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What It Takes To Not Be Broken

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Stiles is trying to keep his eyes open, still feeling jolts of electricity in his system, his body still jerking with the after-effects of it- but keeping his eyes open, not losing consciousness, that's what you're supposed to do, right? Stay awake, stay alive. Maybe.

He's not so sure forcing his heavy eye-lids not to stick shut would be the thing to save him, in fact, he's pretty sure, feeling the gushing blood running down his back, slicking up his thighs and legs, dripping down from his toes into the steadily growing pool of glistening vermillion at his feet, feeling the electricity still coursing through him, the cuts and the bruises, the broken ribs, the concussion- he's pretty sure Death is nipping at his heels at this point.

But he has to stay awake, has to keep Gerard away from Erica and Boyd, the two Betas still tied up with mountain ash and electricity on the other side of the room, and it looks like they're trying to scream through their duct-tape, still, but he can't hear it, not anymore.

The terrible, all-consuming, staticky silence had over taken him after about the third time Gerard's lackey- Ben, he thinks his name was; the guy who'd had a hard-on the entire time and had been playing bad-touch Harry, but he's not gonna think about that right now, not gonna think about the hickeys sucked into the cuts, no, he is not- had stuck a military grade taser to his ear, a low enough voltage not to cause brain damage, he'd said, because the point of this was for him to talk.

To give up information on the Pack.

But he'd never do that, though he was by no means silent, goading and snarking and smirking every time Gerard and his goons even thought about turning to Boyd and Erica.

He wouldn't let them fucking touch his friends, that one time Erica hit him over the head with a part of his car notwithstanding, he'd keep his wolves safe. And since when had he started thinking of them like that? He doesn't know. Maybe it's delirium? Maybe it's the fact that he's pretty sure no one's coming to save them.

Not their fault.

There's Jackson, and so many other things going on, his dad's got the late shift, no one would have any reason to notice him missing, and the Betas had been trying to get away from Derek, who, admittedly, wasn't doing the best as Alpha- but he was trying. Point is, no one'd notice them gone either.

He feels the whip hit his skin again, slick with blood, slicing through his skin, and he arches, screams maybe, but he can't hear it, sees Erica and Boyd sob, tugging against their restraints, but it's no use, this has been going on for hours, and he's not gonna last. But they might, if he can just get them away.

He maybe has a plan. It's a shitty, stupid long-shot, but it's better than nothing.

There's shifting, movement, Ben walking toward Gerard, whip still in hand, and the old man is smirking, triumphant about something, they're talking, he thinks, but none of their words reach him beyond this cocoon of dark-sound, of nothingness. Ben sets the whip on the metal table along with all of the other instruments they've been using on him, and then they're leaving.

God, they're leaving.

He waits with baited breath, counts up to 60 and down, just to be sure, before he drags his fuzzy, blurring eyes to Erica and Boyd, who are thrashing, looking at him with wide-eyed terror.

It's now or never, he thinks, and focuses whatever's left of his energy on them, on the mountain ash around their wrists, on how goddamn much he wants them to live, on how much, truly, he loves them.

And he believes, with every ounce of himself he has left, he believes.

"Alpha," he says, or tries to, makes the word in his mouth even in the silence wrapped around him, suffocating.

And then they're gone, disappeared, and he smiles because, hey, it actually worked. Good job Stiles, you're a Spark, you did a thing. He'd do a happy dance but he's a little tied up right now. And he's tired. So tired.

He can rest now, right? He did it, they're safe, he knows they are, can feel it in his bones. So staying awake doesn't matter anymore.

He doesn't want to leave his dad, or Scott, or Derek and the puppies, even, he doesn't.

But he just doesn't have any fight left in him.

Derek and Peter are sufficiently surprised, when, after hanging up on Scott and Isaac, and rushing toward the door, his two Betas pop into existence and are just- just there.

"Boyd?" Derek breathes, "Erica?"

They look rough, but they're healing fast, now, their cheeks tear-stained, their mouths covered with duct-tape. They clamber up, look around, seemingly just as surprised as he is that they're here, and then they're peeling off the tape and talking over one another, fast and desperate and pleading, but they don't have time.

So he silences them with a flash of his eyes, tells them that whatever it is can be dealt with later, but they have to make sure the kanima doesn't take Alpha form, they have to stop Gerard first.

Then Peter's suggesting getting them to collect Lydia, since they don't seem to be in fighting condition just yet, and Derek relents, gives Boyd one of his burner phones, says he'll text them the address of wherever they end up, and to go now, hurry.

The faster they get this done, the faster he'll be able to help them with whatever they need.

They both give each other a look, nod, then run off to follow his order.

Chris goes out, meets up with Scott and Isaac, his decision to betray his family already made.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Derek asks, horrified that he was used in such a way, a violation of his wolf.

"Because you may be an Alpha," Scott tells him, "but you're not mine."

And just like that, whatever fragile Pack-Bond they might've had, it shatters.

Erica, Boyd and Lydia run into the warehouse with Stiles' jeep, having apparently hot-wired it for the occasion, and Derek ends up being very, very glad that he listened to Peter on this one, because having Lydia there might just have saved all of their lives.

It's after, when Scott and Allison and Chris have gone their own way together, Jackson- firmly his Beta, now- has taken Lydia home, and the only ones left at the warehouse are Isaac, Erica, Boyd, Peter and himself, that they tell him.

Isaac is still hugging both of them, "Where were you guys? I thought you left?"

"Hah! We did," Erica confesses, smirks, then shakes her head with a choked sob, "but we were wrong, we were so wrong. We just- we didn't know, we didn't know what Pack really was."

"And now you do?" Peter asks with raised eyebrows.

"Stiles showed us," Boyd breathes, the two of them share a look again, half terrified, half grief-stricken. "We have to save him."

"Save him?" Derek asks, confused, and wondering what exactly Stiles could have done to show them something Derek's been trying to for months. But he certainly feels their Pack-bonds, now, more cemented and settled than those he has with Isaac and Peter and Jackson, than the small one he sometimes thinks he has with Stiles.

"Gerard had us," Erica whimpers, "he had Allison capture us on our way out of town, they had us tied up in the basement, and then- then they brought Stiles."

"He wouldn't let them touch us," Boyd grits out, easily wrapping his arms around Erica when she turns into him, starts shaking, "it didn't matter that he was human, he- he just kept them focused on him, protected us with everything he had no matter what happened. When they were leaving he just looked at us and he smiled, jesus, he smiled."

"He said," Erica hiccoughs, tries to breathe, "he said Alpha, and then- we were just with you."

"They tried to get information out of him, about us, about you, about the Pack, and he just- he kept saying 'Pack takes care of each other', and that he wouldn't betray his Alpha."

"Are you telling me," Derek growls, his eyes flashing as his wolf howls within him, "that Stiles is still in the Argent's basement? That he's been... tortured?"

Boyd nods, Erica gasps out, "Please we have to save him. He's Pack. We have to."

Peter growls next to him, "Oh, don't worry. We're going to."

"Shouldn't we call Scott?" Isaac asks, horrified by the information, trying to keep up as the whole Pack decidedly runs forward, toward the hunter's den.

"Scott isn't Pack," Derek reminds, heart racing, a new kind of guilt and terror scorching through him because torture, especially hunters' brand of torture? They didn't say how bad it was, exactly, but based off of the anxiety and grief rolling off of them in waves he's going to guess Stiles wasn't in good shape when he did- whatever it is he did. And Stiles is just a human, he's more than that, so much more than that, but biologically speaking:

He won't heal, he won't have the strength or immune system or endurance that a wolf would.

And he called himself theirs, said Derek was his Alpha, that this Pack was his Pack. That's- that's not something he can ignore. Especially when he'd apparently been too fucking busy to notice what was going on, to listen to what his Betas had had to say when they first showed up, when they had magically appeared in front of him.

"And Scott was working with Gerard," Peter growls, "none of us should trust anyone willing to stoop that low. Besides, who's to say he doesn't already know? If not about Stiles himself then about what Gerard was doing with Boyd and Erica. Do you really want to trust a member of your Pack with him, Isaac? Truly?"

Isaac doesn't respond, just speeds up.

When they come crashing through the front door they can all smell it, Stiles, blood, fear, panic, death close by. Erica and Boyd whimper behind him, but all he can see is red, barely even hears Chris and Allison Argent coming downstairs, equal parts shocked and furious, too busy running toward the basement door, then down the stairs that lead to-

"Stiles," he breathes, his heart clenching painfully in his chest, he hears his Pack coming to a stop behind him, hears Peter building up a steady growl, Allison gasping out a horrified sob, Chris muttering something and sounding appalled, Isaac taking in a hissing breath, Boyd and Erica whining high in their throats.

He's hanging from the ceiling, still wearing the shorts of his lacrosse uniform and his cleats, but his shirt is nowhere to be seen, his face is bruised, there are huge spots of black mottling his sides, blood dripping off of his feet from some wounds that Derek can't see, deep, jagged slices cutting deep into his hip, his abdomen, his collarbone, his thighs, electrical burns all over him, on the shells of his ears.

He looks fragile, broken, half-dead, fucking tortured, and Derek can't help the roar that rips from him, full of agony and guilt and despair and rage.

John watches as the werewolf- werewolf- who saved his son, holds Stiles' hand, watches the black veins striping themselves up his arm in thick threads.

Erica and Boyd and Isaac are here most days, too, although they have school to attend, and two of them have homes to get back to most of the time. Scott, funnily enough, avoids this place, Stiles' hospital room, like the plague, suffering under the weight of the guilt that comes with having worked with the person who tortured your best friend and not having been the one to save him, both. Peter- a member of the undead for god's sake- stands guard outside of the hospital, uncomfortable staying in the place where he was catatonic and burning and trapped within his mind, but unable to leave his Alpha, or his injured Pack-mate, alone.

"Of all the things," John says, for what feels like the fiftieth time since he's been told, since he was called to the hospital because his son had been found and was in the ICU and he found a bloody Derek Hale in the waiting room, his Pack flanking him, Chris and Allison Argent standing worried and ashamed off to the side.

Derek had pulled him aside, explained everything as quickly as he could, sounding more and more exhausted and strained as he went. He showed him his beta-form, and gave him a quick report on what exactly had happened to Stiles that led to this.

They've had time since- Stiles still hasn't woken up- to talk quietly by his bedside about Pack, Pack Dynamics, Stiles' place in the hierarchy, that Derek is his Alpha, and Stiles is Pack, is a Spark, apparently, whatever that means- Derek isn't too sure about that one either, says they should talk to Deaton the vet/druid/former-Emissary about it, because that's... that's a thing now.

Even Jackson comes to visit sometimes, Derek scent-marking him- which, as a human, even knowing what's going on, is an incredibly odd thing to witness- just like he scents all the Betas, although it seems he touches and tries to reassure Jackson more than the others, when John asks about this he's told about the whole kanima incident, which was the lead up to Gerard and-

Well, the restraining order, amongst other things, make a hell of a lot more sense, now. Said restraining order has officially been retracted by Jackson, who actually apolagized for it, saying he just hadn't known what was going on. He apologized, too, for everything else that he's done, only for his Pack, Lydia included, though Peter was still outside, to all hug him and each other close, to tell him in soft, soothing tones that it wasn't his fault.

And John can only think, watching them rally around his son like moths to a flame, of all the things he could've gotten into. Drugs, partying, alcohol, sex, teenage pregnancy.

Of all the things, it's this.

Of course it is, of course, this is Stiles.

Why on earth would it be anything reasonable?

Stiles blinks open his eyes, sees the blank white canvas of ceiling, first, then the horrible fluorescent lights, then the heart moniter, and, ah, he thinks, hospital. He makes a face, wonders how he got here from that terrible fucking basement, closes his eyes for a moment and takes a deep breath before steeling himself and looking over.

On the other side of him, in a terrible position that'll probably be hell on both his back and neck, is his father, sleeping, or trying to, and beside him, holding onto his hand, using werewolf mojo to take all the pain away, make him feel floaty and clear instead of... instead of what he might be feeling otherwise, is Derek.

He would've expected Scott, honestly, but this, this is good, too.

Derek is looking down at him with a furrowed brow, that constipated little frown that Stiles thinks means he's worried about something. His mouth starts moving, but- but Stiles doesn't hear anything, just like he doesn't hear the bustle of nurses and patients outside, like he doesn't hear the beep of his heart monitor, the whirring whizzing and wheezing of the various other machines around him, doesn't hear his father, who- because of Derek's increasingly frantic calls- is starting to wake up.

Stiles' hand is trembling in Derek's now, tightening with the pure panic that's welling up inside of him, "I-I can't," he tries, shakes his head, heart beating too fast, blood all rushing toward ears that don't work, aren't working. Will he ever get to hear his father's voice again? His own? Scott's? Derek's?

And he can't breathe, jesus, he can't, and his eyes are blurring again, and he's starting to see black around the edges of his vision, and he thinks someone tries to touch him, someone who isn't Derek, isn't his dad, because his dad is right there with Derek now, trying to soothe him, and all he can think of is Ben, and how the whip slicked up his back and how fingers were shoved, raw and terrible and invasive, up his-

And then he's screaming, or he's trying to scream, but he can't hear that either, and the lights are flickering, the whole room is shaking, and he's clinging to his father and his Alpha and begging for something, anything, he doesn't even know what, doesn't know if all the consenants and vowels that fit inside his mouth and slip past his tongue are even hitting the air right, doesn't know if the words are what they're supposed to be.

All he knows is that he can feel the shimmery golden red-tinged glow inside of him, Alpha (worried, scared, horrified), Father (terrified, angry, confused), Erica and Boyd (agitated, surprised, concerned), Isaac and Jackson (curious, scared, wanting), Peter (excited, intrigued, enthralled), himself, all these threads, emotions, people, all weaved around him, suffused under his skin, and he dives into it, wraps himself up in their emotions, just as strong, but so much more distant than his own, and shoves away his panic, his fear.

Derek takes in a sharp breath against him, he knows, he can feel it, wrapped so tightly around him and his dad as he is. Derek starts wrapping his arms around him in turn, a vice grip that somehow manages to avoid hurting him. An influx of warmth and comfort and soothing-sweet comes oozing from his Alpha's thread, all pushed into him, and he dives into it with a sigh. Not long after, his dad's thread is echoing the same, his dad pulls away some, just for a second, and abruptly everyone is all relief-ease cozy-heat, a blanket of kindness and love and affection.

It's enough, and he finally settles, but he doesn't let go of either of them, even though it's uncomfortable against his ribs and the stitches are pulling on his back, and they're all three half-on, half-off the hospital bed, he doesn't care, he's too exhausted, too raw, too ache.

So he just throws his terror at being touched by anyone who isn't them at the blanket of warmth blooming in his soul, and feels a wave of understanding from his father and Alpha both, before he lets himself fall back under, lets sleep take him again.

"I've never felt the Pack-bonds so strongly before," Derek breathes, carding his fingers through Stiles' hair.

Stiles' panic attack directly after he'd woken up hadn't been entirely unexpected, considering the trauma he'd experienced, what had been, however, was the way the machines around him reacted to the panic. All of the lights in the nearby vicinity had shattered, and the heart monitor, after going crazy to the rhythm of Stiles' heart, just started flashing the words 'Help me' over and over.

And then Stiles had thrown himself at them both, and, suddenly, the Pack-bonds- never things Derek could feel or read very well, even when he had been a Beta under his mother's significant power- had become searingly bright, screaming and blinding and powerful. He'd felt Stiles' distress, then, loud and clear, they all had, and he'd remembered something his mom used to talk about, a long, long time ago.

("In ancient times," she'd tell them, making her voice go smooth and lilty with the telling of fantastical wonders, "when all the 'were's could do the full shift, and our powers were great and vast, Packs could feel each other, not just sensing their presence and if any Pack-members were in trouble, but they could feel each other empathically. If a Pack-mate was injured or scared the Alpha could push calm through the Pack-bonds to make them feel better. Doesn't that sound wonderful?")

He'd just been a kid at the time, but that story had stuck with him, and considering Stiles had only settled after he, John, and the rest of the Pack after John had texted them, had pushed comfort and calm into the Pack-bonds he was beyond fucking glad it had.

"Nor have I," Peter admits, having come into the room along with everyone else after the dumbfounded nurses and doctors had left.

"I can still feel it," Erica says, awed, and Isaac, Jackson, and Boyd all nod in agreement.

"So can I," John sighs, getting up from his chair to pace around whatever breathing room there is left. "You two were with him, do either of you know why he'd be so afraid of people touching him?"

Erica grimaces, Boyd puts a hand on her shoulder and nods, his eyes going dark, "One of the men that Gerard had... working on Stiles. He never went very far before Gerard would put him on task but he might've gotten away with several-" Boyd's throat constricts, he swallows, can't seem to make himself continue, and Isaac shivers. Peter growls, low and dark.

"Hunters will never cease to amaze me with how cruel they can be."

"Are you telling me that my son was molested?" John asks, faint, and Jackson guides him back down to the chair before he falls down, as he looks prone to do at the moment, kneeling next to him and running a soothing hand down his back, his Pack-bond sparking with alarm and disgust and such a deep-well of concern that it threatens to drown them all.

"Jesus," Derek murmurs, morose, sitting back in his chair and hanging his head in his hands. "And we still don't know where Gerard or the rest of his lackeys even are."

"Well, as soon as we find out we're killing them. They don't survive this," John snarls, "not after what they did to my son."

"I don't think anyone's in disagreement with you, there, sheriff," Peter says, tone cold and menacing, sharp with the promise of agony to those that seek harm on his Pack, his bond ringing with solemnity and determination and an icy sort of rage.

"We'll find them, sir," Isaac promises, moves to sit on the edge of Stiles' bed, the boy having been replaced there after the pandemonium that occurred earlier. "But it's not just them we have to worry about, is it? I mean, didn't that- that Alpha Pack? They're coming, aren't they?"

"Yes," Peter agrees and Derek growls.

"Out of the frying pan, into the fire, huh?" Erica jokes, but it's shaky at best.

After a few minutes of heavy silence, all of them feeling each other's emotions intensely, feeling the steel-strong consistency of the Pack-bonds, settled and sure within them, Boyd finally asks:

"Where's Scott?"

"What do you mean?" Derek asks wearily.

"I mean, maybe Scott isn't Pack, but neither was John, and the Pack-bonds only manifested like this after Stiles woke up. If we're not taking that as coincidence-" "We aren't," Peter pipes up, and Boyd nods at him before continuing- "then why didn't this effect Scott the way it's effected John?"

"It could be any number of things," Peter muses, "from the fact that Stiles and John are connected biologically to proximity and desperation. In all honesty, we don't even know what Stiles is, let alone what he's capable of."

"He's human, isn't he?" John asks, dubious and curious in equal measure.

"He's not a 'were," Erica says softly, then shakes her head, "but he's not entirely human either. I don't think you could cause all of the lights to blow up or manage to physically teleport two people to an entirely different place with just a word, could you?"

John narrows his eyes at her as something like a flick darts straight through the bonds, aimed directly at her, and she winces, then gapes at him, his Pack-bond suddenly very smug, "No. But I can do that."

"Oh my god," Erica crows, rubbing the phantom sting on her arm, "you're where he gets it from!"

John just rolls his eyes, before looking over at his son and frowning, "So what is he then?"

"We don't know," Derek tells him, shrugging, "my Uncle and I haven't ever seen anything like this. The best we can do, for now, is hope that Deaton has some answers when he gets back from- wherever he went."

"What are we gonna do when Stiles wakes up again?" Isaac asks quietly.

"We're going to try and keep the bonds as stable and serene as possible," Peter says.

"And we're not going to let anyone who isn't Pack touch him," Derek continues, placing a gentling hand on Stiles' arm and wincing when the act of drawing pain belies just how much pain the boy's in. Isaac, upon noticing, immediately takes one of Stiles' hands in his own and starts drawing pain alongside him, and that's all it takes, it seems, before the rest of the Pack is coming forward and touching Stiles, on his ankles and his neck, his forehead and his arm, taking as much pain from him as they all can.

"He'll be okay," Isaac murmurs, "he'll never be the same again, and it might take a long ass time, but Stiles is strong. He'll be okay."

"And even if he isn't," Derek swears, "we'll be there for him."

"Of course," Jackson sniffs haughtily, "he's Pack."

Erica swats him on the shoulder, "And we love him," she says pointedly when Jackson turns to glare at her for the slight. He shifts in place for a bit, uncomfortable, before mumbling:

"And we love him."

Erica beams at him, and John just shakes his head in disbelief at all of them.

"Of all the things," he sighs, but it's starting to sound a little less agitated and flummoxed and a lot more fond. Boyd just smiles at him.

When Stiles wakes again, feeling muzzy and a bit like every muscle is being impressed upon by magical rocks while simultaneously feeling like his bones are all hollow and his brain is filled with thick smoke instead of functioning neurons, he wonders at the sensation, thinks of all the fairy tales with wolves getting cut open, little girls and little old ladies climbing right out of their stomachs before the clever axe-man replaces their presence in the animal's gut with rocks and sews them right back up.

He remembers thinking, once, 'Wouldn't it just be easier to kill them?'

He blinks blearily at the hospital ceiling, familiar, in its own terrible way, prods at the little leads attached to his soul like fiddling at a loose tooth with his tongue. Erica and Boyd and Jackson are far away, but he knows if he were to follow their threads, he'd be able to find them. Peter's closer, but the three closest are Derek, Isaac, and his dad.

He can feel their presence like he can feel his ribs creaking brokenly when he breathes. The weight of it- and the comfort- is astounding, especially when, as soon as his own thread uncoils, awake, all of them are a blistering light, fluttering like butterfly wings against his heart, sweet and kind and soothing.

He turns his head, and there's Isaac and his dad, it seems like they're talking to each other, or they're talking to him, and he starts feeling very, very numb, lost, detached. A fast, steep sort of pit-fall of emotion. He's been sleeping for long enough, now, he knows, by the dry of his mouth and the staleness of his skin, but he's still so fucking tired.

He wonders, hysterically, if the hunters did that to him? If they thought, this kid is close enough to a wolf, and slid pebbles and stones into the cuts they made, filled him up with them. He wonders if that's why it's so hard to move, why he can barely think.

He feels something soft, cool, calloused and rough against his shoulder, a hand that would normally manhandle him as quick as anything, so tender, and part of him is screaming that he's not gonna fucking break.

Except he already did.

And nothing makes much sense anymore, but the one thing, the one thing he's sure of, because silence is entrenched in his very marrow, now.

"I c-can't," he tries, and his mouth is so fucking dry, he can already see his dad going for the customary pink-plastic pitcher of fucking hospital water, but he has to get this out first, because he doesn't even know, doesn't know what he sounds like, can they hear him? Are the words even coming out? Or is it just a wretched rasp they can't even make out? Oh, well. He doesn't even care. He only has the energy for this.

Just four words, can't be that hard, right?

He feels tears burning his eyes, salt water rolling down cheeks hot with shame and helplessness.

"I can't hear anything."

Isaac's eyes widen, and the hand on his shoulder squeezes, and his father is turning back toward him, but he can't. He just can't see what his father's face looks like, can't see him cry or scream or crumple or fall apart because, you see, he himself? He's not strong enough for that.

So he screws his eyes shut, whimpers against the sobs that want to take him, and turns on his side, bringing the covers up over his head in the process. It dislodges Derek's hand, but, feeling so bereft, and so fucking lonely, even when he doesn't want to face up to anything, he blindly snatches at fingers, fiercely laces them in his and draws them in, knuckles on his chest, right against his beating heart, as he curls in on himself, on that one, tiny, solid piece of contact, and he lets his seams unspool.

He just cries, lets go and cries.

There aren't any Betas to be strong for right now, everyone's alive, he did his part, and, in the end, they did theirs. They saved him, they did.

But he's still so...

And he's never going to be able to hear them ever again, the way his dad says, rough like waterfalls and gravel, 'I love you', the way Derek says, half bitter, half exasperated, half kind- in his own Sourwolf kind of way- 'Shut up, Stiles', the way Scotty calls him brother.

It's all gone now.

And it's selfish, isn't it? To be this upset over it? It's not like being deaf will kill him, or anyone else for that matter, although it may make him even more of a fucking burden. Besides, who knows, maybe it's only temporary?

Yeah, fucking right.

He doesn't know how long he stays under there, in the dark, self-pitying and wallowing like the idiot he is, Derek's thumb rubbing over his knuckles, the crook of his forefinger playing a steady beat along with Stiles' heart, like if he can set the pace, Stiles' heart will stick to it, somehow, and, hey, it's kind of working.

But, eventually, he has to come out.

He feels the other Betas all coming closer, as close as Isaac and Derek and his dad, knows they're in the room with him, feels their tethering threads all weave around him, sing with hope and comfort, though there are glimmers of sadness, not pity, just a commiserating sort of grief.

And guilt, he thinks, well hidden but an ache in the one he can feel strongest.

He pushes his own thread against that ugly emotion, tugs on it, tosses it at Jackson's thread, half inquisitive and half chiding, because they saved Jackson, didn't they? Obviously, since he isn't dead. And they saved him, too, even if they didn't save him before he became... this.

It's not anyone's fault. Not even his, though parts of him, the most shredded, dark, despicable parts, are screaming that it is, that so many of the things his torturers had said, the barbs that sometimes hurt more than the blade of the knife, must've been true. Because even evil bastards will be honest with you when they know that honesty will hurt you.

He's studiously ignoring those parts of himself, though. Or, trying to, anyway.

Derek's hand squeezes his lightly while something purely Alpha filters through his thread, all pride and affection for his Beta, for his Pack, for Stiles, and a smile tries to fit itself on his face, but it doesn't really feel right, and it falls immediately when he feels his father tap his shoulder, careful not to even graze the stitched up patchwork of skin that is his solid back.

Nurses, probably, doctors, people with clipboards and pens and questions he won't be able to answer because he can't hear them, let alone himself, although... he does know sign language, doesn't he?

He might be rusty, since he hasn't actively used it in awhile, but he remembers learning it while his mom was in the hospital, an elderly czech woman her roommate, she'd been mute, after some traumatic experience or another, and preferred to talk with her hands. He'll never forget what they looked like, so graceful, tanned and freckled and knobbly, long fingers, wide palms, loose skin that sagged and wrinkled in such fluctuation as she weaved words and stories with them, mesmerizing.

With a sigh, he shrugs the blanket off, sits up, and looks around at the gaggle of white coats all around him, the Pack flanking his bed, glaring at anyone who dares try to touch him, and he's thankful for that, he is. He thinks it would be loud, if he could hear, everyone seems to be clamoring over each other, all of them gesturing wildly around, mostly gesturing at him.

First he looks to Derek, who's frowning at the crowd, sitting in one of those stupid hospital chairs that are most definitely as uncomfortable as they look, Stiles knows.

He brings Derek's hand in his up to his throat and Derek turns away from the madness to look at him, frown increasing, brow furrowing. Stiles takes Derek's forefinger, pressing the tip of it to his chin, making it trace down his throat to his collarbone.


At the same time he signs this, he pushes the feeling, raw throat and desert-dry tongue, into his thread, brushes it up against all of theirs. He can see, out of his peripheral, all of the Pack turning to look at him, Derek's eyebrows raise, surprise filtering through, and Stiles smiles a little, small and kind of wretched, but there's nothing he can do about that, now.

He makes Derek do the sign with him again, presses the feeling more urgently this time, I'm thirsty.

Derek grins at him, then, eyes warm in a way Stiles has never seen before, that pride sweeping him up again, and then Erica is hugging him, and Boyd is handing him a cup of ice water and his father is kissing his temple and even Isaac and Jackson are getting in on this group hug, Peter, somewhere nearby, swiping the threads with something sugary and pleased.

He doesn't let go of Derek's hand throughout, and Derek, as far as he can tell, doesn't mind that at all.

Stiles' knowledge of sign language is an amalgamation of antiquated czech/american sign language, and would, therefore, be hard for anyone to interpret, let alone an exhausted nurse at three o'clock in the morning.

Which is why he's so incredibly thankful for the goddess that is Lydia Martin when she comes sauntering in, and, after Jackson's scented her upon entering, is grateful enough to do the touching thing, and hugs her. Just like that, like unwinding thread with a spindle and pulling it taut, before spinning it back into shape again, as soon as he recognized her as anyone like Pack, her thread sparked to life, all mercury glow and echoes of death, eery and candy-gloss all at once.

Her thread is sparking with shock, intrigued curiosity, exhaustion, and a new sort of fragility, vulnerability under all of her steel.

He pulls back from her, looks around to the rest of the Pack seemingly just as surprised.

Did I do that?

Lydia watches his hands critically, turns to everyone else, talking it over, he thinks. He's no good at this, the quiet, the patience, the waiting for everyone else to help him, instead of just figuring it out himself, or at least getting all of the information to figure it out much quicker.

First on the growing list of things he needs to learn how to do? Fucking lip read, because this? This is infuriating.

Lydia turns back to him, her signing much more fluid, curt, elegant, and a bit more modern, harder for him to understand.

They think so. Are you unaware of it?

He lets out what he feels might be a very, very bitter laugh and shrugs, shaking his head.

I can feel it, but if I'm doing it, I have no control over it.

She turns back to the Pack again, and he rubs his head, a burgeoning headache coming on. That along with the soreness in his side and the raw ache that is his whole back, the constant twitch in his muscles from phantom electricity that isn't there, but still won't let his body rest, ease up in any way.

He feels the rise and fall, tide of various emotions from all the people around him, nothing so bright as their concern, for him, for Pack, about other things, too, and different flavors of anxiety that stain all the threads, gold and earth-brown and red and blue and silver, the Betas the human the Alpha the guilty and the Banshee, his brain helpfully supplies, which he guesses is nice.

He has Pack Dynamics running through his head that he researched for Scott, for Derek, and to satisfy his own curiosity. His knowledge, somehow, combined with this awkward sort of power, just- becomes clearer, like having them all in his head gives him some access to 'were instinct or something.

He feels a hand settle on his shoulder, a wave of concern, and he looks up to see Derek frowning at him. Derek's always frowning at him, but right now he thinks his frown might have to do with the sudden decrease of pain he's experiencing, and the euphoria.

Smile, Sour wolf, he signs, even though Lydia isn't looking and he knows Derek won't understand, at least I'm alive.

For the relative meaning of alive.

Derek's eyebrows do a thing, they get all serious and constipated looking. Stiles used to think that was his serial killer face, but all he feels from the smooth vermillion thread that is his Alpha is worry. Huh.

Lydia taps him on the arm and he looks at her, sees his father over her shoulder give him a reassuring smile, he does his best to return the gesture, but he's sure it comes off as more of a grimace.

It's probably best you don't touch anyone other than- she signs a word he doesn't understand, and he stops her, repeats it, questioning- P-A-C-K, he makes a silent 'o' with his mouth, nods, and she moves on, until you learn to control it. What you're feeling are Pack- she makes a flourish at the end, sign-spelling to clarify- B-O-N-D-S. And since you don't know how to control it...

Yeah. I get it, if touching you made a Pack-bond then touching anyone might make a Pack-bond. Although, it's not like I was planning on touching anyone who wasn't Pack anyway.

He shoots her a half wry, half self-deprecating smile, and she returns it with a sad kind of warmth in her eyes. In another life, a smile like that from her would've had him dancing and grinning and his heart beating double-time, as it is now, with his heart clouded and covered in wool, with his body a numb sort of miasma thing that doesn't even feel like it belongs to him, it just makes him happy that she's being nice.

She's growing as a person, he thinks.


Not Pack, still?

Lydia looks around worriedly, grimaces, shakes her head.

He double-crossed Gerard, which meant working for him, and he used Derek in order to beat him. Forced him to give the- he's pretty sure that sign is a curse, one that he never would've pegged someone like Lydia for using, one that would make sailors blush, geez- the Bite. Did you know about this plan of his?

He wonders if he should feel betrayed, or something. Anything other than hollow, bone tingling numbness, dark-static nothing. It drowns him, pushes him under and deep to the point where it feels like his soul is trapped under seven layers of concrete and only his body is left, cold and detached. For a moment, he has this sick thought that if he were to cut himself right now, he wouldn't bleed, he'd only find metal underneath skin, and then he wants, as bile rises in his throat, he wants desperately to know what that would sound like.

Would his skin squish under the blade, what would the grinding metal sound like? Would it be like nails on chalkboard, or would it just zing? Or would it only offer him silence, the suffocating terrible silence that pours over him, fills him up inside until he's bursting with it?

He doesn't know if he blacked out, or if he was staring into the middle distance, or something else, and it's disturbing, or it should be, but it's not, that suddenly his dad's face is all he can see, he feels a warm hand on his cheek, a thumb brushing away tears he didn't know he'd been crying.

Ah, and there's that face, the one he didn't want to see, pure devastation etched into pale blue eyes, into every single line. It's the same face he had when the doctors told him mom wasn't going to make it. He wonders if that mean's that he's not gonna make it? He can't find it in himself to be too upset about that, really.

He feels, distantly, the threads- no, Pack-bonds, so worried and concerned and trying to fill him with every ounce of love that they can but he's so full of empty that it just doesn't register.

He drifts for a while, maybe, flies untethered from himself like a balloon, gets to the atmosphere, pops, finds himself staring at a hand in his, both in his lap. Derek, he thinks, and has the presence of mind to look around, find that nobody else- other than his dad, asleep in that horrible position, again- is in the room.

Derek squeezes his hand, and he looks over. Derek actually looks sad, really, really sad. Stiles has never seen him sad before. Grief-fueled rage, other variations of anger, the rare smile- triumphant or faked- in pain, that constipated frustrated face that he wears most often that Stiles is beginning to think translates roughly to: 'Emotions are hard to deal with so I'll just let my eyebrows talk for me and hope for the best.'

Never sad, though.

So he takes his free hand, touches Derek's mouth unthinkingly, spreads it into an approximation of a smile, and smiles faintly back at him when it holds. But those eyes of his, deep, fathomless hazel, they're watery, sparkling with unshed tears; so Stiles hugs him. Wraps his arms around his neck, pats the man's back, thinks he tries to say, "It's okay to cry, Der, I've got you."

He doesn't know how well it works, his throat vibrates, his mouth moves, air pushes past teeth and tongue. He hopes it at least sounds close to what he was trying to say.

He feels Derek's breath hitch under him, feels arms wrap gently, gently around him, hands fluttering against his patchwork skin, feels the bonds swirl with something like prayer, and then he's slipping again, sliding away from himself, far, far away.

He's tired, anyway, so he just lets it happen, closes his eyes, breathes.

Derek swallows back the emotions he's feeling, blinks away the burn of tears, and sets the boy in his arms back on the bed, settles him in, covers him back up with the blanket and continues to try to push comfort through the bond, but all he feels- all any of them have felt from Stiles since he was told about Scott- is this tingling dark-quiet, like a vacuum, and everything they give just gets sucked up into the black.

("I'll kill Scott for this," John had growled during the first hour, while Erica was clinging to Boyd and Lydia was doing anything she could to get him to respond.

"Don't," Isaac had said, shaken but still strong, "if you went to jail Stiles would kill you. I doubt they have heart-healthy meals in there."

"Besides," Lydia had sighed, finally seeming to give up on getting Stiles to come back to reality for the moment, "I don't think Scott deserves such a kindness as a quick death."

"Is it really Scott's fault, though?" Boyd had asked, ever reasonable and stoic and mild, "He took out the bad guy, he didn't take other people into account, and it fucked us all over, in the end, but Scott isn't a big-picture guy. He just wanted to get Gerard out of the way, probably so he could be with Allison, and so he could be reasonably safe, right? He wasn't thinking of anyone else.

"So, he was selfish, short-sighted, and stupid; he lied and he used us for his own gain, but it doesn't make what Gerard did to Stiles his fault."

"Maybe not," Derek had acquiesced, "and you're right, we shouldn't place blame on him for something he didn't do, just because the person who did do it isn't here for us to blame. What Scott is guilty of, though? Is lying to and betraying his best friend, lying to and betraying all of us.

"And no one has to kill him, because the punishment will be self-serving."

"What do you mean?" Jackson had asked. Lydia's eyes had cut to him, sharp and filled with sudden understanding, because trust her to catch on before anyone else, she and Stiles are so very alike in that regard.

"He's going to go Omega, he ostracized himself from the only Pack he has access to and, after what happened, Allison's dad is thinking very seriously about moving them again, and, as far as I can tell, none of us are letting him anywhere near Stiles unless Stiles explicitly asks to see him, right?

"Which means no Alpha, no Anchor, no Pack. He'll go Omega."

"I kept offering," Derek had told them all quietly, "I wanted him to be Pack. I know I'm not the best Alpha, but I'm going to get better, and I was willing to work with him. He kept turning me down."

"Do you think he'll go feral?" Isaac had finally asked, and Derek hadn't known how to answer that, so he hadn't said anything at all.)

Now, all the Betas- with the exception of Peter and John- are at school, the sheriff slumbering in a hospital chair across the room and Peter lurking in some dark alley near the emergency entrance somewhere.

The doctors, even having been hindered by their lack of ability to touch the patient, still deemed him well enough to leave- with an assortment of prescribed painkillers and a doctor's appointment next month to check up on the stitches and healing- by the day after tomorrow at the latest.

The repeated electrical assaults against his ears were enough, apparently, to cause significant hearing loss in both ears, but, other than that, and the scars he will inevitably have, both on his body and in his mind, there won't be any permanent damage- brain damage, in particular, being what they were most worried about.

He'll heal, physically, but he'll never hear again. (When the on-call nurse had signed that to him Stiles had just shrugged and signed, I wasn't really expecting to.)

Derek looks at him, his pale skin half yellow in the shitty lighting the hospital offers- sometimes he has to wonder if hospitals provide a sickly ambience to fuck with you, or if it's just the expectation of sickness and death in the place that causes it to seem that way- and feels a swell of some lost sort of affection.

Because only Stiles would be trying to comfort him after the aftermath of his own torture, after the shock of Scott's betrayal left him mostly catatonic for the whole fucking day. Just like only Stiles would hold someone he didn't even like all too much up in a pool for two hours just to keep them safe, would research and work relentlessly- even under the threat of immenent death- to help his best friend control and live with his wolf- Derek's never seen any bitten 'were find and hold an anchor so easily, never seen one make their own Pack full of humans with little more than sheer willpower and bloody determination- would take the brunt of fucking torture without telling the hunters anything for a Pack he wasn't even sure he was a part of yet.

He's starting to feel like the sheriff, with all his, 'Of all the things.'

Because he's steadily building up a mantra of, 'Only Stiles.'

And he worries, because Stiles going home means the Pack's contact with him will be more limited in some ways, means the boy will have to face peers and school and Scott, and the police still want his statement about what happened to him- the only thing staying them right now is the statement the sheriff gave them, and the fact that he'd told them he'd really like his son to recover some before he got interrogated, considering his last interrogation ended up with him in the fucking ICU- not to mention he's going to have to brush up on sign-language- the whole Pack should learn it, he thinks, lord knows he's going to ask Lydia to give him lessons the second he gets the chance, pride be damned- and he's going to have to find translators for him other than Lydia for the school.

And who knows what the hell else he'll have to deal with.

The Pack will help him, Derek knows, but that somehow doesn't help right now, in the quiet as he thinks of the way Stiles used to fill up silences with chatter and sarcasm and said, once, that it was his only defense mechanism.

So he worries.

Four big things happen within the next two days.

First, he gets discharged from the hospital and is deemed relatively okay despite the whole, you know, loss of hearing, so, yay!

Second, his dad gets back to work, well, Stiles steamrolls his dad into going back to work, because really, he needs to pay their bills and bring home the bacon and all that- Stiles is also steadfastly ignoring a certain elephant in the room, that being his father's sudden and diverse knowledge of the supernatural and subsequent understanding that Stiles has been lying to him for an ongoing of two years and was only forced to stop because he was tortured by his fucking principal, and how fucked is that?

But, Stilinski men, if there's one thing they're good at, it's steadfastly ignoring all the problems. Which is not the healthiest thing, but, whatever.

Third, his house has officially become Pack communal. Seriously, there's always at least someone hanging around, and it's not like they're trying to crowd him, they don't think he's too fragile to be on his own, if anything it's the opposite. He can feel it through the bonds, and he doesn't pretend to understand it, maybe it does have something to do with the fact that he's an injured Pack-mate, but none of them want to be without him. To be honest, he doesn't actually mind.

He likes it when all the threads are wrapped up so close, and he likes actually bonding with them, he likes the impromptu sign-language tutalage Lydia is giving them all, he likes curling up in puppy-piles- and they are totally puppy-piles, even Peter agrees, no matter what Jackson and Derek think- and watching movies with the subtitles on, and he likes sleeping- which he and the Pack all found out he has immense amounts of trouble with when there aren't at least three puppies and/or an Alpha nearby.

He thinks it might be because his dad can feel so strongly the relief Stiles feels when he isn't alone just because he's going off to work- and the emotional benefit that obviously comes with being surrounded by Pack- that he's allowed Derek and Isaac to practically move in- seriously, the two guest bedrooms are filled with all of their stuff. Stiles is pleased with this, his house is much better than the charred skeleton that is the Hale house; it's also better than an abandoned fucking train depot, thank you very much- and that he seems to mind less and less the fact that Peter and Erica and Boyd spend most nights on the couch or the area directly around it, and that he doesn't even bat an eye at the near constant stream of visits they get from Jackson and Lydia.

It's nice, it's helping him cope, especially since he only has a week left until he has to go back to school.

An interesting side effect of all this time spent together, the bonds just keep getting stronger, and Derek has even said, according to Lydia, that he can feel it in his wolf, too. The stronger the Pack the stronger the Alpha, and, apparently, the stronger the Stiles.

Nightmares and panic attacks are to be avoided if they ever want to keep their house's infrastructure stable, their light bulbs in actual supply, and the extinct animals and plants in the immediate vicinity to stop- just cropping up, like they have any business doing so.

Although, watching Derek fight a saber-tooth tiger, especially in absolute silence, was kind of hilarious.

Which brings us to the fourth thing, thank god.

Deaton's back.

He does, unfortunately, have shitty timing though, waiting to show up until the day that Stiles has to give his statement. But Derek promised to give him a ride directly from the station and translate for him, with Deaton, as best he could. The pups, Lydia included, are at school, and Peter's bond shows he's far away and unconcerned and feeling just a mite mischievious, whatever the hell that means, Stiles isn't going to question it.

There's a deputy at the station, thankfully, who's been trained to deal with deaf citizens, and doesn't that just sound awkward? Maybe Stiles is over-thinking it, as a newly 'deaf citizen' himself, but if it were anyone else calling him that he'd probably make a face at them until they felt as uncomfortable as he did, sitting there being asked questions, delicately, as if he were some fragile glass doll and not someone who accidentally causes earthquakes when he has nightmares.

Jesus christ, what even is his life?

It's easy, he finds, to tell lies to humans and non-Pack who can't hear his heartbeat or feel or smell his emotional status, and he's glad for the fact that everyone knows not to fucking touch him.

His dad was looking more thoroughly into the Hale fire at Derek Hale's request, he found information that tied Kate and Gerard very thoroughly to the fire, and his crazy ass principal decided that holding him hostage and torturing him for six and a half hours would be a good way to get his dad to back off. His friends and father managed to find and rescue him in time, but not before the evidence was destroyed.

No, he doesn't remember what the evidence was, he was tortured, you see, scrambles the brain a little. No, he has no idea where Gerard might've run off to. No, he doesn't think any of the other Argents were in on it. Yes, he would like to go, now.

He's supremely relieved to see the camaro pull up in front of the station as he exits, and doesn't even bother to close the passenger door before he's hugging Derek like there's no tomorrow. Derek shakes a little, like he's laughing, and hugs Stiles back before urging him to sit down properly and close the door and buckle up.

Because Derek is apparently a very responsible driver.

Dork, Stiles signs fondly, and Derek's face screws up.

Don't know that sign, he signs back, stiltedly, and Stiles tosses him a wry but understanding smile. He gets out his notepad, something that he's learned to carry on him at all times, as it makes communication just the slightest bit easier for those who don't know sign or the members of the Pack who are still only learning.

'I called you a dork, Sourwolf,' he writes, shows it to Derek when they hit a stop-sign, and grins with delight when he sees the wolf snort, amusement curling in the red-tinged Pack-bond.

'I was really frustrated while they were talking to me in there. I'm not broken or fragile; I'm fucked up + I'm definitely gonna ask Deaton about therapists in-the-know b/c I was tortured, like, PTSD is a no-brainer, but I'm not automatically made of glass, jfc.

'But I also don't ever want to feel that helpless again, b/c I was helpless. I may have kept their attention on me during, but even before that, as soon as they were on me I had no choice, because I couldn't fight back, I didn't know how. There's also a part of me, a pretty big part if I'm being honest, that's afraid of how much of a liability I am to the Pack, how much of a burden.

'That's why, I really want you to teach me to fight, Der. No matter what happens with Deaton and this magical stuff that's going on with me, I need to know how to defend myself. The puppies do, too. Hey, maybe we could have training sessions in the Preserve? Fun for the whole family!'

He looks over the page he'd just written, because the one silver lining to having to write it down instead of saying it or even signing it, is that there's an actual filter. He can organize his thoughts as he writes, erase and rewrite it, there's more control, although sometimes it's infuriating to think that just a month ago he could have said all this in under a minute, babbled it out- and no doubt insulted Derek no less than a dozen times before he got his point across, but, still- he misses that, and it's hard going, waiting for everyone around him to learn a new language just so he can communicate.

By the time he's finished with it, they've already been parked at the vet's office for a minute, which Derek makes him aware of by poking him in the cheek to get his attention. He raises his eyebrows in question and looks at the paper pointedly, and Stiles smiles at him sheepishly before handing it over.

Derek's face does many funny things while he reads it over, and Stiles doesn't know what it is about being caught in this world of silence, that he's so capable of focusing on every muscle tick, what it is about the numbness that still lingers deep within him, that watching Derek read that page strikes him as funny as it does even though it's such a serious favor to ask, but his Alpha takes his random giggle fit in stride, as he always does, these days, and reaches over to ruffle his hair while something fond and contemplative settles through his bond.

Good idea, he finally signs, with a nod toward the page, and Stiles grins at him before launching himself forward and hauling the man into another hug.

Stiles, for the most part, doesn't have much of an idea what's going on here.

Deaton's frantically gesturing around and Derek's got his stormy face on, his part of the bond equally as stormy. He can tell the Betas are responding to their Alpha's distress, golden swirls of blinding light dripping with concern and anxiety, Lydia's sent him thirteen texts in rapid succession, and if someone doesn't actively start telling Stiles what the fuck is going on, he's going to murder someone.

So, since he's sat upon the metal operating table and he figures the thing will make some sort of loud sound if he does, he knocks on it, hard, and both men turn to look at him mid-rant, mouths open, startled to attention.

What, he signs out very slowly, the hell is going on?

Derek's bond does the thing, the vibratey thing, the thing Stiles is pretty sure means he's growling. He points at Deaton, makes the sign for bind, and then points at Stiles.


Derek nods, curt and understanding and pleased because he is obviously of the same opinion, turns to the druid and fucking glowers. Deaton says something- cutting, Stiles thinks, by Derek's expression and the hurt rolling through the bond- throws his hands in the air and stalks out of the room. About to start signing again, language barrier be damned, he's stayed when Derek throws out a simple, Wait.

It smells like gum and disinfectant and a shoe closet in here, and Stiles can't help but fidget when minute three rolls by with nothing but the steady glare Derek's laying on that door, if it had feelings it would've burst into tears by now.

When Deaton finally comes back into the room he's carrying four ginormous looking books that he heaves, tosses into Derek's arms before he points and does what looks vaguely like shouting, turns heel and leaves, washing his hands of the situation. Stiles shoots his Alpha a helpless, questioning look and the man just grimaces, shrugs, and goes to leave himself.

Being a fly on the wall would've been more fucking informative, Stiles thinks bitterly, following after him.

The books, all of which he skims at least partially on the drive home, speak of, have spells for, explanations about, etcetera, a very specific type of Caster, incredibly rare- thought to be as extinct as the dozens of insects that Stiles has been (entirely accidentally) resurrecting on the odd days he has nightmares about still being in Gerard's basement- and, supposedly, the most powerful type of Caster there is, at least, to anyone's knowledge.

The Orážce'los.

Yeah, long ass, foreign ass name, the closest translation Stiles can find using google translate and a prayer is 'Guardian of', though, guardian of what, he has no fucking clue.

Continued reading suggests that the translation is pretty fucking close, since all Orážce'los are keepers of something, their magic always directly tied into whatever they keep, protect, grounded by it. Orážce'los is a gift inherent, passed down through blood, but a gift only given to those who are worthy of it, and only awakened when they pass an incredible trial, whatever the fuck that means.

And as with all magic, in order to be given something so powerful, you must sacrifice something great within yourself.

Which, for all he knows, means that the only reason he even has these wonky powers that he has no control over, and that Deaton doesn't seem to know or want anything to do with, is because some hunter bastard zapped his ears until silence engulfed him in its godforsaken misery, and just- fuck.

Well. At least he managed to save Erica and Boyd with this- and the sarcasm is biting here- gift. At least they managed to get him help before he bled out and fucking died, alone and cold and tied up in a stupid fucking basement of a stupid fucking house.

A house that his best friend's girlfriend still lives in.

Jesus fucking christ.

"He's a what?" Peter hisses at Lydia, who raises very judgemental, delicate brows in distaste, which causes him to subside, if only slightly.

Stiles huffs, rolls his eyes, opens one of the larger books Deaton gave them after giving a long, substantial reaming about the fact that Stiles is too powerful, too out of control, and needs to be contained. It had sounded so suspiciously like the hunter's rhetoric that Derek didn't even have to think twice about rejecting his idea to bind Stiles.

The boy points to the word again, grimacing, mild disgust swarming his Pack-bond:


Peter gapes, flops into a chair at the table, "Well, that explains some things."

"What things?" Lydia translates, Stiles looking at Peter like he's just grown another head, which is a very disturbing thought. Knowing Peter, if he ever did grow another head, he'd fall in love with it, get married to it, and run off to Brazil a two-headed man married to and in love with himself.

"How strong his magic is, for starters, and how him being a Pack-mate is affecting our Pack-bonds and our Alpha," Peter shakes his head, slides the book towards himself, muttering something as he flips through the pages, and, upon finding whatever it is he's looking for, he turns the book back to Stiles, tapping at a sentence impatiently.

"Orážce'los dedicated to wolves become Orážce'vilkůłak, such is their station to protect and empower their Pack. Orážce'vilkůłak are Emissaries of the highest order, and are capable of bonding the wolves they are devoted to, and the territory their wolves are devoted to, to themselves and their Alpha, by decree of the Old Gods, should they so choose," Lydia reads over Stiles' shoulder, and the boy makes a sound in the back of his throat, half a sigh, half a groan.

"Holy shit, look, this is why whenever he gets freaked out there are mini earthquakes and-" Erica starts excitedly, Jackson interrupting with a wry, sarcastic, "And saber-tooth tigers?"

"Apparently," Boyd says.

"It doesn't say anything about how," Derek points out, "or what to do to help him control his powers."

"And Deaton was unwilling to help, I presume?" Peter asks, knowing and disdainful.

"No," Derek growls, as Stiles starts swatting Lydia's shoulder, snapping out, Translate,. "He just wanted to bind him."

"Of course he did, sanctimonious ass."

"He isn't that bad?" Isaac asks more than says, unsure.

Oh, he is, Stiles signs, Lydia translating with a smirk, but Sour wolf is almost as bad, not telling me what was going on. I know I'm deaf, and that makes it hard, especially since you're not good with using your words in the first place, but, still. Not cool- "I am not calling him that. Where did you even learn that sign?"

"What sign?" Jackson asks, curious.

"I'm assuming the one for 'dude', considering how well it fits," Peter says with no small amount of amusement.

"Ugh," Lydia groans, and Derek signs out a sheepish, I'm sorry.

Stiles sighs, pulls him into a hug, pats him on the back, shoves acceptance through the bond, and mutters a slurred, "Idiot," into his ear.

School is... degrading, in some ways, with how people treat him, oscillating between disgusted to interested to secretly fucking delighted, sickos.

But it's nice, too, the mindlessness of work, of study, although the teachers all seem wrong-footed around the pretty mocha-skinned pastel-green eyed aide that the school was forced to hire, the one who dresses all in red and chews pink bubble-gum and seems to pop it obnoxiously just to piss them off. She's as rebellious as she is sweet and motherly, and Stiles finds that he really likes her, especially when she tells Harris off for being rude to him unnecessarily.

There's also the Pack, always flanking him in the halls, in whatever classes they share with him; his aide- Charlotte- isn't even intimidated by them like the rest of his peers, just tells them, translating her words into sign simultaneously, that she's glad he has people he can handle touching him, and that he has good taste in friends.

He's not going to read too much into how much Isaac blushes when she dimples at him, that way madness lies, he's sure.

After about the fourth time Scott and Allison tentatively try to approach, the wolves all gathering around him and snarling until they go the fuck away, Charlotte asks:

Did that boy do something to you?

He was my best friend, but he lied to us all for selfish and unselfish reasons. It's complicated.

But you don't want to talk to him? She signs, understanding warming her whole demeanor, because she's the type of person who speaks with her whole body, not just her hands and mouth. He doesn't know how to read auras- though the books say he'll be able to if he works on it- but he's pretty sure hers is the strongest he's ever encountered.

I do. But, not yet?

The next time Scott tries, without Allison this time- like walking toward him without an Argent will make what he has to say more palatable, like Stiles doesn't feel panic and dread and this sickening contempt and blame that he fucking hates himself for whenever he sees him- Charlotte steps forward, before the Pack can even start bracketing him and sheilding him from the world with their bodies, and says something that has Scott flushing purple before he's storming off in a rage.

Charlotte turns back to him with a triumphant wink and he's pretty sure Isaac just fell head over heels in love with her.

We should get a place, Stiles signs to him one day, and Derek feels his eyebrows steadily raise to his hairline. The boy huffs at him, I'm serious. We can't all just hang out here and have puppy-piles all the time. I'm pretty sure we're steadily driving my dad crazy.

Derek has to ask him to repeat all that twice before he gets it, and then he frowns, We?

I'm going to be turning eighteen soon, and I can't sleep without my Pack. I love my dad, but he needs his own space, and I can't handle being given my own space. Then it's all the puppies & Peter, not Lyds, not Jacks, but all the rest of us. We.

Derek finds a grin stealing over him entirely without his permission.

Okay, he signs, and Stiles is smiling too, brushing his bond against Derek's and soaking up the wonder and exultant pleased feelings he must find there, okay, I'll look into it.

Stiles smacks a kiss on his cheek as he gets up from his seat and murmurs, his tone, and the way he speaks a little impeded by the fact that he can't hear himself, but he pushes on nonetheless, "Good Alpha."

A little surprise filters through Stiles' bond at the emotion that sparks, and Derek feels his cheeks flush. When he looks up, Stiles is smirking, eyes sparkling with delight.

"Good Alpha," he murmurs again, signing it at the same time as he says it, before he presses another kiss, somehow more sincere despite the mischief Derek can feel thrumming through the bond, against his temple before sauntering off feeling smug and pleased with himself and very, very proud of Derek at the same time.

The Alphas come in the form of twins, Ethan and Aidan, or, at least, those are the Alphas they end up meeting first. Stiles supposes that they weren't supposed to know these new transfer students were Alphas, since, when he saw them, and felt them like a punch in the fucking gut, the red spark within their souls, and he quickly started signing this out to Lydia, frantic and so fast she could barely keep up, Jackson, who Lydia has been giving private lessons, signed back:

No smell.

Peter didn't have a smell either! Alphas can hide.

He's pretty sure Lydia's cursing, but, unfortunately, lip-reading is never an exact science. Charlotte's giving them all a befuddled smile, and Isaac smiles back at her in his most disarming, we-aren't-up-to-anything-and-we're-absolutely-not-werewolves sort of way. It actually works, Stiles is astonished, but he blinks away the shock and sends a text to Derek, updating him on what's going on.

It seems like they don't know they've been caught out, super senses don't cover sign-language, hardy fucking har har. Silver linings, bitch.

And they don't seem particularly inclined to hurt anybody. Yet, anyway.

He's still thankful as fuck when, after school, Peter and Derek are lurking by his jeep, Peter looking bored despite the agitation and reluctant alertness in his bond, Derek looking absolutely as protective and defensive as he feels.

Stiles breathes out a sigh of relief, and, schoolmates be damned, runs over to him, yanking him into a needy hug. He feels a puff of air against his hair, the shift of Derek taking a deep breath, his Alpha's arms coming up tenderly around him, comfort soothing away the prolonged anxiety he's been having all day, and a few other emotions, fleeting and suppressed, but enough to make him almost shiver in response.

When he pulls away the rest of the Pack are there, all of them scenting each other and their Alpha and Stiles. If anyone's getting weirded out by these public displays of affection, well, words literally can't hurt him, so fuck 'em all.

School gets just a bit weird after that, first, there's a new english teacher, Jennifer, who, to everyone else looks fine and dandy, but to him looks like some bescarred b-horror movie monster- he has no idea how that works, or why, but since his abilities told him who the Alphas were when nobody else could detect them, he's not just going to ignore it.

The amount of research he's doing on this stuff and himself and how to control his powers- because, seriously, an (harmless, it was absolutely harmless) overgrowth of long extinct flowers that they couldn't even really identify and that the wolves had to cut through just to get out the front door, that's too far. So's a saber-tooth tiger, actually, but, to be fair, that only happened the one time- is relentless and exhaustive and, also, not really getting him anywhere.

Then- because why the fuck not?- Ethan starts cozying up to Danny and Aiden tries- key-word being tries- to cozy up to Lydia. Lydia, of course, is the queen to Jackson's king, and the school power-couple verbally stomped all over him for his romantic inclinations; it was basically social-suicide, poor guy. Danny, on the other hand, who may not be Pack but is damn well Pack-adjacent, well, needless to say as soon as Ethan even got fucking close, Stiles interceded, and since the whole Pack most normally flanks him at school, it ended up being quite a big ado.

Danny seems bemused by the fact that Jackson and Stiles drag him off anytime Ethan comes near, but he just rolls his eyes and lets it go, for the most part. The last time it happened, Erica had actually stuck her tongue out at Ethan, childish and triumphant, and Stiles had burst out laughing.

Okay, Charlotte is translating for Danny, when he's finally had enough, why are you guys trying to keep me from getting a date?

We're not trying to keep you from anything! Except for that guy! That one guy...

Why? Danny asks, and Charlotte seems very interested to know the answer, too.

Because, Lydia begins, signing for herself, we're your friends, we care about you, and he's a- whatever she says out loud must not translate well because she stops signing, Charlotte's gaping at her, hell, half the Pack is, the other half are just blushing furiously. Danny's lips twitch like he's fighting back a smile, he huffs, shakes his head, winds an arm around Jackson's shoulders, the other around Lydia's waist.

Alright, alright, Charlotte translates for him, so shocked that her hands are actually moving slowly, which hasn't ever happened before, I get it. I'll tell him to fuck off next time he starts flirting with me.

Stiles may or may not do a victory dance, Erica and Isaac may or may not laugh at him.

Peter helps Derek find property already in the Hale name, property he inherited after his family died, or, property they both did. Peter inheriting Great Aunt Shy's cabin out in the middle of the preserve somewhere and Derek having inherited Great Uncle Abel's Loft along with the whole of the Hale territory.

We have a place, Derek tells Stiles, about a month after he finds out. It took some work, to get it Pack ready, so that not just the Loft was livable, but the apartment below was, as well. Stiles' whole face lights up with a wide grin, his bond sparking with delight and excitement.

We do?

Derek nods, and he's got an armful of the boy barely half a second later.

"Good Alpha," Stiles coos, his voice crackling with disuse, and still slightly slurred in that odd way. Derek wraps his arms around him, lifts him up a little and twirls him around, his giddiness infectious, and is rewarded with silvery laughter right against his ear.

Maybe it's the breathlessness, the excitement, the time they've spent together; maybe it's having watched Stiles grow, be traumatized and scarred and waking up most nights screaming as the ground shakes destructively beneath them, but determined to heal, finding a therapist through Deaton, pushing them all to be better, not for him, but for themselves; maybe it's the way he doesn't actually use his voice anymore, unless it's just the two of them; maybe it's the moment, maybe it's Stiles.

Maybe it's Derek himself.

When he sets Stiles down, and the boy pulls back, smiling up at him so genuine and earnest, honey-coated sunshine in his eyes, the only thing Derek can do, the only thing, is press close and kiss him breathless.

There's a moment of hesitation and surprise, before Stiles just melts into him, sweetly submissive and pliant, opening up for him, mouth warm slick-wet heat, little mewls escaping every other breath. He smells of cherry juice and wine, steadily, like arousal, like Pack and something ethereal, magic. Their parts of the bond have a sudden influx of deep, deep vast waterfalls of affection and need and want and hope that washes over them both, the threads of their bonds twining together as their lips part, chase after each other.

They only manage to pull apart when Erica starts wolf whistling and cat calling them, Derek leaving Stiles' lips but not his space to tell her, the smile carved into his very fucking soul an inescapable thing, "Shut up."

Empathetic Pack-bonds are one of the best things he's ever been given, he thinks, when he feels his Betas swell with a pleased sort of fondness, almost like a 'Congratulations,' and Stiles bloom with something that could only ever be called the beginnings of love.

At some point he must've closed his eyes, forehead leaning on Stiles', arms wrapped around his waist, because when Stiles pats him on the cheek he has to open them again, Stiles grinning at him like a lunatic.

He pokes Derek in the chest and signs boyfriend.

Derek laughs, exultant, nods, kisses him again.

Erica 'whoops', Jackson fakes gagging, Boyd and Isaac applaud- because they're both little shits when they want to be, though he suspects Boyd is being more sincere- Lydia shouts, "About time!" From somewhere in the living room, and he can't see it, but he's pretty fucking sure Peter is rolling his eyes.

They've still got a lot of shit to deal with, Alpha Packs, missing psychopaths, sheriff fathers, moving, birthdays, trauma, magic, therapy, school.

But Derek knows, all of them, they'll deal with it together, and, right now, in this moment, everything feels perfect.

It's a little awkward, Stiles thinks, having the, 'I'm bi,' along with the 'Meet the boyfriend, hey look, you already know him,' and the 'I love you, but I'm moving out,' conversations all at the same time with a third party acting as a translator- because his dad, bless him, just hasn't gotten the hang of sign-language, yet. At all.

So... You're dating Derek? Lydia translates dutifully, and his father doesn't look like he's going to have an aneurysm, so that's something, right?

It's new, a new thing, but I think so.

Well, I can tell you like him, Pack-bonds don't allow a lot of privacy, his dad's smile is wry, and Stiles offers him a commiserating one in return, because it's true, they don't. As long as you trust him, and he doesn't do anything to hurt you or pressure you to- okay, he's obviously trying to insinuate sex without actually saying the word.

Stiles blushes bright red, Very helpful Lydia, thank you.

You're welcome, and isn't she smug.

Will you tell him that I trust Derek? There's a reason why he's my Alpha, and I know he'd never do anything to make me uncomfortable, and you'd know if he did, all of you would. I'm safe.

Lydia gives him a long hard look and signs, Yes. You are. If our Alpha ever hurts you I'm sure any one of us would flay him alive without a second thought.

Stiles offers her a beatific grin, Thanks Lyds.

Always, she signs with a shark-like smile, before translating for his dad again: Wouldn't moving in with him so soon be moving too fast?

Dad, he already basically lives here, in fact, all of them pretty much do. When's the last time you came home to anything less than a full house? His dad thinks about this, makes a face, and Stiles laughs.

Exactly. I'm not moving in with him. I'm moving in with Pack. And the Loft, it's farther away from school, but closer to the college I want to go to. I know, I know, more than a year ahead, but it's good to plan.

O-K, O-K, O-K, his dad sign-spells- because he's at least learned his letters- conceding, before Lydia picks up on translating what he says after, which is: But I'm gonna visit you and bug you all the time. And I'm gonna miss you like crazy. And I love you, son, I'm so proud of you- Oh my god, is he going to cry? Gross.

Shut up, Lyds, Stiles signs at her before grabbing his father and hauling him into a great big fucking bear hug. Sniffles all around.

He shoves all his love for his dad into that earth-brown thread he knows is his, and his dad responds in kind, patting him on the back in a manly ignore the wet spot I'm making on your shoulder kind of way.

Werewolf strength is the best for moving, he and his dad wouldn't have gotten those boxes full of books and tomes and research material down the stairs in a million years without breaking something, or, like, all the things, but Jackson and Boyd lugged them down in the span of two minutes without even breaking a sweat.

Stiles would call them jack-asses or show offs or something if he weren't so freaking ecstatic right now. Derek keeps laughing at him for jumping up and down and squealing, but he doesn't even care, he's just so happy, and he's pretty sure Derek's enjoying all of the hyper-active delighted kisses he's been lavishing on him, if that great big smile on his face is anything to go by.

In fact, everyone's smiling, even fucking Peter- and it's not a manic, psycho, planning evil sort of smile, either; it's genuine, real. Stiles is very proud of him for it. Personal growth!- his dad, too, for all that his smile is watery, even as it's filled with paternal pride.

The people who say moving is taxing have obviously never been friends with werewolves. Or, just, generally, needed to move. The therapist Deaton finally refferred him to says it has to do with new beginnings and all that, that it's okay to want change after you've experienced such a huge psychological one yourself, and that it's perfectly normal to need something fresh.

Not a fresh start, because life doesn't really work like that, but, like, giving his slate a nice, cool bath after it's been dinged all to hell by an asshole.

He's very inclined to agree.

The wolves all snap their heads toward the door, alert and anxious and sniffing at the air, seconds before Lydia and his dad startle from what they're doing to frown at the door themselves. Stiles is going to assume that it's because someone's knocking instead of using the doorbell that Boyd- who's surprisingly good with electronics- and Lydia hooked up to make the lights flash.

If it were any of his dad's officers, Charlotte, Deaton, or, even, Lydia's mom, they would've known to ring the doorbell, and since the Pack's all here, Stiles is going to assume that it's a perfectly random stranger and go sit by his boyfriend while someone else goes to answer it.

When Erica, rolling her eyes at the lot of them for being Babies, does, it ends up being, unexpectedly, Scott. He feels every hackle rise but his own, even feels Derek rumbling beside him- which is so weird, to feel both his body and his Pack-bond vibrate with a growl he can't hear- but he stops them all from just, oh, he doesn't know, doing something generally stupid, by standing up and clapping his hands together so hard they sting.

All eyes turn on him.

Let him in, he signs with a sigh.

Are you sure? Erica signs back, dubious and clearly concerned. Stiles huffs.

I needed time apart from him, after everything that happened, and you guys helped me with that. But, now, I need to talk to him, and I want to. I don't want any of you to go anywhere, I still need... support. But I've been running away from him for long enough, and I'm ready to stop now. Do you understand?

At some point she turned to Lydia- everyone but Jackson and Derek, who both have learned alarmingly fast, had, in fact- to translate, and after she's done relaying his words Erica's shoulders slump, and she nods at him, all the Pack-bonds wrapping around him in solidarity as she lets Scott in.

"Really?" Scott asks, taking a tentative step forward, "You're finally letting me see him?"

"It's not us letting you do anything," Lydia says archly, "it's Stiles. He wasn't ready to see you until now, so we protected him."

"Because that's what Pack does," Erica tells him, falling back to stand beside Stiles when he comes around the couch, Boyd, Isaac, and Jackson behind him at the bottom of the stairs, the first two taking seats on the stairwell while the third leans against the wall with his arms crossed over his chest.

Lydia stands from her seat on the couch to stand beside Scott, her hands in perfect view to better translate Scott's part of the conversation.

Derek himself moves to stand on the other side of Stiles while John and Peter stay where they are, sat at the dining table, poring over one of the books Peter dragged up from the basement of Shy's cabin in the hopes that they might find something more helpful on Orážce'vilkůłaks and how to control their powers (the swarm of locusts they'd had to fend off last night while Stiles was in the throes of one of his worst nightmares had not been fun).

"Oh-kay," Scott says, frowning, "but I don't understand why. I know he got hurt, I mean, obviously, but that wasn't my fault... Is this because I'm still with Allison? Because it wasn't her fault either," his glare at Erica and Boyd when they growl at this isn't much in the face of the way Stiles' eyes go hollow, his bond filling with protective rage, but Scott, not knowing that, and either ignoring or being oblivious to the way Stiles is looking at him, blunders on. "I don't understand why you're avoiding me, dude. What's going on? And- and why are you with them? Acting like... like they're Pack or whatever. Like Erica said."

"'Because they are Pack,'" Derek interprets Stiles' fast moving hands before Lydia has a chance, she raises her eyebrows, but lets him, "'they were Pack the moment I realized a wolf without an Alpha goes Omega, the moment I realized that Der wasn't just some raging asshole, but a grieving brother. I kept trying to convince you, but you kept saying accepting him as your Alpha would be what made you lose Allison- who is just as guilty as you are of teaming up with the fucking bastard who tortured me, and in her case not even to double-cross him.

"'I'm the one who's been researching this stuff for you, ever since it happened, and not just because I felt guilty that it did happen- because I was the one who dragged you out into the Preserve that day- but because you're my best friend, and I wanted to help you. Allison and I were the only ones keeping you from being Packless, and that isn't healthy, as soon as I learned more about Pack-bonds and Pack-dynamics I knew that.

"'So I asked you to stow your crap and just accept him as your Alpha, I even promised that if he was too much of an ass I'd teach him a lesson-'" Really, Stiles? I wasn't that bad.

Yes you were, Stiles tells him, Lydia translating in the background, now, but you got better. And interrupting people is rude, I wasn't finished.

Sorry, he signs back, narrowing his eyes at Erica, who snickers at them. He feels a little gutted by the relevation that Stiles had been trying to push Scott to become Pack, he hadn't known that at all, he also feels this sudden burst of love for the boy, which just has Erica snickering louder and Jackson groaning behind him.

You ready?

Derek nods, and picks up translating again, easily, the flow of it surprisingly soothing.

"'When I was in that basement-'" The whole Pack flinches at the surge of emotions that comes from that, Erica leaning into his side and wrapping her arms around his middle, hooking her chin over his shoulder. Boyd stands from his place on the stairs and ruffles Stiles' hair before settling a hand on his other shoulder- "'even as a human, I felt it stronger than I've felt anything in my entire life, like a weight on my soul, and I knew I had to protect them, my Alpha, by not giving them anything, and these two puppies-'" "-I am not a puppy." Erica pouts- "' by making sure that those bastards stayed focused on me.

"'It was like instinct, but more, and- you don't understand, you'd never understand unless you became a part of this, what it feels like, to be Pack.'"

Scott looks mulish, reluctant, sad, upset, and, generally, like a kicked puppy.

"I'm never going to accept him as my Alpha," he says, and Stiles smiles, small and watery.

"'I know,'" Lydia translates, as Derek slips his arms around him with Erica's, kisses his temple, pushes strength and love and support into the bonds, soothing away Stiles' soft heartbreak, wistful sadness.

"So what does this mean for us?" Scott asks helplessly.

"'I don't know if I'll ever be able to really forgive you, or even look at Allison ever again, but... I still want to be your friend, I think. I just don't think we'll ever be brothers again, and, as you just said, we'll never be Pack. So. We change, our relationship changes, we- we move on.'"

"Okay," Scott breathes, swallows, "okay. Do you- I mean, do you wanna hang out?"

"'Not today, Scott... You should go.'"

"Yeah, sure. I'll- I'll see you later?"

Stiles nods, and Scott smiles, wobbly and unsure, before he turns back to the door and walks reluctantly out. The moment he's gone, Stiles' knees buckle, Derek and Erica and Boyd all going down with him, holding him close as tears start rolling down his cheeks and that vacuum of staticky-dark starts to overtake his bond again.

You were so brave, Lydia signs to him vehemently, coming to kneel in front of him and wrapping her arms around his neck. Stiles clutches at her, his other hand finding Derek's and lacing their fingers together, tight as he begins crying, really crying.

Derek whines in the back of his throat, presses kisses to the shell of his ear, scarred and irrevocably damaged, but still as beautiful as the rest of him. Isaac, Jackson, John, and Peter all gathering around, touching Stiles wherever they can reach and just, just holding him through it all.

There's an odd sort of peace that comes with silence, Stiles never expected to be able to find it, he thought he'd always hate this position he was forced into, resent it, and he still kind of does, but it's been quiet for so long.

Or, at least, long enough.

It's becoming a part of him now, it's his life, his quiet, and once he'd accepted it, the peace, it came in little pockets, buried underneath numbness and anxiety and the pressure of everything else going on, but, here, sitting on the bare wooden floor of the Loft, head tilted up to the window, sun warming him, he feels it.




And after so much time spent hurting, terrified, nervous, head filled to bursting with too many thoughts, too much planning, anticipation, it's nice. Even the absolute silence.

He feels Derek, the lead of his bond slackening as he comes closer before there's a calloused hand, cold on his face where the sun still lingers underneath his skin. His eyes flutter open slowly, sleepily, like he's been dozing, and Derek's face comes into focus, smiling soft at him, like he's the best thing in the entire world.

He doesn't feel broken, now, all that pain left behind, here, in this space, in this moment. He smiles back, moves closer, closer, barely a breath in between them.

He says it like he feels it, like he knows it, because his heart was beating for him even when his mind was pleasently absent of anything else, his soul still felt rooted in this man, and he has no idea how it sounds, but for once he isn't insecure about it, for once he just trusts it to all work the way it's supposed to, and he says, against Derek's lips, before he kisses him, sound, magnificent, and blissful:

"I love you."

He catches the gasp with his tongue, brings his hands out of his lap to cup Derek's face, deepen the kiss, feels the divinity of it flow down his throat, swirl in his belly, grow like a seed, roots taking hold, swallowing up his heart, travellling until it fills him up, and he's whole with it.

It's a burning, freezing thing, but it doesn't hurt him, it's as much a part of him as the silence is. His blood feels alight, and maybe it is, because he's glowing a little when he opens his eyes again.

Derek looks dazed, awed, transfixed, and Stiles feels laughter bubble up inside of him, hit the roof of his mouth and flow out like mist, drags Derek back to his lips, pulls him back, down, until their bodies are entangled, every inch of clothed skin pressed against each other.

Derek tastes like rain, his fingers feel like they're smoothing out all of his creases, and suddenly, he feels so beautiful, he feels more real than he's ever felt before. Their clothes slip off slowly, as they kiss, tumble, fall into each other, the sunlight pools out around them, sweat making their skin slick, pleasure making both of them tremble as it builds up slowly.

His heart fulfilled, gulping in the joy and the heat and the sweet of this moment until it's bursting through him, engulfing him, making him convulse and let go, giving it all to his Alpha, his wolf, his lover, as he comes inside, filling him up until Stiles is sure he will never be empty again.

And he trusts, gives, loves with all of his being, wrapping himself around him, breathing, writhing, whimpering out his name as if he's the only thing left in the world there is to worship. The intimacy of it all the more encompassing when he feels Derek, through the bond, desperate and hopeful and just as in love.

They fall apart like that, weave themselves back together with each other's thread, and when Derek looks down at him, flushed and sweat-soaked and gorgeous, still inside, Stiles just smiles, breathless and euphoric, and says it again, with his hands this time.

Derek, laughing, eyes glistening, signs it back.

It turns out, awakening to, and gaining some semblence of control over your mystical magical powers? It makes you incredibly bad ass, as they all find out when, apparently tired of waiting and trying to play mind-games, the Alphas attack.

Ever since the other night with Derek- after which the rest of the Pack deemed the Loft claimed by the Alpha and his Mate in every single way, and said they'd be taking the downstairs apartment where it doesn't smell like sex and newlyweds, thank you very much; Erica leering and positively delighting over Stiles' resulting embarassment- his abilities just... settled.

The bonds got stronger, Stiles felt stronger, and so, apparently, did Derek and the Betas. Even his dad felt a renewed sort of vigor, saying he felt like he was twenty again and very purposefully ignoring why. He didn't want to know.

Spells and casting made more sense, became things he could actually work on while Derek taught them all self-defence and they managed to really start moving into the Loft, all of the wolves felt more settled within themseleves, their wolves, during that full moon, and even Stiles felt the pull of it, ending up casting over a dozen random spells just to blow off steam, and sparring with Derek and Isaac until all of his muscles felt like jelly.

So considering all he's been doing to retain control and gain knowledge of his abilities, whilst they all simultaneously got more powerful and actually trained up, when the Alpha Pack comes at them, catching them off-guard on the way to their cars after a day spent running and playing in the Preserve, well.

Erica and Boyd take the half-feral she-wolf, Isaac and Jackson take the combo-twins, Peter and Lydia take the hulking douche bag, and Derek and Stiles take the 'blind' dude who looks even more ego-centric than Jackson does.

The woman gets a couple of good hits in, but Boyd and Erica are equal parts mountain-man strength and cat-like agility, and she ends up being very surprised that two little Betas can take her on so well. She's mince-meat within ten minutes, so are the combo-twins.

Peter disables the muscle-douche as much as possible, shoves his ear near the vacinity of Lydia's mouth when he's done. The scream that rips out of her shakes the trees and causes the guy's brain to turn to mush. Seriously, it comes oozing like pink, gooey slop out of his nose and ears and eyes, it's the grossest thing Stiles has ever seen and he can't believe that Lydia has the gall to just sniff haughtily and make sure none of it got on her shoes.

Stiles just hog-ties his guy with half-sentient stone and throws a swarm of wasps at him. Yeah, he can heal from the stings, but it's still gotta hurt like a bitch. After the rest of the Alphas are wiped out Derek slinks forward and, without ceramony, rips out his throat.

Stiles surveys the damage, but, miraculously, other than some sluggishly slow healing cuts and bruises on the 'were's and Lydia's sore throat, they're all... perfectly fine.

Cool, he signs, then, with a yawn, can we go home now?

What about the bodies? Lydia asks, and Stiles waves a hand, casts one of the first spells he learned because he knew, he just knew it would come in handy.

All of the bloodied corpses rapidly decompose until they're nothing but bone, then the bones themselves are aging, splintering and cracking until they're nothing but dust mingled with the blood-soaked soil.

There. Now can we go home.

Derek's laughing when he signs, Yes, Stiles. Now we can go home.

We are not watching The Notebook, Stiles declares, when they're finally, finally done moving themselves in, only Peter with his own place any longer, and even then, considering how often he's here, it's practically irrelevant. Lydia's and Jackson's parents- the only ones who would even care that they moved along with the rest of them- had been told something vague about a room-share, and considering how close they all are to eighteen, were given leave, since their grades are fine and they're almost never home, anyway.

And Isaac Lahey (read: Isaac Hale, since he's been proudly adopted) doesn't have to answer to anyone but their Alpha.

So, in celebration/house warming, they're gathered up in the Loft's living room, Derek and Stiles' bedroom just across the way considering the open floor plan, preparing to watch a movie. You'd think Erica would get tired of leering, but she hasn't.

I could probably recite the whole script for you, Lyds, without even looking at the screen. Please, please, please can we watch something else?

I don't force The Notebook every time, she signs, indignant.

He's pretty sure, by everyone's now wide, rapidly moving mouths, and the fact that she's cringing away signing and saying, Alright, alright, alright that the whole Pack started shouting at her, because she does, every damn time. Even his dad's football games had been superceded by that fucking movie.

So what should we watch then? Derek asks, amused and indulgent.

Iron Man!

Derek laughs, and there's a lively discussion before they do settle on Iron Man- Yes!- with the condition that it's followed immediately after by binge-watching Daredevil, just because, and Stiles is cool with that, very cool.

He snuggles into Derek's lap, unabashedly, where he's sat on the sofa-chair which is beside the couch the puppies are all cuddled up on, Peter deigning to sit on the floor with his back up against Lydia's legs and her hands in his hair, leaning into Jackson's side as he cuddles up to Isaac, Boyd leaning into his other side while Erica sprawls across all of their laps one hand laced in Boyd's, the other in Isaac's as Jackson plays with her hair.

All of their bonds sing with contentment and sleepy-sweet affection, familial joy and pride.

Stiles still worries some, about how much magic he has and what he is, worries about the fact that they've still not found Gerard, worries about how to touch people without drowning in himself, and he still has nightmares, still has days where he feels more nothing and ache than anything else, days where his scars and trauma taunt him. But he's getting better, even in silence, even damaged, he's getting better.

His eyes find themselves drifing from the TV screen to his Alpha's face, and in this moment, more than anything, more than all those worries and fears and all that pain, he feels happy.

Derek blinks, looks down at him, smiles, crosses his middle and forefingers, his ring finger curled into his palm, I really love you.

Stiles grins, takes that hand in his and kisses every fingertip, says, even though he can't hear it, has no idea what it sounds like, and this is the first time he's ever more than whispered with anyone other than Derek around:

"I really love you, too."