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Protect & Love

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You find out about werewolves in your son’s high school, when the boy you watched grow up and wrestle with your own grows fur and fangs and glowing eyes.

You feel like the world's been knocked out from under you.

You have a second to wish you had believed Stiles, and then something takes you.

 

*

 

The thing about Stiles--and about Claudia before him--is that he isn't easy to love.

Your boy is brilliant and wild and tenacious, a whirlwind of noise and ideas and stubbornness that you want to blame on Claudia but you know is all you.

You like to think he’s good, your kid, and kind, but you stopped lying to yourself the day your wife died, and you know that Stiles is neither good nor kind, but maybe better than that--he loves.

 

*

 

Melissa McCall is tied to a beam not far from you, but farther than you’d like, and she isn’t bleeding or broken, but you watch her with careful eyes as she leans her head back and reels off all she knows about the supernatural.

You kind of wish you’d known before now. You aren’t sure how any of this will help you when you’re dead, and you’re very sure that the crazy bitch who tied you up down here is going to kill you.

You think maybe she did kill the Martin girl and your heart hurts for Stiles, because he’ll lose that pretty girl he’s loved for so long, and you, and Melissa.

You tug on your ropes and Melissa smiles at you, a little sad. “They’ll come for us.”

She says it like people say the sky is blue, like Claudia said she loved you, like you say you are proud of Stiles.

Like it’s a fact of life, so solid and reliable it doesn’t bear arguing over.

You aren’t sure if that is reassuring or terrifying.

 

*

 

Stiles was eight when Claudia got sick. Eight, scrawny and so smart you couldn’t keep it from him, what was happening.

You like to think that Stiles is all Claudia but he’s not. He’s more you than he ever was her, smarter than you both, and he figures it out fast.

Your wife is dying.

It breaks your heart, watching. Watching Stiles caring for her, carefully counting out her pills, the tip of his tongue caught between his teeth as she watched with a smile.

Watching as he forced himself still and quiet when she slept, curled around him on the couch, drifting off while he prattled on about his day.

Watching as he fed her snacks, shying away from sugar and processed food, asking for fruits and vegetables and food that the doctors said could boost cognitive function, turning big eyes on Claudia until she relented and nibbled at it herself.

He was fighting a losing battle, and you tried to tell him, but Stiles was stubborn, always, and he glared at you as he packed her an ice bag, as he made her tea, as he held her hair and rubbed her back while she threw up. She’s getting better, he told you, determined fierce desperate.

And you stopped arguing because you wanted to believe it as much as he did.

 

*

 

You are almost amused by Argent’s frustration, especially in light of everything Melissa has told you about the man.

If you have to die down here, a trifold death, you think maybe he’ll go first and that’s something.

He can’t hurt Stiles, if he’s dead, even if you aren’t there to protect your boy anymore.

 

*

 

The first time you stumble home from a double shift, and find Derek Hale at your kitchen table, arguing with Stiles over a meat lover’s pizza you’ll never be allowed to eat,  you almost pull your gun and shoot him.

 

*

 

After the Nemeton, you sit down and listen again. He tells you everything and you try not to think about how many times and ways your son could have died in the past year.

You ignore Derek standing stonily behind Stiles and watch Scott like he’s some new and exotic creature because he is.

You nod and listen and take notes and file it away and when Stiles finally falls quiet, you clear your throat and say, “No more secrets.”

Derek shifts as the boys chorus, “No, sir.”

You force yourself to believe them.

When they are gone--Derek going first and Stiles falling in easily at his back, Scott bringing up the rear with a hopeful smile at you before he leaves and you are glad they’re flanking your too human boy, these wild dangerous things he has chosen to care for--you give yourself five minutes to cry.

Because your boy isn’t a boy, he’s a man and the world he lives in you can’t protect him from, He’s been protecting you.

Because you are terrified and should be.

Because you think Claudia would have loved this, the werewolves and witches, and Stiles, so brilliant and stubborn, sitting in the middle of it, human with two Alphas at his fingertips.

You wipe your eyes and pour yourself two fingers of whiskey and then you text Melissa and Argent.

Tell me everything.

 

*

 

Stiles lies.

He steals and he cheats, and he lies. He’s gotten you drunk once that you know of, has harboured a fugitive in your house, has lied for most of a year and you don’t like to think of the months right after Claudia’s death, when you were drunk and Stiles was perpetually bruised and bloody from the endless string of fights at school.

You love your boy, more than life itself, you think, but you have no illusions that he walks a morally gray line at best and trips onto the wrong side of it more often than not.

So you aren’t surprised the night he comes home, vibrating with fury, blood on his lips and his knuckles and a sharp clean cut across his palm--a sure sign he worked magic.

You sigh through your nose, and nod at the fridge. “Melissa dropped off some enchiladas.”

He makes a happy noise, some of that rage slipping and you let him prepare his plate, let his mood settle and the blood dry and then, when he’s sitting across from you, eating fast and messy--honestly you taught him manners-- you clear your throat and say, “Something happen?”

He glances at his knuckles like he’s just now remembering they’re bloody and his eyes darken as he remembers why.

It doesn’t surprise you that your son has a temper and is willing to work magic when provoked. What surprises you is --

“Some alpha dick hurt Derek,” Stiles says, shrugging like it doesn’t matter, and going back to his dinner.

You stare at him, and the blood on his  hands, on your dead wife’s table and you think maybe werewolves being real isn’t the worst thing you’ll ever be told.

 

*

 

The truth is, you like Derek Hale.

Leather and flashy car aside, he’s respectful and almost obsessive in his need to care for the kids he’s adopted.

He calls you sir , wipes his feet and brings you whiskey and fresh vegetables, and you like him, dammit.

Sometimes, you look at him watching the pack, and Stiles, and you see the little boy covered in ash and soot and looking lost as his world burned.

You want to hate him, for putting Stiles in danger, for being the constant lurking presence in your boy’s bedroom and life, and you don’t always trust him.

But you like him, and you accept, grudgingly, that he would die rather than let something happen to Stiles.

 

*

 

The nogitsune changes him. Stiles was already a spark, could work magic with little more than thought and will, but then he was possessed and through some minor miracle and Derek’s help, you get him back.

Allison dies, and Argent leaves Beacon Hills, and Stiles comes back to you and you hold him when he screams in his sleep and sit quiet when he is still in the mornings, a stillness that disturbs you.

Stiles is never still. That is a trace leftover from the demon fox.

And the first time you see Stiles throw a fireball, pure crackling energy that slams into the omega charging at you, you realize that quiet stillness is not the only thing the demon fox left behind.

 

*

 

You think it would bother you more, except Stiles was always magic you never understood, magic that fascinated you and held you in a helpless thrall.

 

*

 

Claudia was like a storm, wild and untamable, as she swept into your world, and rearranged everything.

Sometimes, when you look at Derek with Stiles, you think he is doing the same thing to the werewolf, and you almost feel bad for the boy.

But then Stiles smiles, wide and wicked and dirty as Derek murmurs something too low for you to hear, and you don’t feel sorry at all, and you itch to reach for your gun.

 

*

 

It’s the nogitsune that teaches you how far Derek will go to protect your son.

You watch him, while you’re racing to save Stiles from himself, and you see what no one else has.

You wonder if Stiles has.

Scott, you get--he’s a good kid, one of the best, but he’s not very bright . He doesn’t make the logical jumps Stiles does, doesn’t get subtlety at all and only understands sarcasm because years of exposure to Stiles means he has to.

And so few other people get close enough to Stiles to notice. You think maybe Lydia does--she is careful around Derek, protective in a distant sort of way that tells you something.

But more than anything is the way Derek reacts when Argent threatens your son, the way he reacts when he sees the chessboard Stiles left behind, his name on the king. You see it all and at the time you can’t focus on it--Stiles is in too much danger to focus on anything but that simple truth--but you don’t forget it.

 

*

 

You figure out fast that Stiles is part of a pack, and even when there are not threats hanging over him, over Beacon Hills, he runs with wolves.

He brings the pack into your home and fills it up with noise like it hasn’t seen since before Claudia got sick.

He researches and learns, and argues with Derek Hale over the best way to layout a beastiary, and when did words like that become so much a part of your life?

Lydia joins him, with a coy smile for you that makes you nervous and a brisk, you’re doing it wrong for Stiles that makes you chuckle and earns a glare from your son.

Stiles never fit in with his peers. He was loud and busy and then he was the boy with a dead mother, and only Scott loved him through all the masks and sharp humor, through the rages and violent temper.  

But here--here in a pack of werewolves, with a banshee at his side and power sparking from his fingertips, your son finds his place, slips into his role as emissary as easily as you slid into the role of sheriff and you want to fight it because he’s a child.

You drink yourself into a blackout, once. One full moon night, while Melissa watches and you know that Stiles will be busy with the wolves.

It feels like grieving, and maybe, you think, half out of your mind from drinking, maybe it is. Maybe you are grieving the child you loved who grew up too fast.

 

*

 

You’re aware of how Stiles loves. With a fierceness that boarders on obsessive. You saw it with Claudia and yourself, with Scott and the Martin girl.

You want to be surprised when you see that same thing directed at Derek.

You want to be, but you aren’t.

 

*

 

Derek Hale is an alpha who has fought for his life more than you care to think about.

He was hunted by a psychotic ex and watched his world burn and still came out the other side a decent human being, if maybe a little surly for your taste.

It amuses the hell outta you to see his eyes widen and his ears turning pink as he stutters and stammers every damn time you come home to find him there with Stiles.

He always dips his head and talks to the floor and tilts his head a little, looking at you sidelong and low, and it confuses you somewhat.

Stiles explains it, without you asking, one night after Derek mumbles a quick hello and an even quicker goodbye before he darted out into the night. You watch him go and rub your neck as Stiles plunks a plate of stir fry chicken on white rice with almost no peanut sauce-- ”Stiles!”-- in front of you.

“It’s a wolf thing. The neck,” he gestures vaguely.

“Scott doesn’t do that,” you say and Stiles shrugs.

“Scott was bitten, not born. And--I think Derek sees you as an alpha,” Stiles admits, a frown between his eyes. You don’t know what to make of that, but you think it could be a very good thing to remember, in the future.

 

*

 

He isn't easy to love, you think sometimes. He’s intrusive and obsessive, walks a morally grey line, clings on the best of days, and is shameless in the lies he will tell to protect you, for your own good.

He isn't easy to love, but then neither is Derek.

Maybe that's why Stiles loves him.

Maybe that's why you do.

 

*

 

You don't know why you invite Derek to lunch that first day. You only know he looks unbearably lost, standing alone in the grocery store, holding a box of Twinkies.

You see the brooding, leather clad, murder eyebrows guy everyone sees--but you see something else too, something lost and vulnerable as he watches those damn Twinkies and you find yourself talking without ever deciding to.

You end up at a diner Stiles would lecture you for even thinking about, across from a werewolf who followed meek and docile and now sits quiet and tense.

You carry most of the conversation, which is new--Stiles usually fills that role effortlessly--but you see Derek eyeing your bacon burger. “Don't tell Stiles,” you order and it earns you a smirk.

You think, as Derek pauses next to his sex car and glances at you, his eyes brighter than you've seen today, “Uh. I'm not gonna. Tell him. But thanks.”

You nod and say, casually, “I come here every week. Wednesdays night, usually, when Stiles has practice and tutoring.”

Derek stares for a long moment and nods before ducking into his car and peeling away.

 

*

 

You hide your smile, next Wednesday, when you step into the diner and see Derek, looking like a hopeful, eager puppy in your normal booth.

 

*

 

You think sometimes Claudia taught you how to live this life.

The one of constant surprises and immeasurable beauty and love, love so deep it terrifies you.

Stiles is clever and intractable and puzzles through mysteries like he was born to it and that is all you.

But the world he occupies. The people--pack--he draws to him, the loyalty he gives and inspires.

That is Claudia and sometimes seeing evidence of it scares you.

 

*

 

The night you find watching Scott sitting next to Stiles, his face set in a worried frown, his veins black against Scott's skin as he drains Stiles’ pain. As you listen to Scott speak dully of a coven who put a hex on your son. As you take in Derek’s almost gaping absence and the claw marks in the pillow where Derek had rested his hand, on the windowsill that still hangs open.

It terrifies you and reassures you, both.

 

*

 

You see it before they do.

The looks, half sent.

The huffs of laughter covered by scowled annoyance.

The way Stiles touches him, so similar to the way he touches you and Scott, but different.

The way that Derek allows it. Turns into it.

You see it before they do.

 

*

 

Derek looks strange in the sheriff station, but familiar too, hovering half a step behind Stiles. You don’t remember when he moved from across the room to so close to your son they can touch. Stiles is leaning over your desk and you huff a sigh as he looks up, grinning wide and winning at you, like you didn’t catch him snooping on an open case. Again.

Derek hides his smirk and you realize you’re looking at the future, these two here, working on cases, protecting this town.

You’re pretty sure Stiles already knows, but you think Derek hasn’t figured it out yet, that he’s going to fill one of the empty places left behind by the nogitsune and the kanima.

You aren’t nearly as disturbed by that as you think you should be and decide to broach it, gently, plant the seeds, the next time you meet him for dinner.

 

*

 

Claudia always wanted a matching set, she said. You’d laugh and kiss her as she rubbed Stiles hair and listened to his gurgling and promised,   yeah, honey, anything you want.

You think about it sometimes, when you see Scott and Stiles together, when you see Stiles arguing with Derek in while Derek cooks and Stiles taps away on his laptop, and you think she would have loved it.

Loved the matching set that have somehow become yours.

 

*

 

Scott is sleeping on the couch and you’re sitting in Stiles's chair, listening to the slow steady breathing, and watching his lax, bruised face.

You aren't startled when Derek steps in through the window, aren't surprised by the sharp look he sends over Stiles, the blood on his hands, the way his shoulders ease as he looks to you.

You know who he is, this werewolf who acts like your beta, who watches Stiles like he hung the moon, and none of tonight has surprised you.

“Will they hurt him again?” you ask and Derek’s eyes flare electric blue before he runs a shaking hand over Stiles hair.

“No.”

You nod and turn to go as Derek pulls off his coat. He settles in the abandoned chair before you reach the door. You grunt, “Good boy,” and give the kid some privacy with that.

 

*

 

Stiles leaves.

You expected it, had braced yourself for it, even as you watched the supernatural world draw him in, even as he studied with Deaton and circled around Derek.

College was always going to tug Stiles away.

You expected it, but you don’t expect the way Derek pulls away in his absence, avoiding you and your weekly dinners, not slipping through the open windows. You feel like you lost them both, empty and adrift without the little pack you call family.

When you show up at his loft with two six packs and a bag of food Stiles would kill you for, Derek is too bewildered to stop you from bullying your way in and too much yours to growl you away when he does figure out what the hell is going on.

You fill up the silences the way you’ve gotten used to with Derek, empty chatter that lets him slowly relax.

Eventually you are both quiet, watching a game you don’t actually care about and Derek says, soft, a confession.

“I didn’t think you’d want me around, now.”

You finish the beer you’re drinking and look over at him, staring at his hands. “I’m glad you’ve got Stiles, Derek, because you’re not really bright.”

He flushes and you sigh. Rub your eyes. “You’re pack, Derek,” you say, finally, what you’ve known for ages now, and refused to address and you see the way he tenses and goes lax, all at once.

You think Derek is the only one who could do that.

“Don’t miss dinner,” you say, on your way out. “And put an application in at the station. You need something to fill your time.”

Derek nods, looking as dazed and happy as you’ve ever seen.

 

*

 

You don’t know when they went from hostile to tolerance to friends.

You don’t know when they realized it was more than that.

You don’t know when Stiles--it would be Stiles, Derek would never do it--made the move that pushed them firmly from friends to more.

But you know what forever looks like, you saw it with Claudia, see it still, sometimes, when you’re thinking about her and catch sight of yourself.

You know what forever looks like, and your heart aches when you see it in them.

 

*

 

You come home early one night, and you hear them.

Stiles is laughing, and there’s a scuffle, like they’re fighting or wrestling and a muffled yelp that is covered over by--

Derek is laughing.

And you think, this isn’t for you, because it’s not something you’ve ever seen or heard, that free noise coming from Stiles’ room.

It’s quiet and then.

You flush because that moan was too deep to be Stiles and too charged to be anything but sex, and you hear Stiles murmur, yeah, babe, I got you.

Derek whines and there’s another laugh, a puff of it from Stiles before you retreat, flushing.

You almost want to be angry, but you remember the laugh and the fondness in Stiles’ voice and you can’t be.

You spend the night commiserating with Melissa, though. It’s nice.

 

*

 

The first time he comes home, you don’t notice.

 

*

 

The second time, Derek’s eyes are pinched and angry but he dismisses it when you bring it up and Stiles is so pleased to learn Derek is at the station, you allow yourself to be distracted.

 

*

 

The third time, he doesn’t come home--Derek drags you in the middle of the night to Stiles’ dorm, and you can’t not see them. The bruises on his pale naked chest, and his cheek, the jumpy way he moves.

You stare at him, shaking with fury, and ask, “How long?”

Stiles looks away, his jaw set and you turn to Derek because Stiles might be a stubborn shit but Derek--

“Since he got here.”

You lose a little time, you think, as they scream at each other.

 

*

 

When Claudia got sick, you promised to take care of him.

It was the one thing you knew you could do, because you took care of people.

But then you realized, it’s not true. Stiles took care of you.

And that was ok, because you could take care of each other. You were ok with that.

But this--this feels like a failure. And you can’t decide if you failed Stiles or Claudia, but you know that you hate failing them both.

 

*

 

Your head aches and you can feel cold metal around your wrists, and you groan.

“Stay still,” a familiar voice says and you peer through the darkness to see Derek, chained to a goddamn chain link fence. He hasn’t shifted, and he doesn’t look like he’s in pain, but he’s dripping wet and panting slightly and--

You recoil as the fence and Derek light up, electricity pumping through them, and he snarls, his fangs dropping as he shakes under the current.

He whines a little when it’s over and blinks at you blearily.

“On a timer,” he tells you and you curse.

“How bad is this?” you ask him and he frowns, eyebrows scrunching.

“Bad,” he admits.

 

*

 

The pack took notice of him as soon as he stepped on campus, Derek explained, while Stiles snarled curses in the corner and you sat silent and furious in his chair. At first it was just posturing, one pack recognizing a ‘wolf from another.

Except that Stiles wasn’t a werewolf, and what kind of alpha allowed an unmated human pack member into another pack’s territory.

“I wasn’t allowed to do anything,” Stiles bursts out.

Derek glared him back into fuming semi-silence.

The physical altercations started after Scott visited him. The pack was furious at the intrusion of another alpha and they wanted to let their displeasure be known.

But it wasn’t just that. If it was just that, they would have stopped.

 

*

 

You can hear the low whine Derek gives a second before his body goes tense and the electricity crackles through him and the fence, and you snarl, fighting against the ropes you know you won’t break free from and howl your rage as your boy twists and whimpers in pain.

 

*

 

The problem was.

The alpha took notice of Stiles.

Stiles who was always brilliant and fearless, who waltzed through his pack, human and magic and shining . Who had the unwavering loyalty of two alphas wolves, and stood as emissary to the McCall pack, which had earned a reputation for being clever and strong and fair over the years.

The alpha saw Stiles and everything that made your boy special and he wanted him.

Stiles, being Stiles, took exception to that unasked for affection.

 

*

 

They come for you the second day, and you’re glad for it.

Even as the ‘wolves rip at you, beat you and Derek screams in helpless fury, you’re glad for it.

Because while they are hurting you, they aren’t hurting him, and that matters.

He matters, this surly boy with his gruff words and amazing heart,  and electric blue eyes. Your boy.

He is what only Stiles has ever been-- yours .

You swallow it down, swallow your tears, and you take the beating and you throw insults that would make Stiles cringe, fury and sass and you can hear Derek groaning as it ramps the werewolves up.

“Idiot,” Derek growls when they leave.

You spit blood from your mouth, and give him a wet smile. “Stiles had to learn it from someone.”

 

*

 

“Why didn’t he tell us?” you demand, when Derek is driving you home. Stiles is so mad he isn’t talking to you but Scott is on his couch and you’re confident your son is safe, for now.

Derek gives you a surprised look, like it’s obvious, like you should know this.

Maybe you should.

“He was protecting us,” he says, simply.

The Camero’s tires blow out a second later, before you can even respond.

 

*

 

The second time they beat you, Derek is loud. He shouts and taunts and curses and they ignore him so thoroughly, you’d think they were deaf, but they’re werewolves for fucks sake.

It’s annoying, though, you think as your vision goes fuzzy.

If you’re gonna get your ass beat, he should at least have the decency to shut the hell up while it was happening.

Your boys are ungrateful little shits.

You love them so much it hurts.

“Stiles is going to kill me,” he says, staring at you.

It takes a moment to piece together that the pounding in your head and ribs aren’t from blows that are still coming, but the damage they’ve already done.

“I heal. You know that. Fucking martyr. Is that some Stilinski trait?” he snaps and you laugh, weakly.

“Yeah. It’s why you fit so damn well in the family, son.”

You think you see his startled, wide eyed stare, before you black out.

 

*

 

Derek is howling . You come to because of it, and someone is screaming, but it’s not you.

The whole room has a charged, electric feel to it and you hear Stiles-- Stiles-- snarl, “Scott, get him out,” before hands hook under your arms and drag you away.

“I’m not leaving you,” Derek says, immovable at your son’s side, and you see the look they share before he adds, “He hurt my alpha, Stiles.”

A savage sort of smile spreads over your son’s face and he waves a hand, carless.

The mountain ash slams down around the room, trapping him and Derek in the circle with three enraged werewolves--and one’s eyes are gleaming red.

Scott shouts, throws himself at the barrier but it doesn’t even flinch, just tosses him back on his ass next to you.

Stiles swings his bat lazily and tosses over his shoulder. “Take care of my dad, Scotty.”

You are absurdly proud of your boys as they rip into the werewolves.

They fight together as fluidly as anything you’ve ever seen, protecting and helping each other without impeding the other.

But they don’t see the fourth were, the one tucked in the corner. Scott snarls, and throws himself against the mountain ash again as she stalks up behind your boys and you---

You grab the gun in Stiles hoodie, the one you filled with wolfsbane bullets the day you found out about werewolves.

The girl has her back to you, and her hand---claws--are up, reaching for Derek.

You shoot her through the back of the head and she drops like a stone, and you don’t feel an ounce of regret that you never warned her.

 

*

 

You wake to the sound of their voices, twisting together, and it settles you even as the pain registers and you hear the faint beeping of machines that tells you where you are.

You’re getting pretty tired of hospitals. They’re talking about nothing, about the pack that Scott is still dealing with, the damage to the Camero. Then.

“He called me son,” Derek says, quietly.

There’s a moment of silence. “Of course he did,” Stiles says clearly. There’s a hint of amusement in his tone and Derek huffs a little.

“Know what that means?” Stiles asks and you hear them shift.

“What?” Derek asks, voice dipping low and hoarse.

“You’re stuck with us,” Stiles says, bright and happy. “Stilinskis’ love for a lifetime, big guy. You think you can handle that?”

You peer at them, at your son in Derek’s lap, and he sees you looking, and some of the stress evens out of his shoulders. His grip on Stiles’ tightens and he nods, fierce. “ Yes.”

 

*

 

Stiles isn’t easy to love. He lies and he cheats and he’s obsessive and clingy, and walks a morally grey line he’ll run right over if he thinks it’ll keep the people he loves safe.

But you think maybe that’s something he got from you, and it doesn’t bother you much, anymore. Derek is there, holding you both to a innocence that his blue eyes can’t touch. He loves your son with a devotion that reminds you of Claudia and he loves you, in a way that you think you both needed .

And you--well.

You’ve always known you’d kill to protect your son.

Both of them.

 

*

 

You think maybe Claudia was wrong, when she asked you to protect him. It was never about protecting Stiles.

It was about loving him. And protecting each other.

She’d be happy, you think, watching your son and Derek kissing lazy on the couch while you pad to bed.

She would be happy and they are safe.

You've done ok.