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The Accidental Alpha

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Two and a half years of running with wolves had given Stiles the ability to recognize a supernatural being with a relative ease, and going to a university with a very large student body gave him a fair amount of practice.

 

In his first semester English Lit class, there was a girl who spent all of the first class with a sour look on her face, leaning as far away from the professor as possible while still remaining in her seat in the middle of the auditorium. It wasn’t until Stiles went to get the syllabus from the prof that he got a whiff of the man’s oppressive cologne. The next time the class met, Stiles brought some herbal candy and a small tub of salve with him. He had sat next to her in her new place in the back row and placed the items on the table in front of her.

 

“The lozenges will help, and put a little of the salve under your nose, too. That should block the worst of it,” he’d said quietly, smiling with no teeth and as much sincerity as he could manage so he didn’t appear as a threat--or a crazy person. He preempted her denial by dropping his voice further, turning toward her as he stood to find a different seat and reassuring her with, “When my brother got turned, his senses went crazy, and these were a lifesaver.”

 

Her jaw had dropped slightly, and her brow had furrowed in a way that Stiles found startlingly endearing, but when her eyes snapped to meet his, there was only mild surprise and confusion there. She’d even smiled, though it seemed to be involuntary, and after he’d settled into his seat a few rows down, he heard the quiet crinkle of a wrapper open. When he’d looked up a moment later, as Dr. English Leather walked in carrying his cloud of chemicals and musk, she was wearing a small pleased smile and replacing the lid on the jar of salve.

 

It felt good.

 

After class, she had waited for him at the door, blurting out a “Thank you,” before he could say anything. “I’m Bianca,” she’d said, sticking out a hand and tilting her head to the side. Stiles had been startled by the display, but did his best to ignore it. He’d introduced himself and offered to bring her a bag of the candies and the recipes for both items, and by the end of the conversation he had a study partner for the semester.

 

The guy at the campus coffee shop with the too quick reflexes and the uncanny habit of forgetting he had enhanced hearing might as well have just worn a shirt that said “I’m Not Human.”

 

Stiles had actually called Derek after his first encounter with Neil during orientation week and rambled about the total failure of supernatural education. “Der, you can’t tell me there isn’t like, Super Summer Camp or something! Why do none of you know how to people! You can’t go 2002 Spiderman-ing all over the place and stay a secret!”

 

Derek had done a manful job of pretending to be unimpressed, but had eventually agreed that the barista needed to be a little less spectacular.

 

Thankfully, Stiles’ nearly problematic dependence on caffeine meant that he didn’t end up having to wait too long to steal a minute with Neil. Unfortunately, creating the moment meant that he’d had to sacrifice his perfectly crafted cinnamon mocha. As he “accidentally” dropped the steaming cup of spicy chocolatey goodness, Neil predictably moved to save him from the burning hot backlash. When the kid had successfully saved him, Stiles had untangled himself from the still awkwardly long limbs of Neil The Were-Barista (mentally noting that the kid was going to be gigantic when he was done growing) and thanked him with a genuine smile. Neil had shrugged it off shyly and gone to grab a roll of paper towels to clean the mess.

 

He had looked startled when Stiles kneeled down next to him, a wad of napkins in hand to wipe at a puddle of cocoa-dusted whipped cream. When Stiles had said, calmly and quietly, “I appreciate the save, dude, but you need to start being a little less super , or you’re going to draw unwanted attention, bro,” his eyes had clouded over and his whole body tensed.

 

“Shit. That didn’t come out right. Don’t freak out.” Miraculously, Neil had relaxed a little, and Stiles was able to continue. “Let a few lattes get dropped now and then. Don’t start making someone’s super complicated half-caff, non-fat, double bullshit drink before the cashier calls it out to you, and maybe be a little more careful not to answer questions you shouldn’t have been able to hear being asked, okay? I know it’s overwhelming, but you have to keep yourself safe.”

 

Neil’s stunned gratitude had made Stiles feel proud and warm. The extra-large replacement mocha was nice, too.

 

He had had his suspicions about his Folklore professor, Dr. Garrett, from day one. The woman was a little too knowledgeable and a little too passionate. And a little to spry for a human 58-year-old.

 

When Derek, Scott, and Kira had dropped in on him for a surprise “we all randomly had the same 24 hours free and decided we missed you” visit one weekend a few weeks into his first semester, it had been a much needed if whirlwind visit, and also confirmed that Dr. Garrett was most definitely a werewolf (though Stiles had been hoping for a were-cat of some sort, the woman’s grace and haughty humor screamed feline ). Dr. Garrett had walked into the classroom with her usual casual determination, but once she reached her desk, she’d frozen and taken a deep breath, her head darting immediately to Stiles, and he had sworn her eyes flashed briefly at him as they narrowed in consideration.

 

Their conversation after class had been brief, but they continued to meet throughout the semester, sharing stories and resources. She had a fascinating life and an incredible collection of books, and Stiles was grateful to have someone on campus to talk to.

 

*****

 

Going home for Thanksgiving break was strange. Stiles was looking forward to getting back to his pack, to his dad, but there was an odd feeling in the pit of his stomach, like he was forgetting something. Leaving something behind.

 

He had to physically shake himself to stop from turning around to head back to campus and double check all the knobs on the stove or something. Which was ridiculous, because in the mad paper-writing spree that was the last week before break, he had lived mostly on coffee and take-out food. If not for Bianca and Neil, he probably would’ve opted for just the coffee, but the two had become good friends since their respective first meetings. Stiles was grateful for their presence; it was hard being away from the Pack, and even though he spoke to Derek almost daily, Scott and Lydia at least once a week, and Malia and the junior wolves often enough that they were all up to date on each other’s lives, it was lonely.

 

The lack of constant life-threatening danger was pretty nice, though.

 

Despite the feeling of leaving something behind, pulling into the driveway at home was as much of a relief as it always was, the knot of tension in his shoulders relaxing itself at the prospect of a whole week to spend with his dad, Derek, Scott and Melissa, and the rest of his rag-tag crew.

 

His dad opened the front door before he could fumble his key into the lock, and before he could drop his duffel bag to the floor, he was wrapped up in a tight hug. For a moment, he was caught up in a rush of emotions that had him hugging his dad back a little tighter. The first year after Stiles discovered that werewolves were a real thing had strained his relationship with his dad to the point he wasn’t sure they would be able to recover. He wouldn’t ever stop being grateful he’d been  wrong.

 

“Good to see you, kiddo,” John said as he pulled away. “You look good, son, you eating something besides pizza and instant noodles?”

 

Stiles rolled his eyes and raised a brow. “Are you?” They shared a laugh, and Stiles was surprised when Derek joined them in the entryway.

 

“Like Jordan and Melissa would let him get away with takeout five days a week and face your wrath,” Derek deadpanned. Stiles laughed harder and John snorted, and then Derek was right there , so Stiles took half a step and Derek wrapped his arms around him. “Hey,” Derek said quietly into the side of Stiles’ head, and a different kind of rush went through him.

 

His relationship with Derek had changed so much, Stiles wasn’t always sure he believed that they had gotten to where they were now. From the beginning they’d been like magnets, pushing against each other and pulling each other in in turns. Now, though, there was almost nowhere he felt safer, felt more like himself, than when he was with Derek.

 

“Hey yourself.” He pulled away enough to look at Derek, vaguely noted that his dad had disappeared, and reached up to scratch lightly at Derek’s cheek. “Y’know, this is officially a beard now, Der. We are well past sexy-mysterious stubble, dude.”

 

Derek’s eyebrows quirked upwards and he smirked, his voice dropping teasingly low. “Is that a complaint?”

 

Stiles’ tongue darted across his upper lip as he shook his head. “Nope,” he said around a grin, relishing in Derek’s answering smile and the way Derek’s eyes traced over his face. So of course instead of doing something , he blurted out, “Are you wearing my shirt?”

 

Derek laughed, his eyes crinkling in a way that Stiles would never not be endeared by, and he couldn’t regret missing a chance to make a move.

 

“It’s comfy,” Derek said easily, shrugging and turning stepping a little further away, tweaking the collar of Stiles’ flannel as he did so. “Besides, it’s yours.”

 

The smile that Stiles felt curve his lips came with a warmth in his chest, and he and Derek were caught in a still moment, just watching each other and enjoying the warm, quiet space between them.

 

A small clatter from the kitchen tore them both out of it, but Derek just turned, throwing his arm over Stiles’ shoulder. “C’mon, let’s go help with dinner.”

 

*****

 

“So, Stiles, tell us more about college life, son. You still hanging out with those two werewolves?” John tried not to make it sound like “Have you made any friends that don’t grow fangs and claws and increase your chances of getting horribly killed?” but he didn’t quite succeed. Stiles couldn’t quite blame him, and if the look on Derek’s face was any indication, Derek didn’t entirely disagree with John’s sentiment. Stiles couldn’t blame Derek, either; his original Alpha hadn’t exactly been thrilled that he’d been hanging out with unknown wolves that he hadn’t had a chance to meet and intimidate yet.

 

None of Stiles’ reassurances of “They’re puppies, Derek. Seriously, they’ve had some difficulties, but they didn’t spend their formative years fighting their way from one life-or-death situation to the next. I’m pretty sure even I could take the both of them in a real fight” had made either his dad or Derek less wary. To the shock of no one.

 

“Bianca and Neil, yeah. They’re good kids. You guys’ll like them. Neil’s brother, Sam has been hanging out recently, too. And Serena, a witch of some sort from Neil’s pack late-transferred, so she’s around sometimes. It’s nice to have people I don’t have to censor myself around.” Stiles could feel himself getting defensive, and he caught his dad and Derek exchange a look that told him he wasn’t the only one that noticed.

 

“I’m glad you have good people, son,” John said sincerely, and Stiles felt his hackles lower.

 

Derek’s foot nudged his own under the table, and when he looked up to meet Derek’s eyes he found him with a curious smile. “You haven’t told us much about them.” Stiles would never get over how Derek managed to make statements sound like questions and still drop the inflection from actual questions. Still, he took the bait. He wanted to talk about his college friends, so it was no  hardship.

 

“Well, Neil--he’s the barista--he’s a computer science major, not as good a hacker as Danny, but he’ll get there.” He darted a glance at his dad and added hastily, “Not that I will be encouraging or endorsing him engaging in illegal activities, of course.” John snorted, taking a sip of his beer with an eye roll that would make Lydia proud. Derek failed at holding in his equally disbelieving bark of laughter.

 

Stiles nodded shortly, acknowledging that they all knew he was full of shit. “Anyway. He and Sam were on their own for a bit. Sam is two years older, and his dad kicked him out when he came out to his parents.” There was a duet of disapproving growls, and it gave Stiles a weird mix of pride and gratitude, which helped curb the anger that he felt at thinking about his friends being treated so badly. “Luckily, Sam already had an apartment near campus, so he had a place to go, and Neil followed him as soon as he could make arrangements to finish high school , and got early acceptance to the CS program a year later.” Stiles was so proud of them both, and he could hear how it came out in his voice.

 

“It’s been hard for them, being away from home. They were born wolves, grew up kind of isolated, never really had to learn to human, so they’ve had a hell of an adjustment to make. They still talk to their Alpha sometimes, still have enough of a bond to keep from going off the rails, but it’s not easy. They’re both stronger than they think they are.” John and Derek shared another look, and Derek was watching Stiles, assessing, but Stiles didn’t notice either thing. “And Bianca, man. That girl is seriously badass. She reminds me a lot of Erica, actually, but with less leather and lipstick.” He and Derek shared a sad chuckle at that, and Derek squeezed his hand where it rested on the table.

 

“She was bitten halfway through her senior year, was found by hunters, ironically. Luckily not your average murderous assholes, and they got her in touch with a local pack who took her in. They aren’t like, close or anything, and she’d already been accepted to the English program at Berkeley, so now she’s halfway across the country from her sort-of Alpha, barely 9 months into being a werewolf, and totally kicking ass. Thank god she’s got a better grip on things than Scotty did when he got bitten.” They all laughed a little at that, because really, it was a small miracle that Scott had turned into a successfully functional werewolf.

 

“I’m trying to help her learn to keep her senses reigned in--her Alpha wasn’t thrilled with her decision to leave, so she’s apparently being less than generous with the werewolf lessons.” Stiles’ shoulders rose, and he could feel his jaw tense. His dislike of Bianca’s so-called Alpha was enough to make his fists clench.

 

Derek made an angry sound, and Stiles caught his eyes flash. “Her Alpha doesn’t deserve the title,” he spat out, and Stiles managed to agree with a growl of his own.

 

John’s voice was tight with shared irritation when he offered his own “Damn well doesn’t,” but he cleared his throat, and when he continued, he just sounded proud. “It sounds like she’s lucky to have you, kid.”

 

Before Stiles could shrug it off, Derek added, “She is,” and when Stiles looked at him, he was caught off guard by how intensely Derek was staring at him, awe and something Stiles couldn’t quite name on Derek’s face as clear as day.

 

“I, uh. I’m lucky to have her, too. To have all of them, really. Sam is really steady, y’know? Calm and super smart, he helps keep us all focused. Neil is funny in a way that catches you off guard and also in a puppy-still-growing-into-his-body way. Bianca looks like the homecoming queen in every shitty high school movie, but she is probably a bigger slob than half the lacrosse team at BHHS and would give Lyds a run for her money in unexpected knowledge. The two of them kept me from caffeinating myself into the hospital before midterms, and all three of them are basically huge nerds who just like to invade my dorm when they’re not in class and compete for who has the least sense of personal space while we watch Netflix.”

 

Derek made a speculative sort of sound that made something itch between Stiles’ shoulders, and he couldn’t help but rub at the back of his neck. John and Derek were both looking at him with the same considering expression, and Stiles briefly wondered how much time they’d been spending together while he was at school.

 

John tilted his head a little, his gaze still investigative, but in a fatherly rather than  Sherriff-ly manner. “And Serena? How’d you end up with a witch?”

 

Derek snorted and looked surprised about it, which Stiles put on his mental list of favorite Derek expressions before he raised a questioning brow in Derek’s direction. Derek shrugged. “Like it’s really a surprise that you’ve amassed a group of friends that’s entirely made of werewolves and witches. Any trouble that doesn’t find you, you track down.”

 

“Well, which kind of trouble were you, then?” Stiles shot back, not quite missing his dad’s long suffering sigh or Derek’s pleased almost-smirk; the little upwards curl at the corners of Derek’s mouth was also on Stiles’ list of favorite Derek expressions, he looked for it with careful eyes any time there was a chance it may appear.

 

“I’m pretty sure you’re the one that’s trouble in our relationship,” Derek said casually, his eyes not leaving Stiles’ for a moment that was long enough for Stiles’ heart to start taking off; just the idea of having a relationship was enough to make it race. Derek’s eyes moved quickly to Stiles’ chest and the corner of his mouth quirked up a fraction more. He looked back at Stiles fleetingly before taking a long sip of his drink. Stiles was fairly certain he held his breath the whole time. He felt like he was supposed to say something, but he didn’t know what it should be, and his dad was chuckling lightly, so he should probably at least defend himself, but he felt too warm and vaguely like he might just burst.

 

His phone rang, “I Put A Spell On You,” saving him from having to respond to Derek’s--teasing? advance? accurate if lacking in nuance assessment?--for the moment.

 

Stiles looked apologetically at his dad and Derek as he answered the phone, faking offense when his dad stage-whispered, “Wanna bet that's Serena?” and Derek laughed and shakes his head as though to say, “ I only take bets I can win .”

 

Stiles grinned extra wide when the call connected.  “Hey, Serena, how was your trip?”

 

“Fine, but I'm calling because I finally perfected that potion you were teaching me and I wanted you to be the first to know!”

 

His smile grew even wider at the excitement he could hear in his friend's voice. They'd been working on some simple spells for weeks now. Serena’s powers hadn't manifested until she was 17, and her parents were both human and wholly opposed to the idea that their daughter was not.

 

She'd gotten lucky and the psychiatrist they'd taken her to was a werewolf. He'd recognized the “delusions” Serena’s parents had been worried about for what they were and saved her from being committed. Unfortunately, he hadn't been able to teach her anything.

 

“That's awesome, dude! I knew you could do it! When we're back on campus, I'm gonna get you a ‘I learned a new magic trick’ cake!”

 

Stiles, don't trivialize my incredible powers or I'll have to learn how to turn you into a toad.

 

“As long as it's not a lizard,” Stiles and Derek said simultaneously. John added “ Amen ” and Stiles stifled a laugh so he could focus on Serena.

 

She gasped a little before starting to apologize, but Stiles didn't let her get started; she'd barely even heard the whole Jackson story. “You're right, Rena, you are a very serious and powerful woman, a thousand apologies,” he said lightly.

 

When she laughed, he did, too. “ That's better. And the cake should be chocolate.

 

As if I'd bring you anything less than Devil’s Food! Bee and Neil can get their own, inferior, non-chocolate cake.”

 

Heathens.”

 

Stiles noticed his dad and Derek had shifted slightly, trying to give him privacy and having their own quiet exchange, and though he could talk to Serena for hours, he only got to be with his family for a few more days. “Hey, I gotta go now, but I am really super proud of you, and I'm really glad you called to tell me.”

 

Thanks, Stiles. I couldn't have done it without you! Have a nice time with your family!”

 

“You totally could have, but I'm glad I got to help anyway,” he said around a renewed smile.

 

When Serena asked, “ Is it, uh… can I call you again tomorrow? ” more than a little uncertainly, Stiles’ heart ached for her.

 

“If you find time between catching up with your brother, chasing your niece around, and eating too much pie, sure. You know you can always call.”

 

She laughed again before saying goodbye, and when he ended the call, he saw he had messages from Neil, Sam, and Bianca, as well as Scott and Lydia. His fingers itched to check them all, but he could feel his dad and Derek looking at him.

 

They were both smiling at him, his dad looking proud and Derek looking strangely impressed, which Stiles couldn’t quite make sense of. “So,” he said, drawing the word out a bit longer than necessary, “that was Serena… She’s nervous about the holiday, because it’s her first one since her parents, uh. Tried to have her committed.” He swallowed around the growing discomfort in his throat, and knew without a doubt that they were all recalling the same awful series of events in a spiky flash of memory: Malia’s struggle with her humanity and her father’s inability to handle it, Lydia nearly lifeless in her dingy bed with Natalie looking on, too afraid to intervene and save her daughter. Stiles was surprised to find Derek’s hand on his again, this time just resting there, a comforting weight as his fingers curl just so around Stiles’ own.

 

John made an unhappy sound in the back of his throat, and Stiles could practically feel the guilt rolling off of him. Before his dad could start apologizing for anything, Stiles tried to crack the tension with, “Well, Beacon Hills apparently doesn’t corner the market on shitty parents of teenaged supernatural beings. So it’s got that going for it, right?”

 

John laughed humorlessly and stood with a groan, gathering plates. Derek stilled his hands as he pushed back from the table, and Stiles tried to ignore how the back of his hand was tingling where Derek’s fingers had brushed across his skin when he pulled away to help John.

 

“Stiles and I are on clean up, John.” Stiles wondered again how much time his dad and Derek spend together, and then had another moment of reflecting on how strange it was that Derek had become such a part of his--and his dad’s--life now, considering their less than auspicious beginnings.

 

John smiled gratefully, throwing his hands up in mock surrender. “Thanks, son. I’m gonna go catch a few minutes of whatever game is on now before I have to head into the station. Hey now,” he cut in at the aborted sputter Stiles had begun, “I got tomorrow and Friday morning off, I can’t leave myself off the rotation three days in a row. I’ll see you in the morning for pancakes.”

 

“I’ll even put blueberries in ’em like you like, Pops.”

 

John ruffled Stiles’ hair as he walked by. “Good man,” he said, pausing to press a kiss to the top of his head. “You boys have a nice night. And Derek, we expect to see you tomorrow afternoon.” John’s tone left no room for argument, but was still earnest and friendly.

 

Derek looked slightly downward, scratching the back of his neck before looking at John again. “Of course, sir. Thank you again for the invitation.” Stiles tried and failed not to find the whole blushing werewolf thing to be endearing, and had to bite his lip to keep a soft noise from escaping.

 

Stiles and Derek got the kitchen cleaned up in short order, working together easily, as though they’d practiced moving around each other--in non-life-threatening situations--for years. They shared easy conversation, interrupted only by John calling out a goodbye from the doorway, and Stiles almost forgot that this wasn’t something they’d done a hundred times.

 

After, it was just as easy to fall onto the couch, knees angled towards each other, conversation moving to their friends, Derek’s newest home improvement project, and what they wanted to do while Stiles was home. Stiles’ feet ended up over Derek’s legs, Derek’s hand resting on his ankle, the heat and weight of his palm pleasant even through the denim.

 

Stiles’ phone buzzed several times in his pocket he knew it must be Neil, and he wanted to answer, but he didn’t want to break the easy atmosphere, the close-quiet feeling, between him and Derek. Still, his fingers twitched slightly.

 

“You can answer it, Stiles.” At Stiles’ head tilt, he added, “Your phone. I know it’s probably your p- your friends from school. They clearly want to check in with you, go on. They’re important to you, it’s okay. I’m not going anywhere.”

 

Stiles relaxed, and, after realizing that he was tense in the first place, slid his phone out of his pocket. He found a few dozen messages from Neil, Sam, and Bianca, a few from Scott, Malia, and Lydia, and even one from Danny. He grinned as he settled down further into the couch, wiggling his his feet in Derek’s lap until he scoffed and replaced his hand on Stiles’ leg as he put the television on low and sank back into the cushions as well.

 

Stiles replied to Neil and Sam, helping them with a pie recipe and reassuring them he had arrived safely. He told Bianca that she was going to make it through the holidays just fine, that her control was impeccable, and she didn’t have to tell her family about her still-new lycanthropy unless she was ready. She wasn’t exactly looking forward to seeing her Alpha, either, so he made sure to send her some distracting memes and a reminder that the full moon wouldn’t be until the following week when they were all back on campus.

 

“Who’d have thought that knowing the full moon schedule would be a thing that would help me make friends,” Stiles joked, and it obviously caught Derek off guard. “Once you start tracking things like the moon cycle as a matter of life and death, it sort of sticks with you, Big Guy,” he explained.

 

Derek still looked confused by Stiles’ non sequitur, so he reluctantly pulled his feet from Derek’s lap and moved so he could show Derek his texts. Eventually, he ended up setting his head on Derek’s lap instead, narrating his messages and happily answering Derek’s questions about his new friends.

*****

 

Thanksgiving break passed all too quickly, and Stiles was soon lugging his duffel bag back to his dorm. He wasn’t even a little surprised to find his room  already occupied when he got there.

 

Before he could call out an off-key “ Honeys, I’m home! ” the door to his room swung open and Bianca was pulling him into a tight hug. “Hey, Bee,” he smiled, hugging her back. Despite the fact they’d spoken regularly over break, he missed her enthusiasm. And her hugs.

 

When they pulled apart, she grabbed his duffel bag and Neil swooped in to grab the bag full of leftovers, giving him a quick one-armed hug--and a sniff--as he does so. Stiles had tried to change into something that he hadn’t worn around his pack before he headed back to campus, but having been around them for the better part of a week, it wasn’t exactly possible to smell like just himself; werewolves were a tactile bunch, and after all that his pack had been through, they stuck extra close together. Stiles couldn’t even pretend to mind it. And there was no way he was going to avoid the extra long goodbye hug from Derek; he may be only human, but he liked smelling Derek on his own skin.

 

“Yeah, yeah, Neil, I know I smell like not-me. My pack had to deal with it, you do, too, dude.”

 

Neil grumbled an apology, but hugged him for a second longer anyway, and Bianca and Stiles both laughed lightly.

 

Serena came out of the bathroom and walked right into Stiles’ open arms. “Hey, Princess. I see you mastered that lockpicking spell,” he teased.

 

“Like you didn’t know I was going to use it to break into your room when you taught it to me, jerk,” Serena mumbled into his collarbone. He laughed, because he couldn’t argue with that convincingly. He let her hug him for a long while, both because she clearly needed it, and because he’d missed her. He’d missed all of them, really. In the last few months, they’d all become close in that same mildly co-dependant way that his pack at home had, but he couldn’t pretend that he didn’t love it.

 

Sam arrived when they had all settled in to watch a movie and snack on some leftovers. He lumbered over the small pile of the rest of the group to give Stiles a big-brotherly hug and not so subtly scent him. Stiles rolled his eyes, but he’d long since stopped being weirded out by such things.

 

The evening passed as a lot of their evenings did, with takeout eaten on the floor, and everyone mostly passing out in a nest of blankets. Usually, they’d all rally enough to head to their respective dorms, but Stiles figured that after being apart for a bit, and stressed out to boot, they could all use some extra time together, even if it was spent sleeping on a not-too-comfortable dorm room floor, so he’d simply wriggled into the best position he could and let sleep claim him.

 

*****

 

Waking up in a tangle of limbs with multiple people using you as a glorified pillow was not an easy thing to grow accustomed to, but Stiles had just enough practice to not flail awake and disturb everyone. It was actually strangely nice being surrounded by people who made him feel safe; he didn’t feel that kind of belonging often.

 

His cellphone buzzing loudly from somewhere under his left leg was enough to rouse the rest of his friends from sleep. Well, it was enough that they rolled away from him and the chorus of “Bad Moon Rising” playing through his tiny phone speaker. Only the fact that that ringtone was Derek’s made Stiles move enough to reach the phone.

 

“G’morning, Der. Everything okay?” Stiles asked, suddenly very alert because Derek was calling him and that often meant things were going pear-shaped.

 

Derek sounded...guilty when he answered with a quick, “Fine, everything is fine! It’s. You didn’t call last night, and I--”

 

Stiles wanted to tease Derek for worrying, especially since he was convinced that a little of the worry was because Derek didn’t trust his new friends, but it had been a long time since he could fault Derek for wanting to protect the people he cared about. He just counted himself lucky to be among them.

 

Plus--“Shit, Der, I’m sorry. Everyone was here when I got back, and I got caught up in the chaos, totally failed to check in. Sorry, again; didn’t mean to worry you.”

 

Bianca and Neil stumbled to their feet, mumbling something that sounded like “ Coffee, ” and Stiles called quietly after them, “You’re my favorites!” Derek made a small sound, and Stiles grinned, amending his statement, “Besides you, growly. Don’t think I didn’t hear that. And don’t tell Scott, but he makes the worst coffee I’ve ever had.” Derek’s laugh filled Stiles with light, like it always did, and they talked quietly until Neil and Bianca returned with steaming mugs and a tray full of eggs and toast, finally pulling Sam and Serena from sleep.

 

He willfully ignored the mix of knowing and curious looks they all shoot him as he hung up, a grin pulling at the corners of his mouth.

 

*****

 

The next two weeks passed in much the same way, surrounded by his new friends in the evenings and on the weekends, sharing meals and stories of their least favorite classes, helping each other with homework--and occasional spell-work, in Serena’s case. It was nice. More than nice, really.

 

The only thing that changed in that time was Derek. His presence in Stiles’ life seemed to increase in those weeks, as did his questions about Stiles’ life on campus. Stiles did his best to humor the barrage of completely unsubtle attempts to check up on him and his new friends “intentions,” though he had hoped that what he’d shared at Thanksgiving would put Derek at ease.

 

Some of the questions were weird, though. Derek was curious about how much time everyone spent at Stiles’ dorm, and how often they ate together; strange questions that made something familiar itch at the back of Stiles’ brain, some half forgotten knowledge that drove him a little nuts.

 

But among all the odd interrogations, there was just Derek. Long, meandering conversations--a thing that would have shocked sixteen-year-old Stiles in all its unlikeliness--that lasted hours and left Stiles giddy and breathless for how easy they were. The way that Derek sounded so interested and fond and happy made Stiles want to take a leap, but the years between now and high school had taken some of the shine off of the idea of a grand gesture. Or even a small one. Because one of the things he wouldn’t risk was Derek: his happiness, their friendship, any of it. So he held the question under his tongue, gnashed it between his teeth when they talked into the night and he could hear sleep sneaking into Derek’s tone and softening all his words.

 

He was so busy with classes most days that he rarely had time to dwell on his feelings for Derek; as nebulous as they had been for so long, they’d long since solidified into something concrete and steadfast. But he had resigned himself to being happy with what he had with Derek, because just having Derek in his life was pretty incredible. Still, when it had been three whole days without any word from him, Stiles had fallen into a pretty foul mood. Being with Serena, Neil, Sam, and Bianca helped. It helped a lot, really, but not even Neil’s sharp wit, or Serena’s dark chocolate brownies, or the formidable combination of Bianca’s not-so-gentle pep talks and Sam’s concerned big brother assurances could pull him out of it entirely.

 

They were all lounging in Stiles’ small living area, scattered around the coffee table and draped over the loveseat and armchair, picking at the remains of the tacos they’d had for dinner and debating what to watch when Neil, Bianca, and Sam went stock still and turned in unison toward the door. Stiles knew enough that he let his spark crawl out just enough to be prepared for an attack before he schooled himself; his dorm room was not Beacon Hills, the chances of whatever was walking down his hallway being dangerous were practically zero.

 

Plus, it wasn’t even dark outside. Evil liked the dark and the shadows, and Stiles had learned to keep a healthy supply of light bulbs (and wolfsbane, and other such potions) on hand. Evil also tended not to knock on your door.

 

Sam, Neil, and Bianca didn’t seem to agree, all three of them letting out warning growls as Stiles stood to answer the door. He rolled his eyes a little, but only a little, because it was actually kind of sweet that they were all ready to fight the lost pizza delivery guy or whoever was at the door admiring his incredibly witty whiteboard notes. Seriously, though, Stiles had most definitely had more experience fighting monsters than all of them combined before he’d even finished his junior year of high school. They were adorable .

 

When he opened the door and found Derek, his first instinct was to sag in relief, because he was really only ever 90% certain that he wasn’t in danger of being murdered at any given time, but at least at this point in their acquaintance he was 100% sure that Derek wasn’t there to kill him. His second instinct was to punch Derek in his stupidly handsome face, because Stiles had been worried for days about the asshole. His third instinct followed immediately after that one, and it was to tackle Derek and hug him for a long, long time. Hug him until Stiles was sure that all Derek’s pieces were in the right place. Because he had been worried for days .

 

Derek seemed to share the instinct to hug, but he also seemed uncertain of his welcome, so Stiles went to close the distance between them, only to be pulled back by a restraining hand on his shoulder, accompanied by another chorus of low, rumbling growls. He was shocked to realize that his friends had literally surrounded him, now standing just behind him in a small arc with menacing looks on their usually calm faces, obviously ready to fight.

 

“Guys, what the actual fuck are you doing? This is--” Stiles tried to move toward Derek, but found that Neil’s grip on his shoulder was stronger than he could break out of. Serena’s magic was swirling around her, Sam was practically vibrating out of his skin--little sprouts of thick hair beginning to grow along the back of his neck. Stiles could see it, because Sam and Bianca were now standing slightly in front of him, creating a half-wall of protection around him, like he’d seen his wolves do with-- oh shit .

 

Derek cleared his throat and shot Stiles a look that said “ Welcome to the conversation, idiot ,” and Stiles winced. How had he missed something so major?

 

“Stiles, do you think you could tell your, uh, pack that I’m your boyfriend and not a threat?” Derek’s voice caught on the word “pack,” and Stiles’ heart broke a little at the pain in it. But then the rest of it caught up with him.

 

“Wait. Did you--Are we? Di--” Derek did his patented head-tilted-eyebrows-raised “Aren’t you forgetting something?” look, and Stiles snapped out of it long enough to turn to his-- his pack? --and add with slightly more eloquence “Guys, this is Derek, my Al--, my b--... My Derek. No danger here, so if you could put the claws away, it’d be stellar.” At the dubious looks they gave him, he smiled and tried to be more reassuring. “Guys, go back to the couch, eat some of the cookies, and we’ll talk in a bit. Right now,” he let some annoyance leak into his tone when he continued, “I have some questions for my boyfriend ,” he said, turning to glare slightly at Derek where he still stood uncertainly in the doorway. “For starters,” he said, crossing his arms and noting that his pack--and that was a strange and mildly fucked up thing to think--still hovered closer to him than to the coffee table. “Is that seriously how you’re going to ask me out, dude? Because if I wasn’t, like, stupid in love with you, I would seriously consider making you try again.”

 

Derek’s face melted from abashed to joyful as Stiles spoke, and it was so beautiful Stiles could barely keep himself from sighing. “Really?” he asked, sounding hopeful and so much younger than he usually did.

Stiles reached out for him, taking Derek’s hand in his own when it was offered, and pulled him inside gently, placing Derek’s hand over his heart.

 

“You tell me,” Stiles breathed out before smiling around, “I love you.” Derek’s smile was every stupid cliché about sunshine breaking through the clouds ever written, and Stiles was appropriately blinded and dumbstruck. They leaned into each other’s space, resting their foreheads together, grinning at each other in silence for a long moment. Stiles’ fingers bunched in the lapels of Derek’s jacket as Derek’s hands learned the shape of Stiles’ hips.

 

All too quickly, they became aware of the not-quite whispers from the end of the short entryway hall. The living room was only a few steps from the front door, but the illusion of privacy had been nice while it had lasted.

 

So, is that guy really Stiles’ Alpha?

 

Should we leave?”

 

“Are we a pack now? That’d be… that’d be freaking awesome.”

 

“Geddit, Stiles!”

 

Derek snorted, pulling away slightly. “Yeah, about that. Did you really not realize that you had acquired a new pack? Because I’d never met them and I caught on from a few stories you told me.”

 

“I-- Listen, I can only deal with one new title at a time, and I am really interested in the boyfriend one right now. I think you should probably kiss me, make it all official-like. We can deal with the rest after that.”

 

Derek’s smile tasted even better than it looked, and, just like everything with Derek seemed to be now, it was easy to fit their lips together, to let them glide and brush against each other, to let their hands move tentatively over one another’s faces.

 

Introducing Derek to his pack was going to be harder, stranger. Figuring out how to be an Alpha was going to be really freaking hard. But he’d learned from one of the best, so maybe it would be okay after all? He did have two pretty amazing packs in his corner now, after all.