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Pry Him From My Cold Dead Fingers

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Derek knew that any time Deaton called with a cryptic message, it couldn’t be good news. The Druid rarely ever had anything good to say, really, but when he specifically called and told Derek he needed him immediately, that was definitely something to worry about.

The possibilities were endless, unfortunately, and it had only gotten worse since Derek had managed to regain his Alpha status protecting Scott from an attacking Pack the previous year. They were still trying to figure out the dynamics of two Alphas in one territory, which meant he knew that if he was called with an urgent message, so was Scott.

When he arrived at the clinic and saw the dirt bike, he knew he’d been right and entered through the back door, heading down the corridor and into one of the examination rooms, where Scott and Deaton were waiting, speaking in low tones. They finished up when they saw Derek enter and he leaned back against one of the tables, crossing his arms.

Scott nodded to him in greeting but said nothing. Things had been exceptionally awkward for them since the events of last year, but he didn’t look annoyed Derek was there, so that was something, at least.

“Thank you both for coming,” Deaton said, as if he had invited them for tea and not because something terrible was clearly about to happen.

“What’s going on?” Scott asked, hands in his pockets and shifting his weight from foot to foot. “You said it was important.”

“That it is, Scott.” Deaton moved to stand on the other side of the table and Derek shared a look with Scott. The younger Alpha looked more confused, whereas Derek just looked annoyed. Always the theatrics with Deaton.

“Well?” Derek asked gruffly when Deaton took his sweet time. “What do you know?”

“As you know, I have many friends across the Supernatural community. They keep me up to date on various events that are occurring across the country.”

Derek didn’t know that, secretive fucker that Deaton was, but he grunted along to Scott’s nod.

“Of late, my contacts have been in discussion of a Werewolf Pack that has slowly but steadily been crossing the country. They are a formidable force and while not a threat to those they come across, they can be very dangerous if one were to stand between them and their goal.”

“Let me guess,” Derek said dryly, bored already. “They’re coming here.”

“My last contact has confirmed they heard whispers of the Pack heading for Beacon Hills, yes. It appears we have something here they would very much like.”

“True Alpha?” Scott asked, sharing a look with Derek. “Or Hale bloodline?”

It hadn’t gone unnoticed in the five years since Derek’s transformation that many Werewolves were extremely interested in Derek Hale. Apparently the ability to turn into a full wolf—or coyote, in Malia’s case—was a purely Hale trait and no one else could do this. Scott was already heavily coveted due to his True Alpha status, which was rare in general, and many assumed a young adult would be easier to control, but Derek himself had also found people coming after him in an attempt to recruit him or capture him. It had been making for a very interesting life now that they had to protect each other from others who would seek them out.

To hear a Pack was coming to them for something they had that the others wanted was not a surprise. At this point, it was more a question of who between them needed protecting and how far they would be able to go before Scott’s “no killing” rule would have to be thrown aside.

Scott was lucky Derek rarely listened to his no killing rule, otherwise he would be dead, courtesy of the Alpha Derek had had no choice but to kill last year and thus returning him to the unenviable role of Alpha.

He still let Scott make most of the decisions, Derek wasn’t interested in being in charge of anyone but himself. It worked better for everyone that way.

“Actually,” Deaton said, pulling both Alphas from their thoughts, “they aren’t headed here for you. At least, as far as people have informed me.”

Derek frowned, wondering what else could possibly be leading them here. He supposed perhaps the Nemeton, but that thing was such a pain in the ass that Derek didn’t care if they uprooted the damn thing and hauled it away. It’d be doing them all a favour.

“Then why are they coming?” Scott finally asked when it became clear Deaton wasn’t going to elaborate on his own.

“Word has gotten out,” Deaton said, crossing his arms and looking between them, “of a Pack with two Alphas and more non-Weres than Weres in it. It hasn’t escaped notice that this Pack is remarkable and powerful, and people remember it was you who took down the Alpha Pack.”

“So they’re after the whole Pack,” Derek said.

“Not exactly,” Deaton hedged. “Apparently they’ve lost their Emissary recently, and a lot of the success of our Pack they are attributing to the Pack’s Emissary.”

“So they’re coming for our Emissary because they lost theirs?” Derek asked, somewhat angrily.

“It would appear. The McCall-Hale Pack’s reputation precedes itself.”

“Don’t worry,” Scott said, “we won’t let them touch you.”

Deaton turned to him, offering a private smile before inclining his head slightly. “Very comforting, Scott, thank you. But,” he looked between them, “I’m not the Emissary they’re coming after.”

Derek frowned and shared a look with Scott, who looked as confused as he did.

“What do you mean?” Scott asked. “What other Emissary is there?”

One day, Stiles would figure out how to research and sleep at the same time so that he didn’t wake up with most of his joints aching.

He knew it was his own fault, but when he woke up with him legs on his bed and his torso on the floor, a piece of paper glued to his face with drool, he wished he could research like a normal person with both halves of his body on the same level surface.

“Stiles!” the sheriff called from downstairs. “You’re gonna be late!”

Stiles let out an incomprehensible noise and licked his lips, snuggling further into his piece of paper and continuing to snooze. He heard the front door slam a few minutes later and knew he really should get up or he’d be late for class. It would be stupid to have worked this hard for a scholarship, only to not show up to class.

Still, it took him an additional ten minutes to convince himself to get up off the floor, groaning and whining almost the entire way when his joints cracked. He felt like an old man, which was a pathetic thing to think at twenty-two years old.

Stumbling his way to the bathroom, he relieved himself and brushed his teeth before sniffing his right armpit. Deciding he smelled okay, he went back to his room to pull on some clothes and grab his bag, heading down the stairs and into the kitchen. When he pulled a box of cereal out of the cupboard, he sighed when he shook it and found it empty, putting it back where it had come from. Opening the fridge, he found nothing he could eat on the go and decided he’d just stop somewhere and grab a bite of eat. Maybe he’d get one of those sausage biscuits from McDonalds.

Exiting the house, he locked the door and headed for the Jeep, climbing into the driver’s seat and tossing his bag onto the passenger side. He’d just shut his door and started the Jeep, turning in his seat to back out of the drive when he let out a shout.

“Jesus fuck shit in my ass!” Stiles screamed, facing forward again and gripping the wheel tightly in both hands, letting out a slow breath and closing his eyes.

“That’s disgusting,” his visitor said from the back seat.

“What are you doing in my car?”

“I’m not allowed to be in your car?” Derek asked, climbing over the partition and picking up Stiles’ bag, sitting in the seat and placing it on his lap before buckling in.

“You’re allowed to be in my car when I know you’re in it. What are you doing here?” He looked over at Derek with an exasperated sigh. “We can’t hanky panky right now, I have class.”

Derek gave him a look for that, and Stiles acknowledged that he was usually the one interested in the hanky panky. Derek was just a good secret boyfriend who provided whenever he asked.

“Okay well, guess you’re going on a road trip, then.”

Derek said nothing and settled back in his seat, closing his eyes while Stiles pulled out. As soon as they were on the road, Stiles cast a glance at him.

He’d gotten better at reading Derek over the years, even if the other barely ever had any facial expressions. It was all in the eyebrows, and Stiles was an expert brow-reader. It didn’t hurt that he and Derek were secretly dating, and had been for almost a year now. Ever since the day he’d become an Alpha again and had shown up on Stiles’ doorstep freaking out—in his own Derek way—and they’d somehow ended up cuddling in Stiles’ bed. It had been a little bit of a surprise, but at the same time not. They were weirdly compatible, and while they were okay with dating one another, they worried about telling anyone because it may not be taken very well.

Especially by Scott.

And his dad.

Definitely his dad.

But, having learned the secret language of the eyebrows, and having been dating Derek for a year, Stiles knew that something was wrong. His brow game was strong today, and they were leaving town without a single word of complaint from Derek. That never happened. Every time he tagged along with Stiles to school, he did so willingly—as in, Stiles never asked him to or told him he had to—but Derek still ended up complaining.

This time, they were already halfway there and he didn’t say a word. He just pretended to snooze in the passenger seat.

When Stiles pulled into the McDonalds drive-thru, he ordered himself a meal, and then three more for Derek, even though he hadn’t confirmed he wanted anything. Derek always wanted food, so Stiles just took it upon himself to deliver.

Once the food was in the car, he checked the time and decided to park so he could eat, dropping Derek’s food onto his lap. The Werewolf opened one eye to look at it, then grunted what could’ve been wolf-speak for ‘thanks,’ and dug into the bag to pull out some hashbrowns.

“So,” Stiles said, taking a huge bite of his breakfast sandwich and chewing enough to get most of it into one cheek, “what’s up?”

“Nothing’s up,” Derek said, shoving an entire harshbrown in his mouth, and fuck was it unfair that he looked hot as shit doing something so disgusting.

“You haven’t complained once since we left town, and you expect me to believe nothing’s up? Maybe have a better poker face.”

Derek turned to give him a look as Stiles took another bite of his sandwich, and he shrugged, chewing enough to swallow this time.

“Hey man, don’t blame me for your shitty poker face. We should play one day, actually. Poker, I mean. I’d clean you out good.” He paused, realizing the double-entendre, and waggled his eyebrows at Derek.

He knew it was bad when he didn’t even get an eye roll.

“How worried should I be?” he asked slowly, eying Derek.

The look he got was annoyed, but he knew Derek was more annoyed at himself for being an easy read than he was at Stiles for figuring it out. He didn’t answer, though. He just ate another hashbrown whole before digging into one of the three breakfast sandwiches. Stiles had gotten three at random, but he figured Derek wasn’t picky, so he’d eat them anyway.

Stiles had finished his own meal and gotten back on the road by the time Derek finished eating. They were almost at the campus when he finally answered, eyes on the scenery outside the passenger side window.

“A Pack is coming.”

“Like the Alpha Pack?” Stiles asked urgently, because he hated those fuckers.

Derek shook his head. “Another Pack. Old. Strong. They’re headed for Beacon Hills.” He hesitated. “Deaton says they don’t take no for an answer. They get what they want, or they take it by force.”

Stiles let out a slow breath, brain bouncing back and forth between Scott and Derek. It had been a hard few years of late, with random Supernatural beings—and humans alike—coming to claim one of their two Alphas. It put a lot of stress on Stiles, since he was dating one of them, and best friends with the other. Not to say the other Pack members weren’t feeling the pressure, but Stiles was definitely feeling it the most, especially since he always came up with the plans to keep everyone safe.

He was the reason Derek hadn’t left when he became an Alpha again. Derek was adamant that Beacon Hills didn’t need two Alphas, which Stiles had just laughed at because, yes it did. Bad shit always happened, and they had a weird and unconventional Pack, they needed all the Alphas they could get.

Sure, Scott and Derek bumped heads a lot, but Stiles mediated and always ended up being the tie-breaker. It worked out for everyone to have both of them stick around. Scott was the True Alpha, and they were on Alpha Hale land. Fair was fair.

Besides, Stiles didn’t like the thought of having to choose between them, especially now. He liked having both of them in his life, even if Scott was obtuse and had no idea what was going on.

Stiles made fun of him for being a bad Werewolf. Derek insisted it made him weak and stupid for not figuring it out, but Stiles could tell he was relieved. This wasn’t something they wanted to explain, even though they knew they’d eventually have to.

Stiles thought about the two Alphas and the danger they were undoubtedly in while turning into the closest parking garage for his university. He parked and climbed out, Derek following suit with his bag. He carried it over one shoulder and reached out to take Stiles’ hand, linking their fingers while they headed for the stairwell.

He didn’t say anything about Derek’s PDA. He got like that sometimes when he was stressed, and Stiles figured it helped him concentrate if he knew someone he was worried about—aka, Stiles—was close by. Holding his hand was like reassuring himself that Stiles was right beside him, and he was okay, and that Derek could protect him.

When they reached the quad and started towards his building, they were halfway across the green when Derek stiffened and reluctantly released his hand. Stiles turned to give him a weird look, but Derek’s head was turned away, sampling the air. Less than a minute later, when they were across the grassy knoll and heading down the sidewalk, Scott appeared on Stiles’ other side, grinning brightly at him.

“Hey Stiles!”

“Hey Scott,” Stiles said slowly, confused. Scott never came to campus except on Trivia night, which happened at five in the afternoon on Thursdays.

Today was Tuesday.

And it was nine.

“Derek. Didn’t expect to see you here.”

“Should’ve figured I’d see you,” Derek replied, hand tightening on the strap of the backpack he still carried.

Stiles looked between the two of them, both Alphas sharing a look. Stiles knew how Derek was communicating—eyebrows, always the eyebrows—but Scott hadn’t yet mastered the art of eyebrowing so he just kept making weird faces that made Stiles feel like he must’ve been constipated.

“Okay,” he said slowly, eying them both. “So what’s with the walking blockade? Feelin’ a little claustrophobic here. Does this new Pack not like humans?”

Derek shot him a look then glanced across him at Scott before returning to glaring holes in the sidewalk.

“Deaton just said to keep an eye on you,” Scott supplied after a few seconds of thought.

“That’s considerate of him. Why?”

“You know Deaton.” Scott shrugged and they walked up the path to the building Stiles was going into.

He expected them to leave him at the door, but Derek walked in ahead of him and Scott trailed behind him, making him feel extremely uncomfortable. He felt like they didn’t trust him and were trying to keep him boxed in so he wouldn’t do anything stupid.

Maybe the Pack was there right now. Maybe they were listening and Scott and Derek wanted to make sure that they could dive for Stiles’ mouth to stop him from saying anything stupid. Which was most things, if he was honest, but still.

When they reached the classroom and both Derek and Scott sat down on either side of him, Stiles had had enough.

“Why did Deaton say to keep an eye on me, exactly?” Stiles asked, turning to face Scott, since he knew he had more of a chance of getting an answer out of him than Derek.

Scott squirmed for a few minutes, clearly attempting to wait Stiles out, but that wasn’t going to work this time. Stiles just stared him down, waiting for him to crack. He was saved by the professor walking in and Derek shoving Stiles’ laptop at him.

Scowling but taking the item, Stiles got himself set up and began taking notes, very interested in the muttered conversation Scott and Derek were having across him. They were speaking too quietly for him to hear anything over his own typing, but they could evidently hear each other because they kept at it for the entire lesson, occasionally glaring at one another and huffing angrily.

Derek even did the eyebrows a few times, which Stiles knew meant, “Are you fucking stupid?”

Not because he got that look a lot, of course. Definitely not.

When the class ended, Scott and Derek waited for Stiles to pack up so they could go, but he didn’t pack up. He just waited for the people to file out, checked for students coming in for another class, and then crossed his arms, staring straight ahead at the front of the class.

“What’s going on?”

“Nothing’s going on, let’s go.” Derek stood and shoved his hands in the pockets of his jeans, heading for the stairs leading out of the lecture hall.

Stiles rounded on Scott, who squirmed a little longer, then finally sighed and raked a hand through his hair.

“Deaton says the Pack is coming for our Emissary.”

“Oh shit,” Stiles blurted out, uncrossing his arms and turning to face Scott fully. He could feel Derek looming angrily behind him, but ignored him. “Is Deaton okay? Do we need to, like... build him a bunker or something?”

Scott glanced at Derek over Stiles’ shoulder briefly before focussing on him again. Frowning, Stiles turned to look at Derek, who looked really put out, then faced Scott again.

“What’s really going on?” he asked slowly.

“Deaton isn’t our Emissary,” Derek finally said after a long silence. Stiles turned to him and saw he was practically glaring at him. “You are.”

A burst of laughter escaped Stiles at that, turning back to Scott and motioning over his shoulder at Derek before the smile slid completely off his face at the look that met him from his best friend.

“Oh you’re not joking.” He glanced between them, a little startled. “Wait, really? Since when?”

“Since always, apparently,” Derek muttered. “Deaton was the Hale Pack Emissary, but when my mom died he became more of a...” he searched for a word.

“Consultant?” Scott offered.

Derek shrugged. “He wasn’t my Emissary, and he wasn’t Scott’s. When Scott became an Alpha, you were the one by his side, providing advice. Even before then, but it really clicked when he became an Alpha.”

“And now that Derek’s also an Alpha, and we’re basically one big Pack with two Alphas working together,” Scott motioned Stiles, “people think it’s because of you.”

“Well, I mean, isn’t it totally because of me?” Stiles turned to look between them again. “I mean, not to toot my own horn or anything, but I’m basically the main reason anything gets done around here, let’s be honest.”

Scott rolled his eyes but Derek just scowled angrily.

“This is serious, Stiles. This Pack is coming, and they’re coming for you. They don’t take no for an answer.”

“Well, they’re gonna have to.” Stiles stood and snapped his laptop shut, shoving it back into his bag, which Derek had left on the seat he’d vacated. “Unless they plan on moving to Beacon Hills and sharing with you two. I’m not going anywhere.”

When he started to leave, Derek grabbed his arm roughly and jerked him back, scowling angrily like he didn’t think Stiles was taking this seriously.

“This isn’t a joke, Stiles.”

“Nothing ever is,” Stiles insisted, pulling his arm free and looking between the two again. “Look, I get that you’re both a little nervous, but there’s nothing to worry about. We deal with this the same way we deal with anything else that comes up. Yes, usually it’s people after one of you, but this makes it even better. We don’t have to hide one of our strongest fighters this time. They’ll come, we’ll tell them to hit the road, and they’ll leave.”

He turned and started up the stairs. He could practically feel Derek’s scowl following him all the way out of the classroom. When he got out into the corridor, Scott appeared beside him, casting him worried looks. He wasn’t babying him like Derek was, but it was obvious he was worried, and that kind of pissed Stiles off.

Yes, he was human, but it wasn’t like he hadn’t gotten himself out of tight spots before. He was the one who’d figured out Scott was a fucking Werewolf, for fuck’s sake, did they really think he couldn’t handle himself with a Pack who didn’t even want to hurt him? He’d survived the Alpha Pack, he could survive this.

When he reached the Jeep, Derek was still trailing along angrily behind him. Stiles didn’t even slow on his way to his car, opening the door, climbing in, and slamming it shut. When Derek went to reach for the passenger side door, Stiles just gunned it and left him standing in the parking lot, glaring angrily after him before turning to hunt down Scott.

Stiles only felt a little guilty when he got home to a text from Derek telling him he’d had to walk.

He replied that exercise was good for him and then turned off his phone.

Because Stiles wasn’t petty, not at all.

Derek knew he was doing it on purpose. Stiles was an asshole that way, so there was no possible way he wasn’t doing it on purpose, and it was starting to piss him off a little bit.

And by a little bit, he meant a lot. There was a lot of the pissing off of the Derek going on right now.

Scowling angrily at Stiles’ window from the tree he’d perched in, he tried to listen in to what was happening inside the house, but that was where Stiles being an asshole came into play. He had his radio, television and YouTube on right now, and he’d drawn the blinds and covered them with a sheet.

Because apparently he just wanted to get kidnapped. Like a fucking idiot.

Rearranging himself on the branch he was perched on, he kept his eyes on the room, knowing that he would somehow figure it out if Stiles was in trouble. He didn’t know how he’d know, he just knew he would.

He spared a glance downward when the front door opened, but it was only the sheriff heading off to work so he didn’t pay it any mind. He just went back to staring at the window. He heard the cruiser start and back out, but it didn’t drive away. After a few seconds, the door opened, then shut, the engine still running.

“Derek, what are you doing?”

Glancing down, he didn’t realize the man had noticed him. He debated lying, but figured it was better to admit the truth. At least this way they had another pair of eyes on Stiles.

“There’s trouble coming,” he told him.

“When isn’t there?” The sheriff sighed and rubbed at his eyes with one hand. “What now?”

“A Pack is coming for our Emissary.”


“Apparently not.”

The sheriff was a smart man, and it took him only a second to realize what Derek meant, turning to look up at his son’s window and letting out a long sigh, scratching at the back of his head before shaking it.

“I thought Emissaries were magic. Druids, and that sort of thing. And a secret.”

“Apparently not.” Though Derek knew Stiles had some magic in him. In some capacity, anyway. Not the same as Deaton, but he was magic in his own right.

Derek could tell this concerned the sheriff, because he lingered for a while longer. After it became too long, he sighed and tossed a set of keys up to Derek before heading for the cruiser and climbing back in.

“Don’t let him cause problems by being stubborn,” he said, then slammed the door and drove off.

Derek watched the cruiser go, and wondered—not for the first time—if the sheriff knew he and Stiles were involved. Scott was an idiot, so it made sense he hadn’t figured it out, but the sheriff was not an idiot. And if Lydia knew, someone with a keen eye like the sheriff probably did, too.

That concerned him. The sheriff had never been his biggest fan, and he still got threatened at least once a month by him when something bad went down.

He’d have to start thinking of ways to bribe him to avoid getting shot with a wolfsbane bullet.

Jumping out of the tree, he headed for the front door and unlocked it, toeing off his shoes once he was inside and making his way to the second floor. He pushed open Stiles’ bedroom door and found him sitting at his computer with earbuds in, listening to music off his phone since he had other things going.

Derek walked right up to him and wrapped his hand around the back of his neck.

“Sweet Jesus!” Stiles bellowed, flailing his arms and almost falling out of his chair before whipping around and slapping at Derek. “What the fuck! How did you get in here?!”

“Your dad.” Derek released him and went to the bed, turning off the radio on his way by and then grabbing the remote to mute the television. The only thing still playing by the time he lay down on the bed was YouTube—and the very faint music coming from Stiles’ earbuds.

“That traitor,” Stiles muttered, slapping the laptop cover shut and sighing. “Can’t be helped. You probably pulled the whole ‘Stiles is in danger’ card and now he’ll practically ask you to move in.”

“Doubtful. I think he knows we’re dating.”

“What? No way!” Stiles insisted, then thought about it for a second. “Shit, he totally does, doesn’t he?”

“Hasn’t killed me yet.” Derek shrugged.

Stiles grinned and stood from his chair, wandering over and slowly crawling his way up Derek’s body. The Werewolf just cocked an eyebrow at him, both hands behind his head, and watched him make his way all the way up until he hovered above him, smirking.

“He hasn’t found us in a compromising position yet.”

“And he never will. I don’t feel like getting shot.” Derek reached up with one hand, wrapping it around Stiles’ neck and pulling him down, slotting their lips together comfortably.

He knew it was weird to imagine anyone fitting perfectly against him, but every time he and Stiles were together, that was what it felt like. It felt like perfection. Like Stiles was the only one who could press his body down on top of him like he was now, and it truly felt like he belonged there. Like they were two halves of a whole, and whenever they came into contact, it was like they were one person again.

Sometimes, he wondered if that was why he’d always been a little obsessed with Stiles. Even at the beginning, he’d been this gangly, annoying human who was just trying to keep his friend from making stupid choices, and Derek had still felt drawn to him.

He had to wonder if a part of that was because he’d always known Stiles was going to be his Emissary, but it felt like more than that. Having him as an Emissary seemed almost like a bonus as opposed to the cause. A great bonus, if he was honest, since Deaton pissed him off a lot, but a bonus nonetheless.

Wrapping his other arm around Stiles’ waist, he flipped them over so he was lying on top of Stiles, the other’s legs coming up to wrap around his waist and both arms around his neck, deepening the kiss.

Derek would never get tired of the way Stiles tasted, and even now while he licked into his mouth, he couldn’t get enough. He wanted to devour him whole, and he pulled away to do just that, licking and sucking along his jaw and neck, Stiles’ breath panting against his skin while he rolled his hips upwards.

“Stop being stubborn,” Derek told him, pushing his own hips downward to meet Stiles’ upward roll.

Stiles groaned, eyes sliding shut, and dragged his nails through Derek’s hair. “Trust me a little.”

“I trust you with my life,” Derek reminded him. “Just not with yours.”

“That sounds like a ‘you’ problem,” Stiles informed him, biting at Derek’s jaw and tugging at the skin before releasing it and licking at the injury.

Derek buried his face in Stiles’ neck, inhaling deeply and rocking his hips harder. His jeans were now uncomfortably tight, and Stiles reeked of arousal, his cock hard against Derek’s, trapped in his pants. He was more than okay with rubbing one off right here and now, but of course they could never get a free moment because Derek’s phone decided to go off.

When he stilled his hips to grab it, Stiles whined pitifully and kept rutting against him, Derek gritting his teeth while pulling the phone out and putting it to his ear.

“What?” he snarled.

“They’re here.”

That sobered him instantly and he sat up, Stiles having no choice but to release him.

“Right now?”

“Yes. They just drove into town. Where are you?” 

“With Stiles.” Derek glanced down at him and saw him rolling his eyes, clearly annoyed and back to being a stubborn child. “I’m staying.”

“You can’t. We have to be a united front. Liam’s on his way over to Stiles’ place. Once he gets there, come back to Deaton’s.”

Derek wanted to argue, but Scott was right. Having them both there would be the better option, because it showed strength and unity. It was easier to destroy an unbalanced Pack. If they proved to this attacking party that they were not a Pack to be meddled with, Stiles would be safe.

“I’m calling the sheriff and Parrish,” he informed Scott.

“Makes sense. They’re Pack, too.”

Derek often forgot that Scott considered them Pack. Derek didn’t, not really, but he supposed it was more because who he considered Pack differed greatly from who Scott did. To Derek, it was him, Stiles, Scott and Malia. That was it. None of the others.

But Scott had his own Beta, along with Lydia, Kira, and others who’d found their way into his little group, and now he just had a mish-mash of random Supernatural and human people all in his business. Sure, it worked for him, but Derek didn’t like it, if he was honest.

“Tell your Beta to hurry up.” Derek hung up and extricated himself from Stiles, leaving him lying annoyed and frustrated on the bed.

“You’re an asshole,” Stiles informed him, watching Derek shove his phone back into his pocket and turning to him.

“Stay here.”

“Like you’d let me leave,” Stiles said dryly. “Also, Liam? Really? Might as well leave me here by myself.”

Derek said nothing to that; he just bent down and gripped the headboard with one hand for balance, kissing Stiles lightly on the forehead.

“Once he’s inside, close the mountain ash line.”

“Oh wow, I never would’ve thought of that!” Stiles gave him an annoyed look that Derek chose to ignore.

He kissed him again, sliding his lips across Stiles’ skin, and then rubbing his stubble along his cheek. Stiles never said anything when he scented him, but he could always smell the slight satisfaction that emanated from him. Derek loved that Stiles liked being scented, it was probably one of the things he liked the most about him.

Derek was still rubbing his jaw along Stiles’ temple when the doorbell rang. Stiles sighed, but Derek ignored him and straightened, glaring down at him before pointing an accusatory finger at him.

“I mean it. Stay right here.”

“Whatever you say,” Stiles said, rolling his eyes.

Derek walked to the door, cast one last look at him, then headed out of the room and down the stairs. When he opened the door, Liam looked embarrassed and wouldn’t meet his eye. Derek knew he smelled like Stiles and arousal, and it was a little hilarious whenever he was reminded of the fact that Liam likely knew he and Stiles were together when his own Alpha didn’t.

“You lose him,” Derek warned him, “I kill you.”

“You and Scott really need to work on your pep talks,” Liam muttered, moving past Derek into the house.

Derek hesitated for a moment before leaving, staring up the stairs to where he knew Stiles still was. It felt almost like ripping his own arm off when he had to exit the house and shut the door. He locked it for good measure and made his way down the driveway, but he didn’t leave entirely until he was positive the mountain ash barrier was up.

Heading quickly down the street, he made his way back to the Camaro and climbed in, gunning the engine and speeding almost the entire way to Deaton’s clinic. When he reached it, he saw two cruisers and a bunch of other random cars. It looked like the entire joint Pack was there barring Stiles and Liam.

Deaton was standing with the sheriff, the two of them speaking in low tones that Derek chose not to listen in on. He just parked his car in an available spot and climbed out, looking around for the other Pack while heading over to where Scott and Lydia were speaking.

“Where are they?”

“On their way here now.” Scott had his arms crossed, muscles tense, and he smelled like anxiety.

Derek could understand.

Usually it was one of them people were after, but they could take care of themselves. Not to say Stiles couldn’t, but he was still human, and as much as he hated having to admit it, some things were just well outside his control.

A Pack coming for him was one of those things.

“They called me when they were close,” Scott informed him, frowning slightly. “Asked me where we wanted to meet with them.”

“How did they get your number?” Derek asked.

Scott just shrugged, turning to watch Malia and Parrish on the other side of the lot. They were all clumped together in little groups, keeping some distance between them all, but not too much. Derek noticed Liam’s human friend was around, as well. He knew he was part of Scott’s Pack, but it still weirded him out whenever too many humans were around.

They stood in the lot for a good ten minutes before three sets of headlights washed over the side of the building. Two SUVs and a sedan came around the side of the clinic, parking in a few of the available spots before the lights turned off.

Derek and Scott straightened instinctively when the doors began to open. There were less doors opening than the vehicles could occupy, which was a bit of a concern, but at least ten members of the opposing Pack exited and made their way forward.

A woman was at the very front, and as she approached, her eyes flashed red in the darkness. Scott and Derek responded in kind, and the Pack slowly moved closer to them, showing a united front.

“Alpha Hale. Alpha McCall.” The woman had stopped a few feet from them, nodding politely to each in turn. “I am Alpha Susan Codierre from New Orleans.”

“Long way from home,” the sheriff said, one hand on the butt of his gun and the other on his belt.

“Indeed.” She eyed him with interest, and while Derek didn’t take his eyes off her, he could sense the rest of her Pack sizing up his and Scott’s. “An interesting Pack you have here. Not many Werewolves, I see.”

“We’ve always been a little unconventional,” Scott informed her, almost attempting a smile. It kind of fell flat, and Derek wished he hadn’t bothered.

“Hm.” She was looking at Lydia with a particular interest. “Wailing Woman?”

“Banshee,” she corrected, though both technically meant the same thing. Derek figured she preferred the correct term.

“Fascinating.” Her eyes shot to Deaton and Kira, then Parrish, and then back to Derek and Scott, ignoring the other more conventional members of their Pack. “We heard rumours of your Pack for many years. It’s very interesting to meet you all.”

“Likewise,” Deaton said with a kind smile, having moved forward. “We’ve heard many good things of your Pack, as well. We were sorry to hear about your Emissary.”

“Indeed. A tragedy.” She eyed him briefly, then looked back between Scott and Derek. “Unusual for a Pack to have two Alphas and two Emissaries.”

“Oh, I am more of a guiding hand,” Deaton informed her with another one of his mysterious smiles. “Not an Emissary. He couldn’t make it tonight.”

“I see. A shame. We were looking forward to meeting him. I hear he is quite extraordinary for a human.”

“Some of us are okay,” the sheriff cut in, scowling, and Derek could practically feel the anger radiating from him. He was worried for his son, not that Derek could blame him, but they needed to keep this civil.

Funny, that he’d be the one to think that, given he usually liked to fight first and ask questions later. He supposed Stiles’ common sense was rubbing off on him. What little of it Stiles had, anyway.

“What can we help you with today?” Scott asked, causing all the focus to turn toward him. “You called for a meeting, I’m assuming you want something.”

“Just passing through,” the Alpha said with a smile that Derek didn’t believe for a second. “We thought we would pay our respects to the Alphas of the territory, just as we did with Satomi.”

That explained where she’d gotten Scott’s number. Satomi probably knew that this Pack was coming for their previously-unknown Emissary, and had given Susan Scott’s number as a means to force her hand. If she didn’t call, she would be lying about her intentions. If she did call, she was announcing her arrival. A lose-lose overall.

Derek often forgot how impressive Satomi could be, and thanked the stars she was an ally. More so a Scott ally than a Derek one, but every win was still a win.

“We also wanted to meet the most unconventional Pack in the country, who was strong enough to take down the Alpha Pack.”

“We didn’t take them down, we just asked them to leave in a less than friendly manner,” Derek informed her with a scowl, his arms crossed tightly against his chest.

“Semantics.” She smiled at him, then checked her watch. “Well, it’s late, and we’ve taken much of your time. We’ll be going. Thank you for allowing us to pass through your territory. It was very nice to meet you.”

“Pleasure’s all ours,” Deaton said with a smile, and slight inclination of his head.

Susan eyed them all with interest one last time, eyes lingering on Parrish, then turned with her Pack to head back for their vehicles. Once they were all piled back in, they pulled out of the lot and disappeared from sight around the corner.

“Anyone else here think that was too easy?” the sheriff asked, moving up right beside Derek.

“Their plans probably fell apart when they saw Stiles wasn’t here,” Scott insisted, Derek pulling his phone out and dialling Stiles’ number.

He put the phone to his ear and listened to it ring. And ring. And ring.

It rang through to voicemail, and Derek immediately squashed the panic threatening to rise. He could tell by the unsteady shift of all the Weres near him that he didn’t fully succeed.

“Don’t be a stubborn asshole,” Derek said, pulling the phone away from his ear and hanging up before re-dialling.

Scott was also calling on his phone, and Derek assumed he was checking in with Liam. It shouldn’t have concerned him as much as it did when Liam didn’t answer, either.

“He put the mountain ash barrier up,” Derek told Scott when they both hung up. “No one got in.”

“Unless they were already inside,” Lydia supplied helpfully, voice low.

Scott and Derek shared a look, the sheriff shifting his weight in a very defensive manner, but before anyone could speak, Scott’s phone rang. He looked down and let out a sigh, putting it to his ear after answering.


“They got Stiles!”

Panic shot through Derek so fiercely that he felt ready to suffocate. Without explaining to any of the non-enhanced hearing parties, he turned and raced back for the Camaro, practically ripping the door off before getting behind the wheel.

It turned out the sheriff didn’t need enhanced hearing, because he was already in the cruiser and out of the lot with the sirens going before Derek had floored it out of his own parking spot. They both virtually raced one another back to the house, parking haphazardly on the driveway and sidewalk.

Derek made it to the house first, the door wide open and Liam growling and struggling on the floor of the living room.

When Derek bent down and grabbed for the ropes binding him, he hissed and pulled back, his hands burning. It explained why Liam couldn’t get free, but he’d managed to get his phone out to call Scott, at least.

That was talented, given they were crossed over his chest and bound tightly with wolfsbane-laced ropes.

“Liam, where’s Stiles?” the sheriff demanded, bending down to untie the knots.

“I don’t know,” he said miserably, eyes gold and reeking of guilt. “They had two humans with them. They got into the house and broke the mountain ash barrier. They caught us off-guard.”

Footsteps sounded behind them and Derek turned to see Scott and Lydia in the entrance. Scott looked ready to be sick and Lydia was pale.

“We have to go after them,” Derek growled, heading for the door. “We have to find Stiles!”

“We don’t know where they’re heading!” Scott insisted, sounding as panicked as he smelled. “We have no idea what they want with him! For all we know—”

Derek grabbed the front of Scott’s shirt and wrenched him forward, going into his Beta shift and snarling in his face.

“For all we know what?” he asked dangerously.

“They won’t kill him, they wanted him,” Liam insisted, now on his feet and rubbing at the red welts on his skin where the rope had burned into him. “They kept telling him his talents were wasted here, that they needed him more than you did. Really talked him up, actually, considering it’s Stiles.”

Derek and the sheriff both glared at him and he had the decency to look sheepish.

“We have to get him back,” Derek ordered, as if it were as easy as that to have him magic himself back into the house.

“We have no idea where they took him!” Scott insisted.

“Then we drive to New Orleans and rain hell on their territory until they return him!” Derek shouted in his face.

“Why are you all panicking?” Lydia demanded shrilly, betraying how panicked she was with one sentence. “This is Stiles,” she reminded them. “Knowing him, he’s probably talked his way out of this by now.”

It was a crazy thing for her to say, but really—she was right. Stiles had most likely talked his way out of being a captive by now.

Nobody could talk like Stiles did.

“—and then, he had the nerve to tell me—me! Who’d been holding him up for hours—that he would kill me if I let him go!” Stiles let out a disbelieving scoff, shaking his head and annoyed at the mere memory of it, trying to ignore the ropes biting into his wrists. “I wanted to get to my phone so I could call for help before we both drowned! And he started barking orders at me and threatening to kill me for wanting to let him go for a few seconds!”

“Unbelievable,” the driver muttered.

“I know!” Stiles exclaimed.

“Do you ever stop talking?”

“No. Anyway,” Stiles continued, ignoring the look he was getting from the driver in the rear-view mirror, “obviously I needed to let him go. I was struggling by hour three, and Derek is like, all muscle, okay. That isn’t light on a good day, so imagine that in a pool for hours on end. So I let him go to get to my phone and call Scott and get this!” Stiles turned to his neighbour, affronted. “Scotty hangs up on me! Tells me he hasn’t got time right then, probably boning Allison, and straight up hangs up on me! Me!”

Letting out a long-suffering sigh, Stiles tried to calm himself, knowing he was getting worked up. He often did when he recalled that night, because he couldn’t believe he cared about either of those two jerks.

“Well, obviously, I had to go save the moron at the bottom of the pool and he was not happy I let him go. Like, at all. But I mean, no big deal, right? I saved him. He didn’t drown or anything.”

“These two wolves,” the lady beside him said, cutting him off when he took a breath. “They’re your Alphas?”

“Yeah, Derek and Scott.”

She eyed him with interest, tapping her manicured fingers against her knee.

“So one Alpha threatened to kill you repeatedly, and the other ignored you when you called him for help, yet you still stay with them and fight by their side?”

“Well, I mean, it happened a long time ago,” Stiles insisted with a thoughtful frown. “But now that you mention it, they both do kinda suck.”

“Our Pack would never leave an Emissary to fend for himself, nor would we threaten our Emissary with murder for doing something in everyone’s best interest,” she informed him.

“I’m not technically an Emissary,” Stiles insisted, for what felt like the tenth time since she’d joined him in the car. “I thought Emissaries were all... magic and mystery and knowledge. I’m just a guy with a laptop and a baseball bat. I don’t give good advice, either. This one time, I heard there was a dead body in the woods, and I made Scott come with me to check it out, and he ended up becoming a Werewolf.” Stiles shrugged helplessly. “Didn’t mean to, but did that.”

“Emissaries are interesting individuals,” the woman said, eying him with interest. She’d been doing that for a majority of the ride, and it was starting to bug him. “Who says you need magic to be a good Emissary? You have kept this Pack of yours together, have bonded two Alphas under one Pack rule, and continue to push back enemies again and again.”

“Well, the two Alphas thing is easy. I mean, Scott’s my best friend and Derek’s my boyfriend.”

The woman blinked at him. “Wait,” she said slowly, frowning. “One of the Alphas is your mate?”

“Well, I don’t know about ‘mates,’ but we have sex.” Stiles paused, then emphasized, “A lot. Because I am extremely desirable.”

The driver snorted but the woman beside him cut the man a harsh look before returning her focus to Stiles.

“How did you manage this?”

“Manage what? The sex?” He cocked an eyebrow at her. “Well, there’s this thing called the internet, which teaches you—”

“Do not patronize me.” Her eyes flashed red, and it was the first indication since she’d entered the vehicle that Stiles was actually getting to her. That was good, it meant maybe he could get kicked out before they hit the two mile mark out of Beacon Hills. He already wasn’t looking forward to the long walk back, the sooner he got out of this, the better.

“How did your Emissary die again?” Stiles asked, squinting at her. “Did you kill him for being too wordy?”

“It was a woman, and she died in a car accident.”

“No shit, really?” Stiles blurted out, surprised. “I’d have thought she’d have been all powerful and rising from the ashes phoenix-like. Isn’t that what Emissaries do? I mean, I don’t really know, but Deaton strikes me as the kind of guy who can catch on fire spontaneously and then rise from the ashes all baby-smooth and goatee-free.”

He noticed the driver giving the Alpha an annoyed look. They really should’ve done their homework before coming after him, because it was like they didn’t know him at all. Did they think he was just going to roll over and let them take him away? He had a midterm on Monday, and a sex schedule to keep up with, he didn’t have time for this kidnapping thing.

Besides, were they expecting him to wear the same clothes for weeks on end and sit quietly in their basement lair giving them advice on how best to proceed with their Werewolf-ing? Because Stiles wasn’t going to be a happy Emissary if he was stuck in these uncomfortable jeans for days on end, and he’d already told them he was bad at the whole advice thing.

He’d gotten Scott turned into a Werewolf! Sure, it all worked out in the end, and things were cool now, but that wasn’t the point!

“How long have you been mated with the Alpha?” she asked him, returning to their original conversation.

“I don’t kiss and tell,” Stiles insisted with a wink. Her eyes flashed red again and he sighed, rolling his own. “I don’t know, like a year? Derek’s not big on milestones, so I didn’t exactly check the date the first time he pushed me against a hard surface in a sexy way instead of a violent way. Why does it matter?” He perked up. “Does this mean we have some strong love bond connection that will make him come after me no matter what and you’ll have to let me go?”

“No, it just means you’re boning the Alpha and it’s probably why you can control the Pack so well,” the driver piped in.

“Oh. Well that’s boring.” Stiles leaned back in his seat with a dejected sigh, shifting his arms a little because of the discomfort. “Can we maybe take the ropes off? I mean, what do you think I’m gonna do, jump out of a moving car? I’m not a Werewolf, I’d just hurt myself and be wailing on the road until you turned around to pick my ass back up.”

The driver muttered something under his breath that earned him another scathing look from the woman beside Stiles. If nothing else, at least he was pissing someone off in this car. Would’ve been better with more people, because he could’ve annoyed multiple parties and they would’ve convinced her to leave him behind.

“Did you consider any other Emissaries? Say, ones who aren’t already taken? I mean, not that I am an Emissary, but say that I was, is it really a good idea to go around stealing other people’s Emissaries?”

“We didn’t steal you,” the Alpha said, looking offended.

“Oh, right, sorry. I forgot about the part where your people knocked out my friend, tied him up, tied me up, tossed me into a car and then booked it out of Beacon Hills. My fault, bad memory.”

“We merely wanted the opportunity to speak with you and offer our loyalty.”

“Is that–is that what this is? Oh, good!” Stiles let out a laugh. “In that case, I decline, feel free to drop me off here.” The car didn’t stop. “Here’s good, too. Or here. Here?”

She just stared at him in the most unsettling way he had ever been stared at and Stiles sighed, leaning his head back.

“Look, my dad’s the sheriff. He’s not gonna take this lying down. Two Alphas will come after you, along with a Hellhound, a Banshee, a Kitsune, and a really grumpy Werecoyote who still doesn’t know much about restraint, not to mention the Chimera and other Werewolves in the Pack. I’m really not an Emissary, I’m just a dude with a laptop who happens to be good with his mouth.” He flicked his gaze to the rear-view mirror and grinned when the driver was staring right at him. “That’s right, I went there. But no, jokes aside, I’m good with my mouth. See, talking is my thing. Talking and research. I’m bad at advice, I’m bad at staying out of trouble, and I’m extremely stubborn. Like, super stubborn. Derek hates it. You know, that Alpha boyfriend I have? He hates how stubborn I am. I mean, I did let him go in a pool while he was paralysed and we were being stalked by a Kanima, so—”

Stiles’ head almost hit the seat in front of him at the abrupt halt of the car. The driver shifted into park and turned to look at his Alpha.

“Can we speak?”

She looked pissed, but opened her door nonetheless. The driver gave Stiles a disgusted look and followed suit, the two of them standing behind the car. The other vehicles in their party had stopped behind them, and a few of them had exited to join the discussion, though most didn’t. Probably because they could hear just fine from the cars.

Stiles didn’t know what the driver was saying, but he kept jabbing his finger in the car’s direction, and heard him yell, “Immature child!”

That was boding well for him, he’d really been starting to worry he’d have to walk from the next town over, and he didn’t want to have to do that barefoot. They hadn’t even let him grab shoes before dragging him outside. That was all kinds of rude.

Tying him up, not getting him shoes, leaving him in uncomfortable jeans. Really, they weren’t selling themselves, he wasn’t impressed.

Stiles was having fun watching the back and forth argument between the different Pack members when they all stopped talking at once. They turned towards the way they’d come and for a second, Stiles thought they were all going to run for the cars and peel out. The fact that they didn’t was encouraging and he waited while the flashing lights of a police cruiser moved closer and closer.

After about two minutes, his dad’s cruiser stopped beside the car Stiles was in, and he saw Derek’s grumpy face in the passenger seat. There was another cruiser near the back of the motorcade, and Stiles was fairly certain it had Parrish and Scott.

His dad exited the cruiser and when Derek followed suit, his eyes were red and he was gripping the top of the car so hard Stiles was pretty sure he was bending the metal. Derek didn’t look at him, eyes locked on the female Alpha, but he knew Derek was keenly attuned to everything about him in that moment.

“Did you not see how I had it under control?” he asked.

Derek just shook his head in warning, jaw tight and eyes narrowed.

Stiles turned to watch his father advance on the Alpha, raising his voice and pointing his finger at her like he was scolding a child. He pointed at the car Stiles was in, then back at the Alpha, and shouted, “I don’t care, this is kidnapping!”

A laugh actually bubbled out of Stiles’ throat at the sentence, because this was the Supernatural, and things like ‘kidnapping’ didn’t apply.

Also, Stiles wasn’t a kid anymore. Adultnapping? No, that just sounded like Stiles had lain down for a nap somewhere. Why did kidnapping sound more impressive than adultnapping? Then again, what adult allowed themselves to be napped?

Stiles, apparently.

In his defence, he’d been trying to help Liam not die, so that had to count for something.

He watched the exchange back and forth for a long while, bored without being able to hear the conversation. Eventually, the Alpha rounded on Derek and asked him something. Derek tensed, but gave a curt nod, eyes skirting to the sheriff before returning to the Alpha.

She gave him a thoughtful look, tapping her manicured nails against her lips, and then motioned the car. Derek didn’t hesitate, heading straight for the back door of the car Stiles was in and wrenching it open.

“Hey big guy,” Stiles said, Derek grabbing his arm and pulling him rather forcefully from the car. His grip was too tight, but Stiles just bore it without complaint, because he could tell how stressed he was and the last thing he needed was to piss Derek off right now.

“The next time you want an Emissary,” the sheriff snapped, “find one who isn’t already taken.”

“Do not test my patience,” the Alpha said, her eyes following Stiles where Derek was dragging him. “I am allowing this as a courtesy because they are mates. Should their situation ever change, rest assured I will not be as forgiving.”

The sheriff said nothing to that, he just turned on his heel and headed back for the cruiser, barking at Derek and Stiles to get in the car. It was an unnecessary order, seeing as how Derek was already shoving Stiles into the back seat before following him in and shutting the door. He got his claws out and slashed through the ropes, Stiles rubbing at his wrists once they were free.

He looked out the window while his dad got back behind the wheel and slammed the door hard enough to jar the car. Turning it around, he headed back the way they’d come, Parrish pulling off to the side and waiting for him to pass before following behind them. Stiles looked out the back window for a long while before facing forward again, Derek tense beside him, scowling at the back of the seat in front of him.

“I had them, you know,” Stiles insisted. “They stopped and everything.”

“And you were going to walk home with no shoes?” his dad asked, voice tight but some of the tension easing out of his frame.

“I could have! Not like I haven’t done worse.” He was thinking about when he’d ended up in the woods while possessed by the Nogitsune, but figured now probably wasn’t the time to bring that up. “By the way, why did she keep referencing mates? She mentioned that in the car when I told her Derek and I were dating.”

Derek tensed even further, but the sheriff didn’t even react. Turned out they were right and he did know. To be fair, he’d have been a shitty cop if he hadn’t figured it out. Stiles just felt like he would’ve preferred it had stayed in the dark just a little bit longer.

This also meant Scott knew now, too.



“She didn’t elaborate, but she made a comment to Derek about it. I’m guessing it’s a wolf thing.” The sheriff glanced at him in the rear-view mirror.

Derek just nodded ever so slightly, but didn’t look at either of them when he did so.

“Aw, are you embarrassed because you love me?” Stiles asked, nudging Derek. The Werewolf turned to glower at him with red eyes. “You totally love me.” Stiles leaned over and kissed his cheek. When he pulled back, Derek’s eyes were back to normal, but he was still glowering. “By the way, how long have you known?” he asked his dad.

“Before you did,” was the automatic response. “You two were so oblivious I almost sat you down to have an intervention.”

“Why didn’t you tell me you knew?” Stiles demanded, leaning forward. “Not cool, dad. I had to sneak Derek in and out of my room, you know. He could’ve used the front door.”

“It’s cute you think he was sneaking,” the sheriff said, giving him a pointed look in the rear-view mirror.

Stiles sighed and leaned back in his seat, crossing his arms and scowling out the window. “You take all the fun out of being rebellious.”

“You’ve passed that stage of rebellion, Stiles. It’s embarrassing that you think you can still keep me on my toes.”

Stiles didn’t say anything, but he noticed Derek relaxing beside him, as if he’d been worried. Stiles would’ve been more worried if the word ‘mate’ hadn’t come out of the other Alpha’s mouth without his dad batting an eyelash. If being mated to Derek didn’t concern his dad, Stiles didn’t know what did.

They were almost back in Beacon Hills when a thought occurred to him and he turned to grin at Derek. The other stared back at him, eyebrow raised in silent question.

“Ten bucks says Scott’s been freaking out the entire drive back.”

“I heard every word, so it’s not a fair bet,” Derek informed him, looking out the window again. “He wants an explanation.”

“Seriously,” Stiles sighed, shaking his head. “Nobody ever uses the internet.”

In a way, Stiles was glad his father didn’t get the comment, because he’d talked himself out of one thing tonight.

He really didn’t think he had the energy to talk himself out of another.

It was going to be a long night, but at least he could look forward to some cuddles.

With the way things had gone tonight, he knew without a shadow of a doubt that, sneaking or not, he was going to have Derek Hale in his bed with him tonight.

He could live with that.