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Hale’s Modern Encyclopedia of Playing Cards (and Dating Humans)

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Derek hates the Day of the Summit. Okay, he doesn’t hate it, per se, but it’s really stressful and puts all the wolves on edge. The Summit happens every six months, when all the Alphas from the surrounding Packs come to the Hale house for their meeting. Really, it was just a large dinner and then a conversation behind closed doors with the Alphas, but it was a Big Deal. There were ceremonial exchanges and words that had to be said.

Like today, Deucalion brought a bouquet of gladioli representing strength and integrity, Satomi brought snapdragons for graciousness and strength, Kali had anthurium for hospitality, and Ennis gave Derek’s mom protea signifying change and transformation. The flower thing was always weird to Derek. He didn’t understand why wolves exchanged flowers based on meanings – and really, who knew what flowers meant anyway? Derek sure didn’t, but he knew it was something he was going to have to learn eventually.

After the flowers were presented and collected by Peter (Derek’s job one day), his mom recited whatever speech she usually did (it was Laura’s place to learn it, not him) and then the other Alphas responded something in return, and then everyone started talking like they were just great friends hanging out.

Sure, the Packs were friends and relatively close, but the Day of the Summit always messed with everyone’s senses. Five Alphas in one place, along with members of their Pack, near a full moon? Needless to say, emotions ran high and tempers ran even higher. Though none of the other Packs would dare fight on the Alpha leader’s land, it was tense.

That’s why Derek ducked into empty rooms whenever he could. Laura was the Alpha-in-Training, which meant she had to attend all of the Pack meetings, but Derek was just going to be the Pack researcher and lorist. The only place he ever had to be was in the library.

Which is where he is now, reading a book for English class. He cringes when the door bangs open, and a cacophony of voices assaults him.

“You’re full of shit,” Jackson snaps. “There is no way Devonford is gonna beat us this year.”

“We’ll see,” Brett responds as he drops into a chair.

“We were the state champs last year,” Liam points out. “Beacon Hills is gonna take it again.”

“Hiding from us?” Erica asks as Derek scoots over to make room on the couch so Boyd and Isaac can sit, too.

Derek holds up his book. “Homework.”

“Lame,” Aiden says, and Derek flips him off.

“Besides,” Ethan says, “We’re gonna slaughter both your teams this year, so there’s really no argument.”

“Your team sucks worse than Devonford,” Jackson says.

Ethan turns to Danny. “Are you gonna let him talk to me like that?” Danny just shrugs.

“Derek’s team captain this year,” Jackson says. “With him, me, Danny, and Boyd, you have no chance.”

“Hey!” Isaac exclaims.

Jackson smirks. “I’m sure you’ll do a great job warming the bench.”

Derek shakes his head and tries to concentrate on his book as the others bicker. He’d never admit it, but it’s comforting. They’d all grown up together because of the Pack alliances, and sometimes the other Packs felt almost as close as his own Packmates. He’d thrown up at Brett’s sixteenth birthday party from smoking aconite-laced weed that made him sick, and he’d spent two weeks with the twins near the Oregon border during the summer he was ten. Danny and Ethan had been dating off and on for a few years, and there had been so much crossdating – including Derek himself – between the Packs that Derek’s lost track of who has dated who.

He dated Carrie from Satomi’s Pack and Brian from Kali’s Pack, but that’s it. Derek’s pretty sure Isaac and Danny have dated their way through each Pack.

Someone snatches the book out of Derek’s hands, and he glares, his eyes flashing. Cora flashes her eyes in response. “Stop being anti-social and hang out with us.”

“I’m not going to listen to Jackson, Brett, and Aiden argue about who is gonna win the lacrosse championship this year.”

“I’m with Derek,” Boyd says. “Let’s go play basketball or something.”

“I’m game,” Isaac says.

“Sure, yeah,” Liam agrees.

Derek stands up as everyone starts filing out of the room. Erica hooks her arm with Derek as she talks about weekend plans with Cora.

*

The Summit Dinner is basically a big barbeque. Over one hundred Pack members from the five Packs are mingling around the Hale property. Derek had helped set up long tables and folding chairs the night before, and there were yard games like badminton, bowling, and corn hole set up in various spots. His dad stands at the grill laughing with Deucalion, his mom sits with Satomi, Kali, and a group of other women, Ennis and Peter play basketball with some of the younger wolves, and Laura watches over the pups as they climb in the trees and play in the Hale kids’ old tree house.

Derek walks onto the porch and joins his Dad at the grill. His dad is talking to Deucalion, and without interrupting his conversation, he lifts his hand and rests it on the back of Derek’s neck. Derek pushes into the touch and listens.

“I’m thinking Alaska,” Deucalion says.

“I’ve never been up there,” his dad replies. “I’m game if everyone else is.”

“What are you talking about?” Derek asks.

Deucalion turns to Derek with a smile. “Sam and I are trying to figure out our next fishing trip. I want to go salmon and trout fishing in Alaska.”

His dad puts up the hand not on Derek’s neck in supplication as he chuckles. “Fine. You’ve convinced me. We’ll talk to Ennis and Kali. Pam, Kevin, and Murray probably will want to come, too.”

“I want to go to Alaska,” Derek says.

His dad squeezes his neck. “One day. Maybe we’ll take a cruise.”

“But not on your fishing trip?”

His dad raises a skeptical eyebrow. “You hate fishing.”

Derek shrugs. “Don’t hate Alaska.”

His dad hooks his arm around Derek’s neck, pulling him close. “You have school and lacrosse. Your mom isn’t even gonna go.”

“She hates fishing more than I do.”

His dad laughs. “That she does.”

“How’s lacrosse this year?” Deucalion asks.

“I think it’s gonna be great. We just started practices last week, but the team’s the same as last year.”

“That’s all Aiden and Ethan talk about,” Deucalion says. “It’s 24/7 lacrosse.”

“Oh, I know,” Derek says. “They’ve been fighting with Jackson and Brett all day about who was gonna win the state championship this year.”

Deucalion smiles and shakes his head. “I’m smart enough to stay out of that.”

Derek helps his dad finish up the burgers, chicken, and steaks as he talks to him and Deucalion. As everyone forms a line for the food, a commotion breaks out towards the back of the line. Two of the preteen wolves, one from Kali’s Pack and one from Satomi’s, wolf out and start tumbling across the dirt. People start yelling, others wolf out on instinct, and it becomes total chaos. Derek’s eyes flash blue, his fangs and claws extending automatically.

Then, Derek feels a bone-deep shudder as his mother’s growl radiates loudly through the yard. Instinctively, he lowers his head and extends his neck to the Alpha. Everyone goes quiet.

“Now,” his mother says, and Derek lifts his eyes as she stands beside the two kids lying on the ground, covered in dirt, leaves, and mud. “Are you two finished? I think we’d all like to eat now.”

The kids look at each other and then back at Derek’s mother before nodding. “Good,” she says. “Sam, get the food moving. You two, come with me.” Derek grimaces in sympathy. He’s definitely been escorted into the house before by the Alphas after getting into stupid fights. He knows they’ll get stern lectures and probably have to wash all the dishes after everyone’s finished eating. Between the ages of 11 and 14, Derek washed way more dishes than he likes to admit.

Derek grabs two burgers and a small steak, a salad, and potato chips before looking for a seat. He sits between his and Boyd’s grandmas, Cora across from him, and Erica and Isaac’s parents on her left. They’re not actually Isaac’s real parents, but his adoptive parents. Erica’s parents adopted him after his dad got killed by a rogue Alpha that bit Isaac a couple of years ago. Derek’s mom had found Isaac after a few days, alone and scared in the woods, and he’s been part of the Pack ever since. Boyd, Erica, Isaac, and Boyd’s parents are at the other end of the table.

“I just won twenty bucks. Isn’t that something?” Grandma Boyd says, patting Derek’s arm lightly.

“You just got lucky,” Derek’s grandma responds.

“How’d you win?” Derek asks through a mouthful of burger.

“Honey, don’t talk with your mouth full,” Grandma Boyd says. “Just because you’re a wolf doesn’t mean you have to act like an animal.”

Derek swallows. “Sorry.”

“I tell Vernon all the time he needs to work on his manners,” she continues. “Sometimes, you’d think everyone around here was raised in a cave. The other day, Vernon and Junior came back from a hunt, and both of them had blood all around their mouths! Didn’t even bother to wipe it off!” Grandma Boyd shakes her head. “I taught that boy better than that. Both of them.”

“Ah, don’t be such a stick in the mud, Loretta,” Grandma says. “Don’t tell me you ain’t never got so excited from a hunt that you forgot to wipe your mouth.”

Grandma Boyd lifts her chin. “I’m a lady.”

Derek snorts into his hamburger, and Grandma Boyd slaps the back of his head. Derek says, “Still didn’t tell me why you won twenty bucks.”

“She bet Grandma Irma that there’d be at least one fight before we ate,” Boyd chimes in. “Grandma Irma thought there’d be at least three.”

Derek’s grandma huffs. “It’s a supermoon this month. I just knew everyone would be angrier than usual. My money was on Jackson and the twins at least. Didn’t think Chad and Brittany would be the only ones to wolf out.”

“Congrats on the twenty bucks,” Derek says.

“Hey, now! That’s my twenty bucks,” Grandma replies.

“How about Boyd and I play bridge with you and Grandma Boyd after dinner to make up for it?”

Grandma purses her lips. “It ain’t twenty bucks, but I guess it’ll do.”

*

Derek does not have a crush on Stiles Stilinski. Nope, no way, no how. Stiles is weird. And loud. And obnoxious. And drives Derek crazy. Derek always rolls his eyes when Stiles starts rambling about something weird, and often wants to shove Stiles’ face into the nearest object.

Derek also kinda wants to shove Stiles against a locker and press his face into his neck. Maybe kiss him until he shuts up. And bite him. Just a little. With fangs.

Okay, so yeah. Derek totally has a crush on Stiles Stilinski.

But no one knows. No one, not even Boyd who has been Derek’s best friend since they were born. Boyd knows basically everything about Derek. But Derek doesn’t want to tell anyone just how much of a crush he has on Stiles.

It’s not that Stiles isn’t in his clique at school, or warms the bench at lacrosse, or randomly talks about medieval torture devices in the locker room. Wolves really aren’t supposed to date outside of other wolves. Sure, his mom wouldn’t like kick him out of the Pack or Alpha-force him to stop dating a human. But relationships with humans are complicated and dangerous. The only humans they’re all friends with are the ones in the Pack, like Danny.

Of course, Jackson doesn’t care. He’s been dating Lydia since the eighth grade, but he was human then. Jackson didn’t get the bite until he was fifteen, and at that point, there was no separating the two of them. She still doesn’t know about werewolves though, and she thinks Jackson spent last summer “in London” instead of under constant watch in the Preserve while he adjusted to the bite.

But Jackson and Lydia are an anomaly. The rest of the wolves just date other wolves or supernaturals because it’s easier.

Stiles is…well, frankly, Stiles is a fucking problem. It’s Derek’s senior year, so he’s only going to be in Beacon Hills until he goes off to college. Not too far, of course. He’s still got to go through his training. It’s not like Peter’s going to suddenly die and Derek’s going to have to be the Pack lorist, just like his mom isn’t going to suddenly die and Laura become the Alpha. But they have to prepare for it, just in case. One day, Derek will hold that position as second and lorist in the Pack.

But that is a long way off and not something Derek even thinks about. No, he’s thinking about how he’s going to college in a year and getting involved with a human junior is a bad bad idea.

Even if Derek has never wanted to rub his scent all over someone so much in his entire life.

Though right now, he questions his sanity, because Stiles is sitting on the bench, rambling about male circumcision to Scott McCall.

“Hale!” Finstock yells. “What the hell are you doing? Waiting for the ball to walk over to you? Get your ass moving! Now!”

Derek nods at Coach and stops listening to Stiles like a creeper. He runs through plays and relays with the team for awhile. When he pauses to catch his breath, he spies Stiles clapping and yelling aside Scott and Isaac on the sidelines.

“Coach,” Derek calls out as he jogs over. “Put in Lahey, Stilinski, and McCall.”

Coach looks around in confusion. “Who?” Derek rolls his eyes and points to the three boys. “They’re on the team?”

Derek huffs in irritation. “Yes, Coach. Since their freshman year. Put them in.”

Finstock glances at his clipboard and yells. “Hey! You three! Um, Bilinski, dark hair, and curly hair. Get your asses out here.”

“Us?” Stiles asks, looking around with his whole body and stumbling into McCall. Derek nearly face palms.

“You’re on the team, aren’t you?” Finstock yells.

“Um, yes?” Stiles responds.

“Are you sure?” Finstock returns.

“Yes, we’re on the team,” Isaac says, grabbing both their arms and dragging them onto the field with enough werewolf strength that they’re stumbling behind him.

“Hale wants you out here…for some reason, I don’t know or care.” He shakes his head and walks away, leaving Derek to instruct them.

“We’re really gonna get to play?” Scott asks eagerly.

“I didn’t know you knew our names,” Stiles says.

Isaac rolls his eyes. “It’s just practice, calm the hell down.”

“Shut up, Isaac,” Stiles snaps.

“Look, if we’re going to stay state champions this year, everyone on the team has to be the best. Here’s what I want you to do.” Derek gives them instructions, and it’s difficult to concentrate with Stiles standing right beside him. He’s sweaty, so the only thing Derek can smell is Stiles’ thick scent on the air. He’s not sure what it says about him that sweaty Stiles smells fucking fantastic, but he forces himself to think about lacrosse instead of licking sweat off Stiles’ skin. After he finishes going over the plays, he watches as they jog across the field.

The truth is, they’re not half bad. They’re just not as good as most of the team, though to be fair, most of the team is supernatural. Derek, Boyd, Jackson, Erica, Liam, and Cora are wolves, Danny is from a wolf family, Kira is a kitsune, and Allison is a trained hunter. Mason is just a plain human who is capable, so he rounds out the starting line. Isaac isn’t very athletic, despite his werewolf abilities, Stiles is also not very athletic, Scott has asthma, and Greenberg and Matt just suck.

But as Derek watches them, he thinks maybe switching up some positions would benefit the team. Scott has good instincts, Isaac’s a solid defense, and Stiles, well, Stiles is fast. He’s thin and flailing, but Derek can see that when he focuses, he can dodge and outrun the others.

After practice, Stiles is talking excitedly with Scott when Derek approaches them. He freezes midsentence, holding his arms mid-flail and staring at Derek like a deer in the headlights. Derek thinks he’s absolutely ridiculous, and once again, questions his own sanity.

“You both did well out there,” Derek says. Scott gives Derek a wide, genuine smile, but Stiles watches him suspiciously. “I was thinking about switching up some of the starting line positions and subbing out more during the games. I think you both can be useful.”

“Excuse me?” Stiles says. “Did you just say you wanted us to play? Like for real?”

Derek’s mouth quirks into a half-smile. “Yeah. Scott, you’re good with passes and keeping the ball away from the other team. Stiles, you’re fucking fast.” Stiles’ eyes go wide, his cheeks heating. Derek thinks it’s the cutest damn thing he’s ever seen. “You can outrun and dodge just about everyone. I want to use you both in the games. I think you’ll be assets to the team.”

Stiles glances around. “Are we being punked? Do people do that anymore? Candid camera? Because, dude, Derek, this has to be a joke.”

Derek scowls, offended. “Why the hell would this be a joke?”

“Because we’re us. No one’s ever let us play, not a single game.”

Derek crosses his arms over his chest and glares. “Well, I’m captain now, and I say you play.”

Stiles still doesn’t look convinced, but Scott is grinning and beaming beside him. “This is great! Stiles, this is great!” He hits Stiles’ arm. “Stop being a dick to Derek before he changes his mind!”

Stiles rolls his eyes, his mouth falling open as he somehow uses his entire body to express his frustration. “Fine.”

“Okay.” Derek nods. “I want extra practices with you, though. We need to work on some things.”

“Here’s the other shoe,” Stiles says. “Extra practice. Great! Between studying for classes, preparing for AP tests – “

“That’s not till May. It’s September,” Derek interrupts.

Stiles keeps going, obviously on a roll. “And the SAT, and graduation tests, and – “

“Dude,” Scott says, grabbing Stiles’ arm. “You sit home and play video games most of the time.”

“Scott,” Stiles hisses. “Don’t tell Derek Hale that!”

Derek’s brow furrows in confusion. Somehow, Stiles using his name like that kinda, well, stings. What’s wrong with him? Does Stiles not like him?

Stiles turns back to Derek, looking put out and frustrated. “Fine. Extra practices. I’m shit in the mornings, but whatever you think is best, o captain, my captain. El capitan.”

Derek rolls his eyes. “We’ll do some morning and some evening, okay?”

Stiles nods, still looking at Derek dubiously, though Scott looks like Christmas came early. Derek nods in return and turns to walk away. Because he’s a total creeper, he hones his hearing so he can listen to what they’re saying.

“Don’t screw this up, Stiles!” Scott says quietly. “We finally get a chance at first line! Maybe Allison will finally notice me!”

“Why the hell does Derek fucking Hale all of a sudden want us on the team?”

“New captain, new team.”

“It’s weird,” Stiles says. “Dude’s just weird. I don’t trust him. It’s probably some plot to kill us.”

“Oh my god, Stiles. It’s not a plot to – “

“Totally a plot,” Stiles declares.

Derek stops listening. He doesn’t know why it matters what the hell Stiles Stilinski thinks about him. He’s not going to do anything about his crush anyway, so he shouldn’t care that Stiles thinks he’s weird and mean.

But the entire time Derek’s in the locker room changing clothes, he feels like something is boiling under his skin, until he finally punches the shower wall, causing part of it to crumble.

It doesn’t make him feel better. It just makes him paranoid he’s going to get in trouble for destroying school property.

*

Derek’s grandma is his favorite person in the world. Except right this moment.

“You’re lying,” she says, lips pursed and staring at him, her eyes enormous behind her glasses. She’s got long white hair she keeps in a braid over her shoulder, and wears sleeveless flowered tops even in the snow. Something about old werewolf hot flashes or something – Derek usually tunes that stuff out. They’re sitting in the sun room of her small house, all the windows open, the cool air and late afternoon sunshine filtering in. They’re playing canasta at the small card table, and Derek’s staring at his cards very intently.

“I’m not.”

“Blip. That was a blip. Pup, I’ve been helping raise wolves for over a hundred years. I know a blip better than I do some words. Don’t lie to your grandma. It ain’t polite, and I’m too old to get pissed off and wolf out. It hurts my bones.”

“I don’t want to talk about it, okay?” Derek mumbles, drawing two cards off the deck.

Grandma sighs. “Girl trouble?” He shakes his head. “Boy trouble?” He hesitates, and Grandma makes a thoughtful humming noise. “Thought so. At your age, ain’t much else that gets you so upset.”

She doesn’t push anymore as they play cards quietly. Derek’s glad; he’s wrapped up in his head, upset about Stiles. They’ve had two practices this week with Stiles, Scott, and Isaac. Boyd and Kira are helping him because he knows they’re the most patient and encouraging. Derek conveniently paired himself with Stiles, Boyd paired with Isaac, and Kira got Scott. They ran drills based on each individual player. Derek and Stiles worked on passing. It wasn’t a complete disaster, though it wasn’t a cake walk either.

Stiles is stubborn and gets frustrated easily, but Derek kept pushing him. He could tell by the way Stiles focused and tried to act like that he didn’t care that he did actually care. Stiles probably cared too much. He just wasn’t going to let the rest of the team know that. Derek thinks that Stiles believes he’s being discreet, when in reality, Stiles wears his emotions on his sleeves. Or maybe Derek is the only one who cares enough to look past all the flailing to get a good look at Stiles.

Derek’s bright idea of putting Stiles on the team has just made his life more complicated. At the end of each practice, Derek realizes he’s just fallen more and more.

Like, for example, at the end of practice this morning, Stiles and Derek walked quietly across the field as usual. They were almost shoulder to shoulder, and Derek thought he should probably move, but couldn’t make himself. He was close enough to smell Stiles’ scent, to listen to the erratic rhythm of his heartbeat.

Stiles reached an arm up to scratch self-consciously at his neck. “So, um, how’d I do, Cap?”

Derek’s always been good at scenting emotions, better than any other of the young wolves in the Pack, but Stiles has always been difficult to decipher. That moment, though, he could smell anxiety and hope radiating from Stiles. The scent curled around Derek, making him want to reassure Stiles until he realized just how great he was – to Derek at least.

“You’re actually pretty good,” Derek answered honestly. “You’ve picked it up quickly. Your passing has really improved.”

Stiles glanced at him suspiciously. “You’re not making fun of me, are you?”

“Why would I do that?”

Stiles shrugged. “Everyone else does. I’m pretty sure Jackson thinks it’s his holy mission to make my life miserable.”

“Ignore Jackson. I do.”

“He’s one of your best friends.”

“I still ignore him.”

Stiles smiled, and Derek counted it as a win. “Well, that’s…good, I guess. That I’m getting better. And not, you know, sucking. It’d kinda suck if like you were teaching me and I was sucking. That’d totally reflect on you, not me.”

Derek laughed quietly, and Stiles rambled about passing techniques all the way to the locker room.

The problem isn’t that Derek thinks Stiles doesn’t like him. He doesn’t think that Stiles has a crush on him or anything, mainly because Stiles has been in love with Lydia for as long as anyone can remember, but Stiles does seem to enjoy his company. However, Stiles still stares at him like he’s waiting for Derek to humiliate him at any moment. It really bugs him.

Maybe they could be friends. Derek knows he can’t date Stiles, but friends. Yeah, they could do that.

“So, spill it,” Grandma says as she melds. Derek glares at his cards, both because of his grandma’s insistent nosiness and because his cards suck. “Tell me what’s got you more quiet and surly than usual.”

“’m not surly,” Derek responds petulantly.

“Pup, I love that face of yours more than anything in this world, and I know all the boys and girls probably write bad poetry about it,” Derek rolls his eyes at this. Seriously, his grandma is crazy. No one is writing poetry about his big ears or gigantic eyebrows. “But it’s surly. You’re just internal. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. You and Vernon both. It’s why y’all make the best bridge partners for me and Loretta cause you keep quiet and concentrate on the game. Some of the other Pups, I love ‘em, but god they don’t shut up. Jackson may be my grandson, and I love his face as much as I love yours, but that boy talks too much.”

“Usually about himself,” Derek snorts.

“Or Lydia. I like that girl, don’t get me wrong, she’s pretty sharp for a human, but I know more about her than some of the Pack kids.” Derek laughs. “Seriously, Derek. You’re usually not this upset.” Grandma reaches out and grabs Derek’s hand, flashing her blue eyes. Derek’s burn blue in return as he sighs and squeezes her hand.

“It’s stupid,” Derek finally says. “Stupid crush. Doesn’t mean anything.”

Grandma frowns. “Okay,” she pats his hand before picking up a card from the top of the discard pile and laying down cards. “I can take a hint. I’m here to listen if you need. I ain’t your momma or Alpha, so no judgment, okay?”

Derek nods as he finally melds. He doesn’t really want to talk about Stiles, but it’s nice to know his grandma would listen if he needed it.

*

Beacon Hills is probably the most boring place ever. Nothing ever happens.

Apparently, his mom is like super scary and no one wants to mess with her. Sure, Derek’s felt her super Alpha powers and knows she is the leader over other Alphas, but she doesn’t act or look that scary. She looks like a mom. She even drives an SUV with one of those little stick figure families on the back glass. Sometimes, it’s hard to imagine his mom as this scary Alpha, especially when she spends hours in the kitchen cooking while listening to bad FM or spends Saturdays in her pajamas watching procedural crime dramas.

His dad also has the reputation of being this ridiculously terrifying fighter. When Uncle Peter gets drunk, he tells Jackson, Derek, and the rest of the younger Pack stories about the old days. According to Uncle Peter, his dad once ripped a guy’s heart right out of his chest when the other Pack attacked them. The Beta tried to kill his mom to get her Alpha power. Apparently, the Beta almost killed his mom, and his dad went, as Uncle Peter describes it, “fucking nuts.” Uncle Peter said he had never seen anything like it. The rest of that Pack was so terrified they ran away, and Derek’s dad gained this reputation as a major badass.

Derek isn’t quite sure he completely believes the story. Uncle Peter isn’t known for his honesty, and while Derek knows his dad and mom are like grossly in love with one another (there are things in a werewolf house that you just can’t ignore, especially after puberty), Derek’s not sure it’s possible to rip a guy’s heart out of his chest. Derek’s too afraid to ask his dad about it. Plus, his dad is kind of lame. He makes bad jokes, laughs when he farts, and likes to make stuff out of wood in his shop. That doesn’t really seem like a guy who could rip out a guy’s heart.

His mom doesn’t tell them about things that used to happen, but drunk Uncle Peter has told them stories about kanimas and hunter feuds and darachs. They all think those stories sound exciting. None of them have been in a real fight, and Derek itches for an opportunity to fight some bad guys and protect his Pack. Sounds like much more fun than chemistry.

Derek thinks he may get his chance late in October. A dead body is found in the woods, and his mom, Dad, and Peter go check it out.

“I should go with you,” Derek says as his dad laces up his boots. His mom is pacing around their bedroom, talking to Chris Argent on her cell. “I’m going to be Laura’s second one day.”

“Not today,” his dad says. He looks up with the same hazel eyes that Derek has. Everyone tells Derek he looks just like his mother, but he has his father’s eyes. And eyebrows. Which are now raised in amusement. “You’ve got a calc test in the morning.”

“Who cares?” Derek whines. “There’s a dead body in the woods!”

“Your mom said no.”

Derek crosses his arms over his chest. “Laura would get to go if she was here.”

“Laura’s not here,” his dad says as he stands up. He scratches his beard as he walks over to the closet to pick out a shirt. His dad is nothing but muscle and hair, and Derek has always wanted to look like his dad. He’s almost eighteen now, and he’s finally grown a bit of scruff on his face, and lacrosse and his werewolf genes have given him lean muscle. One day, he wants a full beard like his dad.

“So, I should go in her place,” Derek reasons.

His dad pulls a shirt over his head, then smirks. “Nice try.”

“Ugh! This sucks!” Derek exclaims and stomps out of the room. “So unfair!”

“Derek Samuel Hale!” his mom yells as she steps out of the room. “You stop right there!”

Derek sighs and rolls his eyes as he turns around. He lifts his brows as he waits for his mom to speak.

“I don’t have time for this attitude,” she says, as she starts towards the stairs. She grabs Derek’s arm and pulls him along behind her. “There’s a dead body in the woods, the sheriff’s department is out there, Parrish thinks it’s werewolf, and I’m trying to coordinate with Chris Argent to figure out if there’s been any outside Pack activity.” At the bottom of the stairs, she turns on him and glares, eyes tinged in red. Derek feels the Alpha pull, but petulantly ignores it. “I don’t have time for this. It’s too dangerous until we know what’s going on. End of story. Stay here with Cora, and watch the house just in case.”

“But Mom – “

“No, Derek,” she roars, eyes bright red. Derek ducks his head on instinct and then growls.

“Fine!” He throws up his head and starts for the living room. “I never get to do anything!”

His dad comes down the stairs then, followed by Cora. “Can I go?” Cora asks. “Is Derek getting to go? If Derek’s going, I’m going! I want to see the dead body.”

“I swear!” his mom yells. “Sam, do something with them before I lose my temper. I’ve got a damn dead body in my territory and can’t deal with this, too!” His mom storms out of the house, slamming the door behind her, and his dad faces both of them, eyes bright blue.

“Your mom is really upset, and you two are not helping,” he says sternly. “You will stay here, keep your mouth shut, and speak of it no more.”

“But Dad – “

“Cora!” his dad growls. “I mean it. Homework, chores, bed.” He points his finger before turning and following their mom out of the house.

“This sucks,” Cora grumps as she drops onto the couch. “This is the first exciting thing to happen and we have to stay at home like a bunch of kids.”

Derek agrees with Cora, but he also feels really bad about causing more stress for his mom. He sits on the edge of the couch and rubs his hands over his face. Cora turns on the television as Derek wallows in his guilt.

Until his phone rings with a call from Jackson.

“Did your parents go after the dead body?” Jackson asks. When Derek tells him yes, Jackson says, “Dad went with them. I tried to get him to let me go.”

“We did too.”

“Let’s go anyway.”

“What?” Derek exclaims, and Cora looks at him. “Dad specifically told us to stay here.”

Jackson scoffs. “What, and you always do what daddy says? For fuck’s sake, Derek. Grow some balls and live a little.”

Cora jumps up and says, “Jackson, I’ll meet you out in the woods.”

“Yes! You can stay at home like a loser if you want, Derek.”

Derek groans. “Fine! I’ll go!”

That’s how Derek finds himself sneaking around the woods fifteen minutes later with Cora, Jackson, Danny, and Danny’s sister Lea. Boyd, Erica, and Isaac are supposed to be meeting them, too.

“You know we’re going to get caught,” Danny says in amusement. “There’s no way Talia’s not going to find out.”

“I can hear us even with my human ears,” Lea says as she offers Cora her bag of sour gummies.

“Maybe if everyone would shut up,” Jackson hisses.

“Yeah, because that’s the problem,” Lea says sarcastically, popping a handful of gummies in her mouth.

She’s right; Derek can hear the others approaching in the distance. “Mom’s gonna kill us all,” he says. “I’m gonna be grounded until I go to college.”

“Stop being a pussy,” Jackson says as Boyd, Erica, Isaac, and Boyd’s sister Alicia appear through the trees. Alicia automatically goes over to Cora and Lea, stealing the bag of gummies and hooking her arm through Cora’s. Boyd, Erica, and Isaac come to stand beside Derek.

“Dead body?” Boyd asks dubiously.

“This is literally the most exciting thing that has ever happened,” Cora says. “Let’s stop pissing around and go find it.”

“Aren’t the cops by the dead body?” Isaac asks.

“Yeah, how are we supposed to see it?” Erica adds.

They all look to Jackson, who rolls his eyes. “Seriously? Why am I the only one with brains around here? We get as close as we can and check it out. Our scents are all over these woods, and there are so many people no one will notice. Talia will be too busy trying to figure out what’s going on without the sheriff noticing her, and Dad and Sam will be checking for another Pack.”

Derek thinks this sounds like a terrible plan, but goes with it anyway. Most of Jackson’s plans are terrible and end up getting him in trouble.

Jackson and Danny lead the way, followed by Cora, Lea, and Alicia, leaving Derek, Boyd, Erica, and Isaac to bring up the rear. Erica and Isaac are arguing about whether the dead body will look like a zombie or be missing body parts when Derek catches a scent on the air.

He stops and shifts, honing his senses as he steps towards the left. It doesn’t make any sense, but Derek has spent weeks learning every note of that scent. So, he takes off through the woods, his friends calling after him.

The scent gets stronger and stronger until Derek hears the distinctive sound of two familiar voices. He reins his wolf in just before he runs between two trees and stops right in front of the two trespassers.

Stiles screams and flails around, hitting Scott in the face and knocking him stumbling to the ground. He clasps his hand over his heart as Derek glares at them.

“Holy shit, you scared me,” Stiles breathes, chest heaving. “I thought we were going to get mauled by the crazed, murdering animal.”

“This is private property,” Derek states.

Stiles has recovered enough to gape at Derek. “Seriously?”

Derek lifts his brows pointedly.

Stiles flails in disbelief. “There’s a dead body in the woods, and you’re going to be a dick about private property like we weren’t just sweating on each other yesterday at practice?”

Derek feels himself flush at the memory - Stiles’ sweaty arms sliding against his skin as they worked on dodging and stealing - but scowls harder. “What are you doing out here?”

Stiles crosses his arms and looks all of the cocky, annoying shit he is. “What are you doing out here?”

“This is my family’s property,” Derek returns, crossing his arms to mirror Stiles’ pose.

“Well, my dad got a call about a dead body on your land,” Stiles returns. “Which, to be honest, is kinda shady. I don’t know how I feel about this.”

Derek rolls his eyes. “Stiles, go home.”

“But there’s a dead body!”

“I’ll call your dad,” Derek says. “Don’t think I won’t.”

“You’re an asshole,” Stiles says as he grabs Scott’s arm and tugs him away in the other direction. “Come on, Scott. Don’t want to be alone with him anyway. HE MAY BE A MURDERER,” Stiles yells angrily. Derek tries to ignore the ping of rejection he feels – which is completely stupid since he basically forced Stiles to leave – but still. He knows it doesn’t make sense. But he has to keep Stiles safe, and he’s not sure who or what is in the forest. It’s better Derek find Stiles and Scott than his mother or some rogue murdering werewolf.

Silently, Derek slips through the trees just to Stiles and Scott’s right, watching them as they head back towards the road. A few times, Derek swears Stiles looks around and knows he’s being followed. Once, he is afraid Stiles sees him, but he’s hidden in the trees far enough away just to keep an eye on them. When Stiles and Scott are in Stiles’ Jeep and driving away, Derek makes his way back into the forest towards his friends, trying to forget Stiles’ words and the look on his face.

Boyd and Isaac meet him not far from where he encountered Stiles. “What were Stiles and Scott doing here?” Boyd asks.

“Looking for the dead body,” Derek replies.

“Of course,” Isaac says. “Sounds like some dumbass thing they would do.”

“Did you find anything?” Derek asks.

“No. There’s a pretty big perimeter of cops around the scene. Peter crossed pretty close to us, but we didn’t see your folks,” Boyd explains.

“I’m going home,” Derek says.

“Yeah, this is lame,” Isaac agrees, “I don’t care what Jackson says.”

Back at the house, Derek tries to concentrate on calculus, but can only think about how no matter what he tries to do, he continually screws things up with Stiles.

This is probably why werewolves and humans aren’t supposed to date.

*

The next day at practice, Stiles glares at him and barely speaks as they run through the drills. They do a scrimmage with Scott, Stiles, and Isaac against Derek, Boyd, and Kira. At one point, Stiles purposefully slams himself into Derek in an attempt to knock him down, but instead Stiles ends up flailing backwards. He would have slammed onto his back if Derek hadn’t reacted quickly and grabbed Stiles’ arm.

After Derek helps Stiles back to his feet, Stiles yanks his arm out of Derek’s grasp. “I don’t need your help,” he says angrily and runs off down the field. Derek has to repeat the mantra to himself to keep from wolfing out in frustration.

At dinner that night, Derek and Cora grill their parents for details about the dead body. They had seen neither of their parents before school, so this is the first chance they’ve had to ask about it. Their mom refuses to talk about it and instead asks them about school.

When he finishes helping Cora load the dishwasher, he drives to Grandma Boyd’s house. Boyd’s already there, changing the light bulbs in the living room overhead light. Derek’s grandma is sitting with Grandma Boyd at the kitchen table, drinking a cup of coffee while Grandma Boyd shuffles the deck of cards. Derek immediately goes over to his grandma and gives her a hug and a kiss. He automatically feels better than he has all day.

“Okay, Pup?” Grandma whispers quietly in his ear. Derek nods, and Grandma drags her nose along his cheek.

“Vernon, don’t you worry about those light bulbs right now, honey,” Grandma Boyd says. She gets up and goes to the oven. “Irma’s gonna deal out the first hand, and I got fresh cobbler for you and Derek.”

“I’m almost done, Granny,” Boyd says. Grandma Boyd clucks her tongue, but doesn’t say anything as she scoops out huge heaping bowls of peach cobbler and covers them with ice cream.

Grandma Boyd runs a hand over Derek’s hair after setting the bowl down in front of him and kisses his head. “Hey honey. How’s school?” Derek digs into the cobbler as he talks about school, including his calculus test and their lacrosse practices.

“This is literally the best cobbler I’ve ever eaten,” Derek says with his mouth full.

“Manners, Derek!”

“Sorry,” he says before wiping his mouth with the back of his arm. “Seriously though, I love your cobbler.”

Grandma Boyd smiles. “That recipe’s been in my family for years. Stems all the way back to my great great great grandmother. Back then, wolves didn’t do much other than live in the woods and hunt, but my great great great grandmother wanted to cook. Her momma was a human, so she taught my great grandmother how to cook. We still got a bunch of her recipes. I keep trying to get Vernon to learn some of them.”

“I’m not a cook, Granny,” Boyd says as he takes his seat beside Derek and picks up his spoon.

“It’s your heritage,” Grandma Boyd says.

“She’s old, Vernon,” Grandma says. “That means you gotta do what your grandma wants. It’s how it works. When we get old, we get to guilt y’all into doing stuff for us.” Boyd shakes his head with a smile as he takes another bite.

“This cobbler took first place at the county fair for twenty years,” Grandma Boyd tells them as she deals the cards. “And at the Pacific Northwest Werewolf Symposium, it won first place every year I entered.”

“You can teach me how to make it,” Derek offers.

Grandma Boyd covers his hand. “Thanks, honey. But it just ain’t the same.” Derek shrugs as Boyd rolls his eyes.

“Alicia’s learning your recipes.”

“Last time I checked, I got more than one grandkid.”

“You ain’t gonna win this one,” Grandma says as she picks up her cards and starts arranging them. “Just go ahead and say yes.”

“Fine,” Boyd grunts, scraping his spoon along the bottom of his bowl to gather as much of the remaining cobbler as possible. Derek laughs.

After a few hands, Derek asks about the dead body. Grandma Boyd shakes her head. “Tragic business, that is. There hasn’t been anything like that in these parts in over twenty years.”

“Your momma runs a tight ship,” Grandma says. “There’s been a few things that have blown through over the past few decades, but nothing like that.”

“Mom wouldn’t let me go with her,” Derek grumps.

“Of course she wouldn’t!” Grandma says. “Ain’t no reason for you to be out there looking at no dead bodies. You let your momma and daddy take care of that.”

“Especially since they haven’t found the other half of the body,” Grandma Boyd says.

“Other half?” Boyd asks.

“Didn’t Talia tell you? They only found half a body. The bottom half. Right now they can’t identify it, but they know it’s a wolf.”

“What cut the body in half?” Derek asks.

“I still think hunters,” Grandma says.

“It wasn’t hunters, Irma,” Grandma Boyd says in frustration. “The body was ripped slap in two. Talia said it was from claws of some sort. Not a sword, not a wolf.”

Grandma purses her lips. “I don’t trust no hunter. They probably came up with new ways of killing our kind. I remember the days of Gerard Argent and his psychopaths. Can’t forget stuff like that.”

“That Chris Argent isn’t like that,” Grandma Boyd says. “He’s a nice man. Isn’t half bad looking either.” She winks at Derek, and Derek laughs, though thinking about Allison’s dad like that is kinda gross. Derek mostly just finds him terrifying.

The conversation moves in another direction then, but Derek keeps thinking about the fact that there is another half of a body out in the woods.

*

Derek has the same lunch as Stiles, but Derek sits outside with part of the Pack, and Stiles sits inside with Scott. Stiles and Scott sit at the end of the same table that Allison sits at with Lydia, Jackson, and Danny. Liam and Mason sit across from Stiles and Scott. Derek kinda wishes Stiles sat with them. He also wishes Stiles would talk to him or look at him without seeming like he wants to kill him. Derek is pretty sure Stiles hates him now.

Derek eats his sandwich in peace, until Erica hooks her arm in his and lays her head on his shoulder. “What’s eating your ass?”

“He wishes someone was eating his ass,” Lea says, which makes Cora pretend to vomit.

Derek rolls his eyes, though he’s pretty sure his ears are burning. “Nothing. Why?”

“You’re very quiet today.”

“I’m always quiet.”

“Extra quiet.” Erica watches as Derek eats a potato chip. “Do you have a crush?”

“No.”

Erica squeals. “Oh my god! That’s it! You have a crush.” She cackles gleefully. “You never like anyone. I have to know who it is. Someone at school? In one of the Pack’s? Oh my god, did Jennifer finally win you over?”

“Ugh, no,” Derek says, shuddering. Jennifer was new to Kali’s Pack. She was Kali’s stepdaughter and joined the Pack about a year ago when Kali married her mom Julia. She was nice enough, and Julia seemed cool and Kali was happy. But Jennifer had developed a major thing for Derek this past summer. He had thought he’d started to have a crush on her too, but she wanted way more than Derek did. It was like she was in love with Derek or something, and he barely knew her. So, yeah, he wasn’t interested in Jennifer. “There is no crush.”

“I don’t believe you.”

Derek huffs in frustration. “They still haven’t found the other half of the body.”

“Huh?” Erica looks completely confused.

“The body in the woods. Grandma and Grandma B said it had been ripped into two pieces. They can’t find the other part.”

“That’s what you’re thinking about?” Erica asks. “That’s boring.”

“It’s a dead body, Erica.”

She shrugs and sips on her Capri Sun.

At practice, Derek runs harder and faster than usual. He tries to push all thoughts of Stiles and dead bodies out of his mind. But no matter what he does, he keeps focusing on Stiles’ scent, the sound of his voice, and his heartbeat.

Stiles, Isaac, and Scott are holding their own, and Derek’s pretty sure they’ll be ready to play when the season starts next semester. He’s watching Stiles and Scott run a play when Jackson purposefully knocks into Stiles, sending him to the grass.

“Jackson!” Derek yells as he crosses the field. “Knock it off!”

“Chill, Derek. It was an accident.” As Stiles starts to get up, Jackson knocks him down again while laughing.

Derek runs across the field quickly and then pushes Jackson’s shoulders, which causes Jackson to snarl at him. Derek sees a quick flash of blue, too quick for human eyes to see. “The fuck, Derek?”

“The fuck are you doing?” Derek yells. “If I see you do that one more time, I’m benching your ass. I don’t care how good you think you are. It’s a team, jackass.”

Derek bends down and offers Stiles a hand up. Reluctantly, Stiles grabs his hand, and it feels like an electric current jolts through Derek’s body. His body comes alive at Stiles’ touch, and this close, he can smell Stiles’ intense embarrassment and just how upset he is.

“Since when do you care about Stilinski?” Jackson asks.

“I’ve always cared about everyone on this team,” Derek says, still gripping Stiles’ hand. “You’re the douchebag who’s holding on to some playground grudge.”

“Fuck you.”

“Yeah, fuck you!” Derek yells after him as Stiles pulls his hand out of Derek’s grasp. Derek turns to Stiles, who’s rubbing his shoulder. “You okay?”

“I’m fine,” Stiles says angrily before turning his back on Derek. The predator in Derek springs to the surface, and combined with his anger and attraction to Stiles, he starts to wolf out. All the wolves notice and turn to him, and Derek breathes and repeats the mantra over and over in his head as he watches Stiles walk away.

Boyd and Cora come jogging up to him. “What’s wrong?” Cora asks, the edges of her eyes lined in blue.

“Jackson,” Derek says. It’s not entirely false, and he figures it’s a good excuse. They had just gotten into an argument.

“Fuck him,” Cora says. “Come on.” She grabs Derek’s arm and leads him back onto the field.

After practice, Derek hastily grabs his bag and foregoes a shower so he can catch up with Stiles in the parking lot. Stiles bolted immediately after practice and is quickly making his way to his Jeep. Derek jogs behind him. “Stiles, wait up!”

Stiles doesn’t slow down.

“Hey,” Derek says as he slows to a walk beside Stiles, “I’m sorry about Jackson.”

“Doesn’t matter. I’m used to it. Not like I expected anything different.”

Derek loosely grabs Stiles’ arm to get him to face him. “He won’t touch you again. I promise.”

“Oh, so what? You’re gonna protect me now?” Stiles spats. “I’m some charity case. Oh, pathetic Stiles. Gotta save him from the bullies! I don’t need your protection, Derek.”

“I’m not – that’s not – ugh!” Derek runs a hand through his hair and uses every ounce of self-control not to growl, or push Stiles against the nearest car and cover him in his scent. “You are so frustrating!”

“Me?” Stiles scoffs, half-amused and half-annoyed. “You are like the king of frustrating people.”

“What does that mean?”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “Nothing. Nevermind.” Stiles starts walking to his Jeep again, and Derek follows. “What are you doing?”

“Walking.”

“I’m aware of that. Why are you doing it beside me? Your car isn’t anywhere near mine.”

“How do you know that?” Derek asks. Stiles doesn’t respond, but Derek is pretty sure he blushes. “Look, did your dad find out anything about that body?”

Stiles stops walking suddenly, and Derek ends up going past him before realizing it. Stiles stares at him. “Why? Trying to find out if you got away with murder?”

“Do you really think I killed that guy?”

“I think you are capable of murder.”

“Thanks,” Derek grumbles, crossing his arms.

“That bothers you, doesn’t it? That I think you’re a murderer?”

“How would you feel if I thought you were a murderer?”

“I would assume you wouldn’t care what I thought of you,” Stiles replies, and there’s a flicker of some emotion across Stiles’ face that Derek can’t decipher. After a tense, silent moment, Stiles says, “No. Dad told me to stay out of it and hasn’t brought home any files.” Then, again he asks, “Why?”

Derek sighs. “My parents won’t tell me anything, though I know they’re in on what’s going on since it’s our land.”

Stiles shrugs as he unlocks the Jeep. “Well, I don’t know anything either so...” He opens the door and pauses before getting inside the Jeep. He looks at Derek and holds his gaze for a few seconds. “Is there a reason you’re still standing here?”

“No,” Derek replies petulantly.

Stiles gives him a last look and then climbs into the Jeep. Derek forces his feet to walk away, towards his car parked at the other end of the parking lot.

*

By the weekend, no one has found the other half of the body. Despite his fight with Jackson, he ends up at Jackson’s house on the other side of the Hale property Friday night. All of the young members of the Pack are there, and Peter enters the house with a ridiculously tall stack of pizza boxes in each arm. A group starts to crowd around until Peter roars and everyone backs up.

“Calm down! There’s enough food here for everyone, I promise,” Peter says, sounding put out as he sits the stacks on the table. “Jackson! Plates and napkins?”

“In the kitchen,” Jackson calls from the living room, where he’s on the couch playing Mario Kart with Lea, Cora, and Erica’s little brother EJ. Lydia, Erica, Alicia, and Boyd’s youngest sister Shayla are doing their nails in the den. Derek left some of the guys outside, playing basketball. Derek wants pizza more than he wants to play basketball.

“Derek, can you grab them for me?” Peter asks as he starts trying to place the boxes into stacks based on type of pizza. Liam, Mason, Liam’s younger sister, Boyd’s younger brother, and Danny’s younger brother are all crowding around the pizza boxes, causing Peter to growl quietly, which they all ignore. Derek returns with the paper plates and napkins, along with a Coke for himself from the fridge.

“I’m going upstairs,” Peter says after he gets everything settled. His hands are up as he backs away and the younger wolves attack the pizza boxes like it’s prey. “There should be enough pizza, and I assume everyone can entertain themselves.” Derek nods, and Peter claps him on the shoulder and squeezes. “Seriously. Don’t bother me unless someone is dying. And even then, make sure none of you can save them.”

Derek stacks his plate high with pizza and goes to sit in the living room as a few others file to the dining room. Boyd and Erica join him a few minutes later, so he scoots down to make enough room on the couch.

“I don’t want to watch Mario Kart,” Erica says. “Let’s watch a movie.”

“Not an action movie,” Lydia says as she brings her plate into the living room.

“Or anything with gross aliens,” Lea says.

“Pick something quick,” Jackson says as he turns off the game and switches over to the video screen. “I’m not waiting around for two hours like last time while everyone argues about what to watch. Put movies in a fucking hat for all I care.”

“Dude!” Erica explains. “EJ is ten! Watch the language!”

Jackson ruffles EJ’s hair. “He’s a cool ten year old. He can deal with it.”

“I swear Jackson, I will kick your butt.”

“It’s okay, Erica. I’ve heard the word ‘fuck’ before,” EJ says as he follows Jackson into the dining room.

“EJ! Don’t use that word!”

Lydia picks up the controller, brings up Netflix, and starts scrolling through the movies. She stops on a comedy that everyone sitting around the living room agrees to, so she hits play.

The movie is halfway done when Derek’s phone rings. It’s Isaac, who’s hanging out with Scott and Stiles tonight. Derek gets up and steps outside on the front porch so as not to disturb the movie. He can hear the yells of the guys still playing basketball across the yard.

“What’s up?”

“I’m out in the Preserve. Scott and Stiles wanted to go look for that other half of the dead body, and I tried to get them not to, but they wouldn’t listen. What do I do?”

Derek groans and rubs his eyes. “Just let them do it. Make sure they don’t get themselves killed.”

He returns to the living room, and ten minutes later, his phone buzzes with a text. Again from Isaac. They found the other half of the body.

Derek jumps off the couch and is out the door in a second. He shifts as soon as he hits the treeline and takes off into the woods. After a few minutes, he realizes Boyd and Erica are on his heels.

“What’s going on?” Erica asks, words muffled by her fangs.

“Isaac, Stiles, and Scott found the dead body.”

“What?” Erica exclaims. “Shouldn’t we call your mom?”

“And get Isaac in trouble, along with the others?” Derek asks. Honestly, he’s not sure what he should do. Why does Stiles have to always do stuff like this? Squeeze his way into places he shouldn’t, like the Preserve (or under Derek’s skin)?

All Derek knows is that he needs to get Stiles and Scott out of the Preserve, and away from the dead body, before his mom finds out. He’s not sure what she’d do to two random human teenagers, even if one is the son of the sheriff.

Derek goes to the location Isaac texted him, and as he nears, he immediately hears Isaac’s heartbeat and then Stiles’. Even this far out, he can smell the rotten flesh.

Derek unshifts right before he approaches them. Unsurprisingly, Stiles screams bloody murder again as Derek crashes through the underbrush. The scent of decay is so strong, Derek can barely keep from gagging.

“Oh my god!” Stiles yells. “You are literally trying to kill me, aren’t you? Scare me to death, you fucking creeper.”

Derek glares, just as Boyd and Erica run up behind him. Stiles catches his breath and then turns on Isaac, pointing his finger.

“You called them!” he accuses.

“It’s a dead body!” Isaac exclaims. “I wasn’t about to have tea with it.”

Derek ignores their bickering in favor of checking out the body. He has never smelled anything so disgusting in his whole life, or seen anything more disturbing. The body is severed through the torso, with uneven, jagged edges. Ripped insides spill out of it, dried black and full of insects. The man’s clothes are shredded, and his eyes are still open. Derek can’t smell anything around the body except death.

“We’ve got to call my mom.” Derek looks at Stiles. “And your dad.”

“Ugh, fine,” Stiles says. “But at least we got to find the dead body!” Stiles holds up his hand to Scott, and Scott rolls his eyes but high-fives him anyway.

As Stiles takes out his phone, Derek stops him. “They don’t need to find you here. How are you gonna explain that?”

“We were hanging out with you?” Stiles suggests.

Derek shakes his head. “Go back to your Jeep. We’ll call my mom and come up with a story.”

The three of them head into the forest while Derek stands away from the body with Boyd and Erica. He’s waiting until Isaac lets them know they are gone before calling his mom. He’s leaning against the trunk of a tree, trying to ignore the stench, when he hears Stiles scream.

Derek immediately takes off towards him, shifting when he hears Isaac howl.

Derek doesn’t have time to think before he finds the others. Stiles and Scott are both yelling in fear, and Isaac is wolfed out and fighting someone. As Derek draws closer, he realizes that the thing Isaac is fighting has wings.

Derek roars and leaps on the thing’s back, sinking his claws into its wings. It releases an ear-splitting screech and throws Derek to the ground. Derek jumps up to attack it again when from behind him, Stiles screams.

In a flash, Derek throws himself in front of Stiles and Scott, just as a second of the winged creatures advances towards them. Face to face with one, Derek can finally get a good look. It has the body of a man, but it’s at least seven feet tall and covered in dark feathers. Enormous leathery wings spread behind it, the humanoid face twisted into a snarl that reveals a mouth full of sharp teeth. Red glowing eyes, closer to the color of fire than an Alpha’s, bore into Derek.

“WHAT THE FUCK?” Stiles yells behind him.

Derek crouches and waits, torn between attacking and protecting Stiles and Scott. The creature tips its head back and releases a loud bird-like screech before flapping its wings and hovering off the ground.

“Flying!” Scott gasps. “It’s flying!”

Derek watches it for a moment before leaping, soaring through the air until he crashes into the creature with fangs and claws. He holds on with one hand as he tries to rip at the creature with his other hand, but he’s dangling at least eight feet in the air and can’t get a good grip. The creature bites into Derek’s shoulder with its fangs, and Derek howls in pain before letting go and falling to the ground with a loud thump.

His entire body throbs in pain. He can’t move, his spine broken from the impact. He lies there as the thing circles him like a vulture, as Derek waits for his body to stitch itself back together.

“Boyd,” he says, his voice thin and weak. “Erica. Help.”

The red eyes threaten to consume him as the bird-thing gets closer and closer. He still can’t move. Time seems to slow as the creature dives for him. He didn’t think this was what it would be like to fight. He thought it would be fun and exciting and leave him with a sense of pride from protecting his Pack. He didn’t think he’d die during his first fight. He really doesn’t want his mother to find his severed body, but there’s not much he can do about it as the bird-man raises his taloned hand. Derek closes his eyes and just hopes it doesn’t hurt too much.

But then he hears a crazed yell and a large crash. Derek’s eyes fly open as the bird-man goes tumbling away, feet over head. Stiles stands over him, holding a huge chunk of wood.

“Take that, fucking bird-brain!” Stiles glances down at Derek, eyes wide with fear and adrenaline. “Are you dead? Please don’t be dead. You have to stay alive so you can explain to me what the fuck you are and what the fuck is going on!

“Not dead,” Derek groans as he finally is able to move and pushes himself into a sitting position. He glances up, just as the creature dives towards Stiles. “Stiles! Look out!”

Derek leaps between them just as Stiles swings the piece of wood. He cracks the creature on the side of the head, but not before the creature’s claws shove into Derek’s side. He howls again, hears Stiles grunt in pain beside him, and everything starts to get really hazy.

Then, his wolf whines as his mother’s roar vibrates through the air. The creature quickly darts into the sky, claws ripping out of Derek’s side in excruciating pain, causing Derek to fall onto the ground for the second time that night. Hands are touching his side and then his face. “Seriously dude,” Stiles says, his voice sounding wrecked, “please don’t be dead.” The sound of Stiles’ voice curls through him, and he turns his face to push into Stiles’ hand. He feels Stiles’ thumb brush across his cheek, and if he wasn’t dying, he thinks he would smile.

“Derek,” his mother’s frantic voice cuts through the haze. Stiles’ hands are gone, replaced by the calming, safe presence of his mother. His mom is there, so he knows things’ll be okay. “Oh god, Derek, can you hear me?” Her hands press over his skin, and it’s like her presence is so large that it wraps around him like a warm blanket. Now that the bird creatures are gone and she’s there, Derek starts to fade.

“Stiles, Scott,” Derek manages, though it hurts to talk.

“They’re fine,” his mom replies. “Everyone’s fine.” She presses her hand on his side and he feels the tingling sensation as she takes away some of the pain. It dulls it only slightly, but he can think a bit more clearly. He blinks away the haze and sees his mother’s worried face, eyes still red, his father beside her, and Stiles on Derek’s other side.

“It hurts, Mom,” he says, tears leaking out of his eyes.

His mom nods as tears stream down her face. “I know, sweetheart. We’ve got to get you home. Deaton’s on his way.” She looks at Derek’s dad. “Sam, carry him. I’ll be right behind you.”

“Hang in there, Derek,” his dad says as he carefully places his arms under Derek’s shoulders and knees. As he lifts him, Derek screams out in pain. “I’m sorry. I’ll get you home in a few minutes. Brace yourself. This is gonna hurt.” Derek whimpers as his dad runs as fast as he can through the woods. “Almost there, Derek. You’re doing great. I love you so much. Hang in there,” he repeats over and over like a mantra.

Derek’s not sure what happens next. His brain is muddled and full of pain, and then everything goes black.

*

Derek wakes up slowly to the sound of low murmurs. He picks out his mother’s voice first, her scent close and comforting. Then Deaton, Peter - Stiles.

Derek’s eyes fly open and he tries to sit up, but everything spins around him. “Mom?”

“Derek!” she exclaims, exhaling loudly like she hasn’t breathed in ages. “Thank god.”

She helps him sit up, and his side twinges in pain, but it’s manageable. He lifts his shirt and sees the fresh red wounds where the creature pierced his skin. “It’s not healed yet.”

“Aracoix talons transmit powerful poisons to their victims,” Deaton explains. “On a human, it’s fatal within minutes. On a werewolf, it’s also fatal, but takes longer. You were very lucky.”

“Oh Derek,” his mother cries as she wraps him into a hug so tight he’s pretty sure his bones might crack. “You scared the hell out of me.” Derek holds his mom tightly, breathing in her scent and trying to convince himself he was safe.

“What were those things?” Derek asks when she lets him go.

“Aracoix!” Stiles exclaims excitedly. “Bird-people! Like literal bird-human hybrids! And – “ Peter growls and glares at Stiles, and he deflates. “Yeah, right. Human here. Shutting up.” He mimes zipping his lips, and Derek’s pretty sure he’s died and gone to some bizarro world. It’s the only thing that explains the scene before him.

“They’re Avens,” Peter states. “Specifically, as Stiles so eloquently explained, Aracoixs. They’re an ancient race of avian humanoids that haven’t been seen around these parts in centuries.”

“But dude, Mothmen! They’re the Mothmen!” Stiles interjects.

Peter sighs and looks like he wants to pluck Stiles’ eyeballs out of his skull. “Yes. The Mothman legend stems from Avens that were spotted in West Virginia in the sixties.”

“Bird-people?” Derek asks dubiously. “I didn’t know bird-people existed.”

“I didn’t know wolf-people existed until like an hour ago, so bird-people are just like icing on that cake of weirdom,” Stiles says.

“What are you doing here?” Derek snaps. His head hurts and he’s confused and disoriented, and he just almost died, and Stiles being right here is really messing with his head.

“He’s waiting on his father to finish with your father,” his mother replies. “Since Stiles and Scott somehow found themselves in the middle of what just happened, we had to explain some things to him.”

“Like why you suddenly grew a crazy beard and lost your eyebrows and had blue eyes and teeth that could eat my arm off.”

“Stiles,” his mother says in exasperation.

“Sorry, Alpha ma’am.”

“I told you to call me Talia.”

Derek stares between his mother and Stiles in disbelief. “Does the venom cause hallucinations? Or mess with your head? I feel like I’m on an acid trip.”

“Dude, how do you think I feel?” Stiles asks. “I just found out the entire lacrosse team is full of freaking werewolves, which I don’t think is completely legal and totally not fair. No wonder Scott and I warm the bench, though that doesn’t explain Isaac, except apparently he just sucks.”

“Is he really necessary?” Peter asks. “Does he ever shut up?”

Derek says, “No,” at the same time Stiles does.

Derek’s mom places a kiss on Derek’s head. “I gotta go check on your dad and the sheriff. You stay here and finish healing.” She stares at him for a few minutes like she’s trying to memorize his face, and then leaves with Peter and Deaton. Which leaves Derek alone with Stiles.

“So. You’re a werewolf,” Stiles states. Derek nods. “Werewolves are real. And a whole bunch of other things are real. That is just freaking awesome.”

Derek looks at Stiles like he’s crazy. “I almost died because I was attacked by an evil bird creature, that also tried to kill you by the way, and you think this is awesome?”

“Of course I do!” Stiles exclaims. They’re quiet for a few moments, and then Stiles says quietly, “Thanks for saving me. Scott was having an asthma attack, and I don’t think Isaac and I could have fought those things off alone.”

“Uh, you’re welcome,” Derek replies. Then, he awkwardly adds, “And thanks for, um, you know. Hitting that thing with a stick. Pretty sure you saved me, too.”

“I totally saved your ass!” Stiles scoffs. “That thing was about to rip you apart. I couldn’t let that happen!” Derek holds Stiles’ gaze, and there are so many things he wants to say, but he can’t. Stiles flushes and lowers his eyes bashfully. Derek wants to reach out and curl his hand around Stiles’ neck, pull him close and kiss him.

“Are you hurt?”

Stiles pulls up his sleeve to reveal a bandage. “When you jumped between me and that thing, its claws scratched me. Apparently, not deep or long enough to transfer any poison, according to Dr. Deaton.”

“I’m sorry you got hurt.”

“Dude, this is nothing. You literally had a hand inside your side.”

“And a broken spine,” Derek adds.

Stiles’ mouth drops open. Then, he points. “Your side. When you woke up, you said it wasn’t healed yet. But it looked pretty healed to me. Do you have like super crazy healing?” Derek nods. “Can I see?”

Derek rolls his eyes, but he lifts his shirt. Stiles bends close and stares at the red gashes on his side, a fraction of the wound he had earlier. Derek feels extremely exposed and vulnerable with Stiles so close to his bare skin. Every time Stiles exhales, his breath blows against Derek’s skin. It’s doing things that Derek is pretty sure are inappropriate at this moment.

Finally, Stiles moves away and Derek yanks his shirt down. Stiles rubs his hand over his hair and laughs. “This is nuts. You are nuts. I mean, your eyebrows disappear. How is that even possible?” Derek’s mouth quirks into a half-smile. “My dad is probably flipping. Your mom said she felt he needed to know since I knew and he was the sheriff.”

“What about Scott’s mom?”

“Also in there.”

“You weren’t supposed to find out,” Derek says in frustration. “Humans aren’t supposed to know. It’s too dangerous. If you had just minded your own business and – “

“Wait, what?” Stiles interrupts. “This is my fault?”

“I told you to stay out of the woods!” Derek explodes. Now that he’s starting to feel like himself, he’s just so angry. Stiles is such a fucking dumbass. He could have died. Derek could heal, but Stiles…any of that would have shattered his fragile body. “I was protecting you!”

“You don’t need to protect me!” Stiles yells.

“What? I should have left you to get mauled by bird-men?”

Stiles opens his mouth, but then closes it and glares. “I saved your ass too, so don’t you forget that. Guess the mighty werewolf isn’t so different than the human.”

Stiles spins around to storm away, but Derek reaches out on instinct to grab him and stop him from going. Stiles glares over his shoulder, and Derek is just so happy he’s alive and he doesn’t want him out of his sight. But he’s still pissed.

“What?” Stiles snaps.

“Don’t…don’t go.”

Stiles huffs and rolls his eyes as he leans against the edge of the metal table Derek is sitting on. They remain in uncomfortable silence for awhile until Stiles quietly says, “I wasn’t trying to cause trouble. I was just curious.”

Derek guesses he can understand that. He and the rest of the Pack had gone searching for the dead body, too. “I know,” he responds just as quiet.

Stiles doesn’t look at him as he asks, “Can you show me your special powers and stuff when you heal?”

“Yeah.”

Stiles glances at him in surprise. “Really?” Derek nods, and Stiles smiles.

“I’m not sorry I found out, you know,” Stiles says a few minutes later.

Derek reaches out and squeezes Stiles’ neck, which causes Stiles to look at him curiously. “Me either.” Stiles ducks his head and smiles.

*

Derek thinks it would have been better if he had died.

It’s an hour later, and he’s sitting on the living room couch with Stiles, Scott, and Isaac. Boyd and Erica are squished into the oversized armchair. His mom paces back and forth in front of them, the edges of her eyes red, while the sheriff stands behind her with his arms crossed over his chest. He’s glaring at them and breathing through his nose a lot like it’s taking all his patience not to use the gun strapped to his hip. Derek’s dad leans against the fireplace mantle, watching everything closely, and Peter sits in the other armchair and nurses a scotch while looking like he’s enjoying this way too much.

Derek, well, Derek thinks everything would be better if the bird-thing’s venomous talons would have finished him off. Then he wouldn’t be sitting here right now, experiencing quite possibly the worst tongue lashing he’s ever gotten.

His mom is throwing out phrases like “supremely irresponsible,” “completely reckless,” and “uncharacteristically stupid.” With each word, Derek feels worse and worse.

“Do you understand the situation you have put me in?” his mom exclaims, staring directly at Derek though it’s meant for all the wolves. “You have exposed this entire Pack and our entire existence, and now there are four innocent humans at risk!” She faces them with her hands on her hips, eyes glowing at full force now.

“We couldn’t just let them die!” Derek interjects. “If we hadn’t done something, those things would have killed Stiles and Scott. They ripped out a chunk of Erica and Isaac, and almost killed me!”

“None of you should have been out there in the first place!” his mom yells. “You four were forbidden to go looking for the dead body or venture out into the woods alone. And you should have never brought your two human friends anywhere near the woods right now! I have never been so disappointed in you, Derek. You not only put your life in danger, but theirs.”

“It’s not his fault!” Stiles exclaims, jumping up suddenly and windmilling his arms around.

“Stiles,” the sheriff says, his voice a warning. “Sit down and shut up.”

“Derek didn’t take us out there,” Stiles blurts in a rush, and Derek watches him with his mouth hanging open. Derek had told his mom that they’d all been hanging out and messing around in the woods when they’d stumbled upon the dead body and got attacked. “I went out there looking for the dead body. I dragged Scott and Isaac with me. Derek was there trying to get us to go home.”

“Are you kidding me, Stiles?” the sheriff says in exasperation. “I told you not to get involved in this! You could have been killed! This is not a game.”

“I know that now,” Stiles says. “We were walking back to the Jeep, minding our own business, when those things attacked and Isaac went all GRR!” Stiles curls his hands like claws and bares his teeth in the worst imitation of a wolf Derek has ever seen. “Then Derek ran in and was all GRR and BAM, and pretty freaking badass I gotta say.” Derek starts in surprise, and preens under Stiles’ praise.

“Until, you know,” Stiles continues, “that thing dropped him from like a zillion feet up and he stopped moving and then almost died twice. That’s when I came in all AHH!! with the first big limb I could find on the ground and hit the thing on the head and, dude, you should have seen it because he went tumbling away.”

The sheriff takes a few striding steps towards Stiles. “You did what??”

“Derek was like dead on the ground and that thing was gonna eat him or something!”

“And you willingly attacked a monster instead of running away??

“Hold on!” Derek’s mother says, raising both her hands. “You went into the woods and you found the body?”

“Yeah,” Stiles says. “You’re welcome, by the way.” He grins and winks cheekily at Derek’s mother, and Derek is just waiting for her to rip his throat out. He can’t believe Stiles is sassing the Alpha of the Northwest Territory!

“Stiles, watch your mouth,” the sheriff snaps, and Stiles mumbles his apologies as he drops back to the couch beside Derek.

Derek’s mother turns to him, and Derek casts his eyes to the floor. “You lied? To your mother and Alpha?” Derek nods. “Why?”

Derek murmurs something, and when his mother tells him to speak up, he lifts his head and replies, “Because I was trying to protect him. I didn’t want them to get in trouble. I knew everything was bad enough as it is.”

His mom groans and runs her hands over her face as she walks over to his dad. She whispers something too quietly for Derek to hear. When she turns around, she looks around at all of them like she can’t believe this has actually happened. But worse, she looks disappointed.

“The woods are completely off-limits,” his mother says, and then looks pointedly at Stiles, “to everyone. These Aracoix are dangerous and until we find out more, I don’t want anyone in danger. Boyd, Erica, Isaac, I will discuss what happened with your parents. Derek, you are grounded until you’re a hundred.” Derek nods and is pretty sure he deserves worse.

“As for Stiles and Scott,” she continues, “you both, along with your parents, are under the protection of the Hale Pack. But this means that no matter what, you must never reveal our existence. Do you understand?” She looks at all four humans, who all nod except for Stiles.

“What happens if we tell someone?” Stiles asks. Derek really wants to shake Stiles, or maybe stuff something in his mouth so he can’t talk anymore.

Peter’s the one who replies. “Simple. You tell someone, we kill you.”

Stiles points at his dad. “The sheriff is literally standing right there!”

Peter shrugs. “No one will find the body. Plus, meddling where you don’t belong has consequences. You dragged yourself into a world where you don’t belong, and now you have to live with the responsibilities of that knowledge. Keeping our existence secret is the most important thing.” Peter’s eyes flash blue and the sheriff takes a step towards him with his hand on his sidepiece, but Derek’s mom reaches out to still him.

“Peter, that’s enough. He’s a child, for god’s sake.”

Peter blinks, his eyes back to normal, and shrugs again. He sits back in the chair, picks up his glass, and takes another sip.

“I see where Jackson gets his charm,” Stiles murmurs and Derek snorts, but it quickly fades when his mother glares at him.

“My brother is being a bit overdramatic,” she tells Stiles, “however, keeping our kind secret is the only way to keep us safe. There are hunters that would murder us all in our beds before asking questions, and that’s not to say what the humans would do.”

“You have our word,” the sheriff says, nodding.

Derek’s mother lets them go not long after that. Melissa walks out with Scott, and offers Erica and Isaac a ride to their house. Boyd rides with Peter back to his house to pick up his car, leaving Derek and Stiles standing awkwardly on the porch while his mom and dad talk to the sheriff inside.

“Crazy night,” Stiles says. “Sorry you’re grounded until you’re a hundred.”

“She’s just mad,” Derek says. “It’ll probably be like a month.”

“Bummer.”

“Yeah, nothing but school, Pack meetings, and lacrosse.”

“You sound like that’s happened before.”

Derek raises a brow. “I’ve been grounded before.”

“Somehow, I can’t imagine that. You always seem like such a goody-goody.”

Derek snorts. “Hardly.”

“Let me guess. Jackson probably gets you in trouble. Or Isaac. Maybe Danny, but he’s pretty sneaky, so I bet he never gets in trouble.”

“Jackson is usually complicit in the things that get me in trouble.”

“See? Goody-goody. Jackson’s a bad influence even on you.” Derek smiles. “I’ll probably be grounded until graduation. My dad seems pretty calm right now, but he’s definitely freaking the fuck out. When we get home, he’s going to have a fit. Not only are werewolves real, but bird-people, and I could have died.”

“He’s already freaking out.”

“How do you know that?”

Derek hesitates, but figures what the hell. There’s really no use in keeping anything from him now. “Wolves can sense emotions. He’s worried, scared, and anxious.”

“Well, I’m not telling him you all can sense that in him. He’ll hate that.” Stiles brings his thumb up to his mouth and starts chewing on it. “Does that mean you like know what I’m feeling?”

“Sometimes.”

“Well, that’s just plain embarrassing.”

“It’s not like it’s a constant thing,” Derek says. “It’s like paying attention to someone’s voice or body language. I have to be trying to sense it.”

“That’s only slightly less creepy.” Derek rolls his eyes. “What am I feeling now?”

Derek hones his senses and focuses on Stiles’ heartbeat and his unique signature. “Anxiety, but that’s normal for you. Frustration, fear, curiosity.” Stiles watches him with wide eyes, and then Derek smirks. “Arousal.”

Stiles blushes furiously and sputters. “I don’t – what the – “

“Every teenage smells like arousal,” Derek laughs. “It’s the hormones. You get used to it after awhile.”

“I am so disturbed right now,” Stiles mutters, and Derek laughs again. Then, Stiles kicks his foot lightly. “Does this mean we’re friends now?”

“Weren’t we friends before?” Derek asks.

Stiles shakes his head and looks at Derek like he’s an idiot. “No. You’ve never really spoken to me before your weird sudden lacrosse epiphany. So, definitely not friends.”

“Yes. We’re friends now,” Derek says.

Stiles chews on his thumb as he stares at Derek. “Cool.”

The sheriff comes out a few minutes later, giving Derek a clipped goodbye before Stiles reluctantly follows him to the cruiser. Stiles glances at Derek over his shoulder, to where he’s still standing on the porch watching him walk away. Derek waves, and Stiles raises his hand and gives him a small smile.

As the sheriff cranks the cruiser, Derek goes inside the house. His parents are waiting in the living room, hard expressions on their faces.

Once again, Derek kinda wishes he was dead. That’d be so much better than the lecture he is about to get.

*

“Shut the front door!” Cora exclaims as she bursts into Derek’s room just before midnight. He drops the book he’s reading and glares at her. “You found the body? And fought giant birds? And almost died? You always get to do the cool stuff! I miss everything!”

“I’m grounded for the rest of my life,” Derek says as Cora drops dramatically onto the bed beside him. “Plus, did you miss the part where I almost died? That’s not hyperbole. It was…” He swallows. He’s been trying not to think about it since it happened, but it’s like mentioning it has opened a floodgate. Derek starts shaking so badly the book he’s holding against his chest moves.

Cora’s face instantly goes soft. “Hey, it’s okay. I was just joking.” She crawls up the bed and curls against Derek’s side.

Voice barely audible, Derek whispers, “I thought I was going to die. I really thought that thing was going to kill me. I’ve never been so scared in my entire life.”

Cora doesn’t respond. Instead, she grabs the book and tosses it to the floor, and then she wraps her arm around Derek’s waist and rests her head on his shoulder. Derek closes his eyes. He’s actually glad Cora is there. He’s not sure he could be alone, not tonight. He doesn’t have to ask her to stay, and he tries to soak as much Pack comfort from her as possible.

*

The weekend sucks. Derek’s mom keeps shooting him disappointed glances Saturday morning, so he spends the rest of the weekend holed up in his room. Cora stops by often to check up on him, and on Saturday night after she gets home from Danny’s she informs him that Jackson is pissed because they got to fight the Aracoix and he didn’t.

“Like, he spent all night ranting about how worthless you four were, and how even more worthless Stiles and Scott were. He was so green with jealousy. It was great. We ragged on him all night, especially after he claimed that he could have defeated them!” Cora laughs and Derek quirks a smile. “I mean, I’m totally jealous you got to see some action. But I’m not running my mouth!”

Cora keeps chattering, but Derek gets lost in his thoughts. He doesn’t understand why everyone thinks what happened to him was cool or exciting. Derek has spent the last 24 hours holed up in his room because he’s been too scared to do anything else. He knows he’s safe, but he just keeps flashing to that moment when the Aracoix was circling around him, when he truly thought he was going to die. And then lying there, bleeding and in the worst pain he’s ever experienced as everything around him went hazy.

He’d gladly switch places with Jackson.

That night, Derek dreams of the Aracoix. They’re circling around and Derek’s on the ground again, unable to move. Jackson’s beside him, yelling at the Aracoix, until it swoops down and plucks out Jackson’s eyeballs. Derek can’t scream and he can’t look away because he’s completely paralyzed, so he just watches the thing eat Jackson’s eyeballs slowly as Jackson screams until the Aracoix slices him half.

The dream shifts, and he’s wolfed out and chasing after Stiles. Stiles is screaming and terrified, and an Aracoix swoops down and grabs him. As it starts to fly away with Stiles dangling beneath it, Derek leaps and sinks his teeth into Stiles’ leg and yanks him down. When Stiles hits the ground, he stares at Derek with scared eyes before Derek goes for his throat.

Derek wakes up, gasping. He’s wolfed out, the taste of blood in his mouth and the metallic smell hanging in the air. He glances down, and there’s blood smeared on his palms where he’s clawed himself in his sleep, his sheets ripped and blood stained.

He sits up and looks at his hand, his claws still extended and his hand shaking. He’s trying to will them back inside but can’t get enough control when a knock lands on his door. He inhales and smells his mom on the other side.

“Derek?”

“Come in.”

The door opens and his mom steps through and closes it behind him. Her eyes are heavy with sleep, her dark hair messy. She’s wearing a tank top and pajama pants with smiling cups of coffee on them. Her eyes quickly scan over him, and a frown creases her face.

Derek tries to reign in his wolf, but he’s just trembling too badly, his heart pounding, his adrenaline still shot high from the dream. His eyes dampen in frustration and shame.

“What’s wrong?” she asks as she comes over to the side of the bed. She runs a hand over his hair and then rests it on the nape of his neck. “You’re soaked.”

He growls in response. Her eyes glow as she pulls him close against her, his face hidden against her torso. She growls so quietly that the only reason he can hear her is because his ear is pressed against her body. Derek doesn’t even try to hold it together. He just clings to his mother, his entire body shaking.

After a few moments, the shaking subsides and he pulls back. His mom sits beside him and cups his cheek. “What happened?”

“Bad dream,” he says through muffled fangs. He still can’t get them to retract. He’s kinda afraid something has just snapped.

Her eyes sweep over the damage. “Clearly. Want to talk about it?” Derek shakes his head. “Okay.” She takes his hands and rubs her thumbs over his claws. Letting one of his hands go, she reaches over and grabs the triskelion medallion off Derek’s nightstand. She holds it in her palm as Derek covers it with his own. “Take a few deep breaths, then repeat the mantra with me.”

Derek nods and focuses on the medallion between their palms as he breathes. Then, his mom says, “Alpha…”

“Beta, Omega,” Derek joins. “Alpha, Beta, Omega.”

Slowly, his claws start to recede, his fangs retracting as his face shifts back. He takes a few more breaths as his mom squeezes his hands. “There we go.”

“I’m sorry.”

“For what?”

“Losing control.”

“Oh, Derek. That’s nothing to even worry about.”

“I ruined my sheets. They’re new.”

His mom rolls her eyes. “We can buy new sheets.” She stands. “Now, come on and I’ll help you fix your bed.”

Between the two of them, they have the bed switched out in no time. Derek cringes when he sees blood and slashes in the mattress, but they just flip it over. His mom shrugs and says they’ll clean the blood later and that the mattress will be fine until he slashes this side, too. She laughs, but Derek doesn’t find it funny.

When he’s back in bed, his mom sits back on the edge and says, “It’s okay, you know. To be upset about what happened. You might have healed physically, but what happened was major.”

Derek picks at the edge of his comforter. “I dreamed about them. It was horrible.”

“Understandable.”

“I thought I wanted to fight and protect my Pack, but I don’t want to do that again.” He shakes his head. “Ever. I’m a coward.”

“You are anything but a coward.” His mom takes his hands and holds them in both of hers. “You almost died. Twice. Some wolves fight for years without experiencing what you did. But you protected two humans, who would have died. You jumped in to help Isaac.”

“But if it wasn’t for you – “

“Derek, you are seventeen years old,” his mother stresses. “We kept you from this on purpose. You did well.” She smiles at him. “I’m proud of you.”

“I thought you were disappointed.”

“I am,” she states. “But I’m proud, too. It’s very complicated and frustrating, to be honest.” Derek smiles. “There we go. A smile.”

“I’m really sorry,” Derek says. “For everything. We were going to call you. I was just trying to protect Stiles and Scott and keep them from finding out our secret. I didn’t think we were going to get attacked.”

She sighs. “I know. It doesn’t mean you’re not still grounded until you’re a hundred, though.” She smirks.

“I did dream something weird,” he admits, and then proceeds to tell her about what he did to Stiles.

“It’s just anxiety,” she tells him. “Your friends found out your secret. It’s normal to feel nervous and upset about it. We spend so much of our lives wrapped in secrecy, it’s hard to process when a human finds out.” Leaning forward, she presses a soft kiss to Derek’s forehead. “Now, get some rest. And try not to stress out. You’re safe. I promise.”

There’s no lie to those words, so he tries to wrap them around himself as he tries to quiet his brain so he can sleep.

*

At lunch on Monday, Derek listens to Erica and Isaac relay a story from the night before. Isaac was doing his homework at the table with EJ when EJ spilled a glass of soda and a bowl of chocolate ice cream on the table, missing his homework completely but completely ruining Isaac’s. Isaac is ranting about EJ when Stiles drops onto the seat beside him.

Isaac stops mid-sentence, and everyone stares at Stiles. Lea blurts, “Who are you?”

“Who are YOU?” Stiles counters.

“Um, this is my table, weirdo.”

“Lea, this is Stiles,” Erica says.

“You’re Stiles?” Cora exclaims.

“Oh!” Alicia says as the name dawns on her.

“You’re the nosybody,” Lea says.

Stiles glances between Isaac and Derek and asks, “Who are they? They’re like the three Gorgons, except they don’t have snakes coming out of their heads and can’t turn men to stone. Except maybe that one,” he points to Lea. “I’m thinking she could.” Lea flicks him off. To Derek, he asks, “Who is she?”

“She’s sitting right here!”

“Danny’s sister,” Isaac supplies.

You’re Danny’s sister? But he’s so…nice.”

Lea scoffs and stands up. “What? And I’m not?” Alicia grabs her arm and yanks her back down.

Stiles turns to Derek. “Is everyone just scary and an asshole that you hang out with? You know?” Stiles waggles his eyebrows.

Derek rolls his eyes and huffs as he stands up. He grabs Stiles’ arm and drags him towards the doors. “Hey! What are you doing? I just had some questions. I wanted – “

“Not here,” Derek says quietly. “They’re listening.”

Stiles glances over his shoulder right before Derek leads them into the building. The lunchroom is loud and smells terrible, and Derek really hates being in here. “What do you mean listening? You mean? How cool and disturbing! But I have more questions. Like how do you – “

“No.” Derek stops and spins around to face Stiles. “Not here. Too risky.”

Stiles glances around him. Derek stopped in front of the drink machines, and there aren’t that many people around. “Why not?”

“Like I said, anyone could be listening. Too risky.”

Stiles flails his arms around. “You promised!”

Derek rolls his eyes again. “Not to explain things in the lunchroom!”

After a moment, Stiles nods. “Okay. But you owe me.”

Derek shakes his head. Honestly, he’s extremely happy to see Stiles. After Friday, he wasn’t sure how Stiles would respond to him. That dream Saturday night also messed with his head. He’s just glad that Stiles is speaking to him and doesn’t want to like burn him at the stake or something. He had these horrible thoughts yesterday about Stiles running after him with a pitchfork screaming “Kill the beast!” like something out of a Disney-themed nightmare.

“My dad was so mad, dude. Like, you think your mom is scary? She might, you know, have stuff that my dad doesn’t, but my dad may give her a run for her money!” Stiles keeps rambling about his dad lecturing him as Derek turns away from him. He digs into his back pocket and takes two dollars out of his wallet. He feeds them to the machine and then hits the button for a bottle of water.

When it drops into the mouth of the machine, Derek grabs it and thrusts it at Stiles. The gesture startles Stiles so much that he stops talking. “Dude, what is this?”

“A bottle of water,” Derek replies like Stiles is stupid.

“Why are you giving it to me?”

“Just take it,” Derek says as he pushes it against Stiles’ chest. “Now at least we have a reason for walking over here.”

“The least you could have done is buy me a soda.”

Derek starts walking back towards the doors. “The last thing you need is sugar.”

“Hey!” Stiles exclaims, offended. Derek smirks. “Seriously, you’re going to answer my questions. If not, I will badger you until you do.”

“Oh, I have no doubt.”

“Thanks for the water. Even if it is water.”

Derek stops and glances at Stiles. They’re standing along the edge of the lunchroom, and though there are students all around them, Derek feels like they’re the only two people in the world. They stare at each other long enough that it gets awkward. Stiles coughs and tosses the bottle from one hand the other, but ends up fumbling it. Derek reaches out, werewolf fast, and catches it before it falls. Stiles’ eyes go wide. “Whoa. That was awesome. Do it again!”

Derek rolls his eyes and hands the bottle back to Stiles. “Goodbye, Stiles.”

“I’ll see you at practice.”

“You better. You need it.”

“That’s low, Derek. Low!”

Derek laughs as he pushes through the doors. The entire table turns to stare at him as he sits down. “What was that?” Erica asks.

Derek shrugs. “It’s Stiles, who the hell knows?”

That seems to satisfy everyone, and Boyd starts talking about their upcoming chemistry project. Derek can’t quite stop thinking about Stiles’ eyes, and the impressed way he looked at Derek after he caught the bottle.

*

Stiles tries to get Derek to answer questions every day at practice. Derek refuses. On Thursday when Stiles gets irritated, Derek says, “Everybody like me is listening to what we’re saying. And the lacrosse field isn’t the best place.”

“You keep saying that!” Stiles exclaims as they walk towards their cars. “Let me come over to your house. Your mom or Uncle Peter can like rip out my throat if I put a toe out of line.”

“I’m still grounded,” Derek tells him. “Aren’t you?”

Stiles blows air out of his mouth. “Yeah right. My dad always tells me I’m grounded, but he works too much to enforce it.”

“I guess you’ll have to wait.” Derek gives him a shit-eating grin and Stiles points at him.

“You are enjoying this way too much.” Derek shrugs. “I’ll just ask Isaac.”

That stops Derek. He stares at Stiles, mouth hanging open slightly in surprise. That thought hadn’t crossed his mind. Sure, Stiles and Isaac were friends, but they weren’t close friends. Derek hadn’t even thought that Stiles or Scott might ask the other Pack members questions. Stiles notices he hit a nerve, so he smirks triumphantly.

“I think Scott invited him over for pizza tonight.”

“He’s been bitten. He doesn’t know as much.”

Stiles’ eyes go wide. “So, you can get bitten! And not everyone was born that way in your little group.” He rubs his hands together. “Finally! Some answers.”

Derek scowls. “Well, if you want anymore, you’re gonna have to ask Isaac. I’m not discussing this stuff out here.” He stalks off towards his car and throws the bag in the front seat with more force than necessary. He thinks he may have shattered the plastic water bottle in the floorboard, but he’s too irritated to care.

*

Derek spends the weekend grounded. He catches up on schoolwork, reads, and visits with his grandmother. The moment he walks into her small house Saturday morning, she growls at him. He’s so shocked, he wolfs out and checks around for the threat.

“You’re gonna give an old woman a heart attack,” Grandma tells him. He glances at her, standing in the doorway to the kitchen. She’s wolfed out, which is a rare occurrence. Derek has only seen his grandmother wolfed out a few times in his life. To be honest, it kinda freaks him out.

Grandma points to the chair at the dinette in the kitchen. “Sit.” Derek quickly obeys. “Now. I don’t like to shift. It hurts my bones. I’m getting too old for shifting. So, you gonna explain to me why you done got me so upset?”

“Grandma, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

She glares at him, which is terrifying with her eyes blazing bright blue. “Don’t be stupid, Derek. I heard about your little expedition in the woods.”

Oh. Right. Derek realizes suddenly that he hasn’t seen his grandma since that happened.

“Do you know what it would have done to your momma if you’d have died? Ain’t nothing worse than losing a child, and an Alpha losing their child?” Grandma shakes her head. “That alone’ll turn a good Alpha feral.”

“It’s not like I did anything on purpose!” Derek exclaims. He’s getting tired of everyone being on his case for something he had no control over. “I didn’t go looking for those things! If it wasn’t for me, Boyd, and Erica, the others would have died!”

“Those humans,” Grandma says, her features slowly morphing back to normal. It takes her a lot longer than the others to shift. Her eyes, however, stay blue. “Who are they? Someone says one is the sheriff’s pup.”

Derek nods.

Grandma drops into the seat across from Derek, looking weary and all of her age. “You scared me, Pup,” she says quietly. “I’ve lived a long life, and I ain’t got the strength to lose a grandkid.”

“I’m sorry, Grandma,” Derek says quietly.

Grandma reaches out and grabs his hand. She puts it between both of hers. They’re cold and wrinkled, the skin thin over her bones. She looks him in the eye and says, “You fought bravely. They say you protected those humans, helped protect Isaac.” She squeezes his hand. “That’s my boy.”

For the first time since everything happened, Derek feels like a vice around his chest loosened. He inhales a shaky breath, and Grandma gives him an understanding smile. She doesn’t say anything though, and Derek is thankful.

“You’re a Hale,” Grandma says seriously. “Don’t ever forget that. Hales are brave and fierce. We protect those we love at the expense of ourselves, and we protect the people on this land.” Derek nods, and Grandma gives him an answering nod and pats his hand. “Okay then. Get the cards. We’ll play some canasta.”

After Derek deals out the cards, Grandma says, “So, when do I get to meet this sheriff’s kid? He’s the one who’s got you upset, right?” Derek nearly drops his cards in surprise, and Grandma smirks. “Thought so.”

“I – I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Grandma gives him a flat look. “A human could hear the lie in that.”

“Stiles is just a friend.”

Grandma draws a card. “But you want him to be more than a friend.”

“How?” Derek asks. “How do you know that?”

“I’m an old woman. I know things.” She taps the side of her head. “Now, I ain’t your momma or friend, so out with it. Tell me about Stiles.”

So, Derek draws a card, rearranges his hand, and tells his grandmother about Stiles.

*

Derek is grounded for a month. It sucks, really sucks. He only gets to go to lacrosse practice and doesn’t get to do anything with the Pack, except his grandma and immediate family. His mom won’t even let him go over to Jackson’s to hang out with him and Uncle Peter. She also said he couldn’t play bridge with Boyd and Grandma Boyd, and Derek’s grandma told his mom that she was being unjustly cruel. His mom just smirked and said she learned from the best, which seemed to appease his grandma slightly. But then Grandma tried to convince his mom to let Derek play because, as she claimed, Jackson wasn’t as good of a bridge partner and the Boyds kept beating them.

Derek misses his Pack. But the worst of it all is that his mom is refusing to let him go to the Halloween party. The Pack Halloween party is legendary. Everyone from the five Packs get together and throw this massive party. The location changes each year, and whichever Pack hosts it tries to outdo the Pack from previous years. This year it’s a Hale Pack year, and they’re throwing the party at the Reyes house. Erica and Isaac have been talking about nothing but the party for weeks.

No matter how much Derek begs, his mom adamantly says no. So, that’s how he finds himself alone on Halloween at the house. Even his parents went to the stupid party. Seriously, Derek is the biggest geek ever. Jackson will never let him live this one down.

Derek can’t decide between watching scary movies or reading a horror book, so he has an old Stephen King novel on his lap and Halloween playing on the television. His mom did leave him some of the Halloween-themed treats she made for the party, so he has “clawcakes,” which are chocolate cupcakes that look like they have bloody werewolf claw marks on top, pumpkin cake balls, bat cookies, caramel apples, and his favorite, Frankenstein marshmallow treats. If he can’t go to the party, he’s going to drown his misery by stuffing his face and getting so sick on sugar that he throws up.

He’s on his third Frankenstein rice krispy treat when the doorbell rings. The fact that someone made it to the door without Derek knowing just shows how distracted he is by his wallowing. Cautiously, Derek walks towards the front door. When he approaches it, he immediately recognizes the erratic heartbeat and distinct smell.

Derek yanks open the door with a scowl. Stiles stands on the other side, with a flowered sheet over his head obscuring his face. The sheet has two large uneven holes cut out of it through which Stiles’ unmistakable eyes stare.

“What are you doing here?” Derek demands.

“Trick or treat?”

“You’re too old for trick or treating,” Derek says. “Besides, no one ever trick or treats out here because it’s the middle of the woods.”

“First,” Stiles says, still wearing the ridiculous sheet, which causes his voice to be slightly muffled, “I am definitely not too old to trick or treat. And this place is perfect for trick or treating. Or maybe a horror movie.” He tilts his head back and howls.

“That was pathetic.”

“I’m not the werewolf, dude.”

Derek rolls his eyes. “Take off the stupid sheet if you’re going to talk to me.”

Stiles throws the sheet off his head with a flourish and momentarily gets tangled in it. “I’ll have you know,” Stiles says as he fights with the sheet, “that this sheet is not stupid.”

“Stiles, it has daffodils on it.”

“It was all I found in the closet. Well, the only thing I was willing to put holes into.”

“Why didn’t you buy a costume?”

Stiles ignores the question and extends a hand towards the door. “Are you seriously not going to invite me into your house? Are we going to keep talking on the porch?”

“I’m grounded.”

“And your evil stepmother made you stay home from the ball,” Stiles says as he squeezes past Derek into the house. “I know all about it. Isaac told me.” Derek sighs like Stiles is the most insufferable person on the planet. He is, really. Despite Derek’s ridiculous crush. Stiles is obnoxious, and his mom is going to find out he was here and Derek’s going to be grounded for another month.

“Seriously, my mom is going to flip if she finds out you were here.”

Stiles studies Derek carefully. “Dude, you are really nervous.”

“What part of my mom is an Alpha werewolf did you miss? You just don’t mess with that!”

“Sheriff as a dad,” Stiles says, like he’s anteing up. “Doesn’t stop me from doing anything.”

“You have zero self-preservation skills.”

Stiles nods in agreement, then grabs Derek’s wrist. “So, come on. We’re going to the party.”

Derek shakes his head in astonishment and pulls his arm from Stiles’ grasp as he walks towards the living room. “You’re nuts. Absolutely fucking nuts.” He drops onto the couch. “No way.”

“Why? Because your party of one is so exciting?” Stiles sits beside Derek and looks around before grabbing a bat cookie and a cupcake. “Did you seriously make werewolf claw cupcakes? Could that be any lamer?”

Derek tries to snatch the cupcake back, but Stiles moves it out of his way. “Don’t mock your free food.”

“It’s just…” Stiles shakes his head as he bites the wing off the bat. With his mouth full, he says, “I didn’t expect werewolves to be so…normal. And lame.”

“What did you expect?” Derek exclaims as Stiles swallows.

He shrugs. “Murder. Caves. Dead animals.”

“We hunt animals.”

Stiles laughs delightedly. “With your teeth? Or a gun? Please say it’s your teeth!” Derek huffs through his nose and refuses to answer. This makes Stiles laugh harder. “Oh my god! You do hunt with your teeth! That is AMAZING!”

“My mom will smell me within three seconds of me setting foot into Erica and Isaac’s house. I don’t want to be grounded anymore.”

Stiles shrugs and settles into the couch, propping his feet on the coffee table as he takes a big bite of the cupcake. “Fine,” he says, again with his mouth full, “we’ll just – wow, this cupcake is delicious.” He takes another bite as Derek grabs one and shoves half of it into his mouth angrily. Stiles swallows and says, “We can just hang out here and watch Halloween. I love this movie. Scares the shit out of me.”

“Afraid of murdering psychopaths wearing masks?”

“Yes!” Stiles exclaims. “That used to be all I was worried about, but now I’ve got to worry about flying bird people and werewolves and all sorts of other things I thought were just part of someone’s fucked up imagination. News flash! They’re real!”

Derek’s brow creases as he leans against the arm of the couch to get a better look at Stiles. Under Stiles’ humor and wide gesticulations, there’s something more vulnerable. Derek wonders just how often Stiles uses exaggeration to deflect from what’s truly going on inside his head.

“You’re scared, aren’t you?” Derek asks quietly.

“No!” Stiles returns hastily. He shoves the rest of the cupcake into his mouth.

“We grew up scared of men with guns,” Derek tells him. He’s never talked about these kinds of things with anyone before, and he struggles to find the right words. But Stiles’ attention is immediately riveted to him. He’s now eating a Frankenstein marshmallow treat, but his eyes are shrewd and Derek can almost see his brain working and filing away the information Derek’s giving him.

“Hunters are our scary stories,” Derek continues. “Humans with deadly strains of wolfsbane who would come in and destroy entire Packs just for existing. When my grandma was younger, when my grandfather was the Alpha, there was a big war between the wolves and the hunters. Hunters came into territories and left piles of bodies in the woods, in houses. They took out young Pack members at school, killed wolves at their work places, followed them to the grocery store or the mall. My grandma and Boyd’s grandma have told us stories about finding wolves hanging in the woods, cut in half. They even took out one Alpha by locking the entire family in the house, including the humans, and burning the house to the ground.”

“Oh my god,” Stiles whispers, treat forgotten in his hand as he stares at Derek with wide, horrified eyes.

“My grandfather banded together with the surrounding Packs to make an alliance. There was a big battle when my mom, Dad, and Uncle Peter were teenagers. They defeated the leader of the hunters and made a truce pact with his son. My grandma still can’t hear the name Gerard Argent without trembling. That’s what scares us.”

“Argent?” Stiles exclaims, sitting up suddenly. “Like Allison?”

“Yep. Her grandfather. She’s a hunter. Her dad set up the truce with my grandfather when he was only like eighteen or something. He’s been the leader of the hunters in this area ever since. He’s good friends with my mom. I grew up with Allison.”

Stiles runs a hand over his hair. “Wow. That’s…that’s crazy.” Derek nods in agreement. Then, Stiles sighs and drops back against the couch. “I am scared,” he finally admits. “Those bird things are like, fucking creepy. I had a couple of nightmares about them, and I don’t ever have nightmares.”

“I, um, I also dreamed about them.”

Stiles glances up at him, his cheeks tinged pink with embarrassment. “Really?” Derek nods. “That makes me feel less like a wuss.”

Derek takes a breath before asking a question that’s tugging at him uncomfortably. “Um, are you scared of us? Of…me?”

Stiles’ eyes scan over Derek’s face, and after a moment his expression softens. “I’m not scared of you.” Derek exhales a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding. “None of you, except maybe your Uncle Peter. That dude is scary.”

Derek laughs.

“My mom will protect you,” Derek says. “But like nothing ever happens. These things are like the first thing to come around since I was born.”

“So,” Stiles asks before grabbing another cookie. “Do we stay here and watch the movie or crash the party?”

Derek knows it’s a bad idea, but it seems like everything connected to Stiles is a bad idea, so what the hell. “Let’s crash the party.”

Stiles jumps up from the couch, punches the air, and twirls around. “That’s what I’m talking about! Yes!” He points at Derek. “Yes. Now, we need a costume. Do you have a sheet?”

As Derek and Stiles walk up towards the Reyes house, he decides that Stiles could talk him into anything. He’s exactly the type of peer pressure stereotype parents warn their kids about, that “if someone jumped off a bridge, would you follow them” kind of bs. Derek would most definitely follow Stiles off a bridge.

Derek walks beside Stiles, in a blue and white striped sheet with holes cut in it for eyes. They look ridiculous, Stiles in a flowered sheet and Derek in his striped one. Maybe it’ll fool everyone. (Yeah, Derek knows it won’t.)

“There are like a thousand cars here,” Stiles says as they continue past more cars parked along the road. The Reyes family lives on the outskirts of town, on a road that leads into Beacon Hills. They have a few acres with some woods around the house, but the yard isn’t big enough for all the cars. There are cars parked for at least a half mile either direction down the road from the house.

“Five Packs,” Derek says as they near the house. “Lots of people.”

“They should charter a bus or a van. Way less obnoxious.”

As they walk up the driveway, Derek can hear music playing from the house. The dark night is illuminated with eerie green lights that glow near a fake graveyard with plastic tombstones. A few graves have skeleton hands reaching out of them. Ghosts and skeletons hang from nooses tied in tree limbs, and jack-o-lanterns line the walkway. On the porch, a life size fake werewolf stands by the door, its bloody teeth bared.

“Cute,” Stiles says sarcastically as he pokes the wolf. As soon Stiles’ finger connects, Derek growls and Stiles jumps. Derek laughs and Stiles tells him he’s not funny.

Derek opens the door and enters, his heart pounding in his chest. He’s a nervous wreck. There are easily over a hundred people here, all dressed in elaborate costumes, the scents jumbled and indistinguishable. But Derek is still terrified of running into his mother at any moment.

“Dude, I can’t even see your face and I can tell you look like you’re about to shit yourself in fear,” Stiles says. He grabs Derek’s hand and pulls him towards the table of food that can be seen through the far doorway. “You’re here now. Chill out and relax.”

Stiles doesn’t let go of Derek’s hand as he walks through the crowd. Derek focuses on the warm weight against his palm, thinking about what it would be like if they were holding hands just because they wanted to touch each other and be close. Derek feels that familiar overwhelming urge to press Stiles up against the nearest surface and rub his scent all over him.

At the food table, Stiles unfortunately lets go of Derek’s hand. He immediately grabs a plate and starts piling junk food on it, but Derek stands there and watches him, still reeling from holding Stiles’ hand for so long.

“I thought we could share,” Stiles says as he stands beside Derek. “But let’s find a place to stand that’s no so central.”

Derek leads Stiles through the Reyes house, up the stairs to the second floor. There are a few people spread out along the hall, but it’s considerably less crowded. Derek walks to the last door on the hall and opens the door.

“Oh shit,” Derek exclaims when he realizes there are two people rolling around on the bed. The person on top lifts his head and looks over his shoulder, and Derek realizes it’s Brett. His eyes land on the other person, Nick from Kali’s Pack. Derek bumps into Stiles as he backs out and shuts the door.

“Someone was getting lucky,” Stiles says as Derek walks to another door. He opens the door and thankfully no one is inside.

Derek flings off the sheet and drops onto the bed. “This is Isaac’s room,” he explains. “We should be safe up here.”

“We did not come to the party to hide out in a room,” Stiles says as he sits on the edge of Isaac’s bed beside Derek. “We’ll eat these delicious treats, then go back to the party.”

“You want me to get caught, don’t you?”

“I want you to have fun,” Stiles says, bumping Derek’s shoulder.

They’re munching on the food when the door opens up, and two people stumble giggling into the room. They freeze the moment they spy Derek and Stiles sitting on the bed.

“What are you doing in my room?” Isaac exclaims. “You’re grounded!”

“Ssh!” Derek puts his finger to his lips. “I don’t want my mom to hear you.”

“I can’t believe you snuck into the party! You’re an idiot.”

Allison giggles and rests her head on Isaac’s shoulder as she waves at Derek and Stiles. Derek waves, surprised to see Allison with Isaac. Isaac’s had a crush on Allison for as long as Derek can remember.

“Is Scott here?” Stiles asks, his voice harsher than Derek thinks is necessary. Then he remembers the overheard conversation about Scott’s crush on Allison. So, well, this just got awkward.

“He’s downstairs with Kira,” Isaac replies.

“Kira?”

“They’ve been talking all night,” Isaac says pointedly, and Stiles nods in understanding. Derek guesses it’s not as awkward as originally thought. Except the part where Isaac and Allison came into the room to find Derek and Stiles there instead. “Now, can you tell me what you’re doing in my room?”

“Brett was in the guest bedroom with Nick, so I came in here to eat.”

“And hide from his mom,” Stiles laughs. Derek glowers at him.

“Well, can you leave?” Isaac asks. “We’re kinda busy.”

“I bet,” Stiles says. Allison and Isaac both flush.

Derek stands and is grabbing his sheet when the door opens up. Brett walks in, followed by the twins, Jackson, and Lydia.

“You’re a cock block,” Brett says. “Totally ruined the moment with me and Nick.”

“If me opening a door is enough to ruin it, I think you were punking out before I got there.”

“Oh shit, burn,” Aiden laughs as he holds up his fist for Derek to bump.

Brett flips him off as Lydia turns to Stiles. “What are you doing here?” she asks.

Stiles glances at Derek in a momentary flash of panic, like he’s suddenly lost the ability to think or talk. “I invited him,” Derek says.

“I thought you were grounded,” Jackson says. “You never break your parents’ rules.”

“Obviously I’m doing that now,” Derek says.

“Hi, I’m Brett,” Brett says as he saunters? up to Stiles. He’s oozing all his flirting vibes, and Derek has to repeat the mantra not to wolf out and claw Brett’s face off. There’s a voice inside his head growling mine, mine, mine. “I don’t think we’ve met before.”

“I’m Stiles.”

“Cool name.” Brett gives Stiles his best smile, and Stiles flushes.

“Thanks.”

“All right,” Isaac says, thankfully breaking up that scene before Derek could get into a fight right here in the bedroom. “Everyone out. Go to Erica’s room if you need to.”

“I think Alicia is in there with someone.”

“Better not let Boyd find out. He’ll kill the guy.”

“Out!” Isaac shouts.

Derek follows Jackson out as he throws the sheet over his head again. “You look like a fucking dumbass,” Jackson tells him.

“Yeah, what the hell are you even supposed to be?” Derek asks. “You’re wearing a dress.”

“It’s a toga,” Jackson says. He leans over and whispers, “I don’t fucking know what it is. Lydia came up with it.” Derek laughs and rolls his eyes.

Downstairs, Stiles says he’s going to go find Scott, but tells Derek he’ll be back in a second so not to wander far. So, Derek stands in the corner trying to blend into the wall. He still hasn’t seen his parents, but that doesn’t mean they’re not close by.

Derek jumps a foot off the ground when a hand lands on his shoulder. He whips his head around to find the bemused face of Uncle Peter staring at him. “Fuck.”

“That’s one way of looking at it,” Peter says. “Now, I heard a rumor you were grounded and got left at home.”

“Um.” Peter raises his brows as he waits for Derek to continue. “I’m not at home?”

“Obviously.” He hooks an arm around Derek’s neck, the sheet bunching around his head. “Are you crazy? Your mom is going to flip.”

“Are you going to tell her?”

Peter scoffs. “Do I look like some high school gossip? I think it’s stupid she didn’t let you come.” Peter tightens his grip around Derek’s neck a little. “Now, let’s figure out why my goody-goody nephew decided to egregiously disregard his parents’ punishment. Hmm.” Peter taps his chin thoughtfully as he turns his body, moving Derek with him. When he stops, Derek can clearly see Stiles across the room, talking to Scott and Kira. “It wouldn’t have anything to do with a certain pain-in-the-ass human, now would it?”

“No?”

Peter sighs. “Really, Derek? Him? You can do so much better.”

“Hey!” Derek bristles.

“Ah, I thought so. The other night, I didn’t think it was just you saving a human. You like him.”

“He’s my friend.”

“Don’t insult my intelligence. Maybe no one else can see it, but I’ve known you your entire life and don’t miss much.” Peter watches Stiles for a few moments, though he’s still wearing the sheet so not much is visible. “I don’t get it. He’s such a ridiculous little human.”

“Jackson dates a human. I don’t see the big deal.”

“Lydia is exceptional. She’s too good for Jackson, really.”

“Don’t worry. There’s nothing there. I’m not going to do anything.”

Peter shoots Derek a dubious glance. “You already have. And if you don’t realize that, you’re hopeless.” Peter squeezes Derek’s neck, the tips of his claws digging into the flesh through the sheet. “Good luck with your mom. You’ll need it.”

And with that, Peter disappears into the crowd. Derek slumps against the wall. He knows Peter won’t tell his mom – Uncle Peter is pretty cool that way; his parents still didn’t know about that time Peter came home to find him, Jackson, and the others drunk off his very expensive laced alcohol – but he’s pretty sure that his mom is going to find him before the night is out.

Derek is skirting along the edge of the walls towards the door when someone jumps on his back. He glances over his shoulder to see Lea clinging onto him like an octopus. Cora, Erica, and Boyd stand around him. Lea gives him a big kiss on the cheek, though she manages to hit his chin since she can’t see through the sheet, then bites him. “I thought your punk ass was grounded.”

“I’m incognito.” Derek grabs Lea under the thighs and readjusts her to a more comfortable position.

“Your costume is dumb,” Cora says.

Derek looks her up and down. She’s dressed up in a perfect Wonder Woman costume. “Yeah, well your costume is…dumb,” he finishes lamely, and Cora rolls her eyes like it pains her to be his sister.

“I look amazing,” Cora states matter-of-factly. “You should see Alicia. She’s Supergirl and looks super hot.”

“Unfortunately,” Boyd drawls.

Erica punches his arm. She’s dressed up like She-Ra, her blonde curls falling around the gold headpiece. Boyd’s dressed like He-Man. “Boyd, your sister is fifteen. She’s a little hottie. Get over it!”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

Derek laughs. “I feel your pain, man. Two sisters.”

“Aww, Derek, do you think I’m a hottie?” Cora asks.

“I think you’re a pain in my ass.”

“Mom and Dad are in the back yard, by the way,” she tells him. “They’re sitting around the bonfire with the other Alphas.”

“Okay, stay out of the back yard.”

“Come play Cards Against Humanity with us!” Erica says, grabbing his hand.

“Yeah! Carry me away, my minion!” Lea pats his face as Erica drags him towards the basement stairs.

Danny and Ethan, Alicia, Liam, Mason, Liam’s girlfriend Hayden, and a few other teen Betas from the other Packs are all gathered in chairs, on sofas, and on beanbags in the basement. And of course, because it’s just Derek’s luck tonight, Jennifer’s there.

“I can pretend to be your girlfriend,” Lea whispers in his ear almost inaudible. She tightens her arms around his neck. “No kissing though.”

“It’s okay,” Derek whispers back, but then bounces her slightly. “But thanks.”

“I got yo’ back,” she says. “Literally.”

“Lame,” Derek laughs. He turns around so she can drop to the sofa. Then he pulls off the sheet and sits beside her. Jennifer immediately tries to catch his eyes. He avoids looking at her for as long as possible, but the moment he glances at her, she grins and waves. He nods his head and is glad he’s sandwiched between Lea and Cora. He’s got a ninja, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and She-Ra to protect him tonight, at least.

Derek really hates this game. It’s stupid. He doesn’t find any of it funny, though everyone else is rolling with laughter. Maybe it’s just his mood. He’s still scared of coming across his parents, Jennifer’s moved closer to him, and Stiles has disappeared. He came to this stupid party for Stiles, and now Stiles has bailed on him.

“Derek, you haven’t smiled all night,” Jennifer says when they break for a moment as some of the Betas go get more snacks and drinks for the group. “You need to loosen up and have fun.”

“I’m not in the mood to have fun,” Derek replies grumpily.

Cora lays her head on his shoulder. “You’re never in the mood for fun. You’re the gloomiest person ever.”

“Well,” Jennifer says, grinning at Derek flirtatiously. “I’ll just have to find a way to make you smile tonight.”

Derek doesn’t respond. He thinks that the only person who can make him smile tonight is completely avoiding him.

When Erica comes back into the basement, she’s followed by Stiles, and Derek immediately perks up. Until he notices that Stiles is animatedly talking to not only Erica, but also Brett. His mood just got upgraded from grumpy to severely shitty. Brett is giving Stiles that look he gives everyone that he wants to hook up with.

Stiles approaches the group, and when he spies Derek, his face breaks into a wide grin. “Hey! I’ve been looking for you for like ever! You disappeared. I told you I’d be right back!”

“We stole him,” Lea says, hooking her arm in Derek’s.

“Oh god, it’s the she-devil!” Stiles exclaims.

“I’m a ninja,” Lea says.

“Ninja she-devil,” Stiles says with a laugh.

Lea scoots over and pats the empty space beside Derek. “Come join us, assface.”

“I do not have an assface!” Stiles trips over Liam and Mason’s legs on his way to the sofa. “Danny, how are you related to this girl? She’s evil.”

“I think she’s pretty hilarious,” Danny says. “She’s spot on about you.”

“Et tu, Danny?” Stiles drops unceremoniously onto the sofa, somehow bouncing half-way onto Derek as he lands. Derek huffs through his nose in a show of irritation, which is honestly a bad idea. Stiles is right there, and so all his senses are filled with his scent. Derek has to glare very hard at the back of Stiles’ head to keep from making a scene right there in front of everyone because rubbing all over Stiles sounds like a much better idea right now than glaring.

Erica introduces Stiles and Scott, who also join them along with Kira, as the two “dumbass humans who Isaac almost got killed.” No one bothers to correct her.

Stiles plays the game enthusiastically, and Derek’s mood significantly improves. He forgets Jennifer is even there, and Brett is sitting on the other side of the room and Stiles doesn’t interact with him. Even though the game is dumb, Derek finds himself having fun.

“You’re smiling,” Jennifer says awhile later. “Much better than before. See? I told you I’d make you smile tonight.”

Before Derek can figure out how to respond to the supremely awkward comment, Stiles slaps Derek’s chest. “You? Not smiling? I’m shocked. See? This is my shocked face.”

“Shut up,” Derek mutters.

“Why were you being grumpy? You shouldn’t be grumpy. This party is awesome.”

“Thanks,” Erica says, beaming.

When the game starts back up, Stiles leans close and asks, “Everything okay? Your parents didn’t find you, did they?”

Derek shakes his head. “No. Just. I hate this game.”

Stiles shrugs and throws his cards down. “Then let’s bail. It is kinda lame.” He stands up and looks at Derek expectantly. Derek can feel his ears burning as everyone stops what they’re doing and stares at them.

“Where are you going?” Erica asks.

“Derek is hungry. Wants some cookies. Crazy sweet tooth, this one,” Stiles says as he climbs over Lea, Erica, and Boyd on his way out of the circle. Derek follows him, purposefully not looking at Jennifer. The others quickly go back to the game as Derek jogs up the stairs behind Stiles.

Stiles leads them to the sweets table even though Derek doesn’t actually want sweets, but Derek fills a plate with stuff anyway before walking outside onto the front porch. He nods at a few people when they speak, and realizes that he’s no longer in costume.

“My sheet is downstairs,” he groans as he walks to the porch swing.

“You can share mine,” Stiles says. “Two-headed ghost. Siamese twins ghost!!”

Derek rolls his eyes, though the thought of sharing a sheet with makes him flush all over. Stiles is dead serious, and holds up his sheet in question. Derek shakes his head. He knows if he ended up under a sheet with Stiles that all of his willpower would dissolve and he’d do something stupid.

Stiles is rambling to him about the pros and cons of chocolate and vanilla cookies when a tall figure approaches them. Derek regrets not hiding under the sheet until the green glow of the porch lights catches the features on the face.

Derek springs off of the swing and throws his arms around her. “Laura!” Laura growls softly as she hugs him. He rubs his face against her hair and neck as she bites his shoulder affectionately. When he pulls away, he smiles widely at her. “What are you doing here?”

“Couldn’t miss the party.”

From behind him, Derek hears, “That was hands down the weirdest sibling greeting I have ever witnessed. Not that I’ve witnessed that many, but still. Gotta be the winner.”

Laura keeps her arm around Derek and lays her temple against his hair (since she’s an inch or two taller than him) as she studies Stiles. “So, you’re the famous Stiles. The human who stuck his nose in where it didn’t belong.”

Stiles narrows his eyes. “You’ve been talking to your Uncle.”

Laura laughs. “I do believe he was the one who described you that way. I’m Laura.” Stiles nods and they exchange a few pleasantries. Derek feels content in this moment. Laura is here, Stiles is here, and it’s a great night.

Stiles scoots down and Derek sits between him and Laura when they sit on the swing. Laura pushes off with her feet, causing them to gently soar through the air. “I’m coming home for a few weeks. I’ll have to commute back and forth to school, but I’ve got Tuesday/Thursday classes and a night lab on Mondays, so it should be okay.”

“Where do you go to school?” Stiles asks.

“San Francisco.”

Stiles whistles. It’s almost two hours away, and Derek doesn’t envy her drive. “But why?” he asks.

“Mom wants me around with this Aracoix stuff. She said as the Alpha-in-Training, I need to be part of everything. We’ve got some meetings with the other four Alphas, then we’re going on some hunting parties. She’s supposed to have a meeting with Chris to organize it.”

“You have to hunt them?” Derek asks.

“I thought you’d be jealous. Mom said you were all about fighting them and helping.” An involuntary shudder goes through him. “Not so much anymore?”

“You don’t know what it was like,” Derek says. “I almost died. Twice.”

“I saved him the first time,” Stiles pipes up. Laura glances at him in amusement. “I knocked that bird-thing on the head with a log.”

“That was pretty stupid for a human,” she replies. Stiles scoffs in offense, and before he can reply, Laura says, “But I do appreciate you saving my brother. I kinda like having him around.”

“I like having him around, too,” Stiles says, and Derek flushes all over. Laura glances at him, and he can tell it doesn’t go unnoticed. She doesn’t say anything, just surreptitiously squeezes his arm.

After a few minutes, Laura suggests that they go inside to dance, but holds Derek back as Stiles excitedly agrees but says he wants more candy. Derek thinks he’s had enough candy, but Stiles just sticks his tongue out and basically sugar bounces into the house.

“He’s cute,” Laura says quietly. “And seems sweet.”

“Not you, too.”

“Don’t listen to Mom, Uncle Peter, or anyone else. Besides, he knows about us.”

“He saved me from Jennifer tonight.”

“Then he’s definitely a keeper.” Laura smirks.

“Don’t tell Cora.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it.”

When they enter the house, Derek immediately finds Stiles. He’s in the middle of the dance floor, sheet over his head, dancing like a total spazz. Derek is both endeared and embarrassed. Stiles notices him and starts waving frantically, like Derek wouldn’t be able to see him in the small room.

Derek laughs to himself, and when Stiles holds up his sheet that he must have gone downstairs to grab, Derek thinks, I think I’m falling in love with this ridiculous idiot.

The force of the thought, of the admission and acknowledgement of his feelings, makes Derek feel light-headed. As he walks slowly across the dance floor, packed with wolves and other supernatural creatures, the only light from green, orange, and purple lights strung around the room, Derek knows he’s never felt this before about anyone. It doesn’t make any sense, but Derek refuses to overanalyze it. Instead, he joins Stiles on the dance floor.

“I got your sheet!” Stiles yells over the music. He throws it over Derek’s head with a laugh, and tries to help Derek right it so the holes are at Derek’s eyes. Then, they dance.

They don’t touch or hold onto one another. Stiles treats the whole thing like a huge joke and bounces around like an idiot. Derek can’t help himself; he joins in. At some point, Stiles convinces Derek to do a “mummy dance” during “The Monster Mash” and then starts “walking like an Egyptian”.

Honestly, Derek has never had so much fun. He’s laughing and feeling giddy, worrying about nothing or how he looks as they dance. After a few songs, Stiles throws off the sheet, revealing his flushed face. His hair is sweaty and sticking up in ten different directions, and Derek thinks, Yeah, definitely falling for him.

Their perfect dance bubble is ruined when Jennifer comes onto the dance floor, followed by a couple of her Pack mates. Derek tries to ignore her and focus on Stiles, but she dances close to him, smiles, and waves. Derek nods, but steps closer to Stiles and turns his back towards her, hoping she’ll take a hint. She doesn’t. She dances right behind him, so close he can smell her cloying floral perfume.

Then, to make everything worse, Brett joins the dance floor, followed by Liam and Mason. Brett dances towards Stiles and ends up right behind him. He leans close to Stiles’ ear and whispers something that makes Stiles laugh.

Derek’s claws and fangs immediately come out, so he hastily pushes his way out of the crowd. He’s muttering the mantra to himself - Alpha, Beta, Omega - and throws the sheet back over his head to somewhat hide his teeth and eyes.

He’s going to claw Brett’s stupid face off before the night is over if he doesn’t get out of here. Derek thinks he’s probably pushed his luck enough anyway. He’s halfway across the front yard when Stiles’ voice rings out behind him. Derek doesn’t slow down, just keeps walking. He’s still wolfed out, and with Stiles’ scent carrying on the night air, Derek makes a low involuntary whine.

“Hey.” Stiles finally catches up with him and grabs Derek’s arm. Derek refuses to turn around, even though the sheet is covering his face, so Stiles steps around him. His face morphs in shock as he catches Derek’s bright blue eyes burning through the eye holes. “Whoa.”

Derek looks down at the ground, ashamed, angry, and frustrated for reasons he doesn’t even understand. Then, to his surprise, Stiles grabs the sheet and pulls it off of him. Derek refuses to look at him. Stiles reaches out, his fingers hovering just a breath away from Derek’s mouth, where his fangs are extended. He drops his arm and instead grabs Derek’s hand, the dark claws extending from the ends of his fingers. Stiles brings Derek’s hand closer to his face, then carefully drags his fingers around the nail bed and then the sharp tips. The tender gesture causes a shiver to ripple through Derek, and he feels the blood pooling low in his belly. He didn’t realize having someone touch his claws like that would be the most erotic thing he’d felt up to this day.

“This is so cool,” Stiles whispers. He lifts his eyes and Derek meets them hesitantly. Stiles tilts his head thoughtfully. “That color is too beautiful. It doesn’t even look real.”

Standing here with Stiles, his hand still held in Stiles’, has calmed him considerably. He blinks, his eyes returning to normal. Stiles’ eyes go wide, and then he watches slackjawed as Derek’s fangs and claws start to recede. He stares at Derek’s hands until his normal blunt nails are back. He drops Derek’s hand, but doesn’t take a step back.

“That is so awesome,” he exclaims. “I thought you’d be, I don’t know, furrier.”

Derek rolls his eyes. “It was a partial shift.”

“Cool. Can’t wait to see a full shift.” Stiles grins, but then he goes serious. “Are you okay? You bolted out of there like a bat out of hell.” Derek can’t tell him he wanted to claw Brett’s face off. “It was that girl, wasn’t it? The one from the basement?”

Derek is shocked. Stiles is much more observant than Derek gives him credit for. “Yeah,” Derek says. It’s not a complete lie, at least. “She’s really into me. And I’m…not.”

“Obviously.” Stiles glances back at the house and shoves his hands in his pockets. “If you’re bailing, I’ll leave too. Unless you want to run home, though I’m guessing for you it’d be nothing.”

Derek had forgotten that he had ridden with Stiles. He’s about to respond when all the blood drains from his body.

“Derek Samuel Hale!” his father’s deep voice booms behind him. Stiles’ eyes go wide and he looks terrified. Derek doesn’t blame him. He’s terrified. He doesn’t know why he’s surprised; he’s been waiting for his parents to find him all night.

Slowly, Derek turns around. His father stands with his arms crossed over his enormous chest, face a mixture of disappointment and anger. “What in the hell are you doing here? You’re grounded!” Derek doesn’t respond. There’s nothing to say. His father glances at Stiles. “You, too?”

Stiles is silent, but Derek sees him nod out of the corner of his eyes.

“You’re going to give your mother a heart attack before the end of the year,” his dad says, rubbing his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. “Go home, Derek. We will discuss this tomorrow. Your mother is half-drunk and having a good time. She doesn’t need to deal with this tonight.”

And well, his dad knows exactly how to make Derek feel like the worst bug in the world. Because Derek feels like the worst son in existence. He totally is. The worst son in entire world.

His dad gives him one more disappointed glance before turning away and walking back into the house. Derek doesn’t speak; he just walks quickly towards the road. He’s got guilt the size of California on his shoulders, and he’s embarrassed that Stiles witnessed that.

“I’m sorry,” Stiles says after a few moments. “It’s all my fault. I convinced you to come to the party. I understand if you hate me.”

Derek glances over as he inhales, and Stiles is genuine. He really feels awful. “It’s okay,” Derek says, “I don’t regret coming. This is the most fun I’ve ever had at a Halloween party.”

Stiles glances at him in surprise, his face lighting up with a smile. “Really?” Derek nods, and he absolutely means it. His mom will probably never trust him again and he’ll be grounded until he graduates from college, but as he looks at the way Stiles’ cheeks pink and catches the waft of satisfaction that rolls off of him, Derek figures it was all worth it.

*

Predictably, Derek’s mom is furious that he came to the party, but she tells him that perhaps forbidding him to go to the party was a little cruel. “But you’re still grounded, and an extra week for sneaking out.”

Since she didn’t glare at him with red eyes or make him grounded until after he graduates, he figures that’s a win. He’ll take an extra week.

The highlight of the next week is that Derek spends two nights with his grandma. She offers to let him invite some of the Pack over the first night. “Just don’t tell your mother,” she says, a mischievous smile on her face. So, he invites Boyd, Erica, Isaac, and Jackson over for pizza and movies. His grandmother even makes cookies. When they all run into the kitchen eagerly, she growls, her eyes flashing blue. “Stop acting like a bunch of hungry wolves.”

“That’s what we are though,” Isaac responds, and she reaches up and slaps him on the back of the head even though Isaac’s got a good foot on her. “Sorry, Grandma Irma.”

“These aren’t homemade, Grandma,” Jackson says, wrinkling his nose at the precut chocolate chip cookies.

“How about you get your butt in here and make some homemade cookies then?” she retorts. They start bickering, which Derek has decided is the way they show each other love. They’re both grinning as they argue like always.

Derek grabs a cookie and sticks the whole thing into his mouth. It’s too hot to eat, but he chews anyway and swallows. Erica rolls her eyes as she waits, but Boyd does the same thing as Derek.

Later that week, Derek spends the night with Grandma again. This time, she suggests something different. “Why don’t you invite that Stiles over?”

“Huh?”

Grandma rolls her eyes. “Cub, if you act like this around him, he ain’t never gonna like you.”

“I…don’t like him.”

Grandma shoots him an unimpressed look. “Peter told me you went to the party with him. Jackson said y’all talk at lunch and after lacrosse practice almost every day.”

“Why does Jackson care what I’m doing?”

“It don’t matter. What matters is you like the boy. Invite him over, Derek. I still ain’t met him and I want to. I don’t like not being in the know. Right now, I gotta rely on Jackson, Cora, and Peter for information.”

“I don’t think Mom will approve.”

“That’s what Grandmas are for.”

So, Derek texts Stiles and asks him if he wants to come over and eat dinner with him and his grandma and then hang out. Stiles replies almost immediately with a Is your grandma scary? Like in oh what big teeth you have?

Derek tells him to just get over here and texts him the address.

When Derek hears the tires of Stiles’ Jeep crunching over the gravel, he turns to his grandma and says, “Please don’t embarrass me.”

She rolls her eyes. “Cub, I raised multiple kids. I think I can make it through one night without causing abject humiliation.” Then, she places a hand on Derek’s shoulder. “Relax. He’s stupid if he doesn’t like you.”

Grandma stands beside Derek when he opens the door. Stiles’ head ducks as his eyes immediately land on Grandma. She’s almost a foot shorter than both of them. “Wow, that’s not what I expected from Derek’s grandma.”

“What did you imagine? A supermodel? A snarling wolf? I ain’t neither, though I was considered a catch back in my day. I’m too old to snarl now. Shifting hurts my bones.”

Stiles grins. “Yeah, I was imagining ‘oh what big eyes you have! What big teeth you have!’”

Grandma frowns in disappointment and Stiles’ grin withers. “Little Red Riding Hood? Really? That’s the best you can do?”

“I’m new at this, okay?” Stiles says. “I’m sorry? You’re very awesome and frightening?”

Grandma rolls her eyes. “Get your cute butt in here before I change my mind.” Derek facepalms. So much for Grandma not embarrassing him. She turns and walks towards the kitchen. “We’re eating lasagna. Hope that’s okay.”

“Not deer? Rabbit?” Stiles jokes.

“Derek, do something with him.”

Derek looks at Stiles. “She’s going to kill you. Or maybe I am.”

Stiles laughs and leans over to Derek, whispering, “Dude, your grandma said I was cute. Or that I had a cute butt. I’m not sure.”

“Werewolf hearing,” Grandma says from the kitchen.

Stiles jumps like Grandma jumped out from behind a piece of furniture and scared him. He stares horrified at her back through the kitchen door, where she’s cackling gleefully. Derek can’t help but laugh. Seeing his grandma tease Stiles this way is definitely entertaining.

Derek begs his grandma to let them eat on the couch while watching television. He doesn’t care if he has to watch her stupid game shows. The last thing he wants is an awkward dinner where Grandma grills Stiles and probably tells Stiles that he should date her grandson or she’ll rip out his throat. With her teeth.

Grandma sits in her La-Z-Boy recliner, so Stiles plops onto the couch beside Derek. He glances over at Derek’s plate, which he piled full of lasagna while Stiles only got two pieces. “Are you really going to eat all of that?”

“I’m going to sacrifice half of it to the moon goddess because it’s almost the full moon.”

Stiles’ eyes get wide and his mouth opens slightly. Derek kinda wants to kiss him. “Really?”

“No, you idiot. I’m hungry.”

“That’s an obnoxious amount of food, Derek,” Stiles says as he digs into his lasagna.

“Wolves eat more,” Grandma says, her plate just as full as Derek’s, as the Jeopardy! theme music comes on. “Our metabolisms run faster than humans.”

“Really?” Stiles asks. “That’s fascinating. Derek won’t tell me anything about wolves! And I tried to ask Isaac, but he just laughed at me.”

Grandma clucks her tongue. “Isaac is a good boy, but he’s bitten, and recent. He don’t know nothing. I’ll tell you some stuff. But after Jeopardy! Now hush, I’m missing the categories.”

Stiles grins at Derek excitedly, and Derek rolls his eyes. Derek kinda sucks at Jeopardy! unless there’s a sports question or something he learned in school. But Stiles, Stiles is good. He’s answering at least half the questions, more than even his grandma, and she is the smartest person he knows next to his Uncle Peter.

During the first commercial break, Grandma turns to Stiles. “Not bad, human.”

“Thanks, wolf?” Stiles responds in confusion. Derek waits for the inevitable tongue lashing as Grandma’s eyes narrow, but then she laughs.

“You’re something else,” she says. “I like him, Derek. You should keep him around.”

Derek flushes, and Stiles shifts uncomfortably on the sofa beside him. Grandma smiles smugly as the game show comes back on. Derek wants to crawl under the couch cushions and hide from his embarrassment and just eat his lasagna.

“You should come over more often,” Grandma says after the show ends. “None of the other cubs are good at this. Boyd and Isaac are okay, but not as good as you. It’s nice to have some real competition.”

“Cubs?” Stiles exclaims gleefully. “You call them cubs?”

Grandma looks at him like he’s an idiot. “That’s what they are.”

Stiles looks at Derek and opens his mouth, but Derek cuts him off. “Don’t you even think about it. She’s my grandma. I can punch you in the face.”

“Derek!” Grandma barks.

“It’s okay, Mrs. Hale. I know Derek is a lot of growl and no bite.” Stiles grins smugly, obviously pleased with his joke. Derek glares at him, which causes Stiles to grin even bigger.

“Oh for goodness sake, child. Call me Grandma Irma. Everyone else does.”

“Okay,” Stiles nods. “Grandma Irma. Dinner was delicious, by the way. Best lasagna I’ve ever had.”

Grandma turns her head just a touch and sniffs the air. “Well, at least you’re sincere and not trying to flatter me.”

“I’m not good with flattery.”

“Somehow, I can believe that.” Grandma stands up. “Now, come on. Get your cute butt into my kitchen and help Derek wash the dishes.”

“Really? You don’t like, have a dishwasher?”

“I got grandkids and Pack cubs. Best dishwashers in the world.”

While Derek washes the dishes and Stiles dries, Stiles bombards Grandma with questions. Grandma tells him basic stuff, like about basic Pack dynamics and what it means to be a werewolf. No matter how many questions Stiles asks, he has more. But Grandma is patient with him. Derek thinks that she finds Stiles amusing.

As they finish the dishes, Grandma says, “You should invite Stiles to the main house. Teach him about supernatural stuff. Let him sit in on your sessions with Peter. He’s smart. It’s good to have human allies outside of the Pack. Those who can handle mountain ash, mistletoe, and things like that. And non-Pack humans on our side can come in handy.” She points at Stiles. “Your daddy’s the sheriff, ain’t he?”

“Yep. That’s my pops.”

“Another good ally. Always good to have lawmen on our side. We got Parrish, but he’s just a deputy. Good man, handsome as hell, but don’t have much pull. The sheriff would be a great ally, and Talia tells me that other human’s mama’s a nurse and works at the hospital. Also a good ally to have.”

“So,” Stiles starts, “you don’t hate me and want to tear out my throat because I found out about you? Cause, no offense, but your son wants to do that to me, and well, he’s kind of a dick.”

Derek chokes on air, but his grandma just smirks. “Oh, I think you’re a freaking idiot and an obnoxious pain in the ass, but what’s done is done. Time to make you useful. I think you just might be.”

“Thanks, I think,” Stiles says dubiously.

“Seriously. I’ll talk to Talia. You’re smart and a nosy body. You’ll like the research stuff. Derek’s studying to be the Pack researcher and lorist.”

Stiles glances at Derek in surprise as Derek shifts from foot to foot in discomfort. “Really? That’s kinda awesome.”

“You think so?”

“Dude! I love research. Sometimes, my dad literally has to drag me away from my computer because I get stuck in research loops. I didn’t know you were smart. I just thought you were good at lacrosse.” Derek flushes from his hairline to the tips of his toes.

“He’s very smart,” Grandma agrees, and he knows exactly what she’s doing. Meddling old woman. “Even if he wasn’t the Alpha’s second child and therefore born for the traditional role of the lorist, he’d be the best candidate. He soaks up that stuff like a sponge. The others learn some things too, but he’s going to be Laura’s second.”

“So, you’re going to be like the Pack brain?” Stiles asks, his face pulled in concentration like he’s trying to create a mental map of werewolf knowledge. “It’s your job to know everything. That’s why Peter knew all about that bird thing.”

“Exactly,” Grandma agrees. “Now, that’s enough of that stuff. Get on and do whatever it is y’all boys do when old ladies aren’t around bugging you. My shows are on tonight. Derek helped me set up my DVR so I don’t have to miss them when I’m not around.”

Stiles grins at him. “Aww, that’s so sweet. You’re just the best, Derek.”

“Shut up, or I’m kicking you out of the house,” Derek snaps.

“You wouldn’t kick me out. You love me,” Stiles replies, and Derek doesn’t say anything. He just leads the way into the back of the house to the guest bedroom. He purposefully avoids his grandma’s eyes.

There’s not much in the bedroom, a king size bed, desk, chest of drawers, and a television. The grandkids use it whenever they come over, and Derek remembers too many times when he, Laura, Cora, and Jackson all squeezed into the bed. It usually ended in blood.

“Dude, your grandma is great,” Stiles says as he toes off his shoes and crawls into the middle of the bed, pulling his legs under him.

“I’m sorry for her.” Derek follows Stiles’ example and pulls off his sneakers before he leans against the headboard.

“Are you kidding? She’s a riot,” Stiles tells him. “I never knew my grandparents. You two seem really close. I’m kinda jealous.”

Derek smiles. “I love my grandma. She’s my favorite person in the world.”

“I can see why.”

“I’m kinda relieved,” Derek admits. “I was afraid she’d scare you away.”

“I mean, she’s kinda terrifying like all of your family, but she reminds me of you. Scary at first, but kinda soft and awesome when you get past the eyebrows and grumpiness.” Then, Stiles suddenly glances at the door and whispers, “She’s not listening is she?”

Derek shakes his head. “You gotta focus to listen, just like you do. We can just hear better and farther off.”

“Oh. Okay. Good. Can’t let her know I’m not terrified of her. Don’t tell her, okay?”

Derek rolls his eyes. “I’m not going to tell her.”

“So, what do you want to do? I don’t really want to go home yet, unless you want me to leave, which is totally cool by the way. I just have this set of US History questions I’m avoiding, and I’d much rather have a reason to avoid them.”

Derek shakes his head. “I don’t have my video game systems here. I usually read when I stay over. But I’ve got cards. Grandma and Grandma Boyd are hardcore card players.”

“Dude, really? Can she teach me? What do you play?”

“Mostly bridge, and when Boyd and Grandma B aren’t around, canasta.”

“I’ve never played that! Teach me.”

“Really?” Derek asks skeptically. Stiles nods enthusiastically; he actually wants to sit here and play cards with Derek. Derek thought he and Boyd were the only losers who liked to play cards. “I thought you’d think it’s lame.”

“No way! I didn’t have anyone to play cards with growing up. No awesome card shark grandmas, Dad worked too much, and Scott wasn’t much of a card player. I’d love to play.” He claps his hands and readjusts himself on the bed. “Let’s go. Hit me.”

Derek chuckles as he gets off the bed to grab two decks of cards from the desk. He also turns on the Bluetooth speaker so he can play some music from his phone. When Derek gets back on the bed, he tries to calm his racing heart. He and Stiles are alone in the bedroom with the door closed. But he’s not even thinking about sex. He’s thinking of the way Stiles’ scent fills the room, the way his tongue pokes between his lips when he concentrates, and how he could do this every day and not get enough of Stiles.

*

Laura comes home the next weekend from college. They have a big dinner and the whole Pack comes over. After everyone has left, Derek, Laura, and Cora all sit together on the wooden swing on the front porch, Laura in the middle with Derek and Cora curled against her. The Pack is so big that he doesn’t think about one of them missing when they’re gone, but now that Laura’s here, Derek doesn’t want to leave her side. She has her arms around each of them, fingers trailing against their arms and spreading her scent as they rub their faces against her shoulder.

“I’m glad you’re back,” Cora says, “I’ve missed you.”

“It’s good to be home. Though, I wish it was for a better reason,” Laura says.

“What does Mom want you to do?” Derek asks.

“Well, since they found that second body in next county over, she – “

Derek pulls away and exclaims, “They what?”

Laura blinks at him. “Mom didn’t tell you?”

“No!”

“They don’t tell us anything,” Cora adds in frustration.

“They found another body, same cause of death. About a week ago.”

Derek runs a hand over his face. “I can’t believe they didn’t tell us.” Now his dad’s comment about his mom not needing to be upset Halloween night makes more sense. She was already dealing with another dead body.

“Mom just wants to protect you,” Laura says. “Don’t tell her I told you, but she was really shaken up by what happened to you with the Aracoix.”

“It was pretty awful,” Cora agrees. “You kinda looked dead.”

“I’m fine!” Derek exclaims. “I’m not some kid, and I didn’t die. I wish everyone would stop treating me like I can’t take care of myself! I don’t have to be protected and kept from what’s going on. I can handle it.”

“Derek, I don’t think – “ Laura starts, but Derek gets up, suddenly not in the mood to be around anyone.

“I’m going to bed.”

“Derek, wait. It’s not – “

“Whatever.” With that, Derek turns and goes into the house. Yeah, that experience was scary as hell, but he survived, didn’t he? The last thing he needs is for his mom to treat him like he’s a little kid. But he’s grounded, they’re not telling him things, and now that Laura is here, he’s not needed at all.

He tries to read, but he’s too angry and upset, so instead he glares at him book until late into the night.

*

“Hale! Get your ass over here!” Finstock yells at him in the middle of practice. Derek sighs as he jogs over. Coach grabs one of the bars on his helmet and pulls him close. “What the hell was that? What the hell is wrong with you today? You’ve got your head up your ass. You’ve missed every play.”

Derek can’t even be mad because he’s right. Derek has been off his game all afternoon. He’s still upset about his Mom keeping the dead body from him. “Sorry, Coach.”

“Our first game is less than two months away. I can’t have my captain crapping out on me.”

“I’ll do better, Coach. Bad day.”

“Give me five laps. Try to get your head out of your ass and forget your bad day. No excuses, Hale.”

After Derek’s laps, he plays marginally better, but still sucks. At least Coach keeps the yelling to a minimum. Derek skips the showers, grabs his stuff quickly from the locker room, and ducks out before any of the Pack can talk to him. As Derek walks towards his car, footsteps pound on the asphalt behind him.

“Hey!” Stiles calls. “Wait up.” Derek doesn’t respond as Stiles falls into step beside him. “What’s wrong? I saw Coach chewed your ass and made you do laps. That’s totally not you.”

“Nothing.”

“Come on, Derek,” Stiles says. “Talk to me. Don’t be that sullen, suffers in silence kind of brooding guy.”

“They found another dead body.”

Stiles flails in surprise and excitement. “What? When? Where?”

“Last week.”

“What?”

So, Derek tells him everything Laura told him. “They kept it from me on purpose. Like I couldn’t handle it.”

“That sucks.”

“Yeah.” When they get to the Camaro, Derek crosses his arms and leans back against the side. “I should never have told my mom that I was freaked out about what happened. I told her I was scared to fight because it was right after, you know? But I’m not now! I’m not a coward.”

“I know you’re not a coward,” Stiles says seriously. “I watched you fight. You jumped in without a thought. No hesitation. You jumped in front of that thing when it came for me. You’re brave, Derek.”

Derek kicks an errant stone with his toe. “Mom doesn’t think so.”

“Parents never think that kind of stuff,” Stiles says. “It’s like in the parent handbook. They have to think of us as these helpless little things they have to protect. We’ve got it worse, what with the cop and Alpha parents.”

Derek nods, but continues glaring at the broken asphalt. Surprisingly, Stiles says silent. After a few more minutes of brooding, Derek says, “Thanks.”

“For what? I didn’t do anything.”

“For listening.”

*

Friday night, Stiles comes over for his first unofficial lesson. His mom, dad, and Laura are out doing something secret and important, so Derek’s home with Uncle Peter. When Stiles arrives, Derek starts towards the library, but Stiles gets distracted.

“Stiles!”

Stiles ignores him. He’s in the living room, walking around and looking at the framed photos on shelves. Derek sighs and joins him. The photos aren’t very interesting in Derek’s opinion. It’s mainly pictures of him and his sisters growing up, some photos of the Pack, and a few older photos from when his parents first got married.

“Come on, Peter’s waiting.”

“Your ears are so big!” Stiles exclaims as he points to a photo from when Derek was around nine or ten. “I don’t remember you from back then.”

“We went to a different elementary and middle school,” Derek tells him. “And my ears weren’t big.”

Stiles looks at him, laughing. “They totally were. Are you self-conscious about it? Your ears?”

“No,” Derek snaps.

“You totally are!” Stiles reaches out and flicks Derek’s ear gently. “They’re not so big now. I think your head’s gotten bigger.”

“Hasn’t anyone ever told you not to flick a werewolf’s ear?” Derek says, annoyed. “Especially in their den?”

“Your den?” Stiles exclaims gleefully. “Oh my god. It’s a house, Derek. Not a cave in the woods.”

“A wolf’s home is their den.”

“So weird.”

“’s not weird,” Derek grumps.

“If you two are finished with whatever this is,” Peter interrupts them. Derek and Stiles both spin around in surprise. Peter’s pointing between the two of them with his index finger. “Would you kindly join me in the library? This is research time, not flirting time.”

Stiles sputters, and Derek hastily says, “We’re not – “

“It’s not – “

“Don’t care!” Peter throws up his hands. “I don’t appreciate my time being wasted. It makes me angry.” He growls, eyes flashing blue and his fangs extending dramatically. Then, he exits. Derek shakes his head in disbelief. His Uncle Peter is the worst.

“Come on,” Derek says, leading the way towards the library. “He will definitely get pissed if we keep him waiting any longer.”

“I think he gets pissed when the sun shines,” Stiles mutters, and Derek snorts.

When they enter the library, Stiles look around in awe. “Dude, you have a library. Like, this is a legit library. How much money do you have?”

“More than you’ll ever have,” Peter responds.

“Uncle Peter!” Derek exclaims.

Peter rolls his eyes. “We have a lot of books. Talia is the Head Alpha of the region, so we are in charge of taking care of anything unordinary. These books are needed when something with the supernatural occurs. Hence, the need for a library.”

“I didn’t need an explanation of why the library was needed. I was just commenting on how most people don’t have libraries,” Stiles says. “Obviously, you are not most people.”

“I should hope not,” Peter scoffs.

Derek yanks out a chair at the table and sits down. The library is a long room with tall bookshelves filled with books. Many are old tomes with faded leather covers, handed down to the Alpha and Pack members through generations, and many not even in English. There are newer books on the shelves too, along with hand-written journals and binders full of printed out and gathered material, almost like a scrapbook. There are at least two shelves filled with handwritten and photocopied information from Chris Argent’s hunter library. Two long tables with straight-backed chairs sit in the center of the room, and a computer desk in the back corner holds both a desktop and laptop computer along with a printer.

Stiles takes the seat beside Derek and rubs his hands together. “All right. What are we gonna do? Teach me, oh werewolf sensei.”

Derek runs a hand over his face. Despite the smell of amusement emanating from Peter which contrasts with his grim expression, Derek is pretty sure Peter is going to kill Stiles within the first thirty minutes.

*

Surprisingly, Peter doesn’t kill Stiles. When Peter continues with his discussion of ways to kill water-dwelling creatures, Stiles becomes a completely different person. Sure, he moves constantly, his leg or his hand, his body shifting in his seat, the pen cap decimated between his overactive teeth. Derek gets distracted on multiple occasions just watching Stiles. He spends too long staring at the way Stiles’ tongue circles around the chewed pen top in his mouth and only stops when Peter asks him a question he totally doesn’t know the answer to. (He’s one hundred percent sure that Uncle Peter knew what he was doing and asked him that question on purpose.)

Stiles takes copious notes. Derek never takes notes. He has a moment of panic when he thinks that maybe he should take notes, but then he realizes he knows this stuff. He spends so much time with Peter in the library that it feels more like his room than his own bedroom.

Because Derek is going to be the Pack lorist and researcher, it’s really his job to know as much as possible. He’s been learning lore, myths, and tactics since he can remember. He was a small child when Peter started bringing him into the library to tell him stories of harpies and fae and other shifters. Jackson came with Peter often, and Derek and Jackson would sit and listen to Peter’s stories. Sometimes, they’d compete in Jeopardy! style sessions where Peter tested their knowledge. Though Jackson didn’t have an official role in the Pack like Derek or Laura, he was Peter’s son, after all. He knows almost as much as Derek, though since puberty he’s spent less time studying and research and more time on Lydia and lacrosse. Perks of being Derek’s research sidekick, Jackson always says when he’s out on a date and Derek’s surrounded by books in the library.

But Derek loves it. He loves learning and knowing things. His Uncle Peter is the smartest person he knows, and Derek feels flush with pride when he or his grandma comment on how smart he is or how far he’s come in his studies. His grandma always says, “It runs in the family. My sister was the Pack researcher for your grandfather, my mother was the Pack researcher before her. You get it honest.”

Sure, there are times Derek hates spending free time studying random herbal remedies or historic Pack battles against various supernatural creatures. Some days he’d rather be playing basketball with Boyd or going on a date, but for the most part, Derek doesn’t have trouble focusing on his studies.

Therefore, he’s surprised when Stiles stays rapt with attention as Peter discusses mermaids, selkies, and even water dragons. The questions Stiles asks are insightful too, not his usual rambling. It’s a new side to Stiles, and Derek can’t help but find it really freaking attractive.

Peter pauses and looks at his expensive watch. “Let’s take a break. I need some scotch. Do either of you want anything?”

Stiles stares at Peter with wide eyes. “We can have scotch?”

“Of course not.” Peter looks at Stiles like he’s an idiot. “I meant like a soda.”

“Oh, yeah. Soda’s cool, too. Obviously because I don’t drink. Ever.”

Peter rolls his eyes before leaving the room.

Stiles turns to Derek eagerly. “Dude, this supernatural stuff is fascinating! How cool is it that you get to study this stuff every day? And get become an expert? You’re like getting a supernatural folklore Ph.D.”

Derek blushes all the way to his hairline. “Thanks,” he mumbles awkwardly.

Derek stands up to stretch and move around as Stiles rambles about the differences in mermaid and selkie attack strategies. Derek walks the perimeter of the room, his attention pulled by a book lying on the computer desk with a notebook beside it. Curiosity piqued, he glances at the title. Avian Predators of North America. Quickly, he opens the book, scans the table of contents, and flips to a page. Immediately, he finds the word Aracoix.

“If mermaids are more fish than human, then – “

“Hey, come here,” Derek interrupts. The chair scrapes against the floor and then Stiles’ quick footsteps sound through the room as Derek starts to read.

The Aracoix are predators that prey on shapeshifters during every reproductive period. Every fifty to sixty years, the Aracoix lay eggs. Aracoix adults hunt shifters of any species for their blood. Shifter blood is then fed to their offspring after hatching. They also feed their offspring human blood, especially during the growth phase, and some have been known to feed hearts to their young. Aracoix prefer shifter youths due to the freshness and potency of their blood. Once an Aracoix latches on to a shifter, it will not stop until it has caught it. Many Aracoix make it into a sport.

Derek feels all the blood drain from his face. Beside him, Stiles’ heart ratchets up, now beating wildly.

“Oh my god,” Stiles whispers. “Does that mean what I think it means?”

The door opens behind them. “What are you doing?” Peter asks.

Derek turns, words failing him. He points to the book, and Peter’s usually careful demeanor slips, his face betraying the slightest emotion. “You weren’t supposed to find out like this.”

Derek balls his hands into fists. “It’s true, then? That thing is going to hunt me down until it kills me so it can feed my blood and maybe my heart to its offspring?!” His voice is starting to take a hysterical edge, and Stiles takes a step closer, his arm brushing Derek’s.

“Your mother didn’t want you to know,” Peter explains. “Not yet.”

Derek fights down the panic and the anger, a weird mixture of emotions that has his head spinning.

“I think you need to speak to Talia,” Peter says. “Both of you.”

“Me?” Stiles exclaims.

Peter nods. “You, too.” Then he holds out two cans. “Soda?”

Peter texts Derek’s mother, so Derek and Stiles sit at the library table as they wait. Derek stays silent, and Stiles nervously chatters to Peter, asking him all sorts of random questions about water dragons, including things like dietary habits and mating rituals. Derek figures the stuff with the Aracoix must be serious because Peter humors Stiles’ ridiculous questions.

Twenty minutes later, his mom, dad, and Laura come into the library, followed by Cora and Sheriff Stilinski.

“Dad?” Stiles exclaims.

“I called your father because I thought he should hear this too,” Derek’s mom explains as she starts to pace the floor. Derek’s dad goes up to her, puts a hand around her shoulder to stall her movements, and then whispers something in her ear. She nods and visibly relaxes. Then, his dad kisses her quickly.

The sheriff stands behind Stiles’ chair with his hand on Stiles’ shoulder, Cora and Laura both sit in the large, overstuffed armchair in the corner that is Derek’s favorite place to read, and Peter sits in the adjacent armchair and sips his scotch. His dad leans against the bookcase and doesn’t take his eyes off Derek’s mother. It feels a lot like the night Stiles found out about werewolves.

Before his mother can speak, Derek says, “This is why you didn’t tell me about the other body.”

“We were going to tell you,” his mother says. “We have been checking out a few things before we unnecessarily concerned you.” She runs a hand through her straight dark hair in agitation. Her entire demeanor is setting Derek on edge. His mom is always the picture of the cool and collected Alpha, but she’s clearly unsettled right now. That more than anything is freaking Derek out.

His mom looks at Laura and nods. Laura begins, “The body found in the next county north was the body of a human teenager. A young boy, aged fifteen, found ripped apart, drained of blood, the heart missing.”

“You’ve got to be kidding,” the sheriff whispered, his grip on Stiles’ shoulder tightening.

“There are five Aracoix in all, from what we’ve gathered,” Laura continues. “Chris Argent tracked two, and Mom, Dad, and I have been tracking the three that attacked you.”

“They keep moving closer to town before we run them out again,” his mom says. “Aracoix are generally predictable because they have a very narrow focus. Find food for their young to protect their existence. Right now, they keep trying to get back into the woods and some of the outlying suburbs. Aracoix like to stay in wooded areas, where they can perch in trees and take cover when needed.”

“So, they’re hunting me,” Derek asks.

His mom nods. “You, Boyd, Erica, and Isaac. All shifters who were in the woods that night. Because you fought them off, it’s become even more important that they find and kill you. That young boy was killed by the two that Chris found. The ones who attacked you haven’t killed anyone.” She pauses, looks at Derek, her face devoid of any emotion when she says, “They won’t kill anyone else. They will only kill you.”

The room is dead silent until Stiles says, “Well, that’s comforting.”

Derek can’t stop looking at his mother. There’s something in her eyes that he’s never seen before. Fear, regret, and myriad other emotions. Somehow, Derek feels like he’s let her down and that this is all his fault. He knows there’s really no going back from this.

Finally, his mom draws her eyes away from him and addresses the sheriff. “Stiles may also be in danger,” she explains. “Aracoix feed humans to their young, and since one human boy has already been killed, it is highly possible that they will hunt Stiles and Scott along with the Betas.”

“That’s it,” the sheriff says. “You’re never leaving the house again.”

“Dad!” Stiles exclains.

“Sheriff, remember that Stiles is under our protection,” Derek’s father speaks up. “We will protect him like he is one of our own.”

The sheriff doesn’t look impressed or comforted.

“They should be okay doing their normal everyday activities,” Derek’s mom tells the sheriff. “Going to school, lacrosse practice. As long as they stay out of the woods, they should be okay.”

“Yeah, well, last time we told them to stay out of the woods we see what happened,” the sheriff replies flatly.

Derek shakes his head in frustration. “How do we kill them?”

“You leave that to us,” his mom says. “We’re working on a plan.”

“But they’re after us!” Derek argues. “You can’t just expect me to sit around when these things are hunting me. I want to help defeat them.”

“Derek, we’ll discuss this later,” his mom says, her voice leaving no room for argument. He scowls and glares at the table, but doesn’t reply. He knows arguing with his mom in front of others isn’t a great idea.

“So, you know how to kill these things?” the sheriff asks. His mom nods. “If I can help, let me know.”

“Thank you, Sheriff. We probably will take you up on that.”

When the discussion is over, the sheriff and Stiles leave. Stiles gives Derek a small wave as he follows his father. The scene is becoming a familiar one, Stiles leaving with his father after learning something unpleasant about the supernatural. Derek thinks maybe this not dating humans thing is starting to make sense.

The family files out of the library, leaving Derek alone with his mother. He’s not a bit surprised. He knows that there’s a lecture or a discussion or something coming.

His mom sits in the empty chair beside him, the one Stiles had sat in just a few minutes before. Derek braces himself for harsh words about how he needs to stay out of this or how this was his own fault, and now he’s gotten an innocent human involved.

But that’s not what happens. His mom reaches out and cups his face, surprising him. He stares at her, confused. When he finally gets a good look at her, he’s even more confused. His mother is crying. Derek can count the number of times he’s seen his mother cry on one hand.

“Mom, you’re kinda freaking me out,” Derek says.

This causes her to laugh, and something in his chest loosens when she smiles through the tears. “My precious baby boy.” She drags her thumb along the skin beneath his eye. “I’m so sorry you have to go through this. I promise that I will protect you as much as I can.”

Derek knows that she will. He has complete faith in his mom. He knows that’s where he gets his strength from, his mom and his Alpha. But it still doesn’t erase the fear gripping him, or the frustration and anger still simmering beneath the surface.

“But I can help!” Derek says. “I’m not a child. I’ve already fought them once.”

His mom sighs as she drops her hand. She looks at him sadly. “I want to keep thinking about you as my baby, my sweet sweet son, so smart and good and brave.” Her eyes fill with tears again. “But you’re really not a child anymore, are you?” She sits back and stares off into space for a few quiet moments. “I want you to leave this to me, your father, and the adult Pack members.” Before Derek can argue, she puts up her hand and adds, “But you’re right. You need to be involved. We’ve never fought the Aracoix before, so everything we know is coming from old information. You’ll work with your father to train against them. Just in case.”

“Thank you,” Derek says sincerely.

His mom smiles at him. “I guess it’s time I stop trying to protect you from all this stuff. You’re seventeen. If I died tomorrow, you’d have to step up. You need to be prepared.”

“Nothing’s going to happen to you, Mom,” Derek says, rolling his eyes. “Besides, we’d fall apart without you. We need you.” His mother smiles, and then leans forward to wrap Derek in a big hug. Derek clings to her, soaking in her strength and love as he’s surrounded by the scent of her familiar perfume.

*

“Dad, seriously, you don’t have to stay,” Stiles tells the sheriff as he takes a seat in one of the plastic chairs in the Hale’s backyard. “I think Mr. Hale has it covered.”

“Look, kiddo,” the sheriff says, his elbows on his knees. “This supernatural stuff is new for me. I’m allowing you to fight and be trained by werewolves. Forgive me if I want to watch to see what they are teaching my son. Plus, I’d like to see what a werewolf’s made of.”

“Sheriff, I’m so glad you could join us,” Derek’s mother says as she walks out onto the back porch. “Would you like some coffee or tea? It’ll be a few minutes before everyone gets started.”

Derek’s dad isn’t out here yet, so when the sheriff goes inside, Derek and Stiles are left alone. Scott is coming over after he finishes his shift at the vet clinic, and Boyd, Erica, and Isaac are on their way. Derek decides to enjoy this bit of time alone with Stiles.

But, for the life of him, he can’t think of anything to say. Stiles is dressed in track pants and a t-shirt, his hair messy and unkempt, and it’s such a different look on him that Derek was thrown for a loop when he first saw him. When Stiles walked into the clearing, Derek had wanted to pounce on him and hump him. His eyes had flashed and his fangs extended, but he had quickly gotten them under control. He was really glad no one else had been outside at the time.

They’re standing awkwardly side by side, Derek with his arms over his chest and Stiles with his hands stuffed into his pockets and kicking random objects in the dirt. He turns around in a circle, and the way his hands are in his pockets stretches the track pants over Stiles’ cute ass, and Derek just wants to drop to his knees and stick his face in it. Which kinda disturbs him because he’s never wanted to stick his face in someone’s ass before. He’s not sure it’s normal. He doesn’t think he’s comfortable enough asking anyone either. What if he’s the only freak who wants to stick his face in someone’s butt? He’s a wolf, not a dog, after all.

“What are you thinking about?” Stiles asks suddenly.

“W-what?” Derek stutters, his face heating. It’s not like Stiles could know that he was thinking about sticking his face in his butt, unless it was obvious on his face.

“You’ve got that look on your face you get when you are deep in thought,” Stiles says. “You get it a lot, especially when you’re bent over one of the books in the library.”

“I’m not thinking about anything,” Derek says. Stiles hums in response, but doesn’t look like he really believes him.

“So, what’s your dad gonna teach us?” Stiles asks. “Why isn’t it your mom? She’s the Alpha.”

“It’s my dad’s job,” Derek explains, glad to be on a safer topic. “He’s the Pack tactical strategist and trainer. It’s his job to train everyone, especially the cubs, in fighting techniques. He also is in charge of formulating plans of attack.”

“So like, how many jobs are there in a Pack?”

“Just three,” Derek responds. “The Alpha, the Lorist, and the Trainer. But each position has an assistant, I guess is the best word for it. Someone who helps them. Pretty much everyone has a role in the Pack. Some work with the Alpha and help with things like diplomacy or leadership, but usually that’s only a few trusted advisors. A couple help the lorist with researching and work with the emissary, and everyone else works with the trainer as a soldier, though that’s not the best description. I’m not sure how to put it into non-Pack terms.”

“I think I get it,” Stiles says, kicking a stone with his shoe. “So like, who is your lorist sidekick? What do Cora, Boyd, and the others do in the Pack?”

“Jackson is my lorist second, kinda by default. He’s learned a lot since he’s Peter’s kid and knows almost as much as I do. Isaac has helped us and worked a lot with Deaton, our Pack emissary, since he got bitten.

“Cora is training to be my dad’s replacement as the Trainer. Boyd is her second. Erica works pretty closely with my mom and Laura with the diplomacy stuff, and Boyd’s sister Alicia and Danny’s sister Lea are going to be over human relations within the Pack.”

“This is very structured,” Stiles states.

Derek nods. “There are a lot of minor roles, too. Parrish works with law enforcement, Erica’s mom works at the hospital, and Boyd’s mom is in the school system. They help monitor things that go on with the Pack members, just in case something happens or there’s any supernatural stuff.”

“Wow.”

Derek shrugs. “For the most part, we just live normal lives. This is the first time anything has happened that I remember. Other than just training for eventual stuff and learning to control ourselves, especially around the full moon, my life has been just like yours.”

Stiles shakes his head. “No, dude. Your life is so much cooler.”

Derek is trying to come up with a reply when his dad and Cora come out of the house and walk down the porch steps. Stiles waves at Cora, and she nods her head.

“Hello, Stiles,” Derek’s dad says amicably. “Ready to start training?”

Stiles scratches the side of his face. “You know, this Pack stuff requires a lot of effort. Researching, fight training. I’m starting to regret stepping into those woods.”

Derek’s dad laughs while Cora rolls her eyes.

The sheriff, Derek’s mom, and Laura walk outside and sit in plastic chairs along the edge of the clearing as Derek’s dad starts explaining the day’s objectives.

“Aracoix are flying creatures, which means they have a distinct advantage over us. However, they are more awkward and less sure on their feet. They also prefer to stay on higher ground, in trees, on top of buildings, things like that. One of the most important things to think about when engaging with an Aracoix is to move some place where you have the advantage.

“If you can get inside a building, that is ideal,” his dad continues. “However, if you’re in the woods again or a similar environment, any dense area is best. Open space allows them to fly around and dive for you, but dense trees requires them to move from tree to tree or stumble over ground. Wolves have the advantage on the ground.” Then, he looks at Stiles. “Humans, too.”

“Even clumsy ones?” Stiles jokes.

Derek’s dad smiles. “Even clumsy ones. The Aracoix will be clumsier than you, I promise.” He turns to lead them into the clearing. “Now, Cora is going to work with Derek on offensive and defensive moves he can use against the Aracoix. Stiles, I’m going to work with you on defensive maneuvers. You lucked up and caught the Aracoix off guard when you attacked them before. The next time, they’ll be ready and will see you as a threat.”

“Just great,” Derek hears the sheriff mutter behind him.

Derek steps over to the side of the clearing with Cora as his dad instructs Stiles on basic evasive maneuvers. Though Derek trains with the rest of the Pack, he’s nowhere near as good as Cora. His parents picked their roles in the Pack after watching their children for years. Laura was born into the Alpha role as the oldest, but Derek and Cora could have gone either way. They were the natural choices for Lorist and Trainer because they were the Alpha’s children, but they could have been either. It was pretty obvious when they were very young that Derek’s interest lay in books and learning, while Cora was a born fighter.

Derek listens to his sister carefully and follows her instructions. Now that they know what they are fighting, they can coordinate specific attacks to predicted movements. Cora helps him work on movements to get the Aracoix low to the ground so another wolf could attack, and then practice air assaults that would have him meet the Aracoix above the ground or make contact with their wings.

Boyd, Erica, and Isaac show up about fifteen minutes after they start, so they join Cora’s training session as Stiles continues working with Derek’s dad. With four of them, they work on partner attacks and then group attacks where they pretend to fight one to five Aracoix at once.

By the time his dad tells them to rest, Derek is sweating and panting. He drops down to the ground, leaning against Isaac because he’s too tired to keep himself upright on his own.

To his right, Stiles whines loudly as he starfishes in the dirt. As he lies there, he just continuously groans.

“Ridiculous,” Cora mutters as she punches Stiles’ leg. Stiles tries to kick at her, but it’s half-hearted. She leans over and props her elbows on Stiles’ leg. Derek can’t figure out if he’s jealous or happy. The fact that his sister is leaning on Stiles like he’s part of the Pack is very confusing.

A moment later, Laura comes out of the house carrying an armful of bottled waters. She hands them out, but Stiles doesn’t move, so she nudges his head with her foot before sitting on the dirt beside him. “Do you think he’s dead?” Laura asks with a smile.

“Jury’s still out,” Stiles mutters.

“Poor baby,” Laura laughs as she pets his sweaty hair. “The first training session is tough.”

Stiles cracks one eye open. “I think you mean torture session.”

“Quit your whining,” Isaac says, his heart still racing from exertion. Derek can feel it from where he’s still leaning against him. Derek’s pretty sure Cora enjoys torturing them too much.

“Your dad should coach lacrosse,” Stiles says. “We’d beat everyone. Even without the supernatural team. Which I still say is unfair.” Derek rolls his eyes.

Scott arrives after Derek’s dad rouses them again. Derek watches unhappily as Stiles jokes with Scott, standing close and pushing him half-heartedly. He wishes he could be that comfortable with Stiles. When he’s around Stiles, he’s nothing but awkwardness and stiffness. No wonder Stiles has no real interest in him.

Cora calls it a day before his dad does. Boyd, Erica, and Isaac go into the house with Cora and Laura, but Derek hangs around to watch Stiles and Scott’s progress. Really, he wants to watch Stiles train. It might be the hottest thing ever. The sleeves of his long-sleeve t-shirt are pushed up to his elbows, his hair sweaty and sticking up. His clothes are covered in dirt and leaves from where he’s been rolling around on the ground.

“Derek,” his father calls out, and Derek’s face flushes like he’s been caught being a creeper. Stiles and Scott turn towards him too, both red-faced and breathing heavily. “Feel like helping me out?” Derek stares like a deer in the headlights. But eventually, he nods and moves towards them.

Derek comes to stand beside his father, and he points to Scott. “Scott’s having some trouble,” he explains as Scott wheezes, his inhaler in his hand. “Will you work with Stiles for a bit longer while I help Scott?”

Derek nods stoically though his heart is doing back flips and tap dances in his chest. His dad shoots him a look, and Derek is really glad no one else is around to hear his reaction.

His dad claps Scott on the shoulder and walks him a few steps to the side while Derek turns to Stiles. This close, Stiles looks even more attractive all flushed and disheveled, and his scent is thick on the air. Derek knows he should be repulsed by the fact that Stiles is covered in sweat, but he just wants to push Stiles to the ground and rut against him until they both come in their pants.

God, he needs to get his mind out of the gutter.

“Go easy on me,” Stiles jokes, his breathing heavy. There’s fatigue in every movement of his body, but he’s got a determined look on his face. Derek kinda loves that about him, that he’s willing to keep pushing no matter what.

“Absolutely not,” Derek replies, grinning.

“Asshole,” Stiles retorts, but he’s grinning too. Then, Stiles crouches into a defensive position, and Derek flashes his eyes and lets his teeth and claws extend. “Oh shit,” Stiles says as Derek grins, displaying his fangs. Stiles quickly schools his features, that determined look back on his face. “All right, wolf boy. Bring it.”

Derek growls playfully, and Stiles narrows his eyes. Then, Derek pounces. Stiles shoots to the left, narrowly escaping Derek, and when Derek glances to the side, he catches sight of Stiles’ back as he sprints away. It makes the predatory instinct flare to the surface, his wolf howling as he takes off after Stiles.

Stiles runs into the woods, covering a random pattern of ground that keeps Derek going the wrong ways. His dad did a good job helping Stiles learn how to outrun a predator, though it doesn’t take long for Derek to be able to predict his movements. When Derek darts from the side when Stiles cut right, Stiles ducks to the ground just as Derek’s hand grazes his arm. Stiles rolls to the side, scrambles to his feet, and takes off through the trees. Derek snaps his head up in the direction Stiles went, grinning widely, his wolf growling with pride as the word worthy flashes through his head.

Derek closes his eyes and listens to the rabbit-fast tempo of Stiles’ heartbeat, his scent heavy over the smell of decaying leaves. Stiles’ steps are heavy and loud, no stealth whatsoever, but they’re fast and calculated. Stiles may be human, but he’s smart. It’s like at every turn Derek discovers something else that makes him fall for Stiles even more.

Derek chases Stiles through the forest for awhile longer, purposefully not catching him. He likes the feel of the chase, the contentment and excitement emanating from Stiles, the rush of euphoria he feels as he follows the sound of Stiles’ heartbeat and his scent.

Finally, when they’ve been running for over ten minutes, Derek slows down to silently stalk Stiles through the trees. Stiles has slowed down, his breathing heavy. He keeps looking around for any sign of Derek, but Derek stays low and hidden, stalking him until he has a clear trajectory. Then, he springs from the shadows. Stiles starts, his heart spiking again, when he notices Derek. He tries to run, but he’s not fast enough. Derek circles his arms around Stiles as they both fall to the ground, Derek rolling them so he takes all of the impact.

When they land, Derek’s on his back, arms tightly wound around Stiles. Stiles’ body is warm against his, and Derek wishes he could stay like this, with his arms around Stiles. But, he lets go quickly, and Stiles rolls off Derek into a seated position.

“That was insane!” Stiles exclaims. “I totally had you for a bit.”

Derek props himself up on his elbows. Stiles is panting but smiling, his eyes bright with excitement. “I could have caught you awhile ago.”

“Oh, no doubt,” Stiles agrees. “But at first, you couldn’t catch me.” He grins triumphantly. Derek rolls his eyes.

He jumps to his feet in one graceful move, and Stiles shoots him an unimpressed look. “Showoff.” Derek extends a hand and helps Stiles to his feet. Stiles stumbles into Derek, and they pause and stare at each other for an awkward moment. Then, Derek steps away and leads them out of the forest.

*

Stiles starts coming over at least three times a week. He trains with Derek’s dad and listens in on Uncle Peter’s lectures. They switch to researching avian predators, so many nights the three of them bend over large books at the library table. Sometimes his mom orders them pizza, and Uncle Peter glares at them and says, “If you get grease on the books, I’ll kill you. They’re worth more than you are.”

His mom invites Stiles to dinner often, but he always declines. Derek is always disappointed, though he’s not sure how dinner with his family would go. Maybe it’s too much like they’re dating, so it makes Stiles uncomfortable. Stiles seems to always like hanging out and eating pizza, though, and Derek prefers that because it’s just the two of them.

One night when they’re eating pizza alone in the library, Uncle Peter absent because they’re not researching, Stiles asks Derek what his plans for the next year are. Derek shrugs as he chews. “I’m not sure,” Derek says.

“Have you applied to schools yet?”

“Applications aren’t due until next year. I’ve got at least three or four months.”

“Are you gonna go to Berkeley like Laura?” Stiles asks, picking at a piece of pepperoni.

“Maybe. I’m gonna apply.”

“How does that work? Like going to a school so far away from the Pack?”

Derek takes another bite and tries to find the best way to explain it. “It’s difficult because you’re away from everyone. But there are always people around who are Pack or Pack adjacent. Danny’s older brother goes to Berkeley with Laura, as does Erica’s cousin. Deucalion’s Pack lives in San Francisco, so she’s always near people she knows. A lot of Satomi’s, Ennis’, and Kali’s Pack also go to schools in the bay area.”

“Where else can you go?”

“Kali’s Pack is around Portland, Ennis’ is from Seattle. We know the Packs down near LA, but they have a different Alpha leader. Satomi’s Pack is the southern most Pack in our region.”

“Does anyone go outside of the region?”

“You can, but I don’t want to. I’ve still got to train and focus on learning more. I’ll always live with the Pack.”

Stiles nods. “I don’t know what I want to do. I kinda want to go to school in New York or DC, I thought about going into the FBI or something, but I don’t want to leave my dad, you know? I’m all he has.”

“I understand.”

“It’s pretty cool that you understand that,” Stiles says seriously. “Like, you don’t think it’s stupid that I want to stay close to home for my family and to look after my dad. Like you don’t think I’m lame or immature or anything.”

“I probably understand the importance of family more than anyone,” Derek tells him. “For a werewolf, Pack and family is everything.”

Stiles eats his piece of pizza before saying, “You know, it kinda sucks you’re leaving so soon. I mean, we really just became friends and now you’ll be gone in less than a year.”

Derek hopes his face isn’t as red as it feels. “Yeah. I know what you mean. But it’s only November.” Stiles looks at him and gives him a small smile.

A couple of weeks later, they’re looking through books in the library when Derek closes one large book and goes to the shelf to grab another. When he opens it, Stiles glances at it, and then leans closer, pushing into Derek’s space. “Are you seriously reading that?”

“Yes?”

“That’s not English.”

“A very astute observation, Stiles,” Uncle Peter drones from the other side of the table.

Stiles ignores him. “Is that Latin?”

“Archaic Latin, actually.”

“Oh, well, excuse me. Archaic Latin. Like, who in the hell reads that?”

“Me,” Uncle Peter says.

“You don’t count,” Stiles retorts, his eyes never leaving Derek’s face. “How in the world did I never know just how smart you were? You hide it in your attractive, athletic persona. Are you embarrassed to be smart? Are you afraid to let people know you’re just a big ol’ nerd?”

Derek rolls his eyes. “Archaic Latin generally doesn’t come up in general conversation.”

“You know, I used to think Lydia was the smartest person I knew, but I was wrong. It’s totally you, dude.”

Derek tries not to puff his chest out. Uncle Peter, as usual, ruins the moment. “I’m sure Lydia will be thrilled to hear that.”

“What, are you going to go tell her?” Stiles asks, finally turning away from Derek to frown at Uncle Peter. Sometimes Derek wishes that his Uncle Peter didn’t like aggravating Stiles so much. It takes too much of Stiles’ attention. And Derek is selfish and wants Stiles to be talking to him every moment they don’t have their nose stuck in a book. He knows Uncle Peter finds Stiles fascinating, mainly because other than Lydia, he’s never met another human so smart and capable. Uncle Peter generally ignores most of the human members of the Pack because he thinks they’re worthless (which causes plenty of fights between Uncle Peter and his mom), but Derek sometimes thinks Peter enjoys Stiles’ visits as much as he does.

It’s kinda weird how Stiles has just become a part of the Pack. Scott has started becoming friends with Isaac and even Boyd, but he doesn’t ever come over to the house. Stiles comes over so much his mom has started buying Stiles’ favorite soda and his dad and Stiles have an inside joke. Cora and Stiles are even working together on a project in German class. He just has seamlessly slipped into the Pack.

Derek thought that would be a good thing, but in a way, it’s worse. Now, everyone knows Stiles, so if anyone other than Laura ever found out Derek had the hugest crush ever on him, it would be extremely awkward. Derek tries really hard not to make it obvious that he likes Stiles, but he’s not sure he hides it well. His dad hasn’t said anything, but he always gets Derek to help him out with Stiles and Scott when Cora’s not around, and Uncle Peter doesn’t care enough about Derek’s personal life to call Derek out even though he’s known about Derek’s crush since at least around Halloween.

At school, Derek still has nothing to do with Stiles except talking to him at lunch occasionally. Sometimes, he smells Stiles in the hall, from where he walked to his class just a few minutes earlier, or he catches his scent in the library when he goes to check out a book. They have the same lunch, but Stiles keeps sitting inside with Scott, Jackson, and that group, and he remains outside with Boyd, Isaac, and his Pack. When they talk, one of them has to go out of their way to find the other.

It’s better this way, though. It’s easier to pretend he’s not thinking about Stiles all the time if he’s not around.

*

The week of Thanksgiving, Finstock gives them a long, convoluted speech about the upcoming season that’s littered with bits of speech from action movies and Shakespearean plays. Derek’s sitting beside Stiles (because he saw Stiles sitting on the bench in the locker room and sat down under the pretense of asking him a question about training), and Stiles leans over and whispers, “Did he just combine a quote from The Terminator with Macbeth?”

Derek whispers back, “I think it was Julius Caesar.”

Stiles snorts, but Finstock doesn’t even notice. He just barrels on, waxing poetically about how January is when their lives will truly begin and if they mess up the first scrimmage, he’ll make sure they all flunk out of school. It’s one of his more colorful speeches, Derek’ll give him that.

After practice, Derek walks with Stiles towards the parking lot, along with Scott, Isaac, Boyd, Kira, and Allison. Scott is trying hard to flirt with Allison as Isaac flirts with her just as hard, while Kira watches Scott sadly. Derek guesses Scott hasn’t decided to give up on Allison despite Allison and Isaac making out on Halloween. They aren’t officially dating or anything, but still.

“Let me guess,” Stiles says quietly to Derek, “you’re thinking about how Isaac, Scott, and Allison should just all three date, right?”

“What?” Derek exclaims, glancing over at Stiles, scandalized. “I’m not! Ew. Just…all three of them?”

“Don’t tell me you’re a prude, Derek,” Stiles says with a laugh. “I think the three of them would be very happy together.”

Derek rolls his eyes. “You’re ridiculous. Though, I do think it’s a pretty crazily messy situation.”

“If the three of them dated, it wouldn’t be messy,” Stiles points out. “It’d just be sexy.” He waggles his eyebrows.

“Do you want to be in a threeway relationship?” Derek asks.

“Dude, I’m just hoping for a twoway relationship. Threeway isn’t even close to the picture.”

“I don’t think I could do a threesome.”

Stiles gapes at him. “Are you serious? Two girls? Girl and guy? Two guys?” Stiles makes a rude gesture with his mouth, and Derek flushes all over. This seems to amuse Stiles greatly because he starts laughing. “Oh my god, are you…you’re blushing! I embarrassed you!” Stiles drops his chin to his chest as he laughs. “This is great.”

“I’m not embarrassed,” Derek argues, “but it’s just…wolves don’t do well with sharing. I wouldn’t want to see someone else with someone I was with. It’d turn into something territorial.”

Stiles’ face goes thoughtful. “Hmm. That’s interesting. Do you think – “

Stiles doesn’t get to finish his thought because at that moment, Boyd yells, “Watch out!” right before an ear-splitting screech pierces the air.

Derek looks up just as two Aracoix fly overhead. Instinctively, he pushes Stiles down behind him and glances around. Boyd and Isaac are surrounding Scott, and Allison has her knives out and Kira holds her katana.

“Don’t engage,” Derek shouts. “It’s too open and public.”

“Run to the school,” Boyd yells.

Derek spins and grabs Stiles’ arm, dragging him along as he runs. Stiles starts stumbling as Derek picks up speed, and Derek glances up to see where the Aracoix are. They’ve split up, one diving towards Boyd and Isaac as the other goes for Derek and Stiles.

“Drop!” Derek yells as the Aracoix swoops down. Stiles goes flat on his belly as Derek rolls and swipes his claws at the bird-creature. It takes off back to the sky as Derek glances back at the others.

“Should we try Cora’s combo move?” Boyd asks as the Aracoix circle ahead.

Derek glances at Stiles and then the school, still too far away. “Let’s keep running, and when they attack, we’ll gang up on them. Allison, Kira, you get Stiles and Scott inside.” Derek grabs Stiles by the arm and yanks him to his feet and takes off running again.

“They’re coming!” Isaac yells.

“Keep running!” Derek tells Stiles, who sprints ahead, Allison, Kira, and Scott running past him as he stops and turns around. As the one of the Aracoix swoops towards the humans, Derek, Boyd, and Isaac leap towards it. Derek and Boyd collide with the Aracoix as Isaac makes contact with the other one. They hit the ground and roll a few times in a tumble of wings, fangs, and talons. The Aracoix makes a horrible screech that pierces the night air as they sink their claws into it. Boyd rips through part of the wing, and it pulls away as Derek leaps to his feet and turns towards the other. Isaac is fighting it violently, and Derek jumps on the bird-creature’s back as Isaac swipes at its face.

The Aracoix gets free of Isaac’s claws as the other turns to hobble away from Boyd. The wing is injured too much to fly right now, and though Derek wishes they could go after them to finish them, he’s not sure they could. If the Aracoix healed quickly, their momentary victory could turn into a disaster. There are only three of them, and Isaac isn’t the strongest fighter since he has only been a wolf for about a year. Instead, Derek runs towards the school, Boyd and Isaac at his side. He has to be smart, and going off after the Aracoix angry and half-cocked would get him and his Packmates hurt.

They burst through the doors. The others are standing just inside, Allison and Kira at the front with their weapons held high. Stiles and Scott are standing behind them, Stiles holding a chair and Scott holding a large textbook. Boyd slams the door shut behind them and peers out of the window.

“What happened?” Allison asks. “Where are they?”

“We fought them off,” Derek says, his breathing heavy from exertion. “They’re wounded, but I don’t think they’re going to come after us.” He glances around, eyes landing on Stiles. “Is everyone okay?” There’s a murmur of assent, so Derek relaxes a bit.

He calls his mother, who tells them to wait in the school until she gets there. Derek rests against the trophy case and closes his eyes. He smells the uncertainty wafting from Stiles as he steps closer but hesitates, then finally sits on the floor beside Derek. Boyd’s sitting in a desk down the hall texting Erica, Isaac and Allison are huddled in a corner by the lockers, and Scott and Kira are sitting together and talking awkwardly not too far further down the hall.

“Are you okay?” Stiles asks after he settles on the floor. Derek nods. “Is that your blood or the Aracoix?”

Derek opens his eyes and stares down at his chest. His shirt is ripped across his shoulder, and he can see the red strips of the wound healing. He opens up one of the talon-shaped tears to show Stiles. Stiles leans close and studies it. “It’s so weird that you heal so quick. Does it hurt?”

Derek shakes his head. Then, he gives Stiles quick once over. “You’re bleeding.”

Stiles shrugs nonchalantly. “Nothing serious.”

“Show me.”

Stiles lifts his elbow to show Derek a large scrape and then shows him his bloody knee. Derek frowns. Stiles must have gotten them when he dropped to the ground. Suddenly, Derek feels guilty. “I’m sorry.”

“Why are you sorry? You helped fight those things off.”

“You got hurt.”

“They’re just scrapes. The fact that no one almost died this time is a much improvement.” Stiles smiles and doesn’t seem bothered. Derek is struck by the oddity of Stiles’ humanness in that moment. Derek gets slashed by a creature, but it’s not a big deal because he’ll heal almost immediately. But Stiles falls and scrapes himself and it’s serious. His elbow and knee are both bleeding, and Derek knows they’ll scab and take forever to heal. But Stiles just deals with it like it’s nothing, like he doesn’t have bruises forming under his clothes from dropping hard onto the asphalt. It’s kinda incredible that he treats it like it’s nothing.

“What?” Stiles asks, embarrassment filling Derek’s nostrils.

Derek shakes his head. “Nothing. Just thinking about how you’re human.”

“Did you just realize it?”

Derek laughs. “No, but I don’t really think about it, about what it means. Like how you don’t heal, yet you fight and keep pushing anyway.”

“Not much else to do, dude.” Stiles shrugs.

“That’s just it,” Derek argues, trying to figure out how to verbalize his thoughts. “It’s kinda incredible. You’re kinda incredible.”

The scent of embarrassment grows, but mixed with something sweeter. A faint blush spreads across Stiles’ cheeks. “I just ran, dude. Nothing impressive about that.”

“Don’t sell yourself short.”

Stiles murmurs something that Derek thinks is a thank you as he stares at his hands that he’s clasping and unclasping between his knees. Derek wishes he could lean over and brush his lips against the color in Stiles’ cheeks, but instead, he taps Stiles’ foot with the toe of his shoe. After a moment, Stiles taps Derek’s foot back with his shoe. Derek smiles as he taps Stiles’ foot again, and Stiles responds, until they’re tapping their feet together in a slow rhythm. After a few seconds of this, they stop and sit there in the quiet, dark hall with their feet pressed together.

Derek thinks maybe this is evidence that Stiles likes him. His entire body flushes and tingles all over with nerves, hope, and anticipation. He thinks maybe he should close the minimal distance between their bodies, maybe reach over and grab Stiles’ hand, maybe drag his nose along Stiles’ cheek and press a kiss right behind his ear. Derek bets it would taste perfect, that maybe Stiles would exhale quietly and curl his fingers around Derek’s arm and grip him tightly. Just the thought makes Derek’s heart start pounding and his hands sweaty. He takes a deep breath and flexes his hand as he gathers his courage.

But then, he hears footsteps pounding on the sidewalk outside and his mother’s voice. The moment has passed, and Derek realizes he’s disappointed. He’s not sure he’s ever going to get another chance like this. Maybe it’s not meant to be, after all.

The double doors open, and Derek’s mother rushes in, followed closely by the sheriff and Boyd’s father. “Derek!” his mother exclaims as she rushes over to him. Before he’s on his feet, she’s pulling him to her and smothering him in a hug. He’d be embarrassed if he didn’t hear the sheriff doing basically the same thing to Stiles. So, Derek indulges his mother and hugs her back just as fiercely.

“I’m so glad you’re okay,” she murmurs against his hair. She pulls back and looks at him. “What happened?” Derek relates the incident, and her frown deepens as he talks. “I don’t understand,” she states. “Aracoix aren’t known for attacking in populated areas.” Her fingers close around his arms tightly. “This isn’t good. We need to talk to Peter.” She glances at the others and keeps her grip on Derek as she walks towards Allison. “Your dad is with Sam, Laura, and Miranda Reyes searching for the Aracoix. He said you can come home with us or go home, as long as you’re careful.”

“Thanks Mrs. Hale,” Allison says, giving her a grateful smile. “I think I’ll go home.”

His mother nods as Isaac suddenly appears by Allison’s side. “I can go with you. To, um, make sure you get home safely.” Isaac glances at Derek’s mother hopefully.

Derek’s mom presses her mouth into a hard line, but she finally relents. “Stay together,” she instructs. “Isaac, you can get Chris to take you home or call Miranda to bring you home.”

“Thank you,” Isaac says, smiling at Allison. Derek’s mom reaches out and runs a hand across the back of Isaac’s neck and down his arm. He leans towards her, and she pulls him close and leans up on her toes to kiss the side of his head.

“Be careful. Both of you.”

Scott offers to take Kira home, which means that the sheriff is taking her home since he’s taking Scott home with Stiles. While the sheriff talks with Derek’s mom and Boyd’s dad, and Scott talks to Kira and Boyd sits in a desk texting, Stiles joins Derek where he’s leaning against a locker.

“I don’t want to watch Scott and Kira awkwardly flirt all the way home,” Stiles whispers to Derek. “It’s worse than with Allison, because Allison ignored him but Kira tries to awkwardly flirt back.”

Derek laughs and glances at them where they’re standing a bit down the hall. “Aren’t you supposed to be his wingman?”

“He’s never a wingman for me!”

Derek lifts a brow. “When have you needed a wingman?”

Stiles splutters as his arms flail wildly. “I – I don’t. Not at all. I think I’m gonna stop calling it a wingman. It just makes me think of those creatures, and dude, let me tell you, I am ruined for birds forever more. Fuck birds. No bueno.”

Derek rolls his eyes. Stiles really is ridiculous.

*

The next few weeks are quiet. Derek’s mom isn’t sure whether the Aracoix have been scared off or are healing or what. Derek just knows he’s glad. Between Thanksgiving and lacrosse practice and finals, he doesn’t have time to deal with bird creatures that want to kill him. Calculus and Finstock have the monopoly on that right now.

Thanksgiving is a large affair at the Hale house, with all the Pack coming over for a feast. They go through twenty turkeys, ten hams, and probably fifty side dishes, and some Pack members still complain there wasn’t enough food. Derek counts at least twenty five pies, and they are all gone by Thursday night.

Derek goes Black Friday shopping with his family the next morning, and buys too many cheap workout shorts, socks, and DVDs. He texts Stiles about the madness of the lines at Target, who replies back that he wishes he was shopping, but instead he’s playing video games with Scott. Derek tells him that sounds like more fun than standing in line listening to his mom and Cora argue with one another about what they should eat for lunch. But he loves their family Black Friday shopping excursions, even if his dad gets so pissed about the amount of people who bump into him that he flashes his eyes and his mother yells at him about it, and that he, Laura, and Cora get into a yelling fight that results in claws and fangs.

Saturday night, Derek and Boyd go over his grandma’s house and play bridge with her and Grandma B. The grandmas spend half the night discussing what they’re going to get the Pack kids for Christmas and trying to coordinate so everyone doesn’t get new socks or giftcards.

When Grandma Boyd goes to make everyone cocoa and pieces of her famous pumpkin pie, Grandma asks Derek, “How’s Stiles doing learning canasta?”

Boyd glances at Derek curiously. “I didn’t know you’ve been teaching Stiles to play canasta.”

Derek shrugs. “We’ve only played a couple of times,” Derek replies. Three times, to be exact. That first night when Stiles had dinner with him and Grandma, and twice in the library after they finished researching. The last time, Laura joined them, which irritated Derek because he was stingy with Stiles and didn’t want to share his time with anyone.

“Well?” Grandma prompts shortly.

“He’s getting the hang of it,” Derek says, “but he’s not good with strategy yet. It irritates him because he doesn’t like losing or not being able to plan ahead.” The last time they played, Stiles got so mad that he started cursing, which caused Laura to laugh in delight.

“Invite him over again,” Grandma says as Grandma Boyd sets two saucers at Derek and Boyd’s elbows. “Vernon and Loretta can come over, too. We’ll teach him how to play bridge.”

Which is how Stiles ends up at his grandma’s house again after finals are over. Derek wasn’t going to invite him over, but Boyd had mentioned it at lacrosse practice, and Stiles was excited to visit with not only Derek’s grandmother again, but to also meet Boyd’s grandmother. “Two werewolf grandmothers!” he’d exclaimed as they’d all been walking to their cars. “This is the best!”

Derek waits nervously for Stiles to arrive. Grandma and Grandma Boyd are making dinner together, a pot roast with an array of vegetable side dishes, while Boyd and Derek watch ESPN on the couch. Boyd’s engrossed in the college basketball game playing, but Derek can’t concentrate. He’s too nervous.

He’s barely seen Stiles over the last few weeks. With the end of the semester and the holidays, Derek’s research has slacked off, which means the only reason he’s had to see Stiles has been lacrosse, but Derek’s been focusing so much on their upcoming season that he’s barely had time for Stiles.

When Derek hears the Jeep coming up the lane, he tries to keep his heartbeat steady. Boyd’s sitting right beside him, so he can’t freak out like he’s been thinking about nothing but seeing Stiles for days, even though that’s exactly what he’s doing.

Play it cool, Derek, he says to himself. Derek slouches back into the couch and pretends that he’s cool and unaffected.

When Stiles knocks on the door, Grandma tells one of them to get it, so Derek yells for Stiles to come in. The door opens, and Stiles grins at Boyd and Derek on the couch. He’s wearing his usual t-shirt and hoodie and smells so good Derek’s jaw clenches to keep him from reacting. Boyd says hello while Derek lifts his hand casually from where it’s resting on the couch.

See? He can play it cool.

Stiles shoots him an odd look, but then his grandma is calling Stiles into the kitchen. Derek thinks he might be able to get through this night without acting like a complete idiot and announcing to everyone his huge crush on Stiles.

“Derek, Vernon! Get in here and set the table!” Grandma yells a few minutes later. Derek leads the way into the kitchen, where Stiles is leaning against a counter with Grandma Boyd feeding him bites of various cookies.

“Why does he get to eat cookies before dinner?” Boyd asks as he takes the plates out of the cabinet.

“He’s a guest,” Grandma Boyd says. “And it’s polite.”

“It’s not polite to ruin his dinner,” Derek says, and realizes just how dorky that sounds. It’s official – Derek is a ginormous dorkus.

“I may not be a wolf, but I can put away some delicious food,” Stiles says. “Boyd, you’ve never told me your grandma is a badass cook!”

Boyd gives Stiles a flat look. “Why would I tell you about my grandmother’s cooking?”

“Because we’re friends!”

“We’re not friends.”

“Vernon!” Grandma Boyd hits his shoulder. “Be polite. Your parents didn’t raise you to be rude. Remember, manners.”

“Grandma B is all about manners,” Derek tells Stiles with a teasing grin.

Grandma Boyd frowns. “If you leave it to these wolves, they act like they were raised in a cave. Some wolves may live primitively, but we’re civilized wolves. No fangs or claws at the dinner table, and we must always use a napkin.”

“Especially when we’re covered in blood,” Boyd deadpans. Derek and Grandma Irma snort in laughter, but Grandma Boyd glares at him.

“It’s especially important to use the napkin if you’re eating raw game. You’re not an actual animal, Vernon.”

“These wolf conversations totally never get any less weird,” Stiles says, shaking his head. “My dad’s just happy if I don’t eat with my hands or burp at the table.”

Grandma Boyd turns her frown on Stiles. “Unacceptable, even for a human.”

“Hey! What’s that supposed to mean?”

“She means that humans are uncultured too,” Grandma says. “Now, set that table, boys! Here, make yourself useful.” She shoves a bowl of cheesy mashed cauliflower into Stiles’ hands and points to the table.

During dinner, as Stiles is reaching for seconds, he says, “This is delicious. I need to get one of you to teach me how to cook.”

“See Vernon?” Grandma Boyd asks. “Some teenage boys want to learn how to cook.”

“It’s because Stilinski is weird,” Boyd replies, but there’s a faint smile around his mouth.

“Vernon! Be nice!” Grandma Boyd shakes her head. “What am I gonna do with you, boy?”

Derek tells Stiles, “Grandma B wants to teach Boyd how to cook, but he won’t do it. She won’t agree to teach me her secret cobbler recipes.”

“I don’t like to cook, okay?” Boyd grumps. “I’ll do all the sexist things, like fixing broken heaters and changing tires. I’ll even hold a purse in the store without thinking about it or do the grocery shopping. I just really, really hate cooking.”

Grandma Boyd harrumphs in irritation, but Stiles stares at Boyd in surprise. “Wow, those are the most words I’ve ever heard Boyd say at one time,” he says with a shake of his head. “I didn’t know he could talk so much.”

“You sure ain’t got no problem talking, do you?” Grandma says, but she’s grinning at him. “So, you like to cook then? Derek ain’t much for cooking, either. Laura’s really the only one who likes to cook outta my grandkids. Some of the Pack kids don’t mind it much, but trying to get Derek, Cora, or Jackson to do anything is like asking them to fall onto a bed of wolfsbane.”

Stiles scratches the side of his face. “It’s not that I like it, but um. I do the cooking for me and my dad. I’ve been doing it since not long after my mom died.” This bit of knowledge surprises Derek. He knew Stiles never mentioned his mom, but he thought maybe she just lived somewhere else. He didn’t realize she was dead. “If I didn’t cook, my dad would eat crap all the time. It’s a battle trying to get him to eat a vegetable.”

Grandma nods. “That’s pretty responsible of you. I’ll teach you how to cook, if you want. Loretta is a better cook, but I ain’t half-bad myself.”

“Just never got a ribbon at the state fair,” Grandma Boyd says with a smirk. Grandma glares at her, but Derek knows there’s no real animosity between them. They’ve been best friends for like a hundred years or something. Grandma Boyd is as old as his grandma.

Stiles helps Derek and Boyd with the dishes while Grandma makes them hot tea and Grandma Boyd cuts them slices of pie. Stiles tries to sneak a bite, but Grandma Boyd smacks his hand away before he can touch the pie. “Can’t get away with much around werewolves,” Boyd says as he tries to sneak a piece, too. He just laughs when his grandma takes the pie into the dining room.

Derek, Boyd, and the grandmas take their usual seats around the table, and Derek pulls out a chair for Stiles. He doesn’t presume that Stiles wants to sit beside him, but Stiles drags the chair beside Derek anyway. Derek ducks his head and buries his smile in his hand.

Grandma explains the rules of bridge to Stiles, who nods and consults the rules he’s brought up on his phone. Grandma tells him to stop paying attention to his phone and learn by experience, which Stiles does for most of the first round. Then, he pulls the phone out and looks at the rules again.

Stiles watches a few hands as he tries to get the hang of it. He has trouble wrapping his head around the concept of a dummy hand, but reads through different rules online as he watches to try to help him understand.

After one game, Stiles scoots closer to Derek and begins trying to help Derek play. Derek doesn’t mind; Stiles hovers just near him, close enough that sometimes Derek can feel his warm breath on his cheek. He feels hyperaware of the others in the room, but they seem not to be paying attention. Cards and pie are a good distraction.

When Derek’s turn comes around again, Stiles points to a card. Derek glances at him, brows furrowed in question. “Play that one,” Stiles says.

Derek shakes his head. “No. This one.” He points to a different card.

Stiles frowns and exhales loudly. “Dude, seriously, trust me. Play that one.” Derek can’t help but give in to Stiles. He throws out the card even though he questions the choice. However, Stiles is right. They win the trick.

Derek glances at Stiles, who grins triumphantly. “How did you know?”

“I’ve been paying attention. I figured it would take the trick based on the way everyone else has been playing and the cards that have already been thrown out.”

“Now that’s a card playing mindset,” Grandma says as she throws out her next card. “We might make you into a card player yet.” Stiles beams.

Stiles helps Derek with the rest of the game, and between Stiles’ strategy and Derek’s knowledge of the game, Derek and Grandma win by a large margin.

Before Stiles leaves, Grandma Boyd insists that he take two plates of food home to his father. “Your father is a good man,” she says. “He does a good service to this county, and he deserves something good. Tell him just to heat it up and he’ll be good to go. You can give the Tupperware back to Vernon or Derek when he’s done.”

Grandma squeezes Stiles’ forearm when he stops to tell her bye. “Don’t you be a stranger,” she says. “It’s been too long since you’ve been here. You come over with Derek one day soon. I’ll teach you to make something, and we’ll play canasta.”

Stiles says goodbye to Boyd, who seems like he’s warmed up to Stiles just a bit. He tells Stiles to take it easy and that he’ll see him around. Stiles responds with a smile so large it almost makes Derek jealous.

Derek walks Stiles out. He probably shouldn’t, especially if he’s trying to play it cool, but he really doesn’t want Stiles to leave. He’s not sure when he’ll see him again. Christmas is in a little over a week, and there’s no lacrosse practice until after the New Year. Uncle Peter is in New York, so their lessons have been suspended temporarily. So, he savors every moment he gets to spend with Stiles, even if it’s just walking to the Jeep in the cold.

“Thanks for inviting me over,” Stiles says when they get to the Jeep. “The wolfie grandmas are awesome, and I think I’m wearing Boyd down. I’m gonna get him to be my friend if it kills me.”

Derek rolls his eyes, but can’t keep the smile off his face. “What are you doing for Christmas?”

Stiles shrugs. “Same old thing. Dad’ll work to give the deputies time off with their families. I’ll spend Christmas Eve with Scott and his mom, unless she has to work, and then it’ll just be me and Scott playing video games.”

Derek can’t help but blurt, “That sounds sad.”

“Christmas isn’t a big deal around my house. Ever since my mom died, we haven’t really done much.”

“I didn’t know about your mom,” Derek states. “I’m sorry.”

“It happened a long time ago,” Stiles says, though he doesn’t meet Derek’s eyes. Derek can smell old grief and sadness wafting off of him.

“Still,” Derek says. He can’t even contemplate the idea of his mother being dead. She’s his Alpha and his rock. Stiles lifts his eyes and Derek holds his gaze. The light of the almost full moon reflects in Stiles’ eyes, making them shine.

Derek’s still thinking about Stiles’ eyes when he returns inside the house. The others have already gotten the cards shuffled and dealt for their next game, so he takes his seat and picks up his cards. He plays the game on automatic, the voices of the others a soothing background as his mind stays focused on Stiles.

While the grandmas watch one of their shows on the DVR, Boyd and Derek put on their sweatshirts and go outside to play basketball. The December night is cold and Derek is pretty sure it’ll snow soon. But once he starts running around, it’s not too bad.

After they’ve been playing for awhile, Boyd dribbles the ball thoughtfully and says, “I didn’t know you liked Stiles.”

“What?” Derek exclaims, his voice going slightly higher.

“It’s cool, you know,” Boyd says, running and dribbling the ball before jumping and dunking it. “You could have told me.”

Derek sighs. So much for playing it cool. “What gave it away?”

“I’ve suspected for awhile. But you couldn’t stop looking at him tonight.”

“Don’t tell Erica.”

“I won’t,” Boyd says as he bounces the ball in Derek’s direction. “I love her, but she’s got a big mouth. If you wanna keep it secret, I’m cool with that. But, just for the record, it’s pretty obvious that he likes you, too.”

*

Every vacation, Pack members go stay a few days with other Packs to learn various skills or information. Derek’s spent time with Satomi’s Pack to learn about herbs and magical plants and Deucalion’s Pack to learn additional folklore that even Peter’s not familiar with, and Cora’s been to Kali or Ennis’ Pack multiple times to train. The weekend before Christmas, Brett comes to stay with the Hales to train with Derek’s mom. Satomi thought observing during the Aracoix stuff would be good experience.

Friday night, Jackson throws a big party because Peter is in New York, so all the Pack teens get drunk or high. Derek wakes up with a hangover on Saturday morning, but perks up when he sees a text from Stiles.

Me and Scott are hanging w Isaac 2day. Can we come over?

Derek immediately replies yes.

He spends most of the morning on the couch with Cora watching a marathon of Pawn Stars, while his mom, Laura, and Brett do something Aracoix-related in the library. Derek hasn’t really thought about the Aracoix in the last few weeks, to be honest. Ever since the attack at the school, they’ve been MIA, so Derek has focused more on school, lacrosse, Christmas, and Stiles.

Derek takes a shower and puts on a maroon Henley and tight jeans before Stiles comes over. He hopes he doesn’t look like he’s trying too hard. These are the clothes he usually wears anyway, but he does double check his butt in the mirror. He thinks it looks pretty good in those jeans.

Stiles, Scott, and Isaac drive over in the Jeep. Cora walks with Derek outside to greet them, and he tries not to grin too hard at Stiles, but it’s kinda difficult when Stiles is smiling at him and looking so cute with messy hair and pink cheeks from the cold.

They end up playing Mario Kart in the den, with Derek sitting out so the others can play. He doesn’t mind because he’s sitting beside Stiles and it’s incredibly entertaining to watch them all play Mario Kart while cursing at each other and trying to screw each other over.

They’re halfway through the second game when Brett and Laura come into the room. Brett immediately spots Stiles and smiles as he makes his way over to the couch they’re sitting on. Brett sits in the empty space beside Stiles and scrolls through his phone instead of paying attention to the game.

When it’s over, Brett turns to Stiles and speaks to him. Stiles starts talking to Brett about why he’s there, and Derek tries not to get jealous. Just because Brett wants to hook up with Stiles (more because Stiles is breathing than any real interest) doesn’t mean Stiles wants to hook up with him. Even Boyd said he thinks Stiles likes Derek. He just has to remember that.

“Did anything else happen with the Aracoix?” Stiles asks, glancing at Derek and then Laura.

Laura shakes her head. “Still no sighting. We’ve gone on a few hunting missions, and we can’t even catch a scent right now.”

“We went last night,” Brett says, and Derek thinks he’s trying to impress Stiles. He doesn’t think tagging along with his mother is very impressive. “We spent a couple of hours combing the Preserve and then around the town. Talia thinks maybe they’ve gone underground for the winter.”

“Why would they do that?” Stiles asks.

“It’s kinda like birds who migrate,” Brett explains, shifting closer to Stiles. “Birds fly to warmer climates. Their best guess is that the Aracoix didn’t expect to be around here this long. They showed up in the fall, when it was still relatively warm.”

Stiles’ face grows serious as he ponders this new information. “I think that kinda makes sense. Their tendency to target someone until they eliminate them has kept them from moving on. They can’t leave until they’ve killed Derek and the rest of us.”

“But right now,” Laura says, “there’s not really anything to worry about. Maybe they’ll stay gone until after Christmas so we can all have a nice holiday. Now, hand me a controller and let me play.”

Stiles insists that Derek play the next game and gives him the controller he was using. After a few races, Stiles gets up to use the bathroom. Brett and Cora go get some food, and Derek loses track of time as he gets invested in beating Laura, Isaac, and Scott.

After the game is over, Stiles, Brett, and Cora haven’t returned to the den. Derek goes looking for them and finds Cora in the living room watching a movie while playing on her phone. When Derek asks her where Stiles is, she claims she doesn’t know. Derek searches through the house and doesn’t find them until he goes upstairs and checks the library.

Brett and Stiles are alone in the library, sitting at the table with an open book between them. But they’re not reading; they’re talking and laughing. Both of them are sitting in chairs with little space between them, but they’re angled towards each other. Derek notices that Brett’s knee brushes against Stiles’, and he sees red.

He turns and leaves the library, then rushes downstairs. As Derek descends the back stairs to the first floor, he wolfs out and runs outside and into the woods. Without thought, he takes off through the trees, not following any trail, just crashing through the underbrush as his rage flows through him.

Derek wants to rip Brett apart. Stiles is his. His friend, his Pack mate, his human, his…what? He wasn’t Derek’s boyfriend or anything like that. He’d never told Stiles he liked him or asked him out on a date. He’s only tried to hide the fact that he liked Stiles.

Brett is easy to ignore or detach himself from. It’s just Brett. What enrages him and hurts the most is Stiles. That Stiles was alone with Brett, in their library, laughing and flirting and touching knees! How could Stiles do that? He thought Stiles liked him. He thought he was the one Stiles wanted to laugh and flirt with in the library. They’d never brushed knees, but they’d tapped feet, walked close side by side, argued over which card to play at his grandmother’s bridge game. They’d fought Aracoix side by side and almost died together, and Stiles had used a log to fight off a bird-creature when he hadn’t even known what Derek was or why he was saving him. And Stiles had been there holding Derek while he waited for his mother to show up when he was pretty sure he was dying.

Stiles was supposed to be his friend, his…Stiles. Not Brett’s to conquer and use and hook up with only to toss aside and brag about it to the other Packs, saying things like “guess what me and my dick did with the Hales’ human?”

Just the thought of Brett’s dick anywhere near Stiles makes Derek want to kill him. Instead, he takes his anger out on an unsuspecting tree by ripping the limbs clean off the trunk. It doesn’t make him feel any better.

After he runs for awhile longer, his anger starts to dissipate and he realizes he’s near his grandma’s house. So, he runs towards it and enters without knocking. His grandma is sitting in her La-Z-boy, watching soap operas.

“What’s got your goat?” she asks when she sees Derek.

“Don’t wanna talk about it,” Derek says grumpily as he drops onto the couch and crosses his arms over his chest.

“Alright. But I ain’t changing it from my stories.”

Derek doesn’t care what’s on the television. The only thing he can do is glare at it anyway.

*

Derek finally returns home a few hours later. Thankfully, Stiles’ Jeep isn’t in the driveway. He couldn’t handle seeing him right now. Inside the house, he doesn’t see Brett anywhere, though he finds Laura and Cora in the living room.

“Where’d you go?” Laura asks. She doesn’t act like anything’s wrong, so maybe it’s not a big deal.

“To Grandma’s,” he explains.

“Oh. Stiles was looking for you. He wondered where you’d gone. He said he saw you in the library, and before he could say anything, you left again. He was gonna wait around for you to get back, but Scott and Isaac had to get home.”

Derek doesn’t reply. Instead, he goes into the den to grab his phone from where he left it. There’s a text from Stiles, but Derek just clears the notification without reading it. He’s still too angry. He wanders down to the kitchen next, where his mom is making dinner.

“Oh, there you are!” she says with a smile. “We’re having pork chops for dinner. I hope that’s okay.” Derek grunts his acquiescence. “By the way, I invited Stiles and his father over for Christmas Eve dinner.”

“What?” Derek asks, shocked.

“Your dad and I were talking to him about it, and he said they didn’t really do anything, but his dad has Christmas Eve off this year. So, I told him they should come visit us this year. The Reyes are going to visit Miranda’s parents in Michigan, the Boyds are going to Florida, and the Mahealanis are going to Hawaii. It’s really just us this year. I thought it would be nice to spend some time with the sheriff and Stiles outside of some life or death situation.”

Derek feels miserable, but his mom looks so happy that he can’t tell her. Instead, he says he thinks Stiles and his dad will like that and leaves her to her cooking and audio book. Derek goes to his bedroom and plops face first down on the bed. He wants to wallow in his misery and maybe forget all about Stiles. Apparently, that isn’t going to happen.

“Your friend Stiles is single, right?” Brett asks from the doorway. Derek had thought he’d kicked the door closed, but he must not have kicked it hard enough.

“Why do you care?” Derek asks.

“Because he’s kinda hot, you know, in that annoying dorky kind of way.” Derek pushes up into a seated position as Brett goes on. “Plus, he exudes all that virginal awkwardness. I can help with that, teach him all sorts of things. With that mouth, I bet he could – “

“Don’t talk about him like that,” Derek growls. Without realizing it, his eyes flare bright blue, and his fangs and claws are pushing against the surface.

Brett has the audacity to laugh. “Why are you getting so protective over him? I won’t hurt him, and I know he wants it. He smells like – “

Stop. Talking.” Derek’s half-shifted now, his blood boiling beneath his skin. It’s taking all of his composure to stay on the bed and not leap across the room.

“The fuck is your problem, Derek?” Brett asks, his eyes flashing gold. That just causes Derek to growl louder. When Brett says, “Fuck off,” his fangs fully extended, something in Derek snaps. He snarls as he leaps off his bed and pounces on Brett.

They both go falling through the open doorway onto the hallway floor. Brett is momentarily stunned, but then he fully shifts and they start fighting with full force. Derek can barely think he’s so angry. He smells Stiles on Brett’s skin, which just enflames his rage.

He doesn’t know anything except fangs and claws until he’s being yanked away, his teeth and hands landing on nothing, and then his mother’s growling ”Stop!” reverberating through the air. Derek lowers his head and bares his neck as he whimpers in supplication.

“What in the hell is going on?” his mother yells furiously. “What have you done to my house?”

“He started it!” Brett exclaims. He’s covered in blood and healing wounds, his clothes ripped. Derek feels a few wounds closing on his own skin. “He just attacked me!”

“Derek!” his father yells.

“You started it!” Derek returns, ignoring his father. “You were going on about how you were going to hook up with Stiles because he was a virgin and had a great mouth and – “

“That’s enough!” his mother interrupts, just as Derek is working himself into another fury, his eyes burning and claws and fangs extended again. She takes a deep breath and looks between them with a frown. “I don’t care who started it. You both participated. Therefore, you both will clean this up. Brett, I’m contacting Satomi tonight to tell her about what happened. Derek, we will deal with you later.” She points to the mess in the hall. “Clean this up. Now.

For the first time, Derek looks around. There are holes and dents in the wall, claw marks along the doorframe, and the door to one of the guest bedrooms is broken in two. He’s pretty sure he’s going to have to work off the payment for all of this. At least he hopes Brett will split the cost.

Derek goes downstairs for the broom, dustpan, and trash can, and he and Brett sweep up the mess in silence. When they’ve cleaned up everything and are each picking up a piece of the broken door, Brett says, “You could have just said you had a thing with Stiles. You didn’t have to try to claw my face off. He’s not that fucking cute, for fuck’s sake.”

Derek doesn’t respond. Brett’s lucky he doesn’t crack this door over his fucking head.

Satomi and his mother agree that the almost full moon made the boys more aggressive than usual, and since there’s nothing new with the Aracoix, Brett is to return home in the morning. Derek stays in his room all evening, avoiding everyone.

Around 8 p.m., a knock sounds on the door and then his dad sticks his head inside. He’s carrying a plate with dinner on it and a bottle of water. “We thought you might be hungry.”

“Not really,” Derek replies, so his dad sets the plate on Derek’s desk before he pulls out the desk chair and sits down. Derek doesn’t say anything. He crosses his arms and stares really intently at his socked feet.

His dad opens with, “I didn’t really think that this thing with Stiles was serious.” Derek glances at his father, slightly surprised. “We’ve known you have a crush on him. It’s pretty obvious in the way both of you act with one another. I just didn’t realize it had gotten so serious.”

“Why do you say that?” Derek asks.

His dad props his feet on the edge of Derek’s bed and crosses his ankles as he clasps his hands in his lap. Derek stares at the stripes on his dad’s socks and the hole wearing near the big toe. “Fighting another wolf over someone is pretty serious. The only reason we feel the need to do something like that is if there’s a strong connection. You wouldn’t have jumped on Brett like that if it was a passing crush.”

Derek’s face burns in shame.

“Did Brett really say those things about Stiles?” his dad asks, and Derek nods his head. His dad frowns. “I knew Brett was a bit of a player, but I don’t like the idea of him talking about Stiles like that. Stiles is a good kid. If any of you want to hook up with each other, who am I to stop it? You’re teenagers. But I don’t think Stiles deserves to be used, especially for, what was it, his mouth?”

Derek growls automatically, just at the thought of it.

“We should have had this talk a long time ago,” his dad says with a sigh. “There are so many things to teach you kids, sometimes your mom and I forget certain aspects of what we should be teaching you. Or we hope we’ll never have to teach you, like how to fight off crazy demon-birds or about werewolf puberty.”

“What?” Derek squeaks. “Please tell me we’re not.”

“Derek, it’s a conversation we need to have, especially now. Wolves go through things a bit differently than humans. Stiles is definitely going through puberty, the kid smells like arousal and come all the time, but his isn’t like yours. Exhibit A, he didn’t try to kill one of his oldest friends.” His dad smirks, but Derek doesn’t find it very funny.

“We’re just friends,” Derek insists.

“I’m sure you are,” his dad agrees. “Very good friends. But come on, Stiles comes over to study research with you and Peter. What teenage boy is going to do that? One who’s as smitten with you as you are with him.”

“Did you just say smitten?”

“Don’t change the subject,” his dad says, raising his brows pointedly. “Let me guess. You want to scent him, rub yourself against him, bite him – in addition to all the normal things people want to do when they’re really attracted to someone.” Derek stares at his feet guiltily. How did his dad know? How obvious has he been?

“Derek, it’s all natural. All male wolves feel that way at some point.”

Derek lifts his head and looks at his dad. “They do?”

His dad smiles. “Of course. What, did you think you were the only wolf who has wanted to rub all over someone and bite them?” He huffs dismissively. “When I was falling for your mom, I thought I was going insane. I could barely control myself around her. But it happened with a few other girls too, before her.”

“Not just Mom?” Derek is scandalized by the idea that his father had feelings - sexual feelings – for anyone other than his mother. That seems wrong somehow. His parents were literally always all over one another. He had walked in on them cuddling and kissing on the couch at least five times this month.

His dad laughs. “God, no.” He scratches his beard as his gaze goes soft with memory. “Two other girls, when I was a teenager. It doesn’t happen with everyone you’re attracted to, or even everyone you love. Your wolf is more in control during those times, and it takes more to have your wolf connect and be attracted to a person.”

Derek slumps back against the pillow. This doesn’t make things easier. This makes it more difficult. “But Stiles is a human.”

“So?” His father looks at him tenderly. “It’s true that it’s easier to date other wolves. They understand you, they know about you, and you don’t have to hold back as much. But a lot of wolves end up with humans. And Stiles knows about us, so it’s really not a problem.”

Derek picks at the cuff of his Henley. “I hated seeing him with Brett. And listening to Brett talk to him like that…” Derek growls despite himself. “I thought he liked me.”

“Well, have you said anything to Stiles about your feelings?” Derek shakes his head. “Then how is he supposed to know?”

“Because I’m being obvious!” Derek exclaims.

His dad rolls his eyes. “Derek, you’re a lot of things, but obvious is not one of them. You’re my son; I’ve raised you. That’s how me and your mom knew. But Stiles doesn’t know you. He’s not going to know how to read your eyebrows and frowns.” Derek glowers at his dad, who smirks. Then, he reaches over and pats Derek’s leg. “Tell him, Derek. If he says no, you can move on and just be friends. But can you do us a favor? No more fighting in the house. Next time, I’ll let your mom give you the tongue lashing you deserve.”

“Wait? I’m not in trouble?”

His dad stands up and shrugs. “We’ll work out some plan where you work off the cost of your portion of the repairs. But that’s it.” At the door, his dad pauses and says, “You know, it wasn’t until Stiles showed up that you started giving us any problems. Lying, sneaking out to parties, getting into fights…” His dad lifts a brow. “I’m not sure how I feel about all of this.” His dad laughs, leaving Derek alone with his thoughts and jumble of confusing feelings.

*

Derek doesn’t see Stiles over the next week. Since everyone is out of school, the Pack migrates from house to house hanging out before everyone leaves for Christmas. The night before Isaac, Erica, Boyd, and Danny are leaving with their families, the older Pack teens get together at Boyd’s house to exchange Christmas presents. They all wear Christmas sweaters, except Jackson who of course is too cool for ugly Christmas sweaters.

Since there are so many Pack members, they do a secret santa exchange. Derek got Alicia, and with Laura and Cora’s help, he ended up buying a large collection of lotion, body scrub, and body spray from Victoria’s Secret. Danny got Derek, and Derek is pleasantly surprised when he opens the gift bag to find three books he’s been wanting to read.

“Such a lame ass,” Jackson mutters as Derek eagerly starts reading the back covers. Derek flips him off.

After everyone else leaves, Derek, Erica, and Isaac hang around. Since the four of them are the closest, they always exchange gifts, just as Cora, Alicia, and Lea and Danny and Jackson do separately. Even Boyd and Erica and Erica and Isaac exchange small gifts even though they have proper gifts for each other for later since Boyd and Erica are dating and Erica and Isaac are adoptive siblings. Derek ends up with an iTunes gift card (Erica), a new pair of workout shorts (Isaac), and a new card game (Boyd). They break open the card game and spend the rest of the night trying to learn how to play while pigging out and laughing.

Derek misses them when they’re gone. The territory seems so empty without the Pack around. Even Jackson has flown to New York to meet Peter, so only the Hales are left.

On Christmas Eve, Derek tries not to be nervous, but it’s difficult. Especially because every time someone mentions Stiles or the sheriff, they look at Derek. “Do you think Stiles and his father like roasted beets and butternut squash? What about asparagus with figs and goat cheese?”

“I don’t know,” Derek asks from where he’s perched on a stool, stealing bites of food from his mother’s ingredients. “Asparagus and beets rarely come up in conversation.”

His mother gives him a flat look. “I know not everyone likes them, but the beets and squash have maple syrup and nuts, and the figs and goat cheese are just phenomenal with the asparagus.”

“You don’t have to convince me,” Derek says. “You know I love that stuff.” His mom’s Christmas vegetables are some of his favorite foods. He waits all year to stuff himself on them. “You’re making a squash casserole, right?”

“Two,” she says as she puts a pan into the oven. “I’m afraid you’ll eat one by yourself.”

“I just might,” Derek laughs as he grabs a sugar cookie Laura made earlier.

His mom surveys the large amount of food spread around the kitchen in various states of preparation. “I just hope they have a good time.”

Derek rolls his eyes. “I don’t think Christmas is a big deal to them, so whatever you do will be fine.”

“That’s why it needs to be good!” she insists. “They deserve a nice holiday. Perhaps we can consider it the first one of yours and Stiles’?” His mother gives him a hopeful smile, and Derek blushes hotly.

“Mo-om,” he groans.

“I promise, I won’t embarrass you. None of us will, not even Cora or your grandmother.”

“Grandma is who I’m most worried about.”

Stiles texts him an hour before he and his father are supposed to arrive. What should we wear?? A tie? Jeans? Wolf mask??????

Grandma will probably rip your face off if you wear the wolf mask.

Gotta keep her on my good side. You got cards???

That’s a dumb question. Pretty sure G always has them on her person.

I could see that.
Srsly, what do I wear????????

We wear Christmas sweaters usually. Bc we’re lame.

Cool. I can do that.

When the Stilinskis knock on the door, Derek lets his dad answer the door so he doesn’t seem too eager. Cora, who’s sitting beside him, whispers, “Your boyfriend is here,” while Laura snaps, “Cora, be nice to him.”

“If you embarrass me I’ll get Danny to put wolfsbane in your shampoo,” Derek hisses. Laura sighs in exasperation while Cora rolls her eyes.

Derek’s heart starts hammering in his chest as soon as his dad opens the door and he can smell Stiles. Cora mutters, “Geez Derek, calm down,” to which Laura retorts, “Seriously, Cora?”

When his dad leads the sheriff and Stiles into the living room, Derek is not prepared for what he sees. Cora and Laura burst into laughter, and Derek laughs in surprised mirth. Stiles is wearing a ridiculous red Christmas sweater that has a cat on it that lights up, red pajama pants with Christmas penguins on them, and large reindeer antlers that blink red and green. The sheriff isn’t quite as garish, though he is wearing a green sweater with a reindeer on it.

“You look like a moron,” Cora says.

Stiles grins at her. “Merry Christmas to you, too, Scrooge McWolf.” Laura laughs at that, which seems to please Stiles. “We didn’t have Christmas sweaters, so we stopped by Wal-Mart on the way over.”

“It looks like an elf puked on you,” Derek says, but he’s grinning. Stiles is ridiculous, and it’s exactly the reason he likes him so much. Stiles doesn’t do anything half-assed.

Stiles assesses their sweaters. Laura and Cora are wearing red sweaters they found at the Good Will which are probably from the 80s, and Derek’s wearing a blue sweatshirt with a snowman on it. Derek’s dad invites the sheriff to the kitchen for a cup of coffee, so Stiles sits down beside Derek on the couch. He hands them each a small gift bag Derek hadn’t even noticed he was holding. He grins as he watches them open the gift. Derek is confused when he pulls out a headband that matches Stiles’. Derek glances at his sisters. Laura has a headband with two antennae with Christmas trees and Cora has a hat with elf ears.

“This is awesome,” Laura says excitedly as she puts the headband on, the two trees bouncing as he bobs her head.

Cora pulls the hat down over her head. “Awesome, now I can block out your voice with these ears.”

“You look as ridiculous as I envisioned,” Stiles teases, and Cora gives him a sarcastic smile. Derek knows she’s not as moody as she’s acting; he can smell how happy she is.

When Derek puts his antlers on, he turns them on and looks at Stiles and says, “We match.” Stiles nods, his cheeks flushing slightly.

Stiles holds up a fourth gift bag. “I got one for your grandma, too.”

“Oh, that’s going to be great on Granny,” Laura says.

They watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas while the parents talk in the kitchen. Halfway through, Grandma lets herself into the house.

“How’re my pups?” she asks as she walks into the living room. She’s also wearing a Christmas sweater, one she’s probably had for thirty years. Derek doesn’t remember her wearing anything different on Christmas Eve.

Laura gets up to give Grandma a hug as Derek and Cora say, “Hey Grandma!”

Grandma comes over to stand beside the couch, right next to Stiles. “Hello again.”

“Hey, Grandma Irma.” Awkwardly, Stiles stands, then bends down to give Grandma a hug. Grandma looks surprised, but then her face melts into a smile as she drags her nose against the side of Stiles’ neck.

“I’m glad you’re here, sweetie,” Grandma whispers, and then the sweetness of Stiles’ scent bursts on the air. As he watches Stiles talks to his grandma, standing close as they discuss her “epically 80s sweater” (Stiles’ description), Derek realizes how much he takes his grandma for granted. Yeah, she’s his favorite person in the world, but he doesn’t really think about how lucky he is to have her around. He doesn’t know what he’d do if something happened to her, if she wasn’t there whenever he ran through the woods to her house, if they never played cards and ate sweets together again. Stiles doesn’t have a grandmother, and just borrowing a few minutes of time with Derek’s grandmother has him beaming and smiling and smelling happier than he has in a long time.

“I got you something,” Stiles says as he lunges down in his eagerness to grab the bag on the floor.

“Child, you did not have to get this old wolf something,” she says, clucking her tongue. But her twinkling eyes give her away.

“I thought it was perfect for you,” he says with a grin as he hands her a bag. She removes the tissue paper and slowly pulls out a headband. This one with a halo made out of gold tinsel. She looks at it for a moment, then throws her head back in laughter. Her laugh is deep and full. Derek doesn’t see his grandmother laugh this hard very often.

“Stiles, you just won’t do,” she says, wiping her eyes as she sits it headband on top of her straight, white hair, her usual braid falling down her back. “You really are something else.”

“I’m glad you like it,” Stiles grins, and Derek thinks he could bottle the smell of Stiles’ happiness. It’s pure bliss.

Grandma reaches up and flicks one of Stiles’ antlers. “Antlers, huh? Thought you might get a mistletoe headband instead.”

Stiles visibly flushes, his face burning a bright pink. “I…I don’t think I need one of those.”

Grandma raises an eyebrow in disbelief. “I guess you don’t really need mistletoe, huh?” Stiles continues to look embarrassed, and Derek kinda wants to stick his head in a turkey. His grandma is the worst. She glances around at the grandkids and assesses their headbands, nodding as she looks at each. Then, she looks between Derek and Stiles. “Well, I guess you got the two of y’all’s headbands right. Horns seem a bit fitting.”

Then, with a final smirk, Grandma walks towards the kitchen. Cora falls over on the couch laughing, and even Laura is snickering. Stiles looks everywhere but at Derek. “Oh my god,” Cora breathes through her laughter. “Grandma made a horny joke. I’m dead.”

“The halo was ironic,” Stiles says as he sits back beside Derek, with more space than before. “Devil horns would be more fitting, but they didn’t have any. Should have bought some at Halloween.”

At dinner, Derek ends up sitting between Stiles and his grandma. “This is really too much,” the sheriff tells his mom as he surveys the excessive amount of food on the table.

His mother smiles. “This is the usual amount of food we eat on holidays. I actually didn’t fix anything extra. I just expect my family to have manners and leave some food for the humans.”

The sheriff’s eyes grow wide. “There are two hams and a turkey.”

“I can easily put away half a turkey,” Cora says matter-of-factly.

The sheriff looks at the tiny teenager in disbelief. “I’m not sure what to expect from this meal.”

Grandma says, “Sheriff, we eat a lot. We do use table manners, though. Well, most of us. My son-in-law isn’t exactly known for his manners.”

Derek’s dad puts up his hands. “I have already promised to be on my best behavior tonight.”

His mom nods to the food. “Guests first. Noah, Stiles, please help yourselves.”

Stiles points at his dad. “There better be more vegetables than meat. And not too much ham.”

The sheriff rolls his eyes. “I think I can handle it.”

Stiles and his dad start putting food on their plates, and then the Hales start piling their plates full. His dad and Cora have three plates and Laura has two that are piled high. The sheriff stares at them.

When Derek fills an entire plate with only squash casserole, Stiles immediately stops eating. “What are you doing? Derek, that’s ridiculous.”

“Shut up,” Derek mumbles. “I like squash casserole.”

“Dude, I don’t think that’s quite liking something.”

“That’s Derek’s favorite dish,” his mother says, laughing. “I usually make him one for just himself each Christmas and Thanksgiving.”

“I’ve never had squash casserole,” Stiles says. “But I gotta try this stuff. It’s literally all he’s eating.”

“I’m gonna eat something else after this!” Derek protests.

Taking his fork in hand, Stiles reaches over to grab a bite from Derek’s squash casserole, but Derek grabs his wrist with wolf speed. “Hey!” Stiles exclaims. “I want a bite!”

“Stiles,” the sheriff says with a sigh. “Act like you have manners for five minutes.”

“Ain’t anybody ever told you not to try to steal food from a wolf’s plate?” Grandma says. “That’s a good way to lose a finger or a whole hand.”

“Derek,” Stiles whines. Derek’s fingers are still encircled around Stiles’ wrist, the skin warm and soft beneath his fingertips. When Derek concentrates, he can feel the fast-paced thump of Stiles’ heart beating in the veins of his wrist. Derek thinks it might be beating as fast as his own. “Please give me a bite.”

Derek rolls his eyes, but lets Stiles’ wrist go. Stiles grins as he dips his fork into the casserole, and then contemplates the taste as he chews. Derek watches him and thinks that Stiles chewing shouldn’t be so damn sexy. He watches the way his jaw works, the sharp angle of bone and scattered moles across soft skin.

Derek suddenly looks around to see if anyone else noticed that he totally got lost as he watched Stiles chew. No one seems to be paying them any attention, for which Derek is thankful. Or, if his family noticed, at least they aren’t being obvious and total jerks about it. Maybe he should get them all another gift for being discreet and not horribly embarrassing him.

After Stiles swallows, he nods. “Not bad. Kinda slimy, though.”

“Stiles,” the sheriff groans, but Derek’s mom laughs.

“It’s fine. It is kinda slimy,” she agrees.

“I don’t know why you want to eat a whole plate though,” Stiles says. “Except that you’re a weirdo.”

“Well, you’re the one friends with a weirdo,” Derek says. “What does that say about you?”

“Oh, I’m definitely a weirdo too.”

Derek laughs as he looks at Stiles, and they hold each other’s gaze for a moment until Stiles turns to his dad and asks him something about the asparagus. Derek shoves his mouth full of squash casserole, and when he looks across the table, Laura is smiling at him and Cora is pretending to vomit. Under her breath, too low for the Stilinskis to hear, Grandma says, “Cora, don’t be an ass, dear. It ain’t cute.” Laura and Derek snicker.

Halfway through the meal, when Derek has moved on to roasted beets and ham, he feels something knock against his foot. He moves it and settles again, and then feels a rhythmic set of three taps. He glances over at Stiles, who is very intently cutting his turkey into small pieces. Derek taps Stiles’ foot three times in return, and Stiles’ eyes cut over to him and he gives Derek a small smile. Then, Stiles moves his leg until he hooks his foot around Derek’s ankle and leaves it there.

*

After dinner, Derek, Stiles, Grandma, and Laura end up playing bridge. Stiles is Derek’s partner, which is weird since he’s always Grandma’s partner, but Grandma deemed it so. They almost win, which Stiles claims as a victory since it was his first bridge game ever.

They eat Christmas desserts, including cookies that Stiles brought, and drink cocoa in the living room as everyone sits around and talks. The evening is pleasant, Derek thinks as he looks around at everyone. The sheriff seems happy and relaxed, laughing and cutting up with his grandmother. Stiles is talking with Laura and his dad, and it’s all in all a perfect Christmas Eve.

Eventually, Derek manages to get away from the group, and he and Stiles go upstairs to the library. When Derek closes the door, Stiles immediately says, “Dude, this is like the best Christmas dinner ever. We always have fun with Scott and Melissa, but you’re family is awesome! My dad never acts this laid back. It’s awesome.”

“I’m glad you came,” Derek says, suddenly shy now that he and Stiles were alone. The foot thing at dinner was a pretty obvious indication that Stiles likes him, too, but Derek is still too damn chicken to do anything about it.

Derek walks over to the table, where a small rectangular parcel is wrapped in white paper with red and green ornaments on it. Awkwardly, he picks it up and says, “Um.” Then, he kinda shoves it towards Stiles. “This is for you.”

“What?” Stiles exclaims. “I didn’t know we were exchanging gifts!”

Derek feels his cheeks burning. “We weren’t. But I, uh, I wanted to get you something.”

Stiles eagerly grabs the package and rips of the paper. After throwing the paper thoughtlessly on the floor, he stares at the front of the book. Hoyle's Modern Encyclopedia of Card Games: Rules of All the Basic Games and Popular Variations. He traces his thumb over the words on the cover.

“I thought you might like it,” Derek rambles, now unsure about the whole idea. “Now that you’re learning to play canasta and bridge. My grandma helped me come up with the idea.”

Stiles finally looks up, his face slack in surprise. “This…this is really freaking awesome.” A small smile passes over his face. “Maybe I can even find a card game to teach you and Grandma Irma in here.”

“That would be awesome,” Derek smiles.

Stiles grips the book tightly as he looks at Derek. “I wish I had known so I could get you a present.”

“I don’t need a present. I wanted you to have that.”

Stiles chews on his bottom lip before his face morphs with a sudden idea. “I know what I can give you.”

“What?” Derek asks curiously.

Still gripping the book in one hand, Stiles takes two steps forward, closing the distance between them. Then, before Derek can process, he lifts his hand to Derek’s cheek and leans forward. The moment Stiles’ lips touch Derek’s, his brain almost implodes. The kiss is soft, hesitant, but sweet and full of promise. Then, too soon, Stiles pulls away slightly and looks at Derek with wide eyes.

“That,” Derek says, feeling awkward and nervous and excited all over. There’s still barely an inch between them. “That was, um, a really good gift. Better than a book on card games.”

Stiles smiles, slightly amused. “I don’t know. I think a book of card games implies you want me to be around for awhile. Why else would you want me to learn the rules to all those games you play with your grandma?”

“Maybe I’m looking to replace Boyd.”

“Oh, I’d definitely be better than Boyd at bridge.”

“I bet you’d be better than Boyd at a lot of things.”

“How do you know about the way Boyd does things?”

“Why are we talking about Boyd?”

“Dude, I don’t know. You brought him up.”

“Forget Boyd. I wanna kiss you again.”

“Please,” Stiles breathes, closing his eyes and opening his mouth slightly as he waits. Derek has to calm himself before he has an embarrassing episode that involves his fangs, claws, and probably his dick. Heart pounding in his ears, Derek leans forward and kisses Stiles again.

There’s a soft thump as the book hits the carpet, and then Stiles wraps his arms around Derek’s neck. Derek pulls Stiles closer, finally able to feel Stiles’ body close against his own. Stiles smells even better this close, wrapped up in Derek’s arms. His lips are soft, and though Derek has kissed a handful of people, no one has felt like this.

Stiles opens his mouth slightly, inviting Derek to slip his tongue inside, so he does. If he thought Stiles smelled good, then Stiles tastes amazing. The taste of Stiles on his tongue, with the pressure of Stiles’ tongue pressing against his own, is more than he could have imagined. All the blood is rushing south, and suddenly, these tight jeans seem like a very bad idea.

They kiss for a long time, eventually making their way to the leather sofa along the wall. There, they stretch out side by side as they learn each other’s mouths and try to figure out what each other likes. Stiles likes it when Derek kisses down his neck and nips at the skin, and Derek moans aloud when Stiles hooks his leg over his hip and tugs at his hair. From that point, Stiles’ hands stay in Derek’s hair as Derek’s hand slides up and down Stiles’ back.

When they finally break for more than a breath, they just stare at each other and then dissolve into giggles. “About time,” Stiles whispers between giggles. “I thought we’d never get here.”

“Me either,” Derek agrees.

“Is it true you beat up Brett because of me?”

“What?” Derek exclaims in surprise. “How did you know about that?”

“Isaac. He said you thought me and Brett were gonna get together or something, and then you tore up half of your house.”

Derek rolls his eyes and huffs out an irritated breath. “No. Leave it up to Isaac to gossip with embellished information. We did get into a fight. We did mess up a door and part of a wall. You may have been part of it.”

“I’m failing to see how Isaac embellished any of this.” Derek glares at Stiles. “How could you think I wanted Brett? I thought I’d been making it pretty clear that I liked you. Isaac has been ragging on me for weeks.”

“In the library, I thought – “

Stiles rolls his eyes. “Seriously? Yeah, I was flirting with Brett. It was flattering to have him flirting with me. But I would never have gone out with him. He’s not my type. And I was kinda hoping you’d get jealous and finally do something.”

“You could have done something!”

“I did do something! If I hadn’t kissed you, we’d still be pretending we were friends who sometimes played footsie.”

“Well,” Derek says in aggravation, “it did make me jealous. Let me put it like this. There was blood.”

Stiles cackles gleefully. “Oh my god! That is so awesome! I had two wolves fight over me. I am a total wolf magnet. Wolf nip?”

Derek pushes Stiles away, which pushes him off the couch. He falls in a flurry of limbs and curses. Derek sticks his head over the edge of the couch and smirks. “Idiot,” he says fondly. Stiles lunges for him, wrestling with Derek until he ends up on top of Derek and they’re kissing again.

*

His dad and Cora both give them knowing looks when he and Stiles reappear over an hour later. At least his mother and Laura are polite enough not to look, and his grandma is too busy playing cards with the sheriff.

Under her breath, Cora says, “You stink.” Derek just ignores her. He’s too happy.

The sheriff and Stiles get ready to leave, and his mom and Grandma place stacks of leftovers into their arms, despite their protestations. Derek walks out with Stiles to the police SUV, and they’re standing there looking at each other with goofy grins on their faces after Stiles places the food on the back seat when a loud, blood-curdling screech echoes through the air.

The next moment, the ground is gone beneath his feet and Derek is being lifted into the air, two sets of talons lodged deep into the muscles of his back and shoulders. He cries out in pain and terror as his mother and the rest of the family rush out of the house.

Derek tries to move, but every time he does anything, excruciating pain pierces through him. Finally, he’s able to get one arm lifted, and he notices he’s wolfed out from the pain and adrenaline. Bracing himself for the inevitable rush of pain, he thrusts his hand upward, and feels his claws sink into flesh.

The Aracoix screeches again, and then the talons are gone from his muscles and he’s falling again. He steels himself for the broken bones from the fall, but he never hits the ground. Instead, he falls against two bodies. “We got you,” his father’s voice says into his ear.

“His back is bleeding,” Laura says where her fingers brush gently over the talon wounds. “Multiple piercings. It got him with the talons on its feet,” Laura explains. “That means no venom. Deaton said they only have poison in their hands.”

“Well, at least we don’t have to worry about that again.”

“I’m fine,” Derek manages as his father and Laura set him on his feet.

“You’re not fine,” his father says.

“They’re going to get away,” Derek exclaims, getting excitable and agitated. “They can’t keep doing this. I can’t – I can’t – “

“Hey, hey, it’s okay,” his dad says, pulling him into a hug. Derek tries to fight against it, they have to do something, but his dad’s arms are like two vices holding him in place against his chest. So, Derek gives up and just sags against his dad, Laura hugging him from behind with her head on his shoulder. “You’re safe, Derek. Your mother is after them. We’ll get them.”

As Laura and his dad let him go, Derek feels himself starting calm. The wounds in his back and shoulder are healing, and he can move and fight despite the slight discomfort. “Let’s go help Mom.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. She needs all of us, you two especially.”

His dad nods and then runs through the woods, Laura and Derek trailing him. They find his mom, Grandma, Cora, and the sheriff in a clearing nearer the house, all fighting with the Aracoix. Derek glances around. Stiles is sitting against the trunk of a tree, close to the ground and trying to make himself look as small as possible.

“All five are here,” Laura says.

“Derek, go stay with Stiles,” his dad orders, and Derek runs across the clearing. When Stiles sees him, relief floods his face.

“Oh thank fuck,” Stiles exclaims as Derek drops beside him. He grabs Derek’s hand and holds it tightly. “That was the scariest fucking thing I’ve ever seen. That thing just yanked you up. Oh shit! Your back. How’s your back? Your shoulder! Oh my god, I just – “

“Stiles, breathe,” Derek interrupts. The air is thick with Stiles’ anxiety. “I’m fine.”

“Derek!” his mom yells, and Derek immediately runs towards them. They’re all fine, so he’s confused until she says, “Take Stiles and the sheriff to the house. We can kill them with mountain ash. We didn’t have time to get any from the armory.” She pauses as one of the Aracoix makes a swoop towards them. She roars and leaps towards them and swipes with her claws, but she just grazes their skin. “Grab the mountain ash bullets,” she continues as she watches the sky, “a knife laced with mountain ash, and the rowan spear. Get them to help you carry what you can’t while we keep them at bay. Hurry!”

The sheriff follows him as he runs over to Stiles. “I need you to come with us now,” Derek says. Immediately, Stiles springs to his feet. Derek leads the way as the three run through the woods towards the house. They aren’t far, so it only takes a couple of minutes. Inside the house, Derek goes down into the basement, into the armory.

“Fuck,” the sheriff says as Derek turns on the light and reveals the enormous room filled with copious amounts of weapons, some centuries old.

“I can’t carry the spear,” Derek says as he points to the line of spears on the wall. “I can’t even step close to it.” He then points to the knives. “Grab one of those, too. I’ll get the bullets.” The sheriff takes the knife as Stiles takes a spear. It takes him a few tries for Stiles to figure out exactly how to carry it, but when he gets a good grip on it and Derek has the gun and bullets, they make their way back upstairs.

As soon as they’re outside, Derek hears the flap of feathers and turns just as one of the Aracoix makes for him. He dives to the ground and it misses him. Derek leaps into a defensive crouch, and the Aracoix dives for him – but then drops to the ground. Standing behind it, shoving the rowan spear into the Aracoix’s back, are Stiles and the sheriff. They’re both holding the spear’s handle, and as soon as they see that the Aracoix is on the ground, they both heave forward, burying it farther into the bird creature. Then, the sheriff takes the knife and sticks the blade into the thing’s skull.

“One down,” Stiles says as he pulls the spear out of the Aracoix. “You so owe me something sexy for saving your life for the second time.”

“Stiles! For god’s sake,” the sheriff mutters as he jogs into the underbrush towards the clearing. Derek runs after him, Stiles at his side.

Derek runs to his mother as soon as they return. “We’ve got to take them down together,” she explains. “The wolves need to pin them while the sheriff and Stiles kill them. Noah, take the bullets and the gun, and Stiles, take the knife or spear.”

Stiles readies the spear as the sheriff holds the gun. Derek stands with his mom, his dad and Cora work together, and Grandma and Laura pair up. There are four Aracoix left, so they start looking for their openings.

Derek’s dad and Cora bring the first Aracoix down, and the sheriff shoots it with a mountain ash bullet. Derek and his mom go after one, which Stiles spears through the chest as soon as they wrestle it to the ground. Grandma, Laura, and his dad get the next one, and then his parents take the last one down together, the gunshot reverberating through the woods as everyone stands there in silence staring at the dead Aracoix.

After a couple of seconds, Stiles appears at Derek’s side and grabs his hand tightly.

“Is it over?” Cora asks.

“Yes,” his mother says. “It is over.”

“Thank god,” his grandma says, still wolfed out. “I’m too old to be shifting, and it’s gonna take me half an hour to shift back. My bones are too old for this.”

“Go back to the house, Mom,” Derek’s mother says. “Get warm and sit down. We can clean up.”

“You ain’t gotta tell me twice,” Grandma says as she starts hobbling towards the edge of the clearing.

Derek’s mom turns her gaze towards him. “Derek, you and Stiles go with her. Cora, you too. We’ll clean this up. Stiles, take the weapons. Your dad can bring the gun and bullets.” Stiles grabs the spear and the knife and walks as near to Derek as Derek can get while he’s carrying two mountain ash weapons.

They walk past the fifth dead Aracoix right outside the house, and Grandma says, “They can deal with that one, too. I’m too old for this shit.” Cora huffs out a laugh.

Derek helps his grandma with everything she needs, like a blanket to wrap around her body and a cup of hot cocoa. Then, Derek, Stiles, and Cora all sit on the couch and watch at a Christmas movie on Hallmark with her. Derek and Stiles curl together, their arms around each other as they cling to each other. Derek puts a blanket over them because they’re both shivering, and Derek figures it’s better to pretend it’s from the cold instead of from fear. Grandma sees them cuddling on the couch and rolls her eyes as she says, “Took y’all long enough. See? Told you you didn’t need no mistletoe.”

Derek starts to crash not too long after he gets on the couch, and he dozes off, with his head on Stiles’ chest and feeling truly safe for the first time in months.

*

Stiles’ dad doesn’t wake them up for Stiles to go home until three a.m. Cora is asleep on the other end of the couch, her feet shoved under Derek’s legs, and Grandma is asleep in the recliner.

When they both blink awake and look at the clock, Stiles says, “It’s Christmas.”

“Yeah.”

Stiles turns to him, and with a sleepy smile says, “Well, this was not exactly the Christmas Eve dinner I was expecting. Killing mythical bird people was definitely interesting.”

“Don’t get too used to it,” Derek says with a yawn. “It’s usually pretty boring around here. Remember? Normal, boring, lame werewolves.”

“Boring’s good.” Then he leans close and presses a soft kiss on Derek’s lips. “Merry Christmas, Derek.”

“Merry Christmas, Stiles.”

*

Derek texts Stiles nonstop for the next few days. He doesn’t see him again until two days after Christmas, when they go on their first official date. They go for burritos and to the movies, and then make out in Derek’s car for two hours in the Preserve.

Erica and Isaac come back the day after that, so Scott and Stiles come over and they watch movies and play games. Neither of them care about Derek and Stiles finally dating, mainly because they’re more interested in the Aracoix and upset that they missed it.

On New Year’s Eve, the Hales throw a huge party. It’s partially another Summit, though this one more informal than the one earlier in the year, but most of the other Pack members and all the Alphas come to the Hale house for a large potluck dinner and bonfire.

Stiles sticks close to Derek’s side all night, despite the fact that there are plenty humans in the mix. So many werewolves in one place, as well as other types of supernatural creatures, is a bit overwhelming for him. But Satomi introduces herself, knowing full well who Stiles is after the Brett incident, and Stiles ends up talking to Deucalion and Derek’s dad about baseball and lacrosse.

After dinner, all of the Pack teens go through the woods to Jackson’s house because Peter is still in New York. “Does he ever stay at home?” Stiles asks.

“Jackson spent Christmas with him in New York. He was pissed when Uncle Peter sent him home for New Years.” Derek smirks. Then, he says, “Jump on my back. I’ll carry you to Jackson’s.”

“I have legs.”

Derek rolls his eyes. “I know that, idiot. I can run faster, and it’s a couple of miles to the house.”

“Miles? Sold.”

Derek bends down a little bit so Stiles can jump on his back. Once Stiles has his arms and legs around Derek’s body, Derek turns his head and Stiles leans down to kiss him. “Hold on,” Derek says as he shifts and takes off through the woods.

Stiles starts yelling excitedly, and at one point he lifts his head and howls. Erica and Boyd appear beside them, and Erica howls properly, which just spawns Stiles to try harder. “Don’t encourage him, Erica.”

There’s loud music, tons of food, and enough liquor and weed for everyone to get properly wasted as they ring in the new year. As Derek and Stiles are standing with Kira and Scott, who are holding hands, Lydia comes up to them in a huff.

“Werewolves!” she exclaims. “Really? And neither of you told me?”

Stiles and Scott share a look, and then burst out laughing. Derek glances behind him to Jackson, who just shrugs when Derek shoots him a look. “Really, Jackson?” Derek yells. “Mom’s gonna freak.”

“Hey,” Jackson starts as he crosses the room to join them, “if your useless boyfriend knows, my girlfriend deserves to know.”

“Exactly,” Lydia says. “Plus, it explains so much.”

“Who are you calling useless?” Stiles interrupts.

“Yeah, Jackson,” Derek says, “My boyfriend killed an Aracoix. None of us can claim that.”

“Freak accident or dumb luck,” Jackson says. “Plus, I still call bullshit. There’s no way Stilinski fought off an Aracoix twice, much less killed one.”

“You’re just jealous of my awesomeness,” Stiles gives Jackson a shit-eating grin. Jackson rolls his eyes and walks away with Lydia.

While they’re talking to Danny, Ethan, Lea, and Cora, Brett comes up to them, complaining about his latest conquest. Derek figures if Brett’s pretending that nothing happened, he can do that too. Jennifer finds him almost as soon as she arrives, but Stiles takes the opportunity to grab Derek and pull him into a kiss. After that Jennifer doesn’t even look at Derek, and he’s a-okay with that.

As everyone slowly (or quickly) gets drunk, Derek grabs Stiles’ hand and takes him upstairs into the third story attic bedroom. It’s a large open room that’s rarely used for guests. It smells dusty and stale.

“No one will bother us up here,” Derek says as he leads Stiles by the hand to the bed. “Not that most of them care about us right now. They’re all getting drunk and high.”

“I’m down with getting wasted if you are,” Stiles says.

“I was thinking of doing other things tonight that I’d rather be sober for,” Derek says as he toes off his shoes and crawls onto the bed.

“Much better idea,” Stiles says, joining him on the bed.

They immediately wrap their arms around each other and start kissing. Kissing Stiles still hasn’t lost any of its excitement. Every time Derek kisses him, it’s like something new, because Stiles either utters some new exclamation or Derek finds a new way to make Stiles go limp beneath him.

Slowly, Derek slides his hands under Stiles’ shirt, his bare skin hot against his palms. When Derek brushes his thumbs over Stiles’ nipples, Stiles arches into his hands and moans his name, which goes straight to Derek’s cock. Derek pushes up Stiles’ t-shirt and starts kissing along his chest, then flicks his tongue against Stiles’ nipple, which makes him moan even louder.

By the time both of their shirts are thrown thoughtlessly to the floor, they’re both rutting against one another, Stiles’ hard-on pressing obviously against Derek’s groin. Impatiently, Stiles finally mutters, “Gotta do everything myself, fucking werewolf is a coward,” as he fumbles with Derek’s zipper. Derek rolls them onto his back so Stiles is straddling him.

“That’s more like it,” Stiles grins against his mouth before licking inside. His fingers finally get Derek’s fly undone and then he shoves his hand inside Derek’s pants. When Stiles’ hand wraps around Derek’s cock, his claws come out and dig into the comforter. “Fuck, you’re growling,” Stiles whispers against his neck. “It’s fucking hot.”

Derek fights to maintain control as Stiles’ hand slides roughly against his cock. With some concentration, he manages to retract his claws. Then, Stiles pulls his hand out and pushes onto his knees so he can unbutton his jeans. Derek’s brain finally gets with the program and helps Stiles until he’s slipping his hand inside. Stiles braces his hands on Derek’s chest as his eyes fall shut, his mouth open obscenely as he moans the moment Derek’s fingers wrap around his cock. Derek almost comes in his pants just from feeling Stiles’ cock in his hand with him making that face above him.

“Spit,” Stiles finally says, “no lube. Use spit.” Derek removes his hand and brings it to his mouth and licks his palm, and he growls again. Stiles’ taste explodes on his tongue, his scent invading his nostrils, as he licks his palm. He doesn’t even know how he’s going to make it through a blowjob. He can barely make it through this handjob without losing it. He wonders if he could ask his dad about it, but there’s no way. Plus, why in the hell is he thinking about his dad right now? Derek licks his palm again and concentrates on Stiles.

When he opens his eyes, he’s not prepared for the image of Stiles licking his palm so wantonly. Derek knows he’s not going to be able to handle a blowjob from Stiles. He’s going to have to prepare himself mentally so he doesn’t destroy whatever furniture he’ll be on.

Stiles arranges himself on top of Derek so that their cocks are lined up, and then they both wrap one hand around them. They both moan aloud at the same time. Derek captures Stiles’ mouth again as their hands slide along their shafts. The rhythm is awkward and their grips uncoordinated, but Derek doesn’t care because Stiles is touching his dick and it feels so good. It doesn’t take long before Derek comes over their hands, with Stiles mumbling, “Fucking hot, shit, so fucking hot, how are you my boyfriend?” Derek helps Stiles finish jerking off, Derek’s come allowing their fists to glide more easily. Stiles moans into his mouth as he comes, and then he plops down heavily on top of Derek.

“Best New Year’s ever,” Stiles mumbles sleepily against Derek’s neck. Derek just kisses him.

Derek grabs one of their shirts from the floor, cleans them up, and then they strip down into their boxers and crawl between the sheets. They snuggle together under the covers, Stiles pressed back against Derek’s chest.

“This is just the beginning of your sexy payback for saving your furry ass,” Stiles yawns.

“I saved you, too,” Derek returns.

“I saved you more.”

They’re almost asleep when it sounds like a herd of buffalo is running up the stairs, and then the overhead light turns on, blinding Derek.

“It smells like a whorehouse,” Cora says.

“You don’t even know what a whorehouse smells like,” Danny says.

“It smells like all of you boys,” Erica says. “Like come. You all always smell like come. It’s disgusting.”

“You love come,” Jackson says. “You can’t even deny it.”

“I’m not comfortable with the fact that you know that,” Lydia replies.

“They’re sickening, aren’t they?” Isaac says.

“We should have left them alone,” Laura says.

“Laura’s right,” Derek growls.

“He lives!” Lea says as she and Cora run and jump on the bed.

“She-devil!” Stiles yells. “Derek, save me.”

“Derek, you can do better, you know,” Lea says as she props her elbow on Stiles’ hip. Then she scrunches her nose and sits back up. “It smells even more like come right there.”

“It’s the t-shirt on the floor,” Isaac says.

“Good job, Stiles!” Scott says.

“Thanks, buddy,” Stiles replies, his voice muffled from where it’s pressed against Derek’s chest.

“Go away,” Derek growls.

“No way,” Erica says. “It’s the new year. You two missed it while you were playing with each other’s dicks.”

“I’m nowhere near this obnoxious to you when you and Boyd smell like you’ve bathed in come and sex,” Derek says, popping open an eye.

“It’s because you’re no fun.” Erica smiles at him and then leans down to kiss Stiles on the cheek. “Welcome to the Pack.”

“What have I gotten myself into?” Stiles asks as he pushes himself up into a seated position. Laura, Alicia, and Scott join Cora and Lea on the bed, Erica, Boyd, and Isaac sit on the loveseat, Jackson and Lydia share a chair, and Danny and Ethan sit on the floor. Derek feels like he should be mad at them, but he just can’t. He loves his Pack, even if they are a huge pain in his ass.

Derek glances over at Stiles, and never thought in a million years he’d date a human. But he also didn’t think he’d almost die by demonic bird-creatures multiple times in the last few months, so he guesses things work out in the end. And well, having Stiles beside him and seeing him interact with his Pack like he belongs, that’s the best way to start a new year.

-fin