“Weres of all types are very pack oriented beings. Historically, this was linked to their connection to their inner animals, with lore exploring them as two beings, going back to the writings of Plato. However, modern research has proved conclusively that there is no separation between the Wolf, to use the Werewolf as an example, and the Human, particularly in born wolves. Bitten wolves may express some degree of awareness of some separation, but this is highly dependent on age and maturity. Many bitten wolves experience a period of adjustment that born wolves experience around puberty or late stage adolescence, with females maturing more rapidly.
Regardless of their roots, it is important for anyone to understand that the pack drive in weres is fundamental to their psychology and physiology. For many weres, this is expressed through a strong commitment to family, to the relationships and bonds therein. They fundamentally desire to care for those they love, though it may be couched in terms of respect and honor, rather than love and other feeling words. This is likely because Weres can be very rooted in tradition, and are prone to holding onto patterns that have worked for them in the past because ‘it has always been so.’ Pack dynamics are thus important to most weres, not out of superiority, but out of a respect for tradition, strength, and continuity. Chapter Seven of this text is centered on pack dynamics, and Appendix C includes a list of texts on this subject.
Despite modern rumors and pop culture, weres are not hyper-focused on breeding or reproduction. However, when they do choose to become parents, they are generally skilled and focused parents. Alpha parents may need to find ways to cope with feelings of overprotectiveness and a fixation on scent barriers, focused on their mate, and cubs. For alphas and omegas, larger than the American average family size is quite common, though family size is about average for most beta couples. The average Alpha/Omega mate bond typically produces six to nine children, with multiples common in subsequent pregnancies. Research has not yet conclusively proven if hyper-fertility is the cause, or if social factors (such as strong family bonds) contribute to the variance in family size. Courtship rituals and rites are fundamental to relationships, and are detailed in Chapter Nine.”
-Fiona Strauss, Ph.D. Were Packs: An Academic Overview (Section II).
Stiles couldn’t help but grimace as the page blurred in front of his eyes. He read to the end of the first paragraph, and rubbed his eyes. At least he had proof, now, of what had taken some of the pack so long to level out. If he had been given access to this information years ago, he’d have saved himself a lot of sleepless nights, and maybe some near death experiences.
Thankfully, in training as Pack Emissary, he now had access to books he’d never knew existence, even books that had been written in English, past 2007. It was glorious, even if he couldn’t tease Scott about his wolfy puberty. Vet school was stressing him out, and Stiles wasn’t going to add to his pain. At least, not now. He’d wait until Spring Break. Vet school could not be done in his PJs as part of a blended program, more fool Scotty.
Stiles stood up, and flipped off the light. It was 4:27 in the morning. Even his Adderall could not keep him awake forever, no matter how much work Deaton had piled on him in addition to his classes. When Stiles complained about emissary training conflicting with his classes for his MLS, Alan quirked an eyebrow and said that at least he had a spell to translate languages.
Yeah. Bibbidy Bobbidy fucking boo hoo. It was the magical equivalent to Alan saying that he’d walked to his training in snow, uphill both ways. He’d had to actually learn the languages. Psh. Like whatever. What was next, giving up his calculator? He’d sooner give up his mortar and pestle, and the magical one at that.
The sun was lighting the edges of the sky and Stiles was just going to bed. He’d pulled off his Batman socks and crawled into his bed, intent on crashing before his shift at the library at three. Just as he’d started falling off into a Benadryl induced sleep, he heard a thunk. He ignored it, thinking it was like a raccoon. Stiles pulled the blankets over his head. Mrs. McCarthy across the road was forever attracting raccoons. Rumor said she liked to talk to them.
Stiles knew she couldn’t actually communicate with animals. He’d checked. He was the magical being on this block, okay? This was his block, this was where he resided, alright? Martin Lawerence could suck it. His jeep was cooler, and he didn’t have to act like a big ass grizzly with no survival skills to use it.
He heard a thump and a thud. Stiles lifted his head, and groaned as he rolled over. He heard crunching of feet down the driveway, and not the pitter patter of garbage bandits. His Dad wasn’t due home for another few minutes, so Stiles grabbed his bottle of Holy water and his mountain ash from his nightstand and his knife from his pillow, and pushed himself towards the windowsill. Being the magic user on the block came with duties, ones which, unfortunately did not bring hot boys, any boys, to his yard.
He’d give whatever creature it was out there once chance to beat it off his property. He wasn’t a kill first questions later kind of guy anymore. Old age was making him soft. He looked down over the lawn, and hollered, “It is four forty in the morning, and I am trying to get to sleep!”
Stiles did not get a reply, or an apology.
He looked again, blinking the sleep from his eyes, and growled, biting his lip in annoyance. The flash of red eyes in the driveway told Stiles he’d been heard, and deemed an annoyance rather than a threat.
Of course it would be him. Of course. He didn’t even have the decency to use the window this time. From the flare of red of the crazywolf carrying part of a dead deer up the side of the house, his eyes glinting in the fading darkness, Stiles knew he was going to give an earful to the local alpha if it was the last thing he did.
Good luck to the growly asshole on finding another emissary.
Stiles went down the stairs, stubbing his toes twice. He came to the side door when Derek, deer in his arms, tramped up the steps. Stiles held the door closed, “No dead things in the house.”
“You necromanced a goat for bezoar in your bathroom.” Derek growled, deer covered fingers on the door handle.
“And after that,” Stiles sighed, “There was house wide ban on dead things enforced, no matter how temporary.” Stiles peered at the limp body in Derek’s arms, “And I hate to break to you, but there’s no way I can bring that back. You’ve already field dressed it.” Actually, the deer was already cured, but Stiles didn’t feel the need to be dramatic. He was a master of understatement.
Stiles wondered if Derek had done that bit of work with his teeth. Judging by the condition of his pearly whites, Stiles guessed that a knife had likely been the culprit there. Derek had such nice teeth. He probably didn’t want to mar his dentition with fur and guts. Stiles fingers loosened on the door at the consideration of the aforementioned chompers.
“It’s for your dad.” Derek pulled the door open, with just enough strength to make a point that although he could have overpowered Stiles, he was not going to be a bad boundary breaking creeperwolf, “For food. Venison is heart healthy.”
Stiles blinked, “Are you shitting me?”
There was a huff, as Derek walked to the garage. Though Stiles couldn’t see them, he knew Derek’s eyebrows were clearly saying, “Shut up, Stiles.” Stiles thereby guessed that the huff had come from the werewolf cutting through his hallway in an effort to reach the garage door.
Stiles hastened to keep up as Derek set the dead deer on the metal table Stiles kept there for work. His father had once tried to put mugwort in his tea, so now Stiles had to keep all magical or gross things in the workroom he’d cobbled together. It was mostly Ikea. “No, no, no. He might know about your wolfliness, he might be in on The Statute of Secrecy, but you do not get to woo him with your meat.”
“Stiles.” Derek blurted, lifting that hunk of deer onto the table, “Jesus.”
“Holy Shit, was Jesus a were, too?” Stiles rocked back on his feet, “Holy Christ, think about that, dude. If Jesus were a werewolf, think about how many fundamentalist Christian hunters would be fucked. Fucking Hell, Easter is a totally...”
Stiles had learned that, apparently, being a both fundamentalist Christian and a Hunter were not uncommon. He’d meant to research it, but had got stuck in a YouTube rabbit hole watching some fundie lady give a house tour and put on her makeup and he had been so sickened that he had never gone back to that stream of thought. There were some things he did not need to learn about.
Stiles wondered what Barth or Bonhoeffer would think about Werewolf Jesus. They’d probably be rather cool with it. Barth would probably argue that a Jesus who was overcome once a month by instinct would have a fuller regard for the range of earthly experiences, and the suffering of the world. On the other hand, he could just see a fundamentalist preacher standing on his pulpit, waving his Bible, screaming to the rafters about the perversion of the Gospels.
“Jesus was not a werewolf.” Derek competently surveyed his kill, “And I am not wooing your father with anything.”
Stiles snorted. He would say that, given that his father was now Derek’s boss. The day after revealing their secrets to Dad, his old man had pulled Derek into his office and told him that he was wasting his master’s degrees. The man had two. Two. Stiles should know. He’d been listening at his father’s door, and had proof of Derek’s work at NYU. He’d gotten Danny to hack some databases. Stiles figured he’d had a right to see Derek in all his dorky college guy glory. Even in his dorky phase, he’d been hot like burning, okay? Stiles had merely wondered if that came with the Alpha powers, or if it that was Hale-ish genetics. It was research, all right? Research.
“Can’t have an interoffice romance, Derek.” Stiles wiggled his eyebrows. Deputy Hale dating his boss would cause quite a stir. Deputy Hale dating anybody would set the town gossip wire to buzzing.
“Just get me your hunting saw.” Now that Stiles could more clearly see the deer, it was clearly ready to be broken down.
Some gift. It had to be hacked up. Nobody should give gifts that should be hacked up, unless you were giving a hostess gift to Hannibal or something. If it were socially acceptable, Stiles could seem him appreciating that sort of gift. Or maybe the butcher in Hey Arnold!, Mr. Green, would want a hunk of meat. Not human, though. Cannibal Mr. Green was a pretty cool AU though. Maybe he’d been sneaking human meat into the food supply in poor Arnold’s neighborhood. Thus, Arnie’s mom had consumed it during the early stages of her pregnancy, and that’s why poor Arnold was a football head. Yes! Stiles was totally throwing that up on AO3 sometime, not that anyone ever read his stories. Evidently, he was too rambly.
Stiles leaned against the table, “You’re not going to disarticulate that deer in my garage.” Stiles looked about the room, “This is my laboratory. This is where the magic happens, and you sir, are no DeeDee.”
“Saw.” Derek stuck out his hand, and growled. That Alpha voice had no impact on Stiles. It was like a puppy growling for a chewy toy. It was like a little boy putting on a clip on tie and declaring himself quite grown up.
“You woke me up.” Stiles grabbed the saw out of the cupboard, and passed it to Derek. He was hiding some Chips Ahoy in there, and no way did he want Derek scarfing them down or ratting his stash out to Dad.
“You hadn’t gone to bed. You stink of Adderall, allergy meds you’re abusing, and...” Darek’s nose twitched, and it wasn’t from the sanitizer he was wiping across the table, acrid and harsh. “Blue Gatorade.”
“Purple. Your sniffer is broken.” Stiles retorted, shoving a cookie in his face, “I don’t stink. I smell 100% of prime American male at my peak.”
“Actually, you smell of dusty books, ink, and magic.” Derek wiped away the disinfectant, “Mostly.”
And there it was, that tone that just begged Stiles to ask for more information. There was a hesitation in Derek’s voice that was hiding something profound. Stiles knew it, knew that inflection well. The cookie turned to sawdust in his mouth.
Derek would give him the answers he needed, he knew. Derek had grown up a little and had stopped being so growly when it suited him. He knew he needed an emissary he liked better than Deaton if he wanted a stable pack in the future. Given their history, he knew that Derek wanted a stable pack. Come on, who would want to be fighting for their life every other weekend? It really cut into Skyrim time.
Interestingly, Stiles had learned Deaton had been Derek’s mother’s emissary, and was never meant to be Derek’s balance. In fact, finding an emissary was often the first task any alpha undertook. Stiles had read in the old Hale journals that seeking out their future emissary was something that young alphas did as part of their coming of age rituals, even before power was shifted. Having a strong bond with one’s emissary was seen as fundamental to being a strong alpha, at least in those days.
Stiles knew it was probably different now.
“What’s magic smell like?” Stiles realized that the deer had been aged. Derek had been planning this visit. Why he had popped in at the crack of dawn was beyond Stiles. Then again, social convention was neither of their strong suits.
“The earth after it rains in the spring.” Derek allowed, his bunny teeth poking through as he stared at his kill. It was already dead, he didn’t need to be so careful with that stupid knife.
Stiles liked that information. He had assumed it smelled like lightening, like metal, like the books often suggested, or how other people’s magic smelled to him. “Poeticwolf majored in English.”
“Killer wolf is going to stab you with this very sharp knife if you don’t shut up and use his History degree to hide your body.” Derek deadpanned, using a big knife he’d grabbed to cut through the poor deer’s spine. Derek was pushing through the spine, breaking the deer’s back in half.
It made a gross, thunking sound. Stiles vowed he was going vegan for at least a month. Derek began to work on the tenderloins, and Stiles knew that he wasn’t going to touch meat for a month. He resolutely did not look at Derek’s arms.
After a moment, he spoke, “So is this a weird ritual, or do you want a raise?”
Derek barely answered, but he did, and Stiles mentally gave the werewolf a gold star. “Neither.”
“Ah, ah.” Stiles admonished, miming putting on a cowboy hat, just because he could. “I put on my emmisary hat. You have to educate me.”
Derek pulled the knife away from the deer’s body, and pressed it forward as he spoke. “Look, your father is essentially the Alpha of a human pack. He ensures their safety, brings up the rear, whatever. This is a gesture of respect.”
Stiles was silent for a second. If Derek were some kind of cat, this might make actual sense. Didn’t cats bring their owners dead animals? Stiles knew, however, that Derek didn’t like cat jokes. He liked them less than he liked dog jokes, and Stiles did not want to be growled at and shoved towards a wall. With the knives around, Stiles had force himself not to meow.
“You’re sure you’re not courting my father? Bringing him food?” Stiles suggested, “Being a good providerwolf?”
Derek’s teeth glinted as he looked up, clicking together as he moved the knife, “I wouldn’t bring your father a kill if I were courting him.”
Stiles did not want to touch announcement that with a ten foot pole, mostly because he was at least two weeks behind on his homework. He held up his hands in a placating gesture, “Modernwolf wants to be a daterwolf. I get you. No strings. Cool. Just please tell me you don’t want to call my father daddy.”
Stiles did not want to come downstairs one morning, to see Derek sitting at his breakfast table, rumpled, hair mussed. He most certainly did not want to see a jaunty grin on Derek’s face, as he gripped a coffee cup. He didn’t want to wonder what he was thinking about behind those...
Derek’s voice was rough as it jarred Stiles from his musings, “Are you high?”
“Little bit.” Stiles felt, for some reason, a hot blush stealing up his neck. Derek was looking at him intently, his jaw slightly open, though Stiles saw a tensity is his body that matched the disbelief in his tone.
“Go to bed, Stiles.” Derek picked up his tool, and turned back to his quarry.
“And leave you alone?” Stiles scoffed, going over the cabinet and getting out the Little Debbies behind the cookies. Fuck it. Breakfast. “What sort of host would I be?”
Derek’s breath wooshed from his nose.
Stiles took that to mean that the conversation was over. So, like any man up at five in the morning, Stiles decided to have a bit of a nosh. He didn’t think it was morbid. After all, the deer was dead, and it wasn’t like it had liked Chips Ahoy or Oatmeal Rounds.
Stiles ate his treats, sitting on the work stool he’d knocked over last night. He spun it around as Derek hacked up his prey and stared critically at the pile of meat cuts and the leftover bits. Stiles was not cleaning any bit of it up, and if Derek was a lazywolf and didn’t clean up his mess, Stiles was going to put wolfsbane in his underwear drawer. Then he was going to tell his friends at the Jungle all about it. And well, Modestwolf wouldn’t like that much, now would he?
When his dad came home, they broke out the FoodSaver. Stiles showed off his magical skills by turning the vacuum sealer on from across the room. Dad was impressed. Stiles basked in the warm feeling of finally, after so long, being openly who he was around his father. When the meat was safely stocked away in the freezer, Derek looked so proud that Stiles couldn’t tease him.
When Derek stepped back from a sparkling work bench that Stiles was going to have to mess up just so he could work properly, Stiles found his hand reaching up to Derek’s shoulder. “Did you know that venison has about three grams of fat per serving?”
The tips of Derek’s ears colored.
Dad called out from the kitchen, “I’m making two packs of bacon, Stiles, you’d better get in here and stop me!”
“The bond between Alpha and Emissary is a sacred one, one found in lore as old as the Universe. Portions of the Book of Proverbs, for example, were once considered to be about the advice given by one of history’s wisest Emissaries, though of course the era meant that the work was attributed to her Alpha, King Solomon.
The Emissary is the connection of the pack to the world, to humanity, to other packs. It is often the Emissary who smooths the way in negotiation, for example. Dire consequences can take place when the bond between Alpha and Emissary is weakened, such as was the case between the Hatfields and the McCoys, of American fame.
Their rank in the pack is equal to that of the Alpha, and a challenge to the pack Emissary is understood as a challenge to the Alpha. After all, the primary role of both the Alpha and the Emissary is to work together for the good of the pack. Rank structure would often preclude working through the challenges inherent in such a delicate relationship. The Emissary exists outside of beta, omega, or alpha secondary gender or pack rank cultural and social roles, though of course they retain their own gender and preferences for behavior.
Naturally, as we know, these are very different designations that coexist in each were, just as people can be alpha/beta/omega as well as masculine and/or feminine. Historically, most Emissaries were omega to the Alpha’s alpha. It must be made clear, however, that such secondgender designations or expectations in the AE bond are things of the past. Today, an Alpha and an Emissary may be of any primary gender or sex combination. There were concerted efforts in the 1960s and 1970s to undertake studies in this area, alongside the social justice that defined the era. Conclusively, researchers around the world agreed that the primary factor that supports a bond is not gender, but rather relationship. It is more and more common for an Emissary to be a Beta of any primary gender in a pack.
However, interpersonal relationships can be fraught with....”
The Emmisary and Gender: Vol IIV Paul Radishick (Page 437)
Stiles chewed the top of his pen, and thought. He really liked this arm of his research. He hated to think that he and Derek were traditional in any way, so Stiles generally didn’t mention his omega gender. Derek had a wolfy sniffer and a calendar. Stiles figured he had eyes, and could count. Unfortunately, Stiles’ body was typical of that of a male omega, and his cycle was a regular as his watch.
“Gross.” Scott teased, ripping the pen out of his hand, “Look at you, studying on Spring Break.”
“I...” Stiles gestured to the lanyard around his neck, “Am a working man. Story hour is soon, and I’ve got to get this reading done before Deaton castrates me.”
“Or you have to read Llama Llama to a bunch of four year olds.” Scott blinked, his puppy dog eyes slightly widened. He didn’t want to miss story hour. He’d been showing up every day for story hour groups now that he and Allison were home for the occasional visit. Stiles’ participants behaved better than Scott did, but it was a hoot to see Scotty sitting on a beanbag, actually invested in the stories.
“They love me.” Stiles retorted. He loved the four year old lunch bunch that came in on Tuesday. They brought their little lunch boxes, and generally, their Omega parent or their Beta mother. Sires rarely came to these things, which sucked, because patriarchy and Alphaist gender roles. Stiles loved the kids, and their earnest joy. They were Stiles’ captive audience, and he loved doing the voices. He totally rocked Skippyjon Jones. He loved to oversee their crafts. He mostly loved them because they were some of the only people on the planet who had more energy then he did.
“That’s because we both stopped aging at four.” Scott’s earnest gaze did not still the whirl of the question in Stiles’ mind. It had popped there, as he thought about his future, and now it wouldn’t leave. Pack dynamics had never been an issue for him, because he was content to tell anybody in the Hale pack to kiss his ass when needed. But this, this...
His friend picked up on the increase of his heart against his chest, “What?”
“What happens to pack dynamics when an alpha or an Emissary takes a mate?” Stiles did not like the lead weight in his gut, nor the tone of his own voice as it left his body.
If his rank in the pack was equal to that of the Alpha, then certainly it was equal to that of the Alpha’s mate. Stiles wondered fleetingly what the pack dynamics would be like if Derek mated an Omega. Stiles wasn’t stupid enough to think that he wouldn’t have instinctual issues to work through on that one, especially since Derek’s taste ran to stupid, pretty, and homicidal. “Or if the Emissary mates an outside Alpha?”
“Why?” Scott asked, knowing full well that Stiles was into Alphas, not that any had really looked his way. “Are you seeing somebody?”
“No.” Stiles punches Scott in the arm, “You’d know. But I just wonder, you know, academically...” That was enough, Stiles thought. There was nothing academic about it. He knew he wanted to be a parent, wanted to have a family, but stupid him hadn’t considered his future when agreeing to be Derek’s Emissary.
Well, that wasn’t true. He had considered his future, his magical, badass, future. He’d considered a huge part of himself, yeah, but there was also this soft part of him that just wanted to be able to do the things that his mother had done with him, that his father had done with him, with some little person who thought he...
Scott spoke, cutting off Stiles’ thoughts, “And?”
Stiles put the book down, and stood. He reached for the craft boxes he had prepared, “And because I don’t want to have to borrow other people’s preschoolers for the rest of my life.”
“You won’t.” Scott promised, reaching out to grip Stiles’ arm gently, “Remember that pact we made?”
“Dude, Allison would shoot you in the head with a laced bullet after she’d filled every crevice of your body with arrows.” Stiles shook his head, knowing that such a venture would destroy their friendship. It wasn’t something he wanted, not with Scotty.
He did not ever want to go there. But a bleary, sad, drunken confession after too many mixed drinks freshman year in college had Scott trying to be a good friend. “And our kids would be too inbred, but the offer to make friends with a specimen cup means a lot.”
“It stands, buddy.” Scott passed him a candy he’d been hogging by holding the glass bowl. “Have a chocolate…”
Stiles had his hands full, but he wasn’t about to say no to a chocolate. He needed the endorphins.
“Mr. Stiles!” A small voice hooted from the doorway, “I smell candy!”
Stiles pushed away his thoughts, and turned to greet the first arrival.
Story hour ended in just over an hour, and Stiles went back to shelving books. He enjoyed it, and this way he got some space to plan out the logistics for the Master Gardener who was coming next week to answer questions at the reference desk as part of their outreach with the county.
Stiles was in the teen fiction section when he felt someone behind him, and knew in an instant who was lingering there like a creeper wolf, “If you’re going to stare, you might as well shelve.”
Stiles gestured to the cart before Derek could speak. The broody man picked up a book and flipped through it, “There are a bunch of fairies in the kitchen.”
“Give them a bit of money and a couple lagers and burgers, the good kind, and ask them to leave. They’re wicked smart, but sometimes they hang out if they have something to say. I’d ask them for vacationing advice.” Stiles advised, “Now, if you don’t mind, the taxpayers don’t pay me and I actually have to work.”
“You could come home and deal with them.” Derek suggested, sniffing lightly, his voice tight with something that made Stiles want to comfort him.
“What?” Stiles knew that tensity in his voice. He’s heard it once and while. He’s never been able to figure out what it’s about, though.
“You stink.” Derek blurted.
That was offensive.
Yes. He was officially offended.
They were going to need counseling for this one.
“So do you.” And he did, like badly. Stiles stepped back as he gaped at Derek. He didn’t even want to breathe through his nose, “Literally. Dude, did you bathe in a pond? I read in Better Dens and Preserves that indoor plumbing is all the rage now.”
“You smell like cubs and sadness.” Derek is a growlerwolf on the best of days, but something in his tone pissed Stiles off.
Stiles is Pack, but he’s not bound by his role in the pack to tell Derek anything. Look at Deaton. Stiles couldn’t help but make a joke, though it came out sharp and and pointed, “The fragrance of parents everywhere.”
Except that he wasn’t one.
“What happened?” Derek pulled the books from Stiles’ slippery grip.
“Why are you here?” Stiles snapped, drained and so not up for this conversation. Derek was playing with fire acting like Stiles’ emotions were up for discussion. “I have to work! And Norah already thinks we screwed in the stacks! She doesn’t believe than she had a ghost! I haven’t told her that she has two, still.”
Horace and Ellen were nice. They’d had bit of furniture donated here, and they liked the kids. They wanted to hang around, and Stiles had no problem with them. Ellen gave him good advice on arranging book displays, and Horace was always a prankster. He liked to appear in photos.
Derek’s eyes flashed. “Norah clearly needs a workplace harassment seminar.”
Stiles spluttered, “Don’t start that shit.”
“You’re my Emmisary, Stiles.” Derek continued, “I am not the one responsible for fairies.”
“Go the fuck to In and Out and...” Stiles hotly began, shoving the last book on the shelf. Thinking over his planned words, Stiles abandoned them. He just could not deal right now. He needed fortification. “You’re buying me a 4x4, animal style...” Stiles paused as he walked towards his desk, “You know what, for this I get a 4x8, and I don’t care if you have to use your Alpha voice to get it.” In n’ Out had limited him to four pieces of cheese, but damn it, Stiles wasn’t going to be bossed around by some kid who got to eat more fries than should be legal.
Stiles loved his Bosch machine. He loved Heidi, and loved that he could mix up enough pasta to feed werewolves in ten minutes, and he loved that he could mill his own whole wheat flour to keep his father healthy.
Stiles spun away from the noodles he was cutting with his machine, and stirred the frying cabbage. They ate fried cabbage by the pound. Hell, Stiles was considering buying it wholesale. Stiles had made Dad some with SmartBalance, so he he checked on that quickly, hoping that Dad wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
He was cooking, jamming out to Shakira in Spanish now that he knew the translate spell, mostly because she was way better in Spanish, when his Dad came into the kitchen, “I heard you left work early.”
“Some fairies showed up and wanted to discuss a treaty. Derek was all thumbs.” Stiles focused on the work before him, and they lapsed into silence for a moment.
“Sorry, I’m not ignoring you.” Dad looked up from his phone, “I was just making sure our plane tickets for next week were booked. I got you the window seat, Stiles.”
Stiles dropped his slotted spoon, and blanched. There was no way he could go to Florida, the land of Polish retirees, now. Sure, they went every year. But this year, he just couldn’t. He couldn’t. Stiles forced his rabbiting heart to slow, even as he knew it was too late.
Derek was headed this way, could hear him padding down the stairs with wolfish speed. He didn’t even bother to pretend to hide his expectation to see some kind of evil force tearing apart the kitchen. God damn Emissary bond. “Stiles?”
Stiles wasn’t sure who spoke. Now, now because he was neck deep in emissary training, he had to break his Babcia’s old, frail, heart. He could not go to Florida, not when the trip fell on a full moon, which required some very specefic rituals. “Dad, I can’t go to Florida.”
“Sure you can!” Dad soothed, in that calm ‘my kid has panic attacks but I don’t judge him for them’ voice, “Mrs. Nowell is perfectly happy to give you the time off. Your library kiddos will be okay, Stiles.”
“This is not about my nesting instincts, okay, which I do not have.” Stiles hissed, glaring, ignoring the man who was now staring at him like the whole afternoon suddenly made sense.
Really, did his father have to bring up that shit? It was so not cool. Yeah, okay, maybe he did love his library kids, but that’s because they were awesome and not because his ovaries were ticking, “Because I do not have them. At all. What this is about, however, is Emissary school. I can’t just...”
“Oh.” Dad spoke as realization crowned in his eyes. He might know all about the World of Werewolves, but Dad still did not get that emissary training was a little more than just the books and cryptic words. Stiles didn’t blame him exactly, given that Deaton wasn’t a man of many words. “Well, I can tell Babacia that...”
“I’m tired of lying.” Stiles sighed, “Just tell her I ran away and joined up with a ragtag band of misfits.”
“Do you want to go to Florida?” Derek asked, crossing the room, and flicking off the burner that Stiles had, he supposed, forgotten, and moved towards the counter.
Stiles looked away, knowing that his father was perceptive. He did not want his father to see that beyond his logical full moon reasoning, another deeper feeling took root in his heart. 3000 miles between....
He just couldn’t leave.
Stiles spoke, “I can’t, Dad, I’m sorry.” Stiles hated disappointing his father, hating making Babcia sad. “I’ll tell her myself.”
“Kiddo, look.” Dad shook his head, trying to absolve him as he set about getting dinner out, “You’re fully grown up. You don’t need to apologize for having built yourself a life.”
Stiles tried to play this cool. “Dad, you told me to get my own place last week.”
“You threw away my hot dogs!” Dad started dishing up food on three plates, leaving Stiles to shove him away with an admonishing that it wasn’t ready, “I didn’t mean it. I never mean it, Myszko. Growing up is normal. Just don’t throw away my food.”
It was then that Stiles looked away, and saw Derek tapping away at the Macbook Pro he’d left sitting on the counter. Stiles ignored the twinge in his stomach when he looked at him. It was cramps, and not a thing else. “What are you doing?”
Derek didn’t look away from his screen as he explained nothing. “You need an Alpha to do the ritual, Stiles, not the entire pack.”
“I’m not taking Scott again.” Stiles insisted, “Babcia...” Babcia didn’t much like Scott.
Derek scowled, “Not Scott, you idiot.”
Stiles shook his head, knowing who Derek was talking about, realization dawning. “No!”
Dad tried to step in, but Stiles was an adult. “Stiles...”
Stiles focused on the issue at hand. An Alpha did not leave their territory. They just didn’t. It was Alpha 101, right after the whole bit about not stocking Glade in your house. “You would leave Beacon Hills unprotected?”
Derek continued typing and shrugged, “Chris owes me.”
“I’ve died.” Stiles said to the ceiling, before looking at Derek, who was rummaging in his backpack, “You’re working with Chris so you can go sun yourself?
“Don’t be stupid, Stiles.” Derek dismissed him, so Stiles turned back to his cooking. Too bad he didn’t keep wolfsbane in the kitchen with the spices, “Can I have the time off?”
“Shit, now you’re fraternizing?” Stiles rotated the pepper grinder with force, “Dad, he can’t come. Tell him you can’t give him the time off.”
“I can, actually, and I am.” Declared Dad, “Babcia always loves company. She’ll love Derek.”
“Derek, you know what I said about your absurd courtship of my father?” Stiles hissed, “It goes triple for my grandma.”
“Hey, now, I’m quite the catch!” Dad inserted, going right for the cabbage with real butter.
Visiting the home of another person can be fraught with concerns for a great many weres. Alphas typically, in the traditions of the past, saw the home as a very private space. This began to change in the Regency era, where Omegas would come calling with calling cards to socialize. These cards were not only gestures of introduction, they were also gestures of peaceful intentions. In modern times, a hostess gift generally suffices...”
-Omegaist Social Convention for the Modern Alpha, Emilia Fence
Stiles came out of the Omega bathroom, and wiped his hands on his jeans. He was glad he’d made it. Derek had been shoving water bottles at him for the entire flight. Dad and Derek had gone to secure the rental car, and Stiles had gone off on his own.
Making his way to the counter, Stiles heard a voice ask, “And are you sure there’s nothing more I can do for you, sir? I’m so sorry about the Taurus.” The beta at the counter tilted her head, exposing her pale neck.
Derek looked like such a confusedwolf that Stiles knew he had to help. The guy had, after all, come to Florida mostly to keep Dad happy and make Babcia’s summer. Stiles saddled up to the counter, smiling sunnily at the lady, “Did we happen to get the SUV?”
“Well, I’ve just been explaining to Mr. Hale that we’re fresh out in that category...” She smiled at Stiles, blinked once, and looked back at her computer terminal.
“I still have nightmares about stuffing everyone into that sedan when we went to Reno.” Stiles offered, “I think I spent the whole week cleaning it out just so we could all fit.” Stiles observed her aura, and knew an overworked carrier parent when he saw one. “I was sort of counting on this trip being different.”
A hot blush had stolen across the nape of Derek’s neck. “Stiles.”
She clicked a few times, “As it happens, we’ve got an X3 that just came back. I can knock the price down as we’re out in your chosen category, if you don’t mind a wait.”
“Bless you.” Stiles agreed, knowing full well he had led her to make assumptions, “We’ll wait.”
“Hey, I know how it is.” She smiled conspiratorially at Stiles, “My crossover is a gift from God. I cried the day I sold my Beetle.”
“Dude, my Jeep is forever thankful she’s the fun car.” Truthfully the Jeep was just to special to keep getting torn up and broken by the undead and the supernatural, “I’ve got a Volvo wagon. People laugh, but geez, my gas milage is amazing considering the storage space.” Dead bodies fit really well in the trunk, for example.
After they signed the papers and were walking away to find Dad to go to the shuttle busses, Derek rolled his eyes, “You...”
“Played her a little?” Stiles asked, hefting his carry on, “Yeah, yeah, I did.”
Derek’s eyebrows asked more questions than his words. Stiles still could not find his father, but perhaps that was to their benefit. “Why?”
“Dude, just wait. “ Stiles admonished, knowing there was no way in hell he was showing up in the Floridian version of Kraków in an entry level Ford. “In the meantime, your Alpha-ness, we need to go over the ground rules for interacting with my Babcia.”
Darek huffed, and shouldered his duffle as they moved toward the carousel. “Little old ladies love me.”
“She won’t.” Stiles lied, “Now, you can’t call her Babcia until she tells you to call her Babcia. Mrs. Stalinski will be okay, no need to offend her with your butchery of my native tongue. Never refuse food, do you hear me, never?”
Stiles didn’t wait for Derek to nod as he continued. Really, he would have done this on the plane if not for the snacks and the free movie, “If she asks you if you’re looking for a nice omega, tell her you’re gay and are looking for a nice male Alpha. She’ll introduce you to some people.”
Derek leveled him with a look.
Stiles tripped over his own feet as they walked through the throngs and then added, “Don’t worry, I’ll tell her you’re witth Danny.”
Derek rolled his eyes.
Stiles confided, “Danny told me he slipped you his number. That’s not actually all he wants to slip you, actually…”
Derek arched a brow as a beta male shot a look of censure in their direction. The beta stepped back slightly. Stiles did not need Derek's Brows of Doom to help him, but they were nice to have around.
“My babcia is very cool with modern morals, a total hippie.” Stiles hoped that Derek did not hear the uptick in his heart rate, which he covered up with bald truth, “She’ll even want to do up your bonding.”
“Stiles.” Derek growled, “Teeth.”
“Aw, you know you’re all bark and no bite.” Stiles teased, pausing only when they grabbed their luggage from the carosel and Stiles spotted his father.
Stiles rambled on as they got the luggage and cut through the people Dad, but it soon became clear that neither Derek nor his father was listening. Finally, after the luggage was loaded, Stiles said, “I’m driving.”
Both men seemed to take notice of him then. Derek plucked the keys from his hand, and opened the back door, “In.”
“Well, if you’re going to hold the door for a guy, at least you should open the correct door.” Stiles groused, but hopped in anyway. This way, he could hold the baked goods and snack a bit on the pączki in the back. He wanted a couple dozen kolache, too, never mind that it was summer.
As they made their way out of the airport and onto the interstate, Stiles moved his air vents, shoved up his sleeves, and sighed as the cool air pelted his neck ineffectually. “I swear to God, I’m going to get melanoma. I’m going to die.”
Derek looked effortlessly cool in the passenger seat, and Stiles blamed his need to be contrary in all things and in werewolf genetics.
Dad smiled, “At least then I’ll get to eat bacon and potato chips that haven’t had the flavor baked out of them.”
“Shut up, you know Babcia will feed you no matter what I say.” Stiles groused, “I’m only the one who manages your health, and what’s the thanks I get from your mother? A week long free for all.”
“This is my moderation week.” Dad returned, “Stiles, we have an agreement.”
They did, but they also had different definitions of moderation.
When they pulled up to the bakery near Babcia’s house, Stiles declared that it was too hot to get out of the car. He instead leaned back against the seat, cranked up Rod Stewart, and jolted when he heard Dad get out of the car. “Dad, wait.”
Dad waited while Stiles pushed the button to roll down the window. “What do you want me to get you, Stiles?”
“Shit, in all my fantasizing about two dozen apple kolache, I forgot.” Stiles jammed Derek in the shoulder with his thumb, “Give Dad your visa. You want two loves of the good bread, and some cookies.”
“Wait—” Dad began from where he was leaning by the window, but Derek was already fishing out the AmEx, just to be contrary.
“If you think I’m letting him go anywhere without a gift, you’re insane.” Stiles retorted by way of explanation, “The cookies are for me, though. I need fortification, and technically, I’m on overtime.”
Derek was already moving to pass Dad the card. His father headed away as Derek asked, “Since when is being an emissary an hourly thing?”
“It isn’t.” Stiles affirmed, “But since I saved your ass from offending my Grandma, I get cookies.”
When Dad was out of earshot, Derek posited, “I think you enjoy bitching at me to feed you.”
“Life’s little pleasures.” Stiles crossed his ankles, “I’m a staid old man. Take my cheap thrills, why don’t you?”
Derek all but snorted, “You’re hardly cheap.”
Stiles turned up his iPod, “You get what you pay for, alpha mine.”
“Stiles—” Clearly, Derek still felt weird about taking out a woman he’d first gotten to know when she was working undercover to bust men picking up sex workers. There wasn’t a thing wrong with that meeting, after all, many people met at work. However, something about the way she’d treated Derek had just struck Stiles as odd. She hadn’t accepted the part of him that was, and always would be, the Alpha of the Hale pack.
“I’m enlightened.” Stiles vollied back, “And I’m sure officer Johnson was a very pleasant companion.”
Derek took a swig of his own water, “She was, up until you crashed the date.”
“Can I help it that you were needed?” Stiles shot back, “I’m magical, not a miracle worker.”
Derek pinched the bridge of his nose, “I swear to God, Stiles.”
“You know, you never tell me what you’re swearing.” Stiles spoke around June Carter’s warbling voice that was flooding his ears.
“I’ll end you, I swear it.” Derek growled, “I will end you.”
Stiles wasn’t worried. “Ah, but who else would understand your furry proclivities?”
Derek caught his eyes in the rearview mirror. Stiles was certain that was not the mirror’s purpose. “I am not furry!”
“Based on the Urban Dictionary, you kind of are, dude.” Stiles had the screenshots to prove it.
This clearly was not Derek’s main point, though Stiles did not have the energy to explain the distinctions between the two things. “Jesus Christ, Lycanthropy is not a fetish.”
“Poor, poor, innocent Derek.” Stiles mused, flipping through a few more songs, “You could make a killing if only you opened your eyeballs.”
“You’d shoot me.” His intent was to get Stiles to stop messing with him, but it hadn’t worked yet. Stiles was wise to his game.
“Only because Issac needs a stable home life.” Stiles agreed, “Once he’s 65 or so, dude, the webcam’s your oyster.”
“Family dynamics are, as a general rule, complicated in our world. It has been postulated that without pack dynamics and secondary gender, our social roles would instead be defined via the binary distinction common to many animals,‘male’ or ‘female.’ Since, however, we know these characteristics exist on a scale, these binary designations exist only in the world of science fiction for humanity, as a way to better help us under the complexity of our sex and dynamic triad. Thereby, such simplification is isolationist and not very useful when discussing modern families.”
Robin Pasqual-Yencha, Ph.D (Gender Representations, Chapter 4: Family Systems: A Multisystems Approach, page 193).
The driveway was packed. Stiles knew that Derek must terrified. The emotion is so palpable he can feel it. Stiles slid down from the seat, and whispers, “It’s normal. Just smile and nod.”
Then the floodgates opened, and Dad was being swept into a big hug, and someone else was yelling, “John is home!”
The exclamation set off a flood of people spilling into the yard, aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, great aunts and uncles, and fucking hell, everyone. Everyone from his father’s side has gathered here in their annual pilgrimage to a central location.
There are hugs and pats on the shoulder, and Stiles knew again the warmth of being around people who know him, the parts of him that not even his pack knows.
“Oh!” Aunt Weronika exclaimed, “Mama, come see Stiles!”
Derek’s been pulled away by some well meaning relative, but Babcia’s voice rang out in that matronly way of hers, Stiles, you’re too thin. Have you been eating? I can see your hipbones.”
“Babcia.” Stiles sighed, “Thanks for letting Derek come along with us.”
“Your father explained it to me. I’m old, I’ve got guest rooms. What’s the sense of having space with no one in it?” She waved Stiles off, and turned her gaze to Derek, who had been freed just in time to face consideration. He began to formally offer the bread, but Babcia cut him off with a smile and a hug.
“How nice, you brought bread. Thank you. You must be hungry after your trip. They never feed you on arlines anymore. A sin and a crime for what a hassle air travel has become. You should have flown in 1955, now that was travel.” She took the box and passed it to Aunt Vicky, and said, “We’ll get you a plate, Derek and introduce you to the family. Everyone wants to meet you. Stiles knows what you’ll eat, I’m sure.”
She looked away from Derek and back at Stiles, “Stiles, you go and make Derek a plate, won’t you?” Having issued her orders, she took Derek’s arm and led him through the loud throng of people, “First you’ll meet the Father, of course. Then all the Aunts.” Stiles didn’t hear any more, because he himself was pulled away by his cousin Bernice.
Bernice turned to Stiles, “He’s hot.” She sipped her soda, “Does he have a partner?”
“Bernie...” Stiles confided, “Trust me when I say you don’t want to go there.” Bernie was a beta, a confident sort of girl, not much younger than Stiles. She had grown up mostly in Poland and Chicago, just as his parents once had. Stiles really liked Chicago, but Beacon Hills was home. He was a Californian to the core.
“Whatever.” Bernie rolled her eyes, as a passel of smaller children came along and piled on Stiles, loud voices and calming scents all around. Stiles loved his cousins, and somehow ended up with his cousin’s daughter on his hip, her pudgy arms around his neck. “Come on, I’m hungry.”
Eva ran off screaming as they came into the house, her older brother crying out,“Stiles is home!’ Stiles hastened to the kitchen before his relatives foisted a baby off on him. He was hungry, and he needed to reapply his sunscreen.
When he passed through the dining room, he spied Derek, sitting in a chair. Derek looked up at him as he came into the room, and the message behind his eyes was clear. You’re getting a sick sort of thrill watching your great aunt grill me about NYU, aren’t you?
Stiles was piling food onto his own plate in the kitchen when he bumped into his father once again. His dad was chowing down, and it took all of Stiles’ willpower not to tear the plate from his hands. “You’re going on a soup diet when we’re home. Soup and water.”
“Go rescue Derek, kid.” Dad chewed on his food, “Aunt Heddy is starting in on her opinions about Modernist art.”
Stiles picked up the plate of food, and carried it into the dining room. “Aunt Heddy, please leave Derek alone. He’s an architect. He’s put his art school days to use, okay?”
Stiles set down the plate of food, outlining the various dishes. “The beets might kill you, but eat them anyway.” He flicked a knowing gaze at Derek, “I’m not eating right now.”
“Stiles OD’d on his Ritalin again, John!” Uncle David called out from where he had been stuffing his face, “It’s no wonder you’re unbonded yet, Stiles. Those chemicals mess up your scent.”
“I do not need a lecture on my own biochemistry.” Stiles returned, “And you don’t need to snitch. It’s hot. I’m melting. Why do Poles commune in Florida? I hear Sydney is nice this time of year.”
“What’s this I hear about Stiles being on the narcotics?” Babcia swept into the room with yet another plate piled with food, “Eat, Stiles.”
Stiles sat at the plate Babcia placed on the table across from Derek.
Stiles picked up his fork.
Derek picked up his fork.
Stupid alpha bullshit.
Stiles sipped his water, trying to direct this conversation, “Uncle David is an engineer.”
“Biochemical.” Uncle David informed Derek, “What do you do?”
Hadn’t Stiles literally just told them all? Did no one listen to him?
“I’m a Deputy in Beacon Hills. That pays the bills. I’m also using my degrees to freelance designing sustainable housing for low-income families.” Derek offered, stringing more words together than he had in a long time about his work, “I also have a lot of work managing my family’s foundation, but Stiles does most of that, honestly.”
“I’m very good at record keeping.” Stiles snarked, leaving Derek to roll his eyes gently. That didn’t even begin to describe his work, but Weres weren’t exactly common knowledge.
“I thought you were a librarian.” Uncle David swallowed his pasta salad, “What are you doing taking dictation? Shouldn’t he get a beta secretary, or an alpha one?”
“David, be quiet.” Babcia commanded, flitting around as she did when her house was full and she was gaining power from their bustling, “You’re acting like a foolish old man. Those things don’t matter. Stiles is good at what he does, and I’m certain that Mr. Hale couldn’t function without him.”
“Mama...” Uncle David sighed, and pointed his fork at Stiles,“I suppose that boy is contented with your relationship.”
“Scott has a wife.” Derek reminded him.
“I hardly think an overgrown child should be—” Uncle David began, but Stiles had had enough of this for a lifetime.
“Shut up about Scott.” Stiles wanted to bash Derek’s head in, but he looked away instead.
Uncle David blustered, “You see those manners, Heddy?”
Aunt Heddy tsk-tsk’d.
“Stiles said shut up!” Fred, his actual seven year old cousin, hollered as he zoomed past in a Hulk cape. The children playing with him made skittering noises that Stiles knew to be admiration at his boldness.
Stiles pulled up his nose at the gaggle of children, and addressed the tiny tattletale. “Stiles also says get me some water, Freddy.”
His sister, Julia, returned. “Why?” She was always asking why, and Stiles loved her for it.
Stiles channelled his inner wicked witch of the West. “Because it’s hot and I’m melting!”
Derek interjected, spoon digging into his potatoes, having made short work of his plate. “Are you going to complain about the heat for the entire visit?”
“Yes.” Stiles affirmed, “It’s a byproduct of taking Stiles out of his natural habitat. I’m like a lemur, I’m very sensative to changes in my environ. You should know this and plan accordingly.”
Derek lied to Stiles’ face. His alpha voice so could have done it. “I couldn’t put that fan with the water spritzer in my carry on.”
“There is a difference between would not and could not.” Stiles declared, happy to see his Grandmother sitting down to eat her own meal, “Ask Babcia, she’s a teacher. She is a knower of all things.”
“Get on with you, Stiles.” Babcia blushed, finally having sat down with her own plate. She had barely eaten a bite before she was evaluating his own plate, “If you don’t like what’s on offer, I could make you up some eggs and toast, or something.”
Uncle David looked to his mother and his wife, “What about that female Alpha who was courting him?”
“Uncle David!” Stiles blurted, wondering if this was penance for some unnamed crime. He’d killed a few times, but it had always been justified and the human lives had already been gone, leaving only miserable, murdering, human husks behind. Surely this torture beyond the scope of any of his wrongdoings.
“That Martin girl never courted him, thank God. She didn’t appreciate Stiles’ nature. She despised his omega traits. Wanted him to be a beta.” Aunt Heddy asserted, “And anyway, from what I saw, she didn’t like children.”
“I for one never thought that serious.” Babcia interjected.
“Well, I personally think….” Uncle David was never one to let anyone else have the last word.
Stiles resolutely did not look at Derek. They’d all been told he was a friend, a colleague, and clearly they didn’t want him to have a friend. Stiles could not look.
“I’m fine, this is just great just—” Stiles broke off when he saw his dad sneaking back into the dining room with yet another plate of food, “Dad, no.” Stiles cried, “No more food. Eat some fruit.”
“Stiles, your father is a grown man.” Babcia chastened gently, totally unaware of his building panic, “You should eat like your father.”
“And if you want to block your arteries, I shouldn’t care?” Stiles returned, “Well, I do.”
Dad sat down at his place next to Babcia, “But I only get real food once a year.”
“And what do I cook, cardboard?” Stiles began, and he felt a full on rant coming. He was good cook, but that really wasn’t the issue. His father could get sick and die, he could lose his father, if his father didn’t eat right. Stiles didn’t know what he would do if his Dad...if his Dad wasn’t here, and Stiles could have prevented it. “I’ll have you know...”
Stiles tried to hide the pounding of his heart with a joke. The fingertip on the back of his wrist was soothing. It was under the table and Stiles felt the heat of Derek’s hand on his thigh, where his own hand had been resting. “Stiles.”
“Fun sucker.” Stiles retorted, understanding that not being alone went both ways. Pack was pack. Stupid contentment that rushed through his veins at that instinctual touch. Stupid Derek for caring, for understanding, the things that not even their bond could express. “I’ll get the fruit.”
Stiles skipped Bingo, and for the first time in his life, no one bitched about his heathen ways. He’d simply said that going to a Polish gathering was not fair to Derek. He’d go on Sunday, he said, when he felt more up to being a translator. Instead, they stayed back and did the dishes.
Unfortunately, it gave them too much proximity for a conversation that Stiles knew had been coming since Derek had realized that Babcia wasn’t alone in this huge house. “Why haven’t you ever told anyone you have a huge family?”
“It didn’t seem right, not when...” Stiles broke off, the words left unsaid yet understood by the both of them as Derek continued washing plates, “I think my family might have been a lot like yours.”
“A little.” Derek allowed, passing Stiles a plate to dry, “My family was pretty WASPy, but they would have liked your Babcia. They never let their hair down much, but they would have liked all the kids.”
Stiles felt the pain, so real it was a physical reality, in Derek’s voice. “I’m sorry.”
“No.” Derek shook his head, though his hands were trembling.“You’re not…” Derek broke off, “Don’t apologize.”
“Hey...” Stiles reached out, just to touch Derek’s arm in a gesture of empathy, but he ended up burrowing against his chest, his hip bumping the counter, his head buried against Derek. Stiles knew he had started it, but the response from Derek was automatic. The hug, the scenting, said more than words ever could. Derek knew he was not alone, not when he had base notes of Ritalin, tea, and magic, fusing with his own base notes of leather, guns, and his books.
Stiles felt himself sliding mentally, and knew he had to say something, knew he had to tell Derek he was heading fast towards a lovely, floaty, headspace that was solely the territory of omega biology.
It wasn’t headspace like they talked about in novels or on Reddit. Rather, it was a biological and emotional reaction to feelings of safety, understanding. It wasn’t a sex thing.
It was not right to drop without asking, without securing consent, which is partly when it was totally divorced from sex in sex education classes. You couldn’t consent to sex during a drop, so by keeping things separate, well...it helped to educate partners to know when informed consent was possible, and when it wasn’t. “I...”
This had happened before, of course, as recently as last week. The first time had been ages, years really, ago, during pack movie night. Stiles had ended shoved up against Derek on the sofa, and the feeling of safety and comfort had been so calming and so welcome in the face of all that kamina business that Stiles had gone with it, despite promising himself that he would never want to drop. Until he did, until he wanted it so badly that he hadn’t realized he’d crossed a line. And he’d fled the couch, because, like, you don’t drop on somebody without a conversation, a plan.
Stiles sighed. “I should go.”
“If you want.” Derek’s hold loosened, “The choice is yours.”
“Fuck.” Stiles stepped away, “I’m not going to use you. Being here just stresses me the fuck out. It’s not fair, not when you’d give…”
“Anything to have my family back, yeah.” Derek replied, “Don’t worry, I can admit it without wolfing out. I’ve had therapy.”
Stiles knew, they’d talked about it on one of those nights when the loss of a parent looms so large that all Stiles wanted to do was talk about Mom and not have it be a Thing like it was to Scotty. “I have too. Doesn’t make it easier. Just, please. Don’t…brood on me, man.” Stiles shoved his hands in his pockets and rocked back on his heels, “You have a pack. You’re not alone.”
Derek’s eyebrows shifted, “I know. I’m not Laura, but…”
Stiles knew what it was to struggle with the onset of unwanted group dynamics. He’d wanted to be a beta, desperately, even as he’d known he was as omega as anything. He’d spent years struggling with a desire to accept himself and not sacrifice other things he loved about himself.
“I never wanted to date Lydia.” Stiles blurted, telling Derek something not even Scott knew, “I…I admired her. She was all the things I wanted to be, until one day I didn’t want to be those things, not anymore.” Stiles had struggled with his gender issues, puberty setting in just as his omega mother had died, “I just, I was dealing with some gender issues, and Lydia was all the right things, until I realized that alpha doesn’t mean kickass. Nor does omega mean weak or ineffective. It was just easier to say I liked her. Shit, I never meant to tell you that, I just meant to say, you know, it’s okay to struggle.”
Derek smiled, and they turned their attention to the dishes, working in tandem to clean the kitchen and set a pot of coffee to brewing. When everyone returned, the house would once again be alive with energy. For now, though, Stiles appreciated the quiet that bloomed between them over the The Boss’ words in a sparkling kitchen that smelled of leather, gun oil, inky paper and the faint tinge of tannin and magic.