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TFL

Chapter One

 

Stiles cradled his right arm close to his chest, teeth gritted against the sickening pain as each step he took jarred his shoulder.  He had to pause outside Derek’s warehouse, leaning his forehead against the cool metal of the doors and taking several deep breaths as he fought against a wave of nausea.  His mouth was already sour with the taste of vomit and he refused to let himself puke again.  He wouldn’t give them the satisfaction.  Fuckers.

Swallowing hard, he scrubbed at his face with his left hand.  He could feel dried blood flaking against his skin and the flesh around his left eye was swollen and tender.  His throat was tight and hot and he knew he was close to tears.  Stiles clenched his jaw and pulled open the heavy door to step inside the cavernous space.

He moved as quickly as he could across the floor and towards the elevator.  He was late. 

“Stiles!”  Scott’s voice rang out as he bolted down the stairs.  Stiles turned, flinching as he saw Scott’s eyes go wide and horrified.  “We smelled blood, I—” Scott broke off and hurried towards his best friend.  “What happened?”

Stiles felt his throat close up and his eyes filled, tears falling before he could blink them away.  Scott reached out and pulled Stiles towards him, careful of Stiles’s obviously injured shoulder.  Stiles pressed himself close to Scott’s solid warmth and took a shuddering breath, reining himself back in.  He wasn’t going to break down, not with the entire pack upstairs.

Reluctantly he pulled away from Scott, swiping at the tears on his cheeks with his left hand.  “Sorry.”

“What happened?”  Scott repeated, eyes roaming over Stiles’s bruised face.  “You look like someone—”

“Kicked the shit out of me?  Yeah.”  Stiles couldn’t keep the bitterness out of his voice.  “Look, let’s just go upstairs.  That way everyone can hear this all at once.”  He avoided Scott’s helping hand as they made their way to the elevator.  “Are the rest of you already here?”

“Yeah,” Scott’s frown of worry was still firmly in place.  “We were just waiting for you.”  He hit the button for Derek’s floor and turned back to Stiles.  “Let me look at your shoulder—”

“Leave it.”  Stiles jerked away from the touch, regretting the movement instantly as pain lanced bright and vicious, sending spots dancing in front of his eyes.

“Stiles.”  Scott’s lips thinned and he no longer sounded like Stiles’s concerned best friend, but like Scott-the-Alpha. 

“It’s fine.” 

“No, it’s not.”

“Come on, Scott.”  Stiles could feel his lips twist with irony as the familiar words rose unbidden, an echo from the past.  “It’s not even that bad.”  They tasted metallic on his tongue, like blood.

Stiles.

The doors to the elevator opened before either of them could continue.  Stiles shot Scott a look of warning and Scott stepped back, arms raised to let Stiles walk unassisted into the first floor of Derek’s loft. 

Isaac was waiting by the entrance, but after a quick glance at Scott he backed off, letting Stiles move past him and into the room.  Jackson sat on the loveseat, not bothering to look up from whatever game he was playing on his phone.  Peter wasn’t looking at Stiles from his seat in the armchair, but was watching Derek through heavy-lidded eyes. 

Derek was standing with his back to the loft’s large wall of windows, his arms crossed over his chest and a thunderous look on his face.  Stiles met his gaze, eyes carefully blank, and spoke. 

“I have a message.” 

Derek raised an eyebrow and waited.

Stiles looked away, unable to maintain eye contact as his cheeks flushed hotly with shame.  He felt weak and useless and human.  Self-loathing rose in his throat like bile and he swallowed it back before speaking, voice empty and colourless.  “Marcus wants you to know this is only the beginning.” 

Voices erupted. Everyone was talking at once, except for Derek, who moved forward to cup Stiles’s chin in his hand, forcing Stiles to look up at him.

“Marcus,” Derek repeated, deliberately, “Who the hell is Marcus?”

Stiles tried to pull away but the pain rolled, low and nauseating, through his stomach, making his knees buckle and his face pale as sweat beaded on his upper lip.  It was only Derek’s grip on him that kept him upright.

Scott was at his side in an instant, eyes flaring red as he elbowed Derek back and led Stiles, his lips pressed tight to hide a whimper, over to the couch where he eased him down to the cushions.  Derek’s eyes took on a deep reddish hue to match Scott’s as he followed.

“Did Marcus,” Derek forced the name around gritted teeth.  “Do this?”

“Let me look at his arm,” Scott’s words were barely audible around a growl.  “He’s about to fucking pass out, Derek.  Your questions can wait.”

“No,” Derek said firmly.  “They can’t.”  He met Scott’s challenging stare and for a moment the tension in the room was enough to make even Jackson shut up.

“Derek is right,” Peter spoke up from his armchair, leaning forward on his elbows.  “Before anything else, we need to know the extent of this threat.”

“Stiles’s arm—”

“Can wait five more minutes.”  The cold fury in Derek’s stare brooked no argument.

Stiles could feel Scott’s fingers where they rested against his skin sharpen and he spoke before Scott could do anything stupid—or stupider, rather.  “Let me tell him, Scott.”

Scott swore crudely under his breath and stepped back, hands curling into angry fists at his sides.  “Fine.  Do what you want.”

Stiles ignored him and turned his attention back to Derek.  Derek’s gaze was still hard and furious. After a brief second, Stiles dropped his eyes, staring at the coffee table as he spoke.  “I was walking over after dropping the jeep off.” His father had insisted on a tune-up before Stiles started college at the beginning of the next week.  “And this couple stopped me.  I thought they just needed directions or something, but then—”  Well, then a fist had slammed brutally into the side of his face and before Stiles could even register the pain blossoming around his eye or the concrete rushing up to meet him, he’d had the air plowed out of him as the guy’s foot drove into his stomach.  “They jumped me.  Werewolves.” 

Gulping desperately for air, Stiles had curled into a ball, thinking only about protecting himself from another kick, but he’d been hauled up and punched again, and then again.  The woman had grabbed his wrist in a hand that had gone wicked with claws and yanked him up to his knees, twisting until Stiles had cried out and stopped struggling.  The pain had been excruciating and Stiles could feel himself start to sway, spiraling into unconsciousness.  Just before he would have passed out the man had said the woman’s name—Stiles hadn’t been able to catch it, hadn’t been able to hear anything but the pounding of his pulse in his ears—and her grip had loosened slightly. 

“They said they had a message for my Alpha.”  He’d been so dazed, helpless and bewildered, like a dumb animal caught in a trap, unable to understand why it was hurting.  The man’s words had filtered slowly through a haze of agony, Stiles too disoriented by the suddenness of the attack and the intensity of the pain for his brain to work at its usual speed.  “I don’t think they knew about Scott, too.  They just said that I had to tell my Alpha.”  They’d told Stiles what to say, and when Stiles had refused to repeat it and spat a mouthful of blood and saliva onto the guy’s shoes he had nodded to the woman behind him. Stiles had felt the moment his shoulder was pulled out of its socket.  That was when he’d thrown up.   

“That’s it?  That was the message? Just ‘Marcus wants you to know this is only the beginning’?” Peter asked.

“That’s it.”  Stiles said bitterly.  He’d had to repeat it back to the guy five times, his throat raw from vomit and his whole body trembling from the pain in his shoulder.  Once the man had been satisfied he’d given the woman another nod and she’d released Stiles, shoving him to the ground where he’d lay, panting, as they walked away. 

“Can I look at his shoulder now?”  Scott asked the room at large.  His eyes had gone back to their normal human colour, but they were still dark with anger.  When no one said anything, he shouldered past Derek and without preamble ripped open Stiles’s t-shirt at the neck, baring the swollen and discoloured skin.  “It’s dislocated.  I’ll have to pop it back in.”

“Do you know what you’re doing?”  It was the first time since they’d heard Stiles approaching that Derek had expressed any sort of concern for his well-being, and Stiles’s stomach clenched. 

“Yeah, I mean, I’ve seen my mom do it before, and if we wait any longer it’s only going to be worse.”  Scott’s mouth was a grim line.  Stiles’s shoulder was already swollen enough that it would be agonizing.  “Jackson, get off your phone and come give me a hand.”

“I can’t believe I came back from London for this,” Jackson muttered under his breath, but he got up and moved over to Stiles.

“Hold him still.”

Stiles chanced a look up at Derek as Jackson’s hands clamped down on him, one on his thigh and one on his uninjured shoulder, but Derek had turned his back and was talking to Peter in a low voice.  Stiles tried not to care, focusing back on Scott who was speaking to him.

“Okay, I’m going to pop it back in on ‘three’.  It’s going to hurt, so try not to bite through your tongue or anything.”

Stiles swallowed and nodded his head. 

Scott placed one hand on the front of Stiles’s injured shoulder and the other against his back.  Stiles took a deep breath as Scott started to count. 

“One.”  And he wrenched Stiles’s shoulder back into place.

“FUCK!”  Stiles hollered and nearly slid off the couch.  But now that his shoulder was back where it belonged it didn’t hurt half as much as it had previously.  “I thought you were counting to three!” He rounded on Scott.  “That wasn’t three!”

“Sorry,” Scott shrugged.  “I didn’t want you to tense up.  That would have made it worse.”

Still scowling, Stiles gingerly rotated his shoulder.  It was going to be sore for days, he was pretty sure of that, but at least he could move it without feeling like he was going to puke.  “Thanks,” he said grudgingly. 

“Don’t,” Scott responded darkly, shooting a look at Derek.  “It’s our fault someone hurt you in the first place.”

Derek’s back tensed and he turned to face them.  He ignored Scott’s comment.  “So you never saw this ‘Marcus’?”

“No,” Stiles returned shortly, finally managing to meet Derek’s steely gaze.  He knew he sounded pissed, and that would be because he was.  Derek had been distant for weeks now and Stiles couldn’t figure out what had changed between them.  At first he’d thought it was because he was getting ready to leave for college—but it wasn’t like he was going out of state or anything.  He, Scott, Isaac, and Jackson were all going to the community college a town over.  It was barely an hour away from Beacon Hills.  It wasn’t like he was never going to see Derek again.  It wasn’t like Stiles going to college meant they had to break up. 

Or, whatever. 

“Is there anything helpful you can tell us?”  The derision in Derek’s voice set Stiles’s teeth on edge. 

“I’m sorry I wasn’t able to play twenty-questions with the assholes who—”

“Stop it.”  Isaac steeled himself when two sets of furious eyes turned to him.  “Do you really want to fight about this, or do you want to try and figure out who did this to you?”  He directed the last part to Stiles. 

Stiles blew out an angry breath. Normally Stiles appreciated Isaac’s calm demeanor, but tonight it was getting under his skin.  He didn’t want to be reasonable and collected.  He wanted to yell and shout and shove at Derek until he broke through the layer of ice the Alpha had built between them.

But Isaac was right.  There were more important things at stake than the state of Stiles’s relationship.  “I know they were both wolves.  The guy’s eyes went blue,” just before he gave the woman the go ahead to pull Stiles’s arm out of its socket, “And she grew claws.  Wolf claws,” he added before Jackson could ask,  “Not Kanima claws.” 

“Are you sure?”  Derek asked.

“Yes, I’m sure,” Stiles snapped.  He knew the difference.

“But neither of them was Marcus?”  Peter interjected, eyes wary on Derek’s stormy face.

“No.”  Stiles’s shoulder had begun to ache, throbbing with each beat of his pulse, and all he wanted was a handful of painkillers or a stiff drink.  Possibly both.  More than either of those things though, he wanted Derek to look at him.  Not through him or around him, but at him.  “He wasn’t an Alpha, and she, well… ‘Marcus’ is hardly a female name.”   

“Great, Stiles.  Very useful information.”

Derek hadn’t dropped his sarcastic tone, and Stiles had to bite back several vicious remarks that were on the tip of his tongue.  He did not want to get into it with Derek in front of the entire pack, but Derek was making it nearly impossible for Stiles to keep his mouth shut. 

Scott stepped in—literally—between the two of them.  “Shut it, Derek,” he said quietly.  “We know a lot more than we knew a couple hours ago. If it weren’t for Stiles—”

Getting the shit kicked out of me, Stiles thought darkly, resisting the urge to prod at his probably black eye as it too began to throb with his pulse. 

“—we wouldn’t even know there was another pack in town.”

“Really?”  Derek raised an eyebrow.  “Because it looks like they just targeted the weakest member of our pack.  I hardly think Stiles did anything special.”

Stiles’s mouth fell open, shock and hurt rendering him speechless. 

Scott rounded on Derek.  “If you’re not going to do anything but bitch you can leave.  Now.”  His eyes flashed dangerously.

Derek’s hands flexed into claws at his side.  “We’re in my house, if anyone leaves it’s not going to be me.” 

“Enough!”  Now it was Peter who stood up and strode between the two Alphas, shoving them back.  “If all we’re going to do is fight amongst ourselves, we’ve done the work for our enemy.”

Neither Derek nor Scott moved, still glaring at each other with undisguised animosity.

“We know several things—thanks to Stiles,” Peter continued.  “We know that there’s another pack in town, we know that they are at least three members strong, and we know that they are prepared to fight dirty.  It seems like this Marcus has his eye on this territory and doesn’t intend to challenge Derek for it in any official capacity.  Yes, Derek,” he added when Scott looked about to object.  “We’ve kept your nature as a ‘true Alpha’ a secret from everyone outside the pack because others would see it as a sign of vulnerability.”

“Why?”  Isaac spoke without thinking, but gamely continued when everyone turned to look at him.  “Two is better than one, right?”

“No.”  Derek’s voice was hard.  “It’s not.  Because this happens,” he gestured between himself and Scott.  “It divides a pack.  Everything is a power struggle when there’s no defined leader.” 

“Wonderful.”  Jackson rolled his eyes and leaned back against the couch, folding his arms over his chest.  “It’s nice to know there’s a reason for how dysfunctional we are.”

“Shut up, Jackson,” both Derek and Scott growled at once.

“We need to be on the same page about this.”  Peter focused back on the two Alphas.  “We’ve had a quiet year since the guy with the GHB—”

“Ray,” Stiles muttered, his collarbone itching where he had four parallel lines of scar tissue, courtesy of a drugged Isaac trying to tear his throat out a year before.  As though he could hear the direction of Stiles’s thoughts, Isaac sent Stiles an apologetic grimace from the loveseat where he’d taken Jackson’s earlier seat.

“—and we’ve let ourselves get lazy.  We can’t afford that anymore.”

“What do we do?”  Jackson asked.  “Hunt this guy down?”

“Ideally, yes, but it’s not as simple as that.”  Peter settled back in his chair, comfortable and relaxed now that they were all looking to him for answers.  Stiles tried not to let his irritation show on his face.

“Why not?”  Jackson persisted.  “We can track them.  Stiles reeks.”

“I what?”

“You reek.”  Jackson looked over, his nose wrinkled in distain. 

“We can smell them on you,” Isaac explained with a reproachful look at Jackson.  “The two of them.”

Stiles couldn’t suppress a slight shudder at that, his skin crawling.  He had the sudden, desperate urge for a shower and suspected he wouldn’t feel clean until he’d got one.  “Ugh.”

“So we follow them back to whatever hole they crawled out of.” Scott looked between Peter and Derek.  “How is that not simple?”

“We don’t know how many of them there are.  We don’t know if they expect us to do exactly that and therefore have set up a trap.  We don’t know anything about ‘Marcus’ or what kind of power he has at his disposal.” Peter was ticking his points off with his fingers and Stiles got the distinct impression that he was enjoying himself a little too much. 

“Then ‘google’ him,” Jackson rolled his eyes.  “Isn’t that the whole point of your dumb website?”

“Yes, and I’ll look into it, but that will take some time.  There are thousands of us in the States.”  Peter shrugged, apparently unconcerned.  “Right now, there’s nothing we can do.”

“Nothing we can do?”  Scott flared up again.  “We can’t just let them beat up Stiles and do nothing.”

“Yes, we can.”  Derek’s voice was flat.  “Stiles was a message.  One they expect us to react to.  And so, we do nothing.”

“That’s bullshit.”

“That’s strategy.”  Derek crossed his arms over his chest.  “You’re letting your emotions dictate your actions.  You can’t afford to do that as an Alpha.”

This was a problem Derek clearly didn’t have.  Stiles tried not to let that fact sting, but found himself unable to meet anyone’s eyes. He stared fixedly at the coffee table in front of him.  That sick feeling of shame was back, oily and cold in his chest.  This was the second time someone had used him as a punching bag to send a message.  This was second time he’d been helpless and humiliated and sent back to someone else wearing bruises like Braille on his skin.

“The four of you are leaving at the end of the week.  Terrace Bay is still a part of our territory, but Beacon Hills is the centre.  Since they don’t know about Scott, their focus should remain here, on me.  Peter and I will find out what we can about them and then we will make a decision about what’s to be done.”

Scott glared but apparently couldn’t find fault in Derek’s plan.  Such as it was. 

“Don’t you think they’ll come after you?”  Isaac looked at Derek, frowning.  “It’s not like they can’t track you back here.  What’s to stop them from breaking in and…” he left his sentence unfinished, concern furrowing his brow.

“Derek and I know how to take care of ourselves.  It will be easier, honestly, without the four of you around.”  Peter glanced, perhaps unconsciously, at Stiles.  “We won’t be distracted worrying about anyone else’s safety.”

Stiles refused to look up but he could feel his cheeks heat.  His shoulder was beginning to stiffen up and, every time he moved, his ribs screamed in protest.  Now that the anger and adrenaline had faded, he just felt exhausted. He could feel his earlier tears threaten to resurface, and Stiles didn’t think he had the energy to fight them again.

Turning his face away from the pack he stood up, wincing.  “I’m going to take a shower.”  They could continue discussing strategy without him.  For once, he found he didn’t care.

“Do you want—”

“No.”  Stiles didn’t bother to look at Scott, just limped over to the stairs.  After a pause, he could hear their conversation resume, and he tuned it out, concentrating on griping the iron handrail and getting up one step at a time until he reached the door to Derek’s loft. 

His head was beginning to pound. When he finally closed the door behind himself, he leaned against it for a minute, closing his eyes and trying to force the tension out of his muscles.  He should be used to the frailty of his human body by now.  Over the last year, he’d spent more time at the gym, built up more muscle and stamina, but none of that mattered against opponents that could literally tear him limb from limb without breaking a sweat. 

And it wasn’t exactly like any of that was a surprise to him, so why was he standing here full of self-pity?  With a groan, Stiles pushed himself off the door and headed into the bedroom.  He’d take a handful of Advil, have a long, hot shower, and pull himself together. 

 

 

Half an hour later, Stiles stepped out of the bathroom in a billow of steam and padded naked through Derek’s room to the dresser.  He opened the top drawer and, despite the dull pain from his various injuries, he couldn’t help a smile.  As usual, the haphazard mess of clothes he’d stuffed in there the last time he’d stayed the night had reappeared freshly washed and neatly folded.  Stiles grabbed a pair of pajama bottoms and pulled them on, shaking his head in bemusement.  Was there anyone else in the world who folded pajamas?  He debated a shirt but figured it’d be too much of a hassle to try and get on with his shoulder so stiff.  Besides, it was warm enough in the loft that he didn’t really need one.

Barefoot, he wandered out of the bedroom to find Derek sitting on the couch, a large glass of wine in his hand and a brooding look on his face.  Stiles suppressed a sigh, and Derek looked up.  His lips thinned as he took in the colourful bruises over Stiles’s ribs and face, and the swelling of his shoulder.

“Stiles—”

“Don’t,” Stiles said wearily.  “I don’t want to fight, okay?”

Derek met Stiles’s gaze and his expression softened.  “Okay.”

Stiles crossed the room and crawled onto the couch, sliding under Derek’s arm.  He could hear Derek’s heartbeat, strong and steady against his ear where his head lay on Derek’s chest.  Derek was warm and solid through the thin fabric of his shirt and Stiles slid his arm over Derek’s stomach, pressing himself in closer.  After a moment, Derek’s arm came down, gentle on Stiles’s shoulder, and held him. 

“I’m sorry,” Stiles murmured, voice muffled and barely audible.  He wasn’t even sure what he was sorry for—except that he couldn’t bear the tension between them anymore. 

“Don’t be,” Derek said, thumb stroking lightly over the bare skin of Stiles’s arm. 

For the first time in days, Stiles felt the knot of anxiety he’d been carrying around in his chest ease.  He knew he and Derek had been at odds lately, butting heads over stupid, trivial things.  Derek had been busy and preoccupied whenever Stiles had dropped by, and despite the fact that Stiles still stayed over once a week or so, he couldn’t remember the last time they’d sat like this—just, well, cuddling.  They’d had sex, sure, and that had been even hotter than normal—not that they didn’t always have hot sex, because boy, did they ever, but lately it had been extra intense.  Stiles definitely wasn’t complaining about that, but there had been an edge of something sharp to it… something desperate, maybe?  Like Derek had been trying to lose himself in Stiles.

That was probably a stupid thought, and Stiles was probably an idiot for overanalyzing their incredible sex life.  Only, Derek had hardly touched him at all this week.  Until now.

This was good though.  This was right.  Derek’s chest moved evenly with his breathing and Stiles could feel his own breathing slow to match Derek’s, his eyelids growing heavy under the soothing and familiar rhythm.  Stiles hadn’t realized how much he missed their quiet moments together, watching a movie or reading, or just sitting on the couch enjoying one of Derek’s ridiculously expensive bottles of wine.  He knew things had been off between them, but maybe it really was just that Stiles was leaving for college.  He thought that Derek was confident enough in their relationship to know nothing would change—Stiles was sure of that—but maybe he’d been taking Derek’s confidence for granted.  It was possible, just possible, that under the big, gruff, Alpha-wolf exterior Derek was the teensiest bit insecure.  Actually, that made a whole lot of sense now that Stiles was thinking about it. 

That was another thing he had Kate to thank for, he was sure.  He pushed back the instant and violent loathing that rose whenever he thought of her. She was dead, after all, and there was nothing Stiles could do about it either way. 

“College isn’t going to change anything, you know that, right?”  He pushed himself up a bit, twisting to see Derek’s face.  “I won’t be that far away.  We’ll still be… us.”

Derek smiled, arm tightening briefly around Stiles before he pulled away and stood up, extending his hand.  “Come on, let’s get you to bed.”

It didn’t escape Stiles’s notice that Derek had sidestepped the issue, but he placed his hand in Derek’s and let the werewolf help him up.  Stiles was exhausted and he could use the sleep.  Besides, there’d be plenty of time tomorrow to talk.  Any kind of discussion of feelings and emotions with Derek was like pulling teeth—possibly worse. It would be easier tomorrow when he had his energy back.

Yawning, he linked his fingers with Derek’s and followed him into the bedroom. 

Chapter Text

Chapter Two

 

When Stiles woke up, his face was pressed into a wet cloth, which he pried away with a noise of disgust.  Derek had insisted he take an ice pack with him to bed, because of his dislocated shoulder—now much less dislocated, but still sore, he discovered when he pushed himself up—and at some point in the night the ice pack had stopped being ice and was now just uncomfortably damp.  Scrubbing at his face, Stiles looked around the room, but could see no sign of Derek.  Picking up the cloth, he crawled regretfully out of the giant bed and headed into the bathroom.  He’d have liked to sleep for a couple more hours, the digital clock on the nightstand telling him that it was only 8:16 am, but he and Derek needed to talk.  He needed to hear Derek say that things were okay, and that he would get over whatever weird funk he was in.

Coming out of the bathroom a few minutes later, Stiles hiked his pajama pants up and grabbed a t-shirt from the drawer, tugging it over his head with a wince. He made his way towards the kitchen.  He could smell the hot scent of coffee and made a low, obscene moan of pleasure.  Maybe the talk could wait until after Stiles showed Derek how grateful he was for the coffee.  “I’m going to have a big sip of that coffee and them I’m going to get on my knees and—Isaac.”  Stiles rounded the corner and stared blankly at the werewolf perched on one of the kitchen’s bar stools, a wicked grin on his face. 

“You’re going to get on your knees and…?”  Isaac prompted, raising an eyebrow.

Stiles felt his cheeks flush bright pink and he gave an awkward cough, shoving his hands in his pockets.  “I thought you were Derek.”

“Sorry to disappoint.” Isaac was still grinning and Stiles scowled, moving into the kitchen to grab a mug from the cupboard and pouring himself a large cup of coffee.  He dumped in several spoonfuls of sugar and ducked into the fridge for cream.

“Where is he?”  Stiles asked when he settled onto a stool across from Isaac, taking a drink of the coffee. It wasn’t as good as when Derek made it.  He tried to suppress his annoyance.

“Out with Peter.”

Ooookay. “And so you are here, why, exactly?”  Apparently he wasn’t doing that good a job of hiding said annoyance because he could see that he was getting Isaac’s back up.

“Derek asked me to come.”

“Derek asked you to come over at,” Stiles glanced over to check the clock on the microwave,  “Eight twenty-five in the morning to, what, make me coffee?”

“No, he asked me to come over at seven am to make sure you got back home okay. I made coffee because I wanted some coffee.”  Isaac coolly took a sip from his mug.  “You’re welcome.”

Stiles opened his mouth, closed it.  Opened it again.  “I’m sorry—you’re here to babysit me?”  He could hear the squeak of indignation in his voice but was too outraged to care.  “Derek just, what, foisted me off on you?”

Isaac gave an elegant shrug, toying with the handle of his mug. “None of us want you to get hurt again.  We agreed last night that one of us would keep an eye on you…”

“Like, ‘at all times’?”  This was fucking ridiculous.  Stiles was going to tear Derek a new one as soon as he got back.  Stiles wasn’t some princess who needed to be locked away in a tower for his own safety.

“Well,” Isaac had the grace to look faintly embarrassed.  “Until we leave for Terrace Bay College.”

“That’s four days from now!” Stiles spluttered. “No.  There is no way.  When is Derek back?”

Isaac was looking increasingly uncomfortable and he muttered something under his breath that was too quiet for Stiles to catch.

“When. Is.  He.  Back.”

“I don’t know.”  Isaac looked pained.  “I don’t think he was planning on coming back… he asked me to get you home.”

“I—this is just—” Stiles was choking on his anger and he shoved away from the island, not caring that he slopped coffee all over the counter. “No.  This isn’t happening.”

Isaac carefully stood.  “Does that mean you’re ready to go home?”

Stiles made an inarticulate noise of rage and stormed back into the bedroom.

When he came out again, fully dressed and fuming, he noticed that Isaac had cleaned up the mess he’d made and put away the mugs in the dishwasher. He felt a flash of guilt that Isaac had had to clean up after him, but he refused to let it distract him from how pissed he was.

It occurred to him, in a small, frightened part of his brain, that the reason he was reacting with such vehemence was because his only other option was to admit that Derek was avoiding him.  If Derek had been heading out he could have woken Stiles up and dropped him off at home if he was so worried about Stiles walking back alone. But he hadn’t. He’d left, apparently at seven in the morning, without even bothering to let Stiles know he was leaving. Like he was worried Stiles would press the conversation from last night (the one Derek had made sure they didn’t have) and Derek thought it best if that didn’t happen.  If they didn’t talk.

His mind skittered away from that thought. 

“Come on,” he snapped at Isaac, heading towards the front door.

Isaac said nothing, just slipped off the stool and followed Stiles out.

 

“Are you ready?”

Stiles turned around at the sound of his dad’s voice, running a distracted hand through his hair.  “Uh, yeah. Yeah I think so.”

It was weird thinking that he was leaving in a couple of minutes. That he was going off to college and leaving his room and his house and his dad behind.  What was he going to do without his dad?

“You’ve got everything you need?”  The Sheriff stepped around Stiles and into Stiles’s bedroom, glancing around at the space that suddenly seemed so empty.  Stiles was leaving his bed behind, but he was taking his desk and his dresser and half the posters from the walls and a good chunk of his DVD/video game/book collection with him.  They all sat in boxes in the front hall waiting to be loaded up into the jeep.

“Yeah.” Stiles stuffed his hands into his pockets and tried to swallow past the sudden lump in his throat.

“Good.” His dad turned back and Stiles could see his eyes shining with unabashed tears.  “I’m gonna miss you, kiddo.”

“I—” Stiles’s voice cracked. “I’m not going to be that far away.”  Just an hour. If traffic was good. He could come back on weekends if he wanted.  His dad could come up and visit if work wasn’t too busy. 

He’d never even gone away to summer camp.  He’d never spent more than one night at a time away from home. How was he supposed to spend months?  Who was going to make sure there was enough toilet paper, or keep track of where Stiles left his keys, or bitch when Stiles hogged the TV watching a marathon of Veronica Mars but then wind up making Stiles share the couch and his popcorn while they debated the merits of Logan vs. Piz?

Stiles crossed the room and wrapped his dad in a hug, burying his face in his dad’s neck and inhaling the familiar scent of Ivory soap.  The Sheriff returned the hug with a fierceness that made Stiles’s own eyes fill with tears, and they stood there like that for a long moment before the Sheriff gave a gruff cough and stepped back, swiping at his eyes.  “They’re going to be here soon.  We’d better start loading the jeep.”

“I love you, Dad.”

“I love you too.”  The Sheriff smiled and slung his arm around Stiles’s shoulders.  “Now, let’s go get you off to college. From the sound of it,” outside there were three short taps of a horn “Your friends are here.”

Stiles blew out a breath.  He could do this.  He’d faced down death on multiple occasions.  He was still sporting a sore shoulder and the faintest traces of a black eye from his last near-death (or near-maiming, at least) encounter.  He could leave for college without blubbering like a little kid in front of everyone.  “Right.  Okay. I’m ready.”

His dad gave his arm a squeeze and they headed downstairs.

“Stiles! Come on, let’s go! Give me a hand with your crap.” Scott’s eyes were over-bright and his nose looked a little pink and Stiles was glad to see that he wasn’t the only one who’d had a tearful goodbye with his parent.

“Oh my god, do you or do you not have werewolf super strength? I hardly think a box of books is going to kill you.”  Stiles shouldered past Scott and picked up his own box, grunting at the weight.

“Did you really need to bring an entire library?  You know they’ll have one at TBC.”

“You’re just jealous because I can read.”

As Stiles headed out into the bright mid-morning sun the Sheriff stopped Scott at the door.  “You take care of our boy,” it was half a question, half a statement as they watched Stiles bitch at Isaac who was lounging against the jeep until Isaac heaved a sigh and headed towards them to help move boxes.

“Yes, sir.”  Scott’s eyes went grim. “We’re gonna keep him safe.” The Sheriff nodded, but Scott knew he was still unhappy with Stiles leaving after what had happened earlier in the week.  Stiles and his dad had had a huge fight about it when Stiles had come home battered and bruised, and afterwards they hadn’t spoken for an entire day—a first for the two of them.  Not for the first time, Scott felt a deep stab of guilt for getting Stiles involved in this supernatural crap.   

Nodding to the Sheriff, he hefted the box and went to put it in the jeep. Derek was heading up the drive and a handful of minutes later the jeep was loaded and they were ready to go.

Isaac and Scott were taking Scott’s mom’s car and Derek and Stiles were in the jeep, the plan being for Derek to drive Melissa’s car back to Beacon Hills when he returned in the morning.  After one last, bruising hug from his father, Stiles clambered into the driver’s seat beside Derek and pulled out of the driveway.

“You’ll keep an eye on him, right?”  Stiles asked Derek as he pointed the jeep in the direction of the highway.

“Yes.”

“Thanks.”

The silence between them stretched, awkward, and Stiles reached over and turned on the radio.  I knew you were trouble when you walked in, Taylor Swift accused from the speakers.  So shame on me now. Stiles’s hands felt cold where they flexed on the steering wheel.  This was the first time he’d seen Derek since the night he’d been beaten up. They’d hardly spoken since, either, Derek responding to Stiles’s texts with short, one-word replies. After two days, Stiles had given up.  He was at a loss for what to do.  He didn’t know what had changed and a part of him was afraid to ask.

If someone else had been in Stiles’s current shoes, and they’d been asking Stiles’s advice, Stiles would have told them (as gently as possible) that they should probably get out now before they got their ass dumped. But this was different. He and Derek weren’t some dumb high school relationship that would dissolve painlessly when one of the participants went off to college.  They were more than that. They’d been through too much for that.

They would figure this out and everything would go back to the way it was. Derek had never said as much, not in so many words, but Stiles knew Derek loved him.  He knew it like he knew Scott would never lie to him, not about anything important. He knew it like he knew Harry couldn’t have defeated Voldemort without Hermione.  It was just a fact of Stiles’s life, and so, whatever Derek’s issue was, they’d deal with it.  Together.  And maybe they’d fight and there would be a couple of shitty days, or a week, even, but in the end they’d be Stiles and Derek and as rock solid as they’d always been.

He let out a slow breath and let himself relax into the rhythm of driving. They’d get through this. They’d gotten through so much worse, and this was nothing in comparison.  He was feeling better already, just being in the same car as Derek. One hand moved from the steering wheel to dip into his pocket and he brushed his fingertips over the small silver charm there.  It was tiny, barely bigger than his thumbnail, and in the shape of a wolf with its head thrown back in a howl.

Derek had given the charm to him one night after Stiles had attempted to cook dinner in Derek’s giant kitchen.  Surprising them both, it hadn’t been a total disaster. Stiles had made lemon ginger chicken with rice, and except for the fact that he used ground ginger instead of ginger root in the sauce, it had turned out okay.  The ground ginger was a little too strong, making the sauce a little too bitter, but Derek had eaten everything on his plate and then gone back for seconds.  The chicken had been edible, but it wasn’t exactly seconds-worthy.  Stiles had said as much, but Derek had protested that it was the best meal he’d had all week—a lie, since Derek had made a roast only days before—and that was when Stiles had been forced to admit to himself that he was completely, helplessly, idiotically in love with a werewolf.

Later, when Stiles lay sprawled and panting on Derek’s bed, skin still flushed with the glow of orgasm, Derek had leaned over him and reached for something in the bedside table.  Stiles had given a weak laugh and said that if Derek wanted to go for round two he’d be more than happy—just give a guy a minute or two to catch his breath. Derek had raised a skeptical eyebrow and leaned down, kissing Stiles with such languid heat that by the time Derek pulled back Stiles was making soft, needy sounds and was half hard again.

“Still need that minute or two?”  Derek had asked, all innocence, save for the wicked gleam in his green eyes. Stiles had huffed out an indignant breath and tried to regain what was left of his dignity by keeping still—though the urge to continue rubbing up into Derek’s sweat-slick skin was nearly overwhelming.

Derek had smirked, brushing a thumb over Stiles’s kiss-swollen lips. “I got you something.”

“What? Why?”  Stiles had been so startled that he forgot about his dick for a moment and just stared up at Derek.

“I thought you might like it,” Derek had said simply.  Stiles had pushed himself up on his elbows and Derek placed the silver charm into the palm of his hand. 

“Oh,” Stiles had felt something warm and gooey expand in the centre of his chest,  “It’s a wolf.” Despite how tiny the charm was, the detail was exquisite, the small wolf so lifelike that Stiles would hardly have been surprised if it had started to move.  “Thank you,” he said sincerely, looking back up at Derek. Derek—Mr. I-Can’t-Express-My-Feelings, Heart-Of-Stone, Broody, Closed-Off, I-Am-The-Alpha Derek—had seen a little silver wolf charm and thought of Stiles.  Stiles grinned, full on, delighted.  “You got me a love token.”

“I—” Derek had looked suddenly flustered, and Stiles grinned even wider.

“You did.  You so did. Oh, my god.  You’re so into me,” Stiles crowed, punching Derek’s arm.

“Don’t punch me.”  But despite the scowl on his face his cheeks were pink.

“What should I expect next?  Ooh,” Stiles had leaned forward eagerly.  “Are you going to write me a poem?  Or get my name tattooed over your heart?  How about—”

“Stiles,” Derek had growled, pushing Stiles back onto the bed,  “Stop talking.”

Stiles had opened his mouth, fully prepared to continue teasing, but Derek leaned down and closed his mouth around Stiles’s cock.  The flippant remark on the tip of Stiles’s tongue died and he arched into the wet heat with a moan, his hand clenching so tightly around the pretty charm that it had left a bruise for days.

He had kept the silver wolf in his pocket since then.  Totally dorky, but he liked it.  He liked the surprising weight of it in his hand when he got bored or anxious and began to toy with it.  He liked the reminder that he was on Derek’s mind even when he wasn’t with Derek.  He liked the way his brain slowed down when he brushed his fingers over the cool metal.

Letting his tension out in a slow breath, Stiles focused on the highway in front of him and the music on the radio, trying to ignore the fact that Derek remained silent for the rest of the drive.

 

“Any requests?”  Scott shouted up from the first floor of the house they were renting.

“Pepperoni with extra cheese,” Stiles yelled back, leaning over the railing on the second floor.  “And beer. Not that light crap Isaac likes—”

“Excuse me,” Isaac objected.

“But real beer,” Stiles continued, raising his voice over Isaac’s protest. “Derek?” He turned back to look into the bedroom behind him.  “Do you want anything?”

“No,” Derek didn’t look up from where he was assembling an Ikea bookshelf. “I’m fine.”

“Don’t forget—extra cheese!”  Stiles shouted as he heard the front door shut.  He supposed, what with werewolf hearing and all, he didn’t really need to shout.  But that was one thing he never could get used to.  Super strength and fangs and glowing eyes, those he took in stride.  But the hearing thing was just weird.

“You know you guys are still underage, right?”  Derek asked when Stiles came back into the room.

“Well, yeah,” Stiles plopped himself down on the carpet across from Derek, toying with the allen key.  “But Lydia makes the best fake IDs.”

Derek grunted, nailing the backboard of the bookcase in place. Stiles watched him silently, wondering what he was thinking.  He could ask, he supposed.  But the words felt like lead on his tongue and he realized that it wasn’t easy between them anymore.  Stiles used to be able to ramble on, stream-of-consciousness all filters between his brain and his mouth gone, and Derek would listen and nod and occasionally ask a question or give his opinion.  Or call Stiles an idiot.  But with love. Now though… now they sat, like the entire ride here, silent as strangers. 

Abruptly Stiles got to his feet, walking to the large window on the other side of the room.  He stared out, not really seeing the trees or the quiet street.  He should say something.  He should talk to Derek, ask what the hell was going on.  But he was afraid of knowing the answer.

A noise behind him made him jump, and he turned around to see Derek pushing the bookcase up against the wall.  It looked good, the white a nice contrast to the dark grey walls. It would look better once he’d filled it, of course, but he could do that tomorrow.  Today was just for getting everything into the house and any of the major stuff—like the (also Ikea) beds for himself and Scott and Isaac set up.   

“Thanks,” Stiles walked closer.  He had to do this.  He had to get whatever fight they weren’t having over with, so they could get back to how things were. “Derek—”

“I can’t do this anymore, Stiles.”  Derek turned, lifting his eyes up to Stiles’s face.

Stiles froze.  There was something strange going on in his body.  Everything felt numb, a shocky sort of cold creeping out from his stomach. Derek could be talking about anything.  About building another bookcase.  About having to share another double-cheese pepperoni pizza.  It didn’t have to mean…

“You can’t do what?”  Stiles’s words sounded hollow even to his own ears.  This wasn’t happening.  This was not happening.

“This. Us.”

The breath left Stiles in an uneven rush and his legs had turned to rubber. He licked his lips with a dry tongue and found himself shaking his head in denial.  “Derek—”

“I’m sorry.”  Derek’s gaze was steady on Stiles’s.

Stiles took an unconscious step back, wrapping his arms around himself, as if that could protect him from the raw hurt that Derek’s words were inflicting.  As if they were blows he could ward off and deflect and if they didn’t touch him they didn’t count.  This couldn’t count.  Stiles wouldn’t let it.  There had to be a reason.

“You’re—” Stiles forced himself to swallow, cleared his throat.  “You’re lying.”  Yes, there it was.  That was it.  The relief made him dizzy and he choked back a laugh.  Derek was a moron if he thought he could break up with Stiles to keep him safe or something.  Because of course that was what this was about.  Stiles got beat up and Derek thought it was his fault because Stiles was involved with him.  So Derek figured he’d break up with Stiles, and Stiles would be safe.  But that was stupid, and Stiles wouldn’t let him.

“Stiles,” Derek took a step towards him, something new in his eyes, an emotion Stiles couldn’t place.

“You’re lying,” Stiles repeated, forcing the words out, his voice stronger. “Stop.  You’re not breaking up with me because of Marcus—”

Derek was shaking his head.  Why was Derek shaking his head?

“This doesn’t have anything to do with that.”

“Oh, come on,” Stiles scoffed.  His heart was slamming in his chest, fast and frantic.  Derek could hear that, he knew Derek could, but he ignored it and kept his voice firm.  “This is about me getting hurt.  Don’t pretend it isn’t.”

“Stiles—”

“Stop saying my name like that!”  Saying it like it hurt.  Saying it like a mouthful of regret.  “You’re lying,” Stiles insisted. “You’re lying and you need to stop, you need to stop right now, I swear to god.”  For the first time since Peter had first offered Stiles the bite, Stiles wished with every fiber of his being that he was a werewolf. If he was a werewolf he could hear Derek’s heartbeat like Derek could hear his.  Could hear the lie and know that’s all it was—a lie.

“I appreciate that you want to keep me safe,” Stiles continued, stepping closer to Derek.  “But this isn’t going to do that.  I’m not going to let you push me away because you think it’s the right thing to do.” Derek had to see that, had to see that Stiles was his and he was Stiles’s and that’s just the way it was going to be. Stiles’s hand went unconsciously to his pocket and he closed his hand around the wolf charm.  It steadied him and he took a slow breath.

Derek looked away and then back at Stiles, and suddenly Stiles recognized the emotion on his face, in his eyes.  Pity.

No. No, it couldn’t be that.  There was no reason for Derek to look at him with pity in his eyes. Stiles could feel the colour drain from his face. 

“I’m not lying,” Derek said, gently.  Softly.

“Yes, you are.”  Stiles refused to meet Derek’s gaze.  He couldn’t. Derek was lying. Because if he wasn’t, then this meant… this meant that Derek was done.  Done with this.  Done with Stiles.  And Stiles couldn’t believe that.  “You’re lying and because I’m not a werewolf you know I can’t tell and that’s not fair Derek.  That’s not fucking fair.  You can’t lie to me.”

Derek said nothing, just kept watching Stiles with that look of quiet pity.

“Scott will know,” Stiles said with sudden resolve, heat flooding his limbs. “You can’t lie to Scott.” And Scott wouldn’t lie to him. So they would wait for Scott to get back and Scott would take one look at Derek and tell him to stop being an idiot and Stiles would be pissed at Derek—pissed at him for a good, long while for scaring the shit out of him like this—but he’d let Derek make it up to him with really good sex and then they’d be fine and in a couple days they’d laugh about this. 

“Don’t bring Scott into this.”  Derek reached out a hand, but Stiles jerked back, avoiding it.

“Don’t lie to me.”  He was angry now that the initial panicked terror had receded.  Derek must have thought Stiles was an idiot if he thought Stiles would fall for this.  “If you stop this now, I won’t have to bring Scott into anything.”

Derek’s jaw clenched, grim, and he said nothing.  Stiles balled his shaking hands into fists—why were they shaking?—and sat down on the bed across the room from Derek. 

Outside, a car honked, the wind rustled the leaves of the tree outside the window, and the sun sank slowly towards the horizon.  Stiles focused on the sunlight dappling over his blue comforter and tried, desperately, to slow the thundering of his pulse. Scott would be back soon, and then this whole goddamn thing would be over. 

One way or another.

Chapter Text

Chapter Three

 

Finally, the sound of Scott’s mom’s car pulling into the driveway came through the open window.  Stiles’s entire body tensed and he forced himself to remain still as Isaac and Scott got out of the car, their voices muffled as they made their way up to the front door.  There was movement out of the corner of his eye and Stiles looked to see Derek standing from where he’d taken a seat at Stiles’s desk.  Derek met Stiles’s eyes and Stiles had to look away, throat closing.  

The front door shut, and there was a beat of silence from downstairs.  Stiles could only assume that Scott and Isaac had heard the stuttering beat of his heart and were unsure about how to proceed. 

 “Are you sure you want to do this?”  Derek asked, voice low and quiet even though it didn’t matter.  The two werewolves downstairs could hear everything.

Stiles stood up, facing Derek with whiskey-coloured eyes that were dark with anger.  “Have you changed your mind?”

“No.”  The finality in his voice made Stiles’s fingers clench, hands closing into fists that he wanted to slam into Derek’s face. 

“Scott,” not looking away from Derek, Stiles directed his voice to the open door, “Could you please come upstairs.”

There was a brief murmur of voices and then Stiles could hear the sound of Scott’s footsteps on the stairs.  A moment later he was at the door, eyes moving between Derek and Stiles. 

“What’s going on?”  He asked hesitantly. 

Stiles ignored the cold edge of panic that was making his chest tight, focused instead on how angry he was that Derek was putting him through this.  Anger that bubbled hot and bright in his throat and made his words harsh and ugly when he spoke.  “Derek is trying to break up with me.”

Scott’s eyes flew to Derek, who met Scott’s gaze impassively.

“He says he’s done, but he’s lying,” Stiles continued, venomously.  “He’s trying to keep me safe so he’s lying.  You can’t let him lie to me.”

“Stiles, I—”

“He loves me, Scott.”  Stiles interrupted his best friend, turning to him with his jaw clenched and stubborn.  “He loves me, so he doesn’t mean it.  He loves me.  So he’s lying.”

Scott blew out a slow breath, taking a step into the room.  “What do you want me to do?”

“I want you,” Stiles turned to Derek.  “To say it.  Say you don’t love me.  And then Scott can tell me you’re lying and then we’ll be done with this fucking charade.  Got it?”  He raised an eyebrow at Scott.

Scott nodded, his eyes locked with Derek’s.  There was a long stretch of silence, Stiles standing rigid and furious between them, until Derek’s gaze broke away and rested gently on Stiles.

“I don’t love you.”

Stiles’s fingers flinched at his sides, his only reaction to the words that he hadn’t actually thought Derek would say. Numb, he turned to Scott, expectantly.

“I’m sorry, Stiles, I’m so sorry.”  Scott looked stricken and Stiles stared at him, uncomprehending.

“You’re—”  He couldn’t breathe.  “You’re sure?”

“He’s not lying to you,” Scott said softly, moving to place a hand on Stiles’s shoulder.  He squeezed but Stiles couldn’t really feel it, couldn’t register the touch.  He felt like his body had ceased to exist.

“You should go,” Isaac said to Derek from the doorway.  Stiles hadn’t even heard him come up.

Derek nodded, once, eyes meeting Scott’s for a beat before he crossed the room.  Isaac passed him the car keys and then his footsteps were heavy on the stairs.  The front door opened, closed.  Scott’s mom’s car started up, and he was gone.

“I don’t understand.”  Stiles was shaking his head over and over.  “I don’t—”

Scott tried to lead him to the bed, but Stiles jerked back out of his grip.

“Don’t touch me.”  His eyes were wide, wild, and his breath was coming short and shallow.  This couldn’t be real.  This couldn’t be happening.  But Scott wouldn’t lie. Scott would never lie about something like this.

Which meant that Derek didn’t love him.

Stiles doubled over, hand gripping the back of the desk chair so tight that the wood bit into the palm of his hand, the pain nothing compared to the raw, gaping hole inside of him.

“Stiles,” Scott stepped towards him again and Stiles’s eyes snapped up.

“Get out.”

“Man, look, I’m sorry I—”

Get out!” Stiles screamed, face contorted.

Scott backed away, hesitating with Isaac in the doorway.  “We’ll just be downstairs.  If you need us.”

Stiles waited until he heard them go down the stairs and then he straightened, crossing the room with legs that felt like rubber to close the door.  Not that it mattered.  Not that they couldn’t hear the ragged sound of his breathing as he fought to control it.  They could probably even smell the tears that blurred his vision.  But he needed the illusion of privacy, if nothing else. 

His legs finally gave out and he slid down the door, burying his face in his hands as his entire body shook with sobs that he fought to keep silent. 

 

Stiles dropped into his desk at the back of the classroom with a groan, fingers groping pathetically for the extra large coffee Danny held out for him from the next desk over.

“Thanks,” he said gratefully, bringing the cup to his lips and taking a long swallow, not caring that he burned his tongue in the process.

“You gotta get your shit together, man,” Danny commented, as Stiles put the coffee down and fumbled in his backpack for a notebook.

“My shit is together,” Stiles muttered, dropping the notebook on his desk and going back for a pen.

“Really?  Cause it’s the second week of college and I don’t think you even know what class we’re in right now.”

“Sure I do.”  Stiles looked up at the front of the classroom where the professor was fiddling with the projector.  Projector.  So PowerPoint notes.  PowerPoint notes plus Danny meant… okay one of his electives for sure cause Danny wasn’t taking journalism, and they only had one class together and that class was—“Astronomy.”

“Nope.”  When Stiles just looked at him blankly, Danny sighed.  “It’s Intro to Philosophy.  Every Tuesday and Thursday at nine.”

Right.  Stiles knew that.  He just didn’t sleep well last night and he’d forgot to turn on his alarm so it was Danny’s text—asking if Stiles wanted coffee—that woke him up twenty minutes ago.  He’d jumped out of bed, dressed in five seconds flat, and raced out of the house.  He’d made it to the classroom at 9:00 exactly and was grateful that the professor was having projector problems because he was pretty sure he’d already been in trouble for being late before.

“I’m fine,” he said, flipping his notebook open to a fresh page as the professor finally got the computer and the projector working in sync.

“I didn’t ask,” Danny said pointedly.

Stiles pretended he didn’t hear and began jotting down the points on the screen.  He was fine.  So what if he couldn’t sleep until exhaustion hit at four or five in the morning?  He had plenty of reading to do for school, so he did it then.  And yeah, okay, maybe his retention wasn’t great at three am but he still did the reading so that had to count. 

And he’d at least made it to the right classroom this morning, so he didn’t know why Danny was bitching.  He didn’t know why any of them were bitching.  Last night he’d been about to head downstairs when he’d heard Isaac Skyping with Allison.  He’d been ready to tune it out and continue on his quest for a late night snack when he’d caught his name.  He’d frozen, head tilted in the direction of Isaac’s door and listened with all of his focus, trying to keep the sound of his breathing down to a minimum. 

He knew if Isaac paid any attention he’d be able to tell Stiles was practically pressed up against his door, but he was betting that Allison’s presence (even over Skype) would be enough of a distraction.  And he was right, because Isaac continued without hesitation. 

“He’s hardly sleeping, and Danny said he was late for class again yesterday.”

“That’s not exactly cause for concern—college is hard enough to get used to without having been dumped the weekend before it starts,” Allison replied.

“Yeah, but that’s the thing…” Isaac had lowered his voice and Stiles held his breath, wondering if he’d been found out.  “Other than that, he seems fine.”

There was a pause, and then Stiles could practically hear Allison raise her eyebrow.  “So you’re worried because he’s not a complete wreck?”

“Yeah.”

“You realize how that sounds, right?”

“I know.  But you weren’t there when it happened—he lost it.”

“You said.”

Thanks a lot, gossip girl, Stiles thought irritably.  Was Isaac telling everyone about screaming, sobbing, brokenhearted Stiles?

“That was it, though.  He came out the next day and it was normal Stiles.  Like nothing had happened.”

“Maybe that’s a good thing?”  Allison suggested.  “He could just be trying to put it behind him.”

“We’re talking about Stiles here.  He’s not exactly the sort of person who lets things go.”

“You might be right.  I was chatting with Lydia last night and I think she said she’d talked to him the other day.  Maybe he said something to her?  I’ll ask.”

“Thanks.  I don’t mean to pry or anything,”

 Oh great job you’re doing there, buddy.

“But you saw him and Derek together, you know what they were like—this isn’t some minor high school breakup,” Isaac insisted.  “This is a lot worse and I think he’s just shut down.”

Stiles straightened at that, jaw clenching, and had walked back to his room without bothering with the snack.

So between Isaac and Allison—and apparently Lydia, and probably Scott—and now Danny, Stiles was getting pretty pissed at people monitoring his mental state.

The professor was droning on at the front of the classroom and out of the corner of his eye Stiles could see Danny shooting him what were probably meant to be discreet looks of concern.  Irritation prickled over his skin.  He wasn’t some sort of basket case that needed to be watched 24/7 in case he broke down in the middle of class.  He was handling this. 

Stiles reached into his bag and pulled out an old tin made for gum.  He flicked it open, dropping a small, white pill into the palm of his hand before tossing it into his mouth and swallowing it with a generous mouthful of coffee.  Beside him, Danny’s brow creased with worry.

“I have a headache,” Stiles said flatly, and Danny looked away, guilty. 

Stiles felt his own twinge of guilt but he ignored it, settling back in his chair and waiting for the effects of the pill to kick in.  He knew what he was doing wasn’t exactly the best idea.

He’d been standing in his bathroom the morning after Derek had… well, his brain skittered away from the thought… but he’d been staring at his pale, hollow-eyed reflection in the mirror trying to convince himself to brush his teeth and go downstairs to help Isaac and Scott unpack.  But there was a horrible, lurching hurt in his chest that made breathing hard.  And he couldn’t stop replaying Derek’s last words, over and over and over again until they became a litany.

 Idon’tloveyouIdon’tloveyouIdon’tloveyouIdon’tloveyouIdon’tloveyou.

Forcing himself to move, he’d reached up and swung the medicine cabinet open to get his toothpaste, and there, sitting innocuous and half-forgotten on the top shelf, was an orange bottle of painkillers.  He’d gotten a prescription for them last year after the disaster that had been Ray, and he’d only used a couple of them.  He’d packed them anyway, figuring that when you ran with werewolves some prescription-strength painkillers were bound to come in handy.

And looking at them, his heart a shredded, bleeding, open wound in his chest, Stiles had thought, hey, they couldn’t hurt.  He was in pain, and they might kill it.  So he reached up, unscrewed the cap, and took one.

After about twenty minutes the screaming agony that he felt with every movement abated.  It was there, he could still feel a dull ache running through his limbs and constricting his chest, but instead of the bright and vicious immediacy of the earlier pain it was distanced.  Quieter.  Even his brain had slowed down—no mean feat—and he’d been able to help Isaac set up the TV and even joke with Scott about the fridge full of nothing but leftover pizza and beer without feeling the prick of tears in his eyes.

So the next morning he took another one. 

And that was how Stiles was handling it.  Not the best plan, and if anyone found out he knew he’d be in trouble.  But it wasn’t like he was some kind of pill-popping addict.  He’d stop as soon as he could take a breath without thinking about Derek.  When he didn’t stare unblinking at his phone waiting for a text that never came.  When picking up an unfolded t-shirt didn’t bring him to his knees, muffling his sobbing in the wrinkled fabric.  He just needed something, for now, to keep himself numb.

The bell rang and Stiles closed his notebook.  He’d filled three pages with notes, and had no idea what any of them said.

“See you on Tuesday,” he said to Danny and, picking up his backpack, headed for the door.

 

On his way home that evening Stiles stopped at the grocery store.  They’d been eating nothing but take-out for the last two weeks, and apparently Isaac was getting sick of it because he’d texted Stiles a grocery list.  Stiles had responded asking why Isaac couldn’t drag his sorry werewolf ass to the store, but Isaac had said that he would be in class until 5 and if Stiles wanted dinner before 7 he should pick up what Isaac had asked for, or else he’d be stuck eating the leftover ginger beef in the fridge.  Stiles conceded the point. 

As he wandered down the cool, air-conditioned aisles of the store, Stiles turned up the volume on his ipod.  He’d taken the mindless techno off of Jackson’s macbook last weekend when he’d been over playing video games with Danny in their dorm room.  He found that if he played it loud enough it kept his brain from forming thoughts any more complex than feta is in the dairy section and Isaac wants fresh tomatoes, not canned.  He’d spent so much time in grocery stores with Derek that initially he’d balked at the idea of going into one again.  But since he couldn’t survive on cold take-out alone he’d forced himself to get over it. 

His movements were mechanical, though, and twice he’d found himself staring, spaced out, at a shelf in front of him with no idea of how long he’d been standing there.  When that happened he just shook himself out of it, turned the volume up again, and kept going.  Eventually he’d picked up everything on Isaac’s list and, lugging the heavy basket, made his way to the front of the store.  He avoided the cashier and went straight to the self-checkout.  If he went to a cashier he’d have to take his headphones out.  And make small talk.  There was no way he was doing that.

Fifteen minutes later, and having only overcharged himself by $7, Stiles heaved his now considerably heavier backpack onto his back and headed towards the house.  The sun was beginning to set and he wished he’d brought a pair of sunglasses, the glare making him squint.  Once he’d left the supermarket he’d turned his music down so that he could hear the noise of the traffic over the thud of the bass.  He didn’t want to get hit by a car—or have another run in with Marcus and co.—because his music was too loud.

The neighbourhood they were in was quiet, mostly residential.  It was nice.  You could always count on nice in California.  The weather was always pleasant, sunshine a given.  Generally these were things Stiles was easily appreciative of—glad for the bare minimum of seasons, happy he rarely had to wear more than a hoodie or a light jacket even on the coolest of days.  But this past week he was thinking longingly of biting cold.  Of frigid wind that would chap his skin, the dead crunch of leaves under his sneakers, frozen rain, and hail.

He wanted to feel something that wasn’t warm sun on his skin or a gentle breeze that smelled of salt from the ocean.  He wanted the epic fury of nature flinging itself headlong into winter.  Yeah, okay, he knew it was only September so even if he was somewhere other than California he wouldn’t be experiencing fall for another month or two.  But that didn’t mean he wanted it any less.

Sullenly, Stiles scuffed his feet against the curb as he waited for the light to change so he could cross the street.  He should have gone out of state for school.  Chicago, maybe.  Or Canada.  Somewhere cold and gloomy.   

From his front pocket his phone began to ring and Stiles groaned, yanking his headphones out of his ears.  It was probably Isaac calling to bitch at him for taking too long at the store.  He pulled his phone out of his pocket, glancing absently at the display, and then froze.  A wild, leaping hope in his chest. 

Derek was calling him.  Oh god, Derek was calling him to say he was sorry to say it was a misunderstanding, to say he hadn’t lied, to say it wasn’t real, it didn’t happen, to say he loved Stiles—except, no.  His brain, sluggish, caught up a beat too late and he realized it wasn’t Derek’s name on the display, but ‘Dad’.

His dad was calling him.  Not Derek.  Derek wouldn’t be calling him because Derek didn’t love him.  It was his dad on the phone.  And Stiles should answer.  Because he hadn’t spoken to his dad since it happened.  He’d been purposefully calling when he knew his dad would be busy at work, leaving careful, vacantly cheerful voicemail messages and then ignoring his phone when his dad tried to return his calls.  So he should really get this.  

By the time Stiles came to that conclusion the call had already gone to voicemail, and the light had changed.  Stuffing his phone back into his pocket he crossed the street, limbs leaden with despair.

Stupid, fucking stupid, to think that it had been Derek.  Of course Derek wouldn’t call him.  A wave of self-loathing at his own, naively hopeful idiocy rose bitterly in his throat.  Derek was done; he’d made that clear.

Ignoring the hollow ache inside of him, Stiles jogged up the front steps of their house and pushed open the unlocked door. When Isaac or Scott was home they rarely bothered to lock it because, after all, what burglar stood a chance against a werewolf or two?

“About time,” Isaac called from the kitchen.  “What did you do, go out and pick the olives yourself?”

“Sorry,” Stiles said, tonelessly.  He walked into the kitchen and slid his backpack off, resting it on the table as he began to pull out the groceries. 

Isaac took one look at Stiles and the smile fell from his face.  “I was just kidding.”

“Okay,” Stiles pulled the last bag from his backpack, avoiding Isaac’s worried gaze.  “I’m going to go call my dad.”

“I’ll let you know when it’s ready,” Isaac offered to Stiles’s retreating back.  Stiles lifted a hand in acknowledgement and made his way up the stairs. 

There was a moment of silence and then Stiles heard Isaac cross the kitchen and turn on the iPod dock, Arctic Monkeys flooding the first floor of the house.  Stiles rested his forehead against his door for a moment, grateful.  He knew Isaac would be able to hear his conversation with his dad anyway, but he appreciated Isaac giving him the illusion of privacy. 

Opening the door, he walked into his room, dumping his backpack beside his dresser and reaching into his pocket for his phone.  Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath, trying to steady his jittering nerves.  He didn’t know why he was so tense, didn’t know why he’d been putting off talking to his dad for so long.  But he knew his dad was probably feeling like Stiles had forgot about him, and so with one last, long exhale he hit the call button and held the phone up to his ear.

“Stiles!”  He could hear how pleased his father was.  “I just left you a message.”

“Yeah, I know.  Sorry, I missed your call.”

“School keeping you busy?”

“Fairly, yeah.  A lot of reading,” Stiles walked across the room and sat down on his bed, leaning his back against the wall and feeling himself relax for the first time since he’d woken up this morning.  He’d missed hearing his dad’s voice.  He hadn’t realized how much until now.  “How about you?  How’s Beacon Hills?”

They talked for half an hour.  About the town, about Stiles’s classes, about how the Sheriff had gone over to Melissa’s house for dinner the night before and how they hadn’t talked about their kids once—this made Stiles grin wide enough that his face hurt, because he and Scott had been trying to fix their parents up ever since Scott had declared that his old father was dead to him and Stiles had offered to share his.  They’d talked about it before they left for college, both of them coming to the conclusion that maybe all the Sheriff and Melissa needed was some time with neither of their boys around.  Looks like they’d been on to something.

“How about you, kiddo?”  His father’s voice broke through Stiles’s smug reminiscing.  “Is Derek coming up this weekend?”

All at once the warm glow of happiness that had been growing in his chest since they’d started talking broke apart and fled, Stiles’s fingers going numb where they clutched tightly at the phone next to his ear.  He pressed his lips together, free hand clenching in the bedspread.  He knew this was coming, had known it would come since he’d first lifted the phone to his ear.  But he’d let himself ignore it, let himself fall into the rhythm of him and his dad and dinner at Melissa’s and now—

“Stiles?  Did I lose you?”

“I’m here,” Stiles could hear the odd hollowness in his voice.  “I think Derek’s coming up.  They’re having a pack meeting.  But—” he pressed his lips together, unable to believe how something as small as saying Derek’s name caused tears to burn hot in the corners of his eyes.  “But we broke up.  He broke up with me,” he said, his voice catching on a sob. 

There was a beat of stunned silence and then, “Oh, Stiles.  I’m so sorry.”  He could hear his father twist open the bottle of whiskey that Stiles knew would be sitting on the counter beside him, hear the sound of his father pouring himself another glass.  Stiles felt the lump in his throat grow.  “Are you okay?”

No, Dad.  No.  I don’t think I’m ever going to be okay again.  I didn’t know anything could hurt this much.  Why didn’t you tell me I could be destroyed so easily?  Why didn’t you warn me that love isn’t gentle or kind but a snarling, ravenous beast that will eat you alive and spit you out with pieces missing? 

“Yeah, Dad.  I’m okay.  I’ll be okay.”

“Are you sure?  I could come—”

“No, I’m fine.  Thanks, though.”  Stiles forced himself to smile, knew his dad would be able to hear it in his voice.  “I’ve got Scott.” 

“Well, let me know if you change your mind.”

“I will.”  Stiles promised.  “Listen, Isaac’s got dinner ready so I’d better go.”

“It was good to hear from you.  Call me back when you can.  And Stiles—”

“I know.  Thanks.  Love you.”

“Love you, too.”

Stiles pulled the phone away from his ear, hung up, and dropped it to the bed beside him.  A tear slid down his cheek, hot and wet.  Then another, and another, until they spilled unchecked and he couldn’t muster the energy to lift his hand up and wipe them away. 

There was a soft tap on his door. Before Stiles could tell whoever it was to go away, the door opened, and Scott walked into the room.  He held two open bottles of beer and, crossing the floor, he passed one wordlessly to Stiles before climbing up on the bed, sitting close enough that their shoulders touched. 

Stiles felt the tears fall faster, salt mingling with the taste of the beer as he lifted the bottle to his lips.  Scott said nothing, just sat a warm, solid presence beside him, and let Stiles cry.     

Chapter Text

Chapter Four

 

Isaac tried not to frown as he followed Scott up the stairs to Jackson and Danny’s dorm room.  It felt weird heading into a pack meeting without Stiles.  Ever since Scott had more-or-less accepted Derek as an equal leader of the wolves, they’d been having fairly informal meetings together twice a month, and Stiles had been at every one.  Allison and Lydia had come too, until they’d left, and Jackson had come ever since he’d been back in the States.  Peter was less reliable—but the last couple of months he’d been making an effort to show his face.  Now, with Allison and Lydia gone, and Stiles having refused point-blank to come with them, it felt like they’d lost half their pack in one fell swoop.  And the rational, level-headed half at that, Isaac thought with a sigh as Scott pushed open the door to the small set of rooms to find Jackson in the middle of a heated discussion with Derek.

“This?  This is not going to be a thing,” Jackson was insisting.  “I did not agree to having all of you furballs over.  Ever.  Let alone twice a month for the next god knows how long.”

“Jackson,” Derek growled through a clenched jaw.

“Don’t ‘Jackson’ me,” Jackson snapped.  “We talked about this before any of us left Beacon Hills—we agreed we’d have pack meetings at Scott’s.”

“Why is it just ‘Scott’s’?” Isaac wondered aloud, walking into the living area.  “I live there too, you know.”  He dropped the bag of chips he was carrying onto the coffee table and sat down on the couch, tearing the bag open and selecting a Dorito.

“Exactly,” Jackson gestured emphatically at Isaac and Scott.  “Two werewolves.”  He flung his arms dramatically to encompass the small living area.  “One werewolf.  Get it?”

“Calm down, Jackson,” Scott rolled his eyes as he pulled two bottles of beer out of the six pack he carried, tossing one to Isaac who caught it with ease, and the other to Peter who was lounging with a bored look on his face beside the TV.  Peter tipped his bottle to Scott in thanks.

“Stiles doesn’t want to come and we’re definitely not kicking him out of his own house,” Scott explained as he took a bottle for himself and shoved the other three on the kitchen counter.

“That’s bullshit.  Just because Stiles got his little heart broken—”

“Jackson, stop,” Scott warned, coming out of the kitchen. 

“No.”  Jackson stepped towards Scott, finger jabbing at his chest.  “This is absurd.  Why the hell should the rest of us have to work around him?  I mean, is he even pack anymore?  Because if he is, he should be here. Last time I checked, these meetings were mandatory.  Or does your membership get rescinded when you stop fucking an Alpha?”

Scott’s hand shot out, clawed fingers wrapping around Jackson’s throat.  “That’s enough.”

Peter looked up with interest and Isaac’s fingers stilled where he was reaching for another chip.  Derek looked on, quietly.

Jackson’s lips curled back, fangs bared in a soundless snarl and his eyes flaring blue flame.  Scott’s fingers tightened and suddenly Isaac could smell blood, hot and fresh, from where Scott’s claws were sliding into the soft flesh of Jackson’s neck.  Scott’s eyes were red and scorching and Isaac felt himself shrink back into the couch ever so slightly, even though none of Scott’s rage was directed at him.

Jackson tried to pull back but Scott held him fast. After a moment, Jackson’s fangs melted back into teeth and his eyes returned to their normal, human blue.  Scott released him and Jackson stumbled backwards, hand coming up to rub at the blood running down his neck even as the wounds began to close.

“Fine.  I get it,” he bit.  “Mowgli’s off limits.”  Jackson shoved past Derek and into the kitchen where he grabbed a beer from the counter.  Twisting the top off he gave them a sarcastic toast.  “Everyone, make yourselves at home.”

Scott’s eyes tracked Jackson and his hands were still tipped with claws and stained with blood.

“Are we all done bickering now?”  Peter asked, and when no one answered him he rolled his eyes.  “There’s no point in holding these if we’re going to fight every time—and in case anyone’s forgotten, we’ve still got another werewolf pack running around our territory.  Perhaps we could devote more time to that problem and less time to measuring our dicks, what do you think, Scott?”

Scott glared at Peter, but slowly his claws shrank back into his hands and the red glow left his eyes.  Turning, he pushed past Jackson and into the kitchen to rinse the blood off his hands.

Jackson made a face at Scott’s back, a half-assed sneer that Isaac could tell was more for show than anything, and made his way across the room to drop down on the couch beside Isaac.

“Where’s Danny?”  Isaac asked as Jackson helped himself to a handful of Doritos.

“I don’t know, at the library or something.”  He chased the chips with a long swallow of beer.  “Why do you care?”

“I just—” Isaac paused, toying with the label on his bottle.  “I’m worried,” he lowered his voice, “about Stiles.”

Jackson twisted to look at him, incredulity leaving him gaping.  “Are you serious right now?”

Isaac glanced over to the kitchen, where Derek and Peter had joined Scott.  They were speaking quietly about the precautions that Peter and Derek had taken to get to Terrace Bay.  They’d done the same thing on the initial drive up—before they went in to get Stiles, Isaac, Scott, and Derek had gone on a thorough search of the neighbourhood to ensure that none of Marcus’s cronies were lurking around.  While it wouldn’t really be difficult for the other pack to track them out of town and to the college, they didn’t intend to make it easy for them.

“Look, man, you didn’t see him when we left the house,” Isaac turned back to Jackson.  “I’m not—I’m not saying I don’t think he should be left alone,” but, “D’you think maybe Danny would go over?”

“I repeat: are you serious right now?”  Jackson’s eyebrows were practically receding into his hairline and Isaac quelled the irritation that was prickling along his skin.

“Yeah. I mean, I get that you’re pissed.  Trust me, we all get that.”  Isaac sucked in a long, slow breath through his nose and tried to remember that Jackson wasn’t the Kanima anymore and that if he killed Jackson he’d probably get in trouble.  “But can you take a second and think about someone other than yourself?  I’m not asking you to go over.  Can you just text Danny and ask him if he’d mind?”

“Oh, my god,” Jackson rolled his eyes, but after a moment grudgingly pulled out his phone.  “I’m not promising anything.”

“I know, I know,” but Isaac already felt better.  Danny was a good guy; Danny would go over if he thought Stiles needed someone. 

He didn’t mean to impose on Danny (and Jackson), but when Stiles had realized that Isaac and Scott were heading to Jackson’s for a pack meeting, well… Isaac didn’t think he’d ever seen a look of such bleak forlornness as the one that had settled over Stiles’s face.  Stiles had always been at the pack meetings.  Hell, Isaac was pretty sure Stiles was the one who’d always ensured that the meetings occurred at least twice a month.  If he felt weird going without Stiles, he couldn’t imagine how strange Stiles must have felt, staying behind.  

This whole thing was a mess, and even if no one else seemed too concerned about Stiles’s mental health, Isaac knew how it felt to lose your pack.  He’d lost Boyd and Erica.  They’d left, left him behind, and he knew what that hurt felt like.  It was probably worse for Stiles.  Not that Boyd and Erica hadn’t been like family to him, but Stiles was probably feeling like not only had he lost Derek, but Scott as well.  And Stiles and Scott were more than just best friends; they were brothers in nearly every sense of the word.   

“He says he’ll head over,” Jackson informed Isaac unwillingly.  “Now can we stop obsessing about Stiles?”

 

When the doorbell rang, Stiles didn’t move. He just stared up at the ceiling and hoped whoever it was would take the hint and go away.  The porch light was off, the house was dark, and everything about the place screamed no one’s home.  This was on purpose, because Stiles didn’t want to see or hear or speak to anyone.  He didn’t want to do anything, and he definitely didn’t want to have to interact or engage or have to feign interest.  All he wanted to do was lie on the floor in the middle of the living room, in the dark, and let the thick numbness of the painkiller work through his system.  He’d already had one this morning, and he’d sworn, sworn he wouldn’t have more than one a day.  He’d lived with an addict. He knew how easy it was for one to become two, and then three, and then four, until you lost track and suddenly the bottle was empty. 

So he’d promised himself he wouldn’t take more than one, and that as soon as he could wake up without the sickening feeling of the floor dropping out from under him and the breathless rush of pain that accompanied the realization—the same, every morning—that Derek Hale Didn’t Love Him, that he’d stop. 

But then he’d wandered downstairs to see what was for dinner and Isaac and Scott had been putting their shoes on at the door.  Stiles had asked, stupidly, blankly, where they were going and Scott had hesitated.  Isaac was suddenly concentrating too intently on tying his shoelaces and Stiles had felt the words form, hollow, in his mouth.  “Pack meeting?”  They tasted static on his tongue.

Scott had jerked his chin down in a nod and Stiles had echoed it, head bobbing rhythmically for longer than was strictly necessary until Stiles had recognized the awkward movement and stilled. 

Isaac stood, biting his lip.  “You could come?” 

Stiles’s head had begun to move again, shaking as he stepped back and away from the door.  Scott had asked yesterday, after Stiles had cried until his eyes were hot and red and swollen and he had nothing left but an ache in his chest so huge it felt like it might swallow the world whole.  Scott had asked and Stiles had laughed, an inhuman bark that made Scott flinch and look away.  That had been the last time Scott had brought it up.

So Scott and Isaac had left, without him. Moving mechanically, Stiles didn’t even recognize what he was doing until he was standing in front of the medicine cabinet, standing across from his own reflection with the bruised eyes that he couldn’t meet.  With shame a thick coating on his tongue, he’d taken another of the small, white pills.

The doorbell rang again, and Stiles groaned, rolling over onto his stomach and resting his chin on the rough carpet as he stared at the door.  

“Leave me alone,” he moaned, voice muffled by the carpet and the awkward position of his neck.  Whoever was outside clearly didn’t hear him—so, not a werewolf, he concluded with slight surprise—because they leaned one more time on the doorbell.

“Oh my god, fine.”  Stiles pushed himself up to his feet and walked through the darkened house to the door.  He supposed he could turn on a light, but he was used to the dark by now.  Besides, as soon as he got whoever it was to leave, he was going to go right back to staring up at the ceiling.  Unlocking the deadbolt, he swung the front door open and scowled.

“Go away.”

“Hi, Stiles,” Danny didn’t wait for an invitation—probably because he recognized that he wouldn’t be getting one—and instead shoved right past Stiles into the house.  “Are all the lights in your house burnt out?”

“Why are you here?  What are you doing?  Stop!” Stiles protested when Danny reached over and turned on the light. 

“You look worse than you did yesterday.”  Danny toed off his shoes and walked into the kitchen, flicking on the light and dumping two grocery bags on the counter.

“Why are you in my house?  Get out of my kitchen.  Go home.”  Stiles trailed after Danny.

“I can’t go home,” Danny pulled out a box of microwave popcorn, two bags of candy, a six pack of Mike’s Hard Lemonade, and a stack of DVDs.  “My dorm’s been invaded by werewolves.”

Stiles folded his arms across his chest, leaning against the counter and glaring.  “Fine, don’t go home.  I don’t care where you go.  But go.”

“No.”  Danny reached into his pocket and pulled out a keychain with a bottle opener on one end.  He grabbed a hard lemonade and opened it, taking a quick sip before dropping the key ring onto the counter.

Stiles sighed, defeated.  He could keep arguing with Danny—he was sure that if he insisted strongly enough Danny would actually leave—but the pill had finally kicked in and he found he didn’t really care one way or the other. 

Danny reached for a second cooler to hand to Stiles, but Stiles shook his head.  He wasn’t a total idiot—there was no way he was going to mix prescription meds (even though it was just one pill and, really, practically harmless) with alcohol.  “Thanks, but I’m fine.”

“Are you sure?” Danny asked, surprised.

“Yeah… I don’t want to go down that whole ‘self-medicating’ road, you know?” Stiles said with a wan smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes.

“So you are getting your shit together then,” Danny said approvingly.  “I’m glad to hear it.”

Stiles felt a twinge of guilt, but it was buried low beneath a gentle haze of numbness and ignored easily enough.

“Now,” Danny flipped through the DVDs.  “I’ve got all six Star Wars movies here.  Do you want to start from Episode I or Episode IV?”

 

Three and a half weeks.  It had been three and a half weeks since Stiles had started college and he couldn’t believe the amount of reading and papers and assignments he had already.  The worst was his Elements of Journalism class, where they had assignments due every week, something Stiles was personally offended by.  He thought college was supposed to be different than high school.  Weren’t they just supposed to have midterms and a couple papers and then a final?  But apparently none of his professors had received that memo, because here he was at ten o’clock on a Wednesday trying to find enough information about parking laws in Terrace Bay to write a halfway decent article about the introduction of bike lanes.  Booooring. 

Stiles wanted to get his Bachelors in Communication with a major of Journalism because he wanted to, like, expose political corruption or something.  He knew that probably wouldn’t happen right away, he’d have to work his way up the ranks of some newspaper or station until he got enough clout to be given free rein on what he wrote.  He liked having a problem he could sink his teeth into, something where he could dig and research until he found enough information that it made sense and he could understand it, solve it.  It was fun. 

What he didn’t like was being stuck in the library while Scott and Isaac were probably already home playing video games.  It didn’t help that the place was practically deserted, and that unless he got up every half an hour and waved his hands around the lights turned off on him. 

The third time it happened, Stiles emerged from the stack of books with a snarl and stomped over to his table.  Fuck this.  He’d check out the book on municipal laws he’d just found and take it to the coffee shop to read.  He could use some caffeine anyway. 

Heading out of the building, he zipped up his hoodie, vaguely wishing he’d thought to bring a warmer jacket.  The nights were getting cooler, and he realized with a sudden jolt that it was October.  If he were back in Beacon Hills they’d be getting ready for the Fall Carnival.  His mind skittered away from that thought as soon as it surfaced, unwilling to think about the stuffed pink lion that, as far as he knew, was still sitting on the floor of his old room, taking up far too much space.  It was a crappy carnival quality toy, and there was no point in keeping it.  Once he got home he’d get rid of it, just stuff it in a garbage bag and leave it on the curb.  The only reason he’d kept the stupid thing for so long was because it was the first thing that Derek had ever given him.  Dumb.  Maybe he’d give his dad a call this weekend and ask him to do it before Stiles came back for Thanksgiving, so it was gone before he’d have to look at it again.

And fuck, he’d been trying not to think about anything Derek-related and here he was, already at the café, with no memory of the walk over because he’d been too busy thinking about him.  Pathetic.

Stiles pushed open the door, glad to see that, like the library, it was nearly empty.  His favourite seat, a booth at the back beside a window, was free and he went over and put his backpack down before wandering up to the counter, fishing his wallet out of his back pocket.

“Hey, I’ll have—”

“—a large caramel macchiato with whipped cream and extra drizzle,” the barista behind the counter finished with a grin.

“Uh… yeah, thanks,” Stiles looked up in surprise.  “Do you remember everyone’s drink?”

The guy grinned wider, brown eyes twinkling.  “No.”

Stiles gave a self-depreciating laugh.  “I guess I come here too often then.”

“No,” he said as he took the bill Stiles handed over.  “Or at least that’s not why I remember what you like.”

Stiles felt himself flush as the barista handed him back his change.  Is this… was he…?

“I’m Ethan, by the way,” the barista—Ethan—continued as he moved to begin making Stiles’s drink.

“Stiles,” he managed to reply after a flustered pause.

“I know,” Ethan winked, disarming. 

“Right.”  Stiles swallowed, cheeks hot, not entirely sure what to do.  No one had ever flirted with him like this before.  Assuming he was right and that was what the barista was doing.  Flirting.  With Stiles.  Normal flirting—with winks and smiles and remembered names.  Not Alpha-werewolf flirting, which involved being pinned against walls and threatened.  This, this was decidedly un-threatening.

“Thank you,” he said when he took the coffee from Ethan. 

“You’re welcome.”  Ethan smiled again and Stiles nearly tripped over a chair as he made his way back to his table, blushing to the tips of his ears as he heard Ethan smother a laugh behind him.

 

He went back the next day, between classes so he didn’t have to stay long.  Ethan greeted him with a wave and a grin and put his order in before Stiles could even ask.  Stiles had smiled back, slow and uncertain, and this time it had been Ethan who’d ducked his head, blushing.

Stiles wasn’t sure what it meant.  What he wanted it to mean.  If he wanted it to mean anything.  He still woke up every morning with the thudding, hollow understanding that Derek Hale Didn’t Love Him.  He still couldn’t manage to get up, shower, get dressed and out the door without taking one of the small, white pills.  There was no being ‘over’ Derek.  No reality where he didn’t feel the confused ache of that loss a thousand times throughout the day. 

The pills helped, dulled the edges blunt in the morning and by the time he got home from school, well, whatever alcohol in the house helped smooth them over again until he could go to sleep, secure in the knowledge that there’d be another little white pill in the palm of his hand moments after his alarm would go off.  Not the best coping mechanism, he knew.  Not a great cycle.  He’d caught Isaac eyeing his alcohol intake and after that had taken pains to drink no more than Scott so that Isaac couldn’t say anything.  And if he kept a bottle of tequila in his room, well, that was between him and his conscience.   

 Which was remarkably clear.  A first, almost.  Since Scott had been turned, anyway. 

He hadn’t been asking about pack business.  He hadn’t been able to stomach the thought of hearing Derek’s name come out of Isaac or Scott’s or Jackson’s mouth and having to feel the wrenching hurt of not yours echo through his head.  He assumed someone would tell him if anything serious had happened, if there was anything he actually needed to know.  But Scott avoided any mention of Derek or Peter or pack.  Isaac had tried to bring up Marcus once, to tell Stiles what they’d found so far (nothing useful), but Stiles had stood up and walked out of the room.

So he didn’t know what they were doing to protect themselves.  He didn’t know what precautions Scott was taking, or whether Derek was still staying at the loft, or what kind of hoodoo Peter had cooked up, or if Deaton had been involved. 

He’d been having a surprisingly un-supernatural semester so far, and he planned to keep it that way.

Oh, a part of him was horrified. He knew he ought to be doing everything he could to help the pack—his pack—and Stiles felt bad about that.  He wasn’t a sidelines sort of guy, didn’t sit around waiting for things to happen.  Except now he was, and he did. 

He just… couldn’t get involved.  He couldn’t know or learn or research anything that might require him to be in the same room as Derek.  He was afraid of what he’d do if that happened.  Afraid of having to look Derek in the eye.  Afraid of not being able to stop himself from reaching out and touching what had been, for so long, unquestionably his.  Afraid of what it might do to him if he reached out and Derek stepped back.  Because that would break him.  That would destroy the last vestige of hope that Stiles was clinging to that this whole thing was a mistake, a ruse, a ploy to keep him safe.  But if Derek was there, if Derek was in front of Stiles and he looked at him with those quiet, sympathetic eyes that held only pity and no love, well… Stiles didn’t want to think about that.

So, he focused on his schoolwork, completed all his assignments on time, and did all of the readings.  He hadn’t missed a class or a tutorial since his first week, and he was even making an effort to show up on time.  He kept his room tidy, helped Isaac with the dishes, gave Scott a hand with his homework.  He hung out with Danny, bitched at Jackson, Skyped with Lydia, called his dad a couple times a week, and emailed Melissa.  It didn’t escape his notice that sometimes conversations stopped when he walked into a room, but he didn’t press.  He caught the occasional hushed phone call, the hurried text, and ignored them.

If it were important, they’d tell him.  And since they hadn’t him told, it wasn’t important, and he could go on pretending that he was a normal eighteen year old boy who didn’t have anything on his mind other than passing his midterms and a possible flirtation with a cute barista. 

If he pretended hard enough, for long enough, he thought maybe the feeling of being disjointed, shipwrecked, would go away.  He’d stop reaching in the night for someone who wasn’t there, stop getting halfway through sending a text before realizing that Derek wouldn’t care that Stiles thought his Astronomy professor might be a vampire. Maybe he’d even stop missing someone who clearly wouldn’t be missing him. 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Five

 

A Saturday in November, Stiles stumbled downstairs, pulling a t-shirt on over his pajama bottoms and rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.  The kitchen was deserted, with a note scrawled in Scott’s writing across the whiteboard Isaac had stuck on the wall, gone for a run.  Once a week or so Scott and Isaac picked up Jackson and the three of them drove to the edge of town.  They couldn’t run like they wanted to at the track at the college, or around the block like Stiles could.  Initially Stiles had been kind of bummed at being left behind, but now he just enjoyed having the house to himself for a couple hours.    

Humming under his breath, he opened the fridge and pulled out a jug of orange juice and a carton of eggs.  Grabbing a glass from the cupboard he filled it with juice, tipping it back and finishing it in one long swallow.  There was nothing as refreshing as a cold glass of O.J. first thing in the morning.  Still humming, he refilled the glass before sticking the juice back in the fridge and turning to pull out a frying pan.  Stiles Stilinski had a mind for eggs, sunny side up. 

Wondering if they still had bacon, Stiles opened the door and stuck his head back in the fridge.  After a second he made a low, pleased noise in his throat and pulled out half a pack.  He’d fry the bacon up first and then fry the eggs up in the bacon grease.  What a beautiful way to start a Saturday.

Pushing the frying pan onto the stove, Stiles reached up to grab a plate for the bacon and then had the sudden, dizzying sensation that he wasn’t alone in the kitchen.  Freezing mid-reach, he sucked in a breath, his fingers closing over the rim of a plate as he slowly lowered himself back to his feet.  He laid the plate carefully on the countertop, set the bacon on top of it, and reached for the drawer on his right.  Sliding it open, he selected a steak knife and gripped the handle tight in the palm of his hand. 

“If Marcus sent you, you can fuck right off,” Stiles commented as he turned around, knife steady in his hand.

But it wasn’t a strange werewolf standing in the doorway of the kitchen.  It was a werewolf he knew all too well.  Stiles’s heart gave a stuttering, painful leap.

“Derek?”

“Stiles.”

Stiles was finding it difficult to hear past the ringing in his ears.  He hadn’t seen Derek since Derek had told him he didn’t love him.  Stiles had gone out of his way not to see Derek.  He’d avoided pack meetings and even going back home to Beacon Hills on weekends.  And, despite all that, here Derek was.  Standing in Stiles’s kitchen.

“Scott and Isaac aren’t here,” Stiles managed, finally.  He couldn’t tear his eyes away from Derek’s face, drinking in the details of it like a drowning man. He knew it would kill him but his body was insisting it was air.

“I know.”  Derek stepped forward and Stiles tried to move back but bumped into the edge of the counter.

Derek’s eyes were an impossible green in the midmorning sunlight that streamed through the windows.  He’d let his stubble grow out some, until it was no longer just a suggestion of a beard but thick and black so that his framed lips looked even softer in comparison.  Stiles’s fingers clenched around the handle of the steak knife to stop himself from reaching out.

“Then why are you here?”

“I wanted to see you.”

“You—” Stiles broke off, shaking his head.  He finally realized that he was still holding the knife and put it down on the counter with a clatter.  “Why?”

“I just…” Derek looked away, body posture suddenly uncertain.  “I wanted to see how you were doing,” he finished softly, moving across the kitchen until he was standing in front of Stiles.  “How are you doing?”

Derek was close enough that Stiles could smell the warm leather of his jacket, the spice of the body wash he used.  Stiles’s heart was a hot, unmovable lump in his throat and before he knew what he was doing he closed the distance between them, sliding a hand past Derek’s open jacket and flattening his palm against Derek’s chest.  He could feel the heat of Derek’s skin through the fabric of the grey v-neck, feel the solid muscle rise and fall with Derek’s breath.

Stiles’s eyes moved up from where they’d been fixed on his hand, lying firm against Derek, to linger on Derek’s lips that parted under the scrutiny.  Stiles licked his own lips, felt Derek’s sudden, indrawn breath, and then Derek’s mouth was hot and wet and open against his, their tongues sliding together and Derek’s hands fisted in Stiles’s t-shirt.

Stiles didn’t know which of them had moved first. He didn’t care. He wanted nothing more than the feel of Derek’s skin naked against his.  He was pressed against the counter, the edge digging hard into his back. As Derek sunk his teeth into Stiles’s bottom lip, Stiles dragged Derek closer, arching shamelessly into him. 

“Bedroom,” Stiles gasped, as Derek broke their kiss to fix his mouth over the pulse in Stiles’s neck. 

“Right.”  Derek bit down and Stiles nearly slid to the floor, the feeling of Derek’s teeth leaving bruises as his tongue swirled over Stiles’s skin, making Stiles lightheaded.

Now.”  Stiles pushed Derek back, yanking his shirt over his head as he stumbled out of the kitchen.  He could hear Derek growl low in his throat, the sound sending a thrill up Stiles’s spine as Derek wrestled out of his jacket and followed Stiles up the stairs.

They barely made it into Stiles’s room before Derek was on him again. Stiles shuddered as Derek wrapped a hand around his throat and dragged him back until he was held flush against Derek.  Derek had managed to lose his shirt, as well as his jacket, and Stiles’s skin burned where it pressed against the naked panes of Derek’s chest.  Stiles opened his mouth—to say what, he wasn’t sure—but Derek’s hand on his throat tightened and all that escaped Stiles was an embarrassingly needy whimper.  He could feel Derek smirk against his skin as the werewolf pulled Stiles’s head back further and sucked a kiss onto the exposed line of his neck.

The hand that wasn’t tight on his throat spanned across Stiles’s chest, fingers reaching to brush lightly over one of Stiles’s nipples, tweaking it gently until it hardened under the touch and then twisting suddenly so that pain shot straight to Stiles’s cock and he couldn’t help the useless jerk of his hips into empty air.  Stiles’s hands came up to grip Derek’s arm—not to pull him away, but just to have something to hold on to when Derek twisted his fingers again and the sharp pleasure-pain made Stiles’s eyes roll back into his head and his knees weaken.

Derek closed his teeth around the delicate lobe of Stiles’s ear as his hand slid down Stiles’s chest to palm Stiles’s cock through the thin material of his pajama bottoms.  Stiles fought not to move, not to push into the delicious friction, as Derek’s fingers began to stroke, because he knew the hand hard on his throat meant that Derek wanted him to be still.  He could feel Derek’s own erection pressed against him through the fabric of his jeans and when Derek’s hips gave a slow roll, grinding himself into Stiles’s ass, Stiles had to bite into his lip to stop himself moving.

“Do you want this?”  Derek breathed against Stiles’s ear, breath hot and moist and causing Stiles to shiver despite himself. 

“Yes,” Stiles begged.  God, he wanted this.  Wanted Derek back, like this.  He knew Derek had been lying, knew there was no way Derek could just—but coherent thought made an abrupt departure when Derek’s hand slid Stiles’s pajama pants down so they fell in a pool at Stiles’s feet and then Derek’s fingers wrapped firmly around Stiles’s cock. 

Stiles’s head fell back against Derek’s shoulder, breath hitching before sliding out in a rush as Derek’s hand began to move.  Stiles couldn’t help the thrust of his hips forward and then back so his ass rubbed against Derek’s cock.  Derek gave a sharp hiss of indrawn breath and then his hands were gone, as was the press of his body against Stiles’s. 

Stiles swayed, unmoored by the sudden loss of contact.  It took a moment for him to re-orient himself, to catch his balance, and a protest was forming on the tip of his tongue when he turned around and realized Derek had stepped back to pull off his jeans and was now just as naked as Stiles.

His protest died, mouth gone dry even as he felt the wetness of precome bead on the head of his dick.  Derek’s own cock lay flush against his body, thick and heavy and Stiles knew how it would feel in his hands, in his mouth.  How the velvet softness of it would be such a thrilling contrast to the coarse hair that trailed down from Derek’s stomach.  His fingers flexed at his sides and he stepped out of his tangled pants, reaching for Derek before he was even conscious of his movement.

Derek stopped him before he could touch, pressing a firm hand against Stiles’s chest and pushing him back, nodding towards the bed with eyes that had gone dark, green irises swallowed up by black.    

“Yeah, yeah, okay,” Stiles swallowed, turning back and making his way to his bed on knees that felt like they might give out at any second.  He could hardly believe this was happening, that Derek had come back.  He sunk down onto the mattress, fisting his hands in the sheets so Derek wouldn’t see the tremble in his fingers. 

“What do you want, Stiles?”  Derek asked with his voice rough and edged with a growl that might not be entirely human.  “Tell me what you want.”  He pressed Stiles back against the bed, large body crowding up against Stiles and mouth hot as he leaned down and fixed it over the jut of Stiles’s collarbone.

It took Stiles a second to find his voice, to focus past the feel of Derek’s tongue and the rasp of his beard against his skin.  “I want to fuck you,” I want to have you.  He arched up, rubbing himself against Derek’s hip and feeling Derek’s cock press urgently against him.

Teeth closed around his flesh and Stiles made a strangled noise, rising off the bed and pushing Derek back, knowing he wouldn’t last if Derek kept that up.  Derek let himself be moved, let Stiles twist them so now it was Derek with his back against the mattress and Stiles rising above him, settling down over Derek’s thighs with a knee on either side.  Stiles reached past Derek, fingers clumsy as he dragged open the bottom drawer of his bedside table and pulling out a bottle of lube and a condom. 

Derek’s eyes shuttered for a second, icy blankness settling like snow, but they closed when Stiles’s fingers stroked over him, long and familiar.  Stiles ripped open the condom package, slid the condom down over Derek’s cock before grabbing the bottle and popping it open, slicking his own fingers till they glistened in the morning sunlight.  Stiles rose up, moving over Derek and pressing a finger into himself.  He bit back a low groan at the burn, hips jerking forward and another bead of precome sliding wetly down his cock as he pushed a second finger past the ring of muscle and into the heat of his own body. 

Under him, Derek’s eyes had opened and his lips were pulled back from his teeth in something that was almost a snarl.  The sight of Stiles on top of him, two fingers buried in his ass and his cheeks flushed red, mouth open and slack as he fucked himself, was too much. He grabbed Stiles’s hips, fingers digging in hard.  “Now,” Derek growled.

Stiles wasn’t quite ready, could have used another finger, more lube on Derek’s cock, but he wanted to feel this.  He pulled his fingers out, braced his hands on Derek’s chest and lowered himself down onto Derek.  The sensation of Derek’s blunt cockhead shoving past the resistance of Stiles’s body had Stiles gasping, nails digging into Derek hard enough that he could feel them break skin. 

Derek’s hands flexed on Stiles’s hips, but he let Stiles control the pace, let Stiles continue to push himself down onto Derek’s dick until he’d taken Derek into himself as far as he could.  Then, Stiles began to move.

He set a brutal pace, hips rising and slamming down, fucking himself onto Derek’s cock with an urgency that bordered on desperation.  His breath came out in short, jerky pants and his skin was slick with sweat; Derek’s fingers needing to dig in even harder to find purchase which only spurred Stiles on until he was crying out, frustrated and frantic.  The sound of flesh slapping against flesh filled the room, drowned out the sound of Stiles’s heartbeat thundering in his own ears.

He was close, so close but he needed something more.  The initial pain of taking Derek’s cock before he’d been ready had abated. His body had adjusted to the intrusion and the lube from his fingers ensured the glide was smooth.  But Stiles didn’t want smooth. He didn’t want this to be easy.  He wanted it to hurt, to leave marks.  He wanted to feel this moment in every movement of his body for days to come.  He wanted to know this was real.

“Come on, Derek,” he growled, lifting his hands from Derek’s chest to where Derek’s hands held his hips, pressing them more firmly into him.  Derek’s eyes flicked up to Stiles’s and whatever he saw there had his jaw tightening, fingers clenching and the sudden bite of claws piercing Stiles’s skin as Derek took over control.

Stiles’s mouth fell open and slack as Derek used his grip to fuck Stiles onto him.  He didn’t bother to thrust up and meet Stiles, just drove him down over and over again until Stiles cried out, entire body clenching around Derek as he came, spilling hot and wet over the both of them.  Derek kept fucking him through it, shoving Stiles down onto his cock until Stiles swayed bonelessly, having to hold himself up with a hand on Derek’s chest.  Derek shuddered and then he was coming, buried deep and pulsing in Stiles’s ass.

Stiles took a minute to catch his breath, body still shuddering slightly with the aftershocks, before dropping down to sprawl across Derek, heedless of the fact that they were both sticky with sweat and Stiles’s come. 

Oh, he’d missed that.  And he’d missed this, too.  His cheek was pressed close to Derek’s chest and he could hear Derek’s heartbeat start to slow and even out.  Stiles didn’t want to move, would have been happy to stay there forever, but Derek got cranky if he couldn’t clean up right away—god, he was such a neat freak.  Not that Stiles particularly liked come dried against his skin, but he would have been willing to make the sacrifice if it meant more time draped naked over Derek.

He pushed himself up slightly, turning to press a soft kiss to Derek’s collarbone, but Derek tensed suddenly beneath him.  He was probably getting ready to bitch about the come already.  With a little huff Stiles peeled himself completely off the werewolf and rolled off the bed.  “Hang on, I’ll get a washcloth.”

Stiles’s legs still felt more like rubber than bone, but he didn’t collapse on his way to the bathroom, so he was taking that as a plus.  He caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror—grinning and flushed—and bit his lip as a warm curl of happiness wrapped itself around his heart.  He grabbed a cloth and turned on the tap, waiting for the water to heat up.

“I guess it’ll be my turn to empty out a drawer for you,” he said, running the cloth under the water.  Derek did have a point, Stiles’s skin was starting to feel itchy and he’d be glad to wash it off.  “Do you want to be on the top, or bottom?”  He asked cheekily as he walked out of the bathroom, cupping a hand under the one carrying the cloth so he didn’t drip all over the carpet. 

He stopped abruptly though because Derek wasn’t lying naked in his bed anymore.  Derek was standing near the door and fastening the buttons on his jeans.  “Derek, what…?”

“I’m sorry,” Derek was shaking his head.  “This was a mistake.”

“A mistake?”  Stiles blinked, uncomprehending.  “What do you mean?  Where are you going?”  His voice rose alarmingly as Derek opened the door and stepped out into the hallway.  Stiles was clenching the cloth tightly in his fist, water running down his hand to drip steadily onto the carpet.  “Derek!”

Derek paused, reaching down and picking up the shirt he had discarded earlier.  “I’m not… I’m not staying, Stiles.  We’re not back together.  This was a—a lapse in judgment.  And I’m sorry. It’s my fault.  I should never have come over when I knew Scott and Isaac wouldn’t be here.”

“What are you saying?”  Stiles could hear how thick and choked his voice sounded, could feel the hot string of tears.  “This was just a fuck to you?  It didn’t mean anything?”

“Yes.”

Disbelief was a cold, hard wall thrown up in front of his heart.  “No.”

“Stiles—”

No,” the violence in his denial came as a shock even to Stiles.  “You know that’s not what this was.”

“I’m sorry.”  Derek turned and jogged down the stairs, and a second later the front door closed behind him.

Stiles stood in the middle of his room, naked and shocky with a creeping sensation of déjà vu.  This was happening again.  How was this happening again?  His hand holding the washcloth moved absently, wiping down his front and erasing all evidence of what had just occurred between him and Derek.  Gone, dissolved with a swipe or two of a wet towel. 

Not all gone, though, he realized dully as he bent down to retrieve his pajama bottoms.  There were ten throbbing bruises forming on his hips and, in the centre of each, the smallest pinprick of blood. 

So he hadn’t imagined it.  Hadn’t dreamed Derek back into his bed, his body.  It had happened.  But it hadn’t changed anything.  Derek still left.  Derek still didn’t love him. 

Stiles’s stomach twisted, a sudden swooping sensation of falling and he turned, stumbling blindly back into the bathroom, knocking his shoulder against the doorjamb before he dropped to his knees in front of the toilet.  He just managed to lift up the lid and the seat before he vomited, retching violently with his fingers clinging to the cold porcelain as though it could ground him. 

 He was shaking, his whole body covered in a thin sheen of sweat that immediately began to cool as the heaving stopped and he slumped down to the bathmat.  His mouth tasted sour, eyes stinging with either sweat or tears—he didn’t know, didn’t care.  Stiles lifted an unsteady hand to wipe his mouth, flushing the toilet before closing his eyes and resting his head back against the side of the bathtub. 

There was a dead weight in his chest that felt like it might pull him down through the floor.  Drag him under until the slightest movement felt like pushing against two tones of dirt.  He needed to get up, needed to stand because if he didn’t do something to combat it, didn’t block it off, wall it up, hide it away, he might never be able to function again.  And that was a revolting thought.  It was a sad, pathetic, broken kind of thought and Stiles wasn’t a sad, pathetic, broken kind of person.  He was better than that. He was more than that, right? 

Using the side of the tub he pushed himself to his feet.  Once again, his own face stared at him from the medicine cabinet mirror.  This time, though the pleased flush had vanished, the grin was nowhere to be seen.  His skin was pale, almost gaunt, and the eyes that had only minutes ago—minutes, how could it have been only minutes when it felt like his entire world had once again spun off course?—been lit up with happiness were now dull and hollow.  Stiles looked away as he swung the cabinet door open, unable to bear the sight of himself.  He reached for the orange bottle on the top shelf, a part of him already loosening, easing with the knowledge that in a moment or two he wouldn’t be feeling much of anything at all.

Twisting off the cap he dumped two pills into his hand.  And then, after a moment’s thought, dumped out two more.  He didn’t want to take any chances.  Didn’t want to take the risk that the raging howls of pain and bewilderment and hurt might push past the thin surface of his control.  He wanted to feel nothing.

“Stiles, what are you doing?”

Stiles jerked his head around, hand clenching around the pills he held as he surreptitiously placed the bottle back onto the shelf.  “Hey, Scott.”

“No,” Scott took a step into the bathroom, his gaze moving to where the orange bottle sat inside the cabinet.  “Don’t ‘hey Scott’ me.  What the fuck happened?  Why does it smell like—”

“Like Derek was here?  Like we fucked?”  Stiles felt his lips curl up in a way that felt unfamiliar, cruel.  “Because he was.  And we did.  Now fuck off.”

“No.  What are you doing?  What are you taking?”  Scott reached past Stiles and grabbed the bottle off the shelf.  “Painkillers?  What the fuck?”  He looked at Stiles with disbelief.  “Stop.”

“You’re not my Alpha, or whatever.  You don’t get to tell me what I can and can’t do.”  Stiles lifted his hand, bringing the pills up to his mouth but Scott moved quicker than Stiles could see, his hand a blur of motion until his fingers closed around Stiles’s wrist, halting its progress.

“Let me go,” Stiles’s voice was hard and unforgiving as he tried to pull his arm back.  “Let me go, now.”

“No.”  Scott repeated, again.  His eyes met Stiles’s and they were furious.  “Drop them.”

“I’m not going to—”  But Scott’s hand tightened, iron grip squeezing until Stiles could feel the bones in his wrist grind together and, with a muffled cry, he was forced to open his hand, the pills falling to the floor.  Scott released him and Stiles made to bend down and retrieve them but Scott pushed him back, scooping up the pills and tossing them into the toilet. 

“Hey!”  Stiles protested, lunging forward as Scott reached for the bottle.  “Scott, don’t—”

Scott turned to him, disgust written in every line in his body.  “Don’t?  Don’t, what?  Don’t let you take pills because you can’t deal with your shit?  Don’t let you destroy yourself because of Derek?  No.  Fuck you, Stiles, if you think I’m going to let you self-medicate with prescription pills.  I thought you were better than this.”  Scott twisted off the cap and emptied the bottle into the toilet and before Stiles could react he’d flushed it, the pills disappearing with the rush of water.  “I don’t care how hurt you are, I don’t care how sad and alone and sorry for yourself you’re feeling.  If I catch you taking this kind of shit again, I’m going to call your dad.”

“Scott—”

“I’m going to call your dad and then I’m going to call my mom.  And if you think they’re going to do anything other than send you to rehab until you can get over Derek fucking Hale without some kind of crutch, you’re wrong.”

“You wouldn’t—”

“Don’t push me, Stiles.”  Scott’s voice was low, dangerous, and there was an undercurrent of barely contained violence.  “If I’m not your Alpha, fine.  But I am your brother and that means I don’t give a shit if you hate me, as long as you’re alive.”

“Seriously?”  Stiles folded his arms over his chest, rolling his eyes.  “I think you’re blowing things a bit out of proportion.”

“Really?  Because from where I’m standing you’re dangerously close to becoming a drug addict.”

“Oh, come on.  I’m not.  I’m not addicted.”

“Good, then this should be the last conversation we have about this.”  Scott turned and walked out of the bathroom.

Stiles gave an inarticulate snarl of fury and slammed the cabinet door closed.  The mirror cracked under the force, but didn’t shatter.

Somehow, it all felt terribly anticlimactic.  

Chapter Text

Chapter Six

 

A week later, Stiles grabbed his large caramel macchiato with whipped cream and extra drizzle to go.  It wasn’t until he was sitting in his philosophy class beside Danny, trying not to fall asleep while the professor droned on, that he noticed that where it usually said ‘Stiles’ on the cup, this time it said ‘Ethan’.  And under that was a phone number.  Ethan’s phone number. 

Noticing Stiles staring, slightly dumbstruck, at his coffee, Danny leaned over.  He grinned when he saw the number, elbowing Stiles teasingly.  “Ethan, huh?”

“What?”  Stiles looked over, blinking.

“Ethan from the coffee shop?  He’s cute,” Danny smirked.  “I guess he thinks you’re cute too.”

“I… uh, yeah.”  Stiles could feel his cheeks heat up a little. 

“You should call him.”

“I’m not going to call him!”  Stiles hissed, glancing up to make sure the professor was too focused on his PowerPoint slides to notice them talking.

“Why not?”

“We’re in class, Danny.”  Duh.

“So text him.”

“I can’t text him.”

“Why not?”

“Because—” Because Stiles lived with two werewolves.  Because Stiles had never just been given someone’s number, so he didn’t know what to do with one.  Because he didn’t know how normal people dated.  Because he had a broken heart that he didn’t think would ever not be broken.  Because Derek.

“Oh, come on. It’s been, like, months.” 

Because his friend Danny had apparently joined the ranks of the supernatural as a mind reader.

“Besides, if you don’t text him he might spit in your coffee next time you go in.”

“He’s not going to spit in my coffee!”  Ew.  Ethan wouldn’t do that.  Would he?

“You never know,” Danny shrugged, raising an eyebrow.  “It’d be rude not to at least text him and let him know you got his number.”

“It’s not a good idea, okay?”  Stiles shifted uncomfortably in his seat.  “I mean, what would I even say?  ‘Hi. Got your number. Sorry I can’t date you because I’m a mess after being dumped?  Oh, and by the way, werewolves’.”

“Stiles,” Danny rolled his eyes, “You don’t have to date the guy.”

“You’re saying I should just sleep with him?  I don’t think that’s going to help anything.  Thanks though, really.” Stiles tried to keep the sarcasm to a minimum but didn’t quite manage.  Like fucking someone else would magically make him feel all better.

“Nothing else has helped, has it?  Maybe you just need to remember that Derek—”

Stiles flinched at his name but Danny ignored him.

“—isn’t the only person you’re ever going to be with.  That you can be happy with other people—even if it is only for an hour or two.”

“Danny Mahealani, life coach,” Stiles muttered under his breath.  Danny just shrugged and turned back to his notes.

Stiles waited until it looked like Danny was too focused on his—surprisingly well done—doodle of a classic wolfman to notice and then he surreptitiously wrote down Ethan’s number on the corner of his notes.  He wasn’t going to do anything with it.  But he didn’t want to throw away the number with the cup. 

Just in case.

He took another sip of coffee and tried to focus on what the professor was saying, but as had been the norm this last week he couldn’t seem to keep his mind still enough to pay attention.  There was too much going on and, without the aid of his painkillers, Stiles couldn’t block it out. 

His fight with Scott was still ugly and fresh. The two of them were barely able to grunt ‘hello’ in the morning with out one or both of them flaring up over an imagined slight.  Stiles wasn’t sure he could forgive Scott for flushing the pills.  Sure, he knew taking them wasn’t really a great strategy and that it could have become a problem.  But it hadn’t.  Scott just hadn’t trusted him enough to let Stiles deal with it on his own.  He’d overreacted, completely blown up, and had assumed he knew what was best for Stiles.

Which was bullshit.

And now Stiles couldn’t mask the hurt of Derek leaving.  Especially now that it was not once but twice Derek had left him.  And both times in that bedroom, with the dark grey walls that Stiles was beginning to hate.  He’d been stupid to hold out the hope that Derek hadn’t meant it the first time, because it was obvious after last week that he had.  If Stiles had ever meant anything to Derek there was no way Derek could have done that to him.  No way he could have hurt him again like that.  You didn’t hurt the people you loved.  You just didn’t.

Which meant Stiles felt just as raw and ragged and exposed as he had after their initial breakup, and now, thanks to Scott, he was being forced to feel it without pharmaceutical interference.

Thankfully Stiles didn’t think Scott had said anything about the pills to anyone else.  Although he might have told Isaac, who continued to watch Stiles with cautious eyes.  It was as if, out of the three of them, it was the human and not the werewolves who might do something dangerous.  If it didn’t make Stiles’s skin itch with annoyance he would have found it funny.  Not that Scott would have had to tell Isaac, Stiles supposed.  Scott had been yelling loud enough for another human in the house to have heard, let alone a werewolf. 

Danny hadn’t said anything though, and Stiles was pretty sure if Jackson knew—about Derek’s visit or the pills—he wouldn’t let Stiles live any of it down.  So at least Scott had kept what had happened to himself, for the most part.  Only one betrayal instead of two, then.  How nice.

The sudden shuffle of bags and notebooks brought Stiles’s attention back to the classroom and out of his own head.  Gathering his things, he drank the rest of the coffee—now unpleasantly lukewarm—before tossing the cup in the bin on the way out of the classroom.  Behind him Danny gave a long, dramatic sigh, and Stiles flipped him the bird as he made his way to his next class. 

 

That night, as he had every night for the last week, Stiles sat slumped in his desk chair staring at the bed.  The first thing he’d done that Saturday after he’d emerged from his room was to take the sheets he’d stripped from the bed and stuff them in the washer.  He’d run them through twice, determined to get any last trace of Derek out of them.

But later that evening when he’d forced himself to put them back on the bed, made himself crawl under the sheets, he could have sworn Derek’s scent was still caught in the fabric.  So the next night he’d washed them again.  And again and again and again and now it was the fifth night in a row that he’d stripped and washed and remade his bed and still been unable to sleep in it.  He’d lie there, staring up at the white ceiling, or on his side at the grey wall, or on his other side at the room—desk, chair, bookcase, bathroom—and wait for the sound of his alarm.

Not for the first time Stiles wondered what would happen if he crawled into Scott’s bed.  If Scott would recognize that all Stiles needed was comfort and arms wrapped around him and if he’d let Stiles stay there until he fell asleep.  But he couldn’t bring himself to do it.  To walk down the hall and knock on Scott’s door and ask to spend the night in his bed.  Because Scott had flushed his pills and Scott wasn’t talking to him and Stiles was mad at Scott and he didn’t want to admit that he couldn’t sleep in his own fucking bed because all he could think about was Derek.

So he sat in the uncomfortable wooden chair, staring at the bed and wondering what it would take to reclaim it.  What it would take to make the bed, the room, feel like they were his again. 

Though he fought not to do it, fought to ignore the pull, resist the urge, Stiles’s gaze was drawn irresistibly away from the bed and to the small drawer on the right hand side of the desk.  He’d shoved the silver charm in it, hidden it under a mess of paper and sharpies and half-filled notebooks.  He’d wanted to throw it out, had actually tossed it into the kitchen trash and carried it out to the back lane, only to have gone back two hours later frantic and near tears digging through the garbage until he’d found it again.

Stiles closed his eyes and dropped his head into his hands, weariness aching in his bones.  He was so tired.  He kept hoping if he were exhausted enough, if his body needed it enough, he’d sleep.  And he did.  In fits and starts.  On the bus, midway through class, watching a movie with Isaac.  But never here.  Never when he needed it the most.

Bringing his head up, he stared again at the bed with eyes that were bruised and hollow.  He couldn’t keep going on like this.  He had to do something.  Had to stop thinking about how things could be better or different or what he could do and just fucking do something.  Running a hand through his hair he got up, crossed the room, and began to pull books off the bookshelf Derek had built. 

 

Two hours later and Stiles stood panting in the middle of his room.  The bookcase was gone, dragged out into the hallway and then (with help from Isaac who’d tentatively asked if Stiles needed a hand with it) carried down the stairs and out the back alley where it leaned drunkenly beside the garbage bins, its shelves stacked unceremoniously inside of it.  Stiles had thanked Isaac and then gone back upstairs and shut the door.  He’d then proceeded to drag his bed from under the window to against the wall where the bookshelf had stood, pushed his desk across the room and under the window, and moved his dresser to the wall beside the door where his desk had stood.  Without a bookcase his books were lined up along the baseboards on either side of his desk, and when he sank down to the mattress he felt a little spark of pleasure at how he’d now be looking at his desk and the window and his books when he sat on his bed.  Eventually he’d have to get some more bookshelves, and maybe when he was down in Beacon Hills for thanksgiving that weekend he’d go with his dad for some.  He wouldn’t get one tall one again, though.  Maybe two short ones that could stand on either side of his desk so it’d still be flanked with books and he’d still be able to see them from his bed. 

Stiles fell back against the bed and grinned up at the ceiling.  He felt good.  Exhausted, and sure to be sore tomorrow from dragging the furniture around his bedroom, but good.  Like he’d done something.  Accomplished something.  Done a thing for himself that yeah, okay, had initially been about Derek.  It had been about Derek’s presence in his room, but once the bookcase was out it was like a weight had been lifted.  The most obvious reminder of Derek was gone and so instead of thinking about what he would see and how it would make him think of Derek, Stiles found himself thinking about what he’d like to see from his bed, from his desk. 

There was a knock on his door and Stiles pushed himself up.  “I’m okay, Isaac. I don’t need any more help.”

“Not Isaac.”  Scott pushed open the door, standing there awkwardly.  He held out an opened bottle of beer for Stiles.  “Peace offering?”

Stiles hesitated a second for nodding.  “I could get used to this, you know, you bringing me booze.”

Scott rolled his eyes and crossed the room, passing Stiles the beer and bringing his own up to his lips as he sat cross-legged on the floor with his back against the relocated dresser.  “It just sounded like you could use a beer after all your hard work.”  He looked around.  “I like what you’ve done with the place.”

“Thanks.” Stiles raised his bottle in a mini salute. 

“I’m sorry about—”

“Don’t.”  Stiles cut Scott off, not able to meet his gaze.  “It’s fine.  You weren’t… well, I’m not saying I’m okay with what you did, but I get why you did it.  So.”

Scott relaxed a little, leaning back more comfortably.  “Okay.”

“Okay.”

They drank for a minute or two in silence and Stiles tried not to think about how much he’d missed this.  He hated fighting with Scott.  They didn’t do it frequently, but when they did… it always felt like a part of him was missing.  Not like how it did with Derek, how it felt like Derek had taken a chunk of Stiles and walked away with it, leaving behind a ragged-edged void.  But, when Scott wasn’t there, it was like Stiles didn’t have legs and kept forgetting about it.  Like he’d get up and fall over and lie there for a second, utterly bewildered, because of course he had legs. He had always had legs, so how could he suddenly not? 

He was glad to have his legs back. 

“Alright,” Stiles let out a long breath, “I guess you’d better tell me what’s going on with the pack.  With Marcus.”  It’d been too long with him not knowing. 

“Yeah,” Scott lifted his bottle to his lips to try and hide the grin that was spreading over his face, “I guess I’d better.”

 

After Scott had left, taking their empty bottles with him, Stiles had walked over to his desk and pulled out a battered notebook from the bottom drawer.  Flipping it open, he sat down at the desk, grabbed a pen, and began to jot down notes on a page with the name MARCUS scrawled across the top.

He’d started keeping a, well, a journal he guessed he could call it, of all the supernatural crap they’d encountered after they had used Gerard’s bestiary to find out what the hell the lizard thing (aka Kanima) was.  The bestiary was great and all—but it was in archaic Latin and even though Lydia now had her own copy on a USB and was translating it in her free time, it was still a bitch to try and pull information out of.  Stiles hoped this would be easier and more useful since, let’s face it, it wasn’t like he’d be leaving said supernatural crap behind anytime soon.  Not with his entire social circle all wrapped up in it. 

This way, if they ever ran into a Kanima or a hyper-aggressive werewolf again, Stiles could flip back and see what they’d done about it the last time.  And maybe that way they’d have an easier go of it the second time around.

Not that he hoped they would need to consult it ever—if he had his way there wouldn’t be any more supernatural crap ever again—but it would be stupid not to be prepared.  And Stiles wasn’t stupid.  He didn’t really need to keep a written record of anything for himself, having near-perfect recall, but he wasn’t an idiot.  If something happened to him, if he got seriously hurt, or died, or… or… his brain started to go, then the pack would need something like this.  Backup Stiles. 

Which was why he was using a real, physical notebook and not a word document on his computer.  This would be much easier to find in the event of his untimely demise. 

They still didn’t know that much about Marcus, nothing really helpful anyway.  But enough background that Stiles knew the Alpha was a serious threat.  Peter had managed to track him down on the website—apparently he went by the username Ra_Venous—and from there Peter had been able to piece together Marcus’s background.

Marcus Laroque had been relatively unremarkable, as far as werewolves go, until sometime last year.  Then, apparently without warning (as far as Peter could tell), he’d killed the Alpha of his pack.  And not just any Alpha, but his own father.  There’d been some kind of backlash from the other members of his pack but the dissenters had obviously been quelled because, only days after Marcus had taken over, the Oakridge pack had gone from fourteen members to ten.

Marcus hadn’t stopped there though.  Apparently unsatisfied with the size of his pack and his territory, Marcus had moved in on the next pack closest to his.  He’d killed the Alpha—how, Peter hadn’t been able to find out—and suddenly Marcus had commanded a pack of sixteen wolves. 

Now, it seemed like Beacon Hills was next on his list.

Stiles made a final note to remind himself to ask either Scott or Isaac to print off a list of names of the members of Marcus’s pack from the directory on the site, and then closed the notebook.  He’d talk to them tomorrow.  It was already getting kind of late and there was still one more thing he wanted to do before going to bed. 

He bent down to grab his backpack and fished out his philosophy notebook, turning to the page where he’d written down Ethan’s phone number.  He wasn’t sure if this was a good idea, wasn’t sure why something so innocuous as a phone number left him feeling jittery, but he needed to make some kind of effort to move past Derek.  And, like Danny had pointed out, it couldn’t hurt.

Right?

Stiles created a new contact with Ethan’s name and number and then stuffed his notebook back into his bag and sat, staring at the phone, suddenly feeling less sure of himself.  Should he call?  Text?  He had no idea what the proper etiquette for something like this was.  Drumming his fingers restlessly against the desk he checked the time—and realized it was a lot later than he’d thought it was.  Past eleven already, and a school night at that. 

Okay.  Texting it was.

Sucking in a deep breath, Stiles tapped quickly at the keyboard and hit ‘send’ before he could second-guess himself.

 

Hi, Ethan.  It’s Stiles.

 

It was short.  Was it too short?  Would Ethan even text back?  Should he have said something different?  Should he have waited until tomorrow?

Unable to sit still any longer, Stiles got to his feet, pacing in front of his desk.  He should have waited.  After all this whole thing with his room and the book case, that had been about making it easier for him to sleep.  Dumb to text someone so late at night and then be awake anxiously waiting for a reply.

Just as he was about to give up, turn his phone to silent and crawl into bed and ignore it till the next day, it rang.  An actual ring.  Not the single vibration of a text, but an actual ring of an actual phone.  Stiles stared at the screen blankly for a second, at Ethan’s name, and then hurried to swipe his thumb over to answer.

“Hello?”

“Hi,” the voice on the other end of the line was warm, confident and amused,  “You sound surprised.”

“I—” Stiles ran a nervous hand through his hair, resuming his pacing.  “I didn’t think you’d call. No one actually uses phones as phones anymore.”  Uh-oh, did that sound ungrateful?  “Not that—”

Ethan laughed and Stiles could picture his brown eyes sparkling like they did when they caught sight of Stiles in line for coffee.  Stiles’s mouth felt dry, and he wasn’t sure what to make of that.  Whether it was just nerves or something more.

“I don’t call.  Normally.  But, well,” there was an embarrassed pause.  “I like you, Stiles.  And you don’t always come in on Friday mornings—”

(Because inevitably Stiles was running late on Fridays.)

“—So I wasn’t sure if I’d see you tomorrow.  And there’s this party.  Tomorrow night.  I thought you might want to come?”

“Tomorrow night,” Stiles repeated, his mind blank.  Ethan was inviting him to a party.  On a Friday night.  Was that a date?  Was he asking Stiles for a date?

“Yeah.  My brother, Aiden, he’s into that kind of thing.  He’s having some sort of thanksgiving party at our place—”

“A thanksgiving party?”  Stiles interrupted, slightly incredulous.

“I know, it sounds stupid.  But he’ll take any excuse to get drunk and play loud music,” Ethan explained.  “He’s calling it the ‘Turkey Tourney’ and there’s a competition for best turkey costume and… that probably sounds horrible, I’ve never said it out loud before,” embarrassment coloured Ethan’s voice.  “You know what, forget I asked.”

“No, no,” Stiles was grinning.  “That actually sounds amazing.  I’d like to go.”

“Yeah?”  Ethan sounded like he was grinning as well.  “Awesome.  You can bring a friend or two, if you want.”  He gave Stiles the address, Stiles scribbling it down on his philosophy notes, and told him to show up around ten.

“Okay, thanks.  I’ll see you tomorrow, then.” Stiles was surprised by how casual he sounded.  Like he got invited to parties by good-looking baristas all the time.

“I look forward to it.  Good night, Stiles.” And Ethan hung up.

           

“You and Allison,” Stiles said without preamble as he shoved open the door to Scott’s room.  “You guys hooked up at a party, right?”

“What?”  Scott twisted around in his desk chair as Stiles dropped gracelessly on top of his bed. 

“Like, that’s where the two of you became a thing, right?”  Stiles was fidgeting with Scott’s comforter, and not quite meeting Scott’s eyes.

“Yeah, I guess.  I mean, I sort of ran off on her and then Derek had to take her home and she wound up—”

“Okay, but,” Stiles interrupted with a roll of his eyes,  “Minus the stupid werewolf drama, that was, like, a date.”

Scott shrugged, turning back to his computer.  “I kinda thought it was, yeah.”  Man, he hadn’t thought about that party in forever.  It was hard to believe how different everything had been only a week or two before that night.  How he’d just been a regular, stupid high school kid who didn’t want anything except to get off the bench in a lacrosse game.  He wondered what that version of him would think of who he was now.  He was willing to bet he’d never have pictured himself as a freaking werewolf (and not just an average werewolf—if there were such a thing as an ‘average werewolf’—but an Alpha werewolf) and a freshman in college working on a degree in criminal justice. 

It was crazy to think that back then he’d had no idea about this whole other supernatural world.  Even after the bite, when he knew things were starting to get weird, his biggest focus had been wondering how he’d get to kiss Allison. 

There was a soft twinge of sadness at that thought.  It was somewhere between a wry mingling of regret and that odd feeling you got when you remembered what it was like to be so stupidly hopeful about a thing.  He’d never imagined that he and Allison would end like this.  Not that he’d really been capable of imagining them together before that night.  When he had it’d been all shy handholding and corsages at prom and maybe getting a hand up her shirt eventually.  They’d surpassed that stage of things pretty quickly, and Scott had to bite back a grin as he remembered the hot and heavy make out sessions they’d had on her bed while her parents—

“Scott?  Hello?”

Scott snapped back to the present at the sound of Stiles’s annoyed voice. Obviously he’d been trying to get Scott’s attention for a minute or so.  “Sorry, dude.  What?”

“Someone’s asked me to a party,” Stiles said in a rush.  “And I don’t know if it’s like, a date.”

Scott felt his face freeze and he had to force himself to pull his lips up in a grin.  “Yeah?  Dude, that’s awesome.”  He wondered if Stiles could hear the strain in his voice, and hoped not. 

“Is it?”  Stiles sat up, chin in hands and looked imploringly at Scott.  “How do I know if it’s a date?”

“Well, do you want it to be a date?”

“I don’t know…” Stiles looked away. 

“When is it?” 

“When is what?”

“The party, dumbass.”

“Oh.”  A pause.  “Tonight.  Do you want to come?” 

Scott laughed.  “Yeah, right.  I’ve got to get this assignment emailed by midnight and it’s already six pm and I haven’t even finished the reading.  Besides, I thought you said it was a date?”

Stiles gave a groan of frustration and flopped back, staring up at the ceiling.  “I said I don’t know if it’s a date.  And he said I could bring a friend.”

“Wait—he?”

“Yes.  Ethan.  From the café.”

“Oh.”  Scott frowned.  He didn’t have a problem with Stiles dating guys, obviously, but he hadn’t realized it was guys Stiles was into and not just Derek.  Speaking (or, thinking) of, he really, really hoped Derek wouldn’t find out about Ethan from the café.  “Hold on—is it a date if you can bring a friend?”

“I don’t know!” Stiles exclaimed.  “That’s the problem.”

“Hmm.”  Scott frowned, thinking.  “You should ask Danny to go with you.”  Danny was gay.  And if Derek wasn’t just an exception for Stiles then maybe Stiles could use a friend who understood. 

Stiles made a thoughtful noise from the bed.  “Do you think he’s free tonight?  I mean it’s already, like, Friday evening. He probably has plans.”

Not anymore, he doesn’t.  Scott surreptitiously pulled out his phone and sent a text, shamelessly utilizing his werewolf super-speed so that it was typed and sent before Stiles even realized he was on his phone.  “You should give him a call.  I’m sure he’s free.”

“Okay, yeah.”  Stiles pushed himself to his feet.  “I will.  Thanks, Scott.”  He patted his friend on the shoulder as he walked past, heading out of the room to go and track down his phone.  “Good luck on your assignment.”

“Have fun,” Scott called after Stiles as he made his way down the hallway.  Scott rubbed a hand over his face as he turned back to his computer.  God, he hoped Stiles had fun.  Hoped he had fun, was actually on a date with this Ethan, and managed to forget about Derek for a night, at least.  Scott was tired of having to pretend he couldn’t hear Stiles tossing and turning through the night.  That he didn’t see the dark circles under Stiles’s eyes growing bigger every day. 

Letting out a long, slow breath and trying not to think about how much of this was actually his fault, Scott picked up his highlighter and focused back on the textbook in front of him.  Through the wall, he could hear Stiles ask Danny if he was busy tonight.  

Chapter Text

Chapter Seven

 

Stiles fought the urge to rub at the handprint of paint on his right cheek.  It was itchy, and he should never have let Danny put a handprint turkey on his face.  No one looked remotely attractive with a fucking turkey on their face.  But he’d made the mistake of mentioning the theme of Ethan’s brother’s party to Danny, and Danny’s face had lit up, this almost manic gleam in his eye, and suddenly he was slapping a paint covered hand to Stiles’s cheek and telling him to sit still and stop twitching or he would smudge it. 

Stiles glanced sideways out of the corner of his eye at Danny and reflected that he should maybe just consider himself lucky that he’d escaped with only various thanksgiving shades of paint.  He’d refused point blank to let Danny add googly eyes. He already had two eyes on his face and did not need another set.  Danny, on the other hand, had taken the ridiculous theme to heart and was sporting a pair of tight yellow jeans, with what appeared to be a full set of turkey tail-feathers fastened above his ass, a brown t-shirt equally as tight as his pants, and a Perry the Platypus ball cap he’d painted brown to cover the green.  It really should have looked ridiculous.  Utterly, stupidly ridiculous, but Stiles was forced to admit that (somehow, impossibly) Danny did pull it off. 

“Don’t touch it!” Danny warned when Stiles’s hand tried to creep up to his cheek to scratch.  “It looks good, but it won’t look good if you mess it up.”

Stiles rolled his eyes but obediently stuffed his hands into the pockets of his red hoodie.  He’d seen it in the mirror before they left Danny’s dorm, and the turkey looked silly, not good.  Okay, maybe the dark orange paint added a warm sort of glow to his skin.  And the dark brown brought out his eyelashes in a weird way. Stiles couldn’t understand how it worked, but suddenly they seemed, well, lush, which was dumb.  And then there was the gold-flecked liquid eyeliner (that battle he’d lost) that Danny had used in a couple different places to ‘highlight’ or whatever.  And yeah, he guessed the glitter—glitter, ug—made his brown eyes sort of a luminous gold when it caught the light.  Which was actually kind of cool.  And so yeah, fine, maybe he understood why girls liked wearing makeup. 

But he still thought it was dumb that he had to have a turkey on his face.

“What’s the address again?”

Stiles rattled it off, pulling his phone out of his pocket to check the Google map.  “It should be just around the corner.”

And sure enough, as they turned the corner they spotted Ethan’s place.  Even without knowing the address it would have been difficult to miss.  Someone—Aiden, Stiles assumed—had found a giant blow-up turkey and stuck it on the front lawn where it bobbed gently in the cool breeze, illuminated by a large, orange spotlight. 

“Awesome,” Danny grinned, teasing.  “Who knew your barista-boy threw such cool parties?”

Stiles elbowed him, scowling.  “Don’t call him that.”

They crossed up the driveway to the door and when Stiles hesitated, fingers hovering over the doorbell, Danny laughed, shoved him aside, and pushed the door open.

They’d been able to hear the throb of the bass from the end of the street and, now that they were inside, Stiles could feel it in his bones.  Everywhere he looked people were sporting multiple shades of orange, feathers, and there was at least one girl wearing what looked like actual turkey drumsticks on her chest.  Danny whooped and pulled a beer out of their six pack before shoving the rest at Stiles. Then he vanished into the crowd, his tail feathers wagging merrily behind him.

“Great,” Stiles muttered, suddenly feeling very underdressed.  Maybe he should have let Danny talk him into wearing his own turkey tail.  Trying not to meet anyone’s eye he inched further into the house, intent on finding a fridge or an ice bucket where he could stash the beer.

He’d thought about bringing a bottle of wine since he greatly preferred that to beer, but ‘wine’ still said ‘Derek,’ so he’d halted that idea in its tracks. 

“Stiles!”  A pleased voice sounded from above him and, startled, Stiles glanced up to see Ethan leaning over the second floor balcony.  “Stay there, I’m coming down.”

“Uh, sure?” Stiles banished all thoughts of Derek from his head and tried to focus on Ethan coming down the stairs.  Which wasn’t hard, considering he was seemingly the only person in the house not dressed like a turkey.  Ethan was, in fact, wearing a chef’s smock and hat, and, to top it all off, carrying a turkey baster.

“I like your costume,” Stiles said with a laugh as Ethan finally appeared in front of him.

“Thanks,” Ethan grinned, unabashed,  “I thought I’d go for something different.”

“It looks great,” Stiles offered, trying to ignore the way Ethan’s muscular body filled out the crisp white fabric.

“So do you,” Ethan brought a hand up before Stiles could move, and traced lightly over the paint on Stiles’s cheek.  Stiles’s breath caught in his throat, held there as Ethan’s fingers glided over his skin.  “Very sexy.  For, you know, a turkey.”

Stiles choked on a laugh.  “Thanks. Thanks for that.”

“Anytime,” Ethan replied with a wink, dropping his hand.  His eyes moved down to where Stiles held the six pack.  “Is that all you brought?”

“Yeah.  I mean, I’m sharing with my buddy Danny who’s…” Stiles scanned the crowd but couldn’t see Danny.  “Well, here, somewhere.”

“Sharing?” Ethan said incredulously.  “Trust me, you’re going to need more than three bottles of beer to get through a turkey party.  Come on,” he reached down and grabbed Stiles’s free hand with his, closing his fingers tight.  “I’ll show you where the kitchen—and the keg—is.”

 

Several hours later Stiles found himself sprawled drunkenly beside Ethan on the other boy’s bed, arguing heatedly over Jack Harkness’s deadly choice at the end of Torchwood’s Children of Earth series.

“He didn’t have to do it,” Ethan was insisting, twisting up on an elbow to talk to Stiles, whose head was at the other end of the bed.  “He should have found another way.”

“No,” Stiles disagreed vehemently.  “It was the only way.  He did the only thing he could.”  He propped himself up to look back at Ethan, trying to ignore the way the lower half of Ethan’s body was pressed up alongside his own. 

“He killed his own grandson!”  Ethan’s cheeks were flushed, whether from the beer or… something else, Stiles wasn’t sure. 

“Sacrificed,” Stiles corrected, pulling himself up so that he was sitting upright and able to focus on Ethan’s face more easily.  “Jack’s the guy who makes the hard choices.  The ones no one else can make, but someone has to,” he leaned in closer to emphasize his point.  “Gryffindor.”  He wondered if anyone had ever told Ethan that his eyes were the exact shade of brown of good, hot coffee just before you added cream.  Rich and dark and burning.

“You’re wrong,” Ethan pushed himself up as well so he and Stiles were now face to face.  “Slytherin.”  His breath ghosted against Stiles’s cheek and Stiles swallowed.

“It’s brave,” Stiles murmured, not even sure if Ethan could hear him with the music still pounding loudly through the house, overwhelming even with Ethan’s bedroom door closed.  “Making the tough calls.  It’s brave.”

“It’s ruthless.” Ethan moved closer and Stiles stilled, but all Ethan did was reach past Stiles for the red solo cup of beer he’d placed on the bedside table, pulling back to bring it to his lips. 

Stiles’s mouth felt suddenly dry as he watched Ethan tilt the cup back and swallow.

“You want some?” Ethan asked, lowering the cup as he licked a drop of beer from his lips.  Stiles nodded, unable to look away from Ethan’s mouth.  Ethan passed the cup to Stiles and Stiles blinked, trying to clear his head as he took a long drink, the cold beer clearing his head slightly. 

Cup empty, Stiles twisted around to place it on the table. When he turned back Ethan moved, crawling up between Stiles’s legs so that Stiles could now feel the heat of him. Something clenched low in Stiles’s belly as he unconsciously parted his legs so Ethan could move closer.

His eyes dropped once again to Ethan’s lips and he felt his own lips part, tongue darting out to wet them.

He was drunk, drunker than he’d been in a long time.  It wasn’t a sad, alone-in-his-room-mourning-his-breakup drunk, but a fun, giddy, party drunk.  He was drunk and spread out over another guy’s bed and it was thanksgiving break and there was a painted turkey on the side of his face and Ethan’s chef’s smock was half-unbuttoned and Stiles could see the smooth line of muscled chest and he wanted to reach out and run his fingers down it and see how much of Ethan was smooth.  He could feel himself hard in his jeans and Ethan’s lips were so close to his and before Stiles could think better of it he’d closed the distance between them.

Ethan’s lips opened greedily against his and Ethan’s tongue swiped against his own as Ethan pressed him back against the bed, his hands running up Stiles’s sides and parting Stiles’s unzipped hoodie so they could skim over his ribs. Stiles could feel them warm and rough through the fabric of his t-shirt.  Stiles’s fingers fumbled with the remaining buttons on Ethan’s costume, his senses overwhelmed with the intensity of the kiss.

Then, finally, there was nothing between his hands and Ethan’s naked skin and it was hot, so hot under his palms and Stiles bit off a moan as Ethan’s mouth moved from his to press wet and open against his neck.  Ethan rose briefly to shuck off the smock before coming back down to push Stiles’s hoodie halfway down his arms so he had better access to Stiles’s throat.

Stiles arched up as Ethan’s weight settled heavily between his legs, feeling the line of Ethan’s cock hard against his hip.  Ethan groaned as Stiles pushed up into him and he ground himself down onto Stiles as his lips fastened back against Stiles’s throat and, suddenly, bit. 

Stiles bucked, fingers digging bruisingly hard into the soft flesh of Ethan’s hips as he felt teeth close around him.  Ethan gave a slight shudder and suddenly Stiles realized his hold was probably too rough, too tight, and he let go immediately.  He wasn’t used to human skin, hadn’t ever had to worry about leaving bruises or hurting Derek because Derek would heal within seconds.  So Stiles had gotten used to being careless, secure in the knowledge that he couldn’t accidentally hurt because compared to Derek his strength was nothing.  But this wasn’t Derek.  And Stiles’s strength wasn’t nothing because he was strong now.  Not werewolf strong. Not even, like, Argent strong.  But stronger than he used to be.  And this wasn’t Derek.  Oh god, this wasn’t Derek this was some poor, naive human who worked in a coffee shop and who Stiles had hurt just now because he was used to running with—to fucking—werewolves. 

Werewolf.

Ethan had moved from Stiles’s throat and was mouthing at his collarbone, and Stiles pressed his hands to Ethan’s shoulders and pushed him off.

“Stiles, what--?” Ethan was asking, brown eyes wide and hurt and bewildered.

“I’m sorry,” Stiles scrambled off the bed, pulling his hoodie back up and stuffing his fingers into his pockets, not trusting himself.  “I can’t.  I can’t do this.”

He’d thought he was fine.  Or numb, at least.  Numb without the help of drugs or booze.  And numb and fine were the same, if you really thought about it.  He’d thought maybe he could do like Danny had suggested—that fooling around with Ethan would be harmless, would maybe help.  But it wasn’t harmless because Stiles wasn’t harmless.  He’d hurt, and he was hurt, and why did he think that he could do this and that it wouldn’t, somehow, all lead back to Derek?

“I’m sorry, Ethan, really, I…” but he couldn’t bear to finish. He couldn’t stay in this room with Ethan half-naked with flushed skin that probably had bruises dug into it if Stiles could bring himself to look but he couldn’t and so he turned blindly and made his way out the door.  Stumbled down the hallway and the stairs, pushed through the writhing dancing crowd, ignoring Danny’s shouted “Stiles!” until he found the front door and once he got it open and the cold air hit his face, Stiles began to run.

He made it a block, two, before he began to stumble, legs clumsy with the alcohol and more a liability than an asset.  Slowing to a walk with his breathing as ragged as his heartbeat, Stiles hung his head and tried not to think of anything.  Tried to make his mind blank and empty and numb like it had been earlier.  But he was past that.  Too drunk and too tired to be able to control his thoughts, which spun wildly out of control, circling the one topic he wanted nothing more than to erase from his memory.

Derek’s full, soft lips brushing lightly against his.  Derek’s hands hard on Stiles’s skin, rough and just the right side of painful to leave bruises in their wake. The way Derek’s scruff burned as it rasped over Stiles’s neck, his ribcage, his calf.  The feel of Derek’s back, muscles working underneath the skin as he thrust himself into Stiles and the way Derek arched and his mouth opened and his eyes closed and the shuddering, pulsing way he came inside him.

Stiles stumbled, tripping over a crack in the sidewalk.  He skinned the palm of his hand against the cement as he tried to catch himself, but still landed hard on his knees.  The pain was sharp, sudden, bringing with it an awful kind of clarity that left him immobile, frozen on the sidewalk on his hands and knees with his head hanging in shame. 

He was not this person.  He was not this weak, emotionally crippled, embarrassing wreck of a person.  He was not the guy who got so drunk at a party that his coordination faltered and his vision went hazy, the guy who made out with a relative stranger because he thought the taste of another person’s mouth would erase the memory of someone else.

Only he’d done all of that.  Which must mean he was that person. 

Stiles pushed himself to his feet, ignoring the burn of his right hand and the blood that had oozed to the surface of the torn skin.  He should be disgusted, repulsed by the desperation that had him shoving his bleeding hand into his jeans to pull out his phone.  But he wasn’t.  He typed in Derek’s number from memory, fingers moving with the careful precision of the very drunk. Then he hit ‘call’, bringing the phone up tight to his ear as he started walking again.

Derek answered before the first ring had even finished, voice clipped with worry.  “What’s wrong?”

Stiles’s breathing hitched, as uneven as his pace as he continued down the sidewalk with little regard to where he was going. 

“Stiles?”  Derek’s voice was rising, urgent.  “It’s late.  Talk to me.  Is it Marcus?  Did something happen?”  When Stiles didn’t reply Derek growled with frustration.  “Are you okay?”

“No,” Stiles finally managed, leaving the sidewalk for a pathway that led into a park.  “I am not okay.”  He found a bench and sat down heavily, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees. 

“Tell me what happened,” Derek softened his voice, worry smoothing the roughness of the growl.

“I was at a party.  A guy invited me.  A cute guy.”  A pause.  “He works at the café and he knows my coffee order and he kissed me.”

There was silence on the other end of the line.  Stiles ignored it and continued.  “And I kissed him.  And we kissed.  We did more than kiss,” he laughed, bitter and jagged.  “I could have fucked him.  I could have let him fuck me.  But you know what?”

He waited, but Derek said nothing.  Stiles wasn’t even sure if he could hear the werewolf breathing or not.  “I couldn’t do it,” he said, finally,  “I couldn’t stand his hands on me, because they weren’t yours.  I don’t want anyone else to touch me but you,” his voice broke on a sob.

“Stiles,” Derek said slowly.  “Are you drunk?”

“Am I--?” Stiles gave another choking laugh.  “Yeah, Derek.  I’m drunk.  I do that now.  Not wine, obviously.  I can’t drink wine anymore because it always tastes like you.  But Scott took my pills—they were helping, you know—so now I drink.”

“Tell me where you are.”  Derek’s voice wasn’t so soft anymore, had an edge to it now.

Stiles ignored it.  “But it’s not enough.  It’s never enough.  It’s not you.  I need you, Derek.  I can’t breathe without you.  I can’t think, can’t sleep, can’t function.  I’m a…” he paused, trying to find the right word that would encompass the pathetic, broken mess he’d become.  “A wreck.”  A twisted, metal-screeching, burned out husk of a wreck.

“Where are you?”

“Just come back,” Stiles was begging now.  Shamelessly.  “Just come back.  I don’t care if you don’t love me, just pretend you do, okay?  You don’t have to say it, you don’t have to actually lie,” his voice was raw, desperate and urgent and pleading, tears rolling steadily down his face.  “Please.  I swear if you come back it’ll be like nothing happened.  It’ll be like before when we were good.  When we were happy.  We could do that again. Be that again.  Please, please, please, please, please—” his breath was coming too fast now, panic fluttering in his lungs.  “Say you’ll do it, Derek, say you’ll—”

“Stiles.”

Stiles stopped, barely breathing with hope aching in his chest.

“I’m going to get Isaac to come get you.  It would be helpful if you could tell me where you are, but he’ll find you either way.”

Stiles felt everything come crashing down around him and he had to bite back another sob.  He didn’t want Isaac.  If Derek didn’t want him, Stiles didn’t want to do anything but curl up on this bench and stay there until he couldn’t feel anything ever again.

Through the phone Stiles could hear Derek say something to someone else, and then Peter’s voice replied muffled in the background.

“Peter’s calling Isaac. He’ll be there soon.”

Stiles said nothing, didn’t have words left.  He slid sideways, face pressing against the seat of the bench.  The metal was cold enough that it burned against the side of his face.

“I need you to keep talking to me,” Derek was saying, but Stiles closed his eyes and brought the phone away from his ear, pressing his thumb down until the phone powered off. 

 

“Stiles?”  There was an odd note to Isaac’s voice when, sometime later—Hours?  Minutes?—Stiles opened his eyes to see his roommate crouched in front of him.

“Isaac,” Stiles replied flatly, pushing himself up so that he was sitting on the bench instead of lying on it.  His body felt stiff and he couldn’t decide if it was because he’d been in the same position for so long or simply due to the cold.

Isaac rose to his feet, his eyes no longer focused on Stiles. “Stiles,” he repeated, almost absently as his gaze swept the grass and trees of the park.  “Who were you with tonight?”

“Why?”  Stiles stood, still unsteady enough that he kept a hand braced on the back of the bench.  “What does it matter?”  It wasn’t like Derek cared.  And despite all of Isaac’s painfully un-subtle attempts to ride herd on Stiles, he wasn’t Stiles’s keeper.  In fact, Stiles was getting pretty fucking sick of seeing Isaac’s worried face peeking around corners and hovering anxiously in the background.  He just wanted to be left alone.  

Then, through the misery and alcohol-induced fog clouding his mind Stiles slowly became aware of the tension thrumming through Isaac’s body and a sliver of fear sliced through the fuzzy edges of his brain.

“Why does it matter?”  Stiles asked again, voice sharper.

“Because,” Isaac turned to look at Stiles and his eyes had bled bright, burning yellow.  “You smell like wolf.”

Stiles felt his entire body still, hand tightening white-knuckled around the bench.  “I went to a party, with Danny,” he managed through lips that felt numb.  “There were lots of—”

“No,” Isaac cut him off, shaking his head.  “It’s all over you.”

Stiles swallowed, heart thudding against his chest with enough force that it almost distracted from the ringing in his ears.  “All over me.”

“Yes.”  Impatient now Isaac grabbed for Stiles’s wrist, tugging him forward to the path.  “I can smell him on your skin.

Stiles’s brain, still so sluggish and stupid with the alcohol, struggled to connect the dots.  Ethan.  Ethan was a werewolf.  The handsome barista with the cheeky grin and the sparkling eyes was a werewolf.  And so it couldn’t be coincidence, him flirting.  Asking Stiles out.  Because those kinds of things didn’t just happen.  So Stiles had been, all along, a target.

“Is there some sort of sign around my neck?”  Stiles yanked his hand out of Isaac’s grip, stumbled back, voice rising.  “Something written in invisible ink that you have to be a werewolf to read?”

Isaac turned, brow furrowed.  “What are you—”

“Maybe it’s on my back,” Stiles gave an exaggerated spin like he was looking for something taped to his hoodie.

“We don’t have time for this right now.” Isaac’s lips had thinned, jaw clenched with impatience.

“Why not?” Stiles stepped back again when Isaac reached out.  “Obviously whatever supernatural drama that’s going on is going to find me.  No matter where I am or who I’m with.”

“Yes, Stiles,” Isaac snapped, clearly done with Stiles’s latest bout of self-pity.  “Because this is all about you.”

“Uh-oh,” Stiles matched sarcasm with sarcasm, lips curling up in a sneer.  “Are you feeling neglected?  Invisible?  Like now that Allison’s gone and Scott’s busy plotting with Derek and Peter, and Danny’s got Jackson back, no one wants to hang out with poor orphan Isaac anymore?”

Isaac’s hands curled into fists, taking a deep breath like he was just barely stopping himself from punching Stiles.

“I bet you wish it was you who got conned into dry-humping one of the bad guys,” Stiles continued, blithe. 

“And why’s that?”

“Cause then you’d get a little of that attention you’re dying for.  You were probably green with envy that it was my shoulder they dislocated when they came into town, instead of yours.”

“Well, if that’s what you want,” said an amused voice from the trees behind Isaac.  “I think we can probably make that happen.”

Stiles froze, eyes wide as he watched Ethan step out from the shadows.  Except, no—no it wasn’t Ethan because he carried himself differently.  Swaggered, with a cruel grin that looked totally out of place on the face that looked identical to Ethan’s.

“Is this your barista?”  Isaac had half turned and now he looked back at Stiles, eyebrows raised and contemptuous. 

“No,” this time the voice came from behind Stiles and Stiles jumped, would have maybe bolted except he found his hoodie caught tight in someone else’s hand.  “That would be me.”  Ethan yanked Stiles back, closer to him, and when Stiles began to struggle—clumsy and uncoordinated, still drunk—simply placed his hand around Stiles’s throat and the light prick of claws against his jugular made Stiles freeze.

“Hi,” the first twin extended his hand to Isaac like he expected the other werewolf to come and shake it.  “I’m Aiden.”

Chapter Text

Chapter Eight

 

Isaac didn’t move, claws sliding out from the tips of his fingers.  “Let me guess,” he said sardonically, “Marcus sent you?”

“Yes, he did.”  Aiden waited a beat, nonchalant, and then dropped his hand.

Behind them, Stiles was starting to struggle again. His hands wrapped ineffectively around Ethan’s wrist, trying to pull the werewolf’s claws away from his throat.  “Get off me,” he demanded, grunting with the effort of trying to move Ethan’s arm.

“Sorry, Stiles,” Ethan was surprisingly apologetic, but his grip didn’t loosen.  The hot ball of misery that had been sitting like a lump in Stiles’s stomach since he’d fled the party was slowly mutating, curdling with anger.

“And he sent you to, what, beat up Stiles again?  I guess he doesn’t trust you guys to actually hold your own against another werewolf.” Isaac’s scorn was as thick as honey.

Aiden laughed, flicking his gaze to where his brother held Stiles.  “Oh no, we weren’t going to hurt him again.  Ethan was supposed to fuck him.  And then we’d send him back to you,” he focused back on Isaac.  “He does live with you, Isaac, right?  You and that second, ‘secret’ Alpha.”

Stiles could see Isaac tense, nostrils flare in surprise, startled enough that they knew about Scott—how did they know about Scott?—to let his bravado slip.

“We know your pet human is very close to the Alphas of your pack,” Aiden continued, smirking.  “I think they’d be pretty pissed if he came home smelling like one of us.  Inside and out.”

Stiles flushed, shame spreading like a stain over his face, and he struggled harder, hating the feeling of Ethan’s body pressed hard against his. 

“They might even have blamed you for that, don’t you think?”  Aiden took a step closer to Isaac.  “Or maybe each other.  They are both screwing him, right?”  He grinned.  “No other reason to keep a human around.  Kinda sick, if you ask me.”

Isaac growled, fangs beginning to show from beneath his lips.

“But I shouldn’t expect any better from a pack as fucked up as yours.”  Now Aiden’s eyes were beginning to bleed from dark brown to a chilly, luminous blue.  “You should leave it.  Join us.”

“Not a chance,” Isaac began to say, but Aiden lashed out with a hand gone deadly with claws.  Isaac tried to pull back but he wasn’t fast enough and they raked across his face, blood flying.

“Why don’t we see if I can change your mind?” 

Isaac was still reeling from the first attack when Aiden came for him again, and the second blow sent Isaac sprawling to the ground.  Still, this wasn’t Isaac’s first fight. A split second later he was up and flinging himself at Aiden, using the hard-packed dirt path to spring up with extra force.

Aiden must not have expecting such a quick recovery because Isaac barrelled straight into him, knocking the wind out of the blonde boy and sending them both crashing back to the ground.

Over the past year Derek had revamped his training program and the whole pack had been expected to take part.  Not only that, but Allison had worked with them, teaching the wolves not only how to fight with brute strength and teeth and claws but how to fight with actual strategy.  And it was paying off.

Aiden managed to get out from under Isaac, blood seeping from a long gash in his side where Isaac’s claws had sunk in deep. His eyes glittered, hard and angry, and when Isaac rolled back, getting to his feet in one smooth motion, Aiden lunged for Isaac’s middle, apparently trying to repeat the move Isaac had used so successfully on him.

But Isaac was ready, waiting for it—the all-out-tackle was a favourite of Jackson’s, left over from lacrosse, or so Stiles always suspected—and he stepped easily to the side, pivoted, and struck out with a solid fist as Aiden flew past, sending the werewolf tumbling through the air with the force of the blow.

Behind Stiles, Ethan snarled and shoved Stiles out of his way, racing towards Isaac.  Stiles stumbled and fell, tripping over the foot of the bench and cracking his head back against the metal seat.  Pain lanced bright and excruciating down his spine, his vision blurring until all he could see was vague movement in front of him.

There was a yelp of pain and then another body hit the ground, the sound of claws rending through flesh like wet paper.  Stiles blinked, pushing himself up slowly until he was sitting, fighting a wave of dizziness that almost sent him slumping back to the grass.

After a moment, his vision cleared and he was able to focus on the scene in front of him.  All three wolves were on their feet now, circling their opponents warily.  Ethan had what looked like a chunk bitten out of the flesh of his upper arm, Aiden’s side was still bleeding through his shirt, and, Stiles had a moment to think this was a bit odd, the wounds on Isaac’s face hadn’t yet begun to heal. 

The moment of puzzlement flew out of his mind the second his gaze lowered because there was a large, ragged tear across Isaac’s stomach and Stiles realized with absolute horror that he could see the pink gleam of intestines through it.

Stiles shifted, fingers scrabbling at his jeans for his phone and the movement caught Ethan’s attention.  He looked back, teeth bared menacingly, and moved forward.

“Is that all you’ve got?”  Isaac managed to sound just barely out of breath, his voice bored enough to be cocky and his arms held loose and relaxed at his sides.  The disinterest in his tone had Ethan whipping back around as Aiden roared in fury, lunging again at Isaac one after the other.

They drove Isaac to the ground with enough force that Stiles could feel it reverberate in his bones.  He knew what Isaac was doing, knew he was distracting them so that Stiles could get up, get away.  Fucking Isaac. 

Ethan was holding Isaac down now, pinning his arms while Aiden straddled him and began to tear at Isaac’s exposed chest and belly.  Isaac bit back a scream, struggling wildly to throw the two of them off, but together they were strong enough that all he could do was buck and writhe and—when he was no longer able to keep silent—scream as blood and viscera poured out of him.

Fear and rage snarled in Stiles’s chest and he finally managed to grab his phone in shaking hands, bringing it up to hit Scott’s number.

“Get here.  Now,” was all he said when Scott answered, hanging up and tossing the phone to the ground beside him.  He had to do something.  They were going to kill Isaac.  There was only so much damage a werewolf’s body could take and Stiles could only assume that if Aiden continued to rip mercilessly at Isaac’s torso it would have the same effect as a broadsword. 

Stiles used the bench to pull himself to his feet, resolutely ignoring the sickening throb of his head. Before he could think better of it he ran forwards, letting his momentum carry him straight into Aiden and shoving the werewolf off of Isaac.

Aiden hit Stiles across the face, rolled out from under him and was back on his feet in a flash.  “I will kill you,” he swore, leaning down and grabbing a handful of Stiles’s hair in his hands, yanking Stiles’s head back so his throat was exposed.  Isaac’s screaming had stopped, the silence ringing in Stiles’s ears almost as loudly as the agonized screams had, so Stiles just grinned up at Aiden through bloodied teeth.

“Don’t,” Ethan pushed Aiden back, voice low.  “You know the rules.”

“He doesn’t count as human,” Aiden insisted, shoving at his brother who’d stepped between him and Stiles.  “He’s part of their pack.”

“It doesn’t matter.  He’s human.  You know what Marcus will do if you kill one,” Ethan was speaking rapidly and Stiles looked past him at Isaac who was still lying flat on his back, his stomach so torn up and bloody that Stiles couldn’t tell if it was healing.

“Fine,” Aiden growled, stepping back.  “I won’t kill him.”  He turned, gaze fixed back on Isaac.

“No,” Ethan grabbed his brother’s arm, stopping him again and Aiden whirled back, furious.  “We don’t have time.  The human called the Alpha, we’ve got to go.”

Aiden made a wordless sound of rage, claws flexing like he was tempted to break free of Ethan’s grip and finish Isaac off anyway.  But then he stilled, as did Ethan beside him. They must have heard something because suddenly they both took off into the woods without another word.

Shaking with adrenaline, Stiles waited, frozen, but they didn’t turn back and so he picked himself up and crawled to Isaac.

“Isaac, hey, are you okay?”  He didn’t want to see the damage up close, but he needed to know if the werewolf was healing or not.  Gritting his teeth, the hot, meaty smell of blood thick on his tongue, Stiles gripped Isaac’s shoulder in comfort and looked down.

For a moment his brain refused to make sense of what he was seeing, refused to see the gore as anything other than an abstract mess of red, but then it sharpened into focus and Stiles choked on a moan.  He didn’t know if Isaac could heal this.  He didn’t know if an Alpha would be able to heal this.  As it was, none of the flesh was knitting itself back together the way Stiles had grown used to seeing.  It just sat there, torn open and inert, and Stiles forced himself to look away, up at Isaac’s pale face.

“Scott’s on his way. He’s gonna be here any minute, buddy.”  He thought he saw one of Isaac’s eyelids twitch but hoped Isaac wouldn’t regain consciousness.  He didn’t know what he’d do if Isaac started screaming again. 

 

Minutes, hours, seconds later, there was the sound of slamming car doors, feet pounding against the pavement and then Scott’s hands, careful over Stiles’s blood soaked ones where Stiles was holding his red hoodie—now black with blood—against Isaac’s midsection.

“I didn’t know what to do,” Stiles said helplessly as Scott gently pulled his hands away and replaced them with his own.  Danny and Jackson had been only seconds behind Scott and now they knelt on Isaac’s other side.

“What the hell happened?” Jackson asked, looking up at Stiles with accusing eyes.  “Danny said you ran out of the party and then when he couldn’t find you he came back to Scott’s.  We were playing Mario Kart with Isaac and then he gets a call and vanishes, and now we find him like this?  What did you do?”

“Shut up, Jackson,” Scott said, without looking up from where he was peeling the sweater off of Isaac.

“Should you be doing that?” Danny asked nervously.  “What if he bleeds out?”

“I’m more worried about Isaac healing around the fabric than him losing too much blood,” Scott replied, voice grim.

Jackson levelled another glare at Stiles but Stiles ignored it, watching Scott’s hands raise the hoodie, breath held in the hope that underneath it would reveal smooth, perfect skin.  But Isaac’s stomach was as much of a mess as earlier and out of the corner of his eye he could see Danny stumble abruptly to his feet and take several rapid steps back, bracing himself against the trunk of a tree as he vomited.

“Why isn’t he healing?” Jackson demanded.

“I don’t know.” Scott pressed the hoodie back down.  “We have to get him to Deaton.  And someone needs to call Derek.”

Jackson stared at Stiles who refused to meet his eyes.  With a snort of disgust Jackson got to his feet and went to check on Danny, pulling his phone out from his jacket and pressing it to his ear. 

“Can you do anything?”  Stiles asked Scott quietly as Jackson started speaking into the phone, presumably to Derek.

“I’ll try when we get him to the car.”  Peter had told them once that werewolves could share other people’s pain.  Neither Scott nor Derek had ever had a chance to try it, since Peter had stressed it could seriously drain their energy and wasn’t something to experiment with lightly.

“He’ll meet us there.” Jackson stuck his phone back in his pocket and returned with a still white-faced Danny. 

“Here,” Scott tossed Jackson the keys to Stiles’s jeep.  “Danny and Stiles can help me get him to the car.”  Stiles had no doubt that Scott was perfectly capable of carrying Isaac’s dead—don’t think dead, not dead—weight with ease, but it was obvious he wanted to jostle Isaac as little as possible in case they made things worse. 

 

Less than ten minutes later they were racing down the highway, Jackson using his superhuman reflexes to zip in and out of traffic at a terrifying speed.  Danny was in the passenger seat beside him, his eyes squeezed shut so he didn’t have to see each near-miss.

In the back, Stiles was pushed up against the side, back bent at an awkward angle as he held Isaac’s head and shoulders in his lap, trying to keep the werewolf as still as possible while the jeep jolted back and forth across lanes of traffic.  Scott had Isaac’s lower half across his lap and was holding both of Isaac’s hands tightly, face screwed up in concentration as he tried to… well, Stiles wasn’t exactly sure what Scott was trying to do.  But it didn’t look like it was working, because despite the apparent effort on Scott’s part, Isaac wasn’t improving.

“How much longer?” Stiles asked Jackson, not taking his eyes off Isaac’s chest as it rose and fell with his shallow breathing.

Jackson glanced back at them, earning a long blast from someone’s horn as he nearly rear-ended them.  Turning his attention back to the road he answered through gritted teeth, “Fifteen minutes, maybe twenty.  If we had the Porsche instead of your stupid jeep—”

“Well we don’t, okay?” Stiles snapped.  “I’m sorry I ruined your night of Mario Kart, but could you stop bitching at me and concentrate on—”

“Shut.  Up.”  Scott’s voice rippled with anger.  “Both of you.”  When Stiles looked up, Scott’s eyes were red and furious, and Stiles swallowed back the ‘but he started it’ whine that had been on the tip of his tongue.

Stiles knew that would have been a totally inappropriate response, knew that fighting with Jackson over something this stupid was entirely counter productive and outright disrespectful when Isaac might be literally dying in his lap.  But he wasn’t feeling like himself.  Wasn’t feeling like regular Stiles who had his shit together and held up like iron under a crisis.  This Stiles, the Stiles whose skin he currently inhabited, felt superfluous.  Like nothing he did had any kind of effect.  It didn’t matter if he was minding his own business walking down the street, or ordering coffee, or drunk-dialling his ex.  Somehow, no matter how innocuous his actions, someone would get hurt.  And when they did—whether it was him or someone else lying on the ground, bleeding—Stiles couldn’t do a thing to stop it.

He couldn’t protect himself and he couldn’t protect anyone around him.  With the rate that Marcus’s pack was coming after him, Stiles was a liability.  A huge, walking target.  Somehow, Ethan and Aiden had known that Scott was an Alpha, the same as Derek, and not only that but they knew that Stiles was close to both of them—and it was obvious that they intended to use that closeness to hurt Stiles’s pack.

If Stiles wanted to be something more than an obvious weak spot he was going to have to start learn how to defend himself using something a little more effective than sarcasm—and soon.

Finally, with a squeal of tires, Jackson pulled into the parking lot of the veterinary office.  He was out of the jeep in a flash, coming around to help Scott manoeuvre Isaac out.  Peter and Derek spilled out of the front doors of the clinic and hurried over, wearing their own expressions of worry.

Once Isaac was safely in Scott and Jackson’s hands, Stiles pushed out of the jeep after them, moving quickly with Danny to hold open the clinic doors.  Scott and Jackson carried Isaac through, Derek and Peter following close behind, voices overlapping as they tried to get answers from Scott.

Scott brushed the two Hales off, taking Isaac into the back room and lowering him gently onto one of Deaton’s stainless steel tables and stepping back as Deaton moved in, pulling on a pair of gloves and gingerly pulling back Stiles’s hoodie from Isaac’s middle.

“Alright, Scott,” Deaton dropped Stiles’s ruined hoodie into a bin and returned to examine the hideous wounds on Isaac’s body.  “Can you tell me how this happened?”

“He’s not healing,” Scott reached up to run a worried hand through his hair, stopping at the last second when he realized his hands, like Stiles’s, were covered in Isaac’s blood.

“Yes, I can see that.”  Deaton’s demeanour was surprisingly patient, a calm counterpoint to the anxiety running high throughout the rest of the room.  Peter had resorted to pacing near the doorway.  Jackson and Danny slid into stools at the second table, Danny bracing his elbows on the table, head in his hands, and Jackson drumming his fingers impatiently against his thighs. Derek stood at Isaac’s head, arms crossed over his chest.  His unnatural stillness told Stiles that the Alpha was only just hanging onto control.

Stiles, who’d tucked himself out of the way to the side of the door, leaned back against the wall, wincing at the pressure on what was probably a goose egg, and closed his eyes, fighting the settling press of exhaustion.  “It was Ethan,” he said, “And his brother, Aiden.” His voice was steady, a lot steadier than he felt.  He continued talking, eyes still closed, unable to face the ruin of Isaac’s body.  “I didn’t know what Ethan was, and he invited me to a party….”

He told them what happened as quickly as possible, skipping over his drunk, desperate call to Derek, but not flinching from his role as accomplice—unwitting or not—in what happened to Isaac.

“Thank you, Stiles,” Deaton said when Stiles had fallen silent.  “Now, I believe Aiden—the werewolf who you say inflicted most of this damage—had some sort of paralytic on his claws.  I don’t know if it was natural, supernatural, or pharmaceutically manufactured, but it seems to be preventing Isaac’s healing process.”

“Why would he do that?” Derek asked sharply.  “Why bother adding a paralyzing agent when they were after Stiles,” the again hung in the air, unsaid.  “He wouldn’t have needed an extra edge against a human.”

“Because,” Stiles forced out, nearly choking on the humiliation of having to say it.  “They never planned on hurting me—not like that.  I screwed up their plan by leaving.   They must have guessed I’d wind up calling one of you.”

He didn’t need to open his eyes to know the entire room was looking at him, confused.

“If they didn’t want to hurt you, what—” Scott started carefully, but Stiles cut him off.

“Ethan was supposed to fuck me.  So I’d come back home smelling like… one of them.”  Now he opened his eyes, meeting Scott’s.  “They know you’re an Alpha, and they know I’m close to you,” he hesitated, “And to Derek.  They were just going to use me to make you angry.”  Again.

There was a long pause and Stiles shut his eyes again, leaning his head gingerly back against the wall.  Apparently whatever means Marcus’s pack had used to find out about Scott hadn’t also revealed that Stiles now meant next to nothing to Derek. 

“How do they know so much about us?”  Jackson’s voice rang out, accusing.  “How do they know about Scott?”

And then everyone seemed to start talking at once, volume rising as they all tried to be heard over one another.

Stiles tuned it out, tried to focus on the slow in-and-out of his own breathing.  He’d been used again, but he swore it would be the last time he would ever be this vulnerable.  He couldn’t keep being the pack’s weak link.

A hand, warm and solid, cupped against his face. Stiles’s eyes blinked open to see Peter, standing in front of him, frowning in concern.  Stiles’s first instinct was to pull away, not wanting or trusting Peter so close to him, but he couldn’t move with the wall at his back.

“You’re freezing,” Peter observed, rough voice juxtaposed against the gentleness of his hand on Stiles’s skin.  Behind Peter the fighting continued, but Peter’s attention was wholly on Stiles.  “It’s easy for them to forget,” he continued, his thumb stroking over Stiles’s cheekbone, “That you’re human.  That you can’t be outside at two in the morning, in November, wearing nothing but a bloody t-shirt.”

At the reminder, Stiles shivered, suddenly aware of how the material clung, wet and clammy, against his skin.  If the surprising heat of Peter’s hand was any indication, he was chilled to the bone and hadn’t even realized it.  He’d been too focused on Isaac, too scared to think of anything but the damage done to his friend.

Peter’s hand withdrew and Stiles had to bite back an involuntary protest, hugging his arms to his chest because now that he’d started shivering he couldn’t stop.  Peter shrugged out of his leather jacket, tugged Stiles forward, and wrapped the jacket around Stiles’s shoulders.

Stiles sank gratefully into the warmth, the residual heat from Peter’s body seeping into his skin.  “Thank you,” he said, grateful despite himself.

“It’s nothing,” Peter dismissed.  “I’m sorry no one noticed before.”  He pulled the jacket tighter around Stiles, and Stiles looked up to see Derek watching them, his eyes hard and flat.  But then Deaton’s voice broke through the clamour that was Scott and Jackson and Danny still arguing.

“Derek, I’d like you to come try something.”

Derek turned to Deaton, shifting so that his back was now to Stiles and Peter.  Stiles wondered if that had been deliberate.

“Now, Scott told me he tried to take some of Isaac’s pain on the way here.  He wasn’t able to, but I’m wondering if that’s because he’s new to his powers.  You have more experience as an Alpha, you might be able to help.”

“What would taking his pain do?”  Danny asked.  “He’s not even conscious.”

“I’m hopeful that by channelling Isaac’s pain Derek will be able to free up some of Isaac’s energy, the energy that is currently being used to fight the pain of his injuries.  If Isaac has more energy to draw from his body should be able to start fighting the paralytic, and that extra boost might be enough to kick-start the healing process.”

Derek nodded, stepping closer to Isaac and placing his hands on Isaac’s shoulders.  From Stiles’s vantage point he could see Derek’s back tense, muscles quivering with the effort to do, well, whatever weird metaphysical thing Peter had described to them.  After a long moment, sweat beginning to bead on the back of Derek’s neck, Deaton shook his head.

“Thank you for trying.”

“What now?”  Scott asked, coming up to stand beside Deaton, looking anxiously at Isaac who lay so still on the table.  “There has to be something we can do.”

“Without knowing what kind of poison or venom the other werewolf used I’m afraid we can’t do anything but wait until it wears off.  Then, hopefully, Isaac will begin to heal.”

“But what if it takes hours?  Days?”  Jackson argued.  “He can’t possibly survive like this for that long.”

“Jackson,” Danny touched Jackson’s arm and Jackson swore, breaking away from the group to pound his fist against a cabinet that cracked under the pressure.

“This is your fault,” he looked up, crossed the room in an instant and pushed into Stiles’s personal space.  “If you had just kept your dick in your pants—”

“Hey,” Peter’s voice was sharp and he grabbed Jackson’s elbow, yanking him back.

“Take it outside.  Now.”  Derek’s tone brooked no argument.  “The three of you—Danny, too—get out.  You’re not helping and I don’t want to deal with your shit right now.”

“But—” Jackson started, but Derek growled, eyes flaring red and Jackson’s gaze dropped to the ground, skittering away from Derek’s.  Without another word he turned around and walked out of the back room.  Danny, Stiles, and Peter followed without comment.

As the door closed behind them Stiles heard Scott say, “I have an idea…”

Stiles sank into one of the chairs in the waiting room, still huddled in Peter’s jacket.  He should go home, clean up, and sober up, because now that the rush of adrenaline and fear he’d been riding for the last hour had faded he still felt the effects of the beer, and combined with the ache in his skull he felt nauseous.

But he wouldn’t leave until they knew Isaac was going to be okay, so he settled in to wait.

“So, Stiles,” Peter asked, toying with a bit of glitter between his fingers.  “Why do you have,” he paused, squinted at Stiles, “A turkey painted on the side of your face?”

Chapter Text

Chapter Nine

 

Standing in his room, Stiles could still feel the recoil of Chris’s guns echoing in the bones of his hands.  He’d left Allison’s dad’s place an hour ago, but his body still thrummed with tension and excitement. 

When he’d finally made it home, around 7 am on Saturday morning, Stiles had stumbled up the stairs and, after a blisteringly hot shower to wash off the blood (and the turkey paint), he’d literally fallen into bed and slept for ten hours straight.  When he’d woken up he’d had a quick dinner with his dad, carefully avoided mentioning that Isaac had nearly died the night before—and it was only due to some mysterious mystical shit that Scott and Derek had cooked up, then refused to tell anyone about, that Isaac had survived—and then he’d gone over to Chris Argent’s.

He’d stayed with Chris until midnight and returned again on Sunday morning. Now, standing in his room, for the first time in quite possibly his entire life, Stiles felt powerful.

He could defend himself now.  He wouldn’t be left crumpled on the ground, or held at the mercy of a handful of claws. Chris hadn’t given him a gun—and though Stiles thought he’d made a pretty good case for being allowed to have one, he’d privately agreed with Chris’s decision that he needed a lot more practice first—but Stiles had walked away with a paper bag full of other paraphernalia.  He wore one of them around his neck and when he returned to school there’d be a knife close at hand. 

He wouldn’t be weak again. 

Stiles took a drink from the tumbler of his father’s whiskey that sat on his desk, grimacing a little at the taste but enjoying the burn as it slid down his throat. His dad was working tonight, Scott and Isaac were having a night in with Melissa, and he had no idea what Jackson or Danny were doing, but he didn’t care.  He was feeling good, and strong, and he wasn’t going to let that feeling go to waste. 

The problem was, he reflected, tossing the rest of the whiskey back before trading his t-shirt for a dark blue button up, that the pack would never see him as anything other than fragile and human.  They’d known him too long, and had seen him broken and bloody and bruised six times too many.  If he’d told any of them how he was feeling now, that he felt dangerous, they’d just smile kindly. While they might not refute his claim outright, they wouldn’t believe it. 

Looking at himself in the mirror, black jeans, dress shirt, and a new, confident light in his eyes, Stiles believed it.  And he wanted someone else to believe it.  Someone who wasn’t picturing Stiles-the-potential-hostage or Stiles-the-liability. Someone who’d see him and think careful.

Which was why Stiles was heading to the Jungle. 

Grabbing his jacket, which had been slung over a chair, he pulled it on and headed for the door.

 

“Buy you a drink?”

Stiles turned from where he was leaning against the bar.  The guy behind him was older, tall, and clean-shaven, with a warm smile.

“Sure,” Stiles moved over so the guy could squeeze in beside him.  Since it was the Sunday before Thanksgiving Monday, the Jungle was packed and Stiles had been waiting for the bartender to make his way down to this end of the bar.

“I’m Raj,” the guy offered, holding his hand out to Stiles.

“Stiles,” Stiles returned, shaking Raj’s hand.  Raj held on a beat or two longer than necessary and Stiles bit into his bottom lip to hide a pleased smile.

“I haven’t seen you here before,” Raj leaned in to be heard over the music, his mouth close enough to Stiles’s ear that Stiles could feel the lightest brush of lips.

“Just back in town for the holiday.”  Someone else wormed their way to the bar on Stiles’s other side and Stiles found himself pushed forward against Raj, who slid a hand around Stiles’s waist and kept it firm against his lower back, steadying him.

“Thanks,” Stiles had to tilt his head back now to look up at Raj.  That was new, he realized, surprised. Both Derek and Ethan were about his height, or close enough that Stiles never really found himself looking up at them.  But Raj was tall, and lean, and Stiles could feel the heat of his long fingers splayed out against his skin and he relaxed into the touch. 

“What’ll you have?”  The bartender had finally made his way over to them.

Stiles broke his gaze away from Raj.  “Jack and coke.”

“Make it two.”

A minute later, drinks in hand, they broke free from the press of bodies around the bar. Raj kept his hand against the small of Stiles’s back as they made their way through the crowd to a standing table near the dance floor.

“You said you’re back for the holiday?” 

Stiles nodded, taking a sip from the glass and rolling the sweetness of the coke around with his tongue.  He’d been drinking whiskey straight all night, the ice and the cola were a nice change.

“And where is it you are when you’re not back for the holidays?”

“College. Journalism,” Stiles elaborated when Raj gave a small tilt of his head.

“You look the type,” Raj grinned, his teeth flashing white against the darkness of his skin. 

“Oh, yeah?” Stiles tilted his head, looking up at Raj through his lashes.  If he’d been sober, or not at a club, or literally at any other point in his life, he’d have felt incredibly stupid.  Stiles was not the kind of guy who did coy.  He was awkward and clumsy and obvious. Except that tonight he didn’t feel like any of those things.  Tonight he felt a little wild and a little reckless and like he was more than capable of flirting the way he’d seen Lydia do a thousand times—effortlessly, easy as breathing.  

“Yeah.” Raj leaned closer, setting his glass down on the unsteady table and running light fingers over Stiles’s wrist where it rested against the table, loosely cupping his glass. “You’ve got this vibe going.”

“There’s a journalist vibe?”  Stiles teased, turning his wrist so that Raj’s fingers could trail up the inside of his forearm.

“Well, no,” Raj admitted, laughing,  “But I was watching you for a bit before I came over.  You were observing.  Not like most people do, not watching just for the fun of it or because there’s nothing better to do, but like you’re… calculating. Like you’re seeing everything and a part of you is figuring out exactly how to use it.”  His eyes were dark on Stiles’s and Raj’s tongue darted out to lick his lips.  “It’s hot. It makes me want to know how you’ll use me.”

Under Raj’s fingers Stiles’s pulse quickened.  Raj stepped in, hand sliding from Stiles’s wrist to his waist as Stiles’s came up to twine around Raj’s neck, pulling the taller man down as Stiles rose.  Raj’s lips brushed softly against Stiles’s and Stiles made a hungry noise low in his throat, pressing in closer, but Raj kept his lips gentle and slow, his thumbs rubbing lazy circles over Stiles’s hips through his shirt. 

Stiles wanted those hands to dig in harder, to feel the sharp bite of teeth against his mouth.  When he tried to deepen the kiss, tried to rub himself hot and urgent against Raj, Raj held him still, tongue sweeping lightly over Stiles’s as his thumbs continued their soothing circles.

“Slow down,” Raj murmured, leaning his forehead against Stiles’s.  “We’ve got all night.”

“Actually,” there was a voice from behind Stiles, as hard and unforgiving as the hand that suddenly clamped down on Stiles’s shoulder,  “You don’t.”

Raj frowned, straightening to his full height.  “Excuse me?”

Stiles was trying to look around, to see who it was that had him in such an iron grip but the hand tightened and he let out a yelp of pain.

“Hey,” Raj’s voice was sharp.  “Let him go.”

“He’s my nephew.  My underage nephew, actually.  So I suggest you be the one to go.”

There’d been a break in the music and Stiles had been able to hear the speaker clearly—and he knew that voice.  Peter.

Raj’s eyes went wide. “Underage?” His hands dropped from Stiles’s waist like they’d been burned.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t know.  I, uh—sorry,” and with that he backed away, hurriedly disappearing into the crowd.

“Dude,” Stiles yanked out of Peter’s grip, turning around to shove the werewolf back. Peter, predictably, didn’t move. “I’m eighteen.”

“Pity, then, that the drinking age is twenty-one.”  Peter smirked, picking up Stiles’s drink and finishing it in one long swallow.  Stiles flipped him off and turned back, scanning the room for Raj, but the writhing bodies of the dance floor and the staccato flash of light and lasers made individual faces all but indistinguishable. 

“Come on,” Peter reached out for Stiles’s wrist, but the second his fingers made contact with Stiles’s skin he jerked back, teeth bared in a hiss of pain and eyes flaring, for the briefest second, electric blue.

Stiles glanced down at where Peter was clutching his hand, and now it was Stiles’s turn to smirk, long and slow and cocky.  “So, it does work.”

“What?” Peter’s voice was low despite the jagged edge of anger.

Stiles reached up, fished the slender silver chain out from under his collar so that the small vial of mountain ash hung over his shirt instead of against his skin.

“Take it off.”

Stiles rolled his eyes but, when Peter just raised his eyebrows expectantly, Stiles pulled the chain over his head and stuffed it in the pocket of his jeans. “Happy?”

“Getting there.”

Stiles tried to step around Peter and back to the bar but Peter’s hand shot out again and wrapped firmly around Stiles’s wrist, jerking him to a halt. “No,” he said.

“Yes.” Stiles tried to yank his arm free, seething.  “Let me go. I want to get a drink.”

“You want a drink?  Fine. But you’re not staying here. Don’t you think you’ve gotten yourself into enough trouble already this weekend?”

“Hence the mountain ash,” Stiles snapped.  “I’m not an idiot.  I’m not here unprotected.”

Peter tightened his grip on Stiles and began pushing his way through the crowd and towards the exit, keeping Stiles close at his side despite the younger man’s attempts to pry loose.  “You’re not usually this stupid, Stiles.  Our pack has several humans associated with it—you, and Danny, not to mention your father and the hunter—are you naive enough to think that Marcus doesn’t have the same?”  Stiles’s fingers faltered from where they’d been tugging at Peter’s. 

“I—”

“—am sorry, Peter, for being such a thoughtless ass,” Peter finished for him, guiding Stiles out of the front door and onto the street. 

“That’s not what—”

“Well, it should be.”  Peter didn’t release Stiles until they’d reached a sleek silver car parked down the block. “Get in.”

“I’m not going to—”

Stiles,” Peter snapped, “Get in the car.”

With a huff of breath, Stiles eyed the alleyway to his right, debating whether or not to make Peter chase after him.  He was under no illusions that he’d actually get away, but it might be satisfying to make the smug prick work for it.  Then again, Stiles reflected, he didn’t really relish the thought of being slammed into the rough asphalt or the brick walls that lined the alleyway, and if he ran he was pretty sure Peter would make that happen. Gritting his teeth, he yanked open the door of the car and slid in, making sure to slam it closed.

“There’s no need to be childish,” Peter remarked, starting the car and pulling away from the curb.  Stiles slumped low in his seat, arms folded across his chest. 

“That’s what happens when you babysit,” Stiles turned to Peter.  “Is this guard-Stiles duty again?  Who sent you? Scott?  Derek?”  The thought of either of them asking Peter to keep an eye on him made Stiles’s skin crawl.  He wondered how long Peter had been watching him for, how long he’d had someone’s eyes on him and not even known.

“No one sent me, Stiles,” amusement curled warm in Peter’s voice.  “You’re overestimating your importance if you think that I’ve been following you.”

Ouch. Except, “First you tell me I’m putting myself in danger, or whatever, and now I’m not important enough to merit being kept out of it?”

“Putting yourself needlessly at risk is foolish.  You’re jeopardizing a lot more than just your own safety. You’re risking all of ours, too.”  Peter took his eyes off the road for a second and sent Stiles a disapproving look. “Frankly, if we’d thought you’d be idiotic enough to go off on your own, Scott or Derek probably would have assigned me or Jackson to you.  But no one actually thought you could possibly be that unwise.”

Stiles swallowed and looked out the window.  It had started to rain and the water beaded on the glass, sliding down and blurring the city lights beyond.  “If you weren’t following me then why were you there?” 

“I suspect for the same reason you were,” Peter drawled. 

Right, obviously.  A flush coloured Stiles’s cheeks and he kept his gaze firmly fixed out the window. “I didn’t know you were gay.”

“I’m not,” the amusement was back, rich and honeyed.  “I’m more of an… equal opportunist, if you will.”

“Bisexual.”

Peter gave a thoughtful hum.  “Something like that.  And you, Stiles?”

“I…” Stiles glanced over, but Peter’s eyes were steady on the road. “I don’t know.” He hadn’t really thought about it, about a label.  He knew he liked guys, obviously, but he’d liked Lydia as well.  And it wasn’t like he stopped noticing girls when he was with Derek, or even when he’d been flirting with Ethan. So he guessed that made him bi. Or something like that.

“Do you want to go home?”  Peter’s voice interrupted Stiles’s introspection.

“No,” Stiles’s response was immediate, uttered before he’d even consciously understood the question.  The house was quiet and empty and frustratingly confining.  Stiles was still riding on the high of the last couple days, of the feeling of weapons in his hands and the knowledge that he could be deadly. He couldn’t bear sitting alone in his bedroom, reminded continuously of his high school self.

“Very well.” Peter took a left turn and then several minutes later they were in a part of downtown Stiles had never been to. Peter pulled into an underground parking lot and after a moment found a space and parked.

Stiles reached down and unbuckled his seat belt, stepping out of the car and into the echoing concrete.  “Is this where you live?”

Peter closed his door and locked the car, dropping his keys into the pocket of his leather jacket.  “I don’t live in a car park.”

“Ha, ha,” Stiles fell into step beside Peter as the older man made his way towards an elevator. “You know what I mean—is this your apartment?”

“Yes.”

Stiles wasn’t really sure how he felt about going up to Peter’s apartment on his own. Not that he was afraid of Peter, per se.  He didn’t expect the werewolf to be engaging in some sort of elaborate plan to murder him.  Though, actually, now that he thought about it, he wouldn’t put that kind of thing past Peter.  Not if Peter thought he could get something out of it.  A shiver of apprehension ran up Stiles’s spine.

The elevator doors opened with a ding and Peter gestured for Stiles to enter. Once they were both inside, Peter hit the button for the sixteenth floor and they began to rise.

“Scott said Isaac’s healed just fine,” Stiles said after the silence became unbearable.  “No side affects from the poison and… and whatever it was he and Derek did.”

Peter turned to Stiles, eyebrows raised in surprise.  “They didn’t tell you?”

“No. Why?” Stiles frowned. “Did they tell you?”

“No.” Peter leaned back against the wall, his hands in the pockets of his jackets.  “I suspect they’re concerned about a… leak.”

“A leak?”

“As it were. Marcus has to be getting his information from somewhere.  I presume Scott, Derek, and Deaton want to limit the amount that’s out there.”

Stiles’s lips thinned as he watched the numbers on the elevator go up. He didn’t like Scott not trusting him.  And Derek—well, Stiles didn’t agree with any of Derek’s choices as of late. 

The thought of Derek still brought a tightness to his chest, an awareness of the depth of emotion Stiles still felt, the need that ached like a wound that wouldn’t heal.  He’d been living with it, so far.  Dealing—or trying to. But he was sick of drowning in sorrow, of prodding at the loss until he broke down and begged.

They reached Peter’s floor and the doors slid open, Stiles stepping through and then waiting for Peter to lead the way down the thickly carpeted hallway.

“This is nice,” he commented when Peter stopped in front of a door with the number eight on it and pulled out a key.

“No need to sound so surprised,” Peter said dryly, unlocking the door and stepping through. Stiles made a face behind Peter’s back and followed him in. 

The apartment was large and open, with uncurtained windows that provided a stunning view of downtown.  Everything else seemed immaculate and white, save for tasteful hints of chrome and glass. Stiles had the strange impression that he’d entered an empty art gallery.

“Wine?” Peter had continued into the apartment and now stood behind a gleaming white countertop in the corner of the room that held the kitchen.

“Uh…” Stiles hesitated.  He’d avoided it since Derek.

Peter looked over and tutted.  “Are you really going to let my nephew sour something that you’ve, by all accounts, learned to enjoy and appreciate on your own?”

Stiles stiffened, affronted by the suggestion—even though that was, in fact, exactly what he’d been prepared to do.  “I’ll have a glass.”

Peter favoured him with an approving look before turning to reach into a cupboard and pull out two wine glasses.  He set them carefully on the counter and then crossed the kitchen, opening a glass cabinet that, when Stiles moved further into the room, revealed a couple dozen bottles of wine.  Peter tapped his lips thoughtfully for a moment before reaching down and selecting a bottle.

Placing the bottle on the counter beside the glasses, Peter closed the cabinet and opened a drawer, taking out a corkscrew.  Once the bottle was opened he poured himself a small amount, swirling the wine around the bottom of the glass before bringing it to his nose for an appreciative sniff and taking a sip.  “Delightful,” he pronounced, setting his glass down to pour one for Stiles. 

Stiles took the offered glass and brought it to his lips.  The wine hit his tongue in a heady rush that had his eyes sliding closed in pleasure.

“It’s a cabernet franc,” Peter answered Stiles’s unasked question, approval heavy in his voice.  “Do you like it?” he continued, even though the answer must have been obvious on Stiles’s face.

“Yes, it has… oomph.”

“Good.” Peter moved around the counter, picking up the bottle in his free hand as he carried it and his glass of wine to the coffee table and couch that sat in front of a large fireplace. Stiles trailed after him, slightly apprehensive about taking red wine onto white carpet—and a white couch—but not wanting to stay standing awkwardly in the kitchen.

Peter sank gracefully onto one end of the couch and Stiles folded himself down onto the other, taking another sip of wine and trying not to read too much into the fact that he was alone in Peter’s apartment, that no one else knew where he was, and that there was a part of him that found the whole thing as intoxicating as the wine.

The very, very good wine.  Stiles took another sip, rolling the taste of it around in his mouth, against his tongue.

Peter watched him, eyes heavy-lidded with satisfaction at the naked pleasure on Stiles’s face as he finally swallowed.  “And to think,” he said, smirking when Stiles licked a lingering drop of the wine off his lips.  “You’d have let Derek take that away from you.”

“What I do, or don’t do, has nothing to do with—” he lurched against the name and hated himself for it.  “With Derek,” he finished, bringing the glass back up to his lips like he could hide the stumble.

Peter said nothing, simply raised his own glass and took a drink. On his way from the kitchen to the couch he’d hit a switch to turn the kitchen lights off, another to turn the fireplace on, and Stiles was suddenly aware of how dark the rest of the apartment was.  Save for the twinkling of the city lights outside the large windows, the warm glow of the flames was the only light. 

For someone who’d spent nearly a decade crippled due to fire, Peter seemed entirely at ease having one close by.  Stiles’s brow furrowed thoughtfully but he had another nagging question on his mind. “Why’d you bring me here?”

“You didn’t want to go home.”

Stiles frowned, leaning forward to set his now-empty wine glass on the coffee table. “Yeah, but we could have gone to another bar.  Or,” he frowned harder.  “You could have just dropped me at Scott’s.”

“This is true.  But I find I enjoy your company.  And as for another bar, well,” he leaned forwards and refilled Stiles’s glass and then his own, “I have better wine,” he said without a hint of modesty, settling into the couch and hooking an arm lazily over the back.

The wine was excellent, bold and complex and by no means easily drunk.  Stiles was under no illusions that he was any kind of connoisseur, but that didn’t mean he was unable to enjoy the way the flavours collided robustly on his tongue. Stiles reached for his newly full glass and had another sip, relaxing against the arm of the couch and enjoying the heat from the fireplace.  It was a nice change after the coolness of the night’s rain.

Peter tilted his head to the side, watching Stiles with blue eyes that were suddenly curious. “If nothing you do has anything to do with my nephew, then why the guy at the bar?”

Stiles’s fingers tightened around the fragile glass and he had to force himself to loosen them before he broke it and spilled what was no doubt obscenely expensive wine over an even more expensive couch.  “Because I wanted him.”  The second the words had left his mouth Stiles wished he could have swallowed them back. He hadn’t had wine in so long that it was affecting him more than usual, his tongue looser than he’d have liked.

“Really?” Disbelief coloured Peter’s voice. “He’s what you wanted.”

“Yes,” Stiles bit off, stubbornly.  The guy—Raj, his brain supplied after a moment’s hesitation—had been tall and lean and had thought Stiles was hot.  Why wouldn’t Stiles have wanted that?

“Him, though?”  Peter pressed, eyebrows raised sceptically.

“Why not?” Stiles crossed his arms defensively across his chest.

“He didn’t seem quite your… type.”

“Oh, please,” and now Stiles snorted with amusement.  “What would you know about ‘my type’?”

“I know he wasn’t it.”

“You’re saying I don’t like tall, dark, and handsome?”  Stiles rolled his eyes, uncrossing his arms and taking a drink. “Cause, I gotta say…”

“It’s nothing to do with how he looks, Stiles,” Peter corrected.  “You wouldn’t have got what you wanted.”

“Fucked? I’m pretty sure—”

Peter laughed.  “Guys like that don’t ‘fuck’.  They ‘make love’.” He brought his hands up in sarcastic finger quotes.

“And what’s wrong with that?”  Stiles shifted forward on the couch.

Peter levelled a sceptical look at him over his wine.  “You’re telling me you’d have been sated, you’d have been happy, with a night of gentle caresses and sweet nothings whispered in your ear?”

Stiles flashed back to the way Raj’s lips and hands had been so light against his, stroking and soft in a way that had made Stiles twitchy with frustration. He imagined Raj would have continued in that vein, worked his way down Stiles’s body with delicate fingers and eventually slow, gentle thrusts.  Stiles’s lips twisted involuntarily in distaste.

Watching Stiles’s reaction, Peter smirked.  “I thought as much.”

There was a stubborn, churlish reply on the tip of Stiles’s tongue but he held it back.  Something about the way Peter was watching him, so unquestionably sure that he knew exactly what Stiles wanted, was making things low in Stiles’s belly tighten.

“What, no scathing denial?”  Peter mocked, pushing up from where he’d been lounging against the back of the couch. His movements were slow, deliberate, as he reached out, placed his glass soundlessly on the coffee table, and turned to face Stiles.  Stiles’s breath caught and held at the look in Peter’s eyes.

“Though I suppose there’s no sense in it,” Peter’s voice lowered.  “Not when we both know what it is you’re after.”

Stiles’s mouth had gone dry and he raised his wine glass in a hand that was less than steady—but before he could take a drink, attempt to quench his sudden thirst, Peter reached out and wrapped his fingers around the glass, around Stiles’s hand.  Stiles felt caught, trapped, and transfixed.  Tharn, a distant part of his brain supplied, like the rabbits.  Frozen in front of the car that’d run him down but mesmerized by the dazzle of lights.

“I could give it to you.  You know I could.” Peter seemed impossibly close, his broad shoulders blocking out everything but the shifting light of the fire, and even that served only to dance against the exposed skin of Peter’s forearm, his neck, his face.  Illuminating the hard lines and muscles.  His fingers gently pried the glass out of Stiles’s hand.  Without breaking eye contact he placed the glass on the table.

Stiles still couldn’t speak.  Couldn’t move.  A part of him knew this was a bad idea, a mortifying thing to even be considering. This was Peter, Derek’s uncle, and a man Stiles didn’t even—

“Don’t pretend you don’t want it.  Don’t pretend that right now you’re not thinking about how you don’t trust me—and how that thought only makes you want it more.”  Peter’s hand moved from where it had been resting on the back of the couch, slid around to Stiles’s neck, his thumb rubbing against the place where Stiles’s pulse beat against his skin like a wild thing trying to escape. “Because you don’t know what I’d do.  You can’t trust that I’d stop if you asked.  That I wouldn’t just keep pressing,” and his thumb dug in, constricting the flow of blood so that Stiles’s head swam in a sudden, dizzying rush. 

“Peter,” Stiles meant for his voice to be firm, a hard line of no, but instead it came out as a plea.  For what, Stiles wasn’t sure, because Peter was right. He had Stiles half-hard already, and all he had done was push a hand against Stiles’s neck.

But with that came the knowledge that Peter could wrap that hand around his throat and cut off Stiles’s air completely.  He could do that, and if he did that, Peter might not stop until Stiles was dead.  That thought shouldn’t have sent a spark of black down Stiles’s spine.  Shouldn’t have made his heart pound with excitement, his skin ache for the sharpness of teeth.

Peter’s hand lifted, the pressure on Stiles’s pulse easing.  Stiles tried not to but couldn’t help the way he swayed towards Peter as Peter’s hand pulled away.

Peter’s teeth flashed, showing white and gleaming before he leaned in and crowded Stiles back against the arm of the couch, one hand hard on Stiles’s arm to hold him there and the other between Stiles’s legs, palming Stiles’s now fully hard cock through his jeans.  “Say yes,” Peter ordered, lips so close to Stiles’s that Stiles could feel them move against his own.  “Say yes.”

“Yes.”

Chapter Text

Chapter Ten

 

There was a dark, pulsing need in him now for the pain Peter had promised. Stiles’s head fell back in abject surrender when Peter surged forwards to devour his mouth with a savage kiss.  This was what he’d wanted.  He’d known, even if he hadn’t been willing to admit it at the time, that Raj wouldn’t have been able to give it to him. 

Peter’s stubble rasped against Stiles’s lips and Stiles shuddered underneath him. His free hand reached up to clutch at Peter’s back, to drag him closer so that Stiles could buck up into the hand rubbing against his cock.  He was drowning in sensation, in the urgency of Peter’s lips against his and the pressure on his arm, where he could feel Peter’s fingers digging into his muscle with no regard for Stiles’s comfort.  The pain of it was exquisite and Stiles could feel himself letting go.  His mind with its near constant barrage of thoughts and questions and theories was going blank and empty, turning over control to his body so all Stiles could do was feel.

Feel Peter’s teeth close over his bottom lip and pull until Stiles whimpered, feel Peter’s hands move up and unbutton Stiles’s shirt with agonizing slowness, feel the hot trail of Peter’s tongue follow the bared skin down to Stiles’s right nipple where he paused, fingers continuing to pull open the shirt, tongue laving lightly over the hard flesh until Stiles cursed.

He tried to reach up, tried to drag Peter still closer but he was tangled in the arms of his shirt and couldn’t do anything but groan in frustration as Peter’s teeth grazed delicately over the sensitive peak.  Peter’s hand moved lower, flicking open the button on Stiles’s jeans and drawing the zipper down, sliding in past Stiles’s boxers to wrap around Stiles’s cock.  Stiles tried to buck into the contact but Peter was crowded so close between his thighs that Stiles couldn’t move.  He was trapped between the arm of the couch and Peter’s body, unable to do anything but writhe helplessly.

“Oh, Stiles,” Peter breathed against Stiles’s nipple, pausing for a moment to wrap his lips around the bud and suck until Stiles’s entire body shook with need, “I’m so glad you said yes.” He swept the flat of his tongue against Stiles’s nipple and then bit down, hard. 

The suddenness of the pain forced a cry out from between Stiles’s gritted teeth at the same time as his body arched up into Peter’s mouth, desperate for the feeling of teeth digging bruises into his skin to continue.  He could feel the rumble of Peter’s approval in his throat, and when Peter rolled his eyes up to look at Stiles as his hand began to move over Stiles’s cock in firm, controlled strokes, Stiles had to bite into his own cheek hard enough to draw blood to stop himself from coming.

“You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to see you like this,” Peter commented. He pulled back to admire the large, purpling bruise that was beginning to form around Stiles’s nipple. Stiles’s face was red and flushed, the frantic, abortive movements of his hips betraying his desperation. Peter’s hand on Stiles’s cock squeezed, and Stiles’s eyes rolled back into his head, his mouth falling open and his fingers scrabbling uselessly at the couch. 

Peter moved back, his hand pulling out of Stiles’s jeans and reaching casually for his glass of wine.  Stiles gave a choked sound of protest, half-rising from where he was sprawled back against the arm of the couch to see why Peter had stopped. 

“Get up,” Peter said, taking an unhurried swallow of the wine. 

Stiles stared at him, chest heaving as he tried to regain some semblance of control. When Peter did nothing but raise an expectant eyebrow, Stiles flushed, and struggled to pull his shirt back up over his arms so he could refasten his jeans.

“No.” Peter’s blue eyes hardened, sudden and icy.  “Did I say you could get dressed?”

“I…” Stiles floundered, unsure now of what Peter wanted.  “I’m—”

“Did I say,” Peter’s voice was slow and measured, each word carrying its own threat, “That you could speak?”

Stiles’s mouth had opened again but he closed it with a snap.  He supposed he could play by Peter’s rules, though the fact that Peter expected unquestioning obedience—without some kind of prior discussion—rankled. 

“I said, get up,” Peter repeated, and his hand came down in a sudden, open-palmed slap against Stiles’s thigh where he lay still sprawled open on the couch.

The sting was sharp, even through the fabric of Stiles’s jeans, but more than anything it was the shock of the blow that had Stiles tumbling uncoordinated and clumsy off the couch.  Peter had hit him.  The same kind of thoughtless swat you gave a dog when it tried to climb onto furniture.  Humiliation coloured Stiles’s cheeks and he had to make a conscious effort to keep his eyes down as he stood, jeans and underwear sliding halfway down his hips, his unbuttoned shirt barely clinging to his elbows, lest Peter see the burning anger that Stiles was trying to bank. 

There was a part of him that was insisting this was too much, that Peter wanted what Stiles couldn’t—wouldn’t—give.  But at the same time, Stiles’s cock was pressed hard and flushed against his stomach and, if anything, the shock and shame of the slap had only made Stiles’s desperate need increase. 

“Don’t make me repeat myself again.”  Peter took another sip of the wine before placing it back on the table and leaning forward with his elbows on his knees.  His face was level with Stiles’s groin and he let out a long, hot breath against Stiles’s cock, watching with pleased eyes as Stiles’s hips twitched helplessly. 

“You make such a pretty picture,” Peter mused.  Standing, he ran a hand up Stiles’s cock and over his belly, trailing up to press against his bruised nipple so forcefully that Stiles had to choke back a noise of pain.  “All that pale skin…” he trailed off, his hand rising to wrap around the back of Stiles’s neck and tighten.  Stiles felt his eyes fall shut, a tremor of desire running through his body as Peter stepped in closer and licked into Stiles’s mouth. 

He could feel Peter now, the press of the older man’s cock hot and eager on the skin of Stiles’s bared hip, even through the denim of his jeans. Stiles shifted forward to rub into it but Peter’s grip on his neck held him still.  The frustrated sound from Stiles’s lips was swallowed by Peter’s mouth. 

With one last nip, Peter pulled back and the pressure on the back of Stiles’s neck increased until Stiles buckled under it, dropping to his knees.  Peter’s hand moved from Stiles’s neck to fist in his hair and he yanked Stiles’s head back, baring his throat so that Peter could look down the long pale line of him. 

With his hands still caught behind his back in the shirt, his thighs trapped in the waistband of his jeans, and his eyes wide and clear, Stiles looked like a debauched angel.  His mouth was red and swollen from Peter’s lips and his chest rose and fell in that delightful too-fast and too-shallow rhythm of breath that said prey.  The livid bruise around his nipple stood out like a beacon in the midst of so much unmarked flesh.

Peter’s free hand came up to trace Stiles’s lips, thumb sliding into his silky heat. Peter gave a low purr of approval when Stiles, whiskey-hot eyes fixed on Peter’s, slid his tongue against the pad of Peter’s finger. 

“God, you’ve a mouth on you,” Peter pulled his thumb out, slicking Stiles’s lips with his own saliva before pressing in again with his two forefingers, pulling Stiles’s mouth open when Stiles tried to close his lips around them and suck, “Never can seem to keep it shut.  Always running it off like the rest of us have nothing better to do than listen. Sarcastic and lippy without an ounce of respect for your elders.  Or,” he pushed his fingers back farther, pressing Stiles’s tongue down so Stiles gagged, “Your betters.”  He withdrew his fingers, cupping Stiles’s face with the same hand and watching with amusement when Stiles tried to flinch away from the wet touch.

“And yet,” Now Peter’s hands both lifted, coming to unfasten the button on his jeans and drag the zipper down with agonizing slowness, “Here you are.” He reached in and pulled out his cock, fingers still slick with saliva.  “Neither of our so-called Alphas, working together or apart, it seems, can manage to keep you under control.” He shuddered, pressing a thumb against the slit.  “But I’ve got you on your knees and begging for it like a whore.”  Pleasure rolled thick and rich in his voice and where Stiles’s mind had been blissfully blank only seconds before, something clicked into place.

This wasn’t about sex, for Peter, he realized.  It was not about desire for lips and hands and skin, this was about power. Plain and simple. Not the kind of power play that came with games like this, not the kind that was gladly given and just as gladly returned when everyone lay sprawled and sated and sweaty, but the power that someone took with force or cunning, glorying in the mess left behind. 

Stiles’s brow furrowed, coming back to himself piece by piece as Peter continued to stroke and began to press forward, the head of his cock no more than a breath away from Stiles’s lips.  There was a part of Stiles, a part larger than he would like to admit, that took this new understanding and wanted to curl and twine around it.  Wanted to let Peter take everything he could and more. Wanted to let Peter further inside his mind and his body until there was nothing left of Stiles but the raw, aching need to give Peter anything and everything he could ask for.

But the rest of him, the parts of him that were the Stiles he wanted to be, the Stiles he chose every day to be, were stronger.  He would not act as a pawn in Peter’s game, as some kind of trophy that could be won from Scott or Derek to sate Peter’s lust for power. Stiles was pack. And he could not do this to his pack.

“No.” Stiles was pushing back, scrambling to his feet and pulling his clothes on even as he could taste the brush of Peter’s cock on his mouth.  “No.”

“‘No’?” Peter stepped forward, a growl slipping from his lips.  “We’re past ‘no’, Stiles.”

“No,” Stiles shook his head, his voice firm and controlled as he tucked himself back into his pants, fastening them decidedly.  “I’m sorry, Peter, but… this isn’t what I want.”

“It is.” Peter said, certainty ringing in his voice.  “You can’t hide that from me, I can smell how badly this is exactly what you want.”

Stiles let out his breath in a huff, fingers clumsy as he buttoned up his shirt. “Maybe, yeah.  Sure.”

“Not ‘maybe’.  You want this. You’ve wanted this for—”

“That doesn’t matter,” Stiles cut him off, moving around the couch to the door, “I’m not going to be ruled by my baser impulses.  I’m not going to let my body control my mind.  I’m not that guy.”  He was speaking more to himself now than to Peter, and the more he spoke the more sure he was that he was doing the right thing.

“Derek did a number on me, there’s no denying that, but I’m not going to keep letting myself drown and then lay that at his feet.” 

Peter’s jaw was clenched tight and he was coming around the couch with dark intention in his pale blue eyes.  “Stiles,” he said, significantly.

“Hey,” Stiles reached into his pocket, wrapped his hand around the thin silver chain and pulled it out so that it gleamed in the light of the flames. Peter snarled, fury sudden and hideous on his face.   “I’m sorry,” Stiles repeated, because he knew Peter wasn’t going to forgive him for this.  For walking out his door with the prize he’d thought was his to claim.  But Stiles wasn’t going to do anything more that would harm his pack.

“Thank you,” he said as he finally reached the door, pulling it open with a glance back over his shoulder at Peter, standing in the middle of the living room, eyes glowing like embers against the darkness of the cityscape.  “For the wine.”

  

It was cold outside and Stiles shoved his hands into his pockets, head ducked to try and keep the rain out of his eyes.  He still had no idea where he was, not exactly, but he was familiar enough with the layout of the town that he knew if he headed north he could make it deeper downtown and hail a cab.  And if he went east… well, east would land him in the warehouse district. It would be a walk, from here, but Stiles felt like he needed it.  Needed to clear his head and needed to let the rain wash away the thin layer of grime that he felt clinging to his skin. 

For which he had no one to blame but himself—and he was beginning to realize that now. He’d been holding on to the idea that he was a victim, that he’d been wounded and hurt and it was all Derek’s fault.  But Ethan and Peter? Stiles had brought that on himself.  He’d tried to bury what he felt in other men, other bodies, and it was destroying him. Worse than that, his heartbreak was destroying the pack.  And that had to stop.  Stiles wasn’t going to let himself be crippled by it any more.

He might still need Derek with every atom in his body, might never stop reaching for him in the night, but he’d sure as hell stop being so goddamn sad about it.  If he couldn’t control what he felt, he could at least control what he did about it. 

And he’d do it in a way that didn’t hurt anyone else. 

 

When he arrived at Derek’s place, forty-five minutes later, soaking wet and just beginning to shiver, he was grateful to find out that the code to the warehouse hadn’t changed.  Hunching over the keypad and blinking the rainwater out of his eyes, Stiles punched in 9653 and as soon as he heard the lock snick open he opened the door far enough for him to slip through.  He closed it behind himself, not bothering to be quiet.  He knew that Derek would be home, and Derek he would know that someone was there. He’d probably also know it was Stiles—by the sound of his heartbeat, or the particular rhythm of his walk, or god knows what else. 

Irritation rippled down his spine at that thought as he made his way across the first floor and towards the elevator.  Unlike Stiles, Derek wouldn’t be caught unaware of his presence. He wouldn’t be minding his own business in his kitchen only to turn around and have Stiles standing in the doorway.  Oh no, Derek would have plenty of time to prepare himself to see Stiles.  Not that he’d need it, because it wasn’t like Derek actually cared

Which was why, Stiles reminded himself, this was the ideal solution. 

Hitting the button for Derek’s floor, Stiles leaned back against the wall of the elevator and ran a hand through his wet hair to try to keep it from dripping into his eyes.  He wished he hadn’t forgotten his jacket at the club.  His shirt was clinging uncomfortably to his skin and there was nothing worse than the feeling of wet jeans.  Then again, his jacket wasn’t exactly a raincoat, so it probably would have gotten just as soaked through and then he’d be stuck with another wet layer and—well, Stiles was just avoiding the issue at hand. 

Pushing himself up from the wall, Stiles straightened as the elevator doors opened, and stepped out. 

“Why are you here, Stiles?”  Derek stood framed in the doorway of his loft, wearing nothing but a pair of loose pyjama bottoms that rode low on his hips and a white t-shirt that did nothing to hide the curves of his muscles or the dark halos of his nipples. Not to mention that, in the gap between where the t-shirt ended and the pyjamas started, Stiles could see the thick line of hair that he knew lead straight down to Derek’s cock.

Stiles swallowed the saliva that had pooled in his mouth and focused his eyes on Derek’s face.  Ignoring Derek’s stony expression, he pushed past the Alpha werewolf and into the loft.

“I didn’t say you could come in.”

“Yeah, well you didn’t stop me either,” Stiles pointed out.  The first floor of Derek’s place looked precisely the same as it had the last time Stiles had been there—the night Marcus had made his presence known.  Stiles didn’t know why he’d expected anything different.  Leaning against the back of the couch, he waited for Derek to close the door. 

“Did something happen?”  Derek crossed the room to stand in front of Stiles, his arms folded across his chest.

“You tell me.”

Derek’s eyes narrowed and his nostrils flared, scenting the air around Stiles. Stiles kept his face neutral, his body language relaxed and easy, despite the tension that thrummed through his veins. 

“What did you do?”  Derek snapped, the briefest glint of scarlet surfacing in his green eyes.  “Or should I ask who?”

“Peter,” Stiles admitted, evenly.  “Almost.”

“Almost.” There was a dangerous lack of volume in Derek’s voice.  Stiles knew he was walking on thin ice and couldn’t help grinning.

“He didn’t fuck me.”  His grin widened as Derek’s hands clenched into fists at his sides.  

“He marked you.” It wasn’t a question, and for a moment Stiles was confused.  Marked him?  Peter hadn’t—

But then Derek was barely an inch away from him and Stiles hadn’t even seen him move. Before Stiles could even register the closeness, Derek’s hands had fisted in his shirt and he’d torn open Stiles’s wet clothing, bearing his chest.  Stiles jerked forwards with the force. 

They looked down at the same time, at the dark circle of flesh around Stiles’s nipple and Derek made a disgusted sound, taking a step back and tossing the remains of Stiles’s shirt at him. 

“What are you trying to do, Stiles?  Are you trying to get back at me?  To hurt me?  I wouldn’t have thought you’d sink this low.  Peter—” Derek broke off, lips curled with scorn. 

“You might find this hard to believe,” Stiles matched scorn with scorn, “But not everything I do is about you.”

“This isn’t just another version of a drunk dial?”  Derek arched an eyebrow.  “Another bid for attention?”

“Fuck you.” Stiles stepped forwards, hurt fuelling the anger that was beginning to boil underneath his skin.

“Because it smells like you’ve been getting plenty of attention.” Derek came forwards to meet Stiles, leaning in and sniffing deliberately at Stiles’s ear where, earlier, Raj’s lips had rested.

“Derek,” Stiles warned, bringing his hands up to push firmly at Derek’s chest, but the werewolf didn’t budge.  His nose ran down Stiles’s neck, across his shoulder, and then he pulled back so abruptly that Stiles, who’d still been trying to push Derek away, nearly lost his balance.

“Argent? Him, too?”  Revulsion was ugly in Derek’s voice. “Is there anyone who hasn’t had their hands all over you?”

Stiles’s mouth dropped open, incredulity leaving him breathless. 

“Did you think if you showered after I wouldn’t still be able to smell him on you?”

Fury wound around Stiles’s throat in a choking vice.  If Derek actually thought Stiles would—

“So you figured after your third rejection you’d show up here?  That you’d finally get the fuck you’re so desperate for?”

With that, Stiles finally found his voice, and with it came an anger so blinding that he felt eerily calm.  “Yeah.” He gave a careless shrug. “After all, we’ve done it once, haven’t we?”  And Derek had made it crystal clear that that was all it had been.  A fuck.  And if Derek could be blithe about it than so could Stiles. 

Besides, it was a solution.  A quick fix to Stiles’s heartache.  If he couldn’t stop wanting Derek, then at least he’d be in control of the how and the when. He’d get his hit, his fuck, and he’d be able to function normally until the next time he needed it. There would be no weak spots for another Ethan to exploit, no opportunities for Peter to get one up on Derek or Scott at Stiles’s expense. 

“Alright.” Derek’s eyes met Stiles’s, cold and challenging, like he didn’t expect Stiles to actually go through with it. He gestured to the iron staircase. “You know where the bedroom is.”

It was so much like the first time Stiles had asked Derek to fuck him that Stiles nearly laughed.  But this time he wasn’t going to run.  He wasn’t going to be scared off by Derek’s bullshit posturing.  This time, Stiles was going to call Derek’s bluff.

Dropping what was left of his shirt to the floor, Stiles brought his hands to the button on his waistband and popped it open, slid down the zipper, and slowly peeled out of his wet jeans.  His shoes, boxers, and socks followed until he stood naked, with water still dripping from his hair down his skin, in front of Derek.  

A muscle in Derek’s jaw clenched, though he kept his eyes steady on Stiles’s. But even Derek couldn’t control the way his pupils had dilated, the black swallowing the green until all that remained was a thin rim of iris. 

With a smirk, Stiles turned and made his way upstairs.

Chapter Text

Chapter Eleven

 

Stiles couldn’t hear Derek behind him as he sauntered across the second floor of Derek’s loft, but the prickling of the skin on the back of his neck told him the werewolf was there regardless.  When he wanted to, Derek could move cat-quiet.  Wolf-quiet?  Either way, the sensation of being stalked put a wide, cocky grin on Stiles’s face.  Derek might not love him, might not even like him at this point, but that didn’t mean that Derek could resist him.

And that filled Stiles with the same kind of heady power he’d felt hours earlier, standing in the woods with a gun clasped steady in his hands and Chris close behind him, instructing Stiles on how to shoot to wound or to kill.  It was the same power he’d felt telling Peter no and meaning it.  Stiles might not have fangs and claws and superhuman strength, but that didn’t mean he was weak.  Not any more.

The only light in Derek’s apartment came from the single lamp on his bedside table.  The sheets, still the same dark purple, were pushed back and rumpled, and the book left splayed carelessly open on the table told Stiles that he’d interrupted Derek reading in bed.  He felt a small twist of satisfaction knowing that Derek had been alone. 

Stopping at the edge of the bed, Stiles made to turn around and face Derek.  Before he could do more than start to twist his head, though, there was a hand hard and flat between his shoulder blades, sending him sprawling forwards onto the mattress. 

“No,” Derek’s voice was as unyielding as his shove had been.  “I don’t want to look at you.”

Stiles’s hands clenched white-knuckled fists in the bed sheets, Derek’s words sinking like a brand into his skin.  But he took the hurt and crushed it, made it small and hard and caged it deep inside of him so that when he crawled further up the bed it was with loose and careless movements.  He knew Derek was trying to get some kind of rise out of him, was pushing at him to make him break, to make him pull back and stand up and say I give up I didn’t mean it I don’t want it.  But Stiles wasn’t going to do that. Wasn’t going to walk away if there was even the smallest hope that Derek still wanted him.

Pathetic, yeah.  Needy and broken and unhealthy, absolutely.  But Stiles didn’t care.  He was past that.  He couldn’t talk himself out of it, couldn’t fuck himself out of it, couldn’t ignore it or hide it or pretend like even now his cock wasn’t aching for Derek’s touch.  Derek.  Not some guy from a bar, not Peter.  So Stiles would take whatever Derek would give him.  He would take it with a shit-eating sneer on his face and a go-fuck-yourself attitude because he knew that would just piss Derek off.  And if anger was the only kind of emotion Stiles could provoke in Derek, he’d take that, too.

 “Well?”  He questioned expectantly after there’d been nothing but silence from behind him for at least a minute.  “Are you just going to stare at me or are you going to—”

Derek’s hands were sudden and bruising on his thighs, shoving Stiles’s legs apart so Derek’s weight could fall between them.  Where moments before there’d been nothing but cool air against Stiles’s back, there was now the firm heat of Derek’s naked flesh over him, covering him, pressing him into the mattress so that Stiles’s breath came short and suffocating.  It felt like penance, like absolution. 

To be held down, held together when everything inside of him wanted to fly apart.  All the scattered pieces forced back into place by the weight on his back.  By Derek. 

Stiles could feel the coarse hair on Derek’s belly against his ass, the solid panes of Derek’s chest against his shoulders, the bunching muscle of his biceps as he rested with his elbows on either side of Stiles.  Stiles tried to bring his hands down from where they’d burrowed under the pillows in front of him but Derek snarled, low and vicious next to Stiles’s ear and he froze, heartbeat quickening.  The only time Derek sounded like that, ferocious and frighteningly wild, was when he’d gone full-Alpha. 

Derek had never, not in the entire year they had been together, gone full-Alpha on Stiles. 

He’d gone full-Alpha around Stiles plenty of times.  He’d wolfed out in training sessions or on a run with the pack.  He would shift just claws with Stiles, or eyes, or sometimes even both, but not the full body/face treatment.  He had done it when Ray had drugged him and he’d had no other choice, but he’d never, ever, ever done it because of Stiles. 

Real fear tasted metallic in Stiles’s mouth, intensifying as Derek ran his hands—now tipped with long, deadly claws—up Stiles’s arms to where his hands were under the pillows, clutching instinctively at the sheets.  As if he could use the purple bedding as some kind of weapon.  It would have been laughable except that Stiles had tensed under Derek, furious at himself for leaving the vial of mountain ash downstairs in the pocket of his jeans.  He was actually, for the first time since he’d tried to stare Derek down in the back of his dad’s police car, worried that Derek (conscious, knows-what-he’s-doing Derek) might hurt him.  And he hated that it had taken Derek only seconds to turn Stiles from confident victor to frightened quarry. 

“Don’t move,” Derek ordered, growl thick and thunderous in Stiles’s ear.  Stiles jerked his head in what he hoped Derek would recognise as a nod.  He’d stay still.  He’d stay as still and as quiet as possible and as soon as Derek got distracted or had a moment of inattention Stiles would bolt up and off the bed and out of the room and concede defeat.  Peter might have felt dangerous, might have made Stiles seriously question his own judgement, but nothing Peter had done had made Stiles feel so utterly helpless—and so, so turned on—as the simple press of Alpha-Derek’s weight against his back and his hot breath against Stiles’s ear.

Derek slid down Stiles’s body, breath ghosting hot and damp over the skin of Stiles’s neck, wandering lower until, without warning, teeth sunk deep into the flesh of Stiles’s left shoulder.  Stiles made a strangled, choked noise of shock and protest, body jerking violently under Derek’s.  His hands tangled in the sheets, muscles bunching as he tried to throw Derek off, breathless with horror that Derek, Alpha-Derek, had bitten him.

But Derek growled against his skin, threw his weight more firmly into Stiles, held him hard and fast against the mattress even as he sucked Stiles’s skin into his mouth, pulling it past the bruising edge of his teeth and running his tongue against it.  Against the blood trapped beneath.

Even through the panic Stiles couldn’t help arching, cock still hard and desperate, at the sensation.  At the feeling of Derek’s mouth and teeth on him.  Teeth—teeth, Stiles realized, not fangs.  That hadn’t broken skin.  It hurt in that too-tugging, too-blunt way to be anything but human.  Relief broke over him in a wave, limbs suddenly weak and shaking as the flood of adrenaline abated. 

As his panic fled the pain intensified, with nothing left to shield him from the brunt of it, and Stiles clenched his own teeth together, fighting the urge to cry out.  But just as it became too much, crossing over the line of pleasure/pain into plain agony, Derek pulled back.  He let Stiles collapse against the mattress, body limp with the release even as he could feel the ache of a deep bruise.

Derek leaned down, lips brushing the edge of the almost-wound, and between his legs Stiles could feel Derek’s hips roll against the mattress.  “Have you changed your mind?”

“No,” Stiles’s response was instant, firm.  Spoken almost before he realized that it was true—the terror he’d felt had abated the moment he realized Derek was in control enough to shift his teeth back before using them on Stiles.  There was still a rough undercurrent of fear tripping down Stiles’s spine.  Even though he knew—and felt a brief twinge of shame for having doubted it—that Derek wouldn’t turn him without his full consent, he could feel the force of Derek’s anger.  He still wasn’t entirely sure Derek wouldn’t hurt him, but it was impossible to deny that the thought of Derek inflicting pain as a punishment for the sins he believed Stiles had committed was as exciting to Stiles as it was frightening.  As Derek grazed his teeth over a fresh patch of Stiles’s skin, Stiles shuddered and breathed, “I want this.” 

“Good.”  Derek bit down again and Stiles hissed, struggling not to move even as pain flared bright under his skin.  Just like before, Derek didn’t stop until it hurt right at the edge of too much.  Stiles groaned against the mattress when Derek released the flesh on his back only to shift position, lips trailing across Stiles’s skin, and closed his teeth again.  Each pull and drag of Derek’s mouth against Stiles’s flesh sent a throbbing pulse down to his cock.  It wasn’t long until Stiles was whimpering under Derek, making soft, urgent noises as Derek continued to bite his way down Stiles’s back, a patchwork of purpled skin left in his wake. 

When Derek’s stubble rasped over the curve of Stiles’s ass Stiles cursed and found himself actually biting down on the bunched sheets in front of him.  He could feel Derek’s lips curve upwards against his sensitive skin and then he sunk his teeth in again, and again, and again, until Stiles couldn’t help the frantic, awkward thrusts of his pelvis against the bed.  He was so hard it hurt, every hammering beat of his heart pulsing through his cock until Stiles couldn’t help it and pleas spilled out of his mouth in a humiliating rush.

“Touch me, Derek, god, touch me.  Please.  Just… I need it, god, I need to come.  I need to feel you.  I need to feel something, Derek, c’mon, please.”

There was a pause, Derek’s mouth stilling on him from where he’d pushed Stiles’s legs as far apart as they would go, had buried his face against Stiles’s ass and had found that delicate strip of skin between Stiles’s ass and his balls.  Had drawn it into the wet heat of his mouth at the same time as his teeth had closed hard and fast around it so that Stiles had nearly jumped out of his skin and moaned, loud and long, at the pain/pleasure/pain cocktail that left his head spinning and the rest of his body shaking and sweaty. 

Derek’s rage hadn’t dissipated, hadn’t diminished as he’d taken out his fury on Stiles’s body.  The control he’d held onto so tightly, biting down vicious and cruel and with just enough care that he’d never once broken the skin, only seemed to have made his anger worse.  Stiles could feel the tension in Derek’s hands where he held Stiles’s legs open. He could hear the way Derek’s breathing was so perfectly even that he must have been controlling that, too.  Stiles didn’t know why Derek was so angry.  He couldn’t figure out what he’d done that had brought out Derek’s beast in a way Stiles hadn’t experienced before—and truth be told he was too desperate for a hand on his cock to care. 

Stiles pressed his forehead against the mattress, ground his hips down into the bed even though the friction was nowhere near enough.  The urgency inside of him was building, pleas giving way to demands when Derek did nothing.  “I came here for you to fuck me, so fuck me.”

That made Derek’s mouth lift from his skin, made his hands on Stiles’s thighs tighten in a way that made Stiles acutely aware of the fact that Derek’s fingers ended in sharp points and not human nails.  Stiles bit down on his lip when those fingers began to move, sliding up Stiles’s legs until they rested on his ass.  Derek pulled Stiles’s cheeks open with his thumbs, held him down and spread-eagled until Stiles began to squirm, ears a bright, burning red at being so exposed.  Derek made a sound low in his throat, almost a purr, at Stiles’s obvious discomfort.  Then he released Stiles and crawled up over him, reaching into the bedside drawer. 

Pulling out a condom and a bottle of lube, Derek slid back down Stiles’s ravaged body, and Stiles’s breath left him in a long, slow rush.  Finally, finally, he’d get what he wanted.  Derek would stop toying with him, stop trying so obviously to assert his dominance—though why Derek seemed so hell bent on establishing that, Stiles didn’t know.  He would like to say he didn’t care, except that the same part of him that relished igniting Derek’s anger was also clapping its hands in glee at having pushed Derek to the point of having to prove something.  Whether he had to prove it to Stiles or to himself, Stiles wasn’t sure.  He didn’t know if it made a difference.   

He could hear Derek rip open the condom package, the soft pop of the lube opening.  He waited to feel the cold slickness of it against his hole but had to bite back a yelp of surprise when instead of a finger the thick head of Derek’s cock pressed against him.  Stiles opened his mouth to protest but Derek pushed and the sensation of being stretched open with only the lube Derek had slicked himself up with to ease the way had Stiles’s spine bowing, fingers scrabbling at the sheets as pleasure sparked dizzyingly. 

Behind him, Derek grunted, hands coming up to Stiles’s hips and lifting them until Stiles was unsteady on his knees, head hanging down between his arms and struggling not to writhe.  Derek still wasn’t fully in him, had only shoved in an inch or so, and Stiles wanted so badly to shove himself back onto the rest of Derek’s cock but knew that right now he’d only get in trouble for it.  Derek liked to control the pace.  He wanted Stiles whimpering and desperate before he gave him what they both wanted.  So Stiles held as still as possible, though he couldn’t help the way his body tightened around Derek’s cock inside of him.

“Why,” Derek’s voice was rough and sudden, unexpected in the relative silence of the room.  “Do you have to make this so much harder?”

Stiles frowned.  He tried to turn his head back to look at Derek, but, before he could, Derek snapped his hips forward and thrust fully inside him.  Stiles’s eyes fell shut as Derek began to fuck him in earnest, pulling out and slamming back in, cockhead sliding over that spot inside Stiles with each thrust so that Stiles was babbling incoherently into the mattress within seconds.

“Oh my god, jesus, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck,” he could hear himself say as Derek began to use his hands on Stiles’s hips to slam him back to meet Derek’s thrusts.  It felt like Stiles was being taken apart, like the pieces of him that Derek had been holding together minutes ago were loose and spiralling and taking Stiles’s mind with them until all that was left was an blissful blankness. Stiles couldn’t think, couldn’t do anything but feel Derek hard and bruising inside him where his cock slammed against Stiles’s prostate and outside where his hands held Stiles’s hips in a vice grip, claws pricking Stiles’s skin so that a delicious razor-edge of pain spiked through the overwhelming pleasure.

With no warning at all, orgasm hit Stiles like a punch.  Derek hadn’t even touched his cock.  He’d gone out of his way to ignore it, in fact, but Stiles was still coming in shuddering bursts over Derek’s sheets.  Stiles’s spine arched, body clenched down around Derek, hands fisting white-knuckled in the bed.  Derek shoved him down, pushed Stiles flat against the mattress so the final pulses of his orgasm spilled sticky and hot between his stomach and the sheets, and then Derek began to pound into him with faster-than-human speed.  So much sensation after Stiles had just come was too much, and he cried out, writhing against the bed, but the hand between his shoulder blade held him down until Derek came with a sudden snarl, slamming so hard into Stiles that Stiles could feel his eyes roll back into his head. 

Chest heaving, breathless for the first time Stiles had seen him that night, Derek collapsed down on top of Stiles.  Stiles’s eyes fell closed, allowing himself a moment of stillness, of contentment under Derek.  If he kept quiet it might be almost like when Derek had loved him.  When Derek had lost himself inside of Stiles because Stiles had been a safe place, a haven.  When every thrust and drag of Derek’s cock had been an admission that Derek had felt something for Stiles, had found something in Stiles worth loving. 

But that was then, and this was now.  And Stiles knew that whatever Derek had found, whatever he’d seen or felt, wasn’t there anymore.  This hadn’t been an act of love, hadn’t been anything but a bodily release.  So Stiles rolled out from under Derek, ignored the way Derek stiffened and his hand made an abortive movement towards Stiles, as though to keep him there, to hold him in place.  It meant nothing, Stiles knew, simply an act of habit.  Because it wasn’t like Derek would actually reach out.  It wasn’t like he actually wanted to keep Stiles pressed close and warm under him.  Derek’s hand had dropped back to the mattress almost as soon as it had started to reach, and Stiles pretended not to notice.

He sat up, glanced down at the sticky mess on his belly and made a face before rising to cross the room and walk into the bathroom.  Out of the corner of his eye he could see Derek still sprawled across the bed, and this time it was his face buried in the mattress.  Stiles smirked, letting his earlier confidence resurface.  He didn’t need love to make Derek boneless.  He didn’t need affection or understanding.  He didn’t need a deeper kind of connection to the Alpha.  All he needed was the yield of his body.  And that, Stiles was learning, was easily given. 

Closing the bathroom door behind him, Stiles met his own eyes in the mirror.  He looked different, he realized.  No longer hollow-eyed and sad, no more exhausted bags under his eyes or a sallow undertone to his skin.  He looked good.  Flushed, healthy, a new edge to the tilt of his chin that hadn’t been there before.  He looked like someone who knew what he wanted and got it.  Someone who paid no heed to what others thought of him.  Someone who could enjoy a quick fuck and walk away, easy as you please. 

Stiles gave his reflection a slight nod and then reached for the washcloth hanging beside the sink to wipe away the come on his stomach before it dried. 

When he emerged from the bathroom, Derek was sitting up in the bed.  Stiles ignored him, padding barefoot and still naked across the room towards the doorway.  But before he’d made it out, Derek had left the bed.  He crossed the room quicker than Stiles could see and suddenly his hand was on Stiles’s shoulder, stopping him.

“I hurt you.”  There was a note in Derek’s voice almost like regret, and Stiles froze.  “I didn’t mean to.”  Derek’s other hand came up, traced over the bruises that littered Stiles’s back and Stiles felt anger roil sudden and clashing like a thunderstorm inside of him.  Now Derek cared?  Now he regretted what he’d done to Stiles?  When the evidence of Stiles’s pain was written in blotched purple against his skin?  He hadn’t cared when Stiles’s heart had broken, when it had fallen crushed and discarded to the ground.  But now, when Stiles carried proof of the pain Derek had inflicted, pain that was nothing compared to what Stiles had been dealt earlier, Derek felt sorry?

“Don’t worry.”  Stiles kept his voice light and absolutely careless.  “You’ve hurt me worse before.”  Like it didn’t matter.  Like he’d recovered, free of harm.  He turned back to look at Derek, expression cool and easy.  “I’m fine.”  Fuck you, the inside of him snarled, frothing.  Fuck you for pretending to care now.  He wanted to hurt Derek, wanted to lash out spiteful and cruel until Derek hurt like Stiles was hurting.  But, of course, Stiles didn’t mean enough to Derek for him to be able to inflict that kind of pain.

His eyes moved past Derek, rested on the book that sat open on Derek’s bedside table, A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin.  Stiles had bought Derek A Game of Thrones for their first—and only—Christmas together.  He’d hoped Derek would enjoy Westeros and its Seven Kingdoms the way Stiles had.  Seeing it there, left thoughtlessly splayed open made bile rise in Stiles’s throat.  He hadn’t even been able to watch the show anymore, not when he associated the universe so closely with Derek.  Apparently, Derek hadn’t had the same problem.

“You know Robb dies, right?” Stiles asked, gaze moving back to meet Derek’s.

Derek flinched, hand dropping from Stiles’s shoulder, and Stiles felt a cold kind of satisfaction settle in his stomach.  “Oops, guess not.”  He lifted his shoulder in a shrug.  “Sorry,” he said, in a voice that clearly said he wasn’t sorry at all.  Stiles waited a beat but Derek said nothing, and with a careless shrug Stiles turned and made his way out of the bedroom.  Crossing the loft, he pulled open the door and made his way down the stairs to gather his clothes.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twelve

 

When Scott showed up at his door late on Monday night, Derek wasn’t surprised.  He’d been expecting a visit from the other Alpha ever since Stiles had walked out the night before.  Scott didn’t bother knocking, just shoved open the large iron door to the first floor of Derek’s loft with a screech that set Derek’s teeth on edge as he made his way down the stairs. 

“You told me this wouldn’t happen again.”  Scott yanked the door shut behind him with another scream of metal-on-metal.  “You swore it wouldn’t.”

“It wasn’t like last time.”  Derek stepped off the last stair and watched Scott cross the room towards him.  He could feel Scott’s rage rippling through the air between them, caught the glint of red swimming just under the dark surface of Scott’s eyes. 

“Bullshit it wasn’t.” Scott’s voice was thick with contempt.  “He’s hurting, Derek, and this is the second time you’ve taken advantage of that.”

The anger that had spent the last twenty-four hours simmering in Derek’s gut roiled dangerously close to the surface.  He found himself striding across the loft to meet Scott in the middle.  “Careful.”

“I’m not going to let you keep fucking with Stiles like this.  Or should I say I’m not going to let you keep fucking Stiles.”

Derek’s hands flexed at his sides, the urge to grab Scott by the collar of his dress shirt and throw him against the wall nearly overwhelming his thin grip on control.  “He came to me,” he managed tersely.

“And that changes anything—how?”  Scott demanded, livid.  “He was getting better.  He was getting over you.  And then he and his dad show up for Thanksgiving dinner and Isaac and I can smell you on him.  Jesus, Derek, we could smell you in him.”

The crudeness of Scott’s last statement had heat rising in a furious rush across Derek’s face.  If Scott noticed he didn’t seem to care.

“Get your shit together.  I’ve done my part.  I’ve held up my end.  You need to do the same.” Or else, Scott’s tone implied.

“I’m trying,” Derek growled.  “It’s not like this is—”

“I swear to god if you say ‘easy’ I am going to rip your tongue out and nail it to the floor.”  Scott’s own hands were balled into fists.  “Do you think this has been easy for me?  Stiles has been my best friend for nearly as long as we’ve been alive.  He’s a brother to me in all the ways that count.  We don’t lie to each other.  Except that I’m lying to him every day.”

“I know that.”  Derek gritted out through clenched teeth.  “I’m trying—”

“You keep saying that.”  Scott stepped closer, spine rigid with righteous anger.  “But what are you trying to do?  Get laid?  Keep Stiles pining over you?  What is it, Derek?”

Ire lashed tight around Derek’s throat, choking him, and he struggled to keep the storm of it banked.  “I’m trying to keep him safe.  We both are.  You agreed to this, Scott.”

“I didn’t agree to this.  You told me it’d be a clean break.  I agreed to lie for you—to lie with you—to keep him out of this werewolf shit.  I agreed with you when you said that he was too wrapped up in it, that we were going to get him killed if we didn’t get him out.  You said you’d do whatever it took to keep him safe.”  Scott brought his hands up and shoved Derek, hard, causing the other werewolf to stumble back a step.  “Since when did that include fucking him?”

“Since he tried to go to Peter for that,” Derek snarled, fury erupting like a thunderclap. 

“He—what?”

“You heard me.”  Derek pushed into Scott’s space.  “Now tell me you’d rather have him fucking my uncle than me.”

Scott made a wordless noise of frustration, pulling back from Derek and pacing in a tight, angry circle.  “That doesn’t—you can’t keep—it doesn’t change anything, Derek.  You have to stop.”

“No.”

“Excuse me?”

“I won’t do it, I won’t turn him away if that means he heads straight to Peter.  I won’t do it.”  The thought of it had claws sliding sharp and vicious from the tips of Derek’s fingers, a red haze forming in front of his eyes.

“Derek—”

“It’s not going to happen.”  Derek’s voice was a low, throaty growl of warning. 

Scott stopped pacing, turning to face Derek with his hackles up.  “You’re not the only Alpha of this pack.  You don’t get to make calls like that on your own.”

“Stiles isn’t pack—isn’t that the point?”  Derek could feel his jaw bones shifting as his teeth began to lengthen into fangs. 

“The point is to keep him safe.  Alive.” 

“You’re right, and this doesn’t change anything.  Stiles still hates me.”  He’d made that perfectly clear last night.  “He’s still less a part of things than when…” when we were together.  “He’s being kept out of it.”

“Like how he was ‘kept out of it’ when Isaac was attacked?”  Scott’s eyes were glowing a red to match Derek’s, his stance shifting so that he rested on the balls of his feet.  “They went after Stiles because they know he is pack.  This plan isn’t working, Derek.”

“Yes, it is.”  Derek could feel energy, power, coursing through him.  The beast in him wanted to attack Scott, to force him to submit to Derek’s authority.  But he wasn’t an animal, and he and Scott were equals by mutual respect and agreement.  So Derek was forced to use reason and not physical strength.  “Look at how focused they’ve been on him when they think he’s just pack.  How much more significant do you think he’d be to them if they knew how important he really is to me?  To you?”

“And how is you still sleeping with him going to help that?”  Scott seemed to be fighting the same battle as Derek, his hands clenching and unclenching at his sides like he was trying to keep himself under control. 

“Because that’s all it’ll be,” the words tasted bitter on Derek’s tongue.  “As far as anyone else knows—as far as Stiles knows—it won’t mean anything.”

“I can’t believe this,” Scott’s anger appeared to drain out of him, replaced with weary resignation.  “What’s even been the point of the last couple months if you and he are still—”

“The point,” Derek’s own fury abated, features slowly returning to human,  “is that he’ll get over it.” Me. “Eventually.”

“God, Derek,” Scott rubbed a hand over his face.  “We should just tell him.  It was stupid.  It’s not working—”

“No!”  Fear was copper bright in Derek’s mouth.  “Can you imagine what he’d do if he found out?  If he realized we’d been lying to him this whole time?”  Even the thought of it sent Derek’s pulse racing, scattered.  “This isn’t just about Marcus.  This is about the next Marcus.  And the one after that.”

Scott worried at his bottom lip, still not looking convinced.  “But if he finds out…”

“He won’t,” Derek insisted firmly.  “It was always going to be hard, for all of us, but do you really think he’d ever walk away from this,” he gestured with his right hand to encompass the whole supernatural shitshow that was their lives.  “With both you and me so much a part of it?  This way,” Derek swallowed, closing his eyes for a moment.  “This way he has a shot at a normal life.”

“Yeah,” Scott sank down onto the arm of the couch, resigned.  “You’re right, I know you’re right.  I just,” he looked up at Derek and the uncertainty on his face was painful.  “I hate having to hurt him.” 

“It’s for the best,” Derek said gently, feeling every one of his twenty-six years like they were decades. 

“Okay.”  Scott heaved out a breath and then stood, shoving his hands awkwardly into his pockets.  “I gotta get back, I told my mom I was just gassing up my bike.”  He headed to the door, pausing once he’d pulled it open.  “Happy Thanksgiving, by the way.”

“Thanks,” Derek lifted a hand in acknowledgement, his face carefully blank.  “You too.”

He waited until he heard the front door of the warehouse close before turning and making his way reluctantly back upstairs.  Pushing open the door to the second floor he stood in the entryway for a long moment, staring at the two-person spread of Thanksgiving dinner laid out over the kitchen island.  Untouched, it had long since grown cold.

He and Peter had made plans weeks ago for their first Hale Thanksgiving in longer than either of them cared to remember.  Derek had offered to cook if Peter would bring the wine, pick up dessert.  Derek had been looking forward to it, at least until Stiles had shown up the night before with Peter’s scent clinging to him like cheap cologne and the imprint of Peter’s teeth bruised into his skin. 

After Stiles had left—covered now in Derek’s scent, with Derek’s marks a constellation across his back—Derek had slept only fitfully, unable to even distract himself with A Storm of Swords.  It didn’t help that he now knew what fate awaited his favourite character, and he definitely didn’t want to think too long about the way he’d found that out.  He’d rolled out of bed early and had begun preparing that evening’s meal, spending all day in the kitchen painstakingly creating each flawless dish. 

Peter had called around noon, presumably to find out what time Derek wanted him over.  But seeing Peter’s name on his phone had made Derek’s hands ball into all-too-human fists, the swelling of rage inside of him surpassing the wolf.  He didn’t want to rend and tear Peter into pieces.  He wanted to slam his fists into Peter’s face until it was bloody and broken.  He wanted to feel the skin of his knuckles split against the bones of Peter’s face.

So Derek hadn’t answered. 

Hours later, when every dish was cooked to perfection and the island was laden with steaming serving plates heaped with food, Derek found he had no appetite.  And so the meal sat, growing cold and congealed, as Derek alternately paced or stared blankly at the TV screen, waiting for the inevitable visit from Scott. 

Now that he’d returned, Derek didn’t feel any more like eating the food he’d spent all day making.  He should be hungry—he’d tasted each dish here and there throughout the day, but that had been it.  By all rights, Derek should be famished. 

But the thought of making himself a plate turned his stomach, made his lips curl back from his teeth in disgust.  Even the smell of the food was an off-putting invasion of his senses. 

Another of his carefully laid plans gone sour.

Before he even knew what he was doing Derek was across the room in a blur of motion.  Fangs bared, vision lost in a sea of red, he swept one furious, clawed hand over the surface of the island.  Food and dishes cascaded to the floor, the sound of the shattering stoneware lost in the ferocity of the roar that tore itself from Derek’s throat. 

 

 

Several Months Earlier

 

There were glittering fairy lights strung throughout the first floor of Derek’s loft, a large, garishly coloured ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEREK’ banner hanging from the exposed pipes in the ceiling, and probably two dozen balloons bobbing gently in the air.  Derek had laughed out loud when he’d pulled open the door to the loft and Stiles had popped out from behind the couch, accompanied by the rest of the pack—wolf and human both, to shout ‘Surprise!’ at him.  No matter that he’d heard and smelled what they’d been setting up from half a block away.  No matter that Isaac had spilled the beans a week earlier after casually asking Derek his thoughts on ice cream cakes.  Stiles’s excitement—poorly hidden as always—had been infectious, and even if Derek had been a touch leery about celebrating his birthday for the first time in more years than he was comfortable with, the sight of Stiles wearing a ridiculous party hat—and the fact that he’d somehow managed to convince Peter and Jackson into wearing them as well—was enough to lay his fears to rest.

Now that the initial ‘surprise’ part of the party was over, Derek sat on the iron stairs that led up to the second floor and began making headway on the enormous piece of cake he held.  It wasn’t ice cream, but a very rich and decadent chocolate that Allison had made.  Her mother’s recipe, she’d said, and Derek had met her eyes for a long moment before she handed it to him without a trace of hostility. 

Across the room Scott was mixing a drink under Lydia’s careful eye—an old fashioned, Derek judged by the oaky scent of whiskey and the sweet lick of cherry.  Jackson lounged on the couch with a beer dangling from his fingers and a look of guarded interest on his face as Danny began to shuffle a pack of Cards Against Humanity.  Against the far wall, Stiles was in the middle of a good-natured argument with Isaac about whether or not the werewolves were going to have to play Pin the Tail On the Donkey both blindfolded and wearing noise-cancelling headphones. 

Though actually, when Derek narrowed his eyes and looked closer, someone (Stiles, because of course it had been Stiles) had pasted a wolf’s head cut out of black cardboard paper over top of the donkey’s, and, sure enough, its hooves had been similarly replaced with over-large and definitely canine paws. 

Stiles was waving around a fluffy tail and gesturing earnestly at Isaac.  His voice was loud enough that even without Derek’s ‘werewolf superpowers’ he would have been able to hear what Stiles was saying, but Derek let the noise of it wash over him, blending with the sound of Gin Wigmore caterwauling from the portable ipod speakers and the clamour of the rest of their friends.  It was, Derek reflected with an unexpected rush of pleasure, rapidly becoming the soundtrack of his life—this loud, bubbling swarm of energy and laughter and pack. 

He’d had it before, years and years before, when his pack had been his family in the most literal sense.  The same warm pulse of something that was his and the solid, concrete certainty that nothing could take that away.  But of course something—someone—had.  And then there’d been nothing but a bleak, reeling loss.  Laura had been there still, the two of them not-quite lone wolves, but it hadn’t been the same.  She’d carried the mantle of Alpha like a cross, a weight heavy and crushing on her shoulders.  She’d done her best, Derek knew that, but she’d been so young.  They’d both been so terribly young. 

It hurt still, the years they’d had chafing against each other with the wounds Kate had created leaving them jagged and raw.  They’d fought more often than not, at each other’s throats at every turn, Laura trying her best to be the Alpha their mother had been and knowing she wasn’t. 

That had made it worse than if they’d been Betas.  As two Betas they could have found another pack, could have found a place for themselves in another city.  Derek could have gone back to school, graduated with a class, had friends, had a home.  It wouldn’t have been the same.  It could never have been the same as it was going to be, before, but it would have been better than what they had.  It would have given Derek some semblance of a normal life.  But Laura had had so much to prove and that had kept them alone and driven them apart.

And the lone wolf does not survive.

Only Derek had.  He'd been miserably, achingly alone, but he’d done it.  He’d left Laura in their cramped basement apartment after one particularly venomous fight.  With the marks of her claws still burning bloody over his ribs, he’d fled with nothing but a duffle bag and a crumpled wad of bills he’d saved from working as a bus boy at a shitty roadside diner. 

He hadn’t meant for it to be forever.  He’d gone back three months later after he’d found a steady job working construction in the next town over.  It had been a stupid fight after all—about money, of all things, because Laura had refused to touch what their parents had left them.  She’d insisted it was too big a risk, that the hunters were still out there and could be watching the accounts to see where and when the remaining Hales would surface.  Derek had thought she was being absurdly overcautious.  Or that’s what he’d told her, anyway.  A part of him had hoped that was exactly what Kate was doing, and that when she found out where they were she’d come for them again, and this time Derek would bring her family to ruin.

That vicious thirst for revenge had cooled though, after he’d realized what it meant to be actually on his own.  So he’d gone back, hat in hand, and hoping Laura would come with him.  He’d found another apartment—just as small as the one they’d been in before, but in a nicer area, with big windows and a balcony—and he was making enough that he thought between the two of them they’d be okay.  They wouldn’t be scrounging to survive anymore, and so maybe the issue of their parents’ money wouldn’t come up again.

But Laura hadn’t been there.  She hadn’t been there for at least a month, according to their surly upstairs neighbour, who hadn’t been able to provide Derek with any more information than that.  Derek spent six more months looking for Laura before he’d given up.  If she wanted to find him, she could. 

She didn’t.

Then, years later, a sign of her had and Derek left everything without a backwards glance.  He’d driven for two days straight back to his own personal hell because there’d been a spiral-marked deer in Beacon Hills.  A spiral-marked deer, and the body of his dead sister. 

In the end though, after everything that happened, Derek thought coming back to Beacon Hills—and staying—had been the best decision he’d made in the last decade.  Because he had family again.  He had pack.  He was happy in a way he’d given up on ever feeling again.

He had Stiles to thank for that.  Stiles, because he’d demanded better from Derek, because he’d expected better.  Stiles who had looked past all of Derek’s crap and saw down to the core of him and forced him to be the Alpha that Beacon Hills needed.  Scrawny, sarcastic, snarky Stiles who hadn’t let Derek fail like Laura had.

Stiles, who had now stopped flailing about with the faux wolf tail and appeared to be trying to pin it onto Isaac.  Who, for his part, was nearly doubled over with laughter and only just managing to avoid the wicked pin Stiles had fixed to the end of the tail.

As though he could feel Derek’s eyes on him, Stiles looked up and met Derek’s gaze, grinning impishly.  Derek rolled his eyes, tried to summon up a scowl but couldn’t quite manage it.  Stiles stopped trying to stick Isaac with the tail for long enough to blow Derek a noisy kiss before redoubling his efforts.

“You’re too close to the boy.”

“What?”  Derek was caught off guard and unable to stop the question from escaping his lips.

“Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about.”  Peter threaded his arms through the iron rails of the staircase and leaned in.  “Stiles.”

“I know who you mean,” Derek replied tersely, the chocolate cake now tasting like chalk in his mouth.  “I’m just not sure what you mean by it.”

“Yes, you do,” Peter said softly, seriously.  “He’s so very… human.”  There was an odd note in his voice but Derek was too distracted by the next words out of Peter’s mouth to pay it any heed.  “You need to turn him.”

“No.”  The word cracked like a whip, landing heavy and sharp in the air between them.  “I won’t do that.”  Derek sucked in a long breath, trying to control the thudding of his panicked heart.  He twisted to face Peter, eyes glinting with the barest hint of red.  “And you know why.  You know exactly why.”  He felt shaken, thrown off balance and hardly able to believe that Peter had brought it up—but then again, Peter seemed to make a career out of being unbelievable.

Peter gave a dismissive wave with his hand.  “That was years ago, Derek.  I’d have thought you’d be long past it.  After all, you’ve turned humans since.”

“Yeah, and look how well that turned out.”  Bitterness was thick in Derek’s voice.  He’d heard nothing from Boyd and Erica since they’d left.  He’d tried reaching out, emailing them at least once a month, but there was never an answer.  For all he knew, they were dead.

“Isaac’s still here,” Peter commented.

“One out of three?”  Derek laughed hollowly.  “That’s not even a passing grade.”

“But two out of four would be.”

“No.”

“Derek—”

No.”  This time Derek’s eyes flared with the full strength of his power.

Peter inclined his head dutifully but not before Derek caught the quick gleam of cerulean darting across his irises.  “You’re the Alpha.”

“One of them, yes,” Derek snapped.  “And neither of us is turning Stiles.”

“Then tell me, nephew mine,” Peter met Derek’s eyes again, and this time his had returned to their pale, human blue.  “What is it you intend to do about him?”

The reminder that Peter was Derek’s uncle rankled, which, Derek knew, was exactly what Peter had intended.  He willed his wolf back down beneath the surface, looking back at Peter with his eyes calm and green once more.  “Why would we need to do anything about him?  He’s not the only human attached to this pack.”

Peter snorted.  “You mean Lydia?  Allison?”

“And Danny.”

“Please.” Peter rolled his eyes, bringing his hand up and ticking off his fingers one-by-one.  “Lydia’s a banshee, Allison belongs to a whole family of hunters…”

As if Derek could forget.

“…and Danny’s hardly a part of the pack.  He’s only here because he’s Jackson’s best friend and lord knows Jackson wouldn’t deign to attend a party unaccompanied.”

Derek could feel tension knotting his shoulders.  “I don’t see—”

“Exactly.  Neither you nor your co-Alpha can see the problem Stiles presents.”

“Stiles isn’t a problem,” Derek bit out, unable to help the frustration he felt from seeping into his voice. 

“He will be.”

“Would you stop—” Derek cut himself off, taking another deep breath before continuing.  “Why do you think Stiles is going to be a problem?”

“He’s weak.  He doesn’t have Allison’s training, he doesn’t have Lydia’s power, and he’s certainly more invested in the pack than Danny will ever be.  After all, his brother and his boyfriend run it.  He’ll never not want to be a part of it, to be with the two of you in the thick of things.”

“Some people might see that kind of loyalty as a virtue.”  Peter wasn’t the only one who could pepper a conversation with barbs. 

Peter’s lips twitched in wry acknowledgement.  “I’m not denying that.  But do you really think the two of you can keep him safe?”

“Yes.”  The alternative was unthinkable.

“And at what cost, Derek?  How many lives are you willing to risk to keep one human boy alive?”

All of themAny of them.  Derek’s thoughts must have shown on his face because Peter shook his head, grim. 

“He nearly died last year.  You nearly killed him.”

“Those were… unusual circumstances.”  He could still remember the feeling of his shoulders driving into Stiles’s back and sending the boy sprawling and breathless to the floor.  Stiles’s head had hit the tile with a crack and he’d lain there, stunned and gasping for breath as Derek had reared up over him, fangs gleaming.

“Not for us,” Peter insisted.  “Do you really think we won’t be facing another Kanima, another rabid Alpha?”

“You tried to kill him before any of that.”

Peter laughed then, and Derek’s hands tightened around the paper party plate in his hands.  “I did, at that.  And if you remember correctly—you nearly got yourself killed trying to defend him.”

“I’d do it again.”

“No one’s denying that, Derek.  But you can’t be everywhere all the time.  There’s only one of you.”

“And Scott.”

“Two of you, then.  Either way, the next—what does Stiles call them?  ‘Big Bads’?—what happens when the next ‘Big Bad’ targets Stiles simply because they know both you and Scott will do anything to keep him safe?  He’s always going to be in the crosshairs.”

Derek was silent, unable to deny that the thought hadn’t crossed his mind more than once.  That it didn’t keep him up at night, wondering.  “What are you suggesting?”  He asked, finally.

“You need to break his heart, if you want to keep it beating.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

The look Peter gave him was pitying, and it made Derek’s stomach clench.  “He’s in love with you.  Anyone can see that.  And that means he’ll never walk away.  If it were just Scott mixed up in this, then maybe.  But the both of you?  Not a chance.  So you need to do what he can’t.”

“You’re saying I need to leave him.”

“Yes.”

 “Peter—”

“Do you love him, Derek?”

Derek said nothing, he didn’t need to. 

Peter waited a beat, then continued.  “You know I’m right.  It’s the only way to protect him.  To be sure he’ll be safe.  Otherwise, when he dies—and he will die—his death is going to be on your hands.”

“I won’t let anything happen to him!”

“Like you didn’t let anything happen to the girl?”

“Paige.”  The name ghosted over Derek’s tongue.  “Her name was Paige.”

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirteen

Pulling the jeep to a stop in front of their house in Terrace Bay, Stiles turned off the engine and hopped out of the front seat.  Isaac was already stepping out of his side and pushing the passenger seat forward so that Scott, who’d napped the entire way in the back, could scramble out.  Rubbing blearily at his eyes with one hand, Scott passed Stiles a rucksack and then began patting absently at his pockets, no doubt looking for his house keys.

“Don’t worry about it, buddy.”  Stiles was already heading up the sidewalk jingling his own keys in his hand.  Something about sleeping during the day always made Scott about ten times slower than normal and Stiles found that it was best not to expect much from his best friend until he’d either a) had a shower or b) had something to eat. 

Jogging up the front steps, Stiles unlocked the front door and pushed it open.  He was halfway through the doorway when Isaac let out a sudden, chilling snarl and shouldered past, knocking him into the frame.

“What the fuck?”  Stiles exclaimed, but then Scott was shoving past him as well and, ow, Stiles was going to have a bruise.  “Jesus,” he muttered, rubbing sullenly at his arm as he finally managed to make it into the front hallway, “I don’t see why you guys are in such a….” the rest of the sentence died on his tongue when he rounded the corner and saw the utter destruction that used to be the kitchen. 

Every dish they owned had been pulled out from the cupboards and smashed against the floor.  The drawers had been pulled out, the contents emptied; the fridge door was hanging ajar and anything left in it had been dumped on the floor or smeared over the walls.  “What the fuck,” Stiles repeated, too surprised to even feel angry about the invasion.

Because of course that was what this had been—an invasion.  There was no way this had been done by anyone but Marcus and his gang of thugs.  Isaac came in from the back door, face grim and eyes all wolf-yellow, and a moment later Scott emerged from the top of the stairs and made his way down with his face twisted in an expression of rage so explosive that Stiles had to stop himself from backing away.

“Guess we’re not getting that damage deposit back,” Stiles joked, weakly, wondering what the proper response to having one’s house trashed by a rival werewolf pack was.  Should they call the cops?  Their insurance provider? 

“They’re gone.”  Isaac ignored Stiles and spoke directly to Scott, who gave a curt nod of acknowledgement.

Moving slowly down the hallway, feeling a disjointed sense of unreality, Stiles joined Isaac and Scott who had both made their way into the living room.  The couch was sprawled drunkenly on its back, the TV face down on the carpet, and the curtains had been torn down from the windows.  Stiles’s bookshelf of DVDs had been thrown halfway across the room and it looked as though someone had actually taken the time to pull the bulk of the DVDs out of their cases and snap them in half.  But the pièce de résistance was carved into the wall opposite the window. 

TICK TOCK

 Stepping carefully over the jagged pieces of his DVDs, Stiles came to stand beside the two werewolves who were glaring with supernaturally bright eyes at the carving in the wall.  He hefted his bag more securely onto his shoulder before stuffing his hands into his pockets, pursing his lips.  “Well,” he commented finally, when Scott and Isaac seemed too busy scowling to say anything, “It’s not exactly ‘surrender Dorothy’.”

As though they were on the same marionette string, Scott and Isaac turned their heads to look at him with identical expressions of angry disbelief. 

“What?”  Stiles shrugged defensively.  “Come on—that was funny.”

“No, Stiles,” Isaac said slowly, deliberately.  “No, it wasn’t.”

“They were in our house,” Scott snarled.  “That’s not a joke.”

Stiles stared at them.  “You guys are kidding me, right?  All they did was break in and break our shit.  That’s it.  Are you forgetting the part where they nearly killed Isaac on Friday?”  He looked back at the wall and shook his head.  “I’ll take a trashed house and a vague threat over actual blood-and-guts violence any day.” 

“Don’t you get it?”  Scott gestured angrily.  “This isn’t about destroying our stuff.  This is Marcus telling us he can come into our territory, into our fucking house, any time he wants.”

“So could any douchebag teenager.  It’s not like we’ve got some sort of high tech security system.  I don’t see why you’re getting so worked up over a little B&E—”

“Because it’s not just ‘a little’—” Scott broke off with a frustrated growl.  “Nevermind.  It’s a werewolf thing, okay?  You don’t get it.”

Stiles looked away, literally biting his tongue to stop himself from saying something he would regret later.  “Fine.  I guess I don’t.”  Turning, he walked past Scott and Isaac and back out into the hallway.  “I’ve got to get to class.”  They’d left Beacon Hills early so that Stiles could make his 9am Intro to Philosophy.  “Let me know if you want me to pick up anything on the way home.”

“Yeah, thanks,” Isaac responded absently after a moment. 

Letting out a huff of breath Stiles headed up the stairs towards his room.  He needed to drop off the bag he was carrying and pick up his school one.  Somehow he didn’t think his professor would appreciate it if he showed up to class toting several mason jars of mountain ash, a wooden bat, one wickedly sharp knife that was nearly the length of his forearm, and a few sprigs of wolfsbane. 

Chris had made sure Stiles was well-supplied for his return to college. 

Shouldering open the door to his room, Stiles groaned in annoyance.  It had been given the same treatment as the rest of the house—his mattress was pulled off the bed, his Ikea bedframe twisted and warped, they’d upended both his dresser and his desk, and someone had scattered his books all over the floor. Stiles was just glad that he’d already taken out the bookshelf.  But, he reminded himself, it wasn’t like anyone got hurt.  And it wasn’t like he had anything actually valuable.  He was an eighteen-year-old boy; the worst thing they could do was—shit.  His laptop.  Which, now that he was looking for it, he could spot under the toppled over desk.

Gritting his teeth, and praying that the assholes who’d done this—probably Ethan and Aiden, the fuckers—had gently placed the desk on top of the laptop rather than dropping the thing, Stiles heaved the desk upright and opened his MacBook. 

The screen stared back at him, cracked in about a thousand different places, and no matter how many times Stiles pressed the ‘on’ button it remained very firmly ‘off’.  With a curse, Stiles snapped it closed and dropped it back to the floor, leaning forwards and resting his forehead against the wood of the desk. 

It’s just a computer, he reminded himself again.  They’re just things.  Things could be replaced.  It wasn’t like he owned anything really expensive or really important.  Nearly all of his mementos and keepsakes and things of his mom’s were back at his dad’s house.  Stiles hadn’t taken any of that kind of stuff with him.  All he’d brought to Terrace Bay was… his wolf charm. 

Before the thought had even finished forming, Stiles was yanking open the desk drawers, his fingers shaking and clumsy as he tore through all the junk he kept in his desk.  He had like a dozen USB keys and more pens than any one person could ever possibly use up in one lifetime and did he really need eight different unused or half-used journals?  Panic tightened his chest and it wasn’t until he’d finally reached the small drawer on the right hand side and found the silver charm tucked in beside a pencil sharpener (when was the last time he’d used a pencil that wasn’t mechanical?) that Stiles could take a full breath. 

Sinking back to the carpet, he clenched his fist around the silver wolf and tried to slow the racing of his heart.  He had it.  It was okay.

He brought his hand up to his mouth, pressed it there as his teeth dug into his lip and the wolf’s tail dug into his palm.  If it had been gone… if Marcus or whoever had taken it…

Stiles’s phone buzzed in his pocket and it jerked him back to the present.  Still unwilling to let go of the wolf, he fished his phone out with his left hand to read the text from Danny.

Can’t find my textbook, can you bring yours?

Textbook.  Right.  Because they had class in—Stiles checked the time—half an hour.  Stiles glanced around the room, knowing he’d left the textbook on his bed but not sure where it had wound up.  After a second he spotted it lying in the bathroom and he got to his feet, sending a reply to Danny to say he’d bring it with him.

But before that, Stiles reached into his other pocket and pulled out the vial of mountain ash that hung from a silver chain.  Resting it on the desk he opened the clasp and then carefully threaded the wolf charm onto the chain.  He’d never worn it before, despite the tiny loop on the wolf’s back, because he liked having it in his pocket.  Seeing it now though, resting against the mountain ash with its head thrown back, howling and defiant, it looked right.  And this way Stiles wouldn’t have to worry about losing it again.

Fastening the chain, he pulled it over his head and tucked the charm and the vial underneath his shirt before grabbing his backpack and heading into the washroom to retrieve his Philosophy textbook. 

 

Derek let his Camero glide to a stop behind Stiles’s jeep, glancing out through the passenger window at the nondescript suburban house the boys were renting.  From where he was parked at the curb nothing seemed amiss.  If Scott hadn’t sent Derek a picture of the living room after his livid phone call, Derek would have no idea of the destruction inside.  Trying to keep his own anger banked until he saw what he was dealing with first-hand, Derek unlocked the trunk and slid out of the car.

Grabbing his bag from the trunk, he took out the spare key Scott had given him at the beginning of the school year and made his way up to the house.  He’d managed to talk Scott down.  The kid had been practically frothing at the mouth, ready to abandon any sense of caution and hunt Marcus and his cronies down armed with nothing but his bare hands (or claws), but Derek had convinced both him and Isaac to go to class. Acting rashly would only play right into Marcus’s hands. It was better to keep their cool and try not to let the other pack succeed at completely disrupting their lives.

Once Scott had grudgingly agreed and hung up the phone, Derek had tossed a week’s worth of clothes into a duffel bag and had been out of the door in less than half an hour. 

Letting himself into the house, Derek dropped his bag in the front hallway and began to catalogue the extent of the damage. 

 

Two hours later and he was up to his elbows in a bucket of soapy water.  He’d made it a priority to bag up everything that had been broken or damaged beyond repair.  The sheer pettiness that was the destruction of Stiles’s DVD collection had made Derek need to take several deep breaths and actually leave the room before he could begin tossing the broken pieces into garbage bags.  It was stupid to feel so outraged and impotent over the shards of what used to be the entire series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but Stiles loved that goddamn show and someone—five someones, judging by the scents left behind—had destroyed it just to make a point. 

Even thinking of it now had Derek’s ire rising and he willed himself to stay in control.  He wasn’t going to wreck Isaac’s rubber gloves because he couldn’t keep his claws in check.  Wringing the dishcloth out, Derek rose to his feet and began to scrub at the mustard and god knew what else that had dried and hardened on the kitchen walls. 

He couldn’t do much to undo the damage Marcus had inflicted, but he could at least do his best to make sure that Scott and Stiles and Isaac didn’t have to relive it all over again when they got home from school.

 

The first thing that struck Stiles when he got home from class was that the house smelled clean.  Lemon-fresh and without a hint of that sour, food-gone-bad stench that had been there when they’d returned from Beacon Hills.  He made an approving sound as he closed and locked the front door behind himself, toeing off his shoes and heading into the kitchen.

“Hello?” He called as he made his way towards the refrigerator.  “Anyone home?”  When there was no response Stiles shrugged and opened the fridge—remembering belatedly as he stared at the empty interior that all their food had been turned into some douchebag’s version of abstract art.  Letting the door swing shut Stiles gave a dejected sigh and wandered out into the living room. 

Isaac and Scott had done a really good job cleaning up, Stiles thought appreciatively.  If it weren’t for the fact that half of their possessions were gone—the TV stand stood empty, the bookcase that had held the DVDs, which were also missing, was nowhere to be seen, and the couch that had been unceremoniously un-stuffed by several pairs of supernatural claws had vanished—he would have been hard-pressed to tell that anything had happened.  Minus, of course, the words torn into the wall. 

Dropping his backpack onto the floor Stiles sat down on top of the coffee table, which hadn’t suffered more than a few splintering puncture wounds on one of the legs, and pulled out his phone.  If Isaac had texted him he would have picked up something for them to eat on the way home, but he guessed it was probably a pizza night anyway.  Which Stiles wasn’t exactly opposed to since all their dishes had been broken, but he was hungry

Drumming his fingers on his thighs for a few minutes, Stiles debated whether it would be worth it to head to the store to pick something up.  It wasn’t like a house full of teenage boys couldn’t use some snack food lying around.  But he’d probably better head upstairs and start setting his own room back to rights, since he figured Scott and Isaac probably wouldn’t have had time to clean the second floor before they’d had to go to class.  As it was, he was surprised at how much they’d managed to do.  Maybe they’d skipped their first classes.  Or cheated and used their werewolf super-speed to get it done.  Honestly, it was kind of unfair that they ever made Stiles help out with the cleaning when they could get it done in a third of the amount of time and with less effort.  He’d argued the point to Isaac once, but Isaac had just laughed and tossed the Swiffer at Stiles, who’d nearly wound up with a bloody nose trying to catch it.

Deciding he’d rather put off cleaning for as long as possible, Stiles pushed off the coffee table and reached down for his backpack, but just then he heard the sound of keys in the front door.  Frowning, he glanced down at his phone.  It was only 4:30—both Scott and Isaac had class until 5:00 on Tuesdays.  But since no one else had keys one of them must have gotten out (or ducked out) early. 

“Hey,” he said, making his way towards the hallway.  “Thanks for cleaning up.”

Whoever was at the front door had paused in the middle of stepping through it, and when Stiles came around the corner he realized why. 

“What,” he said, all the warmth gone from his voice, “are you doing here?”

Derek shifted the bags of groceries he carried and came completely into the house, pulling his keys—his keys—out of the lock and closing the door behind him.  “Scott called.”

“So?” 

“So I came.”  Derek replied with a hint of impatience.  “You want to move out of the way?”

Stiles did not, and almost said as much, but he figured that there was probably something to eat in one of the bags Derek was holding and he wanted to make sure those got into the kitchen before he kicked Derek right back out the door.  Saying nothing, he stepped back and let Derek walk past him. 

Derek placed the paper bags on the counter and began taking groceries out.  Stiles stood in the doorway and tried to ignore the fact that his heartbeat had sped up—and hadn’t yet slowed down—when he’d seen it was Derek at the door.  He couldn’t tell if it was anger or shock or just plain old lust at seeing the Alpha, but it made his blood roar in his ears and had heat flushing high in his cheeks. 

As far as Stiles knew, this was only Derek’s third time in the house.  And yet he seemed to have no trouble figuring out where Isaac kept the pasta, for instance, or which shelf in the fridge was for milk.  Maybe he could smell where everything used to be, or maybe….  Stiles felt a jolt run down his spine and he pushed up from where he’d been leaning against the doorway.  “How long have you been here?”  

Glancing up from where he’d been placing a bundle of tomatoes on the counter, Derek frowned.  “What do you mean?”

“Like, did you just get into town and stop for groceries, or were you already in the house?”  Stiles was pretty sure he knew the answer and, while only minutes ago the fresh-clean scent of the house had been a relief, now it made his skin prickle. 

Derek took his time folding up the last of the paper bags and tucking them in the recycling bin before he answered.  “I’ve been here a few hours.  I ran out of garbage bags so I went to—”

“Why the fuck,” Stiles couldn’t keep the growing fury out of his voice, “did you think you could come into my house uninvited and start—”

“Start cleaning?  Yeah, right, Stiles, that does seem very underhanded of me.”

“Don’t turn this around on me.  Don’t act like you didn’t know exactly how much this would piss me off.”

“Not everything is about you,” anger rippled through Derek’s voice.  “This is Scott and Isaac’s house, too.”

“Yeah, and?”  Stiles couldn’t believe Derek’s audacity.  He couldn’t fathom why Derek thought showing up at Stiles’s house unannounced would be a good idea.  “We’ve already had one home invasion this week, we really don’t need two.”

“That’s what you think this is?”

Stiles crossed his arms over his chest, refusing to back down when Derek’s expression darkened.  “That’s what it looks like to me, yeah.”

“Oh, go fuck yourself.”

Stiles stared, speechless and sputtering.  “You can’t come into my house and—”

“And clean it, Stiles?  For fuck’s sake you’re acting like I’m the one who trashed it.”

“Look, I don’t know how you got a key,” except that yes, he did—fucking Scott, “But that doesn’t mean you can just show up whenever you feel like it.  So get out.”

“No.”

“‘No’?”  Stiles echoed, disbelieving.  “You don’t get to say no.”

“Yes, I do.  I’m the Alpha.”

“Oh, you’ve got to be—” Stiles broke off, too outraged to continue for a moment.  “For starters, you’re not the Alpha.  You’re one of the Alphas.  That’s Alpha with an ‘s’.  Plural.  So don’t pull this bullshit—”

“‘Bullshit’?  This is my pack and I’m staying here until we—”

“Oh, no, you’re not.  Don’t even think about it.  Over my dead body.”

“Your dead body is exactly what I’m trying to prevent.”

“Please,” Stiles spat, “I don’t need you protecting me.  I don’t need protecting, period.”  He’d crossed the room at some point, was standing nearly face-to-face with Derek, close enough that he could feel the heat from Derek’s body.  “But I especially don’t need it from you.”  He punctuated the last word with a shove.  “Now, get out.”

Derek grabbed for Stiles’s hand as he went to shove Derek again but as soon as Derek’s fingertips touched the bare skin on Stiles’s wrist he jerked back with a snarl of pain, his eyes suddenly, furiously red. 

Stiles smirked.  “And don’t touch me.”

“What are you wearing?”  Derek’s voice had gone dangerously quiet. 

“Like I said, I don’t need protecting.”

Stiles,” the growl of warning was low and deep and sent a delicious shiver down Stiles’s spine.  The air between them felt suddenly thick, charged, and from the dilation of Derek’s pupils Stiles wasn’t the only one who felt it.  “Take it off.”

“Well,” said a voice from the doorway, “I really hate to interrupt… whatever this is, but I was told we were having a pack meeting.”  Jackson raised his eyebrows.  “Or do you two need a couple minutes alone?”

“A pack meeting?”  Stiles turned back to Derek from where he’d been scowling with baleful animosity at Jackson.  “You called a meeting at my house and didn’t bother to let me know?”

In the doorway, Jackson made a noise of disgust and walked out, presumably to sulk in the living room.

“Could you get over yourself for one second?”  Derek’s patience had long since worn thin.  “At this point you’re giving Jackson a run for his money.”

“I heard that,” Jackson commented from the living room.

“Fuck you,” Stiles tried to leave but Derek stepped in front of him, blocking his way. 

“Tell me what you’re wearing.”

From the outside the kitchen there came a choking noise of protest.

“No.”

“Goddamnit, Stiles, this isn’t a game.”

“No, Derek.  It’s my life.  I can wear what I want—I don’t see how that’s any business of yours.”

“Do you go out of your way to be this thick headed or does it just come naturally?”  Derek wondered out loud. 

“I’m protecting myself.”  Stiles was beginning to feel like he was on repeat, and frustration had his voice rising.  “How is that stupid?”

“You don’t need to protect yourself from us.”

“Don’t I?”  Stiles asked. 

Derek had opened his mouth to reply but shut it, looking somehow smaller.  Stiles’s left hand went up unconsciously to finger the thin chain from where it peeked out over the collar of his shirt.  He’d have pulled it out ages ago, waved the vial of mountain ash in Derek’s face, except that he didn’t want Derek to see he’d still kept the stupid wolf charm.  He didn’t want Derek to know it still meant enough to Stiles for him to want to keep it close.

When Derek continued to say nothing, just looked at Stiles with his unreadable green eyes, Stiles dropped his hand and sighed.

“Alright, I’ll take it off.”  He’d never really been planning to wear it around the house anyway—he would hate to accidentally hurt Scott or Isaac if he brushed arms with them on the couch or bumped into one of them in the hallway.  He just hadn’t had a chance to go upstairs and take it off before Derek had shown up.

“Thank you.”  Derek stepped back to let Stiles through.  “Once Scott and Isaac get back we’ll start.”

“Sure, whatever.”  Stiles ignored the heat that pooled in his stomach as he passed within inches of Derek’s body.  He’d go upstairs, take a cold shower, and hopefully by the time everyone else showed up there’d be dinner to go along with the meeting.  And hopefully someone would have remembered to pick up some alcohol—judging by how the day had gone so far, Stiles was going to need a drink (or several) to make it through the evening.  

Chapter Text

Chapter Fourteen

 

Tomorrow, Derek would go to Ikea.  He’d replace the broken dishes, the broken furniture, stop by Future Shop and pick up a new TV—and as many of Stiles’s DVDs as he could remember.  Until then, though, they’d have to settle for dinner served on paper plates and wine in plastic cups. 

 Turning off the burner on the stove, Derek slipped on a pair of oven mitts and gingerly picked up the boiling pot of pasta and carried it to the sink where he poured the contents into a plastic colander.  Luckily, plastic wasn’t as fun to break as dishes or to twist as metal, so the colander had survived unscathed.  Unlike the large metal pot, which had both handles ripped off.  As steam rushed up, hot and wet against Derek’s face, he closed his eyes and inhaled, letting the familiar scent of fresh cooked pasta momentarily distract him from the conversation behind him.

“Look,” Isaac was saying, “I just don’t see why you’re not more help.  As far as I know—as far as any of us know—it’s not like you have a job or anything.  So why haven’t you found out more about this other pack?”

“Maybe you read one too many Hardy Boys as a child.  Detective work isn’t exactly as simple as you might think.” Peter poured himself another glass of the wine.  “It takes time.”

“Of which you have nothing but.”

“I’m sorry, would you rather be in charge of research?  After all, you’ve been a werewolf for, what, all of three years?  Surely you must know all there is to know by now.  It’s not like I haven’t been one for, oh, that’s right, my entire life.”

“Would you two stop it?”  Scott interrupted.  “Isaac, I’m sure Peter’s doing his best.  And Peter—cut it with the snark, alright?  We’ve got enough to deal with without jumping down each other’s throats.”

“The spaghetti’s ready.”  Derek pulled the pasta from the sink and set it on the counter.  “Does someone want to get Stiles?”

There was a long stretch of silence, and then with a roll of his eyes Jackson yelled “Stiles!  Get your ass down here!”

“Was that really necessary?”  Derek asked, taking the pot of spaghetti sauce from the stove and placing it on a hot pad beside the pasta. 

“Yes.”

At Derek’s raised eyebrow, Jackson continued with a long-suffering sigh.  “He’s being a dick.  No one wants to go talk to him.”

There was another beat of silence, neither Scott nor Isaac immediately attempting to refute Jackson’s claim.  Peter chuckled from behind the rim of his plastic cup. 

Scott shot Peter a reproachful glance.  “He has his reasons,” he said finally in response to Jackson.

“He had his reasons,” Jackson corrected.  “It’s been—”

“Just cut him some slack, okay?”  Scott asked with the first hint of impatience creeping into his voice. 

“Oh, come on.  I am done tiptoeing around—” there was the sound of footsteps on the stairs and Jackson broke off with a huff. 

“I’ll get the plates,” Isaac said loudly when they could hear Stiles making his way down the hallway.  He reached onto the counter behind him and tore through the plastic wrapping, pulling out half a dozen of the paper plates.  “Jackson, do you want to open the cutlery?”

“Only if I can slit my wrists on one of the knives and avoid this entire debacle,” Jackson muttered under his breath, but he reached for the package of forks nonetheless.

“Stiles,” Peter said in greeting when the boy rounded the corner into the kitchen.  “Would you like a glass of wine?”  There was a casual, possessive intimacy in the timbre of his voice, and Derek’s lips were half-curled in a snarl before he realized what he was doing and managed to press them closed.  Stiles didn’t seem to have noticed, but from across the room Scott sent Derek a pointed look—though Derek didn’t miss the way Scott’s eyes narrowed when he looked back at Stiles and Peter. 

“It’s a nice Chianti,” Peter was saying as he poured a glass for Stiles. 

“We’re not having liver, are we?”  Stiles asked dryly, taking the cup when Peter offered it to him.

“Actually,” Peter set the bottle back on the counter.  “Hannibal Lector doesn’t drink Chianti with liver in the book.  It’s—”

“Amarone.”  Derek showed his teeth then in what could almost be interpreted as a grin.  “Why don’t we grab some food and move into the living room?”

“Wow, Derek, you’ve only been here half a day and you’re already acting like you own the place.” Stiles raised his glass in a mocking toast.  “Glad to see you’ve made yourself right at home.”

“Dude,” Jackson turned on Stiles with a glare, “He made dinner.  So shut up or go back upstairs.”

“How many times do I have to point out that this is my house?”  Stiles wondered out loud.  “Should I just get it tattooed on my forehead?  Printed on a t-shirt, maybe?”

“Stiles,” Scott warned, grabbing a plate from Isaac and shoving it at Stiles so that he was forced to take it in his free hand.  “Just let it go until after we eat.”

Stiles looked mutinous, but after a second he dropped Scott’s gaze.  “Whatever,” he said, and took a drink of wine.

Derek kept his jaw clenched tight and tried not to let the tension he felt in his shoulders show.  Isaac handed him a plate and Derek dished out the pasta.

Five minutes later, they were all sitting on the living room floor, crowded around the coffee table.  There wasn’t really enough room for the six of them, especially with Stiles taking up nearly an entire side to himself, but they’d made it work.  For a while there was silence, nothing but the occasional “Pass the parmesan,” but eventually Isaac turned to Stiles and brought up his new Orphan Black theory, and then Peter asked Jackson if he’d seen the new line of Porches, and soon conversation picked up.

“No way, absolutely not, no,” Stiles was insisting.  “Felix is not Sarah’s monitor.”

“Right, but just think about—” Isaac argued.

“I mean there’s no way they compare to last year’s, but—”

Derek let the noise of their conversations blur around him, focussing on his pasta.  If he didn’t tune in all the way he could pretend, even if it was just for a few minutes, that nothing had changed.  That his pack was still whole and healthy. 

“This is great sauce,” Scott offered, pulling Derek back to reality.  “I’ll have to get the recipe.  Or,” he gave a crooked grin, “Get Isaac to get it.”

“He’s still doing all the cooking?”

“Yeah.  Thank god.  Stiles and I would live off pizza pops, otherwise.  Which I’m not actually sure you can do…”

Derek rolled his eyes.  “Don’t try it.”

“I don’t plan to.”  Scott glanced at the rest of the table, but they all seemed caught up in their conversations.  He leaned in closer, lowering his voice so that it was barely above a breath.  “Isaac’s fine.  No side effects.”

Derek gave his head the tiniest shake.  “Not here,” he said through his teeth.  They’d kept what they’d done a secret from the rest of the pack for a reason, and he didn’t want it to all be for nothing if Scott let it slip because he forgot that five sixths of the table had supernatural hearing powers. 

Scott’s mouth thinned into a grim line.  “Right, sorry,” he muttered, sitting back upright and shovelling another forkful of pasta into his mouth.  As he chewed, his eyes moved from Derek to the living room wall were the message had been left.  “It was him this time.”

So much for having one dinner without discussing Marcus.  Derek bit back a sigh of annoyance and dropped his fork back onto his plate, no longer interested in eating.  “Yeah.”

“Did you guys just say it was Marcus?”  Stiles broke away from his conversation with Isaac.  “What else aren’t you telling us?”

Jackson groaned. 

“Nothing, Stiles,” Derek said wearily.  “We’re not hiding anything.”

“Except how you healed Isaac,” Peter pointed out.

“He’s healed—isn’t that what matters?” Scott glared at Peter.  “How we did it isn’t important.”

“And thank you, by the way,” Isaac tipped his cup in a toast to Scott and Derek. 

“Okay, can we get back to the point here?  What were you saying about Marcus?” 

“Does anyone want to finish eating first?”  Jackson asked of no one in particular, and was summarily ignored. 

“He was here,” Scott answered Stiles.  “He’s the one who wrote the message in the wall.”

“How do you know that?”

“It smells like Alpha.  Since it wasn’t me and it wasn’t Scott, and I highly doubt we have a third wolf pack running around our territory, that means it was him.”

“Does this mean you can find him now?”  Stiles turned to face Derek and raised an eyebrow.  “That we can finally do something about his little reign of terror?”

“We could always have found him, Stiles,” Peter leaned back, resting his elbows on the carpet.  “It was just a matter of what we’d do with him—with them—once we did.”

“Hmm, I don’t know, maybe kill them before they kill us!”  The vehemence in Stiles’s face was unsettling and Derek had to stop himself from reaching out and running a soothing hand down Stiles’s back. 

“I don’t think they want to kill us,” Isaac spoke up.  “Or, at least, I don’t think they want to kill us Betas.”  He gestured at himself, Peter, and Jackson. 

“Dude, I think they tried to kill you,” Jackson spoke around a mouthful of spaghetti. 

Stiles was frowning, some of his anger apparently receding as his brain began to whirl.  “No, I think Isaac is right.  Friday night got… out of hand.  I don’t think they were planning on hurting Isaac that badly.”

“They want us to join them,” Isaac took a sip from his own cup of wine.  “That’s what they said to me, anyway.”

“‘Tick tock,’” Peter mused, looking up at the words on the wall.  “I’d say our time is running out.”

“So, what do we do?”  Jackson looked at Derek.

Derek glanced at Scott, then answered.  “For now, I’m moving in here.  And you are, too.”

Jackson stared at Derek in disbelief.  “Uhh, no.  I already have a dorm.  I’m fine.  There’s no way I’m living off campus with you losers.”

“Jackson,” Scott began, but Derek wasn’t finished.

“And Stiles, I think you should stay with Danny while Jackson is here.” 

“Oh my god,” Stiles rolled his eyes.  “This is my house.  I’m.  Not.  Leaving.”  He gave a disparaging shake of his head.  “And you’re not staying.”

I’m staying,” Jackson insisted.  “At my place.  If Stiles gets to stay, so do I.”

Derek let out a long, slow breath through his nose and tried not to let the irritation that prickled along his skin show.  He’d known this was going to be a hard sell, but it was the best way to keep them all safe.  He probably should have talked the idea over with Scott beforehand though—the way Scott was watching what was happening with polite interest but making no move to help Derek indicated that he probably wasn’t too happy to have the idea sprung on him at the same time as everybody else.  But it wasn’t like he’d had any time to speak to Scott alone about it.  Scott had been in school and Derek had been cleaning and, goddamnit, Derek was the Alpha.  An Alpha.  He had the right to make decisions about the safety of the pack.

“Do you want to be responsible for something happening to Danny because you’re there?”  Derek spoke directly to Jackson.

“They’re not allowed to kill humans… Stiles said.”  But Jackson was beginning to look uncertain.

“That didn’t stop them from dislocating Stiles’s shoulder,” Scott finally spoke up.

“Yeah, but… Stiles is pack.  Danny isn’t.”

“He lives with a werewolf—do you expect them to think otherwise?”  This time it was Peter, and while Derek was grateful for the support he didn’t spare a glance in his uncle’s direction.  At some point Derek was going to have to confront him—ask him what he’d thought he was doing with Stiles—but that was going to have to wait.  As much as possible their pack needed to present a unified front.

“Alright, fine.  But I’m not sharing a bed.  Or a room.”  Jackson got to his feet and stormed into the kitchen.

“He can have Stiles’s, or Isaac can share with me—we’ve done it before,” Scott waited for Isaac’s nod of assent and then turned to Derek.  “Are you okay with the couch?”

“Um, hello?”  Stiles waved a hand.  “I am not okay with that.  He’s not staying here.”

“Yeah, he is.”  Scott turned to Stiles.  “And you’re going to stay with Danny.”

“No.”

“Stiles, I don’t think you’re taking this seriously enough,” Peter interjected.  “We don’t want you getting hurt.”

“I don’t care what you want,” Stiles met Peter’s eyes and there was a tension between them that froze Derek’s heart mid-beat.  “I’m not going anywhere,” Stiles finished, turning back to Scott.  “You heard Jackson; I’m pack.”

After Stiles’s blow-up when he’d discovered Derek in the house earlier, Derek had expected more of a tantrum from him.  While Stiles was clearly pissed, he wasn’t blowing up.  Maybe that meant he’d be able to see reason soon enough.  “Look, Stiles,” Derek began, but stopped when Stiles held up a hand.

“Whatever you’re about to say, I don’t care.  This is my house, I’m not leaving.  That’s it.  The end.”  Like Jackson had before him, Stiles got to his feet, but instead of following Jackson into the kitchen, he went up the stairs and slammed his bedroom door shut. 

“Well, that wasn’t so bad,” Peter commented. 

“Shut up, Peter.”  Scott rose, gathering the empty paper plates with Isaac’s help.  “I’m going to go get some beer.  No offence Peter, Derek, but wine’s not really my thing.”

“Thank god.”  Jackson popped his head out of the kitchen.  “Take me with you.” 

“Isaac, you go too,” Derek ordered.  “It’s late, and I don’t want anyone going out after dark in groups of less than three.”

“Yes, sir,” Jackson gave a sarcastic salute and headed to the front door to pull on his shoes. 

“Are you sure it’s a good idea to leave those three here alone?”  Derek heard Isaac ask Scott quietly from the kitchen.  “They might kill each other by the time we get back.”

“Good riddance,” Scott replied, not bothering to keep his voice down, as he dumped the paper plates and plastic cutlery in the garbage.  Derek said nothing and waited until the three of them had pulled on their coats and walked out the door, Scott careful to lock it behind them.

“And what about me?”  Peter asked finally, turning to Derek.  “Am I to be bunking with the troops as well?”

“No,” Derek replied shortly.  “You can go back to Beacon Hills.  I don’t want Marcus to think he’s run us all out of town.”

“And yet…”

“Go.”  There must have been something in Derek’s voice that brooked no argument, because for what was probably the first time in Peter’s life he merely gave a slow nod and stood, before following the rest of the wolves out of the door.

Derek waited until he heard Peter’s car pull away before getting to his own feet and making his way up the stairs.

Facing Stiles’s closed door, Derek shut his eyes and leaned his forehead against the wood, taking a moment to just breathe.  He could smell Marcus still, smell the four wolves of the other pack that had also been here and helped cause the gleeful destruction.  But behind that he could smell Stiles and it made Derek’s chest ache with a longing that had something akin to despair creep up his spine.  This whole thing was unravelling in front of him—everything he’d done to try and keep Stiles safe had only wound up hurting him.  Maybe worse than if Derek had done nothing at all. 

It was too late to think about what-ifs, however.  He’d done too much damage to try and backtrack—at this point the truth would only make things harder, more messy.  He still thought that untangling Stiles from the supernatural was the kid’s best chance at survival, at normal.  Stiles’s best chance of having a life that he could actually live instead of merely survive. 

So Derek raised his hand and knocked on the door.

“Fuck off,” Stiles snapped.  “I’m done talking to you guys about this.”

And now Derek could feel his own anger surging, mingling with his fear and frustration until all of these emotions boiled over and he could feel his eyes bleed from green to red.  He reached for the doorknob and wasn’t surprised to find that Stiles had locked it.  With a twist of his wrist Derek broke the lock and shoved through the doorway.

“Hey!”  Stiles scrambled up from where he’d been sitting on his mattress, his back against the wall.  “You can’t break in to my room.  Get out.”

“You said it yourself.  You’re pack.”

“I—what?”

“Downstairs,” Derek advanced towards Stiles, enjoying the way Stiles couldn’t stop himself from flinching back.  “You said you’re pack.”

“Yeah, well,” Stiles gathered himself, straightening his spine and refusing to back away when Derek moved closer, “I am.”

“If you’re pack, then I’m your Alpha.”

Stiles rolled his eyes.  “Okay, fine, you’re the Alpha.”

“You need to learn your place,” Derek’s voice had thickened into a growl, more wolf than human.

“Oh, and where’s that?”  Stiles scoffed.  “On my knees in front of you?”

“Your knees, your belly, or your back.  Whichever you’d prefer.”

“I’m gonna go with ‘d’: none of the above.”  Stiles curled his lip at Derek.  “I’m not your bitch.  You can’t force me to submit to you, or whatever the fuck this is.”  He turned away, turned his back on Derek, and walked across the room to lean back against his desk.  “Would you just get over yourself and get out?  The ‘I’m the Alpha’ act is getting old.”

The instant Stiles turned his back on Derek, Derek had to dig his claws into the palms of his hands hard enough to draw blood.  It was either that or he’d use them on Stiles—the insolence from a subordinate pack member was unacceptable.  This wasn’t about Derek-and-Stiles anymore.  This was about Alpha-and-Beta.  No, not even that.  Alpha-and-human, and Derek would not tolerate this level of disobedience. 

“Do you think,” he began, once again stalking across the room towards Stiles, his eyes full of power and fury, “I would let Jackson speak to me the way you do?  Or Isaac?”

“Please,” Stiles was still affecting an air of casual indifference, but the way his fingers tightened around the rim of the desk and the air sharpened with the scent of fear told Derek a different story.  “Are you trying to convince me they’re scared of you?  ‘Cause no way.  I don’t buy it.  You’re a leader, not a dictator.”

“Splitting hairs,” Derek murmured, close enough now that he could see the blood flush in Stiles’s cheeks. 

“No, it’s not.  Those are different things, and you know that.”

“What I know right now is that you’re refusing to obey—”

“‘A direct order from a superior officer’?”  Stiles mocked.  “Come on, Derek.  I didn’t sign up for the army.”

“But you signed up for this.”  Derek let his fangs slide out, raised his clawed hands. 

Stiles’s eyes darted between Derek’s mouth and his hands, and he wet his lips before his eyes came back to meet Derek’s.  “What is it you want from me right now?  I’m not leaving.  That’s not going to happen, no matter how werewolf you go on me.  This is my home as much as it is Scott’s, and that means I’m staying.  So what do you want?”

You

When Derek said nothing, Stiles made a frustrated noise and tried to push past him, but Derek refused to move, trapping Stiles back against his desk.  Stiles’s eyes flashed angrily, whiskey gold going molten hot, and his hand darted down to his pocket.  But Derek knew what he was going for, knew Stiles would try to pull out whatever it was he’d been wearing earlier that day, and so his own hand shot out to wrap around Stiles’s wrist with bruising force. 

“Don’t you dare,” Derek snarled.  “You don’t use mountain ash or rowan on me.”

“Or what?”  Stiles spat.  “What are you going to do about it?”

Derek could feel the pulse in Stiles’s wrist pound against his fingers, the beat racing electric from Stiles’s skin to Derek’s.  Stiles’s wrist fit perfectly in the circle of Derek’s hand.  His body, where they were now pressed nearly flush, fit perfectly against Derek’s.  Stiles’s lips, mouth open and parted in indignation, aligned perfectly with Derek’s.  Because they were perfect, and they fit, and Derek was tearing that apart to keep Stiles safe and alive.  Why couldn’t Stiles just cooperate? 

“That’s what I though,” sneering, Stiles tried to yank his arm free of Derek.  “Your bark’s always worse than your bite.”

 Derek’s free hand came up and fisted in Stiles’s hair, tight enough that Stiles gave a surprised yelp of pain, and then Derek was dragging him forward until their lips crashed together.  Stiles’s mouth was still open and Derek took ruthless advantage, his tongue sweeping in to chase away any protest Stiles might have formed.  For a brief second Stiles remained rigid against him, his free hand coming up to push at Derek’s shoulders, but Derek pulled back slightly, just enough to sink his teeth into Stiles’s plump bottom lip, and Stiles shuddered.  His hand stopped pushing, fingers tightening into the fabric of Derek’s shirt as he tried to pull Derek closer, a hot whine of need sounding in the back of his throat.

Derek shifted the angle of the kiss, slanting his lips over Stiles’s with bruising force that had them both swallowing groans.  He could taste Stiles’s arousal, smell the way desperation thickened the air around him, and it took all of his willpower not to shove Stiles back onto the desk and just take.  Stiles would let him.  That much they’d already established.  But as much as he wanted to, Derek didn’t need to take from Stiles—he needed Stiles to give.

Breaking the kiss Derek pulled back, watching Stiles as his chest heaved, breathless and flushed. 

“What do you want?”  Stiles asked between breaths.  “What are you waiting for?”

“I told you what I wanted.”  Derek could see the outline of Stiles’s cock, hard and eager, through the fabric of his jeans.  “You need to learn your place in this pack.”

“Jesus,” Stiles ran a hand through his hair.  “Fine.  You win.”  He leaned back against the desk, head tilted mockingly to the side, baring his throat.  “This is how real wolves do it, right?”

Derek closed the distance between them, placing his hands on either side of the desk of Stiles but not touching him, his movements slow and deliberate.  He leaned in until his lips were millimetres from the exposed line of Stiles’s throat.  Stilled.  Waited until Stiles’s heartbeat stuttered and then sunk his teeth into Stiles. 

There was nothing gentle about it, no caress of lips or tongue to soothe the pain, just Derek’s teeth closing tight around Stiles’s flesh.  Stiles made a sound low in his throat, his own hands coming up to grab Derek’s hips and pull the Alpha closer until Derek’s body was pressed full against his and Derek’s erection ground into Stiles’s.  Derek didn’t break away, didn’t do anything but bite down harder until he could taste Stiles’s blood and Stiles’s hips began to thrust helplessly into Derek. 

Then he pulled back, stepped clear away from Stiles who stared back at Derek with his eyes wide and hazy, droplets of blood oozing from the bruise livid against his pale skin.  Derek licked his lips, rolling the taste of Stiles’s blood and arousal around in his mouth like it was a hard candy he could suck until he got to the gooey centre. 

“You can stay,” Derek said, calmly.  “But so am I.”  And with that he turned and walked out of Stiles’s room, not bothering to close the broken door behind him.  

Chapter Text

Chapter Fifteen

 

When Peter returned to Beacon Hills he wasn’t surprised to find the lock on his door broken.  Annoyed, but not surprised.  Biting back an impatient sigh he dropped his keys back into his jacket pocket and stepped into his apartment.

“If you’d simply called ahead I could have left a key under the mat for you,” he commented sardonically, walking into the kitchen to pour himself a glass of water.  “But I’m pleased to see you’ve made yourselves at home.”

The man standing at Peter’s bank of windows didn’t turn around, his large black silhouette interrupting the view of the city lights beyond, but the younger one lying sprawled out on Peter’s couch sniggered, raising the half-empty bottle of wine he held in mocking thanks before he brought it to his lips and took a long swallow.  Seeing the bottle’s label Peter’s eyes flared blue and he put his glass down on the counter with a thud. 

“That bottle was worth more than your entire existence,” he hissed, losing his composure.

The boy looked back at Peter with his brown eyes placid.  “It tastes like shit.”  He held Peter’s gaze, grinned, and then very deliberately tipped the bottle so the wine poured out in a ruby-red stream onto the white fabric of the couch and dripped onto the carpet.

“Marcus,” Peter said tightly, “Control your dog.  Or I will.”

“I’d like to see you try, old man,” the boy sneered, dropping the now-empty bottle carelessly to the floor and getting purposefully to his feet.

“Aiden,” the man at the window finally turned around, “Play nice.”

And yet he hadn’t bothered to say anything when the whelp had been pouring a '53 Bordeaux all over Peter’s living room.  Peter took a deep breath and reminded himself that he’d repay Aiden’s insult soon enough. 

“Not that it isn’t a pleasure to meet you in person,” Peter leaned back against the kitchen counter, settling his hands in his pockets.  “But why are you here?  If my nephew stops by he’ll be able to smell—”

“Then he’ll think we paid your apartment the same visit we paid to the young Alpha’s house.  And the one we’ve been paying his.”

“I didn’t sign up so that my own house could be trashed.”

“Send me the cleaning bill.”   Marcus moved forward and Peter got his first good look at the man.  He was big, thick and burly in a way that said hired muscle and his hair, shorn close to his head, only reinforced the image.  His skin was a dusky gold, either from a deep tan or something a little darker a few generations back, and it made his pale grey eyes stand out in chilling contrast.  He wore slacks and a dress shirt, and though they seemed out of place on his large frame he was obviously comfortable in them.

“Don’t think I won’t,” Peter muttered.  “Now, do you want to tell me what the point of this little visit is?”

“I want to know what’s taking so long,” Marcus said.  “We’ve been here for months, and still—”

“Alright, for starters, I’m pretty sure you’ve been here for a week at most.  And your Betas’ little guerrilla tactics are cute, but—” Peter’s words were cut off mid-sentence when Marcus crossed the room in a flash, claws springing from a hand that wrapped itself around Peter’s throat and lifted him off the floor.

“But nothing,” Marcus growled.  “You told me this pack was weak.  Easy pickings with two Alphas and no real leader.”  He gave Peter a shove back against the kitchen cabinets before letting go and taking a step back, the red slowly fading from his eyes. 

Peter kept his lips pressed tight to hide the way his fangs had popped out and instead rubbed gingerly at his throat until they receded, careful to keep the rage he felt off his face.  “And that’s still true—but you haven’t made a move to challenge either of them.  Instead you’ve had your wolves picking on the human, or ganging up on the youngest Beta.  Hardly making an impression of strength.”

“Well, I’d be an idiot to go up against two Alphas, wouldn’t I?”

“Which is why it would be helpful if you worked on driving them apart!  The break-in at Terrace Bay was stupid.  Now you’ve got them both under the same roof, you’ve brought them together against a common enemy: you.”

Marcus scowled.  “That wasn’t my intention.”

Peter sighed.  “It may still benefit us—though it’s going to take longer.  The human is a point of contention between the two.  I’ll do what I can to keep them at odds over him, but you need to pick up the pace if you want to control this territory sooner rather than later.”

“What do you suggest?”  Marcus asked.

“Well,” Peter smiled,  “I have a few ideas.”

 

When the other werewolves had returned the night before, they’d not only brought beer but two air mattresses as well, one for Isaac to sleep on in Scott’s room and the second for Derek, in lieu of an actual couch.  Having expected to spend the night on the floor with nothing but a sleeping bag, Derek had been grateful for Scott’s forethought.  Unfortunately, the air mattress hadn’t done anything to help ease Derek’s sleep.  He’d spent the entire night tossing and turning, kept awake by the quiet noises of a strange house full of other people and the unfamiliar sounds of a different city filtering in from outside. 

When dawn finally crept in through the windows, Derek allowed himself to get up.  He’d have a quick shower and then head out to pick up coffee and breakfast before the rest of the pack woke up and had to leave for school—which made him realize that he didn’t have a schedule of their classes.  He made a mental note to ask Scott for a copy.  Moving quietly up the stairs, Derek was careful not to look in the direction of Stiles’s door at the end of the hall.  He could hear Stiles’s quiet, sleep-slow breathing, and the mental image of Stiles sprawled indelicately over his bed was too easy for Derek to picture, as it was something he’d witnessed more than once.

Though never this bed, he reminded himself, never here. 

Pushing these thoughts out of his mind, Derek stepped into the bathroom and began to strip. 

 

It wasn’t easy unlocking the front door while juggling five to-go cups of coffee (the tray only held four) and a large paper bag full of fresh bagels and cream cheese, but after a minute or so of struggling with the key Derek managed it.  Shouldering the door open, he stepped into the front entrance, nearly tripping over a pair of shoes someone had left carelessly in front of the doorway.  Swearing under his breath, Derek kicked the shoes to the side and thanked god for his faster-than-human reflexes, which had been the only thing preventing him from dropping the coffee. 

“Here,” Scott hurried down the stairs, his hair still wet from the shower, “Let me help.”

“It’s fine, I’ve got it.”  But Scott was already taking the tray out of his hands, eyes closing briefly as he inhaled the aroma of hot coffee. 

“This is great,” he commented, following Derek into the kitchen.  “You can stay over any time.”

“Thanks,” Derek replied dryly, setting the bag down on the counter.

“You brought too many coffees though—Isaac and Jackson both have class early on Wednesday.” 

Derek shrugged, relatively unconcerned.  He hadn’t been sure how Isaac, Scott, or Jackson took their coffees so he’d simply asked for one black, one with cream, and one with cream and sugar, figuring they could sort it out on their own when he got back.  “If cold coffee is the worst thing that happens today, I won’t complain.”  He reached for the second cream-only coffee and took a sip before turning back to the counter and reaching for the bread knife.

“Hey, don’t jinx it.”  Scott had chosen the cream-and-sugar coffee and took a large gulp.  “I gotta run but… I don’t suppose you’d make me one of those bagels to go?”

“Sure.”   So much for having breakfast with the pack.

“Great, thanks!” 

As Scott pounded back up the stairs to grab his backpack, Derek sliced a bagel and popped it into the toaster, wondering idly if this was how his mom had felt sending him and his sisters off to school in the morning.     

When Scott came back downstairs Derek handed him the wrapped bagel.  With a nod of thanks Scott took it, grabbed his coffee, and was out the door. 

Slightly at a loss for what to do next, Derek reached into the bag for another bagel.  He’d wanted to head out to Ikea after breakfast, but he shouldn’t leave Stiles in the house by himself, and when he focused he could still hear Stiles moving around upstairs.  Drumming his fingers on the counter while his bagel toasted, Derek wondered how quickly Ikea delivered.  He could always order everything online. 

“Hey, Scott, did you see where I left my…” Stiles’s words trailed off when he stuck his head over the second floor balcony and saw Derek looking up from him from the hallway below where he’d stepped out of the kitchen after hearing Stiles’s voice.

“Scott left.”

“Oh.” 

“I picked up bagels,” Derek offered.  “Coffee too.  It might not be hot anymore, but I got you a caramel macchiato.  With whipped cream and extra caramel.”

“What are you trying to do?”  Stiles demanded.  He’d tried to hide the mark Derek had left on his neck, wearing a hoodie pulled high, but short of a turtleneck nothing could disguise the bruise. 

“I’m sorry about last night.  Just, think of it as a peace offering.”

“A peace offering?”  Stiles laughed, picking up his backpack from where he’d dropped it on the floor and coming around to make his way down the stairs.  “You’ve got to be joking.”

“We’re going to be sharing the same space for a while.  I don’t want what’s been going on between you and me to affect—”

“There’s nothing going on between you and me, Derek.  You’ve made sure of that.”

Derek rubbed a hand over his face.  “You know what I mean.”

“Yeah, I do.  What you mean is, ‘Stiles I don’t want you and your inconvenient emotions or humanness or whatever to get in the way of my Important Werewolf Things’.  So sorry that I can’t just shut myself off like you can.  Sorry that having my ex-boyfriend living uninvited in my house is a cause of concern for me.  Sorry that I ever could have thought that you loved me and that it took Scott to make me realise I was wrong.  Sorry I don’t want your fucking ‘peace offering’.  And, by the way,” Stiles continued when Derek opened his mouth to respond, “I don’t drink macchiatos anymore.”

“There’s other coffee—”

“Hello?  Are you even listening to me?  I don’t want coffee.  I don’t want you here.”

“I’m not leaving.”

“Yeah, you’ve made that very clear.”  Stiles stepped into Derek’s space, his body vibrating with anger.  “And I’m beginning to think it’s because you don’t have anywhere else to be.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I bet it really sucked when Scott and Isaac and, hell, even Jackson, moved out of Beacon Hills.  After all, it’s not like you have any friends your own age.  Or any friends at all, period.  None of us would have anything to do with you except that, oh yeah, you turned half of us into werewolves.”

Derek took a step back.  “Stiles—”

“Are you really that worried about Marcus, Derek, or are you just lonely?”  Stiles’s voice was harsh with scorn.  “You’ve got his scent now.  You could find him, kill him.  But you won’t.  Oh, no, big Alpha werewolf Derek Hale is going to move in instead.  Because that’s safer, right?”

“You don’t—”

“No, you don’t.  You don’t have anything in your life except a handful of teenagers that are stuck with you because of some supernatural bullshit.  No wonder Boyd and Erica left—they must have realized how pathetic you really are.”

Derek froze.  He and Stiles hadn’t been a thing when Boyd and Erica decided to leave, but later, when they were, Stiles had asked about it.  And Derek had told him, so Stiles knew how much that had hurt. He knew Derek couldn’t escape the guilt of failing them in the most fundamental way that an Alpha could possibly fail his Betas.  He knew that throwing it back into Derek’s face would be twisting the knife.

“You might think you’re better than he is, but at least Peter’s upfront about using people.”

Derek sucked in a breath, hoping it might somehow fill the twisted, hollow space that his chest had become.  Stiles just shook his head, a look of disgust on his face, and walked past Derek towards the door.

“Wait.  Stiles.  Please.”  Derek reached out but stopped himself before his fingers touched the bare skin of Stiles’s arm.  If Stiles was wearing wolfsbane or mountain ash to ward him off, Derek didn’t want to know.  “You said I don’t have anyone else, and you’re right.  Everyone else is dead.  Or gone.  I can’t lose any more people, Stiles. This pack is all I have.” 

Stiles faced him, eyebrow raised as he waited for Derek to continue. 

“I can’t leave, not until we deal with Marcus, until I’m sure it’s safe.  But I’ll stay out of your way.”  Derek hesitated, swallowing.  “I’m sorry I’ve been—inconsistent—with you.”

Stiles hooked his hands into the straps of his backpack and said nothing.

 “I can tell when you want me, and that’s hard to resist, so—I haven’t.  But that’s not fair to you.  Clearly it’s just your body reacting, not your brain.  So I’ll leave you alone, as much as possible.”  He met Stiles’s eyes, doing everything he could to keep his face clear of emotion.  “That’s what you want, right?” 

“Right,” Stiles repeated, the bitten off word landing like a punch to Derek’s stomach.  “I’m gonna go to school now.  Stay out of my room, I don’t want you touching my stuff.”

Derek nodded in acknowledgement and Stiles walked out the door without a backwards glance.

 

By the time Scott got home from school he was exhausted.  Thursdays were the busiest days of his week and on a normal night all he wanted to do was collapse onto his bed with Netflix on his laptop and a cold bottle of beer.  Popcorn too, if he could be bothered to make any.

He didn’t think he’d get to do any of those things tonight.  Derek had been staying with them for a week or two now, and it wasn’t getting any easier.  The small house had comfortably fit three, but five was a whole other matter.  It might not have been so bad except that he was still sharing his room with Isaac.  He supposed he could have pulled rank and made Jackson or Stiles take turns sharing, but he and Isaac had both agreed it wasn’t worth the headache.

For a while, things between Stiles and Derek had seemed okay.  Derek carefully kept out of Stiles’s way and, for his part, Stiles seemed hell-bent on ignoring Derek.  But that had only lasted for a few days, ending abruptly when Stiles had come home and discovered that not only had Derek replaced all the ruined furniture, but bought them new laptops as well. 

Personally, Scott had been grateful.  He’d spent most of his savings from the summer on textbooks and tuition and there was no way his mom could have afforded to buy him a new one (plus he did not want to have to explain why he needed it).  The gnawing worry of how he’d be able to complete assignments and essays without his own computer had been an added stress he really didn’t need.  He knew Isaac had been equally grateful, and would have assumed the same of Stiles—forgetting, somehow, about Stiles’s idiotic sense of pride. 

Even after Stiles had calmed down and been forced to accept the fact that he could wait hours at the library for a free computer or use the MacBook Derek had bought, it seemed that Stiles couldn’t stop going out of his way to needle Derek.  Derek, at least, was doing his best not to react, but somehow that only made Stiles push harder.

Which was why Scott wasn’t surprised to hear Stiles’s voice raised loudly in indignation as he made his way up to the front of the house. It was also how he knew he wasn’t going to get the relaxing evening he was so desperate for.

“…and why do you always have to be in the kitchen?”  Stiles demanded.  “You went and bought yourself a pull-out couch and a brand new TV since I guess the living room is now your bedroom, so why can’t you just stay in there if you need to be here at all?”

“Stiles,” as it had for the last couple weeks, Derek’s voice remained level, “Let me finish cleaning up from dinner and then I’ll be out of your way.”

“Right, make me sound like the asshole because you made dinner and I’m just being an ungrateful little—”

“I didn’t say that.”

“And I didn’t ask you to cook dinner, or clean up, or move in.  So don’t act like you’re doing me some big favour!”

“If you’d give me five minutes—”

“Could you two please take it outside?”  Scott asked tiredly as he dropped his backpack at the front door and made his way into the kitchen. 

“There’s a plate for you on the stove,” Derek supplied when Scott reached for the handle of the fridge.  Scott grunted his thanks and pulled out a beer, twisting off the top and taking a long swallow. 

“I’m not finished,” Stiles ignored Scott, still focused on Derek who stood at the sink, his hands full of soapy water.

“Yes, you are,” Scott interrupted before Stiles could continue.  “Finals are coming up and I have to study—and I can’t do that when you keep yelling.  I don’t care—” he raised his voice when Stiles opened his mouth to defend himself, “What you think Derek’s done now.  I don’t care.  So go take Jackson, and Isaac if he’ll go with you, and see a movie or something.  I don’t care what you do.  Just don’t be in the house tonight, okay?”

Stiles spluttered, “Why do I have to be the one to go?  Derek—”

“Stiles!”  Scott’s control snapped and he was too tired to rein it in when his eyes began to glow scarlet.  “You’re the one yelling so you get to leave.  End of discussion.”  Not waiting for a reply he grabbed the still warm plate from the stove—ham and scalloped potatoes—and made his way up the stairs to his room. 

Thirty minutes later, the house was blissfully quiet.  Scott leaned back in his desk chair and closed his eyes with a soft sigh of relief.  He never thought he’d be so happy to be home alone.  Well, not alone, exactly, because Derek was still around.  And the house wasn’t totally silent because he could hear the muted noise of the TV on in the living room, but no one was yelling or fighting or arguing over the remote.  Scott didn’t have to filter out the background noise of five separate heartbeats and breathing patterns and fingers on keyboards or the thousands of other noises the human (or werewolf) body seemed to make. 

Picking up his empty bottle of beer and his dinner plate Scott made his way downstairs, giving Derek a silent nod as he passed by the living room where Derek was watching a rerun of Star Trek: Voyager.  Reaching the kitchen, he rinsed out the bottle and tossed it into recycling, put his plate in the dishwasher, and grabbed another beer from the fridge.  After a moment’s thought he grabbed a second and tossed it to Derek on his way back up the stairs.  Derek caught it without looking away from the TV and gave Scott a small salute with the bottle in thanks. 

Back in his room, Scott eyed his textbook where it lay open on his desk.  He should study—he hadn’t been lying about finals being right around the corner—but he finally had his room to himself for a while.  Feeling only the slightest twinge of guilt he bypassed his desk and settled onto his bed, pulling his laptop across the covers towards him.  If he started now he could probably watch three episodes of Dark Angel before everyone else got home.

When his phone buzzed at the beginning of the second episode he almost ignored it, but responsibility got the better of him and with a sigh he paused the episode and grabbed the phone. His brow furrowed when he realized who the text was from. 

Peter Hale:  Do you have a second?

Scott scowled.  He didn’t want to interrupt his first night in to himself for anything short of a life-or-death situation.  And he definitely didn’t want to interrupt it for Peter.  Even if Peter was actually dying.  Scott knew that wasn’t very leader-of-the-pack of him, but Peter gave him the creeps.  Especially after whatever it was that had happened between Peter and Stiles.

Unfortunately, Peter seemed to realize that Scott would be content to ignore him, and a second text followed the first.

Peter Hale:  It’s about Stiles.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Scott muttered, and closed his laptop with a sigh.

Scott McCall:  Ok.  What?

Peter Hale:  He’s not safe.

Scott McCall:  He’s out with Isaac and Jackson.  I think he’s fine.

Peter Hale:  I don’t mean right now—Scott could almost hear the unsaid ‘you idiot’—I mean he’s not safe from Marcus.

Scott McCall:  We’re doing everything we can.

Peter Hale:  Not everything.

Scott McCall:  What do you mean???

Peter Hale:  I spoke to Derek about this months ago.  I’m surprised he didn’t tell you.

Scott McCall:  …

Peter Hale:  He’s the only human in a pack of werewolves.  There’s one quick fix here, Scott.

Scott McCall:  You want me to turn him.

Peter Hale:  Yes.

Scott McCall:  If Derek said no, I’m sure he has a good reason.

Peter Hale:  Are you sure about that?  Sure enough to bet Stiles’s life on it?

Scott’s fingers hovered over the screen, suddenly not very sure at all.   Peter was a creepy, manipulative bastard, but he was their creepy, manipulative bastard.  He didn’t want Marcus to take over the packs’ territory any more than Scott did.  Of that, at least, Scott was fairly certain.  There’d be nothing in it for Peter—what could he possibly get out of having a strange Alpha in charge?  So maybe this unsolicited advice was exactly that: advice. 

Scott McCall:  I’ll talk to Derek.

Peter Hale:  Good.  I just want what’s best for the pack.

Yeah, sure he did.  Scott rolled his eyes. 

Scott McCall:  Don’t push it, Peter. 

Peter Hale:  Very well.  Have a good night.

Scott didn’t bother replying, just tossed his phone to the mattress beside him and opened his laptop back up.  He’d bring it up to Derek tomorrow—tonight he was going to finish season two. 

Chapter Text

Chapter Sixteen

 

“Don’t you think it’s at least worth considering?”  Scott couldn’t keep the frustration out of his voice—Derek had dismissed his suggestion before Scott had even finished voicing it.

“No.”

“I’m going to talk to him about it.  He’s never asked, but I think given the—”

No.”  The vehemence of Derek’s refusal had Scott’s hackles rising.  Derek was being completely unreasonable and Scott was having a hard time keeping his own temper in check.

“This isn’t your decision.”

“I’m making it mine.  I won’t let you.”

Scott pressed his lips together, trying not to let his anger get the better of him.  They needed to have an actual conversation about this.  Letting Derek turn it into a fight would accomplish nothing.  “I don’t understand why you’re so against this.  You gave Isaac the choice.  Why not Stiles?”

“Because we’re trying to keep Stiles safe.  In case you haven’t noticed, I think we’ve already risked enough on that front.”  Derek crossed his arms over his chest, looking meaningfully at Scott’s closed door.  Stiles didn’t have superhuman senses but he was still in the house.  The last thing Derek wanted was for Stiles to overhear their argument. 

“Yeah, and that’s worked out so well for everyone.”

“Can we not—”

“I just don’t see why we can’t ask him!  If he wants to be a werewolf, great.  He’ll be able to hold his own against whatever supernatural thing comes for us next.”

If he survives the bite.”

“I did, Isaac did, Jackson did, Erica did, Boyd—”

“Paige didn’t.”

“Paige?  Who’s…” but the words died on Scott’s tongue and he looked away, suddenly ashamed. 

“He told you.”  Derek wasn’t surprised. 

“Yeah, he did.”  It was so long ago now that Scott had almost forgotten.  Stiles’s dad had been out of town and Scott had gone over to stay the night.  They’d been in Stiles’s family room, watching Young Frankenstein, when Stiles had turned down the volume until it was just a low murmur of background noise and told Scott what Derek had told him the night before.  Stiles had never once looked away from the TV, his back ramrod straight and his hands twisting uselessly in his lap, and Scott knew why. 

Stiles had been worried—terrified, more like—that because of what had happened to Paige, Derek would never let himself love him.  He hadn’t said it, but Scott could see it in the taunt line of his neck and the way he couldn’t meet Scott’s eyes.  They’d only been together a few months at that point, barely a month after the clusterfuck with Ray, the man who had been drugging werewolves so that they would lose control of themselves.  Despite that, Stiles had never been happier.  And then he learned why Derek’s wolf eyes had been blue before he became an Alpha.

When Stiles had finished repeating the story, he’d picked up the remote and turned the volume back up, like they could just go back to the movie and nothing would have changed.  Scott had grabbed the remote out of his hand, shut off the TV, and forced Stiles to turn around and look at him.  Maybe he hasn’t said it yet, Scott had said, his hand stilling Stiles’s knotted fingers, but Derek loves you.  Stiles looked at him with his brow still furrowed, uncertainty painfully stark on his face.  We can smell emotions, Scott explained, he’s been teaching us to identify them.  He could hear Stiles’s pulse jump.  You mean it?  Hope was still a tentative thing in Stiles’s voice.  Yeah, Stiles.  I wouldn’t lie about something like that.  The grin that broke over Stiles’s face was like the sun.

Now, the memory tasted like ashes in Scott’s mouth. 

“Stiles isn’t…” Scott didn’t know how to continue without sounding like an insensitive jerk, but when Derek just raised an expectant eyebrow he fumbled through.  “He’s not a high school cellist.  Stiles has been through just as much as I have, only he’s been human the entire time, and he’s survived it.  He can survive the bite.”

“I won’t risk it.  Do you understand me?  I will not lose—”

Jackson opened Scott’s door, undeterred by the glower both Alphas sent his way.  “I’m tired of listening to the two of you argue.  It’s stupid.  If Stiles wanted to be a werewolf don’t you think he would have asked his Alpha werewolfbest friend or his Alpha werewolf boyfriend at some point in the last, I don’t know, three years that he’s known you guys?”  He shook his head in disgust.  “I think the two of you seriously underestimate him.  You get that he’s, like, saved our asses more times than both of you combined?”

“I don’t think that’s—” Derek began, but Jackson just talked over him.

“Whatever.  You guys are being totally lame, and it’s a Friday night.  I’m going to do something more interesting and productive with my life.  There’s a party at my dorm and I’m going.”  Without waiting for a reply he vanished out the doorway and headed down the stairs.

Scott glanced at Derek, but the other Alpha appeared to be at a loss for what to say.  With a groan of annoyance Scott followed Jackson out of the room.  “You can’t go by yourself,” he called down the stairs.

“Fuck off, Dad.”  Jackson responded with a rude gesture.

“Scott’s right.”  Derek followed Scott out of the room and down the stairs.  “And I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to go anyway.”

“I’m going,” Jackson insisted, already grabbing his jacket from the front closet.

“Going where?”  Stiles stuck his head out of his room and wandered over to the balcony to peer down at them.

“Party.”

“Wait for me.”  Stiles disappeared back into his room.  Jackson dropped his head against the front door with a sigh, resigning himself to waiting.

“Wait, where’s everyone going?”  Isaac sidled out of the kitchen, looking for all the world like he hadn’t been able to hear every word spoken in the house for the last hour.

“Party,” Jackson mumbled against the wood of the door.  “Beer.  Chicks.  Not being stuck in this house any longer.”

“Huh.  I’m coming too.”  Isaac hurried to grab his own jacket as Stiles emerged from his room and jogged down the stairs.

“You guys,” Scott swung his arms out in disbelief, “We’re not going to a party.  In case you’ve forgotten we’re in the middle of a war, here.”

“Soldiers get shore leave,” Jackson countered, turning around so that he was no longer facing the door.  “Or, sailors do.  Whatever.  Either way, you’re not keeping me here anymore.”

Scott looked at Derek for support, but Derek just shrugged.  “We have been kind of cooped up.”

“You’re kidding me.”

“Sorry, Scotty,” Stiles patted Scott on the shoulder.  “The tribe has spoken.  Have fun being at home alone.”

“We’re all going,” Derek said firmly.

“What?”  Scott whirled around to face him.  “No.  I don’t want to go.”

Derek shouldered on his own leather jacket.  “We have to stick together.”

“For fuck’s sake,” Jackson protested, “Nothing is going to happen!  It’s a human party, full of humans, doing normal, human things.  I really don’t think we all need to—”

“We’re all going,” Derek repeated, tossing Scott’s coat his way, “Or none of us are.”

“I never should have left London,” Jackson muttered.

 

Stiles was going to get drunk.  He did realize that the last time he’d gotten drunk at a student party Isaac had almost died and he’d made out with a werewolf from a rival pack, so on paper it might look like a truly terrible idea to be working on his fifth glass (well, plastic cup) of beer.  But this time he was at a party with an entire pack of werewolves.  His pack.

What could go wrong?

Yeah, fine, a lot of things could go wrong, and Stiles had probably jinxed the entire evening by asking the question—even in his own mind—but he couldn’t be bothered to get too worked up over it.  If something awful was going to happen, there probably wasn’t anything Stiles could do to stop it.  He had a knife strapped to his ankle, his vial of mountain ash looped around his neck, and a fully charged cell phone.  He was as prepared as he was going to get. 

Besides, he’d spent the last couple weeks in a state of twitchy restlessness.  The only thing that had helped was driving down to Beacon Hills on the weekends—with Scott in tow, since he’d refused to let Stiles go alone—and spending as much time with Chris as possible.  Stiles kind of had the feeling that Chris was getting annoyed by his stubborn insistence that Chris teach him everything he knew, but what the hell else was Stiles supposed to do with his weekends?  He couldn’t very well stay at the house in Terrace Bay—not with Derek lurking around every corner.  He was sick of Derek.  Sick of all of them, really.  Jackson was a giant pain in the ass to live with, and Stiles was surprised that Danny had managed to do it for as long as he had.  And Isaac was… okay, there was nothing really wrong with Isaac, but he was just there all the time.  Stiles got the feeling that he was almost as irritated by Stiles’s presence as Stiles was with his.  Which was super unfair. 

It wasn’t Stiles’s fault that Derek was in their house.  Stiles had been firmly against that plan.  He’d been the only one to realize what a bad idea it would be.  And he’d been right, hadn’t he?  The pack had hardly gone a day without fighting since Derek had moved in. 

Infuriatingly, though, Derek seemed to be the only one who managed to keep his temper.  Except for earlier tonight.  Stiles was pretty sure he’d heard Derek raise his voice while talking to Scott, which—for some reason Stiles refused to look to closely at—had caused him to feel an irrational surge of jealousy.  Derek hadn’t yelled at Stiles for weeks.  He’d just stand there, patient and cool as could be, while Stiles shouted and began to feel more and more insignificant.  It was like whatever thing Stiles was annoyed about was beneath Derek’s notice.

Scowling, Stiles tilted his cup and finished the rest of his beer.  He could feel the alcohol buzz through his veins, that particular kind of drunk that came with cheap keg beer and knocked aside whatever intelligent thoughts a person might have, which was exactly what he was looking for tonight.  Stiles Stilinski was done with thinking.  All he wanted was to have a good time and not think about a certain cold-hearted and apparently emotionless Alpha werewolf.

Weaving through the crowd of drunken college students Stiles made his way towards Jackson’s old room.

“Great party!” he shouted into Danny’s ear when he finally pushed his way beside the keg.

“Thanks!” Danny hollered back, leaning close so Stiles could hear him over the music.  “I’m surprised you guys came.”

“Yeah,” Stiles rolled his eyes as he refilled his cup, “We never get to do anything fun anymore.”

“Are you sure it’s—”

Stiles let out a loud groan.  “Yes.  Perfectly safe.  Do you see any werewolves?  Cause I don’t see any were—”

“Dude!” Danny glanced around nervously.  “Don’t say the ‘W’ word.”

“The—seriously?”

 “Someone might hear you,” Danny hissed. 

“And think, what?  ‘Wow, werewolves must be real things!’?  I’m pretty sure they’ll just think we’re huge nerds who are, like, part of an online gaming community—”

“Exactly,” Danny said.  “I’d like to get laid in the near future.  I don’t need people thinking I’m into Twilight role playing.”

“Yeah, okay,” Stiles conceded.  “But for the record, at this point, I’m definitely Team Edward—”

“Stiles, shut up.”

 

Derek lifted a can of beer to his lips, trying not to let the disapproval he felt show on his face.  He was beginning to wish he’d taken a firmer stance against going to the party—it was loud and crowded and there appeared to be at least three different kegs on this one floor alone.  He probably could have just sent Scott—it was stupid of him to insist that they both go. 

 “…and I don’t know how anyone could suggest that male entitlement isn’t a huge problem in our society.  I mean, just look at Robin Thicke’s new album!  It’s crawling with misogynistic—hello?  Are you even listening to me?”

Derek blinked, trying to focus back on the conversation he’d been having with one of the girls from Danny’s dorm.  Her name was…

“Whatever, the good-looking ones are always idiots,” she sighed as she turned away and melted back into the crowd.  Derek opened his mouth to protest, but the pang of guilt in his chest stopped him.  All she’d been trying to do was have a conversation with him.  It wasn’t her fault he had so much on his mind that he couldn’t focus. 

He’d hoped that a night out of the house would allow the pack to get rid of the nervous energy they’d been carrying for the last few weeks.  They’d been stuck together for so long that it was taking a toll—he’d even heard Isaac snap at Scott the other night.  A college party would not have been Derek’s first choice, but at least this way they could mingle with other people while still remaining within eye- or ear-shot of each other—and it seemed highly unlikely that anything supernatural would happen with so many humans packed into the building.

Unfortunately the ‘safety net’ of humanity was beginning to feel more and more confining, and when the second frat boy of the night stumbled into Derek, spilling beer and slurring apologies, Derek could feel his skin tighten with the need to escape.  The press of people was becoming too much, and despite the deliberate attempt to slow it down he could feel his breathing quicken, his heart rate close behind.

Knowing it was a stupid risk but unable to stop himself, Derek used his werewolf reflexes to make his way through the press of the crowd without touching anyone.  He could only trust that they’d be too drunk to notice the speed at which he made his way to the door at the far end of the hallway.  Pushing through, he closed it behind him, letting out a sigh of relief as the noise of the party cut down slightly.  He could still hear the throb of the bass, the mingled voices, and the thousands of other noises that came with a dorm party, but out here it was slightly less overwhelming.  He couldn’t actually leave, not after insisting on coming, but this way he wouldn’t have to be part of the party.  If he concentrated hard enough he’d be able to pick out individual conversations, checking in to make sure his pack was alright.

Leaning forward, his forearms resting against the railing, Derek closed his eyes and willed himself to relax, taking slow, even breaths.    

 

When Danny’s plans to get laid seemed to be approaching in the very near future, judging by the gleam in the eyes of a redhead who’d come up to talk to them, Stiles wandered back out of Jackson’s room and into the hallway with another cup of beer.  He could see Scott in the doorway of another room, stars in his eyes as he listened to the animated conversation of a pretty Asian girl.  He couldn’t see Jackson, but Stiles could hear him a room or two over, loudly recapping his lacrosse days for anyone who cared to listen.  Making his way down the hall, Stiles found Isaac slouching casually at a kitchen table and apparently winning a great deal of money at poker.  Mildly surprised, Stiles was about to head in to see if he could take a peek at Isaac’s cards when he caught a blur of motion out of the corner of his eye.  He turned his head just in time to see Derek slip out the door to the stairs. 

Not bothering to stop and think about whether or not it was a good idea, or why he wanted to in the first place, Stiles followed.

 

Derek felt the tension crawl back up his spine before the door even opened behind him, knowing it was Stiles by the soft scuff of sneakers and the way the knife he wore on his ankle altered his gait just slightly.  “What do you want?” he asked, not turning around as Stiles shut the door.

“You said we had to stick together.”  Derek heard Stiles lean back against the cement wall to the side of the door, the quiet rasp of denim as he stuck his hands into his pockets. 

“I needed some air,” Derek replied shortly.

“College party not your scene?” Stiles asked sarcastically.

“Not really, no.”

“Guess you should have stayed at home then.  That’d be my home,” Stiles added, “Since you won’t go back to yours.”

“You know what, Stiles,” Derek straightened, turned around.  “This is getting old.”

“Is it?” Stiles widened his eyes in mock surprise. 

“You’re acting like a child.”  For the first time in weeks Derek let some of the exasperation he felt towards Stiles’s attitude leak into his voice.  He’d done his best to steer clear, he’d refused to engage in any of Stiles’s attempts to aggravate him, but Stiles would just not stop pressing. 

Anger flared in Stiles’s tawny eyes, but he said nothing, just lifted his cup of beer to his lips and took a slow sip.

Derek’s eyes dropped to the red cup and fear was a shard of ice sharp in the centre of his chest.  His hand shot out and Stiles jerked back, cracking his head against the wall as Derek knocked the cup out of Stiles’s hands.

“What the fuck?  Ow!”  Stiles exclaimed, reaching up to touch gingerly at the back of his skull.  “I was drinking that, you—”

“There was a reason we picked up our own beer—in cans—before we came here.”  Derek was furious.  “Or have you forgotten exactly what GHB does to a werewolf?”

“Yeah, well, I’m not a werewolf.”  Stiles’s protest was half-hearted.  “I’d have just puked.  And passed out.  We know what GHB does to me,” he joked weakly.

“Jesus, Stiles,” Derek rubbed a hand over his face, willing the image of Stiles lying limp and barely breathing to dissipate.

Stiles bit his lip, feeling suddenly ashamed.  “Yeah, right, bad joke.”

Derek said nothing, just looked at Stiles as the line of worry between his eyes deepened. 

“I’m sorry,” Stiles said, reaching out to place his hand on Derek’s arm, the leather of Derek’s jacket almost skin-warm under his fingers. 

Derek stilled underneath Stiles’s touch.  “It’s fine.”

“No,” Stiles shook his head, “I shouldn’t have said that.” 

Stiles was standing close enough that Derek could feel the heat of his body, feel the weight of his hand even through the layers of clothing between their skin.  It took every ounce of Derek’s control not to close the distance.  It would be so easy to take that final step, to feel the long lines of Stiles’s body against his, to glide his lips over the soft bow of Stiles’s mouth. 

Stiles’s lips parted, his tongue darting out to wet them, and Derek had to close his eyes.  He could feel the way the air around them thickened with desire, and when Stiles’s fingers tightened around his arm Derek pulled back. 

“Stiles,” he began, voice hoarser than he’d intended, but before he could continue Stiles had pressed closer, pushing Derek back until he hit the railing behind him.  Stiles’s arms were on either side of Derek, hands gripping the railing, and Derek could taste the copper of his pulse in his dry mouth. 

Stiles let his gaze wander down Derek’s body, lingering over the bulge in Derek’s jeans before coming back up to meet Derek’s eyes.  Derek clenched his jaw, breathing shallowly through his nose and trying to ignore the way his skin prickled with anticipation.

Stiles leaned in, brushing his mouth over the rough hair of Derek’s beard.  Not touching his skin, just dragging his lips over the bristles, his breath hot and moist on Derek’s cheek.  Derek made a choked sound low in his throat, his stomach tightening as he struggled to remain still. 

He could feel Stiles grin against his beard and then Stiles was pressed flush against him, his smaller frame crowded against Derek’s larger one so that he fit inside the opening of Derek’s jacket.  All that separated them was the thin fabric of their t-shirts.

Derek’s hands came up to grip Stiles’s hips just as Stiles’s parted lips covered Derek’s.  His tongue slid into Derek’s mouth and sudden pain arced, scorching, through Derek’s body.

His fingers convulsed on Stiles’s hips, his muscles gone rigid with shock, before Stiles jerked back, horrified.  “The mountain ash, Derek, I’m sorry.”  He yanked the chain out from under his shirt, pulled it off his head.  “I forgot I was wearing it.”

Derek felt like the breath had been punched out of him, pins and needles filling his mouth.  Stiles reached out to him and Derek flinched away.

“Shit,” Stiles winced.  “I didn’t mean—”

“Don’t.”  Derek shook his head.  “Just… don’t.”  He could still feel the aftershocks from the mountain ash shuddering through his system and his fingers trembled. 

“Derek,” Stiles took another step towards him but Derek moved to the side, avoiding Stiles’s touch.  “It’s in my pocket, it won’t—”

“No, that’s not it.  I said I wouldn’t do this again, and I meant it.”

Stiles rolled his eyes.  “Come on, you’re not going to let this stop us from fucking, are you?”

“We’re not going to fuck.”

“Please, you can’t tell me you weren’t just as into that as I was.”

“It doesn’t matter.  We’re done.  This isn’t going to happen again.”  Derek was firm.  He should never have let himself get caught alone with Stiles, not after promising to stay away.

“You say that every time,” Stiles tried to move in again but Derek put a firm hand against his chest, stopping him. 

“No.”

Stiles flushed with indignation.  “Are you serious right now?”

“Go back to the party.”  Derek could feel Stiles’s heartbeat through his shirt and he fought not to pull away.

“Fine.  Whatever.”  Stiles moved back, stiff with anger, and reached for the handle of the door.  “I’ll just give Peter a call,” he pulled the door open.  “If you’re not up for it, I’m sure he is.”  He walked through the doorway and let it fall shut behind him.

Derek couldn’t stop the growl that tore from his throat and he yanked open the door, nearly colliding with Stiles who had stopped just on the other side of it.  Stiles stood rigid, tension knotting the muscles of his neck, and Derek’s gaze followed his to the couple standing, motionless, in the middle of the crowd of students.

The male, blonde and muscled, raised his hand and gave a little wave of his fingers that were sharp and pointed with claws.  Beside him, the woman grinned, and her eyes flashed a cold, clear blue.  

Chapter Text

Chapter Seventeen

 

“That’s Aiden.”  Stiles’s voice was low, nearly inaudible over the cacophony of the party.  “And the woman, she’s the one who…” his right shoulder gave an unconscious jerk.

At the other end of the hallway, Derek could see Scott standing rigid in a doorway, his eyes narrowed as he scented the air.  Isaac moved out of another room, casually stuffing a wad of bills into the pocket of his jacket as his eyes scanned the hallway.  He met up with Jackson, who was staring straight at the couple, fists clenched at his sides.

The woman glanced back, a smirk playing over her lips, before turning her gaze back to Derek, her head tilting as if to say ‘what next?’.

Stiles made an abortive movement forward, stopping when Derek’s hand came down firmly over his shoulder, fingers brushing the skin of his neck over his t-shirt.  “Put it on,” he ordered, releasing Stiles when the boy’s hand went to his pocket.

Derek met the woman’s eyes and spoke coolly, conversationally, confident that she could hear him over the music, “Not here.”  She nodded and he stepped back, opening the door to the stairwell behind him.

Stiles turned and walked back through the door without waiting to see if their pair of enemies would follow.  Once he was in the stairway he ducked to the side, dropping to a knee to pull his knife out from the ankle holster.  Silver gleamed around his neck and Derek gave a short nod of satisfaction. 

Just as Stiles rose to his feet, the knife held at his side, Aiden and the woman strode through the door with Jackson and Isaac close on their heels, Scott coming through seconds later and letting the door close behind him. 

“Well?”  Scott asked. 

“Marcus thinks it’s time to finish this.”  The woman turned to face Scott and Aiden stepped closer so that the two of them were nearly back-to-back.  Sensible, Stiles thought with cold detachment, considering the Beacon Hills pack had ringed around them in a loose circle that could tighten in a moment’s thought.

“I don’t see Marcus.”  Derek’s tone remained civil.  The eyes of every other wolf in the stairwell had shifted, bright and piercing, but Derek’s stayed calm and green.

“He’s outside.  Said you wouldn’t start shit with all these humans around.” Aiden curled a lip at Stiles.

Scott raised an eyebrow.  “You expect us to follow you out into what’s probably some kind of ambush?”

The woman shrugged, though Stiles could see the tension running through her body and knew she wasn’t as nonchalant as she was trying to appear.  “We’re just delivering a message.”

“Yeah,” Stiles laughed, harsh and sudden.  “You’re good at that, aren’t you?” 

She flicked her eyes over to him, and this time Stiles could see the quick gleam of fang behind her lips as she spoke.  “We all have our talents.  I’ve heard yours are best displayed on a mattress.”

Isaac snarled and took a step closer to her but Derek’s arm shot out and held him back.  “Is Marcus making an official challenge?”  Derek asked.

“Yes.”

There was a long stretch of silence.  Scott and Derek met each other’s eyes across the circle.  Stiles wasn’t sure what passed between them, but when Derek broke away to focus back on the woman the first hints of red were beginning to lick at his irises. 

“Accepted,” he said.  There was a weight to the word that told Stiles the agreement carried more than a simple acknowledgement, that Derek accepting the challenge meant that the rules had somehow changed.  Stiles only hoped it meant to their advantage.

“Well, then,” Aiden grinned, “Let’s not keep him waiting.”  With a wink at Isaac he passed between Stiles and Derek and down the stairs, the woman close on his heels.

“What do we do?”  Jackson asked.

“We follow them.”  Scott was already turning to make his way down the stairs, but Stiles reached out and grabbed his arm, pulling him back.

“Hold on—someone explain to me what Derek’s just agreed to and what we need to do.”  Stiles had a pretty good idea.  When Marcus’s wolves had made their first appearance in Beacon Hills Peter had filled the pack in on how fights for territory usually worked, but now it was all very real. 

“An official challenge means that the fight’s between Alphas only.  No Beta involvement allowed,” Derek explained, though it was clear he was only half-focused on their discussion, his head cocked to the side as listened to Aiden and the woman exit the building.  “Let go of Scott, Stiles.  We need to meet them.  I’m not prepared to lose by forfeit.”

“That can happen?”  Jackson asked incredulously, but he was already moving to head down the stairs. 

“Yes.  So let’s go.” 

Stiles dropped Scott’s arm and let the Alpha rush past him, the rest of the pack following.  Stiles bit off a frustrated curse, wondering if he was the only one of them who thought it a little suspicious that after so many months of harrying them Marcus was suddenly prepared for an upfront one-on-one fight to the death.

Except… Stiles was halfway down the staircase following his pack when he came up short.  The Beacon Hills pack didn’t have one Alpha.  It had two.  So what the fuck did the rules say about that? 

“You guys, hang on!” He shouted down, but they were either too distracted to hear him or didn’t care, because he heard the metal door being shoved open with a clang and then slamming shut seconds later when they’d all made it through.  

Swallowing a curse, Stiles took the stairs two at a time, hoping to god he could make it down without breaking an ankle.  Luck seemed to be on his side because seconds later he hit the door with the flat of both palms and shoved it open, stumbling out and racing down the paved pathway towards the courtyard.

Rounding the corner, he skidded to a halt, just barely managing not to run into Isaac, who stood immobile at the edge of the courtyard.  Jackson stood to Isaac’s other side and, in front of them, Derek and Scott had made their way into the centre to stand only feet away from an unfamiliar man.  Stiles could only assume that this was, finally, Marcus himself.  The rest of Marcus’s pack were strung out in a loose line behind their Alpha, at the edge of the courtyard like the Beacon Hills pack—Aiden and Ethan, the woman from upstairs, and a third male Beta who Stiles recognized as one of the werewolves who had used him to deliver Marcus’s first message.

The courtyard was ringed with trees, all of them large and, since they were in California, all still leafy despite the fact that it was well into December.  Stiles was grateful for their presence because anyone looking down from the party above wouldn’t see anything but trees.  As long as the two packs could keep the fight in the courtyard, they might just manage to do this without attracting attention.  He just hoped that the music from the party would drown out the noise.   

“Spread out,” Stiles directed quietly, the sound barely above a breath, and both Isaac and Jackson moved to put more space between themselves and Stiles until between them they covered as much ground as Marcus’s pack.

His fingers were tight around the handle of the knife, the grip biting into the flesh of his palm, and he forced himself to relax, shifting his weight into the stance Chris had taught him—balanced lightly on the balls of his feet and ready to move.  In front of him, Derek spoke.

 “We’re here.  What are you waiting for?”

Marcus chuckled, his features still completely human, which, more than anything, convinced Stiles that his alleged ‘challenge’ was definitely not as simple as it had seemed. 

“That’s the problem, isn’t it?”  Marcus slipped his hands into the pockets of his slacks.  On anyone else the movement might have been disarming, but Marcus, a solid wall of muscle, was so large that all it served to do was emphasize the wide span of his shoulders.  “All this ‘we’ business.”

Stiles could see Scott glance at Derek, but Derek said nothing and Marcus continued.

“You know the laws as well as I do, Derek Hale.  We were both born to this, both embraced our birthright.”

“As werewolves?”  Derek raised an eyebrow.

“As Alphas.”

“I didn’t kill a parent to get where I am now.”  Derek’s voice was clipped, impatient.  His arms hung loose at his sides but his fingers still ended in claws.  Stiles could almost feel the tension running through his body.

“No,” amusement curled around the word, “Just an uncle.”

“You’ve made the challenge, Marcus.”  Scott glared.  “We’re here to fight, not swap origin stories.”

“Yes.” Marcus nodded with mock gravity.  “I issued a challenge to the Alpha of the Beacon Hills pack.  Alpha.  Singular.”

“Well, that’s too bad,” Scott was clearly running out of patience, “Because there’s two of us.” 

“Do you want to tell him, or should I?”  Marcus slid his eyes over to Derek but didn’t wait for him to respond before continuing.  “There can only be one Alpha in a pack.”

“Says who?”  Scott scoffed.  But beside him Derek stood stock still—Stiles wasn’t sure if he was even breathing. 

“We do,” they spoke at the same time, Marcus and all four of his Betas.  It sent chills racing down Stiles’s arms and he could see both Isaac and Jackson flinch back.  A frown was beginning to grown on Scott’s face.  Of all of them, only Derek seemed unaffected.  

Stiles knew there were rules the wolves followed—things that kept them out of the public eye, laws that kept their numbers in check, regulated fighting within and between packs—but he’d never asked Derek about them in any detail.  Until now, the Beacon Hills pack hadn’t had much contact with other werewolves.  Stiles usually had more… interesting things to do with Derek than to ask about some kind of archaic code of law.  He’d figured if he ever needed to know anything about werewolf rules he’d have plenty of time to find out.

Obviously, he’d been wrong.

“What is this, more supernatural crap?”  Scott flexed his claws and glowered at the wolves behind Marcus.  “Some kind of Vulcan mind-meld?”

“Just a statement of fact.  A fact that someone here,” Marcus gave a meaningful head tilt in Derek’s direction, “Obviously failed to mention.  Didn’t you ever wonder how our laws were created?  How they are enforced?”

Scott ground his teeth together in frustration.  “So, what, you’re the werewolf cops?”

“Wrong again.  Derek, would you please educate your young friend?”

“Yeah, Derek,” Scott turned to face Derek and anger simmered under the red of his eyes.  “Educate me.”

“We came up with the rules.  We enforce them.  There’s no… police force, no ruling class.  Every pack is subject to the rules and every pack, every wolf, has the authority to enforce them.”

“Why am I just finding out about this now?”  Scott took a step towards Derek and Stiles could have throttled him.  Couldn’t Scott see he was playing right into Marcus’s hands? 

“Because, Scott,” Derek finally snapped, turning to Scott with his eyes glowing, “Your presence in this pack is breaking them.”

“What do you mean?”

“You heard Marcus—we don’t allow packs to have more than one Alpha.  It causes too many problems.  Larger packs, less discretion, too much in-fighting.  And it’s just… different.  Strange.  Wrong.”

Stiles was surprised at the revulsion in Derek’s voice, but maybe he shouldn’t have been.  Wolves—real wolves—didn’t like it when other wolves strayed from the norm.  Different was wrong, unnatural.  Different was killed. 

 “Well, then,” Marcus clapped his hands.  “Now that everybody’s up to speed… why don’t the two of you get on with it so my challenge can be met?”

“‘Get on with it?’”  Scott broke away from Derek, looked to Marcus. 

“He wants us to fight.”  Derek moved to stand beside Scott, eyes on Marcus.  “To decide who’s the Alpha.  Except that’s not going to happen.”

“No?”  Marcus asked.  “Are you very sure about that?”

“Yes,” Derek said firmly.  “We’ll meet your challenge.  Both of us.”

“Wait a minute,” Scott was frowning.  “Is this going to keep happening?  If we’re breaking the rules does that mean every pack—every wolf—we come across can fight us over them?”

“Can we focus, please, Scott?  That’s not really—”

“Oh, no.  Scott, you’re certainly on to something.”  Marcus grinned.  “Even if somehow, impossibly, your pack survives the night, you’ll still be outlaws.  As long as you have two Alphas, well… your pack’s not safe.”

“This is your fault,” Scott rounded on Derek.  “Why would you let this happen?”

“Why would I let this happen?  You’re the second Alpha.  It’s your fault.”

Stiles could feel his mouth gape open as he watched Scott glower up at Derek.  The two Alphas were standing nearly nose-to-nose, completely ignoring Marcus. 

“You put the pack at risk by becoming an Alpha,” Derek growled.  “I’ve only been trying to protect you.  All of you,” he gestured back towards where Stiles stood with Jackson and Isaac, all of whom were watching Scott and Derek with varying expressions of horror.

“Protect us!  You’ve made us totally vulnerable!”

“Guys,” Jackson gritted out.  “Is this really the time?”

“Shut up, Jackson,” they said at the same time, without breaking eye contact. 

“I guess Marcus is right—two Alphas is one too many,” Scott snarled, shoving a clawed hand against Derek’s chest.  Stiles felt the breath slide out of him in an incredulous rush.  This was ridiculous.  It wasn’t like Scott at all.  Or Derek, for that matter.  They knew Marcus was the real threat. 

“What, you think you can do it on your own?”  Derek mocked, returning the shove.  “You wouldn’t even know how to control the shift without me.”

Behind them, Marcus stood smirking, his hands still resting, relaxed and casual, in his pockets.  At his back, Stiles could see the rest of his pack had pulled in, drawn towards the conflict enfolding in front of them.  In fact, none of them were paying any attention to Isaac or Jackson or Stiles—they were all focused on Scott and Derek.  Which, Stiles realized as it all clicked into place, was exactly the point.

“Guys,” he whispered, barely moving his lips but knowing Jackson and Isaac would hear him anyway, “Get ready.”  

“I don’t need you anymore, Derek.  And neither does this pack.”  Scott dropped down into a crouch, Derek echoed him, and with a blurred streak of motion they both attacked—pivoting and charging straight towards Marcus. 

Taken by surprise, hands still caught in his pockets, Marcus was driven back into the ground with a bone-jarring thud.  His werewolves were equally as slow to react.  By the time they realized what had happened, Isaac and Jackson were already on them, with Stiles racing to join the fray.

Isaac had Aiden pinned, his claws sunk deep into the flesh of Aiden’s biceps, anchoring the other werewolf down.  Isaac didn’t wait for Aiden to recover.  With a spray of blood he tore open Aiden’s throat and grinned through bloody teeth as Aiden convulsed under him, before rising to meet Ethan, who threw himself at Isaac with a howl of fury.

Jackson wasn’t as lucky.  He found himself facing off with the woman and the man whose name they didn’t know.  He slashed wildly with his claws, already bleeding from a bite in his side, but the woman darted out of the way and her partner dove in, shoulders slamming into Jackson’s hips and sending him sprawling to the ground. 

Behind him, Stiles could hear the vicious sounds of Scott and Derek fighting with Marcus, and he flinched as he felt blood land hot and wet against the side of his neck.  He struggled not to look back, not to find out whose blood he wore, because in front of him the woman was raising her claws to strike Jackson.

“Hey!” Stiles shouted with all the force in his lungs.  She whipped around to face him, her face twisted in an animal snarl.  Stiles felt his heart freeze in his chest but didn’t stop heading straight for her—he remembered the paralytic they’d had on their claws when they’d attacked Isaac last month, and he couldn’t risk her wounding Jackson in a way he couldn’t heal.  He figured they wouldn’t wearing venom on their fangs so if he could keep the wolves distracted enough from using their claws on his pack it’d be something.  Not much, but it would help.  

“Stiles, don’t—” Jackson wheezed from the grass, but Stiles was already dodging the woman’s blow and slashing back with his knife. 

The man on top of Jackson growled and bit down again, making Jackson yelp in pain. Then the two of them were a rolling ball of fangs and claws out of the corner of Stiles’s eye as they tore at each other. 

Stiles grinned, fierce and feral, as he felt the blade of his knife slide into the woman’s chest and skitter off the bone of a rib.  She was pressed close against him and she hissed in pain, her hand coming up to close around Stiles’s wrist as though to yank his hand back and the blade out of her body.  But the second her fingers touched his skin she let out a sharp cry, her body jerking. 

Stiles laughed and pulled the knife free so that she fell back, her eyes wide with shock.  “I’m not so helpless anymore.” 

She flexed her trembling fingers, anger high in her cheeks.  “If you’d have stayed back we wouldn’t have touched you.  But now?  Now, I’m going to kill you.”

“Try me.”  Stiles smirked, tightening his grip on his knife.  The handle was slick with her blood now, harder to hold. 

She dropped into a crouch and came at him again, this time targeting his denim-covered legs and driving him back into the base of a tree.  Stiles’s breath left his lungs in a woosh, his vision greying at the edges, but he raised the knife and brought it down into her back with all the force he could muster.  Before he could pull it out and drive it in again there was another movement, faster than Stiles could see, and suddenly she was flying through the air away from him, Derek’s back suddenly taking up all of Stiles’s vision.

Panting, wordless with fury, Stiles pushed himself up in time to see Scott grappling with Marcus on his own.  “I had her, Derek.”

“That’s not what it looked like to me.”

“I don’t need you to save me.”

“You need someone to,” Derek turned to face him.  “You’ve lost your knife, get out of the fight.”

“I’m not going to—”

There was a sharp, high-pitched whine and then Isaac was thrown into them, sending Stiles toppling back into the tree with a crunch as the combined weight of Derek and Isaac bore him down.

Through the ringing in his ears, Stiles could hear Scott let out a roar.  He had one dazed second of thought in which he hoped no one had heard that, when Marcus gave an answering bellow and he snapped back to focus.  Grunting with effort, Stiles shoved Isaac’s torso off of his hips and managed to wriggle out from under the two werewolves, careful to avoid their claws as the two of them began to recover their senses and climb groggily to their feet. 

Jackson was rising from the limp body of Marcus’s Beta, arms covered in blood up to his elbows.  Scott was bleeding from a gash in his forehead, blood dripping in a steady stream down his face.  Marcus and Ethan were nowhere to be seen.

“Where did they go?”  Stiles demanded, eyes sweeping the courtyard for any sign of the woman (and his knife), but she’d disappeared as well.  “Where did they go?!”

“Ran off.”  Scott blinked blood out of his eyes as he limped towards them.  “We almost had him.  God,” he leaned down, rested his hands on his knees.  “Derek and I almost had him but—”

“But you had go play knight in shining armour,” Stiles whirled around, ignoring the way the world tilted sickeningly for a second.  He shoved at Derek, barely registering how slick with blood his hands were when he pulled them back.  “If you hadn’t come running to my rescue—”

“You’d be dead,” Derek responded flatly.

“You don’t know that!  I was doing fine.  I was holding my own.  I don’t need saving!”

“You were in danger, I wasn’t just going to let—”

“Yeah, Derek, I was in danger.”  Stiles flung his arms out to encompass all of them.  “We’re all in danger.  And you wanna know who’s fault that is?”

Derek said nothing, just stared at Stiles with his green eyes blank and his chest still heaving from the fight.

“It’s yours.  You’re the reason we’re all in this mess.  You’re the reason none of us have normal, human lives.  Because of you, all of us are at risk.  So quit acting like you’re the hero, like you’re the guy who saves people.  You’re not that guy.”  Anger ran like adrenaline through Stiles’s veins.  “You’re the bad guy, Derek.  You tie people to railroad tracks and then you act like the train coming along was just coincidence.  Well, guess what?  I’m sick of it.  I’m tired of you pretending you’re here to protect us when none of us would need protection if you weren’t part of our lives.”

Derek gave a single, slow nod, his eyes never leaving Stiles’s face.  Then he turned, quietly melting into the dark shadows of the trees. 

Silence stretched across the courtyard for a long, heavy moment.

 “You have no idea,” Isaac said slowly, rage weighing down his voice, “What he’s done for you, do you?”

“Isaac, don’t—” Scott began but Stiles held up a hand and cut him off. 

“What do you mean?” There was a tightness around Stiles’s chest that had nothing to do with being (repeatedly) thrown against a tree.  “What, exactly,” he repeated, his voice rising, “Do you mean?”  

Chapter Text

Chapter Eighteen

 

“I mean he’s ripped himself in half to keep you safe.  I know you were hurt, but all you had to deal with was a breakup.  A fucking breakup, Stiles.  And Derek had to go on like he didn’t care, like he didn’t love you, while you fell to pieces.  He had to know that when you started hating him, started spewing all this venomous crap, that it was his fault.  Do you think that’s been easy for him?  And he keeps taking it.  He’s taken it all without fucking flinching, because he loves you so much that he’ll let you shit all over him if there’s even a chance that it will keep you out of harm’s way.  Because he’s that terrified of losing you.”

“Whoa, hang on—”

“I’m not done,” Isaac snapped.  “I’m not saying what we did was right, and I’m not saying how you feel is wrong, but you let it make you bitter and then you take it out on everyone else.  Look, I know what happens when you let your hurt twist you into something mean.  Do you think my dad used to lock me in a freezer when my mom was still alive?”

Stiles felt like the breath had been punched out of him.  There was too much going on, he couldn’t follow what Isaac was saying, but his stomach rolled sickeningly as Isaac said his piece and Stiles struggled to keep up.

“He was a good guy and then gradually he wasn’t, because he let his pain control him.  Don’t let this do that to you.  And I don’t just mean you.  God,” he broke off, frustration evident in the taut lines of his body,  “I’m not excusing Derek.  He was stupid to think he had a right to make decisions about your safety just because he was so afraid to lose you. And he was a total fucking idiot to think that lying would make this easier on you—the truth was always going to come out eventually, so now’s as good a time as any because I’m sick and tired of dealing with your collective crap.  You’ve said and done horrible things to each other because you cared so much. And maybe that’s a reason but it’s not an excuse, not for either of you.  It’s time for you both to start acting like adults and deal with your damn problems.”  Isaac gave a disgusted shake of his head.  “Marcus is still out there and I’m not going to let the two of you keep helping him destroy this pack.” 

Stiles was still trying to form some kind of response as Isaac made his way to the corpse of the nameless Beta, hoisting it up over his shoulder and striding out of the courtyard.  Jackson glanced apprehensively between Stiles and Scott before he grabbed Aiden’s body and hurried after Isaac.

“Derek… still loves me?  But I don’t—I don’t understand.”  The creeping sensation of nausea rising in his stomach told Stiles that maybe he did.  Swallowing against the sour taste in his mouth, he turned slowly to face Scott, and the stricken look of guilt on Scott’s face told Stiles everything he needed to know.

“You lied to me?”  Stiles took a step forward, outrage flattening his voice.  “You could lie to me about something like this?”

“We—I—thought it was for the best,” Scott licked his lips.  “I didn’t want to hurt you, Stiles, but I didn’t want you to get hurt either.”

“And so lying to me was your solution?”  Stiles knew Scott had lied to people before.  Other people.  He’d lied to Allison about what had happened to her mom, trying to protect her from the truth.  In this case though, it wasn’t the truth that would have hurt Stiles.  And this wasn’t… Stiles wasn’t just anybody.  “I’m supposed to be your brother, Scott.” 

“You are,” Scott insisted.  “You are, I’m sorry.”

“Sorry?” Stiles laughed, but it broke halfway through into something more resembling a sob.  “I knew Derek couldn’t be telling the truth.  I knew he couldn’t just leave me like that.  Do you remember?”

“Yeah, Stiles… I remember.”  And Stiles knew they were both picturing the scene in Stiles’s bedroom, Stiles turning to Scott with angry, disbelieving eyes and asking him to trap Derek in his lie.  Except it hadn’t just been Derek’s lie.

“Who knew?”  Stiles asked, sudden and sharp, though almost before the question left his lips he knew the answer.  “Nevermind.  Isaac was there, he’d have heard.  And I’m sure Jackson and Peter got a nice informative text or whatever.”

“It wasn’t like that!”

“Then what was it like?”  Stiles was shouting now, tears burning hot and angry at the corners of his eyes, but he didn’t care.  “Was it like the one person I trusted to tell me the truth letting me down?  Because that’s sure as hell what it feels like.”

“Stiles—”

“Fuck you, Scott McCall.  If this is you being an Alpha and a brother and trying to protect me, you don’t know the first thing about leadership and you don’t know the first thing about love.”

“Look, I—”

“I don’t want to hear it!  I’m done, okay?  I’m done with you.  The Scott I knew—the Scott I thought I knew—would have cut off his right arm rather than lie to me.  So I’m done with this, and I’m done with you.”  Before his voice could break again Stiles turned and walked away, taking the opposite path from Isaac and Jackson. 

He needed some space to think—to recalibrate his entire fucking worldview, since the last four months of his life had been centred around a lie.  Right now his brain was moving too fast, his head and his heart a whirling mess of confusion.  He needed to get out and get away before he could even begin to sort through what Isaac’s revelation meant.  For him and Scott, for him and the pack… for him and Derek. 

 

Peter lounged easily against the counter of Derek’s kitchen, listening as Marcus and what remained of his pack made their way up the stairs.  They’d been squatting at Derek’s for as long as Peter’s nephew had been out of the city and the state they’d left Derek’s normally pristine loft in had made Peter shudder with distaste when he’d let himself in.  Derek was a thoroughly boring righteous do-gooder but he did have a modicum of taste, and if there was one thing Peter loathed it was the careless destruction of beautiful things. 

Derek’s granite countertops were scarred with the unmistakable gouges of claws, his cupboard doors had been torn off their hinges to hang drunkenly open or left to fall to the floor.  There was a single barstool left standing at the island, though it was missing half a leg and Peter doubted it would remain upright for much longer.  The free-standing wooden wine rack that Peter had given Derek for Christmas last year lay on its side, shelves torn out and now-empty bottles lined up along the top.  The TV and couch in the living room had escaped the destruction, presumably because the Oakridge pack had realized they’d want some form of entertainment while most of the Beacon Hills pack was in Terrace Bay.  Peter had yet to venture further into the loft to see what had become of Derek’s bedroom and bathroom but he could only imagine the ruin continued.   

Marcus, for all of his attempts at bettering himself, was just as crass as the rest of his pack. 

And, speak of the devil… with a loud crash that had the door to Derek’s loft slamming doorknob-first into the wall, Marcus, followed a moment later by one of the twins and his female Beta, stormed into the loft.  Peter tried to suppress a wince, picturing the dent he was likely to find later.

“What are you doing here?”  Marcus asked bluntly.  If he’d been surprised to see Peter he gave no sign, just stood glaring at the smaller man with his arms crossed menacingly over his chest.  The effect was ruined by the pair behind him—both wolves head-hangingly weary and covered with blood that certainly appeared to be theirs.  Marcus was equally bloody, his dress shirt and slacks torn open and ragged with claw marks.  While his pair of wolves had begun to heal their wounds, Marcus’s were still raw and oozing fresh blood—as always, wounds inflicted by an Alpha took more time to heal.  Peter wondered if it had been Derek or Scott who’d done the most damage.

“I heard you had yourselves a bit of a brawl,” Peter raised an eyebrow.  “And that you came off the worse for wear.  I thought I’d offer my condolences,” he reached to the counter beside him and held out a thick crystal tumbler, three fingers of whiskey gleaming warmly in the kitchen light, “And we could discuss our next steps.”

Marcus’s jaw clenched tightly and it looked for a moment like he would rather knock the whiskey out of Peter’s hand than knock it back, but after a moment he gave a short nod and walked forward to take the tumbler. 

The two Betas moved numbly towards Derek’s couch where they sank down without a word, the twin turning to the woman and burying his head in her shoulder.  Peter took his apparent grief as welcome knowledge that his little shit of a brother hadn’t survived the fight.

Peter raised his own tumbler to Marcus and took a sip, savouring the hot burn of the whiskey down his throat.  Marcus, of course, didn’t bother appreciating what was, for the record, an obscenely expensive whiskey, and downed his in a single swallow.  The warm glow in Peter’s chest grew—and not just because of the second sip he took to hide his grin.

“I told you going after the two of them at once wouldn’t work,” Peter remarked, setting his whiskey back down on the counter.  He’d been very clear, in fact, that Marcus needed to separate Derek and Scott—needed to drive the two of them as far apart as possible, and then attack.  When he’d found out that Marcus had done the exact opposite, Peter had rather lost his temper.

Then, after he’d discarded the glass that he’d shattered (and the table he’d broken in the process), he’d come to the decision that it was time to end the farce.  He should have known if he wanted this done right he ought to have done it himself.  But it had seemed like such an easy plan, and best of all, had kept him from getting his own hands dirty. 

Best laid plans and all that, though, so here they were. 

“I know what you said.  But I was tired of cat-and-mousing them.  I’m a wolf, Peter, not a kitten.”

“Then,” Peter let the anger he was feeling leak into his voice, “You should know better than to have attacked your prey when they were together and at their strongest.”

“You told me to stop going after the human, the Betas.”  Marcus set his own glass down on the island. 

“I didn’t mean fight them head on,” Peter snapped.  “For someone who keeps claiming to be a wolf you don’t seem to know much about hunting.  You need to pick out your prey and separate it from the herd.  Then you need to run it down until it is so exhausted it has no other option than to turn and fight.  And that is when you kill it.” 

Marcus’s eyes flashed red to match the blood that was still running down his skin and he took a menacing step towards Peter—and stumbled, barely managing to catch himself on the lip of the island.  Confusion slid over his features, his large brow furrowing as he lifted the hand that wasn’t supporting him up to his face and saw the trembling of his fingers. 

“What’s…” He swayed unsteadily on his feet, the hand gripping the island going white-knuckled with the effort of keeping him upright.  “What’s happening?”

“Now that would be the wolfsbane.”  Peter reached for his tumbler and took another sip of whiskey.

The sheer horror on Marcus’s face was almost comical as he grabbed at the vicious looking claw marks down the side of his neck.  “The Alphas, they had it on their claws?”

Peter chuckled.  “No, no I’m afraid this wasn’t my nephew’s brain child.”

“Then…” Realization had Marcus trailing off and he lurched forward again, this time swiping out with a clawed hand.  “You!”

Peter nimbly leapt aside from Marcus’s clumsy attack, pleased that he’d avoided sloshing any of the whiskey over the side of the tumbler. 

On the couch, Ethan and the woman were watching with wide eyes, their faces paling even further as Marcus tried again to attack Peter only to fall clumsily into the lone barstool. 

“Me,” Peter confirmed.  “Since you’ve managed to completely fuck up this entire endeavour it seemed time to take matters into my own hands.”

“Why?”  Marcus was struggling to speak now, sweat breaking out to bead on his face and mingle with the blood that still seeped from his skin—blood that seemed to be darkening ominously as it slid faster from Marcus’s wounds. 

“‘Why?’” Peter gave a full-throated laugh.  “For power.  Of course.”

“G… get him,” Marcus wheezed, lifting his head up to entreat his Betas.  “Kill him.”

On the couch the two Betas shared an apprehensive look, but Ethan rose to his feet with a look of bleak determination.  Apparently he’d decided that if he couldn’t live with his brother, he’d die with him.  A second or so behind him, the woman stood as well and they both advanced towards Peter, who merely raised an eyebrow and spread his arms in invitation. 

“Come on, Chelsea,” Ethan sunk down into a crouch.  “There’s only one of him.”  Peter thought that last part might have been more convincing if Ethan hadn’t sounded a tad regretful, as though Peter wouldn’t alone wasn’t enough to assure him of his impending death. 

Peter would happily prove him wrong.

Snarling, Ethan charged at Peter, with Chelsea a beat behind him.  Both wolves bared fangs and claws and Peter ducked their first blows as his own features began to twist from human to wolf.  The two Betas closed in on him again, but they were still tired from the fight before and when they should have been working in sync they each attacked separately so that it was almost too easy for Peter to send Ethan crashing over top of the island and then turn to meet the woman as she came for him. 

Her resolve was even more lacking than Ethan’s.  It was if she was paying lip service to the fight—attacking to appease her Alpha without any drive of her own.  If Peter were a different person he might have felt badly about the ease with which he drove her into the ground and, before she could even recover her breath, thrust a clawed fist into her chest to rip out her heart. 

From behind Peter, Ethan made a choked noise of protest and flung himself at Peter’s back.  Peter dropped the still pulsing organ and raised his bloodied claws up to sink into the meaty flesh of Ethan’s shoulders where the other Beta clung to Peter’s back.  With a roar, Peter yanked his arms forward, ducking his head and lunging forwards so that Ethan flew out in front of Peter and landed hard on his back.   

Again, Peter wasted no time letting the Beta recover.  He leapt over the body of the woman, grabbed Ethan’s shoulders again to hold him down, and closed his teeth around the wolf’s neck where his pulse beat wildly against his skin.  With a quick, almost perfunctory shake of his head, Peter tore out the other wolf’s throat. 

Rising up, with a slight wince at the burn in his side where Ethan’s claws had hit their mark, Peter stepped casually over the bodies of Marcus’s pack and made his way back around the island where the Alpha lay sprawled on his back, his chest heaving as he fought to breathe.

“You see,” Peter crouched down, spoke conversationally, “You were supposed to make this easy for me.  You and your pack were going to come in, kill Scott and then Derek, or Derek and then Scott, the order wasn’t really important, and then I was going to kill you.  That last part, actually, is going like I thought it would.  I never could have bested you in an actual fight so I was always planning on using wolfsbane.”  He sighed, rocking back on his heels as Marcus tried to turn and crawl away.  “It would have been all nice and neat if you’d just managed to hold up your end of the bargain.  But I suppose asking for competence was always too much to expect.”

“That’s alright though,” he gave Marcus’s calf a reassuring pat.  “There’s still plenty of time to salvage this.  This way, at least, I’ll have the element of surprise on my side.  After all the work I’ve put into making this pack trust me, who would suspect poor uncle Peter?  Especially since he’s only a Beta.  Oh, and about that—” Peter dug his claws into Marcus’s leg and dragged the werewolf back towards him.  “I’m fairly sure dosing your whiskey with wolfsbane would do it, but let’s not take any more chances at this stage in the game.”  With one swift movement, Peter brought his clawed hand down and ripped open the flesh of Marcus’s neck.  The werewolf’s body shuddered and then went limp, but Peter continued to tear at Marcus’s throat until the bones of his spine gleamed wetly in the kitchen light. 

There was a split second where Peter thought maybe it hadn’t worked—maybe he’d waited too long, maybe Marcus had been dead from the poison before Peter had torn out his throat, but then power burst to life in the centre of Peter’s chest, rushing hot and liquid through his limbs as his eyes blazed with the bright, unmistakable red of an Alpha.  Peter threw his head back with a roar, arms spread wide as he felt it flow through him, imbuing him with strength and the intoxicating knowledge that he was finally returning to the embrace of the mantle he was born to wear.

Rising to his feet, he flexed his muscles, appreciating the power coiled within them.  Reaching into his front pocket he pulled out a handkerchief and began to wipe the blood from his hands, then his face, before turning back to the kitchen counter.  Peter took a long swallow of whiskey and then picked up his phone.

Clearing his throat, he scrolled down to Derek’s name on his contact list and hit ‘call’.

“Derek,” Peter began once Derek answered, projecting enough fear into his voice that it shook ever-so-slightly, like he was scared shitless and trying not to let it show.  “I don’t know what you did but it pissed Marcus off and now he’s coming for me.  I can’t fight him—them—on my own.  Please, I need—”

“Where are you?”

“Your loft, I thought—”

“We’re on our way.” 

Peter waited until Derek hung up and then slid the phone into his pocket, once again leaning back against the countertop and reaching for the bottle of whiskey.  He felt he deserved a top up.      

Chapter Text

Chapter Nineteen

 

This was the third time in the last month that Stiles had found himself outside in the middle of the night without a jacket.  He needed to stop doing that, because he was pretty sure he was gearing up for an unpleasant case of pneumonia.  Now that the rush of adrenaline from the fight and the blinding rage that had swept over him during Isaac’s confrontation had faded, Stiles was left feeling bone-weary and hollowed out with the cold air prickling along his arms and the exposed skin of his neck.  

He started to shove his hands into the pockets of his jeans, thinking he’d conserve some heat that way, but realized at the last second that they were still covered with blood that had dried tacky against his skin.  Stiles stopped walking and closed his eyes.  He took a long, slow inhale of the night air and let the feeling of his lungs expanding in his chest clear out the snarl of thoughts in his head.  Letting the breath out slowly, he opened his eyes and started forward again, this time with a destination in mind.

He needed to get cleaned up, and the one place that would still be open this time of night and be relatively deserted was the library.  It was coming close to finals, but the last time Stiles had checked the clock on his phone it was almost 2 am.  He was willing to bet that even if the most die-hard studiers were still in the library they’d be too zoned out to notice him slipping into the washroom.  And if not, well… he’d come up with some sort of convincing lie. 

In an instant the relative calm Stiles had found dissolved.  Lies, lies, lies.  That’s what it all came back to, didn’t it?  One lie after another until everything that had once seemed so tangible and real was a blurry, tangled up mess.  A mess that Stiles had no clue how to start unravelling.

Derek loved him.

Derek loved him.

Derek loved him.

There was a part of Stiles that was begging him to let it be as simple as that.  To forget everything else, to ignore whatever had happened between them these last few months and just crawl into Derek’s arms and curl around the heart he’d never been able to leave.  It would be safe and warm and Stiles could forget the person he’d become without that embrace.  The drinking and, jesus, the drugs, could dissolve into a sort of not-real place and it would be like nothing had ever happened.  Like Derek hadn’t shoved Stiles out the door of a moving vehicle and then, when he’d reached out desperately for Scott to catch him, Scott had just slammed the door shut and sped off, leaving Stiles lying bloody and dazed on the pavement.

Only, all those things did happen.  So what did it say about Stiles, what did it say about his self-respect, his self-worth, if he pretended that they didn’t?  And, even if he tried to forget them, even if he let himself float mindlessly in the cloud of Derek loves me, could it last?  Or would every kiss taste like stale betrayal until Stiles couldn’t take it anymore and had to leave?

Stiles was walking faster now, footsteps slapping the pavement harder and harder until he was nearly at a run.  The cold air burned in his lungs and he needed to escape the feeling of being ensnared by the lies woven around him.  It was almost like he could feel them, a crawling physical force twining around him, and Stiles gave up all pretence of walking and began to run in earnest, restless and desperate to stop feeling and stop thinking for even five minutes.

By the time he reached the library he was panting, skin sheened with sweat, and his legs felt like they might give out any second.  Leaning against the wall of the library, he let his head fall back against the brick and stared up at the stary sky as his heartbeat slowly returned to normal.  He felt exhausted, like he’d run for miles rather than a handful of minutes. 

When he finally stopped gasping for breath, he straightened and headed for the doors, pushing them open with his back so he didn’t leave bloody handprints on the handle.  Luckily the girl at the front desk was too busy scrolling down tumblr to look up as he passed by and, with a silent thank you to the universe, Stiles hurried through the stacks.  As he’d predicted, the library was ghostly silent.  He only spotted two other students as he made his way into the literary journal section and the tiny, single-stall bathroom tucked behind. 

Closing and locking the door behind him, Stiles leaned down and turned the hot water tap on with his elbow, holding both hands under the spray.  He watched dispassionately as the water turned pink and then red as the worst of the blood began to wash off.  When his hands were clean enough he reached over and grabbed a handful of soap, scrubbing at his skin until his hands were pink and flushed.  Steam had fogged up the small mirror above the sink and when he glanced up at his reflection all Stiles could see was the hazy outline of his face, his features blurred beyond recognition.  

Turning off the tap he reached for a paper towel.  Once his hands were dry, he sagged back against the closed door and sank to the tiled floor, ignoring for a minute that sitting on the floor of a public bathroom was gross and not something he should be doing, ever. 

He needed to figure out what the hell he was going to do. 

Stiles leaned his head back against the door and closed his eyes, the bright florescent light too much for his tired eyes.  He’d just rest here for a minute, and then he’d figure out what was next.  With his eyes closed, the room felt dark and quiet, and within a matter of minutes Stiles’s chest was rising and falling in the slow, even rhythm of sleep. 

 

Some time later the phone in his pocket vibrated and Stiles nearly jumped out of his skin, eyes flying open and his heart leaping into his throat.  He’d pulled it out and was staring at the screen before he even realized what he was doing, autopilot kicking in.  He had three missed calls, all from Scott, and four text messages, also from Scott.  Apparently he’d been so exhausted that he’d slept through the phone’s earlier vibrations.

Stiles made a noise of disgust and dropped his phone to the tile beside him.  He didn’t want to hear any more of Scott’s excuses.  He’d trusted Scott.  Unquestioningly.  And this whole time, while Stiles had been clumsily trying to stitch his broken heart back together, Scott had known that it was all a lie.  He’d sat beside Stiles while he’d cried, played the part of the concerned best friend, and, fuck, Stiles had felt bad about it.  He’d felt guilty for being so messed up and guilty about Scott having to deal with it. 

He didn’t want to see Scott again tonight.  Right now he honestly wasn’t sure if he wanted to see Scott again, ever.   But he did need to go back to their house to get the Jeep, and despite how sober he felt now—adrenaline, shock, and an impromptu nap would do that to you—he knew he should really wait until morning to drive back to Beacon Hills.  If he could stay the night with Danny he would, but odds were the party was still going strong, and there’d be no chance.  At least it was a Friday and he could spend the weekend at home without missing class. 

Stiles briefly wished he’d had more of an opportunity to make friends at college.  Wasn’t that the point of it, really?  There’d been so much going on, first with Derek and then with Marcus, that he’d barely managed to keep up with his schoolwork let alone focus on making friends.  The price for literally running with wolves, he supposed. 

Realizing that he was letting his mind wander off in an attempt to avoid actually having to go home and risk seeing Scott, Stiles forced himself to get to his feet, bending down to pick up his phone as it buzzed angrily on the tile floor.

Stiles didn’t bother looking at the name on the caller ID, just shoved it into his pocket before unlocking the door and heading back out of the library.  He didn’t want to talk to anyone, and hopefully Scott would get the hint soon enough.

His phone buzzed once more as Stiles made his way across the lawn and with an annoyed growl he pulled it out of his pocket to turn the fucking thing off when he saw that he had a missed call—and a voicemail—from Jackson.  Stiles’s thumb hovered over the screen, not sure if he wanted to listen or not, and then a text notification had the phone vibrating again. 

Clenching his jaw, but trusting that Jackson wouldn’t want to get involved in his drama any more than Stiles would want to get involved in his, Stiles unlocked his phone and brought up the text.

Jackson Dickmore:  911 HEADED TO BH STOP SCREENING YOUR CALLS YOU FUCKWIT

Stiles sucked in a quick breath and hit the button for his voicemail, typing in his password with clumsy fingers and bringing the phone up to his ear as he started running.

Listen, they’ve gone after Peter.  We’re on our way to Beacon Hills.  Stop being a little bitch and get out here—we need all the help we can get.  Even you.

 

When Stiles finally rounded the corner to their street he noticed immediately that both Derek’s Camero and Jackson’s Porsche were missing.  Swearing under his breath he put on an extra burst of speed and yanked his keys out of the front pocket of his jeans, leaping up the front steps and shoving his key into the door.  Not bothering to kick off his shoes, Stiles hurtled up the stairs to his room and grabbed the rucksack from under his bed, snagging the keys to the Jeep from his desk and racing back down the stairs without bothering to lock the front door behind them.  If someone broke in while they were at Beacon Hills, they were welcome to whatever they could find in the house. 

Pulling open the door to his Jeep, he scrambled into the driver’s seat, flinging the bag to the passenger seat beside him and jamming the keys into the ignition before pulling out too fast and heading for the highway. 

He was already at least twenty minutes behind the rest of his pack, and there’d been no reply when he tried to call Jackson back as he raced towards the house. 

Stiles couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right.  They’d clearly bested Marcus and his pack in the fight that had happened only hours ago—two of Marcus’s wolves had ended up dead, and no one in the Beacon Hills pack had even received any serious injuries.  But if that was the case, if Marcus’s pack had truly had their asses kicked, why would they go after Peter?  What would be the point? 

The only thing Stiles could think of, and this sent a hot wash of fear through his chest, was that they’d called in reinforcements.  After all, they’d known going in that Marcus had at least a dozen wolves to call on.  Maybe after what had happened at the college he’d done just that—and a new gang of them had decided to show Peter (and Scott and Derek and the rest of the pack) exactly what they were capable of. 

Anger surged again, tight and bitter in Stiles’s throat.  If Derek had just done what he was supposed to do—if he’d have just killed Marcus when he’d had the chance—they might not be in this position.  They wouldn’t be racing headlong into what was at best a trap and at worst a massacre waiting to happen. 

Frustration had Stiles laying on the horn and weaving inelegantly through what little traffic was on the highway.  Derek had spent the last four months with apparently nothing in mind but Stiles’s safety, and yet every fucking decision the Alpha had made only seemed to cause more damage. 

Swearing violently under his breath, Stiles pressed his foot down harder and sped on.  If he was fast enough hopefully he’d arrive in time to help. 

 

Once he reached the outskirts of Beacon Hills, what felt like eons later, Stiles pulled over to the side of the road and yanked out his phone, checking to see if he had any more messages, but there was nothing.  Jackson hadn’t said where the rest of the pack was heading, hadn’t said more than that they were going to Beacon Hills.  Grinding his teeth Stiles pulled up his texts, hoping one of Scott’s earlier messages would give him some idea of where he could find them now that he was finally here. 

Scotty McCool:  Man, I’m sorry.  I know you’re pissed and I get it, but you can’t just run off like that!  Marcus’s guys might still be in TB.  Come home and we’ll talk.  Or not talk.  Whatever you want.

Scotty McCool:  Starting to get worried.  Just text me and let me know you’re okay.

Scotty McCool:  Look, I can track you down.  I’m about fifteen minutes away from coming to find you.  Answer your phone!!!

Scotty McCool:  Peter just called.  Marcus is after him.  He’s at Derek’s loft and we are headed there RIGHT NOW.  Call me!

Stiles tossed his phone onto the passenger seat and pulled back onto the road, breaking nearly every traffic law in Beacon Hills until five minutes later he was slamming on the breaks in front of Derek’s warehouse.  The Camero and the Porsche were parked outside just as haphazardly as the Jeep, and Stiles could see a fourth car, presumably Marcus’s, pulled in neatly at the curb. 

Stiles grabbed the keys from the ignition and clambered out of the Jeep, coming around to open the passenger door and reach around to the back to grab the bag that had fallen to the floor of the vehicle.  The night—early morning, really—was oddly silent and the skin on the back of Stiles’s neck prickled as he yanked the bag closer to him.  When his phone vibrated again on the passenger seat that Stiles was pressed up alongside he had to bite back a yelp of surprise, the text alert jarringly loud in the quiet. 

Fumbling for the zipper on the bag with one hand he grabbed for his phone with the other.  Maybe it was so quiet because the Beacon Hills pack had already won.  Maybe they’d killed Marcus and whoever else they had with them and maybe this was the text telling Stiles not to worry and that they’d be home soon. 

Swallowing thickly Stiles brought up the message.

Isaac Lahey:  not marcus its peter get help get chris get

Stiles’s fingers went numb around the phone, his hand stilling where it had been sliding into the opening of his bag.  From behind him, from the warehouse, there came a blood-curling howl of pain that cut off abruptly, and Stiles knew Peter had just discovered Isaac had texted him.

Peter.  They’d trusted him.  Well, no that wasn’t quite right.  Stiles had never trusted Peter, but he hadn’t suspected him.  Hadn’t thought Peter had anything to do with Marcus showing up.  There’d been no obvious motive, nothing Stiles could see Peter getting out of Marcus’s victory.  Unless, of course, Peter had never intended for Marcus to remain victorious. 

Rage settled heavily in Stiles’s stomach, hard and unyielding, as his hand wrapped tightly around the handle of the bat and he drew it from the bag, leaning it up against the side of the Jeep.  Setting his phone back down onto the seat Stiles pulled out the knife, the one nearly as long as his forearm, and set it carefully beside the phone.  He moved with deliberate precision, finding that strange level of calm that meant he’d gone past anger. 

He’d felt it once before, fury so sharp it was like a knife that cut through everything else and left nothing but a cold clarity in its wake.  He had looked into the eyes of the man who’d drugged and caged Derek and known without a shadow of a doubt that he would see that man dead.  In the end it hadn’t been Stiles who’d done it, it had been Peter (and there was irony in there, somewhere).  But Stiles would have killed him if he’d had the chance—killed him without flinching. 

Stiles tucked a bag of mountain ash into his pocket and pulled out a tiny spray bottle of wolfsbane, unsheathing the knife and misting it with the spray until the shining blade was clouded with tiny drops of the liquid.  He dropped the spray back into the bag and stepped away from the Jeep, swinging the door closed.

Peter would know he was coming.  Would have known Stiles was on his way even without the text from Isaac.  Stiles briefly considered pretending that he hadn’t seen Isaac’s message, but he dismissed the idea almost as quickly as it occurred.  Peter would have heard him drive up, and he’d probably heard the second his heart skipped a beat when he’d read it.   

Reaching down, he grabbed the baseball bat with his left hand, swinging it up so it rested on his shoulder, and with the long knife held easily in his right hand, he turned towards the warehouse.

Chapter Text

 Chapter Twenty

 

Stiles passed through the wide-open door, kicking it shut behind him.  He bypassed the elevator, not trusting it not to open on Derek’s floor onto god-knows-what, and, if he were honest, not trusting Peter not to cut the elevator cables while Stiles was on his way up.  When he rounded the corner to the stairwell his lips pressed into a thin line, the crumpled body sprawled on the floor sending a shard of ice through his chest.   

Crouching down he set the bat down on the concrete and reached forwards to feel for a pulse in Jackson’s neck.  It was there, thready and inconsistent, but there.  At the angle Jackson’s back was wrenched, the way bone gleamed wetly at his hip, Stiles was pretty sure a human would have been dead.  He had to press his hand gently over Jackson’s mouth to check to make sure the werewolf was still breathing, and had a moment of serious doubt whether or not he ought to turn Jackson’s head back to the correct alignment or if that would just make matters worth, when air brushed faint against his fingertips. 

“If you die,” Stiles informed Jackson as he reached for the bat and rose to his feet, “I’m going to tell everyone that you only went to London to see the Spice Girls musical.”  There was no reaction on Jackson’s end but Stiles was confident that his threat was enough to keep the werewolf fighting until they could get help.

There was a moment when Stiles considered pulling out his phone, calling Chris like Isaac had suggested in his text message, but he dismissed it.  If Jackson was hurt this bad there wasn’t any time to waste—and Peter would almost certainly hear Stiles make the call.  Jackson could heal, would heal, but Chris was human and Stiles wasn’t going to be responsible for leading Allison’s father to his death. 

Shouldering the bat, Stiles continued up the stairs, ignoring the urge to run.  He had no doubt Peter was waiting for him and didn’t intend to confront the traitorous dickbag panting and breathless.  Peter already had enough of an advantage, there was no way in fuck Stiles was going to give him any more. 

When he reached Derek’s floor, having sweated only slightly through the fabric of his t-shirt, Stiles noticed that unlike the front door to the warehouse, the door to Derek’s loft was closed.  It made Stiles hesitate, fingers coming up to brush uncertainly against the metal of the large door.   Since Jackson had clearly been flung from at least this level of the stairway it meant that someone had gone out of their way to close the door afterwards.  And none of the reasons Stiles could think of were harmless. 

Then again, if Peter had wanted Stiles dead all he would have had to do was wait for him on the first floor.  Therefore, opening the door wouldn’t kill Stiles.  Probably.  But that didn’t mean it wouldn’t hurt someone else.  He wouldn’t put anything past Peter. 

Knowing he had no other choice, Stiles gritted his teeth and tucked the baseball bat under his arm before yanking open the door in one swift motion and stepping through, braced for whatever he’d see on the other side. 

He’d expected movement—even with the eerie silence of the building, he’d somehow expected to walk in on a fight, a struggle.  The stillness more than anything made sick tendrils of fear wind through Stiles’s anger.  If the rest of the pack was this incapacitated then it really was on Stiles to get them the hell out of it. 

Just to the right of the door a large trunk lay open and empty.  Stiles recognized it as the trunk Derek used to store the restraints for new Betas on their first full moons.  He didn’t have to look far to see what had happened to the restraints because in the centre of the room, each encased in their own circle of mountain ash, Derek and Scott were slumped on their knees, manacles heavy around their wrists and fastened to the floor with solid iron rings.  Neither appeared to be conscious, and only the barely-discernable movement of their chests under their torn and bloody shirts let Stiles know they were still alive. 

Gripping his weapons tightly in both hands Stiles stepped further into the room, all of his senses on alert.  He couldn’t see Peter, and it was his absence that was chilling.  A soft noise came from Stiles’s left and he whirled around, knife flashing in the dim orange light that came through the bank of windows.  Just behind the couch, nearly lost in its shadow, Isaac was down on all fours, an odd shape rising over his back.

Stiles walked towards him, frowning at the tremble in Isaac’s arms as he got closer.  It looked like he was fighting to hold himself up and as Stiles’s eyes adjusted to the darkness he realised, with a creeping sense of horror, that Isaac had been impaled. 

The metal bar that had been shoved through Isaac’s chest had missed his spine, but the blood bubbling from Isaac’s mouth told Stiles that Isaac’s lung hadn’t been so lucky.  Stiles dropped to the floor beside Isaac, ignoring the way blood instantly soaked through the knees of his jeans, and set his weapons down, reaching for Isaac’s shoulder.  It looked like the bar had been torn from the iron staircase, he noticed with a shudder.  He knew there was no way he’d be able to pull the metal free from where it was embedded in the floor but maybe he could ease Isaac off of it so he could begin to heal. 

When his fingers touched Isaac’s shoulder, the werewolf’s whole body flinched, like he was trying to move away from Stiles.  Since the bar prevented his movement, all that Isaac managed was a low, hoarse cry of agony. 

“It’s me, it’s Stiles,” Stiles soothed, flattening his palm against Isaac’s shoulder blade.  “Here, I’m just going to—”

“No!”  Isaac twisted his head, eyes wide and frantic as they met Stiles’s.  “Don’t.  Please.”

“What…”  But Stiles trailed off as he took a closer look at the bar and saw how the top half, the part that protruded from Isaac’s body, wasn’t straight like the rest.  It had been twisted and bent like a fish hook, its tip pointing down into Isaac’s back.  If Isaac, or anyone else, tried to pull him upwards it would only tear through more of his body.  And this time Stiles didn’t think it would miss Isaac’s spine.

“Fuck,” he swore under his breath, squeezing Isaac’s shoulder in what he hoped was a reassuring manner.  “I’ll get Derek or Scott to straighten it out in a sec, okay?  Just hang in there.”  Stiles didn’t actually think he’d be able to free either of the Alphas so easily, but he wasn’t about to tell Isaac that. 

Not willing to leave both of his weapons out of arm’s reach, Stiles picked up the knife and made his way back across the room towards Scott and Derek.  He’d break the lines of mountain ash first and then worry about unchaining them, one step at a time.  

He’d nearly reached Derek when there was a flash of movement in the air above him.  It was all the warning Stiles had before Peter was suddenly standing between him and Derek, teeth gleaming wide and white in the shadowy room.  Stiles scrambled back and struggled to regain his balance.  Peter had leapt from the top of the staircase to the floor below, his movements soundless in the echoing space of the loft.

“You like that?”  Peter asked, nodding towards Isaac.  “A trick I picked up from a friend.  I added my own little twist, of course.”  He winked.

There were a dozen smart-ass and scathing retorts on the tip of Stiles’s tongue but all of them coalesced into one seething expletive of rage.  “Fuck you.” 

“Come now,” Peter spread his hands and Stiles noticed he wore a pair of black latex gloves, “There’s no need for that kind of language.”

“Fuck.  You.”  Stiles made sure to enunciate each syllable.

“This is going to be a very one-sided conversation,” Peter commented.

“This isn’t a conversation.”  In one swift movement, Stiles stepped forward and grabbed Peter’s shoulder with his left hand, driving the blade of the knife straight towards Peter’s stomach.  At this distance he couldn’t miss.

But, inexplicably, he did.  Between one instant and the next Peter was gone from where he’d been standing and Stiles’s knife hit nothing but empty air.

Stiles barely had a second to register what had happened when a gloved hand clamped down around his left wrist and wrenched it up behind his back.

“Drop the knife,” Peter said into Stiles’s ear, increasing the pressure on Stiles’s arm when Stiles hesitated.  “You already know how much this hurts when it’s dislocated.”

Stiles could feel his face flush, anger and humiliation colouring his skin, and opened his hand to let the knife clatter to the floor.  It wasn’t the promise of pain that persuaded him as much as the knowledge that he wouldn’t be much help to his pack with his left arm out of commission. 

“Good boy,” Peter purred and Stiles’s skin crawled.  He bit back a grunt of pain when Peter didn’t release him, but shoved him forward, spinning Stiles around at the last second so that his back slammed into the wall. 

The force had driven the air out of Stiles’s lungs and he gasped in a breath before Peter’s forearm pressed against his throat.

“One last thing.”  Peter traced a gloved finger down the side of Stiles’s neck, dipping into the neckline of his t-shirt to fish out the silver chain that held his vial of mountain ash and his wolf charm.  Peter ran the chain through his fingers, twisting it around his gloved fist until the metal bit into the skin of Stiles’s neck.  Stiles concentrated on drawing in a thin stream of air past the choking pressure at his throat and stared defiantly back at Peter.  With a quirk of his lips Peter pressed down harder, closing off Stiles’s airway completely, and yanked the chain hard enough for it to break.  The pieces scattered across the floor. 

Stiles tried not to panic, tried to remember that if Peter wanted him dead there were easier ways to do it, but as his vision began to grey around the edges his hands came up to claw at Peter’s arm, struggling to pull him off. 

Peter grinned and pressed forwards so that his body was flush against Stiles’s.  Stiles’s arms were trapped between them as he bucked against the wall.  Abruptly, the pressure on Stiles’s neck lifted and Stiles sucked in a desperate lungful of air before Peter crushed his mouth to Stiles’s in a hungry, biting kiss.

“Now,” Peter said when he pulled back, leaving Stiles breathless, chest heaving, with the copper taste of his own blood in his mouth, “What exactly did you think you were doing?”

Stiles wiped a hand across his mouth, glad for the wall at his back because he wasn’t sure his legs would hold him up without it.  “Do you really think,” he said between gulps of air, “That I wanted to sit around and listen to you bad-guy-monologue at me?” 

“I’m not the bad guy,” Peter scoffed.  “That was Marcus, and I killed him.  I’d say that makes me the hero.” 

“Here we go,” Stiles muttered under his breath. 

Peter gave him an arch look.  “Don’t tell me you’re not curious.”

“Fine,” Stiles rolled his eyes, pushing off the wall now that his legs had stopped shaking.  He’d hoped to catch Peter off guard with his attack.  He’d thought if he could get lucky enough to get Peter with the knife he could end this sooner rather than later.  But Stiles also knew that Peter liked the sound of his own voice, and would doubtless want to brag about whatever it was he thought he had accomplished.  Which meant that even though Stiles’s first attempt had failed, he’d probably have the opportunity for another.  “What’s all this?”  Stiles gestured at Scott and Derek.

 “I’m sure you’ve realized that the late and sadly not-so-great Marcus was supposed to kill the pair of them.”  Peter reached into his pocket and pulled out a lighter, beginning to light the candles that Stiles had only just noticed strewn across the loft.

“Tell me again how you’re the hero,” Stiles mocked, spotting his fallen knife on the floor and beginning to inch towards it as Peter turned his back.

Peter ignored him.  “Obviously, they’re still alive.”

Obviously.  Stiles tried to tamp down his irritation, reminding himself that the longer Peter took to explain himself, the better.  “Why?”

“Killing Marcus gave me back a little something I’ve been missing.”  When Peter turned to Stiles his eyes glowed like embers in the darkness of the room.  The candles had added more light but it was a shifting, uncertain warmth in the shadows. 

“Yeah, I get it.  You’re ‘the Alpha’ now.”  Stiles hoped the finger quotes in his words came through.  “Why go through all of this—why bring Marcus to Beacon Hills—when you could have gone out any time and killed whatever Alpha you found?” 

“Because I don’t want to just be an Alpha.”  Peter lit the last remaining candle—and what the fuck was with the candles?—and slipped his lighter back into his pocket.  “I want to be the Alpha of Beacon Hills.  This is, after all, my home.”

“Then,” Stiles caught the tip of his tongue between his teeth, hating to have to ask the question, “Why haven’t you killed Scott and Derek?”

“It occurred to me some time after I began negotiations with Marcus that my initial plan was lacking something.  I mean, it was very straightforward—”

Only Peter would think a plot involving two different double crosses was ‘straightforward’.

“—but I realized how wasteful it was.  Three dead Alphas?  All that power just…” Peter made a fluttering gesture with his fingers “Gone.  Much better, don’t you think, if something could be done with it.”

“Uh-huh.”  Stiles was closer to the knife now, it was only a few more feet away.  “So if there’s a way to tap into it—and I’m assuming there is a way, you’ve found it, and that’s what this is—then why bother with Marcus at all?”

“Because it’s not that easy, Stiles.  It’s a complicated ritual and it’s risky.  It was convenient for me to put the ritual on hold while Marcus took his turn to play with you.  I needed the time to get everything together, and he was a wonderful distraction.”

Stiles was beginning to regret that he’d only be able to kill Peter once. 

“But, now that you’re here, I have everything I need.”  Peter smiled at Stiles, closed-lipped and charming.  “Shall we begin?”

“Now that I’m here?” That distracted Stiles enough that he stopped trying to edge towards the knife, his eyes flying to Peter’s face in surprise.  “If you need a virgin sacrifice or something, you kind of missed the boat on that one.”

“Don’t worry, it’s not your death the ritual requires.”

“Lucky me.”  It didn’t escape Stiles’s notice that someone else’s death was.  “If not that, then what?”

“Come on, Stiles, you’ve never exactly slacked on the research front.  I’m sure you’ve come across a tidbit or two about magic, spellwork.  What are the three most potent ways to harness energy?”

“Sex, blood, or death.”

“And which do you think I want from you?”

Jesus christ.  Stiles resisted the urge to rub at his mouth again, wishing he could scrub the taste of Peter’s lips from his skin.  “I’ll give you blood.”

Peter gave a full-throated laugh, pausing from where he’d been unpacking a bag on top of the coffee table that had been moved to stand beside Scott.  “Sorry, but I’ve got Isaac for that.”

Stiles didn’t bother to ask what Peter would do if he refused—Peter had two of the people he cared about most in the entire world helpless and on their knees.  It wasn’t as though Stiles was in a position to say no.

Peter seemed to sense the train of Stiles’s thoughts because he set down a small paper package on the table and came around to stand in front of Stiles, his brow furrowed with mock concern.  “I had hoped you’d participate willingly,” he said voice heavy with regret.

This time it was Stiles who laughed, completely disbelieving.  “In what universe do you think I’d willingly help you kill my best friend and my… Derek.”  Because there was no way Peter was going to let Scott and Derek live if they wound up surviving the ritual. 

“Perhaps in the universe where they’d both betrayed you?”  Peter’s eyebrows lifted.  “The one where they lied to you, used you, and didn’t trust you to make your own decisions.”

Behind Peter, Stiles could see Scott beginning to stir.  Stiles determinedly kept his focus on Peter and let some of the anger he’d felt earlier that evening slip through his control.  “Yeah, well, that doesn’t mean I want them dead.”

“Are you sure about that?”  Peter stepped closer and Stiles refused to let himself flinch back.  “They don’t respect you.  They don’t see you as anything other than a burden.”

Stiles did flinch at that, unable to help the way the words hit their mark.  It was too close to what Stiles had been thinking himself earlier that night. 

“It wasn’t like that, Stiles!”  Scott pulled at the chains around his wrists, looking past Peter to stare pleadingly at Stiles.  “It’s not that we don’t respect you, honest.  We just…”

“Assumed you knew better,” Peter finished for Scott.  “They don’t really see you,” he said to Stiles.  “They don’t understand your value.  I offered you the bite the first time I met you.  You’ve always been better than they are.”

Stiles said nothing, just shoved his hands into his pockets defensively and looked away from both of them.  Peter smirked and walked back to the coffee table, gloved hands delicate as he opened the paper and poured several small, white berries into a bowl. 

Stiles could feel the bag of mountain ash in his pocket and his fingers toyed with the ziplock.  He’d need to be close to Peter to use it, and he couldn’t make the same mistake he’d made with the knife.  He’d have to catch Peter completely unawares.  Unfortunately, he thought he knew when that would have to be. 

Stiles really, really didn’t want to have to resort to using the mountain ash. 

Pulling his hands out of his pockets he stepped back, away from the kneeling werewolves like he couldn’t stand to be near them.  It wasn’t entirely untrue—Scott kept trying to catch Stiles’s eye and even though Stiles knew that Scott was looking for reassurance, Stiles wasn’t sure he was ready to give it to him.  Which was, he knew, an awful thing to be withholding while they were in an actual life-or-death situation.  But just because Peter had pulled one over on them didn’t mean that what Scott and Derek had done was forgiven.  Not by a long shot. 

Stiles blew out a long breath, trying to clear his head.  He’d deal with Scott and Derek later, once they’d all escaped this shit show.  He was closer to the knife now and chanced a glance at it when he was sure Peter was distracted mixing more ingredients in the bowl.  

Stiles waited a beat, kept his breathing regular even though he wanted to hold it in anticipation.  When Peter bent down to pull something else from the bag Stiles made his move, flinging himself the last couple feet towards the knife. 

He landed hard, with a jarring thud that told him there’d be deep and aching bruises on several points of his body, but his fingers wrapped around the handle of the knife and he yanked it closer and rolled onto his back, bringing it out in front of him to ward off Peter who’d jumped over the table and was suddenly straddling Stiles on all fours. 

Stiles shoved the knife up but Peter’s hand swept it aside, sending the knife skittering out the door of the loft, and then Peter snarled, his face inches away from Stiles’s.  Peter wasn’t quite the monster he’d been the first time he was an Alpha, his skin wasn’t ink black and he didn’t have the protruding snout, but the look of inhuman rage in his red eyes was the same. 

There was a moment when the breath caught in Stiles’s throat and terror was a living thing inside his chest, but then he slid his hand toward his pocket.  Peter caught the movement though, and then caught Stiles’s wrist.  His grip was unforgiving and his claws bit viciously into Stiles’s skin, blood welling to the surface and sliding down Stiles’s arm as Peter yanked Stiles to his feet. 

Peter’s free hand came down and sliced through the fabric of Stiles’s jeans like they were butter, spilling open the contents of his pocket so that the plastic bag fell harmlessly to the floor. 

Stiles gritted his teeth in frustration, anger overriding the initial burst of fear.  How many of his attacks would Peter foil? 

“I think,” Peter’s voice was a rumbling growl and his hand around Stiles’s wrist tightened until Stiles couldn’t help a noise of pain, “You aren’t fully comprehending the situation you are in.”

“Black magic, backstabbing douchebag, threat of pain and death.  I think I got it.”  Stiles sneered. 

“I don’t think you do, Stiles.  I don’t think you appreciate the gravity.” 

“I read Hamlet in high school.  Sorry if the power-hungry uncle thing isn’t exactly doing it for me.” 

“That right there is the problem—you’re not taking this seriously.”  Peter fisted a clawed hand in Stiles’s shirt and dragged him closer.

 

Peter could smell fear riding the edge of Stiles’s scent, but more than that he could smell anger, hear defiance in the still-steady beat of the boy’s heart.  Stiles wasn’t treating Peter like a real threat.  He was scared, but it was secondary.  Perhaps Peter had played the reluctant but dutiful uncle for too long, had been too thoroughly convincing.  He needed Stiles to stop thinking he could find a way out of this because having to stop every five minutes and disarm the boy was becoming tiresome.

Peter bared his fangs, grinned wide and wolfish, and snapped the bones in Stiles’s wrist.

Stiles screamed.  

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-One

 

The sound of Stiles’s scream brought Derek around with a roar that surged through his veins.  He was fighting to get to his feet before he even knew where he was, arms straining against the chains until they dug brutally into his flesh and blood ran down his clenched fists.

He was dimly aware of Scott struggling beside him, the flash of fang and crimson out of the corner of his eye snarling with rage.

“Derek, nice of you to join the party.”  Peter turned with Stiles’s wrist still in his grasp.  Stiles was sheet white, his eyes wide and glassy as his breath came shallow and far too rapid.

It took Derek several agonizing seconds before he could regain control enough to speak.  “You have us.  Let him go.  He’s not a part of this anymore.  You made sure of that.”

Peter sighed theatrically, releasing Stiles so that the boy fell to his knees, cradling one arm close to his chest. 

“If you’d come around a little earlier you’d have heard that I need Stiles,” Peter paused, the glint in his eye letting the double meaning sink in, “Just as much as you.”

“You’re already an Alpha—what more could you possibly want?”  Derek fought to keep his eyes on Peter, to keep the focus on him instead of on Stiles, who was swaying precariously.

“Only you would be so naive to think you could ever have enough power.  But I’m not going over this again—I don’t need you to understand.  I just need you to participate.  Scott can fill you in, if he so desires.”  With a dismissive shrug Peter pulled off the now-ruined pair of gloves and made his way back to the coffee table.

“Stiles,” Scott hissed.  “Stiles, are you okay?”

“I…” Stiles’s throat worked convulsively, and when he looked up at Scott it took a couple seconds for his eyes to focus.  “Yeah.  Yeah, I’m… yeah.”

“Stop fighting him,” Derek ordered, heart hammering in his chest as he tried to catch up with their situation. His uncle would kill him and Scott, he was sure.  But an Alpha needed Betas, which meant that Jackson—if he was still alive—and Isaac, whose heartbeat Derek could still hear, had a chance of surviving this. And so did Stiles. He knew Peter had a... soft spot, where Stiles was concerned.  If Stiles cooperated, there was still hope that Peter wouldn’t kill him. “Do what he wants.”

Stiles’s gaze swung to Derek’s at that, a glimmer of his usual snark visible in the amber of his eyes.  “You don’t want me doing that.”

“Yes, I do. What I don’t want is for him to kill you, and he will, if you give him a reason.”

“Derek,” Scott was shaking his head.  “You don’t know what Peter wants from—”

“It doesn’t matter,” Derek cut him off.  “Stiles, please, just do what you have to to get of here alive.”

“Sorry, Derek,” and there was steel in Stiles’s voice now, a rippling curl of anger.  “You’re done making decisions for me.”

Stiles.”

But Stiles ignored him and rose unsteadily to his feet. 

Scott,” Derek turned to his fellow Alpha.  “Do something.”

“Sorry, man,” Scott shrugged as much as he was able.  “I’m with Stiles on this one.” 

“You know I’m still in the room, right?”  Peter commented blithely from behind them.  “I can hear you.  Not that it matters, I’m almost done.”

Almost done what?  Derek growled in frustration and threw his weight against the chains again, but they did exactly what they were intended to do and held him in place.  Between Peter’s elaborate attack and the earlier fight with Marcus, he’d faced off with two Alphas in one night, and his body was weak and exhausted.  He didn’t have the strength to break the chains. 

“Stop.”  Peter came back into Derek’s line of sight with black gloves on his hands, carrying a wooden bowl.  “Or I’ll break another bone.” 

Derek dropped back onto his heels, breath heaving with exertion.  He couldn’t quit testing his bonds completely, couldn’t just watch whatever was about to happen, but he could hide what he was doing from Peter.  He let his arms fall to his sides, but gathered the slack of the chain at his wrists and continued to tug closer to the bolt.  He couldn’t break the chain but he might be able to rip the bolt from the floor. 

Peter crossed the loft and knelt on the floor beside Isaac.  The sharp scent of fear, already permeating the space, spiked along with Isaac’s heart rate.  Derek couldn’t see what Peter did, but his ears filled with the sound of liquid spattering, accompanied by Isaac’s thick, choked moan. 

When Peter rose to his feet and returned to where Scott and Derek were bound, Derek could see the surface of the bowl gleam with the viscous ruby colour of fresh blood.  A chill settled over Derek’s skin despite the warmth of the room.  His instinctive conviction that Stiles should play along with Peter’s game all but evaporated. 

What exactly did Peter need Stiles for?

 

Stiles rested his back against one of the large wooden pillars and concentrated on the firm press of the column along his spine.  He was dangerously close to sliding back down to the floor, the vicious pulse of pain in his arm making his legs weak and his stomach queasy, but he would not spend another second on his knees in front of Peter.  He’d had enough of that to last a lifetime. 

He wasn’t sure what his plan was, though.  Through the lashes of his half-lidded eyes he could see Derek watching him while Scott tracked Peter’s movements with his head.  The intensity of Derek’s gaze was an almost physical force on Stiles’s skin and he closed his eyes, not wanting to bear the weight of it.  Stiles was the only one of them able to move, and he was going to get them out of this.  He was.  Something would come to him—what, he wasn’t sure, but it would.  It always did. 

“Alright, Stiles, you’re up.”  There was a quirk to Peter’s lips, a private joke dancing in his eyes when Stiles looked up to find Peter standing in front of him. 

Derek began to growl, low and steady.

Peter stripped off his second pair of gloves, tucking them into the pocket of his pants.  He brought a hand up to Stiles’s throat again, grip firm but not bruising.  Stiles curled his lips up in a sneer but said nothing, tension running through his body while his mind whirled, trying to figure out what Peter was doing and how Stiles could somehow twist that to his advantage.

Peter trailed his other hand down Stiles’s stomach, fingers dipping under the waistband of his jeans to brush against his skin before they pulled out and continued down to cup Stiles through his jeans.  Peter made a noise of disappointment, his lips pursing in a frown.  “I don’t recall you needing much more than this,” his fingers tightened a fraction around Stiles’s throat, “Last time.”

“Last time,” Stiles said through gritted teeth, “You didn’t break my fucking arm.” 

“No need to be so melodramatic.”  Peter pulled back with a roll of his eyes.  “It’s only your wrist.  But I suppose you do make a fair point.”  He brought his hand back to Stiles’s waist and slid it up under Stiles’s shirt, fingers splayed wide over Stiles’s stomach.  There was a moment where nothing happened, but then Peter’s hands tensed against Stiles’s skin and with a dizzying sensation of tugging black lines crawled up Peter’s arms as the pain from Stiles’s injuries faded.

The relief was so extreme that Stiles’s legs finally gave out.  When Peter stepped away, Stiles slid down the pillar to the floor, careful to catch himself at the last second with his good arm.  Just because his left no longer hurt didn’t mean it wasn’t still broken, and he didn’t want to risk injuring it further. 

 When Peter returned, he held a clear glass bottle, the liquid inside clinging thickly to the bottle’s wall.  Stiles watched apprehensively as Peter eased out the cork, his fingers dipping inside the neck to sweep along the glass.  When he pulled them out they glistened in the flickering light.  Stiles jerked back, knocking his head against the wood as Peter brought his fingers up to Stiles’s lips, tracing the oil over his mouth until Stiles’s lips were coated.

The scent of it was overwhelming, even to Stiles’s human senses, and he parted his lips without thinking, hoping to draw in breath from his mouth not his nose.  Peter seemed to take this as an invitation though because just as his fingers had dipped into the bottle they were in Stiles’s mouth and the musky sandalwood coated his tongue.  Stiles gagged, both arms coming up to push Peter away.

“Need I remind you what the price of refusal is?” Peter’s voice was hard again, like it had been before he broke Stiles’s arm, and he cut his gaze away from Stiles to look deliberately at Isaac. 

Stiles’s hands dropped.

“There’s a good boy.”  Peter smirked as Derek’s growl took on a desperate, vicious edge, apparently well past words.  “Don’t worry, Derek, this part won’t hurt him.”  The hand that wasn’t covered in oil closed around Stiles’s hip and jerked Stiles across the hardwood so that he was no longer propped up against the pillar but lying prone with one of Peter’s knees between his legs. 

 Peter made quick work of Stiles’s jeans and within seconds they were pushed down past his hips, Peter’s hand reaching into Stiles’s underwear to pull out his cock before he gave it one long, firm stroke with his oiled fingers.  Stiles jerked under Peter, bile rising in his throat as Peter continued to touch him, adding more of the heavily scented oil until his fist moved smooth over Stiles’s flesh. 

Stiles closed his eyes, turning his head to the side and trying to ignore the way his body was reacting to Peter’s ministrations.  He knew Derek was watching, could tell from the screech of the chains that Derek had given up any pretence of passivity. 

“Stop it, Peter!”  Scott was demanding, indignation and disgust colouring his voice. 

Hearing Scott made Stiles want to curl up in humiliation and he twisted under Peter’s grip.  Peter chuckled, his fingers moving faster as he slid up Stiles’s body.  Gripping Stiles’s chin, he forced Stiles to face him and pressed his mouth to Stiles’s, smearing the oil over both of their lips and thrusting his tongue against Stiles’s. 

Stiles’s grunt of protest was muffled by Peter’s mouth, even as tears of mortification slid out from under his closed eyes.  Peter was rutting against Stiles’s thigh now and Stiles could feel him hard through the fabric between them.  Peter’s tongue in his mouth was hot and invasive and Stiles made a split-second decision that he figured he’d probably come to regret but like fuck he was going to take this lying down.  Like fuck he was going to let Peter take this from him and use it to take Scott and Derek as well. 

The next push of Peter’s tongue between his lips, Stiles’s teeth snapped down.  Blood flooded his mouth, hot and metallic, and then Peter was jerking back and Stiles could feel the piece of him that he’d left behind.  Shock and pain had Peter reeling and Stiles used it—shoved Peter so that he toppled sideways, upending the bottle of oil and crashing into the barrier of mountain ash that surrounded Scott. 

Stiles scrambled to his feet, spat out a mouthful of blood and severed tongue as he hauled his pants back over his waist and ran.  Behind him he could hear Scott roar and Peter’s answering, inhuman snarl. 

Stiles skidded through the puddle of Isaac’s blood and grabbed the handle of his wooden bat, turning back in time to see Peter stagger to his feet, blood running freely down his chin.  Stiles felt a cold thrill run through him at the sight and he hefted the bat up, waiting for Peter to come after him.

Peter didn’t.  He reached up and touched a hand to his mouth, fingertips wet with blood and oil as pulled them away before wiping them slowly on the fabric of his shirt.  Stiles’s breath was loud and ragged in his ears, panting with adrenaline as he waited, tense, for Peter to retaliate. 

“Come on,” Stiles bit out after the silence had stretched.  “What are you waiting for?”

Peter’s eyes were level with Stiles’s, the vibrant Alpha-red fading back into that pale, cold blue.  Stiles swallowed, his mouth dry and throbs of pain beginning to shoot up his wrist, the skin dark and swollen from the damage underneath.  Eyes still on Stiles, movements calm and easy, Peter reached behind him and withdrew a gun. 

Stiles tightened his grip around the bat.

“Peter,” Derek’s voice was deadly soft.  “Don’t.”

Peter ignored his nephew and raised the weapon, but it wasn’t Stiles he pointed it at—taking a deliberate step backwards so he stood beside Derek, as close to the circle of mountain ash as he could get, he levelled the gun at Derek’s head.

“I don’t need both Alphas, Stiles.”

Panic was a clawed thing in Stiles’s chest, a wordless shriek in his ears, and it took him a minute to realize that the sound was only in his head.  “You—you wouldn’t.”  Even to him, his voice sounded uncertain.

“I would.  With pleasure, at this point.  I’m tired of playing games with you.  So unless you’d care to offer something equally as pleasurable as killing Derek…”

And there was nothing Stiles wouldn’t do to see the gun taken away from Derek’s head.  Nothing.  He knew, then, had the first glimmer of understanding of what Derek might have felt when he decided to lie to Stiles, and to convince his friends to lie, in a stupid attempt to keep him safe.  Because Stiles would tell any number of lies, would tell them so convincingly and so earnestly that not even a werewolf would be able to tell the difference, if there was any chance they would keep Derek from being chained and defenceless with gun to his head.  He’d lie and steal and cheat and kill if that was what it would take to keep Derek safe.  He’d do this—do what Peter asked—if it would buy Derek even five more minutes of being not-dead because Stiles didn’t know if he could survive the alternative.  Was pretty sure he didn’t want to.  Despite everything.

Without a word Stiles let the bat fall to his side and drop from his fingers.  It rolled away, back towards Isaac, and Stiles didn’t bother to watch it to see where it wound up.  He was done fighting.

No.”  Derek strained against the manacles, his eyes wild as Stiles sank to his knees in front of Peter.  “Stiles, no.  Not for me.”  Stiles didn’t look at Derek, dropped his gaze to the floor between Peter’s feet and remained motionless as Peter reached down to run his fingers through Stiles’s hair.

Peter hummed appreciatively in the back of his throat.  He caught a handful of Stiles’s hair and twisted slowly until Stiles whimpered—not bothering to try and muffle the sound because he knew it was what Peter wanted to hear. 

“Are you going to be a good boy for me, Stiles?”  He dragged Stiles’s head back until Stiles was looking up at him.  “Answer me.”

“Yes.”

Beside Peter, Derek made a broken noise.

“I’ll do what you want.  Whatever you want.”  Stiles swallowed, not missing the way Peter’s eyes flared with heat as he watched Stiles’s throat work.  “Just… promise me you’ll let him go.  Please, Peter.  Just let them go.” 

Peter hooked a thumb into Stiles’s mouth, dragging it open and watching with hooded eyes as Stiles forced himself to stay pliant under Peter’s touch.  “Prove it.”

Stiles refused to let himself hesitate, just closed his mouth around Peter’s thumb and sucked.  He could hear Scott snarl furiously, the rings of the chain squealing against each other as his best friend struggled to break out of the bonds that held him.  Derek was silent though, soundless and frozen out of the corner of Stiles’s eye. 

Stiles blocked it out, let his ears fill with a mindless buzzing, let his eyes unfocus, and retreated to a quiet corner of his mind so that when his hands reached up for the buckle of Peter’s belt it was like he was watching someone else.  A stranger’s fingers fumbling with the leather, left hand clumsy and uncooperative.  Even the pain was dulled.

“Fuck this.” 

Isaac’s voice snapped Stiles back to reality, his head turning towards the werewolf before he realized what was happening.  Isaac reached out, stretching as far as he could with the bar running through his torso, and as his fingertips wrapped around the base of the bat he shoved it as hard as he could towards Stiles, mouth open in a wordless cry of agony as the rowan wood burned against his skin.

Propelled by Isaac’s inhuman strength, the bat skidded across the floor and past Stiles, crashing into several of the thick white candles and sending them rolling across the floor.  One of them landed in the slick of spilled oil and fire exploded across the hardwood.

Stiles flailed back, scrambling up onto his feet as the flames snaked towards him.  He wasn’t quite fast enough, and the fire licked up the leg of his jeans.  Yelping he batted at it with his hands to snuff it out.

Palms red, but otherwise unharmed, he finally glanced up to see Peter striding, roaring with fury, across the room to where Isaac knelt defenceless and sneering.  Peter was going to kill the werewolf—of that Stiles had no doubt. 

He moved without thinking, fingers reaching for the bat and crossing the room in Peter’s wake.  Peter was too focused on Isaac, too intent on his next act of violence, and he didn’t hear Stiles approach until it was too late.

Peter was just turning towards him when Stiles swung with all his might, the bat connecting to the side of Peter’s head with a sickening crunch that sent Peter flying across the room into the wall.  Stiles followed, lips pressed tight into a thin line, and he didn’t bother to wait for Peter to regain consciousness.  He brought the bat down again and again and again until his eyelashes were tacky with spattered blood and Peter’s head was an obliterated ruin, brain matter and bone gleaming wetly against the floor of the loft.  He couldn’t stop.  Not even when his arms began to ache with the strain and he wasn’t doing anything but slamming the bat into the unforgiving hardwood with the impact ringing through his bones.

Stiles!”

When he finally looked up, chest heaving, face wet with sweat and blood and tears, it was to see Derek yelling at him through a wall of fire.  The flames had spread across nearly half of the loft, the oil acting as an accelerant and the dry wood of the floor and the supports doing the rest.  Stiles could feel smoke hot against his skin and rough in his lungs, and he blinked, shocked that he hadn’t noticed it earlier.

Stiles,” Derek shouted again, and Stiles’s eyes snapped back to Derek’s face.  “You need to get the keys from Peter’s pocket.”

The keys.  There was a moment where Stiles just stared, completely uncomprehending, at the body sprawled out in front of him before his brain kicked back into gear and he bent down to shove his hands into Peter’s pockets.  He could feel Peter’s skin through the fabric of his pants and the warmth of it was chilling.  He half expected Peter to roll over, to struggle to his feet. 

But Peter—Peter’s body—remained motionless and when Stiles’s fingers closed around a key ring he jerked his hand out and moved in a stumbling run across the room before he could think too hard about what he’d just done. 

He darted past the hungry flames, the heat of them overwhelming, and now that he was on the other side he could see how close they were to Scott and Derek.  Scott nodded frantically at Stiles for the keys in his hands and Stiles tossed them to the Alpha, dropping to his knees so he could break the circle of ash around Scott. 

“Stiles,” Derek’s voice was strained, and when Stiles looked up as Scott’s chains fell to the floor he saw Derek rigid with tension, every muscle in his body taut as he pulled uselessly at the cuffs. 

Scott stepped out of the circle, pressed the keys into Stiles’s hand, and ran over to Isaac. 

Stiles crawled over to Derek, breaking the line of ash as he crossed it and fumbling with the keys as he tried to fit them into the lock.  Derek wasn’t looking at Stiles, his eyes were fixed on the dancing flames and his breath coming in ragged pants of fear as he yanked desperately at the chains.  The metal was slick with Derek’s blood and Stiles hands were shaking so hard he couldn’t get the key in, not with Derek pulling the chains out of his grip every time Stiles thought he had a grasp on them. 

“Derek, calm down!  I need you to stay still.  I need you to stop pulling,” Stiles begged, but Derek was panicked past listening and tugged harder until Stiles could see the white of bone through the torn flesh around his wrists.  “Derek!” 

He finally reached out, dropping the keys between his knees and grabbing both of Derek’s hands in his.  He squeezed, hard, ignoring the nauseating throb of pain from his broken wrist, until he could feel the small bones of Derek’s hands scrape together and Derek finally ripped his eyes away from the fire and looked down at Stiles.

 “I will get you out,” Stiles promised.  “I’ve got you, and I will get you out.  Do you understand?”

Derek’s gaze flicked back to the fire and Stiles squeezed again, ruthless, until Derek’s eyes were back on his.  “I’ve got you.  Okay?”

Derek nodded, nostrils flaring as he fought to slow his breathing, and the muscles in his arms went still. 

“Good.  You’re doing great.”  Stiles released Derek’s hands and grabbed for the keys, fitting them easily into the padlocks now that they’d stopped moving.  The second the manacles fell from Derek’s wrists the Alpha was on his feet, grabbing for Stiles and hauling him up.  He moved so fast that Stiles barely had time to register being on his feet before Derek was yanking him, moving with superhuman speed until they were pressed back against the far wall with as much distance between them and the fire as possible in the loft. 

“God, Stiles, I—” Derek’s voice broke hoarsely and he cupped Stiles’s face in both hands, pressing Stiles back into the wall and shielding him from the fire that crept ever closer. 

“It’s okay.  We’re okay.”  Stiles could hear the tears in his voice, the soreness in his throat having as much to do with them as the smoke.  Derek’s head dropped, forehead pressing against Stiles’s, and Stiles wrapped his arms around Derek’s waist and just held on as Derek shuddered helplessly against him.  “We’re okay.”

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty-Two

 

“We have to get out of here,” Scott’s voice cut through the haze of exhaustion and terror and Derek that was clouding Stiles’s head.  “Now,” Scott repeated when neither Stiles nor Derek reacted.

“Peter?”  Derek turned, his hand still cupping the back of Stiles’s neck, keeping him pressed close to his side. It was like now that he could touch Stiles again he was never going to let him go.  Stiles could still feel tremors running through Derek’s body, knew the rigid way Derek held himself meant that he was fighting panic with the fire steadily eating away at the loft surrounding them.

Scott jerked his head grimly towards the other side of the room where, through the flames, Stiles could see Isaac, unsteady on his feet but wielding Stiles’s knife with calculated determination as he hacked what remained of Peter’s head off of his body.

“He’s not coming back.  Not this time.”  Scott waited while the three of them, eerily still as the fire snarled and cracked around them, watched Isaac drop the knife and reach down before throwing Peter’s headless body into the epicentre of the flames.  “Let’s go.”

Wordlessly, Stiles tugged at Derek with his unhurt arm and followed Scott as they edged around the fire.  Behind him, Stiles could hear the softest noise, a high-pitched whine forced past clenched teeth, over the roar of the fire.  “Almost out,” he promised Derek, who couldn’t seem to help pressing closer against Stiles’s back until the three of them met Isaac at the door of the loft.

“Where’s Jackson?”  Isaac’s gaze darted frantically around the loft, the flames hungrily climbing the walls.  “He isn’t—”

“He’s at the bottom of the stairs.  He’s alive.  Or he was.  I don’t know any more…”  Stiles trailed off helplessly as Scott made an angry sound of frustration and forcibly pushed Isaac out of the loft, grabbing Derek’s shoulder and hauling both him and Stiles out after him. 

“We’ll grab him and get out of here.  Now stop fucking around and go!”  He pushed them towards the stairs and closed the steel door of the loft behind him.  As soon as the closed door hid the flames from Derek’s sight it was like a switch flicked and he straightened, ushering Stiles down the stairs. Isaac quickly overtook both of them, racing down the stairs towards Jackson as Scott brought up the rear. 

Isaac didn’t waste any time worrying about the dangers of moving Jackson with his spine still obviously broken. He just scooped the limp werewolf up and hauled ass until they stood outside beside Stiles’s Jeep.

“He’s not healing.”  Stiles knew that was obvious, but his head felt like it was full of cotton and he couldn’t help saying it out loud, obvious or not.  “I don’t know why but he’s not healing and I don’t know what—”

“Kanima venom,” Derek interrupted.  “Peter wasn’t taking any chances.”

“Yeah, okay, um,” Stiles stammered, trying to jam his hand into his pocket to get his keys, “We have to get him to Deaton, right?  You guys fixed him there last time so we’ve got to—”  His hand wasn’t working properly and every movement made pain roll in his stomach.  “I’ll drive, I just have to—”

“Stop.”  Isaac laid his hand over Stiles’s arm, stilling him.  “It’s broken, remember?”

“The Jeep?”  Stiles frowned.  The Jeep was fine.  He drove it here.  He could drive it to Deaton’s, he just needed to—

“Sit down.”  Scott pressed firmly on Stiles’s shoulder until he sank down to the curb.  “Derek and I can take care of this.  You just sit here with Isaac, alright?”

Stiles could do that.  He nodded and felt Isaac sit beside him.  Isaac’s long fingers gently circled his hand, the one that didn’t quite work, and then there was that weird, horrible feeling of something being pulled out of him and suddenly the pain abated. 

Derek and Scott knelt on the pavement beside Jackson, each of them placing a palm against Jackson’s torso.  Derek reached out and Scott clasped his arm, both tensing as thick black lines began to crawl up their forearms from the point where their hands met Jackson’s chest. 

Stiles watched with vague interest, unable to summon up the energy to wonder what exactly the two of them were doing when both of their eyes began to glow red hot and the black lines multiplied, moved faster, until it looked like they were submerged to their elbows in a writhing mass of snakes. 

Then there was a gasp, a rattling of breath and underneath them Jackson’s body jerked in a way that couldn’t have been good for his broken neck but… but Jackson was moving his head and then he was sitting up and the black was gone and both Scott and Derek were sagging back on their heels, breathless and dull-eyed but somehow, both, grinning. 

“He always thought we were weaker together.” Scott shook his head.  “Peter had no idea we could share the power.”

Now that the pain was gone, Stiles could feel his mind start to clear.  Everything was still a bit fuzzy around the edges and when he stood it was unsteady, but he waved away Isaac’s helping hand and got to his feet. 

Derek leapt up instantly, reaching out for him but Stiles took a deliberate step back.

“Stiles—”

“No.”  Stiles closed his eyes briefly and leaned against the side of his Jeep for support before he opened them again.  “I’m not… I don’t…” he sighed.  “We all almost died.  I killed someone.  I mean, it was Peter, and he was kind of already dead once so it’s not like—that’s not the point.  I’m just saying, I can’t, right now.  I don’t not—”  He broke off, frustrated and feeling his eyes begin to sting with tears that were only half due to exhaustion.  The only thing he wanted to do was to fall against Derek and wrap himself around the werewolf and just stay there because they were both alive and Derek loved him

But. 

He couldn’t trust Derek again.  Not right away.  Not without knowing Derek wouldn’t hurt him like this again.  It didn’t work like that.  Derek and Scott had lied, repeatedly and purposefully, and just because Stiles kind of understood why, kind of understood that they’d acted out of fear for him, that didn’t mean that he could forget it had happened. 

“I can’t do this right now.  Not right now,” he repeated, not even able to meet Derek’s eyes because if he did he might simply say fuck it and reach out for him anyway.  “I need to go to the hospital and get my wrist looked at.  Isaac can take me.”  He glanced up to catch Isaac’s nod and then awkwardly reached into his left pocket with his right hand and handed Isaac the Jeep’s keys. 

He waited a second, wondered if Scott or Derek would say something, but the silence held.  Even Jackson kept his mouth shut.  Letting out a slow breath, Stiles turned and eased himself into the passenger seat of the Jeep as Isaac came around to the driver’s side.  Stiles leaned his head back against the headrest and closed his eyes, counting the beats of his heart as they drove away. 

 

Only hours later, though it felt like days, Stiles let himself in through the front door of his house.  Every bone in his body ached.  He’d refused the painkillers Melissa had offered, though his father had looked at him askance.  Stiles didn’t trust himself with them, not after being forced to admit that using them to ease the pain of his heartbreak had probably not been the best idea.  He figured it wasn’t wise to have them lying around again.  Besides, it was only a broken wrist.  And several dozen bruises and cuts. And mind-numbing, full-body soreness.

It was nothing Stiles couldn’t deal with after a good night’s sleep.  And god, he needed the sleep.  It didn’t even matter that it wasn’t really evening yet.  He’d been awake for more than twenty-four hours.  Exhaustion probably accounted for at least half of how terrible he felt.  

Turning around, he waved clumsily at his dad who was idling anxiously at the curb, the cast feeling awkward and heavy.  Then he closed and locked the front door behind him.  His dad had been prepared to take the next few days off work, but Stiles had been adamant that all he was going to do was fall into bed and sleep for hours.  He didn’t need his dad taking any more time off to look after him when all Stiles would be doing was lying in bed and trying to avoid thinking about anything more serious than whether or not he wanted to watch another episode of White Collar

He was absolutely determined to stay in his room and do nothing for the next few days.  He wasn’t going to think about Scott or Derek, or Peter or Marcus, or whether a doctor’s note would get him out of the paper he had due on Monday.  As he’d left the hospital Stiles had pulled out his phone and texted Derek, We need to talk, and then shut off his phone. 

He didn’t want to have to worry about what to say to Derek, and figured that by sending the text he could stop himself from obsessing over what to say and when.  He’d let Derek know that not everything was back to being like it had been before all the lying, and for now that was good enough for Stiles.  When he’d had a chance to sleep, to figure out what the fuck he wanted, then the two of them could sit down and talk. 

Stiles had thought about texting Scott, too, but in the end he hadn’t.  He was still angry with his best friend, and he knew Scott wouldn’t push until Stiles was ready.  Derek and Scott were two of the most important people in his life but, with things the way they were, he could only handle dealing with one of them at a time.

Rubbing a hand across his face, Stiles made his way up the stairs and pushed open the door to his room, freezing in the doorway when he saw Derek sitting on the edge of his bed.

“What are you doing?”

Derek flinched visibly at the accusation in Stiles’s voice.  “You said you wanted to talk.”

“I didn’t mean right now.”

Derek closed his eyes, fist clenching around something he held in his hand.  “Right.  Of course.  I misunderstood,” he said, looking up at Stiles but not meeting his eyes.  “I’m sorry.  I’ll go.”  He stood, already turning towards the window where he’d presumably let himself in.

Stiles sighed. “Wait, where are you going to go?”  He asked.  “Your place just burned down.”  Again.

Derek hesitated, like he wasn’t sure himself.  “Don’t worry about it.  I’ll figure something out.”

“Like what?  An abandoned train station?”  Stiles couldn’t help the sarcasm, he was too tired to modulate his tone.

Derek hunched in on himself protectively and Stiles looked away, swearing under his breath.  “Look, I’m sorry.  That wasn’t….  Don’t go.”

This time Derek did meet his eyes, uncertainty written in every line of his body.

“Stay.”  Stiles took a step forward, then another, until he could reach out and touch Derek.  Lightly, just the press of his fingertips against the bare skin of Derek’s forearm.  He couldn’t remember the last time he’d touched Derek without something hanging heavy over them—without the lead up to sex, or the imminent threat of death.

“But I don’t want to talk, I don’t want to talk about anything.  I just want—” he broke off, frustrated, and the bone-deep weariness he’d felt while trudging up the stairs took a back seat to the sudden, desperate need to do something about the weight he’d been carrying for months. 

“You did a really shitty thing.  A really, really shitty thing.  You broke my heart, Derek.  You weren’t—you aren’t—some stupid crush or crappy high school relationship that I’d get over and forget about in a few weeks.  You destroyed me,” Stiles’s voice broke and his fingers dug into Derek’s arm, needing the reassurance that Derek was actually there.  That he hadn’t meant it every single time he’d told Stiles he didn’t love him. 

“I know,” Derek swallowed and shifted like he wanted to move closer but wasn’t sure if Stiles would let him. 

“The worst part is that now… I think I get why you did it.”  Stiles lifted his face.  “When Peter had that gun on you, I was so scared.  I was so scared he was going to kill you.”  He was crying now, completely unable to keep it in check as the emotional rollercoaster of the last twenty-four hours crashed down on him.  “I would have done anything.  Anything.  Whatever he wanted, it wouldn’t have mattered, I’d have done it—”

Derek reached for Stiles, tentatively.  When Stiles didn’t pull away, Derek wrapped his arms around him and pressed their bodies together until they both shook with the force of Stiles’s sobs. 

“Shhh,” Derek soothed, stroking his hand down Stiles’s back in a steady rhythm.  “It’s okay, we’re okay,” he echoed Stiles’s earlier words back. 

“It’s not, though.”  Stiles pulled back, shaking his head and swiping angrily at the tears on his cheeks.  “We’re not okay.  We can’t just go back to normal.  You lied to me for months.  That’s not going to go away just because you had a reason.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Stop saying that!”

Derek withdrew his hands, helplessly.  “I don’t know what else to say.”

“Nothing.  There isn’t anything to say.  I just need time.” 

Derek nodded.  It looked like he was ready to leave again, but Stiles grabbed his hand, blinking when he felt something small and hard press against his palm.  Turning their hands over he looked down and saw the wolf charm.  It was smudged with soot, the silver gleam dull, but otherwise unharmed.

“I thought you might want it back,” Derek said softly.  “I didn’t know you kept it.”

“Thank you.”  Stiles took the charm, ran his thumb over the ridges.  He knew this meant that Derek had gone back into his loft for it, but he wasn’t sure how that made him feel.  He wasn’t sure what he wanted it to make him feel.

All he knew right now was that it was over.  Peter was dead, Derek and Scott were done lying, and everyone Stiles cared about had survived.  They’d reached the finish line.  They’d made it. 

“Come here,” he reached out and tugged Derek, leading him towards the bed.  “We need to sleep.”  

“Are you—”

“Yes,” Stiles bit off, impatient.  “I’m sure.  I don’t know what we are going to do tomorrow and I don’t know how I’m going to feel then, but right now I want to go to bed and fall asleep.  And I want to do that with you.”  Stiles wanted to feel Derek’s skin against his own, the weight of his body pressed against Stiles’s back, or chest, and the warmth of another pair of legs tangled with his.

Derek let out a breath, nodded, and the two of them silently stripped down to their underwear.  Derek tried to leave his t-shirt on, but Stiles shook his head.  There’d already been too much distance between them and tonight—today, whatever—he was going to be self-indulgent and not allow any more. 

Pulling back the covers, Stiles slid between them.  After a beat, Derek eased himself into the bed behind him.  He left a few inches of space between himself and Stiles, his body rigid and awkward until Stiles let out a loud sigh and turned around to press himself against Derek’s side, tucking in as closely as possible with a leg and an arm flung across Derek’s body to hold him in place. 

Derek’s hand came up, hesitantly, to stroke along Stiles’s arm, which was across his chest, and after a moment the tension slid out of his body.  His fingers pressed tighter, briefly, Stiles’s eyes screwing shut in discomfort as Derek used his Alpha mojo to suck the latent, aching pain from Stiles’s wrist and body.  When the sensation passed, Stiles’s head felt heavy against the pillow.  His eyelids refused to stay open. 

He could feel Derek’s heart beating against his palm, the way Derek’s breathing was slowing to match Stiles’s, and as Stiles began to slide into sleep he felt Derek turn his head and press a soft, gentle kiss against Stiles’s forehead.  Stiles’s lips curved.

Derek loved him, he loved Derek, and that wouldn’t fix everything, but it was a start.  

Chapter Text

Epilogue

 

Running a nervous hand down the front of his dress shirt, Stiles turned away from the Jeep towards the warehouse door.  He hadn’t been back in months, not since the fire, and he was relieved to see that—from the outside, at least—the building looked the same. He’d known it hadn’t been completely destroyed, and he knew that Derek was paying a ridiculous amount of money to have the loft repaired, but knowing about it and seeing it were two different things. 

Stiles was glad Derek had decided to stay.  To rebuild, instead of running away.  It said something, he thought, about the person Derek was now, compared to the person—the kid, really—he’d been when he’d lost everything the first time. 

And that’s what this was all about, wasn’t it?  The person Derek was.  And the person Stiles was, too. 

Stiles hadn’t been back to the warehouse, but that didn’t mean he hadn’t seen Derek in the last few months at all.  They’d crossed paths more than once when Stiles was back in Beacon Hills for Christmas, and the pack had all spent New Year’s together (Scott had pressed a smacking, exuberant kiss to Stiles’s lips at midnight).  And they’d both been present at the last two pack meetings in Terrace Bay, too. 

So he’d seen Derek.  They’d talked, carefully, cautiously, about nothing in particular, making polite inquiries like ‘How’s school?’ and ‘Have you seen House of Cards?’. Safe topics.  Nothing too personal. 

After they’d woken up on the night after the fire, tangled together in Stiles’s bed, Stiles had asked Derek to leave.  He hadn’t entirely wanted to, but he knew it was for the best.  He needed space.  He needed to take a step back, and Derek had respected that. He’d kissed Stiles goodbye, soft and slow, and then he’d vanished out the window.

Stiles’s conversation with Scott hadn’t been as easy.  Scott hadn’t seemed to understand why Stiles wasn’t going to come back to the house in Terrace Bay with him.  It wasn’t that Scott didn’t think Stiles had a right to be mad, he’d admitted that much, but he couldn’t see why Stiles wanted to spend the rest of the semester living on campus with Danny. 

It hadn’t been for long, there were only a few weeks of the semester left anyway, but Stiles knew he couldn’t just go back like nothing had happened. The weeks apart had been good. Stiles had been able to focus on his schoolwork for once, and had even made a few new friends in one of his classes. It had been nice to feel like a normal college kid for a while.

But he’d missed Scott, and so when they’d all returned to Beacon Hills after the semester ended, Stiles had sat Scott down and made him swear on everything the two of them ever held dear (the sandbox where they’d first met, Melissa, and their lucky X-Box controller) that Scott would never, ever, ever, ever lie to Stiles again.  Ever.  And then, because they were Scott and Stiles and their bro-love was the thing of epics, they’d fallen right back into their friendship.  They’d spent Christmas together—Scott and Stiles camping out in Scott’s room while the Sheriff stayed in Melissa’s guest room (though Isaac groused about having to sleep on the couch even when the Sheriff hadn’t actually spent the night in the guest room at all, much to the delight of both Scott and Stiles)—and when the second semester started Stiles moved back into the house. 

It had taken longer with Derek.     

Stiles hadn’t been sure how much time he’d need, how long it would take to even feel like he could start to trust Derek again.  It was different with Scott, as much as Stiles hated to admit it, because they’d been a part of each other’s lives for so long and knew each other so well that Stiles knew when Scott swore to always tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, he would do it.

Derek had spent so long being ‘the Alpha’, feeling like everything was his sole responsibility, that Stiles wasn’t sure he could say the same for him.  He knew Derek meant well, knew he wouldn’t lie out of malice or spite, but because Derek wasn’t used to being able to rely on other people.

Stiles needed Derek to see him not just as another person to be responsible for, but as an equal, a partner. Stiles wouldn’t settle for anything less, and that’s what the last few months had been about.

So much of their initial relationship had been founded on an imbalance of power. It hadn’t been a bad thing, necessarily. Stiles had wanted it, had chosen it for himself.  But he’d still been a kid in high school and Derek had been an adult with a wolf pack he was responsible for.  Even if it hadn’t been a thing they were conscious of, Stiles couldn’t deny that it had affected them. 

As hard as it had been, he thought the time apart had done them both some good. It had let Derek see that Stiles was more than the human kid who was defenceless on his own.  It had let them both come to terms with Stiles-the-grown-up who was majoring in journalism with a minor in the occult and who had learned how to hold his own against a werewolf if he had to.  It had helped Stiles to find his centre, his strength, and his self-worth. 

And it had given Stiles a chance to reconcile himself with the discovery that Derek wasn’t as fearless or powerful as he’d once seemed, either.  He hadn’t been ready to lead a pack any more than Stiles had been to join one.  They hadn’t been ready for each other.  But Derek was growing up, too.  He was learning to trust his pack to make their own choices, to accept help, and to communicate, instead of going off half-cocked.

After the last pack meeting, when Stiles hadn’t spent the hour guardedly keeping his distance from Derek but instead found himself staring at the splay of Derek’s thighs where he sat on the couch and remembering the feeling of being pressed between them with Derek’s hands hot and hard on his skin—well, Stiles figured he’d taken the time he needed. 

He’d texted Derek later that night, a simple Dinner?, and had waited, suddenly anxious, until his phone vibrated with Derek’s response: I’ll cook.

And here Stiles was, a week later, on his way up to Derek’s loft. 

His fingers tightened around the long neck of the bottle he carried as the elevator slowed to a stop on Derek’s floor.  Swallowing, Stiles stepped out of the elevator and through the open door of the loft.  He wasn’t sure what to expect, considering the last time he’d been here it had been full of fire and blood and the dead body of the man Stiles had killed.

Gone were the rough brick walls and the scarred wooden floor, the mismatch of living room furniture, and the thick paned window.  Instead, there were smooth, freshly painted walls in a pretty, cheerful shade of blue, a giant L-shaped couch with two matching arm chairs, and a brand new window through which Stiles could see the last rays of the setting sun casting a warm glow over the room.  There were white bookshelves lined up against the far wall, a TV angled to face the couch, and a large kitchen table with more than enough chairs for the entire pack. 

Derek hadn’t just rebuilt his home, he’d made a space for all of them. 

The tight ball of nerves in Stiles’s stomach dissolved, replaced with a soft, anticipatory flutter.  Closing the front door he made his way up the stairs to the second floor. 

“I like what you’ve done with the place,” he announced, stepping through the doorway.

Derek turned from where he’d been drying dishes.  “I’m glad you approve.”  He looked calm and utterly at ease, but Stiles caught the slight tremor in his fingers when Derek slid the mixing bowl back onto the counter.

“I brought wine,” Stiles offered, holding up the bottle.  It was nothing special, a mid-range Australian Shiraz, but Derek smiled and it made his eyes crinkle and Stiles wished he’d brought a dozen bottles of wine so that he could watch Derek’s face light up over and over again.

“I’ll get us some glasses.”  Derek folded up his tea towel and crossed the kitchen, passing close enough to Stiles that Stiles could feel the heat of his body and he had to bite his lip to stop himself from reaching out.  Setting the wine down on the island Stiles watched Derek come back with two glasses and a corkscrew.

Derek opened the wine and poured them both a glass, his fingers brushing Stiles’s as he handed him the wine.  Stiles felt heat pool in his belly and he stepped closer, Derek stilling as Stiles moved into his space.

“What’s for dinner?”  Stiles asked, innocently, his eyes drawn to Derek’s parted lips.

“Pizza.” Derek swallowed and Stiles licked his lips as he watched Derek’s throat work.  “The dough’s just rising.  I—is that good with you?”

“Yeah,” Stiles’s voice was hoarse as he set his untouched glass of wine back on the counter and slid his hands around Derek’s waist until he was pressed flush against the front of Derek’s body.  Leaning in he slanted his lips over Derek’s and kissed him, warm and gentle, until they were both breathless and Derek’s fingers were buried in Stiles’s hair.

Pulling back, Stiles grinned.  “That’s good with me.”