"You weren't... terrible," Scott offers, and while he's not lying, it's also not really the most reassuring thing he could say.
This topic, Derek's previous Alpha status and Scott's current one, comes up every few months, more when there's the prospect of the entire pack being together. Derek's actually pretty tired of rehashing it. He'd prefer to let the whole subject die naturally however they're in a pack with only three werewolves and four humans. Derek's pretty sure it's unusual to be outnumbered and this is why the conversation has circled around, because he's started making noises about maybe recruiting and Scott is deflecting.
He doesn't mean that Scott should go out and bite a bunch of kids. That plan of action obviously didn't exactly pan out as expected. There's packs to the North and South though where the territory is too small to sustain the number of wolves on it. They have the whole of Beacon Hills, lots of old growth forest and a friendly police force.
They could pretty much interview and pick whoever they liked.
"Like Werewolf Idol?" Stiles asks when Derek changes tack and decides to try and get Stiles to listen to reason and then pass it on. Scott attempts to treat them all equally, fairly, but he still leans on Stiles more than anyone. Stiles is at college now, two hours away, but Derek can hear him and Scott nightly on Skype in the small apartment Derek, Scott and Isaac share.
"No," Derek says flatly. He's trying to remember why it is he thought he ever missed Stiles being around.
"Seriously, if it's a three-wolf judge panel, we automatically have the two nice judges and the scowl-y one. It's perfect. You can make them sing rock ballads where a wolf is the theme. Uh, Hungry Like The Wolf aaaaand-"
"Stiles," Derek says, half to get him to stop, and half to point out that the bartender is in front of them and waiting for their order.
After they've ordered Stiles thankfully changes topics and Derek lets him. They're leaning against the bar, Stiles babbling about the summer blockbusters he just has to see when his eyes widen and he hunches down, cheeks flooding pink. "Oh craaaaap," he breathes.
Derek's about to ask what his problem is when he catches it, underneath the smell of sweat and old liquor, the scent of an unfamiliar wolf. Derek turns immediately but Stiles grabs desperately at his arm.
"Don't look over!"
"Stiles, how did you know there was a wolf?" Derek asks, mystified how their pack human can pick one out of a crowd before he can. Derek's senses might be a little more muted now he's fallen from Alpha to beta but he didn't think they were that bad.
"Okay, so you know how I'm not a virgin anymore?" Stiles begins and Derek's about to deny specifics, because Stiles didn't actually tell him, but then he sighs and nods. Stiles just rolls his eyes, probably more at the hedging pause than at the invasion of privacy. "So, that's Jeremy."
"What's Jeremy?" Derek asks automatically, but with Stiles' raised eyebrows, he gets it in neon flashing lights. After a minute pause where he can scrape his wits together enough, he manages an exasperated "Stiles!" A relationship with a wolf from another pack, even an omega, is a delicate balancing act and one Derek is pretty sure Stiles is not equipped for.
"Shhhh... oh dammit, now he's coming over!" Stiles groans and then he's clutching at Derek like a spindly armed limpet.
"What are you doing?" Derek asks flatly.
"Okay, I know this is a huge stretch for you, but can you please pretend you're like, into me? After we hooked up a few times, Jeremy started getting weirdly possessive so I told him that I had a one-true-boo at home."
This is all said in a low, pleading whisper. Derek knows with the crowd and the music the other wolf probably won't be able to hear them but he still curls into Stiles and in the same low voice says, "You do realize that you cheated on me in this scenario?"
"Not you specifically," Stiles defends. "Just some nebulous other being. I didn't really have to specify because I didn't think he'd ever be in Beacon Hills."
"You think he followed you here?" Derek realizes belatedly that he's growling around fangs at the very idea and tries pretty unsuccessfully to curl his lips over them to hide it. From Stiles' definite side-eye he fails, but then the other wolf is there and it's too late for Stiles to do anything but turn, arms hooked around Derek's neck and a fake surprised smile on his face.
"Jeremy, hi," Stiles says too brightly. Derek sees Scott start to rise over Stiles' shoulder on the other side of the room and gives the smallest shake of the head he can manage. Scott lowers down again, but carefully and he's leaning into Kira, Lydia, Allison and Isaac, having a hurried conversation that probably involves flanking maneuvers.
"Stiles, so nice to see you," Jeremy says, a little more subdued.
"What brings you to Beacon Hills of all places?" Stiles asks. His voice is way too high-pitched and Derek pinches his side, making Stiles jerk and curl into him.
"I was visiting friends in Silver Lakes. I just stopped in for a drink on the way. I totally forgot this is where you're from."
It's a blatant lie, and Jeremy knows Derek's a werewolf so it's also a challenge. Derek rises from his slump against the bar, the movement pulling Stiles more flush along his side. Derek knows what this is even if Stiles doesn't.
"What pack are you from?" Derek asks. It's pretty rude to demand to know so abruptly, but Jeremy's already overstepped coming into a claimed territory unannounced to piss on the ground, so to speak, so Derek isn't really keen to stand on ceremony about it.
Jeremy's nostrils flare in an unattractive way, but despite it, Derek can't help but notice that Jeremy looks eerily like him. Stiles is looking between them, and it seems like he's only just noticed this fact himself if his high blush is anything to go by. Derek files that little tidbit away for later.
"I'm not sure if that's any of your business. Derek, right?" Jeremy says through clenched teeth and Derek raises an eyebrow at Stiles, who ducks his face. So much for Stiles' pretend boyfriend being a nebulous figment.
"Jeremy, don't be an ass-" Stiles starts to say.
"So, Derek. Did you know that your little boyfriend here started giving it away as soon as he was out of your sight line?" Jeremy continues conversationally, reaching out a hand to run fingers down Stiles' bicep. "He's a complete-"
Jeremy's words die in a strangled exhalation as Derek is suddenly holding him down by the throat against the bar top. The people that had been nearby scuttle away, leaving a cleared space with only Derek, Stiles and Jeremy in it. Derek's pretty sure he smacked Jeremy's face on the bar hard enough to break his cheek but right now he's seeing red. Literal red.
"Derek, your eyes-" Stiles starts to say, mouth dropping open. Jeremy lets out a submissive whine just as Scott reaches them, his concern palpable in the air. It's not as thick as Jeremy's scent of confusion and fear though, the knowledge that whatever he thought he was going to achieve here tonight, he made a grave miscalculation.
Derek leans down into Jeremy, presses into the back of his neck, "You so much as see Stiles on the other side of the campus when you're back at school, you run as fast as you can in the other direction. Do you understand?"
"Yes," Jeremy squeaks and Derek releases him, stepping away. The bartender, a werewolf named Jenny who's never been interested in Scott's pack, happy to be on her own, looks completely unimpressed as she tosses a rag at Derek and says, "Clean that up, moron, then you're all banned for a month," waving an annoyed hand at the spray of blood on the bar left behind when Derek lets Jeremy up.
"Sorry, Jen, really," Scott is quick to say, taking hold of Jeremy by the scruff and leading him away as soon as Derek releases him. The bar patrons edge back in, disappointed there wasn't a real fight and intent on continuing drinking while Derek lets himself be towed towards the bathroom by Stiles after he swipes halfheartedly at the bar top for about thirty seconds before Jenny waves him off with an irritated snort.
It's there, almost bright and cloying, the scent of arousal. Derek's surprised to find how much he missed it, even if it made his and Stiles' earliest interactions kind of awkward. It had faded out, along with the desperate longing Stiles reeked of around Lydia, as he'd grown more into his skin the last few years of high school.
Derek had figured he'd missed his window, disappointed that Stiles' interest in him had only been while Stiles was too young to understand what he would be signing up for. Derek can't help but feel though that this resurgence is mostly adrenalin and not a great deal to do with him.
He can almost see the way Stiles is jigging behind him without even looking. He's always so aware of Stiles and that awareness hadn't magically switched off with Stiles leaving for college like Derek had hoped it would. Stiles had always been underfoot, especially the last summer he'd been at home, pushing in and taking space in Derek's loft and his life like he'd been entitled to it. Derek had given up the loft when Stiles had moved away because it had felt far too empty without him and he'd thought maybe sharing a place with Scott and Isaac would give him the same kind of filled up sense of contentment, but it hadn't.
Stiles finally seems to get sick of waiting for Derek to do or say anything because he starts with, "Your eyes were-"
"It's not just a color thing, Stiles. We can feel it. They were red."
"Just for a second, yeah."
"It doesn't mean anything."
"What are you talking about? You can't just say it doesn't mean anything. You were true alpha-ing out there."
"It's different. It's rare but it can happen when we feel... when territory is threatened."
"I'm territory?" Stiles asks after a pause, a note of disappointment washing out the awed excitement that had been making him so vibrant only a few seconds ago.
"Y'know that whole mothers lifting buses off their kids thing? It's like an adrenalin reaction. It doesn't-"
"Mean anything. Yeah, you already..." Stiles' scent is now turning truly sour and Derek wrinkles his nose but then it spikes with something sharp and Stiles is at his back, forcibly turning Derek around. "Y'know what? I call bullshit."
"You can't just-"
"Yeah, I can. Maybe the red-eye thing was just adrenalin, but it wasn't because I'm territory. It's because I'm important to you. Why can't you just admit that?"
"Of course you're important," Derek says, tempers his admission with, "To the pack."
"Nope, no take-backs," Stiles says, grabbing at Derek's shirt, fisting the material at his hips and bunching it. Derek could break his hold, but he doesn't want to. What he wants to break is his vicious cycle of yearning that's not doing anyone any good. The denial that's not doing him any favors.
"I have to warn you, I've heard relationships based on intense experiences never work," Derek says, wondering if he'll forever be having to turn off his own wants just to do the right thing.
"Oh my god, dude. If you're quoting Speed at me then I have to propose right now."
Derek blinks, because that isn't exactly what he was expecting Stiles' response to be. Stiles is giving him this happy little grin, hands still clenched in Derek's shirt and mouth open and inviting like it always is. Derek leans forward and takes a deeper lungful and fights down through the layers. The arousal is definitely there and pungently present, trying to overlay everything else but there's an end-note to Stiles' smell, something older and more settled.
"Wait, do you-?"
"Derek, I've been head over sneakers for you basically since we saw you in the woods that first day. I think I discovered I batted for both teams the moment you told us we were trespassing on your property like the grumpy old man you are."
"I didn't... you haven't really..." Derek would love to be able to finish a sentence right now but he seems to have lost the ability. He knows Stiles has always been attracted to him, but he figured that's as far as it went. He thought as soon as Stiles got to college and he was surrounded by people that didn't grow up with him being the gawky, E.T. looking Sheriff's kid, he'd realize his options weren't limited to a messed up werewolf with abandonment issues.
"Despite evidence to the contrary, I can take a hint. You didn't think of me that way and-"
"I did," Derek interrupts, feeling vaguely proud of himself for finishing a thought, even if it was only two words long.
"You... did?" Stiles repeats, brows drawn down and incomprehension on his features. Derek knows what that expression means, it's Stiles' does not compute face.
"You were young. You are young. You have other options."
"No, I don't."
For a moment, Derek thinks he's being his same old, self-deprecating Stiles, but then it occurs to him that that is not what Stiles means at all. He doesn't have other options because to him, Derek is his only one.
The knowledge nearly knocks Derek on his ass.
"As much as I have many and varied fantasies about bar bathrooms, I'd rather maybe the first phase of you ravishing me takes place somewhere a little less grimy," Stiles says with a cheeky little grin.
"You mean maybe the apartment that I share with two other werewolves?" Derek asks.
"I mean, maybe the motel that's attached to this bar. Or is that too tawdry?"
Derek smirks, leaning in further to bite at Stiles' lower lip, feeling reckless and tentatively happy. "I think it's just tawdry enough."
"I'm not a sled dog."
"Sorry, that's my one dog joke for the night, I swear," Stiles promises.
Derek doesn't bother to hold Stiles in place, knowing he's good to cling like a monkey. He also doesn't shrug Stiles off when he enters the motel office, Stiles pressing his hot, amused face into the back of Derek's neck as Derek blandly offers his credit card and gets them a room from the clerk like he doesn't have a guy making like a turtle shell on his back.
"You are the absolute best," Stiles sighs as Derek swings them back out of the office with a key in one hand and a bucket for ice in the other, his wallet dropped casually in the latter.
"I try," Derek says, instead of explaining how Stiles' amusement and cheer are almost potent enough that he can taste them on his tongue and there's nothing like it, no scent better.
Stiles is still on his back when Derek opens the room at the end that he'd requested. He flips Stiles expertly over his shoulder and onto the bed as soon as they're through the door. The bed creaks ominously and Stiles pulls a hilariously startled face before scrambling off it. "Um."
"Maybe we should..." Derek says, starting to tug the bed clothes off and Stiles quickly gets with the program, darting over to a closet door next to the bathroom and tugging free three extra pillows and two blankets to add to the nest Derek's building on the floor.
"Much sturdier," Stiles says, leaning over to pat the floor and the veritable blanket fort they've constructed when they finish. Derek flops onto it, tugs Stiles down and Stiles goes with a laugh, especially when he accidentally elbows Derek in the belly.
"God, your elbows should be registered weapons," Derek wheezes.
"Ke-yah!" Stiles crows, brandishing said elbows, squawking in protest when Derek flips him onto his back and puts knees on Stiles' flailing arms. Derek backs off immediately, wary that Stiles might not like to be pinned, but Stiles' whole body hitches after him like he enjoyed the contact, and Derek lowers himself back down, more carefully this time.
"I knew you'd be funny," Stiles says, running contemplative fingers up the middle of Derek's chest before hooking a finger in his collar and tugging.
"My dad always said he knew my mom was the one because she could make him laugh even on their worst days."
"Stiles," Derek says, catching Stiles' wandering hand and kissing his fingers. Stiles watches him, eyes liquid in the dim light of the room. The bedside lamp is on but Derek hadn't bothered with the overhead light and he's glad for it now, he's always liked the planes and angles of Stiles in the shadows.
Stiles cranes up then and they're kissing. There's no real lead-up to it, no heat yet but a feeling of such overwhelming rightness that Derek could kick himself for not doing this sooner. He's still got a hold of Stiles' hand and he tugs it up and over his neck, Stiles' fingers immediately threading through the fine hairs at his nape, making his shiver.
"I wish I'd... I wish you'd been-" Stiles says but Derek leans down, eats Stiles' words, takes them in. He knows what Stiles is saying. He can only promise to make up for that failing with everything he has.
Stiles has come twice, once in Derek's mouth and once while Derek was inside him. Derek is achingly close, still inside, but he's not quite there yet and Stiles is starting to smell like surrender.
"Wow, is that a werewolf thing? Because Jeremy-"
"Stiles," Derek interrupts, resisting the urge to smack a hand to his face, or maybe the back of Stiles' head. "Number one, don't mention another werewolf when we're in bed, even Scott."
"Ew, no, why would I do that?" Stiles splutters, scrunching up his nose.
"And two, how should I know? I've never taken a stamina poll." Derek knows it's coming as soon as he's said the words. It's inevitable as the tides, no way to stop it.
"You have a stamina pole," Stiles cries gleefully.
"There must be something really wrong with me that I even find your bad jokes a turn on," Derek grumbles.
"You enjoy my foibles. That's probably lucky for me because I have a..oh god...a lot of them." Derek doesn't feel the least bit sorry interrupting Stiles by starting to move inside him again while he's babbling.
"Three," Derek says and Stiles makes a show of giving him an attentive face even though he'd accused Derek of turning his brain to pudding only a short while ago. "Don't run yourself down so much. I don't enjoy that."
"Seriously, and I don't want you to get Jackson-level full of yourself, but you don't deserve it. I know you haven't noticed but you're pretty great."
"Is it weird we're having this feels-laden conversation while your doing... uh, that?"
"I can multitask."
"I'm a... fan, oh yeah," Stiles' sentence derails into a bitten off moan. "I can definitely keep going. I'll tell you if I get over...uhn, sensitive."
Derek drops kisses against Stiles' collarbones, up the line of his throat, making tiny little hitching thrusts because it feels that good to be inside of someone he loves. He startles to a dead stop and Stiles grips his forearms, squeezing. "Hey, what's-"
"I love you," Derek says because he can't bite the words back behind his teeth now that they're there at the forefront of his brain. It's suddenly impossible.
"I love you too. Like, for years."
"You don't think it's a bit sudden?"
"Derek, we have the most un-sudden love in the history of ever. It's taken a long ass time." Stiles smacks him on the forehead. "Speaking of asses-"
"Oh my god," Derek groans, but he's moving again because he can't help it. Stiles is digging heels that are about as sharp as his elbows into Derek's back and he's prattling on about how they've been circling this thing for so long and how much of a dumbass Derek is and he-
Derek wouldn't have it any other way.
"Ha! Totally going to be my new facebook profile picture," Stiles says, aiming the phone down at himself and tilting it in different directions with a concerted frown on his face, simple task made difficult by his arms being rendered to a noodle-like consistency if his flailing and huffing is anything to go by. "Right next to my updated relationship status of bet you wish your girlfriend was hot like mine."
"That's not the way the song goes."
"You'd know, dork."
"Give me that before you instagram your penis to the whole pack," Derek says, snatching the phone.
"Wouldn't be the first time," Stiles sighs, flopping back. Derek lines up the shot, but at the last moment he flips around, takes a selfie-angle picture of he and Stiles, him with his mouth open on Stiles' cheek and Stiles wheezing with indignation.
"Dude, that's-" Stiles starts to protest when Derek releases him, but then he's got the phone and his expression goes all syrupy and content. "Okay, yeah. Much better."
"You don't think it will break Scott's brain?"
"I think he still owes us from having a close-up of Allison's dimple as his Facebook photo for a month when they started dating. He called it arty but I still say it just looked like a butt."
"Is that what you want?" Derek asks, circling back to something Stiles said earlier because he's obviously a glutton for punishment.
"The... not a girlfriend but-"
"I mean, yeah. I thought that was already decided." Stiles starts tugging away a little but Derek reels him back in immediately, making sure to paw him all over until Stiles is squirming happily.
"We're going to drive everyone, including each other, crazy."
"Ah, my life's work fulfilled," Stiles says, then he's tapping fingers on Derek's brow. "Plus, I think in this instance, we were the last ones to get out of oblivious town. I think the others have been bracing for this for a while."
"Dude, Scott and Isaac sound-proofed your room a month ago."
"Those evil... they treated me like I was nuts when I said all my furniture had been moved slightly."
"That was a hilarious Wednesday."
"Don't think that I'm not going to remember you knew."
"I plead innocent bystander."
"You sent me all that research on poltergeists."
"I was being supportive."
"You made me a hex bag."
"Full of gummi bears and peanut M&Ms. Begone evil spirits!" Stiles crows, flapping his arms and Derek squishes him flat underneath his body.