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Those Red Lights Keep Bringing Me Around

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"Honey, what are you doing?"

Derek doesn't look away from the small boy sitting morosely in the passenger seat of a blue Jeep. "He's leaving."

Talia sighs. She lays a steadying hand on his shoulder. "I'm sorry, honey." She doesn't need to ask who or why. Talia's worked with Sheriff Stilinski for years, before and after his promotion. Cora and Stiles have been friends for years and Derek's always had a special fondness for Stiles.

From the shadow of the woods, she watches John Stilinski—no longer sheriff—join Stiles in the Jeep. This is good, objectively. The Stilinskis need a fresh break, somewhere where the ghost of Claudia no longer haunts them. Her son will have heartache for a while, but she believes in fate and the power of mates.

"If you are truly meant to be," she says. "He'll come back to you."

Derek is silent. Talia grabs his arm as the Jeep backs out of the Stilinski's driveway. Derek wants to run after Stiles, but they're too young. Stiles won't understand.

"He'll come back," she assures him.

Derek turns to her with wide, scared eyes. "What if he doesn't?"

She has no answer, at least none that he'll accept. Fate has its own way of working out complications. She knows that Stiles will be back for her son. Or, maybe her son will leave to find Stiles. Either way, she's not worried.

Love always finds a way.

Stiles expects his first week back in Beacon Hills to be easy. He remembers how quiet the town had been. His dad only had three stories from the years he was a sheriff because nothing exciting happens in Beacon Hills. That's why they moved back when John was ready to retire. They both needed something peaceful, something quiet.

Which is why he's not expecting to get called out to a shooting his first night on duty. Stiles groans while his partner, Jordan Parrish, drives them to the scene. "Why?" Stiles moans.

Jordan glances at him. "Were you expecting a quiet night?" Jordan's a little older than Stiles, but he comes off as younger. He's got a pleasant face and a calm voice, which are two good traits for a paramedic, especially when dealing with hysterical patients. Stiles is on the other end of the paramedic personality spectrum. He's brash and no-nonsense but he'll save a damn life no matter what's in his way.

He keeps a baseball bat handy in the cab, for reasons.

Stiles throws his head against the seat. "Yes! Nothing happens in Beacon Hills." This was supposed to be a quiet place. No crime. Nothing for his dad to nose into.

"Whoever told you that obviously hasn't lived here in the last decade."

"Well, yeah. My family moved away when I was ten, so that'd be a decade and a half."

Jordan grins. "You used to live here? Welcome back!"

He can't help smiling, even if it's tempered by bad memories. "Thanks. My dad was sheriff for a bit, hence he always told me stories of how quiet it was here. Like, the biggest case he worked was about some hunters without permits. Then my mom died, and we moved to Los Angeles 'cause dad had some old army buddies on the force there. That was a mess. Dad transferred to homicide and dropped down to a detective. He wanted something busy to keep his mind off mom. He got it."

Stiles had been so lonely then. He'd lost his mom in one of the worst ways possible. All he could do was watch as madness turned her against him and withered her to nothing. She didn't even know who he was at the end. They'd packed the house the week after her funeral. Stiles hadn't even had a chance to say goodbye to his friends. Then there was the new school where he didn't fit in and his dad being gone all the time and the panic attacks that came almost daily as he worried that his dad was going to die.

He fucking hates Los Angeles. Stiles still can't stand the smell of alcohol.

Jordan fills him in on the town gossip. Lots of animal attacks lately, which is weird. Jordan says they're from mountain lions, but Beacon Hills isn't the ideal ecosphere for mountain lions. A bear would make more sense.

When they arrive at the gas station, they don't have an animal attack, but rather some kid who got shot at while getting a snack. The kid looks like a frightened animal. Kind of acts like one too, which is why Stiles lets the deputies question the kid while Stiles barges through.

"Let me see your arm."

The kid's eyes go wide, and he shakes his head. "That's not necessary. I'm fine."

Stiles levels his best 'bullshit' look at the kid. Though, now that Stiles is closer, the kid's not much of a kid at all. He's probably close to Stiles's age but looks younger due to his scrawny body and soft face. "You have a bullet in your arm. Gimme."

The deputies watch in shock as Stiles grabs the kid's arm. He pulls at the hole in the kid's shirt and winces.

"That does not look good." There're black lines all around the wound. Stiles leans in to get a closer look. "That's infected." He looks up at the kid. "Can you walk? Come on. Into the ambulance."

The kid yanks his arm out of Stiles's grip. "I'm not going to the hospital." He levels a glare at the deputies. "Are we done yet? I'd like to get home sometime before morning."

The two deputies exchange a look. The older one nods. "For now." The younger hands over a card. "Call us if you recall any details about the man who shot you."

The kid tries to move as soon as the deputies turn away. "Unh-unh." Stiles grabs the kid's arm. "You're not going anywhere until I get that bullet out. If you're not willing to do it at the hospital, we'll do it right here."

Jordan hovers behind Stiles. "Are you serious?"

Stiles shrugs. "I've treated worse." He rips the kid's sleeve to get more room to work and pulls out a syringe and a local anesthetic. "FYI, kid, this will hurt a lot less at the hospital."

The kid rolls his eyes. "I'm not a kid. Just do whatever you have to do so I can get out of here."

"Then give me a name, if you're not a kid. I have to call you something."


Isaac doesn't even flinch at the needle prick. Stiles watches Isaac out of the corner of his eye as he caps the syringe and goes for sterile forceps. "You got a last name, Isaac?"


Stiles snorts. He's played this game before. "Not gonna tell me?"


"Fine. Not my job anyway. This is going to be uncomfortable, Isaac." Then Stiles uses his thumb to widen the entry wound and reaches in with his forceps. Isaac hisses but otherwise stays still while Stiles digs the bullet out. It comes out easily. The bullet's still in one piece so there aren't any stupid fragments to go chasing after.

"Okay." Jordan has an evidence bag ready for the bullet. Stiles drops it in. "So, this," Stiles holds up a tube, "is a very nice antibiotic cream." He squirts a generous portion on and around the wound. "We're just going to lather this on thick and hope you don't lose your arm. Here." Stiles hands the rest of the tube to Isaac. "You can keep this. I'd usually say to apply twice a day, but for something this nasty, double that. Now we just bandage this baby up..." Jordan hands him a thick square of gauze. Stiles uses more tape than necessary. It’s going to be really annoying to remove. Stiles isn’t above petty revenge. "And you're good to go. To the hospital, by the way, because that's really where you should go after being shot."

Isaac stands and shuffles to the side. "I'm fine. It'll heal."

Stiles rolls his eyes. "Your funeral. If your arm has to be amputated, don't say I didn't warn you. But, do make sure they page me. I want to see that. And tell you I told you so."

Isaac gives Stiles one last curious look and then he's gone.

"That was weird, right?" Stiles asks as he and Jordan pack up. "Like, really weird? Who doesn't want a hospital after getting shot? That's where the good drugs are."

Jordan shrugs. "There are some strange people in Beacon Hills."

Stiles is curious to find out just how strange Beacon Hills’s residents are.

Stiles's dad has been out of the Sheriff's Department for years, but Stiles still remembers the way into their database. Light is just starting to pour into his apartment from the large wall of windows in his living room when Stiles finally sits down with his computer. It takes a few minutes and some creative password guessing but he gets in. It's easy enough to find the incident report for the shooting. He's surprised to find it linked to several others in recent years. Ballistics isn't back yet, but the investigating officer thinks it's linked to seven other shootings, which are in turn linked to dozens more.

Stiles isn't sure whether to be terrified or impressed.

Surprise wins when he pulls up Isaac's info. Isaac Lahey, twenty-three, orphan. He’s fresh out of college and works for the city in Child and Family Services. Who the hell shoots a social worker? Stiles pulls over a scrap of paper and jots down the little information he knows. Something really hinky is going on in Beacon Hills. This doesn’t fit any of the patterns he attributes to gang violence but it’s not completely random either.

That's a rabbit hole he'll go down another day. He glances at the clock on his cable box. It's a bit early to go snooping on Isaac, who conveniently lives in the same building as Stiles, though on a much higher floor. He has time to catch some sleep and then maybe stalk Isaac in the evening, before Stiles's shift.

Sleep doesn't come easy. It's like he's ten again, replaying different scenarios where his dad is shot and killed, only this time instead of being shot in the line of duty, his dad's gunned down getting gas or groceries or at the mall. He ends up giving up on sleeping in his bed and throws himself on the couch with Brooklyn Nine-Nine reruns on in the background. He manages to doze there for a few more hours. Tonight's shift is going to be a rough one.

Once Stiles is dressed and ready for work, he grabs his travel kit and heads to the top floor. There's only one apartment up here, so it's not hard to find the right door. It turns out to be a really big door, definitely impossible to miss. It's a huge sliding metal monstrosity more at home in a warehouse or bunker than an affordable apartment building.

Stiles knocks. He's not entirely certain he knocked loud enough, so he tries again. Maybe Isaac's not home yet? Maybe he's on a date or out with friends? Stiles wonders if Jordan would want to be friends. Stiles doesn't even remember the names of anyone he went to school with, aside from the Hales but they all left after the fire. There's no way anyone would remember him.

He's about to give up when the door slides open. That's not Isaac, but... "Derek?" Stiles takes a step closer and stretches up on his toes to get a better look at the handsome man's face. Stiles's grin definitely has a mad quality to it but he can't help it. Here he was thinking he had no one he knew in this town and he comes face-to-face with a blast from the past. "You're Derek Hale, right?"

Derek frowns and Stiles bounces on his feet.

"You are!" Stiles grins. "I'd recognize that scowling face anywhere. We absolutely have to catch up, but first, does Isaac Lahey live here?"

Derek's frown turns into a full-on scowl. "How do you know Isaac?"

"Oh, I don't. But since we live in the same building, I wanted to swing by and make sure his arm isn't rotting off."

Isaac's head pops out from behind the door. "What the hell? I didn't give you my address. I didn't even tell you my last name."

Stiles shrugs. “Tada?” He doesn't even try to appear innocent. It never works.

Derek is suddenly all up in Stiles's space, which given how Derek grew up, hot but also Stiles thinks his life might be in danger. "How did you find us?"

"Whoa!" Stiles holds up both hands. "I come in peace, bearing medical supplies. You remember my dad was the sheriff, right?"

"That was fifteen years ago."

Stiles can't help his goofy grin. "Aww. You counted. They really need a better IT department though. They never deleted the dummy account I made."

Derek's eyes go wide. "You were ten!"

Stiles shrugs again. "I was advanced for my age. And nosy. Still am, on both accounts."

"Isaac's fine," Derek growls, and that threatening tone really shouldn't sound so hot.

"But his arm-"

Isaac waves his arm in the air. "Still attached."

"Oookay. I guess that's my cue to butt out." Isaac disappears back into the apartment. "But, hey, Derek, do you want to maybe-"

The door slams in his face.

"...catch up sometime?" Stiles blinks at the metal door. He raises his voice to be heard through the door. "I'll talk to you later. Isaac, I'm in 504 if your arm starts to rot."

There's no response from inside. In an uncharacteristic display of adulting, Stiles takes the hint and leaves.

He really needs to make some friends in this odd town.

"So," Isaac says once the door is between them and Stiles. "Who was that? Besides the paramedic that bandaged me up last night."

Derek scowls and heads to the kitchen. "No one."

"Didn't seem like no one," Isaac says, following him. "He knew your name. Knew you on sight even."

Derek growls. Years ago, the sound would have made Isaac cower. Now, Isaac rolls his eyes so hard Derek can practically hear it.

“Oh!” Isaac says, a wide grin on his face. “Did you guys date? He’s around my age. Were you a cradle robber?”

Derek slams a skillet onto the stove. He’d already pulled out steaks for dinner before Stiles showed up. They’ve sat long enough to cook. “I didn’t date him.”

“But you want to date him.” It isn’t a question.

Derek growls again. Isaac laughs. “Aww. Was he a high school crush?”


“Middle school?”

Derek sighs. “He was friends with Cora.”

“And you like him,” Isaac sing-songs. He’s got his phone out, which means the rest of the pack will be showing up soon to tease him. Peter is going to be awful. Cora could go either way.

After Derek doesn’t deny it, Isaac starts laughing. “Oh my God! Oh! This is amazing! You have a crush! He grew up pretty hot so good choice there. And he lives in this building. You don’t even have to creep on him. Much.”

Derek wants to break something. His stove is a horrible option. Isaac is a less horrible option, but Derek has been trying to be a better Alpha. “I’m not bringing him into this.”

Isaac shrugs. “Kinda looks like he’s already sticking his nose into this.”

Derek’s eyes flash red, bringing Isaac to attention. “He stays out of it.”

Isaac nods. As he leaves Derek to cook, he mutters, “You need to get laid, dude.”

Stiles stumbles into the elevator at the same time as a hot blonde. If Stiles was less exhausted, he might have been interested in her appearance but right now the only thing he’s attracted to is his bed. His sweet, glorious bed.

“You’re Stiles, right?”

Stiles blinks. His head lifts slowly and he stares at the girl. Then he realizes the elevator isn’t moving and pushes the button for the fifth floor. “Um, yes?”

The girl’s grin makes him think of a shark. She sticks out a hand. “I’m Erica. I’m a friend of Isaac and Derek.”

Stiles shakes her hand with trepidation. “Okay. Isaac’s arm rot off yet?”

Erica snorts. “Yeah, that’s not going to happen. Why? You hoping for that?”

“What? No!” Stiles gestures at his uniform. “Paramedic. Isaac was a patient.”

“Oh, nice!” Erica places her hand on the elevator wall next to him and leans in close. His eyes automatically land on her ample and quite obvious cleavage before darting up to her face. “Did you kiss it and make it better?”

Stiles is frightened for a second before his inner troll takes over. He grins back. “No, I pulled a bullet out. Why? You got a boo-boo?”

“Derek does.”

Stiles’s eyebrows try to escape into the stratosphere. “D-Derek? What? He didn’t seem too happy to see me.”

Erica leans closer. “Where do you know him from? He never said.”

Stiles blinks. “I was friends with his sister, Cora. We played together a lot. Derek and Laura too. We were pretty close back then.”

“Interesting.” Her tone sounds a little dangerous.

Stiles is saved by the elevator doors opening onto the fifth floor. “Gotta go. Nice meeting you, Erica.”

She waves. Stiles flees. When he finally makes it to his bed, he’s not tired anymore. Instead, he lies awake remembering the Hales.

“Guess what, honey-bear?” Erica says as she struts into the room.

Derek frowns. “Why do you smell like Stiles?”

Erica waves a hand. “Oh, I ran into him in the elevator. Very nice. Too cute. I could just eat him up.” She snaps her teeth. Boyd looks up from his laptop and arches an eyebrow. “Don’t worry, baby. I’d share.” She blows Boyd a kiss.

“Stay away from him,” Derek growls.

Erica drops into Boyd’s lap. “Aww, honey, you really need to get laid. All that stress. I bet Stiles would let you get your dick wet.”

Derek’s pen snaps in half. “No. He stays out of it.”

Erica raises her hand. “Fine, fine. But he likes you, so consider it.”

“What is there to consider, Erica?” Derek throws the broken pen on the coffee table. “We’re werewolves. He’s human. You know how that story ends.”

“You’re being far too dramatic, dear nephew,” Peter drawls from the spiral staircase.

Derek growls at Peter, which only makes Peter roll his eyes with exaggeration.

“It’s Stiles,” Peter says. “You used to draw together and play with Legos. He was obsessed with The Little Mermaid. I think it’ll be fine. Besides, we’re not saying you should marry him. Just bang him and get it out of your system.”

Derek is trying to hide something. Erica leans forward, steadying herself with one hand on Boyd’s very muscular bicep. She gives it a squeeze just for fun. Erica narrows her eyes as she studies Derek. “I know you have sex, so this isn’t a celibacy thing. Stiles is definitely not straight, and I know you straddle the line. Is it something with him? His family? Is he, like, a were-otter or something that werewolves aren’t supposed to mess with.”

Derek grumbles something that’s unintelligible even to werewolf-enhanced hearing.

“What was that?” Erica shifts on Boyd’s lap.

Derek looks up at the ceiling as if some higher power might save him. Given his track record, that’s highly improbable. He’s more likely to catch herpes. Derek sighs. “He’s my mate.”

Peter whistles. “Well done, Der-bear. You must have very impressive stones to have put such distance between yourselves.”

Erica frowns. “Mate?”

Derek blushes and stomps off to the kitchen. Peter jumps to his feet. “Storytime, children.” Erica rolls her eyes but turns her attention to Peter. Isaac wanders in from his room and drops next to them on the couch.

“Born werewolves, such as Derek and myself, can sometimes form connections with potential romantic partners who are highly compatible. It’s not a conscious decision or something that can be chosen, but rather our inner wolf instincts recognizing an unseen quality in another person. It’s rare to actually find a mate, but when it happens, the connection is sacrosanct.”

Erica raises her hand. Peter grins and points to her. “So,” Erica says. “If Stiles and Derek are mates, why aren’t they getting it on?”

“Because Derek hates all things that cause joy.”

“I do not,” Derek shouts from the kitchen.

“And he’s only attracted to people trying to kill him.”

“I am not!”

Erica snickers. “Just ask him out already.”

“Don’t you get it?” Derek snarls as he appears in the kitchen doorway. “We’re in a war with the Argents. We will not drag a human into that.”

Peter’s grin turns feral. “Then perhaps we should put an end to the Argents once and for all.”

Erica shivers. She agrees with the plan in theory, but she has a feeling its execution is going to be a lot worse than it sounds.

“What the hell happened here?” Stiles shouts. He presses a hand over his mouth and turns his head away. “God! That’s nasty!”

Jordan slaps him on the back as he jogs past. “Welcome to your first animal attack.”

Stiles forces himself to follow. There are three bodies in the warehouse. They’re in pieces. He focuses on the one still mostly intact and breathing. “That is not good,” Stiles says as he kneels next to the patient.

They lift the guy onto the stretcher. Jordan reads off his vitals. Stiles is surprised the guy’s still alive. He’s lost a lot of blood from the deep cuts on his torso. They patch up what they can before carting the guy to the ambulance. The gauze turns red in seconds.

Stiles can’t help taking in details of the scene as they wheel the guy out. There’s no broken windows, no large holes where an animal could have crawled through. The Sheriff’s Department is having a field day bagging up a ton of firearms, which usually means these guys weren’t on the right side of the law.

They don’t seem like the kind to have a cougar or something else exotic as a pet and there’s no cage to keep one. This isn't the kind of area where something large and dangerous would wander through. A stray cat or rat, maybe, but not whatever it was that did this. The only thing broken is the lock on the door they came through.

Something weird is going on. Last he checked, animals can’t use doorknobs. So if it wasn't an animal, what was it?

Stiles walks into the Beacon Hills Animal Clinic. He feels weird standing there without a pet, though they do have fliers for adoption if he needs an excuse. There’s a friendly guy behind the counter. He smiles at Stiles. “Are you picking up?”

Stiles shakes his head. “This is going to sound weird, but I was hoping your veterinarian could identify something for me.”

“Oh!” The guy brightens. “I can do that. I’m a Scott, by the way, one of the veterinarians here.” He shrugs. “Though if you want to talk to Dr. Deaton, he’ll be back soon. He went out to pick up a stray.”

Stiles rifles through his messenger bag. The guy from the warehouse had died en route to the hospital, despite their best efforts. Too much damage had been done. They guy had been lucky to survive as long as he had, though Stiles isn't sure if that really counts as luck.

He'd managed to get a copy of the autopsy report. The coroner was prone to wandering off, leaving the morgue unattended. He pulls out the pictures of the slash marks on the dead guy’s chest. “Do you know what kind of animal could do this?”

Scott pulls the photos closer. “Someone got attacked again?”

“Yeah.” Stiles props his arms on the counter. “I've never seen anything like that.”

“Mountain lion,” Scott says. “We get a lot of those.”

“In town?”

The guy shrugs. “They’ve lost a lot of their hunting grounds so they have to look elsewhere for food.”

“But this guy wasn’t eaten. None of them were.”

Scott glances up at him. There’s something in his expression that screams deceit. That or just reluctance to talk about Beacon Hills's oddities with a stranger.

The front door chimes. Stiles turns. An older man walks in with a closed animal carrier in one hand. He smiles when he sees Stiles. “Hello. I’m Doctor Deaton.” Deaton glances at Scott. “I’m guessing you’re not here about a pet.”

Stiles starts to put the photos away. “I just had some questions. Scott took care of me.”

“May I see?”

Stiles looks up, surprised. Scott is shooting significant looks at Deaton but Deaton smiles, passes the carrier to Scott, and holds out his hand for the photos. Stiles hands them over, waiting with rising curiosity as Deaton flips through them.

“You want to know what did this?” Deaton asks.

Stiles nods.

Deaton spreads the photos on the counter. "You see the four slashes here?" Stiles nods. Deaton places his fingers over the marks. "These claw marks are indicative of something like a bear or a wolf. There was an intense amount of force behind these. Whatever made it would have been enraged, possibly out of fear. It might have thought it was in danger. These marks here and here," Deaton points to two other shots that are from the other dead guys in the warehouse, "note the difference in the widths. There were at least two involved in the attack."

Stiles's eyes are wide with a mix of horror and fascination. His mind's bouncing between all the possibilities but none of them add up. There's no way a bear would wander into town without someone noticing and reporting it. It'd have to be something smaller, stealthier. A cougar actually makes sense in that respect, but cougars are solitary creatures.

"You mean a pack," Stiles says, the words spilling out of him at the same pace as his rapid-fire thoughts. "It would have to have been a pack of animals. Stray dogs don't have the kind of claws for that, so wolves? But there haven't been wolves in California for seventy years."

Deaton seems pleased. Stiles has no idea why. Maybe he just has a nerd boner for animal facts. "Wolves are migratory creatures. Some may have wandered nearby without anyone noticing. There are many parts of the Preserve that are rarely touched by human interference. You might be surprised by what hides in the woods."

Okay, Deaton is officially on the creepy list. Scott looks like he's about to have a stroke. Everything Deaton said seems mundane, but there's obviously something in all of that that Stiles isn't supposed to know. He's just not sure what. Is the animal clinic secretly harboring wolves in the woods?

Stiles is going to figure this out. He gathers up the pictures and thanks Scott and Deaton for their time. He's got research to do.

Stiles has barely been home for ten minutes when there's a knock on his door. He has no idea who it is. He'd just come from dinner with his dad and he doesn't know anyone else who might stop by, unless it's Isaac with his arm-rot. Stiles glances through the peephole and then throws the door wide open.

"Uncle Peter!" Peter catches Stiles as he nearly tackles the older man. "Oh my god, I didn't know you were in town."

Peter sets Stiles back on his feet and gestures to the open door. "May I come in?"

"What? Oh! Yes, come on in." Stiles drags Peter into the apartment. He's practically vibrating with excitement. "How are you doing? What are you doing? Do you live in town? Is Cora around? I ran into Derek, but he didn't want to talk. Damn, he grew up hot. And grumpy. So grumpy. Did-"

Peter places a hand over Stiles's mouth. Stiles takes the hint to stop. They're both grinning. Peter's hand moves to Stiles's shoulder, squeezing once. They migrate to the dingy couch in what counts as Stiles's living room.

"I'm doing better," Peter says. He sits sideways so he can watch Stiles. Stiles does the same. It's been so long. He hadn't realized how much he missed Peter until Peter was there. "I do live in town, though closer to the city center. Cora is in South America, but I can let her know you're in town. And, yes, Derek is quite morose of late. How are you?"

Stiles lets out an explosive sigh and falls back over the arm of the couch. "I guess better applies to me too? After mom..." He sits up and picks at a fraying string on the cuff of his pants. "Yeah, that was bad." He chuckles. There's no humor in it. "I thought about running away to Beacon Hills so many times but then..." He can't even mention the fire. "I got used to it I guess, and dad got better. It just took a while."

"Yes," Peter says smoothly, "time, fortunately, heals most wounds."

Stiles sniffles. He's trying hard not to cry but talking about the past brings all those old feelings to the forefront. "I just... I really missed everyone. I know I was just this kid that came over sometimes, but you guys were like family to me, and when I heard..." Stiles's throat chokes off anything else he might say. He wipes furiously at his eyes. He doesn't get to cry about Peter's family.

The cushion next to him dips. Stiles's head is guided to Peter's shoulder. It feels so much like the past that Stiles can't help crying. Why did life have to hit them all so hard, all at once? The fire was only months after his mom. It had felt like his whole world was crumbling and he'd tried to cling to the one person he had left while his dad was trying to deal with the loss in his own way.

"You were never just 'some kid'," Peter says, his voice soft. He rubs Stiles's back until Stiles is through his stupid outburst of emotion.

Stiles doesn't want to pull away, but he does. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be sorry. You can't control what you feel. There's nothing to apologize for."

Stiles sort-of smiles. "When did you get so wise?"

Peter grins. "I always was. You were just too young to notice."

Stiles shifts so that he's sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with Peter. "So, Uncle P, what brought you to my doorstep?"

"I actually have a favor to ask you. It's about Derek."

Stiles perks up. "I'm listening..."

Derek stops with his hand on the handle for the coffee shop's doors. He can tell by scent alone that Peter isn't here. His uncle played him, which begs the question of whether Derek is in the mood to be played. He sighs and pushes the door open. Even with the dozen or so people in the coffee shop, he can smell Stiles's nervous excitement. It's his curse—his nose is attuned to his mate, no matter what he feels about the situation.

Coffee in hand, Derek slides into the chair opposite Stiles. "Did Peter swindle you or were you in on this bait-and-switch?"

Stiles blushes. Derek can't stop himself from committing the look to memory. Aside from their brief meeting the day after Isaac was shot, Derek hasn't seen much of this new, grown-up Stiles. His instincts scream at him to kiss, bite, claim but he can't. He won't doom Stiles to a life of constant danger.

"Uncle P may have set this up," Stiles says. He's embarrassed, a bit shy, but not at all apologetic. "I may have agreed." Stiles looks up at him, his eyes wide and earnest. "I just... I really want to be friends again. I missed you and Cora so much and you live in my building for fuck's sake."

Derek drums his fingers on the table and stares out the wide windows of the shop. "It's not that I don't want to be friends with you..."

Stiles leans forward, his voice dropping to a low whisper. "It's because of the Argents, isn't it?"

Derek is pretty sure his eyes flash. He looks down at the table. It's hard to keep the growl out his voice or to keep from reaching across the table for Stiles. "Who the fuck told you?"

Surprise-confusion-concern spike in Stiles's scent. "Told me what?"

"About the Argents..."

"Oh!" Stiles leans back and scratches the back of his head. "I may have been doing more digging through the Sheriff's Department's database. I'm not sure they even know the connections are there, and I have no idea what Hatfield and McCoy stuff is going on between your family and the Argents but they've done some horrible shit."

Derek curls his hands into fists to hide his claws. "Stay out of it," he growls, no longer caring about sparing Stiles's feelings. Stiles should fear him. He's a monster, might as well act like one. "I want nothing to do with you."

All he can smell is Stiles's hurt. The scent stays with him all the way home.

Derek is a jerk. That thought has been playing over and over in Stiles's head ever since his brief meeting in the coffee shop. He gets that Derek is afraid. Kate Argent burned his family. Her father tried to kill Derek and a bunch of high schoolers a few years back. An employee of Argent Arms was responsible for shooting Isaac.

From everything Stiles can find, and he'd gone on a major researching binge after Derek had stormed off, the feud is entirely one-sided. The Hales were model citizens. They never had dealings with Argent Arms, never were even in any tangential industries. It's not just the Hales, either. The more he digs into Argent Arms, the more crimes he finds. How has no one connected all of this?

He may have looked up the local FBI office for when he has all his evidence wrapped up in a neat package. He knows better than to go off without all the evidence. The police in Los Angeles had designated Stiles-wranglers. He doesn't need to start that up here. Yet.

His mind is still on the latest connections he'd uncovered between the Argents and a series of house fires along the length of California. He doesn't see the black SUV with its lights off speed toward him from a side road. He doesn't notice anything wrong until the SUV rams into the passenger side of his Jeep.

He hits his head on something. Steering wheel? Window? There's a loud crunch of metal followed by a shower of broken glass. If he hadn't been wearing his seatbelt, he'd be dead. As it was, he's not moving for a while.

Hands reach for him, pulling him out of the wreckage. At first, he thinks it's Jordan. The irony of paramedics being called for a paramedic is not lost on him. He can't focus on their faces, but the men's uniforms are all wrong. Too much black. He's dragged instead of wheeled on a stretcher. He's shoved into the trunk of an SUV, not an ambulance. The small part of his brain able to function screams wrong, wrong, wrong. His body can't seem to get the message.

The SUV starts with a jolt. After that comes darkness.

Stiles wakes in a shitty office building. It's obviously abandoned, but someone's been squatting here. Not anyone particularly smart, Stiles notes as he tests the ropes tying him to the chair. Haven't these guys heard of zip ties? Way more secure, but Stiles isn't going to argue with them giving him an easy out. Honestly! He's a cop's kid. Getting out of ropes was practically Life Skills 101 in his household.

He waits a few minutes while he lets his sore body come online. He thinks nothing is broken. He probably has a concussion and his ribs are going to be sore for a while, but other than that he feels okay. They want him alive, otherwise, they would have rammed the driver's side.

No one comes to check on him. He can hear voices but they're further away and muffled by the water-stained walls. A gun goes off and Stiles pulls his hands out of the ropes, almost tipping the chair over in his haste to get his legs free. His ribs pointedly remind him of the car accident he'd just been in. His vision is blurry with tears, but he gets himself free.

He stands up and nearly falls over. He leans against a desk until his head stops spinning. There are more noises coming from the same direction as the gunshot. All he can tell at the moment is that there's fighting and it's loud.

Once he's reasonably certain he can walk without faceplanting, he stumbles out the door. There's a long hallway of offices. It's obvious which direction to go. He pauses when some kind of animal roars and Stiles is no longer sure he wants to be involved in whatever's going on. Curiosity pushes him forward.

He passes a room littered with spare munitions. Stiles knows how to handle a gun, but he'd rather not until he knows the scope of the situation. There's a wooden bat leaning against the wall, seemingly out of place with the rest of the equipment. He grabs it and smiles at the heft of it. The bat feels perfect, like it's an extension of his arm.

Stiles pauses at the end of the hallway and peeks around the corner into the open area that likely once held a bunch of cubicles. There are a lot of people and a lot of guns, but he recognizes Derek and Peter right away, even with their faces twisted into something strange and monstrous. Derek bats aside a man trying to shoot him and the claw marks on the man's chest are painfully familiar.

Deaton's words come back to him. They travel in packs. Is that what Isaac and Erica are to Derek? His pack? It makes a strange sort of sense.

There's a man in black tactical gear on the near side of the room, shouting orders to other men and women in similar gear. Derek, Peter, and four other creatures—werewolves?—are working their way through while trying not to get shot or tazed or sprayed with whatever is in the canisters two people have. There's another ordinary guy fighting alongside Peter. From the way they move, Peter and this other man have fought together a lot.

Stiles starts to slide around the corner. Most of the gunfire is going away from him, thankfully, though considering the wound Isaac had, that's not necessarily good for team werewolf either. A crossbow bolt comes out of nowhere, taking down a man that was about to shoot Peter's friend. Stiles catches a quick glance at someone hiding behind a receptionist's desk on the far side of the room.

One of the men in black shouts and points at Stiles. His attempt to sneak out is blown, so he grips the bat tight and charges into the fray.

Stiles has never been much of a fighter. There's a reason he became a paramedic instead of a cop. But when he looks at these men, these Argents, and sees them trying to hurt his family, the part of him that prefers to play nice snaps. He's not even aware he's shouting, he just hears the noise of it surrounding him. The air crackles with his rage and frustration.

A look of surprise and horror crosses the leader's face as Stiles swings the bat at the man's chest.

Several things happen at once. There is a bright flash of light in front of Stiles. The taste of ozone fills his mouth. The man leading the other tactical troops goes flying into the far wall. Lines of blue lightning arc from the tip of the bat. The rest of the men in black fall to the floor.

"What the hell was that?" Stiles asks, not entirely certain he wants to know the answer.


Stiles turns and grins. "Oh, hey, Scott! I didn't know you knew Derek." Speaking of, Derek advances on Stiles like he's about to wring Stiles's neck. "Hey, Derek-"

That's all he can get out before Derek's hands are on him and lips and oh, God, Stiles can die a happy man now. There's tongue and teeth and he just wants to lose himself in Derek's mouth. Derek's hands slide under Stiles's shirt and all the pain Stiles had been ignoring vanishes like it was never there. He stumbles, swaying into Derek's muscular chest. Derek doesn't seem to mind from the way his hands grip Stiles by the hip, pulling them together tighter.

"Derek," an annoying voice was saying. "Derek, we need to go. Cops."

They pull apart reluctantly. Derek's eyes glow red. Stiles is fascinated. He places a hand on Derek's cheek as he stretches up to get a better look. "You're amazing," Stiles says.

Derek smiles and Stiles honest to God would blow him here and now if not for the sirens getting far too close.

"Go," Stiles says. "I've got this."

Derek arches an eyebrow. "You do?"

"Yep." Stiles pops the 'p'. He turns to the others. Isaac, Scott, and Erica, he recognizes. The dark-skinned guy lingering near Erica is new. "You." Stiles points to the older guy with Peter. "You're Chris Argent, right?" The guy nods. Peter looks fascinated. "Good. You two stay," he points to Peter and Chris, "the rest of you scram. Let me do the talking." Derek seems reluctant to leave. Stiles hands him the bat. "Hold on to this for me. I like it."

Chris looks like he's about to protest but Peter puts a hand on Chris's arm and shakes his head. Chris subsides but he doesn't look happy about it. The others leave just in time to avoid the screech of tires out front. Stiles lets his body slump and presses an arm against his ribs. Now that the adrenaline is gone, it's actually starting to hurt. A lot. He doesn't have to play up how much pain he's in.

A trio of deputies pour into the room, guns drawn. Stiles recognizes one of them from work and hobbles toward him. "Andy! Thank God you're here. Those guys are nuts." Stiles points at the men in black. "They were... They said..." Stiles is not above crocodile tears to get sympathy. "They tried to kill me."

The deputies lower their weapons. Two veer off toward Chris and Peter while Andy holds his hands up in a poor attempt to calm Stiles down. It wouldn't have worked, even if Stiles wasn't faking.

"Whoa! Whoa! What's going on here?" Andy looks at one of the men just walking in. That'd be the current Sheriff, Bill Cooper. He used to serve under Stiles's dad. "We found your Jeep."

Stiles nods. "They rammed right into me. I was so scared. And then I woke up here and they were saying all these things about Argent Arms and threatening Uncle Chris that they'd kill me unless he gave over rights to the company. I think they were really going to do it. They had a wild cougar. What the fuck, even? Who does that? And they were bragging about how they'd let it loose on some of their men who had gone against him. God, that thing was terrifying."

Peter meets Stiles's gaze, recognition flashing between them, and then Peter is telling their side of the story. How Chris's dad never accepted them as a couple and Chris's sister killed Peter's family. He spins it into a long, drawn-out attempt to push Chris out of the company because he's gay.

Chris seems to catch on, nodding and shaking his head when necessary. He only speaks when someone asks about the unconscious men. "I have a taser." Stiles's eyes go wide at the large baton Chris produces from seemingly nowhere.

Stiles keeps up the chatter, blubbering the whole time until they walk him to the ambulance. Jordan is waiting, along with one of the nurses, Melissa. Stiles grins as Jordan helps him into the back of the ambulance. He dutifully lies down and lets Melissa look over him while Jordan drives.

He's already promised Sheriff Cooper all the evidence he'd been digging up on Argent Arms—the excuse he'd used for why they'd kidnapped him. No one thought twice about Stiles being nosy and snooping too deep. The whole story was slotting together perfectly.

Even better, Melissa lets him have some of the good painkillers.

Derek is waiting for Stiles when he's released from the hospital two days later. He'd bruised some ribs and had a concussion, which he'd already known. They kept him an extra day just to be sure they hadn't missed anything.

Stiles can't stop grinning from the moment he sees Derek. Melissa is kind and only teases him a little as she wheels him out.

"Hi," Stiles says once they're outside. He's got a dopey grin on his face which he can only blame partially on painkillers. He'd missed having Derek as a friend so much. It boggles his mind that they might be even more.

"I can take him from here," Derek says. Derek and Melissa share a look that suggests familiarity.

"Do you know everyone around here?" Stiles asks.

Derek snorts and shakes his head. "That's Scott's mom."

Stiles looks back at Melissa with wide eyes. "Oooh. Your son is awesome."

Melissa smiles back. "I happen to think so as well."

Then Derek's holding his arm out for Stiles and it's like Stiles floats out of the wheelchair. He's not even sure any of this is real. Derek's actually here, next to him. It's like a missing piece of Stiles's life has slotted back into place.

"Are you okay?" Derek asks as he gets Stiles settled into the passenger seat of a gorgeous black Camaro.

"Just happy."

"I can tell."

Stiles waits until the car starts down the road toward home before asking, "Is that a werewolf thing? Sensing emotions?"

"No. You're just easy to read." Stiles blushes. He's pretty sure that's a tiny grin starting to form on Derek's lips. "But we can smell certain emotions. From chemosignals."

"Wait, you can smell what I'm feeling?"

Derek nods.

"That is so cool."

More of that grin appears. "You're enjoying this, aren't you?"

"So much. Do you have any idea how amazing this is? I mean, you probably do. This is your life. Have you always been a werewolf? Were your whole family werewolves? What does that make the Argents, besides assholes? How'd Isaac and the others become werewolves? Is-"


He snaps his mouth shut. "Sorry. I'm just excited. And they gave me hydrocodone so maybe a little loopy, but, like, not loopy enough that I'm not in control of my actions or anything like that. It's just, I talk a lot. When I'm excited. Or scared. Or just in general, I guess. I just-"


He blinks at Derek.

"I remember. I know you talk a lot. That's fine."

"Oh." Stiles relaxes back against the seat. "Good."

"You might want to stop every so often if you want me to answer any of your questions."

Stiles nods. "Yeah, that might help."

Derek stares at the road ahead of them in silence for a minute. They're not far from their apartment building. "My family has always been werewolves. There are humans that are born into the pack, usually from werewolves that married humans or bitten wolves. My cousins were human." Before the fire is unsaid. "The Argents are hunters. They used to keep a code but only Chris and his daughter hold with that anymore. My pack is all bitten wolves. Most by me, Scott by Peter. We can talk more about the history of my pack later."

Their conversation pauses as Derek parks in front of their building. He stays next to Stiles for the entire walk to the elevator, ready to catch Stiles if he stumbles. Stiles is actually moving pretty good considering he was in a car accident. He's sore but the pain is mostly numbed by drugs and none of his motor skills were really affected.

Derek follows him out when they get to the fifth floor and walks Stiles to his door. Stiles fumbles with his keys as he debates his next words. He doesn't want to sound desperate but he kind of is. "Do you want to come in?" Stiles asks as he unlocks his door.


That's apparently all that was necessary. Derek locks the door behind them, which makes Stiles hope that Derek plans to stay, at least for a little bit. Stiles sheds his shoes, leaves his keys and wallet by the door. "I'm just going to..." Stiles waves in the direction of the bedroom. He needs soft, comfy clothes.

Bending is an adventure, but Stiles manages to find his favorite pajama set without too much searching. He still hasn't gotten everything unpacked, probably won't for at least a year. Stretching to pull his shirt off is equally painful. Stiles has a feeling he'll be wearing hoodies and button-ups for the rest of his medical leave.

"You look good."

Stiles starts and turns. Derek's leaning in the doorway, his eyes roving over Stiles's naked chest. He can't help blushing. He's nowhere near virginal, but having Derek look at him without a shirt makes him feel like it. This isn't like his past relationships. This is Derek.

"You too," Stiles says.

Derek grins then, an actual, fully formed grin. He stalks into the room. "You have no idea how long I've wanted you. You're amazing. I couldn't bear to watch you go and then you came back, but at the worst possible time."

Stiles shrugs. He reaches for Derek at the same time as Derek reaches for him. "I'm known for my awful timing," Stiles says.

The rest of his words are swallowed in a kiss. His world narrows down to an extreme awareness of flesh, specifically where his flesh and Derek's flesh meet. Their kiss melts him while Derek's hands, exploring Stiles's bare chest, heats him up into something molten, malleable. He feels like Derek could shape Stiles into anything right now. Into whatever Derek wanted. He'd be okay with that, as long as it meant he was Derek's.

"How?" Stiles gasps as they move to the bed. Their clothes are quickly discarded. "How do you feel so good? I've never had-"

"Mates," Derek breathes the word against Stiles's skin. He's hard. Stiles can feel Derek's erection pressing against his thigh and he wants it. He doesn't care where. Hand, mouth, ass. He'll take whatever he can get.


Derek silences him with kisses that make Stiles's toes curl. He wants to arch up against Derek's body, but Derek holds him down with a hand on his sternum. It's probably better that way. Stiles did just get out of the hospital. They shouldn't even be doing this but there's been this rushing need inside of him ever since they'd first kissed. He has a feeling it's something supernatural. This whole 'mates' thing.

"Later," Derek says. "Means I love you. Always. Only you."

"Oh." The word felt like it's punched out of Stiles. He thinks... he thinks he loves Derek too. Maybe he always has. Maybe that's why he's always considered Beacon Hills his home. "Derek, I-"

"You don't have to say it." Derek's lips trail a path down Stiles's neck. Stiles shivers and grips Derek by the hair. "I know. I know."

Derek's mouth keeps going, moving lower and lower. Stiles whines. His hips hitch up as much as Derek's hold allows.

"I've got you," Derek says, right before he takes Stiles into his mouth.

Stiles shouts as wet heat surrounds him. It's been too long. He's never had anyone who felt this good. Usually, it's Stiles... but this is Derek, and Stiles can feel orgasm coming far too fast.

"Derek." Stiles tugs at his hair. "Derek. Not yet. I'm gonna..."

Derek doesn't listen to him. Stiles spills into Derek's mouth embarrassingly fast.

"Shit." Stiles presses the heels of his hands against his eyes. He wants to cry. He's not entirely sure why. He's so fucking embarrassed. "I'm not- I don't-"

"Shh." Derek runs his hands up Stiles's sides. His thumbs stretch to flick Stiles's nipples, making Stiles jerk and moan. "That happens. With mates. The first time. I..."

"Yes. Anything." He means that.

"You don't... it's different... with mates and werewolves and I don't-"

Stiles grabs Derek by the hair and pulls until they're eye-to-eye. "Derek." He pulls Derek down into a sloppy kiss. "Anything. For you, anything."

Derek's forehead drops to Stiles's shoulder and Derek groans. His hips jerk against Stiles's thigh, rubbing precum into Stiles's skin. Derek rallies himself after a second and reaches up between the mattress and the headboard for the tube of lube Stiles keeps there. It's new. Stiles hasn't had the time for romance since he moved.

Two slick fingers press into Stiles's body. God, it feels good. He moans and spreads his legs wider, giving Derek better access. "Yes. God, yes, Derek, fuck me."

Derek growls. Literally growls. His eyes do that flashy red thing. It shouldn't be hot. It shouldn't, but it is and Stiles has to get his mouth on Derek's right that instant. He moans into their kiss. Teeth and tongue battle while Derek's fingers open Stiles up. Two becomes three becomes four and Stiles is so ready at that point. So very ready.

"Fuck me." Stiles hooks his legs over Derek's hips. "Come on. Please. Fuck me. I need... God, Derek."

"Don’t want to hurt you." Derek's nose brushes against Stiles's neck. He places a kiss behind Stiles's ear. "It's different..."

"Won't hurt," Stiles promises. He's been fucked before by men just as large as Derek. "I can take it. Please. Give it to me. I need it, Derek. Please."

Derek buries his head in Stiles's shoulder and groans. Then his fingers are gone and Derek's erection is pressing in, opening Stiles in the best way possible. Derek is a good size. Not the biggest Stiles has ever had, but definitely on the satisfactory side as far as cocks go. He fills Stiles up and Stiles tilts his head back, exposing his throat as he moans. That move seems to spur Derek on. His teeth—blunt, human teeth—graze the column of Stiles's throat.

"You have no idea... So long... I've wanted... But I couldn't... and then you..."

"I'm here, Derek. I'm here."

Derek's hips stutter. Then he's coming inside of Stiles, his head thrown back and teeth clenched to hold back a howl. Stiles goes boneless. He feels amazing. He's close to another orgasm but not close enough that it's an urgent need. He can wait, let Derek feel good before Stiles seeks his own need.

Only Derek doesn't stop. His hips keep jerking, keep pushing his seed into Stiles, and then he's swelling. Stiles's eyes go wide. He gasps and clutches at Derek. There's something inside of him, some part of Derek's dick that's growing.

"I'm sorry," Derek whispers in Stiles's skin.

Stiles shakes his head rapidly. "No. No, Derek, honey." He knows what this is. Certain canines have a knot, meant to facilitate breeding. Werewolves have one too, apparently, and it feels amazing. "Nothing-" He gasps as he feels Derek's knot catching on Stiles's entrance. They're well and truly stuck together now. "Nothing to be sorry for. You're so good. So fucking good."

Derek's kisses are frantic on Stiles's skin, moving down his throat and over his collarbone, nipping and sucking every inch or two. "You sure? You're good? You feel good?"

"Yeah, baby." Stiles doesn't hold back his groan. "God, I feel so full. It's so big. I can feel... feel you and you're just..." Huge. Amazing. Fucking hot. Spectacular. He can't decide.

Derek's hips slow. Stiles feels like he's about to burst. He doesn't want Derek to stop. "It's going to be a few minutes," Derek says. "Until it goes down."

"Okay." Stiles does not mind that at all. "I just... Derek..." Stiles reaches between them and guides Derek's hand to his erection. "I need... just a bit... please, Derek."

"I've got you."

Derek's breath is hot against Stiles's neck. For a second, he wonders what it would be like for Derek to bite down on his flesh. He wants Derek to mark him so that everyone knows who Stiles belongs to. He almost says something but Derek's hand is stroking him, tight and fast, and all of Stiles's thoughts evaporate with his second orgasm.

They lay there in a timeless space, trading kisses and exploring touches while Derek's knot ties them together. Stiles would be content to live in this moment forever. He knows it has to end. That doesn't stop him from feeling somewhat bereft when Derek finally pulls out. Derek moves away.

Stiles must have made some kind of sound because Derek is back, holding Stiles close and pressing kissing into Stiles's hair.

"I've got you," Derek says again. He says it over and over until Stiles's shivering stops.

Stiles blushes as he detaches himself from where he'd turned into an octopus of limbs, holding Derek close. "Sorry."

Derek smiles. "I guess this is my turn to say you have nothing to be sorry for. It can be... um, intense, the first time."

Stiles looks up at Derek. "Have you ever...?"

"No. Just with you."

Stiles blush only gets worse.

"I'll be right back." Derek disappears into the hall. Stiles hears water running and then Derek is back with a damp washcloth to clean them both off. He leaves again to toss the washcloth in the bathroom. Stiles is glad to not have to move. He feels like he's been wrung out, all boneless and pliable.

"Is it okay if I stay for a bit?"

Stiles snorts and curls against Derek's chest. "You can move in if you like, though I think your apartment's a bit better."

Derek laughs. "I know the landlord. I can get you an upgrade."

Stiles blinks, his tired mind not quite getting the joke. "You do?"

"Yes. I own the building, Stiles."

That explains the penthouse apartment. "Oh." Stiles grins and tucks his head under Derek's chin. "Sweet." He wants to say more but one of Derek's hands is tracing rhythmic patterns on Stiles's back. It's hard not to fall into a lull, so he lets himself zone out.

There will be time for questions in the morning. Stiles has so many questions.