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That Infamous Middle Ground

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An emergency meeting is called late one Tuesday night in the White House. President Talia Hale looks around at all the tense faces turned towards her, awaiting her reaction.


“You're telling me,” she says slowly, “that someone made it past the best protective force in the world, past all White House defenses, into the residence... and kidnapped my son?!” Her knuckles go white as she clenches her fists, fingers itching to sprout claws. “And no one saw or heard anything?! Half of you are supernaturals, how the hell is this possible?!” she snarls, barely containing her rage.


“We... suspect magical means. Powerful ones,” her head of security says cautiously, and her eyes shoot to him, burning red.


“You think?!


There's dead quiet, and she glares at them all, one after the other. “Well?! What is being done?!”


“We have the best people looking through security footage and scrying for clues, but... considering how easy the kidnappers bypassed everything? We're not expecting to find much. All we can really do is wait for them to make contact and state their demands,” the security chief says, but he looks... defeated. Like they've already won.


Unacceptable,” Talia growls, finally giving in to the urge to let her claws out. “You are all useless,” she spits, and rips a pretty significant hole in her blouse trying to reach into her pants pocket for her phone with her claws out. No one says a word, and she glares at them all again. “If there's nothing else you can tell me, then please go away and do your jobs. I want every available warm body on this, whether you deem it a lost cause or not,” she snaps at her head of security, who looks appropriately chastised. “I want updates every thirty minutes on the dot until my son is back home, I don't care if I'm asleep or taking a piss. Understand?”


Everyone nods and scurries off as soon as she dismisses them. She takes a moment to breathe deeply in the quiet office, forcing her claws back before digging into her pocket for her phone. Her hands shake as she taps out the number she'd hoped she'd never have to use, but if ever there was a time... this is it.


“Stilinski,” a voice says when the line is picked up, and she sighs into the phone.


“I... need your services,” she grits out, and there's a huff of laughter on the other end.


“Why, Madam President, I thought you'd never call. No, seriously, I thought you'd never call, considering your less than enthusiastic response to my actions last time we spoke.”


“I stand by it. And I don't like having to do this.”


The laugh sounds again, and it's bitter. “See, that's the difference between you and me, Ma'am. I learned this lesson early in life. Sometimes there's no way you can play by the rules if you want shit done. So if I do this job for you, you don't get to claim the high ground afterwards. You're gonna have to suck it up and take responsibility.”


“I did take-”


“Bullshit. I went to prison,” Stilinski spits, and Talia bites down on the bile in her throat.


“It was an election. If I'd lost, people like you and I would never have been able to live as freely as we do now. It was for the greater good.”


“There was nothing stopping you from pardoning me later, though, was there? Or remembering me at all? Some monetary compensation would have been nice too. Which, by the way, whatever you need me for? This time you're paying me. A hundred grand an hour, regardless of results. Take it or leave it.”


The money is nothing, but the guilt? Stilinski isn't wrong. She could have done... a lot of things. And if saving her only son means having to stand up and admit to her mistakes? There's not even a choice here.


“Done. Send me the check, tell me what you want me to do, I'll do it. This... this is my son.”


There's silence on the line for two long seconds. “Derek? What happened to him?”


“Someone took him. Walked right in and took him without leaving a trace. No one here is any fucking good, and I need-” her voice cracks, and she has to swallow hard. “I need someone who can get the job done. I don't care how.”


“I'll be there within the hour. Tell them to let me in, I don't wanna waste twenty minutes being probed at the gate.”


“Of course.”


He hangs up, and Talia can't help but stare at the phone. No one hangs up on the president. But, then again, she deserves it, and if Stilinski can actually get the job done? Hell, he can call her sweet cheeks and dance naked in the Oval Office for all she cares.


When Stilinski arrives it's almost midnight, and he strides in without even looking at his nervous security escort, who's having to work really hard to keep up. “Madam President,” he greets, and then demands every scrap of information they already have. She hands everything over without hesitation, and ignores the nervous fidgeting of her security chief next to her.


“Anything else?” he asks, clutching the thumb drive, and she clenches her jaw.


“Just... bring him back safe?”


Stilinski quirks a brief smile at her. “I'll definitely try. I'll be in touch.” Then he turns on his heel and walks out like he was never even there.


“Are you sure this is a good idea?” the chief of staff asks quietly, and Talia sighs.


“If it gets my son back... I don't even care.”


* * *


Stiles was planning on sleeping tonight, so he'd be alert at his soul-sucking job tomorrow, but considering the amount of money Talia Hale is gonna have to pay him for this? Stiles' boss can go fuck himself, and sleep can wait.


So instead of heading to bed, Stiles gives himself a little magical energy boost and starts going over Derek's room in the residence with a fine-toothed magical comb. The security detail following him around stare at him as he runs his hands over everything, waiting for that tell-tale tingle of residual magical energy. The contents of the thumb drive had proven to be exactly as disappointing as he'd been led to expect, and whatever shred of respect he had left for this administration before this is rapidly evaporating. They're all goddamn amateurs.


Whoever took the first son were definitely professionals, though, and there's damn near nothing to find. Not for regular people anyway. But Stiles is a spark, he's well trained and creative, and he's not afraid to bend the rules of both legal and magical convention if there's good enough reason. And there certainly is now.


“Gotcha,” he whispers to himself as there's finally a thread. Someone was dumb enough to touch Derek before he was shrouded too, letting him act as a conduit for long enough to leave traces behind. Stiles works the thread in his mind, pulling it gently and picking it apart until he can get a good look.


“Goddamn cultists,” he hisses, as wisps of shadow realm magic touches him. He hates dark spirits, they always want fucked up shit in return for their power, and considering how powerful this shrouding spell is they must have asked for something really fucking gruesome.


The good news is that this means Derek is most likely unharmed. His kidnappers are unlikely to let something happen to him if they're paying as dearly for him as Stiles suspects.


He leaves the White House without looking back, and heads straight back home for his tools. He's got the scent now. Tracking is gonna take time, but they won't get away from him.


For the briefest moment he considers giving Talia a heads up, but then decides against it. The last thing he needs is bumbling White House security people fucking up his job. He'll save Derek either way, and he'd really prefer being able to to that without having to watch well-meaning secret service agents getting themselves killed.


It's sunrise before he's able to pinpoint a location, and he gives himself another energy boost without thinking. It's gonna kick him in the ass later, but with the kind of money this is making him he can stay in bed for a few weeks once the job is done. And he's probably gonna have to.


He's buzzing with power as he wards up for the fight, and breathes slowly to get his heart rate down. He'll need to be calm and focused to pull this off. It's dangerous, and people who are dumb or evil enough to mess with dark spirits are not to be underestimated. They're not even that far away, which means they're cocky and convinced they can't be tracked. Stiles is about to prove them wrong.


The beauty of attacking someone this powerful is that they're ridiculously easy to take by surprise. They're expecting a swarm of secret service agents, not one bony dude walking in from the street and blasting them away. By the time they realize what's happening most of them are already out cold, and, in the end, Stiles only has to outright kill four of them. He doesn't enjoy doing it, not even a little bit, no matter how evil they are, and the fact that he can do it without losing his mind or going dark sets him apart from most other sparks.


The supernatural community is practically split down the middle between the purists and the darksiders. Purists wield light-based powers, and using those for morally questionable tasks will either corrupt your light or cause you to be so severely shunned by your peers that most people hardly dare think it. Being a spark would usually put Stiles among the purists, but being willing and able to use his power to kill should put him firmly in the dark camp. Which, incidentally, was exactly where then-senator Talia Hale decided he belonged a few years back for doing what he'd thought was a pretty big favor for her. Just goes to show what being generous gets you, and this time there'll be no freebies.


As he checks the room for any more baddies, he realizes to his frustration that Derek isn't actually on this floor, so he has to move his ass to avoid any remaining kidnappers moving Derek somewhere else before he can sniff them out. Rushing through the nearest door he finds a stairwell, and does a quick magical push to figure out whether he needs to go up or down. It's down, of course. Typical dark spirits, loving underground bases.


He jumps down the stairwell, not bothering with actually taking the stairs, instead trusting his magic to buffer him, and the upside of that is that by the time they hear him downstairs he's on top of them. There are five of them, and three are out cold with one sweep of Stiles' hand, but the last two manage to get the drop on him. They don't live long enough to regret it, but by the time they fall to the ground like ragdolls, Stiles is feeling the strain. He's not done yet, however, so he gives himself another boost. His spark is sputtering, not at all happy with the constant power jolts he sucks out of the ether, and he's gonna have one hell of a hangover.


What he's doing is seriously frowned upon in magic circles, because no magic comes without a price. Stiles is willing to pay it, though, and if other people were as willing to bend the rules as he is, maybe they, too, would only have a three week hangover instead of losing their life force.


But purists will be purists, and Stiles is over it.


The room is clear, and he can't feel a single cultist left in the building. All he gets is the faint murmur he knows is Derek, most likely behind the door right in front of him. Derek's very expertly shrouded, so Stiles can barely feel him, but it doesn't matter. As much as Stiles dislikes looking at that too closely he could probably recognize even the faintest thread of Derek's essence anywhere.


Ever since that night...


No, he's not thinking of that now.


The door is locked, but it's barely the work of a thought to spring it open, and Stiles allows himself to feel superior for the first time that day. “Morons,” he mutters to himself and opens the door.


He should have known better than to get complacent.


One step inside, and he's crashing to the floor, a huge, hulking shape on top of him, luminous blue eyes boring into his, and enormous fangs dripping with saliva barely an inch from his neck.


“Ohhh, shit,” he hisses, because he's gonna fucking die.


It's so strange how time slows down when you're about to die. He sees it all so clearly, suddenly. They didn't want Derek for a ransom. They wanted him because he's a Hale, a werewolf directly from a line of rare full shifters. The goal wasn't to kidnap Derek. He was simply meant to be a tool.


Because it's painfully obvious that Derek isn't conscious of his actions. He's feral. And when a fully shifted werewolf goes feral, you don't just have a superpowerd human on your hands, you have a terrifying monster that nightmares are made of, stronger than almost every other supernatural creature out there. Taking something like that down would take a missile strike or an army of magic users. Dark spirits want chaos, and a feral Derek Hale? Would definitely get them that. And Stiles has never even heard of a feral wolf getting cured, so there's no peaceful resolution. Once the human mind is gone, it's gone, and Stiles can barely imagine the number of lives that will inevitably be lost stopping this. Including his own.


And... if he's completely honest with himself... a tiny part of him wonders for a millisecond if he'd actually find life worth living if Derek wasn't in it anymore. Even if Stiles never saw him again after... Well, after. So maybe dying like this isn't so bad.


“No fucking way,” Stiles snarls instead, though, because when they told him he couldn't be a spark if he took a life to save his father, he'd told them all to go fuck themselves. When he was shunned by his peers for doing what he thought was right, he'd flipped them all off and proceeded to re-invent magical methods. And when he'd acted out of generosity and gotten only public censure and prison time for it? He'd served his time and gone right back to doing the right thing afterwards.


So fuck this.


He blasts Derek away, only a hair's width before his teeth rip Stiles' throat out. But even though it works, holding something like Derek back is taking a toll that makes Stiles' bones hurt.


Derek is a monster. He's enormous, heavily furred and furious. A barely recognizable humanoid shape, taller and broader than even the biggest human. Comparisons to The Hulk would not be completely off the mark, here, and if Stiles had time and energy he'd crack a joke about it. But, as it is, his eyes are watering from the strain of binding Derek, and he's got to think of something soon.


Only problem is, there's nothing he can do. He can't kill Derek, he knows that much. Both because he's nowhere near powerful enough, no matter how many inadvisable magical shortcuts he's willing to take, but also because... monster or not... it's Derek. The man he'd thought...


But that's in the past.


Derek roars and pushes at the invisible bonds so hard that Stiles groans in pain. If he lives through this he's gonna need more than bed rest, that much is becoming abundantly clear. He casts around for a solution, anything that can buy him some time at least.

“Derek... Derek, please,” he wheezes, because he can't think of anything, and at this point he's not too proud to beg. “Stop fighting me, please.” He's not sure who he's even talking to, because he's seen feral wolves before. Hell, he's seen them put down, seen their packs mourn their loss before they were even dead, and felt for himself the terrifying blankness of a feral mind. There's nothing for him to even plead with.


So he's shocked almost frozen when Derek pauses, ever so briefly, before fighting the bonds again.


“Derek,” Stiles breathes, hoping against hope it wasn't a fluke. “Derek, if you can hear me at all... please... don't let them win. Help me help you.”


There's another pause while Stiles is speaking, and, frankly, Stiles doesn't even care if it is just a fluke. As long as Derek calms down from hearing his voice, Stiles will talk until his throat bleeds. “Derek, I'm here. I'm not gonna let this happen. I'm gonna help you. I don't care what it takes, I'm not gonna leave you.” He realizes the truth of it as he says it, and with a flick of his hand he re-engages the locks on the door. Derek will break through eventually, but even if he kills Stiles it should take long enough for him to break through the magical locks and barriers that someone outside might realize what happened, and make sure the outside world is ready to take him down.


Derek's blue eyes flick to the door, and he snarls, but he stops struggling, as if realizing that there's no point now that his escape route is cut off.


“There we go. Just you and me now,” Stiles says, finally able to breathe again now that Derek isn't fighting him tooth and nail.


“It's okay,” he lies, and from the way he sneers it would seem like Derek doesn't buy it. But he also doesn't struggle, so Stiles calls it a win. “Well, no, it's not okay, but... I'm here. That's all I can offer you right now.”


Stiles feels his arm shake, because his last boost is already wearing off, and despite how flippant he is about using magic like this, one or two more boosts could actually kill him, so he'd rather not attempt more. But, then again, he needs to at least try and contain Derek for long enough that the useless secret service can catch up and arrange for some tanks or something.


“I'm here,” Stiles says again, sagging back against the wall, tiredness making his limbs heavy. “I won't leave. I'll never leave you. I wouldn't even have left in the first place if-” his voice cracks, because there's no stopping it. All those memories he'd shoved down so harshly are all welling up now that Derek is right in front of him. Even wolfed out and twisted into a monster, his face is still so recognizable, and infinitely dear.


“I didn't wanna go,” Stiles admits in a small voice. “I didn't... I thought we'd...” he sighs, and finally gives into the urge to let his arm drop, and the invisible bonds vanish as it drops. “You know what... fuck it.” He slumps down to the floor, feeling like he can barely hold his head up as the balance of the universe requires payment for his reckless use of it.


Warmth trickles down his lip, and he'd use his hand to check, but he can't lift it. So he licks at the slow dribble instead, and the coppery tang confirms the nosebleed. “Great,” he huffs, and then rasps out a weak laugh, because of all his current problems a nosebleed shouldn't even register.


His laugh seems to make Derek unsure, and he doesn't move from his position, even though there's nothing holding him back. Instead he stares at Stiles, sniffs at the air and shifts his feet.


“It's okay,” Stiles says, feeling weirdly sympathetic. If even a shred of Derek is somehow still in there, he must be getting torn into a million pieces, and Stiles won't let guilt over killing him making it worse. “Go on. I know you don't mean to. It's not your fault.”


Derek takes one step, and as resigned as Stiles is his heart rate still shoots up, so Derek pauses again. “It's okay. It's okay, I swear,” Stiles keeps saying, and Derek eventually does move closer. By the time his monstrous feet-paw-things are mere inches from Stiles' boots, Stiles is so exhausted he's actually fine with the idea of death. The various aches and pains in his body are steadily ramping up, and since he's not in bed with pain draughts in him right now like he'd planned, he gets to feel every agonizing detail, and eternal sleep really doesn't sound so bad.


“It's okay,” he murmurs, so tired his head is hanging to the side, making his neck a perfect target for Derek's teeth. It should be quick, at least. Good.


But nothing happens. Nothing happens for so long Stiles gets curious enough to crack his heavy eyelids open, only to almost jump when he finds Derek's shifted face barely an inch away, blue eyes zeroing in on the blood still trickling down Stiles' lip. It's confusing enough that Stiles' brain makes an attempt at regaining alertness, and thoughts race around for a minute as he tries to make sense of it. Feral wolves kill without pattern or cause, simply for the sheer mindless rage of it. Some people call it bloodlust, sure, but Stiles has never heard of a feral wolf stopping to look at blood, much less go for a blood source like sharks. Though, to be fair, he's never been face to face with a born wolf in full shift gone feral, and neither have that many people in living memory, thank fuck. But it still just doesn't fit. Derek also doesn't actually seem that angry, despite his ragey face. It's hard to read him behind the permanent snarl, but he seems almost... concerned.


Stiles is fairly sure he's losing his mind, because what.


He's still trying to force some sense into the situation when Derek finally moves, and even if Stiles hadn't been half numb with exhaustion and pain at this point, he probably would have been frozen with surprise anyway. Because Derek doesn't attack. One could argue he does the exact opposite.


Reaching out with his terrifyingly huge and clawed hand, he gently nudges Stiles' head slightly more upright, leans in even closer to sniff the blood, and then licks it away like an enormous dog cleaning its pup. Stiles is definitely losing his mind, because what feral wolf can even focus on anything that isn't killing? It's simply unheard of.


But... a small voice in his head can't help but pipe up that people said the same thing about a spark willing to bend the rules like he has. He's afraid to even think it, but he can't not.


What if Derek is still in there?


Giving himself more power in this state is unbelievably risky, if not downright idiotic, but he has to know... he has to try.


“Derek,” he rasps. “I'm gonna try... I'm gonna- you need to help me. Okay? If you're in there,” he says, panting for breath just from speaking, “you gotta meet me half way. Please, Derek? Please... be in there,” he whispers before reaching for the spark again. It fights him every inch of the way, and it feels like jamming a rusty nail through his eyeball. But eventually the power rushes in, and he surges ahead to not lose a single moment.


He has just enough time to see Derek's blue eyes go squinty with confusion before everything is replaced by the magic.


It's the same method he uses to see magic trails, memories or parallel world glimpses. Like opening a door or a window to a weird psychedelic approximation of what he's looking at. He can still see Derek, sort of, but there's almost like an overlay of what's going on in his brain. Like a slide from a microscope projected onto reality. Most magic users spend decades learning how to do it and even longer to read it, but Stiles has a somewhat rare affinity for it, so it takes him only a second or two to find what he's looking for.


A feral wolf's mind is black and red. Not physically, but that's how anger and void manifests to Stiles. It might look different to others, he has no idea. But Derek's mind isn't what he's expecting. There's red and black, sure, but there are wild shards and swirls of colors too, zipping around and crashing together, desperately trying to meet somewhere. If Stiles wasn't focusing so hard on his task, he would have sobbed with sheer relief, because Derek isn't feral at all. His mind is shattered, but it's all still there. He just needs help putting it back together again.


The power jolt is already fading, and Stiles knows for a fact he's gonna pass out the second it's gone, so he works as fast as he can, grasping for threads and connecting as much as he can, but it feels like a losing battle. The strands slip through his hold and disconnect as fast as he can fix them. But he keeps at it, connecting again and again and again, until something vaguely resembling a knitting pattern starts forming. It's still unraveling, but slower now. And just as Stiles can feel his last power slipping away, he sees the strands begin to reach for each other on their own.


Then everything goes black.


* * *


The room he wakes up in is annoyingly bright, and the first thing he tries to do is put a hand over his eyes. That turns out to be a bad idea, though. Not only because his arm is apparently home to not one, but two drips at the moment, but also because every tiny movement makes it feel like there's broken glass everywhere under his skin.


His whimper makes a lot of noise happen, which in turn makes his ears hurt, and he's half wishing he could just pass out again when the rare treat of werewolf pain drain starts happening. Having a werewolf best friend means he's familiar with the sensation, and as soon as he can move again he's gonna kiss Scott right on the mouth, no arguments. When he finally manages to open his eyes against the glaring light, however, it's not Scott's adorable dumb face greeting him. It's Derek's. Looking exactly as human and wonderful as it had that first fateful night.


“D-” is as far as Stiles gets before his voice gives out, so he settles for sending him a questioning look.


“I'm okay,” he says, a small smile teasing at his lip. “Thanks to you.”


Stiles can only barely find the energy to smile, so he does, and it feels like some kind of blessing from upon high when Derek smiles back, looking at Stiles like... like he did that night. Before everything went to shit.


“I'm taking your pain, but you're not allowed to move yet. Doctor's orders,” Derek says, and Stiles is the last person to argue. Because even with the pain drain his body feels like it's been minced. He's vaguely worried that he might not recover, but Derek steps up again as if sensing Stiles' worry.


“The doctors say you're gonna be fine, eventually. You needed a lot of surgery and some magical reconstruction and healing, but only time can do the rest. So you're gonna have to be patient- and don't even think about making a pun right now.”


Derek knows him too well.


Words are still too much for Stiles, so he settles for a pout, and Derek rolls his eyes at him in return. It's wonderfully familiar, since Stiles has had entire conversations with Derek's eyebrows alone. And they were only together for one night.


Pain drain always makes Stiles drowsy, and, considering his body needs it, he doesn't fight the urge to fall back asleep. And it doesn't hurt at all that Derek's warm hand is holding Stiles'. Nope, doesn't hurt one bit.


The next time he wakes up he can actually move, though it stings and makes his nerve endings buzz like his whole body has been asleep. Moving makes some beeps happen somewhere, and barely a minute later a nurse pops her head in. “Oh, Mr Stilinski! Good to see you awake. There are a lot of people worried about you,” she says as she comes in and starts doing stuff with the beeping machine.


Stiles is a little confused, because he wouldn't really consider his dad and Scott – and maybe even Derek, if he's lucky enough – to fit the description of a lot of people. But it's nice to feel loved, or whatever.


He's confused until four people in sharp suits come in, checking everything before muttering into headsets, and then opening the door for Talia Hale.


“Stiles,” she greets, and frankly Stiles wants to correct her or something, because someone who sent his ass to jail shouldn't be allowed to speak to him so freely. But his mouth is dry as hell, so he just glares at her. She isn't fazed, however, and sits down in the chair next to his bed, waiting for the nurse to leave before speaking.


“Mr. Stilinski, I'm here to offer you my most sincere gratitude-” she cuts herself off, and slumps down slightly. “You know what, fuck it. You saved my only son. Thank you. I don't even know what else you're supposed to say to something like this.” She clenches her hands where they're folded in her lap. “I've had your criminal record cleared. The fee you requested is in your bank account, tripled because you got hurt. And... there's one other thing I owe you.”


“I don't want anything from you,” Stiles grits out, swallowing against the dryness. “Except the money. I'll take that.”


Talia nods. “That is indeed your right. But I feel you might want to hear this.”


Seeing as he has nowhere to go, Stiles just rolls his eyes at her, which she takes as permission. Whatever.


“Three years ago... when my son brought you home...”


Stiles tenses. He's not at all sure he wants to hear this. But he also can't seem to make himself move, so he fixes his eyes on the hospital bedspread instead.


“I took some steps I'm not proud of,” she says, fidgeting in a way that's uncharacteristic for her. “You know Derek's story.”


He does. It was all dug up during Talia's campaign. Derek dating gorgeous socialite Kate Argent until the night she tried to burn his house down with most of his family inside, landing her in a psych ward, and put Derek in therapy. The whole damn world knew by the time election night came around.


“I already had security on myself and my family for obvious reasons, and I had you vetted the minute you got in my son's car. You have a colorful history and something of a reputation. I couldn't let another questionable person into our lives, not just because of the campaign, but also out of consideration for my son. I couldn't risk him getting attached to another unstable person.”


“Wow, insult me some more, why don't you,” Stiles snaps at her, though he can't really blame her for her prejudice. As a spark who's willing to kill, but firmly keeps out of the darksider circles, he's something of an outlier. It's given him a weird reputation for being ruthless but trustworthy, and considering that not a lot of mainstream people want to hire a spark with murder on their record, however much it was considered a juvenile incident and then sealed, Stiles made it his business to be the odd one out. Apparently there's a market for those straddling the political and moral line, even if it doesn't pay very well. And after his stint in prison, well... only darksiders would hire him, so he'd gone for mundane stuff instead. Answering phone calls about printers wasn't the worst job in the world, though it was close, and it felt even more wasteful when he had so much power just itching to be used.


“Oh, it gets worse,” Talia says, voice small. “And after this, feel free to hate me as much as you want. You see... I was going to have a stern talk with you about keeping away, at least until after my second term was in the bag, and then let that be that, but... no one saw the attempt on my life coming. You stopping them was never part of any plan, but it did give me convenient out.”


“Look, I didn't enjoy killing them!” Stiles points out, anger making the machine go all beepy again. “They were coming at you, and they were warded to the teeth. The only way to stop them was to cut the connection to the wards. I couldn't know the morons linked their wards to their life force, like idiots! Who even does that!?”


“I know. But thanks to the campaign, all I could do was paint you as a vigilante and have you put away. Had I sided with you the purist movement would have eviscerated me and lost me the election. You'd be stuck with Alan the balance is everything Deaton, who wouldn't rock the boat even if it was sinking.”


“I know, and I still don't care. Don't tell me there wasn't any way to quietly sort it out after the media frenzy died down,” Stiles says acidly, enjoying the shame on Talia's face.


“You're right, I should have done something. But my transgressions against you don't even end there. I'm... I'm not proud of this. But... I... let Derek believe you were... unhinged.”


Stiles' heart feels like it stops, though the beeping begs to differ. Through the entire hell of the media, the courts, the jail time... he'd always kinda hoped that Derek would eventually call or text or... something. But he never did. For that entire night they'd spent together, Stiles had been so sure that Derek was the one. Hell, he'd been half ready to ask him for a mating bite that same night, but the more time passed without word, the more Stiles began to worry that he'd been wrong somehow.


But he hadn't been.


His personal wards going off had made him leave Derek's warm bed, still buzzing with the high of closeness with his other half, his soulmate, and it had felt like pulling off a limb. But someone with seriously bad intentions had been approaching, and he'd had to check it out. He didn't see Derek again until the kidnapping.


It's impossible to pick one thing to be more upset about. Talia's behavior, or how Derek must have felt, sharing a bed – if not at least in part his heart – with yet another person he believed was a murderous nut job. If Stiles hadn't still been feeling like mush he would have punched the President of the United States, and wouldn't have regretted a single thing.


“So. There it is,” Talia says after several minutes when it becomes clear he's not about to speak to her. “I've laid it all out, and I've done my best to make up for my mistakes. But I don't expect you to forgive me or even tolerate me.”


“Good, because right now I really need you to leave,” Stiles grits out, and it's only because he feels like he's falling apart he follows it up with: “and get Derek here. Now.”


“Of course.” Talia gets up and leaves without further ado, and Stiles is actually grateful that she doesn't say goodbye, because it feels like his blood pressure will go through the roof if he hears one more word out of her lying mouth.


Barely a minute later, the door opens again, and Derek strides in, going directly to his side, and Stiles doesn't give one single shit about dignity or pride or whatever. He weakly opens his arms, and Derek steps right into them, one knee on the bed like he's about to just climb right in. Stiles would totally let him.


“Your mom told me-” he mutters against Derek's shirt collar, and Derek nods.


“I know. I was waiting outside.”


“I wanted... that night, I wanted-”


“Me too. I felt it too,” Derek says against his temple, lips pressing there for a second. “I didn't want to believe her, but...”


“I know. I know.”


All of this is almost too much of a rollercoaster to handle when he's at his best, much less when he feels like he's bound together with duct tape and good intentions. He's so angry, but also just stupidly relieved. Derek is back in his arms, like he should always be. Stiles' record is clean, he's an honest man again, free to do what he pleases, richer than he's ever even dreamed of being... but still angry.


“She told me everything,” Derek murmurs, lips moving against Stiles' hair. “As soon as I woke up and got my head unscrambled, she told me. She's my mom and my alpha, so I'm probably gonna forgive her eventually. But it's gonna take a hell of a long time,” he says, finally pulling away enough to meet Stiles' tired eyes. “All I care about right now is you. My... my mate,” he whispers, and Stiles can't help the huge smile on his face.


“Not yet,” he says, and Derek gives him a weirdly intense look.


“There might not have been a mating, but... I think we started something. That night.”


Stiles huffs. “I'll say.”


“No,”Derek says through a small laugh. “I mean, I think we began the mating bond. I think... I think that's why they couldn't make me truly feral. Mated wolves can't go feral unless their mate is too, remember?”


Generally Stiles likes to think he's a brilliant guy, but he'd honestly forgotten than small tidbit, and everything makes a lot more sense now. It also makes the entire debacle infinitely more painful. Stiles had assumed he was the only one suffering, but Derek must have been in agony, clawing at the walls to complete the bond.


“And the kidnappers didn't know you were sorta mated...”


“Exactly. But...” Derek looks at him almost bashfully. “If you're game, I'd like to remove the sorta from that statement as soon as possible.”


“I like the sound of that,” Stiles says, feeling warmth blossom in his gut. “But... the media-”


“Fuck that. My mom's position is solid. I don't care how much people call mating with you a scandal, it's not gonna ruin her. And even if it did I'm not sure I would even care.”


Stiles barks out a rusty laugh, and clenches his fists in Derek's soft shirt. “You would, though. She might be a meddling douche, but she's definitely the best person for her job, currently. And you're a good person. You'd take one for the team.”


“I already did, though. And so did you. We deserve our reward now,” Derek says softly, nuzzling their noses together.


“Maybe not right now, I don't think I can get it up yet,” Stiles jokes, and Derek snorts.


“Not really what I meant, Stiles.”


“Yeah. I know.”


“But... as soon as you can...” Derek says, trailing off with a grin that shows off his sharp, sharp canines, and Stiles wants really badly to just sign himself out of the hospital and get himself mated already. But his body is already screaming for another nap, and it's probably gonna take a few weeks before he can even be out of bed.


“It's a date,” he says instead, because it is. He's not waiting even a second longer than he has to.


* * *


That year the media has plenty to report. First the terror attack by the shadow cult, intending to ruin Talia Hale by way of turning her son into a monster, followed up by the daring rescue and the court case against the cult members still alive.


Then the uncovering of certain events leading up to the election, which causes the worst dip in Talia Hale's approval ratings since she took office.


However, those are followed up by the joyous news of First Son Derek Hale mating with the questionable, yet charming, Stiles Stilinski. While no one has all the details, everyone in the country love to speculate, and the media runs new theories every day, one juicier than the next.


The biggest story of the year, though, oddly enough, is Stiles Stilinski forming the first center-faction for magic users, forging the first ever middle ground between the purists and the darksiders in the history of the magical community, and he's regularly seen negotiating between the parties. More often than not, his mate Derek Hale is right there with him, supportive and loving, and that – if nothing else – will keep the news in fairytale love stories until the cows come home.