
Bright lines of sunlight streamed through the open blinds, leaving lines of warmth across Stiles’s face. He burrowed farther into his favorite pillow before shooting up in bed and staring at his window. He never left his blinds open. Hard, cold fear dropped like a rock in his stomach and he jumped when his alarm sounded from the nightstand.
He smacked the snooze and was still staring at his window when his dad walked into his bedroom, leaned against the doorframe and crossed his arms.
“Where’s your jeep?” John asked pulling Stiles’s attention away from the window.
“Did you open my blinds?”
John frowned. “No. They were open when I checked in on you last night. I thought you had decided to try leaving them open.”
Stiles licked his lips. Had he opened them yesterday morning? Sometimes he did to let the daylight in, but he always remembered to close them when it got dark. Did he check them last night? He honestly couldn’t remember, having been too distracted with thoughts of a certain scowly biker. His racing heart slowed. That must be it. He’d just forgotten to close them. That was good, right? Maybe he was starting to heal. “Yeah...yeah.”
“Stiles. Your jeep?”
“Oh, um, it’s at the garage. Broke down last night on the way home and, um, one of the guys had it towed back and gave me a ride.”
“One of the guys? Your friend, Scott?”
“No, uh, Scott doesn’t actually work at the garage. It was, um, Derek.”
Stiles winced. “Hale?”
“Derek Hale,” his dad said. “Serial killer look alike with a record, Derek Hale? And he brought you home, how, exactly?”
Oh boy, Dad had given up the casual lean and stood flat-footed and arms crossed, cop face firmly in place.
“Um, on his motorcycle?” Stiles tried really hard to keep his voice even. “He saw me having trouble with the jeep, helped me push it to the side of the road, called for a tow, then drove me home. At a perfectly respectable speed! He even gave me a spare helmet!”
“Huh,” John grunted. “Look, I know you’re eighteen now…”
“Dad!” Stiles jumped to his feet hands held up in front of him. “Seriously, there’s no reason to go all papa bear. He was just helping a stranded employee out and honestly, he’s not all that bad once you get past the eyebrows.” Stiles swallowed. He had no clue what the strange connection he felt with Derek was, but he was sure there was no reason for his dad’s concern.
John seemed to consider this for a moment then sighed. “Well, you better get a move on if you want a ride to school.” He turned and disappeared down the hall.
Stiles fell back unto his bed with a huff and reached for his phone. 2 new messages . Frowning, he pulled up his texts.
Text me if you need a ride to school.
This is Derek, btw
Holy shit. Stiles felt his face flush and for half a second considered taking Derek up on his offer. An image of his father standing on the porch while Stiles climbed on the back of Derek’s bike stopped that thought cold, but he text Derek back anyway.
I’ve got it covered, but thanks.
The reply was immediate and Stiles’s heart skipped.
Ok. Have a good day.
His mouth fell open, heart jack-rabbiting in his chest. Was this a thing that was actually happening?
“Stiles! I don’t hear movement!” John’s irritated shout jolted Stiles up and off the bed. He started scrambling around for clean clothes, but paused just for a second before rushing off to the shower.
You too :)
“What is this thing that’s happening with your face?” Cora set her juice on the counter and poked at his cheek.
Derek swatted her hand away and pocketed his phone trying and failing to will his face back into a scowl. He’d deliberated for nearly thirty minutes this morning before texting Stiles and then paced and cursed for the next fifteen wishing there was a way to retrieve a text once it had been sent.
He honestly had no idea what he was doing.
“Ok, now you’re freaking me out,” Cora said, faux horror on her face.
Derek scowled at her.
“There he is!” She grinned before her face turned serious. “What’s going on, Derbear?”
“Don’t call me that,” Derek retorted immediately. He leaned back against the counter and considered his options. Tell her and endure the inevitable barbs in his direction, but possibly make her his ally... or refuse to tell her and suffer her tireless prodding and unending harassment when she eventually figured it out for herself. “Stiles is my mate.”
“I knew it!” Cora exclaimed pumping a fist in the air and that was the last thing he had been expecting. “You’ve been acting all crazy, I mean more than usual, and his scent. I noticed it the first day of school.” She tilted her head. “Like...like I already knew him somehow.”
Derek swallowed. Not that he’d needed confirmation, but that was both his sisters, his blood, that had been able to scent that Stiles belonged with them. That he was family. Pack. “You’ll watch out for him? At school?”
Cora’s face softened. “Of course, bro. He’s pack.”
“Thanks munchkin.” Derek grinned, then ducked when she chucked her backpack at his head.
Stiles was having a weird day. First the texts from Derek, which had been admittedly awesome, and then Cora had basically tackle hugged him as soon as he’d walked into school before patting his cheek and flouncing away without a word.
Then, after first and second period Isaac had miraculously appeared at Stiles’s side and chattered about nothing in particular while walking him to his next class. Now, the walking with Isaac wasn’t weird, it’s just that until after lunch all of Isaac’s classes were on the opposite side of the school.
When third period was over, Stiles stuck his head out into the hall to see if his tall blonde escort was anywhere in sight only for Scott to catch him in a loose headlock and give him a noogie.
“Ow! Uncle! Uncle!” Stiles huffed and Scott laughed, but released him.
“How’s it going, man?” Scott asked as they headed for Mr. Harris’s room.
“Is there something going on? Strange things happening?” Stiles asked with narrowed eyes.
“Strange? No,” Scott replied. “We’re getting that quiz back in chemistry today.”
“Ugh, don’t remind me. Who gives a pop quiz the first week of school? Seriously?”
When the time came, Harris set Stiles’s graded quiz unto his desk and sneered, “I’m sure this passed as sufficient in your old school, but here you’re actually going to have to work, Mr. Stilinski.”
Stiles chuckled at the red C on his paper before turning to Scott. “Well, at least you can count on some things never changing.”
The rest of the day proceeded in a similar fashion. One of the prospects was somewhere within eyeshot everywhere he went. Not that Stiles was complaining. He just wasn’t used to it, he supposed, having been a loner for so long at his old school. It was kind of nice to always have a friendly face around and he was learning other student’s names and actually participating in his classes.
He couldn’t help the smile that spread across his face as he made his way to the parking lot, Scott at his side. They were meeting Isaac and Cora then all riding over to the garage together. Scott had assured him that the back of his bike was a perfectly safe place to be, but he certainly didn’t get the same feeling about it as when he thought about riding with Derek.
They burst through the doors and Stiles almost tripped off the first step because, as if he’d somehow been conjured by Stiles’s thoughts, there was Derek in all his glory leaning against his Harley, long legs crossed at the ankle, and watching them from behind those dark sunglasses.
“Holy shit,” Stiles murmured under his breath and then stumbled again at the smile spreading on Derek’s face, like he’d somehow heard Stiles from all the way across the parking lot. Scott chuckled and grabbed Stiles’s arm to steady him.
Isaac and Cora were already at the bikes and strapping on their helmets. As soon as they got to flat pavement, Scott released Stiles’s arm, apparently trusting him not to face plant between here and there.
Every step closer to Derek sent a jolt through Stiles. It really wasn’t fair at all. Derek was just leaning there, arms crossed and biceps straining against the sleeves of his white t-shirt. That tattoo Stiles was endlessly curious about peeked out at the bottom of his sleeve and just barely above the collar on the side of his neck. He was adorned with his kutte, as he always seemed to be when on his bike.
He was about ten feet away when Derek stood up and picked up the two helmets that had been laying on the bike’s seat before holding one out to Stiles. Without a word, Stiles slipped the backpack strap he’d left hanging down up onto his shoulder and then took the helmet from Derek. He laughed when he once again couldn’t figure out the clasp, but Derek just turned to him after securing his own helmet and did it for him. Then he climbed on the bike and held it steady for Stiles.
Without hesitation, Stiles climbed on behind him, scooting close and wrapping his arms around Derek’s middle like they’d done this a hundred times. He looked to the side to find Scott, Isaac, and Cora staring at him like he’d just done a really neat trick. Well, at least Scott and Isaac. Cora just looked strangely smug, but they all straightened up when Derek started up the Fat Boy. Scott put the visor on his helmet down and Cora climbed up behind Isaac. Then they were moving. Pulling out of the parking lot and picking up speed.
This was only his second time, but Stiles already loved it. Loved the wind against his face. Loved the rumbling growl of the engine underneath them. Loved how Derek’s body fit into the curve of his. How they fit together. He found himself resting his chin on Derek’s shoulder before he thought better of it, but the older man just pressed himself a little more snugly against him and in the side mirror Stiles could see the small smile pulling up the corners of Derek’s mouth. An answering smile stretched across Stiles’s face before he closed his eyes and let all his thoughts tumble right out of his head and onto the open road disappearing behind them.
“You fixed my jeep?” Stiles’s voice was some strange mix of awe and outrage that Derek really didn’t know what to do with.
“Yes?” Derek ventured. “I told you I would.”
Stiles flailed his hands in what Derek was discovering was a signature move. “No, no, no. You said that you’d figure out what was wrong with it.”
“So I could fix it!” Derek shot back, exasperated. He was struggling to see the problem. His wolf had preened all afternoon once he’d both figured out what had bogged down Stiles’s precious jeep and then gotten it running again. Apparently, he found taking care of his mate to be extremely fulfilling. Erica had teased him relentlessly, but worked right beside him so the jeep would be finished before school let out. Speaking of Erica, Derek picked up two heartbeats a second before the side garage door swung open.
“Aw, they already fight like an old married couple,” Erica’s voice cut through their stand off, causing Derek to huff and Stiles’s cheeks to go pink.
“Erica,” Derek grated out, fighting the compulsion to put himself between Stiles and the blonde she-wolf. She-devil more like it.
Boyd’s normally stoic face actually produced a smirk over her shoulder and Derek sighed. There was no way for this to end well, so he might as well get it over with. Erica and Boyd had been his friends since elementary school, and had been the only humans he’d ever willingly shared the werewolf secret with. They were still the only two wolves he’d bitten after gaining alpha power last year. He’d never intended to give anyone the bite, but Erica’s epilepsy had taken a turn for the worse and where Erica went Boyd followed. Laura would have done it, but it had just felt right for Derek to do it himself.
“Stiles, this is Erica and Boyd, in case you haven’t been officially introduced.” He turned to his betas, putting his back to Stiles, and let his eyes bleed red for just a second. “This is Stiles.”
Erica rolled her eyes and Boyd’s tiny smirk actually morphed into a grin. So much for respecting their alpha.
Stiles was looking between Derek and the other two with a calculating look on his face before finally settling on Erica and Boyd. “So, you guys part of the club too?” Stiles asked, motioning to the kuttes they were both wearing.
Erica stepped up into Stiles’s space and Derek watched his eyes widen for just a moment before his features morphed into something more neutral. Erica could be an acquired taste.
“Oh, we’re wolves alright,” Erica purred bringing one bright red nail up to tap lightly on Stiles’s chin. “And don't you just look delicious.”
Derek had wondered what his limits concerning other people around Stiles would be and abruptly decided he’d found them. “Ok,” he said and started forward only to pause when Stiles spoke.
“Nah, I’m too scrawny.” Stiles grinned. “You’d be picking me out of your teeth for weeks.”
Erica barked out a laugh and took her hand away from Stiles’s face only to lace her arm through his and turn to Derek. “Oh, I like him. Can we keep him?”
Stiles met his eyes, a hesitant little smile on his face, and Derek couldn’t find words. Yes. Forever. Please.
Erica seemed to take pity on him and turned back to Stiles, “You’re coming with us tonight, right?”
Stiles sputtered, “Um, what’s tonight?”
Sighing Erica shot Derek an irritated look over her shoulder, “You really are terrible at this.” Then she turned back to Stiles, “Derek, Boyd, and I have a long standing Friday night tradition.”
“Oh yeah?” Stiles asked. “What’s that?”
“This? This is what badass bikers do with their Friday night?” Stiles looked up to the lights dotting the ferris wheel and sucked in a lungful of funnel cake scented air.
“Well, not always,” Derek said seriously. “The festival only comes through a couple times a year.”
“Yeah,” came Erica’s voice from where’d she’d just jumped up unto Boyd’s back. “Most of the time we go ice-skating or bowling.”
Stiles felt his eyebrows creep up his forehead and turned wide eyes to Derek. They were walking close together through the field serving as the festival’s parking lot and Stiles tried not to trip every time their hands brushed.
“We do other stuff too,” Derek huffed.
“Bathe in the blood of your enemies? Polish your skull collection? Take candy from babies?! Cause I gotta tell ya if the answer to any of those is no, I’m going to have to think about revoking your badass card.”
Stiles thought the look Derek shot him was supposed to be a glare, but didn’t have time to question it when Scott, Cora, and Isaac broke away from the crowd heading for the midway and rushed over to them.
“Hey guys!” Scott said bumping Stiles with his shoulder. “Glad you could come, man.”
“Yeah, me too. I haven’t been to a festival in years,” Stiles said, looking around at all the rides and food stands.
“You have to come ride the ferris wheel with us! And the tilt-a-whirl! Oh, and we might go through the funhouse later, you in?” Scott really did look like a puppy sometimes.
Erica and Boyd had already wandered over to the ticket booth. Cora and Isaac looked like they were planning their route for maximum effectiveness, and Derek...was glaring. A real one this time. Stiles realized with a jolt that he hadn’t seen that look on Derek’s face since he’d gone to get the timecards from the bike garage last night. Had it really only been last night? Stiles really wanted to ask what Derek wanted to do, but the biker wasn’t even looking at him.
He refocused his eyes on Scott, trying to remember what the question had been, when his stomach gurgled. Loudly.
“Are you hungry?” Derek asked before Stiles could say anything.
“Yeah,” Stiles chuckled, cheeks turning pink. “Starving, actually.”
For whatever reason, that seemed to kick Derek into gear. “I’m going to take Stiles to get something to eat. We’ll catch up with you guys later.”
Scott looked like he was about to argue when Cora grabbed his arm and said, “Sounds great! See you later!” Then promptly dragged Scott and Isaac towards the line for some kind of bumper cars. Stiles looked around realizing Erica and Boyd had disappeared too. Huh.
Derek turned to him, “What do you want to eat?”
“You know I’m capable of feeding myself, right?” Stiles asked and Derek’s face went carefully blank. “I just mean, you don’t have to like, take care of me or anything if you want to go do something else.”
“I...I’d rather eat with you.” Something...earnest flitted across Derek’s face before he looked to the side, eyes seemingly scouring the midway, and that just...had Stiles’s heart doing all kinds of funny things.
“Yeah, of course. That’d be great.” Stiles babbled. “I probably owe you dinner anyway, for fixing the jeep and you know, taking me home last night, and picking me up from school today which you totally didn’t have to do. Not that I don’t appreciate it! I do! But you never said how much I owe you for the jeep so yeah, dinner…”
Derek’s gaze snapped back to him, “You don’t owe me anything.”
“Dude, I have to owe you something! You fixed my jeep! And I’ve seen the mechanic bills my baby has produced before. Not cheap!”
“If I told you to consider it an employee benefit would you let it go?”
Stiles narrowed his eyes. “Do you fix all employee vehicles for free?”
“Well, not me personally,” Derek answered, “but yeah, within reason employees rarely have to pay for repairs. It’s a perk.” Derek shrugged like it was no big deal. Maybe it wasn’t to him.
Stiles sighed. “Ok, fine, but I still get to buy you dinner.”
Derek looked like he wanted to argue, but Stiles wasn’t backing down from this and just stared right back into those really unbelievable eyes. How had he never noticed Derek’s eyes before? They were some gorgeous kaleidoscope of green and gold and blue and Stiles almost forgot that he was supposed to be glaring not drooling like a lovesick moron. Whoa, lovesick? That was absolutely not what was happening here. It scared him how vehemently he had to scold himself into believing that.
“Fine,” Derek finally huffed. “But you pick the place.”
“What? No! First of all this is your festival so I wouldn’t know the best booth to pick anyway, and second it’s your thank you dinner, so you totally have to pick.”
Derek’s fists actually clenched at his sides and Stiles wondered if he was on the cusp of strangling Stiles silly or tearing his own hair out. The biker sucked in a deep breath through his nose before finally deflating and grumbling, “there is this one booth I like.”
A triumphant smile split Stiles’s face and he barely contained a fist pump. “Lead the way, big guy.”
Twilight had settled in by the time they reached the other end of the midway where most of the larger food booths were situated. Strands of white lights, strung around checkered picnic tables, flared to life casting the area in a warm glow and turning Stiles’s pale skin luminescent.
“Is this the place?” Stiles asked, sniffing air that carried cooking smells from the four giant grills behind the booth that had been Derek’s favorite since childhood.
“Yeah,” Derek nodded. “It’s all local farms that run it. We always used to eat here when my parents would bring us.”
This earned him a soft little grin as they moved to stand in line.
“Well, it smells amazing,” Stiles said before turning around to peer at the large poster board menu tacked up beside the ‘order here’ window. More people got in line behind them and Derek stepped forward, making his chest brush against Stiles’s shoulder blades. They were very nearly the same height, Stiles maybe an inch or so shorter, but Derek wagered in a couple years the human would be the taller of the two.
Stiles half turned, seemingly oblivious to Derek’s proximity, bumping their bodies together and leaving their faces only inches apart. “Um…”
Whiskey colored eyes bounced around his face searching for what, Derek couldn’t be sure, so he just waited for Stiles to find it and watched, fascinated, as a million thoughts flew over his mate’s face. Eventually, Stiles cleared his throat and asked, “What do you normally get?”
“The ribeye sandwich platter, but Laura swears by their ribs.” They were so close Derek could feel little puffs of breath against face, feel the heat building where Stiles’s shoulder blade was pressed against his chest. As the line moved, Derek found himself lifting his hand to settle on Stiles’s lower back guiding him forward. Stiles turned automatically back to the front and shifted into the space vacated by the people ahead them. Derek slid into place directly behind Stiles, chest brushing the human’s back again and Stiles didn’t pull away. He may have even leaned back just a fraction to keep the point of contact between their bodies.
Warmth like he’d never felt before exploded through Derek’s body. They weren’t on the motorcycle. There was no safety reason for Stiles to be pressed against him, but here he was, upper back resting softly against Derek’s chest, and if Derek couldn’t hear the racing beat of the human’s heart, couldn’t smell the warm spice of his scent, he would think him totally unaffected. Completely comfortable. Leaning down so that his cheek just brushed the side of Stiles’s head, lips not quite touching the shell of the human’s ear he murmured, “I’m pretty sure everything on the menu is good though.”
He could tell Stiles tried to fight the little shudder that ran through him and Derek’s wolf howled. Puffing up in his chest and he couldn’t stop himself from lightly dragging his nose against Stiles’s hair as he stood tall again, taking in his lush scent like a dying man. He ached to wrap his arms around Stiles, eradicate the last few inches separating the rest of their bodies. Not trusting himself, he stuffed his hands into the pockets of his jeans and continued to shuffle forward satisfying himself with the little brushes of contact the crowded line allowed.
Once they’d placed their order, Stiles paid for their meals with Derek letting an eyeroll and a smile be his only comments. Spotting an empty table, Derek carried their food over, ribeye for himself and ribs for Stiles, while Stiles followed behind with two large lemonades.
“This looks amazing,” Stiles said, taking a seat on the bench across from Derek. Perhaps it was the sight of a smiling Stiles with a table of food between them or how he’d managed to find a table set a little distance apart from the rest, but it struck Derek how very date-like this whole situation was.
He was basically on a date with Stiles, and now he was staring with what he imagined was a gobsmacked expression on his face.
Stiles glanced up at him, licking some errant butter from his baked potato off his fingers, soft sleeves of his red hoodie pushed to his elbows, and Derek flushed, warmth spreading for an entirely different reason.
“Everything ok?” Stiles asked, mouth now chasing a drop of barbecue sauce that had somehow ended up on his wrist.
Derek was in so much trouble. “Everything’s great,” he replied, proud his voice had come out steady.
Sharing a meal with Stiles wasn’t exactly what he’d imagined it would be. Stiles ate with gusto, making obscene noises and little comments about everything from the food to all the sweet stuff he wanted to indulge in after dinner. Between the licking and the moaning, Derek was sure he’d combust before they even made it to dessert. The beautiful part was that is was just Stiles being Stiles. There was no ulterior motive here; no hidden agenda. The wolf in him curled up in satisfaction drinking in his mate’s obvious bliss.
At one point, Derek looked up from his own meal to find Stiles with a little smear of barbecue sauce on his forehead and couldn’t hold in his chuckle. He fought down his initial instinct to lean across the table and lick the excess sauce right off Stiles’s face and reached for the small mountain of napkins he now understood why Stiles had grabbed.
“What?” Stiles asked, looking up at him before breaking out into a chuckle of his own.
“You’ve just got a little…” He pulled a napkin from the pile and reached across to wipe at the human’s forehead.
“So do you,” Stiles said and took Derek’s face in his hands, pulling his fingers through his stubble then away to reveal a couple kernels that must have been from the corn on the cob he just finished. “We make quite the pair,” Stiles laughed as he wiped off his hands then retrieved his fork to dig back in.
“Thank you,” Derek heard himself say.
“Dinner. Saving me from humiliation by corn.” Existing. Being here. Being you.
“Anytime,” Stiles said, face going soft, holding Derek’s gaze. “Thank you for fixing my jeep.”
This is normally where Derek would freeze up. Go back to his food and let silence take the place of any attempt at getting better acquainted with the person sitting across from him. He didn’t want to be that way with Stiles.
“Are you...liking Beacon Hills so far? I know you haven’t been here long.”
“Definitely.” Stiles nodded. “I mean, I grew up in Charming and have a lot of good memories there, but a lot of...really crappy ones too, you know? It’s nice to have a fresh start.”
“I didn’t know you were from Charming,” Derek said, trying to parse out the influx of chemosignals fighting for dominance in Stiles’s scent. Sadness. Guilt. Lust. Hope. Fear.
“You know it?”
“Not well.” Derek shook his head. “But I’ve got an uncle in a long-term care facility not far from there.” Shame welled in Derek’s belly for a moment. It had been a long time since they’d been to visit Peter. The doctors could give them no hope of him ever waking up, and it had become too painful a reminder of everything they had lost. Everything Derek had caused them to lose.
“St. Thomas?” Stiles asked, quietly.
At Derek’s nod, Stiles bit his lip and sadness bullied out all the other scents, filling Derek’s nose.
“My...My mom was there for a couple months before she died.”
Derek knew there were no words he could give to ease the ache Stiles must be feeling. It must be so similar to the ache that lived in his own chest, but words had never been his strong suit anyway. Reaching out, he threaded his fingers between Stiles’s where his hand had gone limp beside his plate and gave a gentle squeeze.
Stiles looked down at their joined hands and something warm, like cinnamon or cookies baking, threaded through his scent. When Stiles looked up his face was painted in soft wonder, whiskey eyes sparkling, then he squeezed back.
“Yeah, we’re at the festival.” Stiles said into his phone. They’d finished dinner and taken a lap around the midway to discuss dessert options when Stiles’s phone had rang. He normally checked in with his dad a couple times a night when John had to work evenings. He was late tonight and Stiles felt a little bad, but caught sight of Derek waiting in line to get them ice cream, dark leather and scowl firmly in place, and guessed he was allowed to be distracted.
“And who is we, exactly?” Dad asked, not even trying to hide the suspicion in his voice.
Stiles sighed. “There is a whole group running around. Scott, Isaac, Cora, Erica, Boyd, but I’ve mostly been walking around with Derek. He fixed the jeep so I bought him dinner.” And had the best time I’ve ever had with another person , Stiles thought. He was pretty sure this had turned into some kind of date. It definitely felt like a date.
“I thought I supposedly didn’t have to worry about that. No need to go all papa bear? Remember?”
“Dad...you don’t have to worry about it. Look, I know you think he’s bad news, but he’s really not. Do you think I’d honestly be hanging out with him if he was? I...I don’t know how to explain it, but I’m just...I’m safe with him, Dad. Ok?” Stiles took a deep breath. “And, i-it’s not like that but...I think he could be a good friend.”
The silence stretched long enough that Stiles was just about to crack when his dad heaved a big breath into the receiver. “You know I trust you, but I want to go on record as saying I don’t like it, and if this is going to be a thing then expect that he and I are going to have a talk.”
“I know, Dad. I-I haven’t told him about... you know . So when you talk to him, just please don’t mention that. I’d rather tell him myself if he needs to know.”
“Ok, son,” his dad agreed easily and Stiles felt the tension leak out of his shoulders.
“And could you try not to embarrass me too much?”
“I don’t know, how much hell are you going to give me for the burger I had for dinner?”
“Like a beef burger? Dad-”
“It was really good, and I think I totally deserve it seeing as how Parrish felt he needed to ask me how long my son has been dating the town’s resident bad boy.”
“What-” Stiles tried to choke out, eyes tracking Derek as he walked away from the booth, two ice cream cones in hand. He stopped in front of Stiles, licking the strawberry looking one and holding the other, obviously rocky road laden one, out to Stiles. Reaching out a shaky hand for the cone, Stiles forced a grin and prayed that panic wasn’t written all over his face before tuning back into what his dad was saying.
“-apparently our dinner came from some famous booth at the festival where my son could be seen holding hands with Derek Hale.”
Stiles almost lost his grip on the ice cream he’d just been handed. “Um...heh...about that.” Derek raised an eyebrow at him in question, tongue swiping some stray ice cream from his lip, and Stiles flushed.
His dad chuckled, obviously enjoying his son’s discomfort. “Just be careful, kid. Are you still staying with Scott and Isaac tonight?”
Stiles had to clear his throat before he could answer. “Yeah, yep. That’s the plan.”
“Okay. Oh, I was meaning to ask, did you move the spare set of garage keys?”
Stiles frowned. “No, they were on the desk last time I saw them.”
“Ok, I probably just misplaced them in the shuffle. Try to be home for breakfast in the morning. I actually have the day off tomorrow and I’d like to spend it with you. Maybe we can work on unpacking and sort out some of the mess.”
“Yeah. That sounds good, Dad.”
“Love you, kiddo.”
“Love you too,” Stiles replied before ending the call and stuffing his phone back into his pocket. Had his dad just given him permission, albeit grudgingly, to date Derek? Is that what they were doing? Dating? And his Dad was still going to let him stay out all night even though he knew Stiles was with Derek, right now? Also, he’d been so caught up with the biker that he hadn’t even noticed his father’s deputy creeping on them?
“Everything, ok?” Derek asked, touching Stiles’s arm and drawing him back to the present.
Stiles nodded, before taking a giant lick of his cone. “Yeah.” Stiles started to take a step and merge them back into the crowd, but stopped when another thought occurred to him. “Hey, how’d you know I like rocky road?”
Derek smirked and started walking. “Try not to let it melt all over your hand this time.”
“I thought you had too much to eat at the festival?” Derek asked, trying not to chuckle at the popcorn chipmunked in Stiles’s cheeks.
He and Stiles had met back up with everyone about half way through their ice cream cones and been immediately dragged off to ride every ride on the midway. Stiles had been delighted. He’d also demanded a funnel cake, a fried twinkie, and cotton candy even after the ice cream. Then groaned about being miserable. Derek had laughed at him.
After their third romp through the funhouse, the pups decided they were bored and needed videogames and movies back at the Den to cap off their night. Scott and Cora were currently locked in some death match as their characters battled it out on screen while Stiles and Isaac laughed and cheered from the sofa behind them.
“There’s always room for popcorn,” Stiles replied, his lips shiny with butter. Derek resisted the urge to lick them clean and settled for stealing a handful of popcorn for himself as made his way to the kitchen where Laura was sitting on a bar stool with a steaming cup of tea.
“Have fun with the kids?” Laura teased, using her foot to pull the stool beside her out from under the bar.
Derek grunted at her, but plopped himself down regardless. “You can’t tell me to spend time with him and then make fun of me when I do.”
“Sure I can,” she smiled. “It’s a sister’s prerogative.”
“Any word from patrol?”
“Nothing. No scent, no trail. The police haven’t found anything either.” Laura set down her mug with a sigh. “I think I’m going to call the patrols off. We’re not finding anything, and everyone is exhausted. We still need to be wary, but I’m beginning to feel like this really was just a wolf passing through. If it hadn’t been for the scent showing up near Stiles’s I probably would have already done it.”
Derek nodded. He was feeling much the same. “We should still travel in pairs, maybe do just a perimeter sweep and check the Stilinski house a couple extra times over the next week or so, but yeah, I agree.”
“Good. Besides, I think Stiles has the best bodyguard he could hope for.” Laura squeezed his shoulder. “You know, it’s a good look for you.”
Derek raised an eyebrow.
“Happiness. Contentment.” Laura glanced toward the living room where a round of cheers went up as Cora proclaimed her victory and Scott pretended to weep. “Your wolf is settled.”
Derek couldn’t argue with that. It was something he’d felt so infrequently in the last few years that it had taken him by surprise and it had only been a couple days. He couldn’t imagine what it would be like to actually be in a relationship with Stiles; living and growing together. Being mates. While things seemed to be moving in a positive direction, he had to remind himself to not let hope overshadow his judgement. He didn’t really know what all of this meant to Stiles. Plus, Stiles was still in high school and there was so much he still didn’t know. About the Pack. About the past. About Derek.
“I’m going up to get some air,” he said, standing from his stool and leaning over to kiss Laura’s forehead.
Stiles was at the bottom of his popcorn bowl, and after five more rounds of Mortal Kombat his three companions had dissolved into a debate about what movie to put in. Stiles threw in his vote for anything involving action comedy, but if he was being honest his attention had been divided between what was happening in the living room and the doorway Derek had disappeared through nearly an hour ago.
Deciding to risk it, he took his empty bowl and headed in that direction, prepared to feign returning said bowl to the kitchen if he found himself intruding.
All he found was Laura, sitting at their bar top, flipping idly through a magazine. She looked up when he entered, a small smile on her face. “Hey, Stiles.”
“Hey…” He remembered the bowl in his hand and walked over to the counter to set it beside the sink. “Sorry, we kinda commandeered the TV.”
She chuckled. “No you’re not. Besides, if I really wanted to watch something I would just go downstairs.”
Stiles laughed and scratched at the back of his neck. “Oh, yeah right. Um…” He fidgeted a bit, trying to subtly look down the hall that lead back farther into the apartment.
Laura stood and walked to him, leaning close to whisper. “Follow me.”
Stiles didn’t argue just turned and let her lead him back through the dim passage coming to a stop beside a ladder attached to the wall and leading up to a metal hatch. Laura didn’t say anything, just pointedly lifted her eyes up to ceiling then gave Stiles a little wink before walking away.
Stiles paused long enough to take a deep breath and ascended the ladder.
Darkness and solitude had long been the only places that Derek felt comfortable enough to let himself relax. He would come up here and sit, staring at the stars or nothing at all, until the muscles along his neck and shoulders started to unclench, the burden of constantly guarding his heart lessening. Ever since the fire, this had been his escape.
Laura said that it wasn’t his fault. That he’d done everything he could. He had, but it had been too little too late. Before, he hadn’t known that guilt was a living, writhing, breathing thing. Didn’t know that it twisted itself around every single facet of your life, staining even mundane things with it’s ichor. There were places he couldn’t go in town now. People he could hardly bear the sight of. It had taken a long time for him to get back to something familiar and comfortable even with Laura and Cora.
But here, here he could breathe out. Just sit and let the world exist around him with no eyes to judge him or cause for false bravado, for his mask. Tonight, his need to clear his head had further reaching consequences. From the moment he’d first recognized Stiles as his mate, Derek had been adamant that he wasn’t going to pursue him. Determined that he wasn’t going to invite the opportunity to make the same kind of disastrous decisions as before.
Of course, as with any of Derek’s plans, that wasn’t working out at all. He could still push Stiles away, probably should. Maybe Derek was as weak as he chastised himself for being or maybe he was just tired of fighting, but he didn’t want to. He wanted to pull Stiles close and never let go.
It was terrifying. It was exhilarating, and as that rapid heartbeat paused at the bottom of the ladder before starting the climb, Derek wondered if this was what healing felt like.
Derek could hear the human grunt as he lifted the metal access door before climbing up and unto the roof. Sitting on the picnic table top, Derek had his back to the door and didn’t turn around right away, giving Stiles a chance to acclimate himself.
With cautious steps, Stiles made his way to the side of the table and Derek turned his head to watch him approach. The cloudless sky left the moon and stars with no barrier between their luminescence and the world. That light washed over Stiles now, and if Derek thought he was beautiful in the sunlight, he hadn’t been prepared for the pale radiance of his skin against a backdrop of the night sky. Derek had never seen one of the sidhe, but surely if they existed this was the kind of ethereal beauty all those poems and songs were about.
“Can I sit?” Stiles asked, shuffling his feet and looking unsure of his welcome.
Derek swallowed and made himself close his suddenly dry mouth before he nodded and scooted more to one side of the table. The human climbed up beside him and Derek was still staring, unable to tear his eyes away from tracing that little constellation of moles on Stiles’s cheek. He was still in his red hoodie and began to idly play with the cuffs where they half covered his hands.
“You disappeared,” Stiles finally said. It wasn’t an accusation, but Derek heard a question in it anyway.
He felt himself slide just the barest hint to the left until his leather clad arm brushed against Stiles’s and he could feel the heat of the human’s thigh through his jeans.
“I didn’t mean to disappear. I just...need to come up here sometimes. To think.”
Stiles considered this before nodding, “I get that.”
Silence stretched between them, charged with words that seemed determined to spill when Stiles drew in a deep breath and asked, “Am I...am I reading this all wrong?”
The air in Derek’s lungs froze before coming out in rush. “No. I don’t think you are.”
Stiles huffed out what sounded like a relieved breath. “Are you ok with that? I mean, there was glaring and then the not glaring anymore and now the disappearing-”
“It was never anything you did,” Derek interrupted. “I was...hesitant at first, and I’m sorry I glared at you.”
“It’s ok, no harm done, but if you don’t mind my asking...what changed?”
Derek huffed. “Laura. Gave me the kick in the ass I needed, I guess. Told me to get out of my own way. I don’t have much experience with things like this. Like I said before, I’m not good with people.”
“Well, I have no experience with things like this. So, again, we make quite the pair.”
“There’s a lot of things you don’t know about me, Stiles.”
Stiles turned to look at Derek, knocking their knees together. “Dude, of course there are. There’s plenty of things you don’t know about me either. But that’s kinda the point isn’t it? When you’re,” he stopped to swallow and lick his lips before continuing. “Interested in someone? You take it one step at a time. Get to know each other.” He watched Derek like he was waiting for him to disagree. “Date.”
“Is that...you’d want to do that? To date me?”
Stiles sputtered. “Of course I want to date you!”
“I feel the same way about you, Stiles, but I’m just...the things you don’t know,” Derek shook his head. Despite Stiles being his mate, he was not ready to divulge all of his carefully guarded secrets. Not ready for Stiles to recoil in fear or disgust. Just the werewolf thing alone was a lot to take in, adding being mates and all the terrible things Derek has done on top of that? It would be completely understandable if Stiles never wanted to see him again.
“Look,” Stiles started, bringing him out of his head. “This is what I do know. A week ago, I was just starting out in a new town. New school. New everything. All I had in the world was my dad, and now, I suddenly have friends. A job with like the coolest boss on the planet and I have...you. It may not seem like a big deal, but I’ve never had all that. Or any of that. I’ve never had multiple people who want me around. That give a crap about me. Honestly, I’ve never really fit in anywhere and for the first time since my mom died I feel like there’s a place for me.”
“Maybe that’s because you belong here,” Derek said, fiercely, sincerity ringing in every word. Stiles did belong here. He belonged with Derek. They belonged together.
Wide, dark eyes snapped to his, disbelief and wonder coloring Stiles’s face. Hope flooded his scent, made Derek dizzy with the headiness of it. Electricity raced up his arm and leg where he and Stiles were still pressed together and Stiles was just staring at him like Derek had just handed him the key to the universe.
Slowly, a smile started to spread on Stiles’s face and he ducked his chin, eyes falling closed for just a moment and Derek felt an answering grin pull at the corners of his own mouth.
The grin stayed on Stiles’s face as he leaned more fully against Derek’s side, head coming to rest on the wolf’s shoulder. Derek turned his face and buried his nose in the soft brown tresses, dragging in a lungful of the intoxicating scent that was just Stiles.
The human leaned his head back turning his face to look at Derek and bumping Derek’s nose with his own in the process.
Derek flushed hot all over. He could barely hear the rapid staccato of Stiles’s heart over the pounding of his own. There was a nervous tilt to Stiles’s grin, and Derek couldn’t wait any longer. He leaned down that last inch and pressed gentle lips against Stiles’s. His mate’s lips were dry and warm and fit perfectly against his. Stiles sat frozen for just a moment before melting against him and his wolf howled.
He pulled back to press their foreheads together and threaded his fingers through Stiles’s. “One step at a time?”
“One step at a time.”
A big fat rain drop splattered on Stiles’s forehead, jolting him awake with a groan. He opened his eyes to a world filled with gray and felt a sharp second of panic until the weight covering half his chest shifted and a stubbled face nuzzled closer to his throat. Derek was muttering something in his sleep, lips fluttering against the pulse rising beneath the skin of Stiles’s neck.
He was at the Den. On the roof. With Derek. They had laid back on the table to look at the stars last night and apparently fallen asleep.
As his heart started to calm and mind cleared, aches and pains started to scream for his attention. He was flat on his back on the picnic table top with Derek’s considerable weight pressing him into the wood beneath him. Oh, and it was starting to rain.
“Derek.” Stiles shook the biker’s shoulder. “Hey, it’s raining. We need to get up.”
“Stiles?” Derek lifted his head, clearly as confused as Stiles had been a moment ago, but Stiles couldn’t tear his eyes away from the creases his hoodie had left on Derek’s face nor the sleep softened scowl at having his slumber disturbed.
“Good morning.” Stiles grinned at him while the biker took in their situation, obviously coming to the same conclusion he had.
Derek narrowed his eyes, heavy eyebrows scrunched together. They didn’t look so murdery to Stiles anymore. “What are you smiling about?”
“Not a morning person, huh?” Stiles asked, grin only getting wider. A buzzing in Stiles’s pocket interrupted whatever Derek had been about to say and Stiles wiggled trying to get his phone out of his pocket.
Derek lifted himself off Stiles with a grunt and moved to sit on the edge of the table. Stiles tried to shake the numbness out of his arm and stretched while he opened his phone to check his messages.
Breakfast in 30 min. The first one read, then ten minutes later, You better not be late.
“Shit,” Stiles muttered, then looked at the time. He had twenty minutes to get home. “Shit, shit, shit.”
“Yeah, I’ve just gotta get home. I promised my Dad I’d be there for breakfast.”
Derek nodded then stood and offered Stiles a hand as he climbed off the table with a groan, stiff muscles protesting.
“Come on, I’ll walk you to the jeep.”
Stiles didn’t argue, just followed Derek down the ladder. After they’d both taken a pit stop in the bathroom, they managed to creep past where Scott and Isaac were passed out on the living room couches. Stiles smiled to himself at Scott’s mouth hanging open.
Derek grabbed a set of keys from a hook by the stairs and then they were making their way down and through the rest of the clubhouse before stepping back out into the morning air. The rain was growing steadier, cold drops pelting his skin as they jogged across the parking lot to the motorcycle garage where Derek had fixed the jeep yesterday.
Once they were inside, Stiles checked the time. He only had ten minutes and he’d be cutting it close, but there was something awkward in the air and he didn’t want to just run out.
Derek opened the bay door where the jeep was sitting and came to stand in front of Stiles. They just looked at each other for a moment and Stiles could tell Derek felt as strange as he did. What was it about mornings that made things so weird? This wasn’t even technically a morning after, but words had been stilted and eye contact scarce ever since they’d gotten up off that table.
“Um...I gotta get going, but I’ll talk to you later?” Stiles ventured, trying to catch Derek’s eye.
The biker nodded, so Stiles took that as the only acknowledgment he was going to receive and turned towards the jeep.
“Stiles,” Derek said, just as his hand landed on the door handle.
“Yeah?” He turned back to find that Derek had moved right up into his space and then there were lips on his. Warm, wet, minty fresh lips and Stiles was suddenly so thankful he’d decided to steal a swish of mouthwash from the bathroom counter.
Derek tilted his head, slotting their mouths together more fully and pressing Stiles back against the jeep. The wall of Derek’s torso shifting against his drew a gasp from Stiles and Derek took the opening as invitation, delving his tongue into Stiles’s mouth. At the first contact, Stiles nearly whimpered, warmth pooling low in his belly.
Stiles had never had anyone else’s tongue in his mouth before so he was no expert, but he felt like Derek must be really good at this because soon that warmth exploded, sending fire scorching through every part of him. Derek was relentless, probing deep and holding Stiles so sure with one of those strong hands cupped against the side of his neck, thumb caressing the skin of his jaw.
When the biker pulled away, Stiles managed to pry his eyes open to find Derek hadn’t gone far, just a couple inches, and he was breathing just as hard as Stiles was. He still had his eyes closed and Stiles watched as he seemed to struggle to rein his breathing in. With an unsteady hand, Stiles brought his fingertips to rest on Derek’s cheek sliding down through the thick stubble on his jaw.
“I like this,” Stiles said, voice low. Cool air washed over them as the rain picked up it’s cadence just outside the open bay door. “And I like you...and I meant everything I said last night.”
With one last inhale, Derek opened his eyes to look right into Stiles’s. “So did I.”
Derek moved forward again, but this time he simply slid his arms around to Stiles’s back, pulling him close and wrapping him up so tight Stiles’s toes nearly came off the floor. Stiles responded in kind, clinging to Derek and pressing his face in the curve of the older man’s neck.
“You better go,” came Derek’s muffled voice from where he’d completely buried his nose behind Stiles’s ear.
Stiles laughed and squeezed him one more time. “Yeah, I really should. Being grounded would suck.”
Derek snorted, and released him but not before leaning in for one last chaste press of lips. “Drive safe. I’ll talk to you later?”
“I will and of course.” Stiles smiled before he hopped in the jeep, driving out into the damp morning.
Derek was a mess. A happy, anxious, growling mess. He’d never struggled to control his wolf, to not flash his eyes, the way he had this morning when Stiles left. After the jeep pulled out of the garage, Derek had stood just under the edge of the roof and let the damp air soak him, wash over him. On one hand, he was elated. He’d slept with his mate in his arms. They were going to figure this out, hopefully. Work through their issues. Be together.
On the other hand, the foundation was built on such shaky ground, he didn’t even need to be the big bad wolf to blow it down. Any number of truths could do it for him.
The midday sun had burned through the morning drizzle leaving humid air clogging up his lungs, making his chest feel tight. He shed his work shirt leaving only a white tank top behind and the quintet of howling wolves on his upper left arm bare as he moved to wash the grease from his latest project off his hands.
Boyd stopped beside him, waiting to use the sink, and nudged Derek with his shoulder. “You alright, man?”
It was just them in the garage today. The bike garage was only open for a partial day on Saturdays and most of the time Derek was the only one there, opting to give Boyd, Erica, and everyone else the day off or let them work in the regular garage. Boyd had come in just to help Derek finish up a special order bike he’d been working on and because, Derek suspected, he wanted to make sure his alpha was okay.
Boyd was like that. Quiet. Unobtrusive. Unnervingly observant. He was also a very good friend.
Reaching for a towel, Derek dried his hands and let his beta’s calm demeanor soothe his frayed edges. “I nearly wolfed out when Stiles was leaving this morning,” he admitted quietly.
Boyd stood from washing his hands and met Derek’s eyes in the dingy little mirror over the sink. “Having a mate is an intense thing, man. I can’t imagine having to curb those instincts for someone who didn’t know what I am.”
“I don’t know how to tell him.” Derek ducked his head. “Other than you and Erica, I’ve never had to tell anyone.”
“It’ll happen in it’s own time. Stop stressing yourself about it. I get the feeling you could tell him you’re from Mars and he wouldn’t care.”
Derek scoffed, mouth twisting into a grimace and right hand ghosting over his tattoo. “I think being an alien would be better than the idiot werewolf who got half his family killed.”
Boyd turned to him, face hard. “Laura was right. This is still grinding you up, isn’t it? Derek, Stiles is not going to blame you for what happened because it wasn’t your fault.”
Derek barely contained a flinch before a pulse of anger had crimson burning in his eyes and a snarl forming on his lips.
Boyd watched him with understanding eyes and tilted his chin to bare just enough of his throat to calm the wolf raging inside Derek. “We didn’t mean any harm or offense. We’re just worried about you.”
After a moment, Derek exhaled, deflating and pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes.
A big hand gripped his shoulder. “Call your boy. Ask him to come with us to the show tomorrow. Then go get your keys. We’re going for a run.”
Derek could only nod.
“A bike show?” John asked, passing a stack of books to Stiles.
“Yeah, I mean, obviously I’ve never been to one, but Derek said there’s all kinds of bikes and bike stuff to look at, and other vendors too,” Stiles said, shelving the books his dad just handed him and reaching for some more. They had made a decent dent in the unpacking goal since breakfast that morning, which Stiles had barely been late for.
“Spending the night out on the weekend is one thing, but tomorrow is a school night-”
“Derek said there’s a big storm front moving in later tomorrow evening and he wants to make sure we’re not on the road for it, so we’ll probably be back by seven or eight.”
“He’s really not a bad guy, Dad.”
“You really like him, don’t you?” John asked, watching Stiles closely.
Stiles felt himself flush, even as he tried not to, and nodded his head. “I know he comes off as gruff, and he is a little grouchy and yes, I’ve only known him for a week, but Dad…” Stiles paused, not really sure how to convey the enormity of this feeling for Derek in his chest. Not sure that he was ready to try to put it into words or that he even could. “...just, yeah. Yeah, I like him.”
John blew out a slow breath and looked at Stiles with wistful, knowing eyes. “I can’t say I wholeheartedly approve, but I’m happy for you son. And I hope he knows how lucky he is and that he damn well better treat you right.”
Stiles grinned. “Thanks, Dad.”
“Now, here,” John said, drawing another stack of books out of a box. “These, I believe, go on your bookshelf.”
Stiles checked the titles and nodded, taking the books from his dad’s hands and heading up the stairs. Smiling to himself, he pushed his bedroom door open and turned to place the books on his shelf against the wall beside his closet. Turning back, he frowned noticing the hoodie Derek had given him was hanging half off the back of his desk chair, one of the sleeves dragging the floor. He gripped it at the shoulder to right it, but his fingers slid right through a hole in the material.
“What the hell?” Stiles muttered, lifting the hoodie to inspect it. Five short jagged tears showed in the shoulder when he held the sweatshirt up against the light. Had those always been there? He hadn’t worn the hoodie since that first night on Derek’s bike and it hadn’t moved from the back of his desk chair since so they must have been. “Oh I see how it is. Give me the holy one.” Stiles snorted at himself before re-settling the shirt to its original position and going back to finish helping his dad.
Crisp morning air enveloped Derek as he sped towards the Stilinski house. It had rained again last night leaving a few puddles behind, but now the sun was warm on his face and only puffy white clouds adorned the sky. It was going to be a perfect day for a ride.
He pulled into Stiles’s driveway and parked the bike, getting off to retrieve a couple things from the saddlebags. When the door opened, Derek looked up and wasn’t at all surprised to find the elder Stilinski looking down at him from the porch.
Derek removed his helmet and nodded. “Deputy Chief.”
Stilinski was in his full uniform and smelled of soap. “Hale.” He came down the steps as he spoke, only breaking eye contact when he’d reached the ground. He eyed Derek’s bike, raising an eyebrow at the leather jacket and helmet he’d pulled from the saddlebags.
“Can you keep my son safe on that thing?”
Derek met the older man’s eyes and let his scowl fall away. This was Stiles’s father. He would very much like to be in his good graces. “Nothing is guaranteed,” he answered. “But, I would never do anything to purposefully endanger him.”
Stilinski considered this then jerked his chin towards the jacket and helmet resting on the bike’s seat. “Those for him?”
Stilinski narrowed his eyes for a moment, assessing. “I don’t suppose I need to tell you what would happen to you if you hurt him.”
“No, sir. I know it won’t mean much to you now, but I would never.” Derek took half a step forward, eyes intent on the older man’s.
The two men stood, eyes locked together, as each took the other’s measure. Derek knew this man didn’t know him at all and that it would take time, but he was determined that one day soon he would believe that Derek would never hurt Stiles.
Finally, Stilinski gave just the barest nod of his chin. “Drive carefully.”
He started to walk around Derek toward his cruiser just as Stiles came bustling out the door.
“Bye, Dad!” Stiles called as he hopped down the steps to come to a stop in front of Derek.
“Bye, son. Hale.” The older man responded before getting into his car and slowly backing out unto to the road.
“Hi,” Stiles said and Derek’s eyes traveled up and down his body of their own accord. Stiles looked good. Well, he always looked good to Derek, but he’d traded his plaid and t-shirt combo for a dark henley with the sleeves pushed up revealing those incredibly strong looking forearms and black boots had replaced his sneakers. The worst, though, were the dark jeans cut to accentuate the length of his legs, the curve of his hips. God, he bet Stiles’s ass looked great in them. “Derek?”
“Hey,” he responded, shaking himself and stepping into Stiles’s space. “You look amazing.”
His mate’s cheeks turned the loveliest shade of pink and Derek had to nuzzle his nose against it before dragging his lips to brush over Stiles’s. The human’s hands moved up to loop around his neck and Derek let his own hands slide around Stiles’s hips, fingers grazing bare skin just above Stiles’s waistband, pulling a gasp from the human.
He couldn’t stop the smug smile that pulled at his mouth so he pressed it to Stiles’s forehead and took a deep breath before putting a few inches between them. “Are you ready to go?”
Stiles looked at him with something like wonder on his face and nodded.
Derek picked up the leather jacket he’d pulled out of the saddlebag and handed it over. “I brought this for you.”
Stiles’s mouth fell open. “Did you buy me a jacket?”
“No,” Derek chuckled. “It’s mine. One of my first. It should fit you ok.”
Stiles slid his arms into the jacket, testing it’s movement and smiled at him. “It fits great, actually. Do I want to know how old you were when you wore this?”
“Always the beefcake, huh?” Stiles teased.
Derek tried to smile, but it felt strained. Of course, Stiles noticed, eyes round with worry as he stepped forward to touch his fingertips against Derek’s face, much like he’d done yesterday. It soothed his wolf, and Derek turned to place a kiss on his palm.
“I’m okay, Stiles. Just some things...some old things eating at me.”
“Do you want to tell me about it?”
Derek met his eyes. “I do and I will. Just not today. Let’s just enjoy today, ok?”
Stiles watched him for a long moment. “Ok,” he finally agreed and picked up the helmet he’d worn the last time. “Where is everyone else?”
“We’ll meet them on the road. And here,” Derek pulled two pairs of sunglasses from his pocket, placing one on his face and handing the other to Stiles. “You’ll need these, too.”
Meeting them on the road had consisted, to Stiles’s delight, of the others roaring out of a rest area just outside of Beacon Hills as Derek and Stiles passed. Derek didn’t even slow down and Stiles watched in the side mirror as six other Wolves descended on them like dark angels.
Someone, Stiles thought maybe it was Scott, let out a great whooping howl once they’d all fallen into line and each Wolf howled in answer. Derek was the last to raise his voice and Stiles could feel the muscles in Derek’s stomach contract, feel the vibration against his chest as he howled, loud and long. As soon as the biker closed his mouth, he twisted his wrist and the Harley surged forward, flying down the highway, faster than Stiles had ever gone on the bike before.
It was incredible and maybe a little bit scary, which made it all the more exciting. The wind was almost brutal at this speed so Stiles huddled behind Derek, the man’s bulk acting as a shield, and silently thanked him for giving Stiles the sunglasses. He didn’t think he would have been able to keep his eyes open otherwise.
It was a two hour drive to the show, and Stiles entertained himself watching the scenery fly past, watching Derek or the others in one of the side mirrors, or just letting his eyes slip shut and enjoying the free feeling being on the bike invoked in him. Like nothing could catch him. Nothing could hurt him. He knew it was silly, and that so many things could go wrong, but he hadn’t felt as safe as he did on this bike with Derek in a long time.
It felt like no time had passed at all before the air smelled of salt and Derek was pulling off the highway. They weren’t even to the show yet, but this little coastal town was teeming with motorcycles. They were everywhere - on the road, parked in front of the shops on Main Street, dotting the parking lot of every diner and eatery.
Derek led the Pack into a parking lot, filled with even more motorcycles, and found several empty spaces grouped together before he pulled into one and dropped the kickstand. Boyd pulled up to share the space with them and Stiles climbed off the back once Derek had turned the bike off.
His legs felt just as wobbly as they had the first time he’d ever ridden the bike and Derek reached out a hand to steady him. Stiles smiled at him and started working on the straps of his helmet. He was buzzing with excitement. Beyond the lot, he could see huge tents with banners like Harley-Davidson, Honda Powersports, Yamaha, and so many others plus rows and rows of smaller booths. A low pulsing bass beat was emanating from giant speakers set beside a raised platform stage and several groups of people walked by, giving the Wolves a wide berth, carrying folding chairs to set up on the lawn stretching out around it.
“Stiles,” Derek laughed. “Let me.” He shooed Stiles’s hands away and unclasped his helmet. When Stiles pulled his eyes back to Derek, he noticed he’d already removed his helmet and the leather jacket, leaving only his kutte over a white v-neck t-shirt. Derek’s sunglasses were hanging from the center of the V, revealing dark swirling tattoo lines mixing with the biker’s chest hair. Stiles thought it looked like smoke.
“You should probably take your jacket off. It’s supposed to warm up around midday.” Derek said, pulling Stiles back to the moment.
“Huh? Oh, yeah.” Stiles divested himself of the leather while Derek stowed both their helmets and his own jacket before reaching back for Stiles’s.
“Stiles!” Scott was suddenly right beside him, throwing an arm around his shoulder and giving him a shake. “How was your first actual ride? Did your butt go numb?”
That punched a laugh out of Stiles and he reached back to pat his backside. “Nope, all good here.”
“Are you sure?” One of the twins said as he approached. Stiles thought his name was Aiden, but they hadn’t officially met. “I’m sure we could find someone to massage it for you.”
Stiles felt himself flush and then jerked his head towards Derek when a low growl, that sounded way more wolf than human, rumbled out of his throat. Aiden immediately lowered his eyes and brought up his hands.
“Just teasing, hoss. We’ll catch you guys later,” Aiden said, then he was walking by them, his brother and Danny trailing behind him.
As they passed, Danny looked at Stiles and said, “Don’t pay any attention to him. He can’t help it he’s an asshole.”
The Wolves all laughed and without turning around, Aiden lifted a hand to flip them off. Danny shot Stiles a wink before taking Ethan’s hand and following after the other twin.
“He really is an asshole,” Isaac said, joining their group and Stiles huffed, face still hot.
“Let’s go,” Derek said and everyone started moving.
Scott and Isaac bounded away with shouts of, “Come on Stiles!” Boyd followed at a more sedate pace. Stiles turned to follow, but stopped when a hand gripped his wrist. He looked up into Derek’s face.
“Yeah, I’m fine. How can you growl like that?” Stiles asked, curiosity beating out embarrassment.
Derek smirked. “Natural talent.”
Stiles cleared his throat and wouldn’t meet Derek’s eyes. “It was kinda hot.”
One of those massive eyebrows quirked at him, smug smile firmly in place. Then he leaned in, stubble scraping along Stiles’s cheek until warm breath was ghosting over his ear, a low growl vibrating against Stiles’s chest. “What’s hot is your ass in those jeans.”
The flush Stiles already had spread like quicksilver over his body, blood rushing in a direction that was the opposite of his brain and he ducked his head even farther, forehead landing on Derek’s shoulder. He was unbelievably flattered that Derek found anything about him hot, but it made something a little uncomfortable, an old insecurity, rattle in his chest all the same.
The biker nosed his way from Stiles’s ear to his temple before murmuring, “Look at me, Stiles.”
Taking a deep breath, Stiles lifted his face, and finally his eyes, to Derek. He wasn’t sure what to expect on Derek’s face - rejection or pity, maybe? Stiles was certain that any time now Derek was going to snap out of whatever had possessed him to think dating Stiles was somehow a good idea. Derek’s face didn’t have any of those things though, just soft concern and a furrowed brow that Stiles found himself lifting a hand to smooth.
“Did I go too far?” Derek asked quietly.
Stiles shook his head. “No...I just…” He paused to gather his thoughts. “No one has ever found me attractive before. Like ever. Pretty much the opposite actually, and I guess I don’t know how to...handle it?” He laughed, and the self-deprecation was plain even to his own ears. “And you probably think I’m a giant loser now, but I mean, it’s flattering. I’m totally flattered. I just suck at-”
A finger pressed to his lips stopped his ramble before it could really pick up steam and Stiles heaved a grateful breath.
“Everyone else is an idiot.” Derek said like it was fact. Like it was carved in stone. “You’re beautiful.”
Stiles felt his eyes go round, his mouth fall open.
“You’ll tell me though? If I do or say things that make you uncomfortable?” He threaded the fingers of both their hands together before lifting the right one to place a kiss against the inside of Stiles’s wrist and lowering his voice. “I don’t want you to ever be uncomfortable with me.”
Stiles managed to close his mouth long enough to swallow and nod.
“Good.” Derek’s smile was blinding. “Now, let’s go find you a motorcycle that you can’t live without.”
Stiles snorted a laugh, still mostly in shock, and let himself be led away by the hand in the direction the other’s had gone.
Stiles’s enthusiasm was infectious. Derek couldn’t remember a day he’d had this much fun or laughed as often. Watching his mate flit from booth to booth, touching anything within reach and asking a million questions about everything from biker culture to why didn’t Derek have one of those leather jackets with all the fringe. He’d particularly enjoyed watching Stiles pine over the new red Harley Iron 883, swearing his eternal love and causing Derek for the first time ever to be jealous of an inanimate object. If Derek had also gotten all the information he needed to purchase that particular model at some future date, well, no one needed to know.
They had spotted the others from time to time, and Scott, Isaac, and Boyd had walked with them through the Harley tent, but mostly the wolves had given them space. Derek knew they could all tell how on edge he’d been for the last week. His emotions had been ricocheting radically from euphoria to blind panic seemingly daily, and he was grateful to them for giving him time to be with Stiles.
Spotting a restroom ahead, Derek melded himself against Stiles’s back, making the human’s hands pause their incessant roaming, this time over a pair of studded leather saddlebags. He hooked his chin over Stiles’s shoulder and told him that he’d be right back. As he started to pull away, Stiles turned his head and darted in to give Derek a peck on the lips. The shy smile Stiles had on his face when he pulled back had Derek’s heart in his throat and he realized that that had been the first kiss between them that Stiles had initiated. He barely bit back a growl as he swooped back in to claim Stiles’s lips in a much firmer kiss.
Stiles laughed against his lips before he elbowed him playfully. “Go. I’ll be right around here.”
Ducking into the stream of people, Derek made his way to the men’s room. He kept his ears trained on Stiles’s heartbeat, more elevated than usual presumably from their kissing and smiled to himself. Stiles had taken a moment to settle after their exchange in the parking lot, but once he had it was like another layer had been pulled back giving Derek access to parts of his mate he hadn’t yet seen.
Stiles was like a force of nature; jubilant in his explorations, attentive to everything Derek said and did. His curiosity was relentless, and while he grew shy at certain interactions, he seemed to feel as comfortable with Derek as before they fell asleep together on the Den’s roof.
Still, that undercurrent of fear in his scent remained. It was considerably less than a week ago, but it spiked at the oddest times - when Stiles paused before stepping around the corner of a building, at the sight of seemingly random strangers, when he’d touched trembling fingers to the ice blue crystals dangling from the tails of a wind chime for sale.
Derek was halfway through drying his hands and lost in his own thoughts when a lurch in Stiles’s heartbeat had him tearing out of the bathroom. He smelled them before he saw them, three wolves and his mate with his back pressed against the side of a tent about three booths down.
Derek recognized the wolf with his face pressed entirely too close to Stiles’s and heard him say, “Where’s your wolf, boy?”
He poured every ounce of his alpha power into his voice and barked, “Ennis!”
The name came out like a thunderclap and every person caught between them stopped to stare at him. Derek paid them no mind, striding forward, completely focused on the tall wolf as he stood from leaning into Stiles’s space with a nasty smirk on his face.
The Alpha Pack had been a nuisance for as long as Derek could remember. His mother had managed a truce with them before her death and it had held in all the years since, but certain members, especially this one, reveled in pushing the bounds of it.
“There you are, Hale,” Ennis sneered, and Derek saw Kali and some other wolf he didn’t know spread out, preparing to flank him.
“Get away from him,” Derek ordered, voice cold.
“Of course,” Ennis’s tone was mocking, but he did step away from Stiles. “Was just asking the pup some questions is all.”
Derek lunged into Ennis’s face so fast their noses almost collided. “You don’t ask him anything,” he seethed, wolf barely contained. “You don’t breath in his direction. Are we clear?” Derek could see a flicker of red in the other wolf’s eyes as hatred collapsed his mocking mask. Stiles’s heartbeat was deafening and Derek wanted to look at him, but he didn’t dare move his eyes away from the wolf in front of him.
Ennis barely started to growl when Boyd stepped into Derek’s field of vision, placing himself at Ennis’s back, and Isaac and Scott were suddenly there on either side of Stiles.
“Is there a problem, gentlemen?” The Alpha Pack’s leader, Deucalion asked, voice faux casual. Derek hadn’t even heard him approach.
Ennis gritted his teeth before taking a step back and breaking eye contact. “No problem here. We were just catching up.” He turned with one last sneer at Derek and stormed off with Kali right on his heels.
Derek’s eyes immediately fell to Stiles to find his mate looking pale and entirely too shaken. Derek stepped forward as Deucalion’s hand landed on his shoulder and Derek spun, snarl on his lips.
“Now, now. There’s no need for that. I simply meant to apologize for Ennis’s behavior.” Deucalion intoned.
Derek realized Danny, Ethan, and Aiden had arrived as well. They took position behind him, forming a protective semi-circle around where Stiles was still huddled against the tent between Scott and Isaac. Stepping close to Deucalion, Derek lowered his voice, “That’s my mate your lieutenant was harassing.” The older wolf’s eyes widened. “He even looks in his direction again and I’ll consider it a truce violation.”
Deucalion’s blue eyes hardened at the mention of the truce, but he nodded. “Understood.”
Derek stepped away, aching to get to Stiles, but Deucalion interrupted him again. “I’ll collect my pack and depart for the day, so that you and yours may enjoy the rest of the show. Please do give your sister my regards.”
Derek nodded, grateful that Laura had decided she, Cora, and Erica needed a girls day today instead of coming with them. Deucalion had been sniffing around his sister for years and would have surely tried to turn this situation into some new argument to merge their packs. Laura detested him.
Deucalion and the rest of the Alphas turned to leave and Derek was in front of Stiles in the next instant. “Stiles?”
His mate was hunched over, breath coming in pants.
The others moved a few paces away to give them some semblance of privacy, but Scott stayed firmly at Stiles’s side.
“I think he’s having a panic attack,” Scott said as Stiles lurched up from the tent wall and over towards some picnic tables set across the aisle near the food court.
“No,” Stiles wheezed, plopping down on a bench of a table that was, thankfully, partially hidden from the aisle behind the flap of another tent and put his head in his hands. “I’m ok. Just...give me a minute.”
Derek looked to Scott then nudged his head back towards the others. Scott’s jaw took that stubborn tilt and for half a second Derek thought he was going to argue. “Scott.”
“Stiles, if you need anything…”
“I’m good, Scotty,” Stiles panted, even though he was so obviously not. “Go...we’ll catch up.”
Scott walked away and Derek looked over to the rest of the pack, meeting Boyd’s eyes from where he and Aiden were talking quietly. Boyd said, “We’ll go make sure they leave. The prospects will stay close.” He spoke at his normal volume, but Derek could hear him just fine. He nodded and the Pack dispersed.
Derek squatted down in front of Stiles. “What can I do?” His breathing had evened out some, but his heart was still rapid.
“Just hold my hand,” Stiles said, voice shaky, and reached out for him.
Derek gripped his hand firmly and shifted so that he was sitting beside Stiles instead of hovering in front of him.
After several more deep breaths, Stiles finally looked up at him, hair wild from running his fingers through it and eyes too wide. “What the hell was that, Derek?”
Derek swallowed. “Rival club. They’re usually harmless, but Ennis has always hated me. He won’t bother you again.” And Derek meant it. He’d bury that asshole before he ever got within spitting distance of Stiles again. Truce be damned. “Did he...did he hurt you?” Derek asked cautiously. Stiles didn’t smell hurt. He smelled terrified and that was bad enough, but if Ennis had touched him the bastard wouldn’t be leaving this show alive.
“No,” Stiles said, then scoffed. “Just my pride. Made me think-” Stiles cut himself off, looking away, and Derek could smell the salt pooling in his eyes.
“Stiles?” Derek dragged his thumb back and forth over the back of Stiles’s hand, willing the human to look at him.
“Might as well get it over with,” Stiles muttered to himself, before he turned to meet Derek’s eyes. “I had a stalker,” he said, point blank, face an awful empty mask that Derek never wanted to see again. “That’s why we moved to Beacon Hills.”
“Did the police catch them?” It probably wasn’t the best first question, but Derek’s mind was roiling, already frayed instincts demanding he eliminate whatever had put that look on Stiles’s face.
Stiles scoffed, empty mask cracking and bitter humiliation flooding his scent. “The only person that even believed me was my dad and I couldn’t even-” Stiles’s voice broke right along with Derek’s heart. A tear slipped out of the corner of Stiles’s eye and he pulled his hand out of Derek’s to dash it away.
Derek nearly whined at the loss, but Stiles moved even farther, scooting away enough to remove any contact between their bodies.
“I don’t blame them for not believing me,” Stiles continued, voice hollow. “He made sure no one else ever saw him. Always hiding in shadows.” His breath stuttered, “Or outside my bedroom window. He was in my house, Derek. He would move my stuff, a book or my shoes. I thought I was losing my mind...I-I even thought I saw his eyes glow.” A wet, broken laugh punched out of Stiles. “How stupid is that? Seeing glowing blue eyes because my fucking mind couldn’t handle what was happening to me.”
Derek had no idea what to say. The wolf in him bristled to the point of snapping, ready to burst over his skin and hunt and kill whoever had dared to torment his mate this way. Glowing blue eyes...had a wolf been stalking Stiles? Some other creature with luminescent eyes? There was a low whine in the distance and Derek remembered that Scott and Isaac were standing guard just out of sight and had heard everything Stiles said.
“I can call my Dad to come get me.” Stiles said in that same dead voice, putting even more distance between them.
“What? Why?” Derek asked, before realizing Stiles had taken his silence as rejection. He expected Derek to be as unbelieving as everyone else had apparently been. “Stiles,” Derek said sliding down the bench until he was as close as he could get without touching. “Hey, please don’t run from me. I believe you, of course I believe you. I’m...I don’t know what to say.”
Stiles turned his head to look at him, eyes wary even as something desperate crawled over his scent. “Are you- are you being serious?”
“Yes.” Derek injected that one word with every drop of sincerity running through him. He opened his mouth to say, he didn’t even know what, anything to make Stiles realize this one indivisible truth - Derek would never turn his back on him. Before he had the chance to utter a syllable he suddenly had a lapful of mate and Derek locked his arms around Stiles, drew him in, shuddered against him as the need to scent him had Derek burying his face against Stiles’s throat.
“When that Ennis guy snuck up behind me, I thought he’d found me.” Stiles rasped, wet face pressed against Derek’s shoulder.
“You’re safe,” Derek breathed into his skin, pulling him closer. “I’m not going to let anything happen to you, Stiles.”
Stiles was trembling under his hands, but the longer Derek held him the more he settled. After a few minutes, Stiles heaved a big breath and sat up, wiping his face with his hands. He seemed to realize that he was basically straddling Derek’s lap and a flush spread up his neck, coloring his cheeks that dusty pink Derek was starting to have a serious affection for.
“Sorry,” Stiles said before moving to climb off Derek, but the wolf wasn’t ready to let him go yet and pulled him close again, pressing their foreheads together.
“Don’t apologize. You have nothing to be sorry for. I’m the one who’s sorry.”
“I guess we’ll both have to be sorry, then.”
“Do you think you could eat?” Derek asked and it caught Stiles off guard enough that the dejected look hovering at the edges of his eyes vanished for a moment.
“Let’s go find Scott and Isaac and get some lunch, then get back to finding more motorcycle stuff to put on your wishlist.”
Stiles looked at him with a thankful smile. Derek couldn’t stop himself from leaning in to taste it.
They ended up all having lunch together and Stiles half expected some condescending, if not outright scathing comments to come his way, but no one said a word about what had happened or Stiles’s reaction to it. Not even Aiden, who had stood behind Stiles scanning the crowd like some kind of leather clad bodyguard while Derek went and ordered their food.
As a matter of fact, the meal had been downright pleasant, earlier chaos seemingly forgotten except in the tense lines of the Wolves’ shoulders. They all seemed more alert than they had before, but Danny joked with him and they all laughed when Scott and Isaac got into a mini food fight. After, they went back to wandering up and down the aisles of booths only this time, despite Derek being plastered to his side, none of them were ever out of eyeshot.
Stiles decided he wasn’t going to feel like a baby because of the kid-glove treatment and enjoyed himself as best he could. There was still a knot in his belly and he couldn’t quite take a full breath. He was quietly thankful when Derek steered them all back to the parking lot and he was able to climb onto the back of the Harley. He wrapped his arms around Derek’s middle the second the man sat down and closed his eyes with a grateful sigh, cheek pressed into the leather on Derek’s back.
Derek hadn’t asked him anything more, and Stiles hadn’t offered. He could tell, though, that Derek would want to know everything eventually. Stiles couldn’t say he blamed him. If the tables were turned and there was some psycho still out there that had been stalking Derek, Stiles would want every last detail.
He was still half in shock that Derek had believed him at all. Everything seemed to be happening so fast - divulging this secret to Derek, suddenly having a whole group of friends, the free fall his heart was in where the scowly biker was concerned. He hoped that once he got a little more settled in and as things between him and Derek continued to grow that maybe life in Beacon Hills would take on a calmer pace.
Lightning flashed, shooting sparks across his closed eyelids. He pulled them open and lifted his head from Derek’s back in time to see Beacon Hills 20 miles flash by on a sign to his right. This stretch of road was long and flat, and where it had been sun kissed this morning, now it settled dark and heavy beyond the headlight beam.
Black, ominous looking clouds were eating up the sky ahead of them, coming in sideways and heading straight for Beacon Hills. Another lightning strike lit the sky and the following peal of thunder rattled Stiles’s bones. Derek took one hand off the bike and reached down to clasp it over Stiles’s interlaced fingers. Stiles squeezed Derek once around the middle and the biker replaced his hand, twisting the throttle. The Harley roared under them, gaining speed. Stiles felt like they were racing the storm.
All of the motion detector lights were on when they pulled into Stiles’s driveway, the wind whipping violently enough to have set them off. Another peal of thunder and flashing light had Stiles hurrying off the stilled bike, wanting Derek to get back to the Den before the storm truly unleashed.
His Dad’s cruiser was parked in the driveway and Stiles was grateful. He really didn’t want to be alone in the house tonight.
He actually managed to unclasp his own helmet and stowed it in one of the saddlebags before reaching for the zipper of his jacket. Derek’s hand caught his before he dug his fingers into the jacket’s front and hauled Stiles forward. Derek was still astride the rumbling Harley and he pulled Stiles in until his legs were nearly straddling the one Derek had planted on the ground to keep the bike from tipping.
Hot lips claimed his, fast and hard, like the wind swirling around them. A crack of thunder broke them apart, panted breath melding together. Stiles swallowed, licked his lips, wanted nothing more than to dive back in.
“Hold on to the jacket for me,” Derek said, eyes dark.
Stiles nodded and with a burst of bravery pressed his lips to Derek’s again. Derek groaned against him, hand releasing the front of his jacket so he could snake his whole arm around Stiles’s waist nearly taking him off his feet and making Derek’s body a scalding line of heat against his.
Somehow, Stiles managed to pull back when he felt a raindrop land cold on the flush of his face. “Be careful,” he said, forcing himself to take a step back from the bike. Derek released him, but he looked pained to do so.
The rain was growing steadier now and Stiles tore his eyes away long enough to get up onto the porch. Derek turned the bike around then met Stiles’s eyes for a moment, smile tugging up the corner of his mouth before revving the engine and roaring off down the road.
Stiles half expected his dad to be waiting in the kitchen, disapproving look on his face, but the kitchen was empty. So was the living room. A noise upstairs drew his attention for a moment before his dad appeared out of his office. He wasn’t in uniform, but had his firearm strapped to his belt and police jacket over his normal clothes.
“Hey kiddo,” John said, stepping in to give Stiles a quick hug. “I’m glad you’re home. It’s about to get nasty out there.”
“Yeah, that wind is brutal,” Stiles said before asking, “You going somewhere?”
“Chief Unser woke up and asked for me. I’m heading to the hospital to get his statement. I shouldn’t be gone too long.”
Dread pooled in Stiles’s belly. The house shuddered as the storm picked up outside and Stiles really didn’t like the thought of being alone right now, but he nodded anyway. “Ok. Have you had dinner, yet?”
John was lacing up his boots by the door. “Yeah, I ate a sandwich a little while ago. I wasn’t sure what time you’d be back.”
“Cool. I’ll probably do the same.” The knot in his stomach knew otherwise.
“I’ll be back as quick as I can, Stiles.”
“It’s fine, Dad. I’m good,” he lied. “Be careful.”
His dad squeezed his shoulder before he walked out the door and Stiles locked it behind him. His phone buzzed in his pocket, making him jump, before he pulled it out to check his new message.
Thanks for going with me today.
Stiles smiled as he typed. Thanks for inviting me. Glad you made it home safe.
See you tomorrow? Derek’s reply was immediate.
Yeah, I’ll come over after school.
The knot in his stomach gave way to flutters at Derek’s last message. The house groaned again, wind turbulent against the siding, rain heavy on the windows. There was a scuffling noise from upstairs, and Stiles stood frozen, listening. Branches from the tree out front scraped against the side of the house and he jumped, huffing at himself, ”Get a grip, Stiles.”
He started for the fridge to grab a bottle of water when the familiar creak of the floorboard right outside his bedroom came through the ceiling directly above his head. He held his breath, heart thudding against his ribs, while he listened intently. The floorboard creaked again before the thump of a foot landing on the top step had Stiles whirling around and running for the door. He reached for the hook holding the jeep’s keys only to find it empty. He lunged for the door, scrambling at the locked deadbolt, fear making his hands quake.
The house plunged into darkness.
A soft chuckle behind him stopped him cold, belly swooping and body pulsing with adrenaline. Stiles felt his knees go liquid, but managed to stay upright and spun to search the room with blind eyes.
Electric blue eyes watched him from across the kitchen. Stiles’s breath froze in his lungs. He’d never been this close before. Lightning flashed, illuminating the room for a moment, revealing his stalker standing at the base of the stairs, twirling two sets of keys on one finger. The missing garage set and the keys to his jeep Stiles realized with a jolt.
“What do you want?” Stiles asked, voice shaking. The door behind his back vibrated with the storm’s ferocity and Stiles slowly slid his hand toward the knob.
“The same thing I’ve always wanted, Stiles.” The voice slithered over his skin, smooth like poisoned velvet - the belly of a snake.
He must have blinked because suddenly those eyes were much closer. Too close. Stiles scrambled to twist the doorknob, tried to pull it open, and a hand gripped his face hard, shoving his head back against the door with a thud, pinning him in place. Hot tears spilled from the corners of his eyes, pain radiating through his skull, his breath reduced to pants, and those eyes leaned ever closer.
“You’re the key, Stiles. Don’t you see? The key to everything to I want.”
Hot breath ghosted across his face and Stiles flinched when the man rubbed his face along Stiles’s cheek until lips brushed his ear.
“Such a long time only barely catching your scent.” The man pressed his nose under the hinge of Stiles’s jaw. “I can smell him all over you. You’re covered in lust.”
Wet warmth swiped up his cheek and Stiles squirmed, a sob building in his throat and tried to push him away. “Wha-Why are you doing this? Who are you?”
“Oh Stiles.” The man exhaled, sharp teeth scraping against the delicate skin of his cheek. “Didn’t Derek tell you about his poor Uncle Peter? How he let a hunter get close enough to burn my world to the ground?” He shook Stiles, sharp fingers digging into the back of his neck.
Stiles’s head was throbbing. It was nearly impossible to put the words this man was saying into any coherent order, but he was trying. Trying to latch onto something, anything to help him. “Derek? Hunter? Wha-?"
“My, he has been keeping secrets hasn’t he? Tell me Stiles,” the man leaned back blue eyes boring into his, face - hairy and distorted, inhumanly large teeth pulled into a sharp smile. “What do you know about werewolves?”
Derek typed out one last text to Stiles then shoved his phone back into his pocket and sprinted across the parking lot from the bike garage to the shelter of the patio awning of the Den. He took off his jacket and gave it a shake before shaking the excess water from his hair, thankful Cora wasn't here to make a dog joke.
As soon as he stepped through the door, he knew something was wrong. Laura smelled like trepidation and her heart had accelerated past it’s usual steady rhythm. He hung his jacket on a peg by the door and bounded up the stairs to their apartment.
“What’s wrong?” he asked the moment his feet hit the landing. Laura was standing by one of the end tables in the living room, eyes staring, unseeing somewhere past Derek’s shoulder.
“I just called St. Thomas,” Laura finally said, voice strained.
The bottom fell out of Derek’s stomach. “Peter?”
“H-He checked himself out. He’s awake.”
Derek heard what his sister said, but the words didn’t make sense. Not in that order. Not with the look on Laura’s face. “How? Why didn’t they call us?” Derek’s mind was racing. “Where is he?”
Shaking her head, Laura drew a deep breath. “He’s been gone for days, Derek. They said on Thursday he walked up to the nurse’s station, and told them to get his paperwork in order. Like he’d never been in a coma. That smell…” Laura sat down hard on the couch like her legs couldn’t hold her up anymore. “The smell in the woods. Near our old house. The rogue wolf. I knew that underneath the disease of it that it was familiar, I couldn’t place it.” She looked up at him with tear filled eyes. “It was Peter.”
There was a vacuum in Derek’s head - words, thoughts, images - swirling inside a vortex loud enough to drown out the rain pounding on the roof, the labored sound of his own breath.
“Someone was stalking Stiles.” Laura’s gaze jerked up to meet his and he continued, fragments of thought tumbled together, bumped against each other until a horrible creeping pit opened up inside him. “That’s the reason they left Charming. Stiles said...he had glowing blue eyes.”
Laura was on her feet now. “Peter attacked Chief Unser right after Stiles and his dad moved to town. Just after John started at the police station. You smelled him near Stiles’s house.”
“But why?” Derek asked, pleading edge to his voice. “Why would he do that?”
Laura’s face had a resignation on it Derek hadn’t seen since the day of the fire. “He woke up alone, probably weak and obviously not in his right mind. Far away from home and Stiles...well, Stiles smells like pack. I’m sure Peter could guess why even if he didn’t know the who.”
“We’ve got to find him.” Derek started to turn back for the door when the power went out, leaving them standing in darkness. He turned red eyes back to meet Laura’s identical ones.
“Go to Stiles,” she said. “I’ll get Aiden and go check the house. If he’s followed Stiles here, I can’t imagine where else he would be.”
Rain was still cascading down, but Derek didn’t even feel it. One singular thought was playing on a loop in his head. He had to get to Stiles.
The Harley slid, fishtailing as he careened into the Stilinski driveway. The police cruiser was parked haphazardly, headlights shining against the dark house and driver’s door hanging open. Derek barely parked the bike, leaping off as soon as he’d slammed the kickstand down.
Running up the porch steps, he smelled the blood before he saw it. A thick blot just below eye level on the inside of the open kitchen door. He saw red, felt his claws and fangs extend. The scent of Stiles’s fear and that acrid scent of wolf poured from the inside of the house, absorbed through Derek’s pores and brought his wolf roaring to the surface.
The unmistakable click of a gun’s hammer being drawn back had him turning his head to look directly into a flashlight’s beam. He squinted his eyes against it to find Stilinski with his gun aimed at Derek’s head.
“What the hell are you? Where’s my son?” The older man’s voice was raised, but steady, belying the breakneck pulse that must be pouring adrenaline through his veins.
Derek took a deep breath, forced the wolf back under his skin. He hesitated for only a moment. Stilinski had already seen and finding Stiles was so much more important. “I’m a werewolf and I don’t know exactly where your son is, but I know who has him and where they’re probably headed.”
“A werewolf?” Stilinski gritted his teeth. “Chief Unser woke up tonight. Said the thing that attacked him wasn’t an animal at all, but a man with claws and fangs and glowing blue eyes. He thought it was some crazy costume, but his attacker kept talking about Stiles. How Stiles was key. So tell me why I shouldn’t shoot you where you stand.”
“John,” Derek said carefully. “I am no threat to you or Stiles. I wasn’t lying when I said I’d never hurt him. I’m going after him, and you can shoot me if you want...it won’t stop me, but I’d rather you come with me. We can get him back.”
“Let me see your eyes.” John said and Derek let his eyes bleed red again. After a moment’s deliberation John demanded, “Where? Where is he taking him?”
“My old house. My unc-”
The police radio hooked onto John’s belt crackled to life. “Dispatch to Deputy Chief.”
John very carefully, laid the flashlight on the table, gun never wavering, to reach for the radio. “Go ahead.”
“We’ve located the blue jeep from your APB. It’s headed west on Old Miller road towards the Feather River Bridge up near the old Hale place. Please advise.”
“He’ll kill them,” Derek said quietly. “If you send more cops after him they’ll end up like Unser or worse, and Stiles…” Derek couldn’t finish that sentence, fear stealing his breath, squeezing his insides. “We need to go.”
“Acknowledged,” John said into the radio. “It’s my son. I’ll handle it.”
The crackling radio went silent and John slowly lowered the gun, uncocking the hammer and re-holstering the weapon. His voice was hard when he spoke again, “We’re going to go get my son and when this is over, you and I are going to have a long talk.”
They stood motionless for a moment. Then Derek nodded, and pulled his phone from his pocket as he turned for the door.
When Laura picked up, Derek didn’t give her the chance to speak. “Peter’s got Stiles. They’re in Stiles’s jeep heading for the house on Old Miller Road.”
“Ok. We’ll head that way, maybe we can sandwich them between us?” Derek could hear wind rushing over the speaker of the phone along with Laura’s breath as she started to run.
“John’s with me. He knows. We’re on our way.” He hung up the phone and leapt from the porch. He straddled the Harley while John got back in his cruiser. The rain had slacked off, but it was still collecting in his hair, running down his face. Swiping a hand across his eyes, he turned the bike around and sped off in the direction of his mate.
There were too many voices, too much noise, and his head hurt. Stiles tried to focus on the woman with her hands raised in front of him, but there were sharp points digging into the skin of his neck and the arm banded around his chest was making it hard to breath.
“Have you completely lost your mind? There’s no way off this bridge Peter. It’s over! Let him go!” He knew that voice. Stiles squeezed his eyes shut before opening them again in an attempt to get them to focus. He could see his jeep, headlights still on and doors standing open, parked sideways in the middle of the road, but it was tilted, one side higher than the other, and it took Stiles a moment to realize there was a motorcycle caught up under the tires.
A fresh wave of adrenaline crashed over him as bits and pieces of the last few minutes came back to him.
His stalker. The blue-eyed man. Peter.
After Peter had attacked him in the kitchen, he’d dragged him to the jeep, telling him how Derek would know how it felt to see his world turn to ash. He had blinked and the jeep was moving. He remembered hearing the roar of a motorcycle, remembered how relief had brought a fresh wave of tears to his eyes, then how Peter had been cursing and swerving and Stiles’s world had gone black again.
“Peter, stop it!”
Stiles’s eyes focused on the woman. Laura. It was Laura, but there was something wrong with her face. Werewolves . Peter said they were werewolves.
“I’d love to, niece. The truth is this isn’t what I had been planning for my and Stiles’s evening at all. Yet, here we are, and I’m beginning to think our little Stiles is the only thing standing between me and having your claws at my throat.”
Laura opened her mouth, but was cut off at the sound of another motorcycle.
Derek’s Harley skidded around the jeep and he was jumping off without even stopping, bike falling over with a crunch and sliding to rest against the bridge’s guardrail.
“Let him go!” Derek roared, lunging forward, and Stiles felt his body try to move towards him without conscious thought. Laura and Aiden grabbed Derek’s arms, stopping him from advancing. Derek snapped his teeth at them, and Stiles watched with wide eyes as hair sprouted across that perfect jawline and huge, sharp looking teeth protruded past those lips that had been on his less than an hour ago.
“Derek?” His voice sounded small, even to his own ears, and Derek stopped struggling to meet his gaze with red eyes. Stiles felt it like a punch in the gut, heard the gasp leave his mouth. All three of them - Laura, Aiden, Derek - were looking at him with inhuman eyes.
“Stiles...I can explain.”
“Stiles!” John came running out from behind the jeep, gun in hand.
“Dad! Get out of here!” Stiles tried to say, but it came out on a wheeze as the arm around him tightened its hold. Stiles tried to squirm away only for the sharp points in his neck to dig in deeper and he grunted, stinging pain becoming a vicious throb.
“Well, well…” That slick voice said from above him. “Now, this really is going to be a family affair.”
Derek was still looking at Stiles, a million emotions flying over his face. “Why are you doing this Peter?”
“Oh my dear nephew, you really have to ask?” He laughed, chest vibrating against Stiles’s back and claws, oh god actual claws, wiggling in his neck. “It’s only fair don’t you think? You took my mate and now I’m taking yours.”
Too many people started talking at once.
Laura said, “That wasn’t his fault!”
His Dad said, “What the hell is he talking about?”
But Derek. Derek looked gutted. He took a step forward, “Take me. He is innocent in all this, Peter. Please. Just don’t-”
“And she wasn’t innocent!?” Peter suddenly roared. “What about your mother? Or your father?” With each word, Derek seemed to shrink more and more into himself before Peter finally said, chest heaving, “And your little brother? Was he not innocent?”
When he finished Stiles couldn’t hear anything, but the river rushing below them, the wind thrashing through the trees. There was something hot cutting a path down the clammy skin of his chest. The world was starting to go hazy again.
“Yes,” Derek whispered. “They were all innocent, but Peter so was I. I did not know what she was, and when I found out I did everything I could to stop her.”
“It wasn’t enough.” Derek flinched like the words were a physical blow. “And now you’re going to pay for that.”
It happened so fast, Stiles barely had time to process it. One moment his feet were on the ground and the next he was weightless, toppling, spinning in freefall. He thought he heard someone scream his name. Felt fingers brush his arm. The last thing he saw were two red stars falling from the sky, and he just had time to think I should make a wish before everything went dark.
He would never forget the cold, dead weight of Stiles in his arms when he carried him out of the river. How even the sirens on John’s cruiser seemed frantic as they’d sped towards the hospital.
The fall had been rough on Stiles. The blood loss and concussion, worse. He was stable, and sleeping now, but had needed blood and IV fluids and they were keeping him overnight. Derek wanted, so badly, to be with him, wanted to hold his hand, drain his pain away.
John had been all business from the moment Derek had emerged from the water, until the moment he’d gently, but firmly closed the hospital room door in Derek’s face.
He listened to his mate’s heartbeat from the waiting room down the hall, and tried to avoid the concerned glances of his pack around him. Erica, Boyd, Cora, Scott, and Isaac had all shown up shortly after they’d arrived. He hadn’t heard from Laura. She and Aiden had taken Peter down. Pinned him thrashing to the ground, while Derek and John had forced air back into Stiles’s lungs, staunched the bleeding from his throat.
The heartbeat down the hall spiked and a whine escaped Derek’s lips. Stiles was anxious even in his sleep, muttering and constantly shifting. Derek had to dig his claws into his palms to keep from tearing the door open and gathering his mate in his arms, the wishes of Stiles’s father be damned.
That tiny gasp Stiles had let slip on the bridge. The way his scent had changed. The look in his eyes when he had seen Derek’s wolf face. They were like a broken record playing over and over in his head.
Someone laid a hand on his shoulder. Derek turned to see Melissa McCall standing beside him with gentle eyes. She pushed a pair of scrubs into his hands, looking pointedly down at where his clothes were still dripping river water.
“He’s going to be ok, Derek,” she said, giving his shoulder a squeeze.
He nodded, catching Scott’s eyes over her shoulder, reflecting the same fear that was eating Derek up inside.
Cold, gray light filled the room from partially open blinds and Stiles felt a small bloom of panic rise in his chest before a pretty lady in scrubs stepped into his line of sight.
“Good morning, Stiles,” she said, gently. There was something warm and familiar about her eyes.
“Wh-” Stiles tried to rasp, but his throat burned. It was dry and scratchy, and the movement sent flares of pain burning across his neck.
“You’re in the hospital. You’re going to be fine. Here.” She held up a cup with a straw to his lips and Stiles greedily took a drink.
“Easy. Not too much.” She moved the cup back to the rolling table. “I’m Melissa.”
“Where’s my dad?” Stiles tried again, still a bit rough and moving still pulled at the wounds on his neck. Wounds from the claws of his stalker. The heart monitor started to beep erratically and Melissa leaned closer to him.
“Stiles, I need you to breathe, ok?” She took his hand. “You’re safe. Your dad is just down the hall. He’ll be back any minute.”
As if summoned, the door opened and John was by his side in the next instant taking his other hand.
“Hey kiddo. You’re ok. Everything’s ok.”
Stiles felt himself calm at his Dad’s touch and voice. The pounding of his heart slowed, but left a dull throbbing in his head and queasiness in his belly.
“Take it easy, Stiles. I’m going to go tell the doctor you’re awake.” Melissa turned and left the room, closing the door behind her.
Stiles looked at his dad’s face. Tired lines framed his eyes, but he looked relieved. “It’s good to see you awake, kid. You gave me a hell of a scare.”
“What happened?” Stiles asked. He could remember, at least he thought he could remember most of it, but everything was hazy, shrouded. “I mean...I remember some of it? But it’s all fuzzy. Are...is Derek a werewolf?”
His dad took a deep breath and settled himself in the chair beside the bed. “Yes, and I don’t know the whole story yet, but it was his Uncle Peter that had been stalking you. He’s a werewolf too. Hell, I think they’re all werewolves.”
His dad paused for a moment and Stiles was reeling. Derek was a werewolf. Werewolves were real. Were all of the Wolf Pack actual wolves? Scott? Cora? Isaac?
“Do you want to see him?” John asked quietly, eyes studying Stiles’s face.
“Stiles, he hasn’t left.” John ducked his head, blew out a breath. “I think you need some time to recover before you go making any big decisions. You took a pretty good bump on your noggin’. But I’d be lying if I said that I’d ever seen anything like it.”
“Like the way he didn’t even hesitate. That psycho threw you over the side of the bridge and Derek...he didn’t even pause. Didn’t give it a second thought. Just jumped over after you.”
Stiles was speechless.
“And he’s been down the hall, wearing a hole in the carpet of the waiting room ever since I kicked him out of here.”
“Why’d you kick him out?”
John huffed. “Because I don’t know about all this, Stiles. I’m your father and I love you. And this...this is crazy. Werewolves? I was down the hall talking to him just now, and he heard your heart go crazy. Knew you were upset. Hell, he can probably hear every word we’re saying.”
Stiles’s eyes shot to the door. Did he want to see Derek? A huge part of him screamed yes, but there was uncertainty there now, too. Stiles looked back at his dad who only gave him a small smile and squeezed the hand he was still holding.
Licking his lips, he said in a voice barely more than a whisper, “Derek?”
The wolf rapped his knuckles against the door before taking a deep breath and cracking it open. Stiles was sitting up in his hospital bed, pillows carefully stacked behind him. Wide, whiskey colored eyes watched him as the scent of the room washed over him - Stiles and hurt . It did little to ease his wolf and he felt frozen, rooted to the spot under that gaze.
He felt exposed in nothing but his white tank top and borrowed scrub bottoms, bare feet cool on the floor. He wished he had taken Erica up on her offer to go get him some of his actual clothes before he’d sent them all away.
John cleared his throat, stood up from his chair.
“Stiles, I’m going to go get some coffee. I’ll be just down the hall, ok?”
Stiles tore his eyes away to nod at his dad and Derek moved out of the door so John could pass.
“Remember what you promised me?” John asked him in a low tone and Derek met his eyes, gave a single nod. That seemed to satisfy the Deputy Chief and he stepped out into the hall closing the door as he went.
Silence stretched between them and Derek’s eyes raked over his mate. Tiny cuts and bruises littered the exposed skin of Stiles’s face and neck. Stark white bandages covered the deep gouges Peter’s claws had left. Derek barely suppressed a shudder remembering how close he’d come to losing this boy forever.
“So...” Stiles’s voice was raspy, tired. “Werewolf, huh?”
Derek wasn’t sure the reception he was about to receive and took careful lungfuls of air, tracking Stiles’s scent, as he walked to the bed. When his nose was met with only fatigue, a low thread of anxiety, pain, and finally a sweet note of relief, he carefully lowered himself to sit on the side of the bed facing Stiles.
“Werewolf.” Derek confirmed, closing his eyes for a moment as the warm line of Stiles’s thigh pressed against his hip. Such a small point of contact, but Derek thought it was the best thing he’d felt in days.
Derek pulled his eyes back to Stiles’s face. “Yes.”
Stiles studied him for a moment, dark eyes serious, then impossibly one corner of his mouth hitched up. “And you call yourselves the Wolf Pack?”
Derek huffed a laugh. He couldn’t help it. “My grandpa thought it was clever. Hiding in plain sight.”
Stiles nodded, mouth still twisted in a smirk. “I could see that. People see what they want to see.”
“Yes. They do.”
“Would you have told me eventually? About any of it?”
“Yes,” and Derek needs Stiles to believe this. “I can’t say when, but yes, I would have told you everything.”
Stiles looked down to where his fingers were fiddling with the edge of his scratchy hospital blanket. “Even about what I am to you?”
“You’re my mate, Stiles,” Derek said, and felt a prick of fear when Stiles wouldn’t meet his eyes, something sour creeping into his scent.
“Is that why-” Stiles stopped to suck in a deep breath, shifting a bit on the bed, anxious flutters sounding from his heart. “I mean, when we met, is that why you didn’t like me? Because you were disappoin-”
Derek felt his eyes widen in disbelief the moment he realized the assumption Stiles had made and leaned forward, as quickly as he dared, to seal his lips against the human’s, to stop the words behind them from ever tumbling out into the world. Stiles jolted at the contact before a tiny groan escaped his throat and he melted against Derek.
“Don’t you ever think that,” Derek rasped, pulling back enough to meet Stiles’s eyes. “There’s a reason you’re my mate. My wolf has known it since the very first time I caught your scent. You’re it for me Stiles.”
“I just...I mean, do you even have a choice? You shouldn’t have to be stuck with me just because fate decided it was so or just because I smell good or whatever.”
Derek shook his head, forehead pressed against Stiles’s. “Stiles, I wish you could see yourself the way I see you. I wasn’t forced into this. I could have walked away. The truth is I was going to.” Derek pulled in a breath leaning back so he could see all of Stiles’s face. “That’s why I acted the way I did when we met. I didn’t think I deserved you after...after everything I’ve done.”
“The fire? All those things Peter said?”
“There was a woman. I thought she loved me. I did love her, but worse I trusted her, and it cost half my family their lives.” Derek didn’t flinch, didn’t look away.
Stiles’s eyes were wet now and he reached out a hand, brushed it along the tattoo on Derek’s arm. “Is this for them?”
Derek nodded and pointed to each of the five howling wolves circling his upper left arm. “My mom, Talia. She was the Alpha before Laura. My dad, Joseph. He was human, like you. Peter. My aunt, Olivia, who was the nicest person I’ve ever met and...Matthew. My l-little brother.” His voice broke at the end, thoughts of the laughing six year old sending crushing waves of grief to batter at his already broken heart. Stiles had taken both of his hands in a sure grip and let him get it out. He hadn’t cried for them in such a long time.
He ended up half laying on the bed with his forehead pressed against the unbandaged side of Stiles’s neck and his mate’s long fingers sifting through his hair. “I’m so sorry for what he did to you,” Derek whispered when he recovered his breath. “It’s you that should be disappointed with me. It’s only because you smell like pack, like mine, that he bothered you at all.”
“You are not responsible for his actions,” Stiles said in a tone that left zero room for argument and made him sound so much older than his eighteen years. “And you’re not responsible for the actions of some bitch that used you to get to your family. None of this was your fault, Derek. You know that, right?”
Derek closed his eyes, pressed a kiss to the pulse beating rapidly under Stiles’s skin and sat up again. “I’m trying.”
Stiles seemed to accept this before tentatively reaching to press his fingertips to the stubble on Derek’s face. “Will you show me?”
Derek’s heart lurched in his chest. He didn’t want to put fear back into Stiles’s scent, but he wanted Stiles to see him, all of him. Bracing himself, he nodded and kept his eyes trained on Stiles’s face as he let the wolf shift over his skin. Stiles’s eyes widened for a moment, but his heart stayed steady and he didn’t pull his hand away. Those beautiful eyes traced from the tips of Derek’s pointed ears down over his ridged brow and pointed teeth before he reached for one of Derek’s hands to carefully inspect his claws.
“I’m going to have a lot of questions,” Stiles finally said.
Derek smiled, relief pulsing through him. “Naturally.”
“And I’ll want demonstrations.” Stiles touched a fingertip to one of the sharp points protruding from Derek’s fingers. “Of all the wolfy powers.”
“Anything,” Derek replied, pulling some of the pain he could still smell on Stiles.
The human gasped, watching the black lines creeping up Derek’s arm. “What is that?”
“Your first demonstration. I’m taking some of your pain.”
Stiles let his fingers thread between Derek’s clawed ones. “You really meant it, didn’t you? When you said I was it.” His tone was hesitant, but his heart was thudding, causing the machine still monitoring him to let out a shrill beep.
“You are it, Stiles.”
The human smiled, warm and sleepy, head falling back against his pillow. “Will you stay?”
“Yes.” Derek squeezed his mate’s hand. Forever. Please.