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don't you hear me howling

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Derek is at a bar again.

And it’s crazy – fucking crazy, really – how often Derek’s at bars these days considering how fucking much he dislikes social interaction with anyone outside his pack. Moreso, how much he despises crowds. And even moreso, considering how much he can’t stand the smell of large groups of people crammed into small spaces, all the sweat, alcohol, clear arousal stemming especially from the dance floor.

The only thing keeping him sane, to be honest, is Stiles.

The only reason he’s even fucking here is because of Stiles.

Because while Derek dislikes every single aspect of bars, clubs, parties, and other party-like atmospheres, Stiles – he loves them. Basks in them, even, Derek would say, watching as his boyfriend throws his head back, laughing at something. He’s on the edge of the dance floor, with Lydia and Kira, the three of them huddled together and dancing on each other.

He used to be able to fend off his pack – they, for the most part, listened to him, understood his opposition to going out. Derek is, absolutely and one hundred percent, a homebody. Any given evening he would prefer to be at home, hanging out with his friends, his pack, Stiles, over being pretty much anywhere else. And this – this place, bass pounding through the speakers and floor as the “DJ” selects a new, semi-popular song that everyone goes crazy over, bodies squished into every available space, floor sticky from spilled beer – none of this is what Derek wishes he were doing tonight.

“Derek,” Stiles had asked a few days previous, eyes shining and a smile on his face, “You’re coming out with us on Saturday, right?”

He’d looked expectant and excited, and after some quick calculations in his head, Derek had realized – fucking St. Patrick’s Day.

Derek’s lived in New York City for ten years, okay? He knows what St. Patty’s Day is like in the City, and he hates it. Hates it considerably more than New Year’s Eve, because while NYE had a good reason for celebration, and most people only drank a little, St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated for the express purpose so that people could get drunk off their asses with a lame excuse. Derek doesn’t deny that some people celebrate for good reason – to recognize their Irish heritage, or actually as an observance of St. Patrick’s life, he also knows most people in NYC do it to get drunk.

It’s not even just that – he doesn’t like the parade, he doesn’t like the loud music that always accompanies it, he doesn’t like the overabundance of green that everyone wears on the day (it’s not that he doesn’t like green – he just doesn’t like it in the huge amounts he’s forced to see), and he especially doesn’t like the weird tradition of pinching someone when they aren’t wearing green.

But it’s true that he really really doesn’t like the drunkenness most of all. He has a low tolerance for drunk people, which pretty much extends to his pack and friends.

But Derek had taken one look at Stiles, who’s expression was one of excited expectance, and just gave a tight nod.

“’Course I am.”

And that’s why Derek is in this fucking bar tonight, sitting in a corner booth next to Cora and Isaac and Malia, and the only time Cora gets touchy-feely is when she’s been drinking and someone (Derek’s going to blame Laura, though he’s pretty sure Laura taught Erica how to make the wolfsbane concoction that allows ‘wolves to get drunk) made up enough for whoever wanted some tonight and Cora’s been steadily drinking since they pregamed (and they do know they aren’t in college anymore, right?) at five and it’s now almost eleven p.m. He’s sitting right next to her as she’s cuddling up on Isaac and that’s – he lives with them, has for years, and the thing about being a werewolf is that you can hear everything that happens in that house, so it’s not like he hasn’t heard it before – but there are just some things he can go without seeing his little sister participate in, so he’s trying to ignore that.

Luckily he has Stiles, though, to keep his eyes trained on. Stiles is distractingly beautiful when he’s dancing, even under the dim lights. Though he’s a klutz normally, Stiles is amazingly adept when he’s dancing. Graceful, even.

“Hey.” Stiles is suddenly at the table, sliding right up next to Derek and it’s automatic, he doesn’t even think about it, just wraps his arm around Stiles and leans the half an inch down, taking in his scent. It’s overlaid with sweat, but still triggers something in Derek – the immediate reaction of mate, mine. Stiles leans even further into him, sipping down the rest of his drink (Derek thinks it’s rum and coke, but everything – everything – is coated with the scent of stale beer, the cheapest stuff the bar offers) before turning to Derek, putting on that smile, a twinkle in his eye.

“Dance with me?” he asks, and Derek – he doesn’t like to dance, doesn’t like the press of bodies against his own or the pulse of the overly loud music, on top of the fact that he has zero rhythm – but Stiles is still looking at him, electricity sliding off his body and if nothing else, it’s invigorating.

He ends up nodding, feeling his head move before he knows what he’s doing, and Stiles brightens, downing the rest of his drink before grabbing Derek by the bicep and pulling him toward the dancefloor.

Dancing with Stiles is just as exhilarating as watching him – no, more. The occasional pressure of his body against Derek’s, hands flitting across his stomach, back, shoulders. Derek lets his eyes bleed red, just for a moment, just long enough to trace over Stiles’ body through the dark, watch the sleekness of his moves.

It’s going well for a few minutes, songs switching and Derek situates his hands on Stiles’ hips, breath ghosting together one second and in the next, a burst of electricity charges through the air, lights above the bar shatter, people scream, and Stiles collapses against him.

*

When Stiles wakes up he fucking aches. Everything hurts, and he feels about five times worse than he did the day after Allison made him and Scott run a half marathon with her back in college. His head is pounding, his body is sore, and to top it all off his veins feel on fire in a way he’s only felt one other time.

He opens his eyes, slowly, breathing shallowly against ribs that are definitely bruised, and there’s a rustle from above his head. He’s on a couch – big, comfy, and after a moment he recognizes the room as Derek’s – the Hale’s – den. The room is softly glowing, lit by a single lamp in the corner and it’s definitely nighttime.

Stiles blinks a couple of times, and then there’s a soft “Stiles?” from his left, a voice he immediately knows is Lydia’s. He turns his head – so goddamn slow, it hurts like a motherfucker’s been beating a hammer against it for ages – and sees her in one of the chairs, leaned forward, watching him. Derek’s in the other one, snoring softly, head tipped back and face toward the ceiling like he fell asleep there accidentally.

“Stiles?” Lydia tries again, brows drawn together, “How are you feeling?”

Stiles opens his mouth to answer, but even that hurts, and he snaps it shut, much to his chagrin when that just makes it feel even worse. His jaw aches like he’s recently been socked by someone with a hell of a punch, and Lydia’s worry lines deepen at his non-answer.

“Do you remember what happened?” she asks next. Stiles thinks for a moment, trying to muddle through the raging headache. Things are blurry, and pulling at memories is like dragging them through mud. It’s a long minute, but he eventually shrugs, swallowing against a sandpaper throat, which sends him into a fit of coughs.

It’s less than a second later that Derek’s awake and at his side, helping him sit up and pressing a water bottle into his hands.

“Thanks,” Stiles croaks once the water is gone and the coughing subsided. Scott, Ally, Erica, and Isaac are all in the doorway, various expressions of concern on their faces, and Stiles sinks backward, half into Derek and half into the couch. Lydia’s poised ready to move, obviously going for the same thing Derek had only she hadn’t been as quick. She sits back down as he relaxes, though watching him closely.

Derek seems to sense something, because the next moment Stiles feels significantly better – not perfect, but certainly better. The tenseness he hadn’t realized he’d had slides out of him, and his eyes slip closed as some of the ache leaves his body. It’s a moment before he realizes what’s happening, and looks over at Derek who’s facial muscles are all locked, hiding some obvious pain but his eyes challenge Stiles to say anything about it, so he doesn’t.

“How’re you doing?” It’s Scott who asks, the four of them coming fully into the room, Scott taking the place on the other side of Stiles, Allison the chair, Isaac flitting uncomfortably and Erica sitting on the table in the middle of the room. Cora, Kira, and Malia fill in the space in the doorway.

“It hurts,” he’s able to breathe out, letting his eyelids fall again, and Derek rearranges so his arm is firmly around Stiles and it’s comfortable, though it would be considerably more so if his veins didn’t feel like they were full of flames. He lets himself breathe for a few moments before continuing with, “What happened, exactly?”

Everyone looks around at each other before shifting their eyes to Derek.

“Only Derek caught what happened,” Allison offers, and Stiles turns his gaze to his boyfriend, who shrugs.

“What do you remember?” he asks, a little breathlessly himself, and he’s wearing a long-sleeve shirt or Stiles is sure they’d see black lines pumping through his blood. Stiles still wants to say something – “it’s fine” or “please don’t hurt yourself like this” but there’s still clear determination in Derek’s eyes that tell him he shouldn’t argue right now. Instead, he shrugs himself.

“Um, we were dancing, and then – nothing.”

“That’s about as much as I know, too,” Derek answers, “There was a, uh, charge throughout the room and then you – fainted?” He pauses, just for a second, clearly worried regarding his next statement.

“You were out about four hours.”

“Four hours?” Stiles asks, surprised because that’s a long-ass time and he’s unsure why they didn’t take him to the emergency room except that it sounds like it’s something related to his spark, something having to do with the supernatural so maybe not.

“I called my mom,” Derek continues, “And she talked to our emissary, Deaton, see if he knew anything more.” He pauses again, shakes his head and the arm around Stiles’ waist presses in closer, pulls him further into Derek.

“They’re not sure, but they’ll ask around their various sources, try to figure it out. They think it could have something to do with your spark, which seems spot on considering the burst of electricity through the room right before it happened. There’s just – and I’m sure you know this already, but there’s just not a lot known about sparks and all that occurs with them, because they’re much rarer than almost any other supernatural creature.”

“Yay, I’m special,” Stiles mumbles, and there’s a huff of a laugh from his left side, from Scott, and that’s one reason they’ve stayed friends so long; he may not always get Stiles’ sarcasm, but when he does he gets it on a different level. Stiles takes another sip of his water, sends a grateful look toward Scott who takes a moment to break from his concern to roll his eyes in response.

A silence falls over the room after that as they all process the information, and then Scott speaks up with a quiet, “What do we do now, then?”

Stiles keeps his eyes on Scott, sees his amusement fall back into something else, watching Stiles. He’s always had a little too much of a heart-on-the-sleeve kinda thing about him, and everything he’s feeling is showing on his face – all the worry, concern, hurt, and it’s a little much to have to see knowing it’s about him. Stiles can’t offer a smile back, can’t comfort because he knows it’s bad, knows it because he’s still in pain.

“I can talk to my mom and Satomi,” Kira offers, and Malia steps out of the way to let her into the room, “They’ve been around a considerably longer time than any of us, they might know something.”

“Good idea,” Derek agrees, and there’s quiet for another moment before he sighs deeply, “I don’t think there’s anything else to do right now, though, and it’s almost four in the morning and we should all probably sleep.” He looks over to Stiles. “As well as we can.”

There’s a murmur of assent through the room.

“Any of you, feel free to crash here. We have a couple of air mattresses, a pull-out couch in the living room,” Derek adds, “I think we can scrounge up extra clothes between the five of us, I’m sure nobody wants to sleep in their clothes. We can reconvene in the morning, see if we have any new information or ideas.”

“I’ll figure it out if you guys wanna head up,” Cora speaks up, keeping on Stiles and he feels a little like he’s got a spotlight on him, the way everyone’s looking at him. He’s never minded being the center of attention, but it’s rare that he actually is and it makes him feel all sorts of weird even if it’s just him and his pack.

Derek nods again, turns back to Stiles.

“You good with staying the night?” he asks, quiet but it’s never quiet enough for supernatural creatures and especially weres. Stiles has to hold back from rolling his eyes because fucking duh, Derek, and maybe that’s rude or whatever but give him a break, he’s exhausted and hurts everywhere.

“When am I not?”

Derek gives a small smirk at that, maybe lets out one chuckle, and is careful to keep his hand on Stiles as he gets up and pulls Stiles up with him.

“Let me know if there’s any problems,” he tells Cora, pulling Stiles into him again and Stiles knows it’s something having to do with being a ‘wolf, this protectiveness or whatever, but it’s also something with Derek and Stiles and it makes him tingle a little, feel good about himself that Derek obviously cares so much about him, is so careful with him, so easily affectionate, “And anyone who doesn’t have to go off to work early tomorrow, I’ll swing some breakfast from that bakery down the street.”

And that makes a general groan of approval go through the two packs. The bakery a couple blocks away is one of the best in all of Brooklyn, maybe in the top five in the whole city. They’re on the pricier side, though, and none of them regularly go there. Stiles laughs at the look on Scott’s face – his man is a big fan of pastries – as he and Derek head out of the room, toward the stairs.

Everyone moves as they exit, and Stiles hears Cora saying something, probably directing everyone and he’s glad, not only that his pack is here but that they’re so obviously welcome and on one hand it’s dumb because they’re all actually friends beyond the fact that he and Derek are together and Kira and Malia are dating, but on the other hand it’s just nice. That Derek is comfortable with another pack and another alpha sleeping in the same building as he is. Pack dynamics are sometimes hard to deal with, but it’s clear they’re all beyond that and it’s just really nice.

“Thanks,” he whispers to Derek as they hit the top floor, and Derek looks to him, confusion evident.

“For?”

Stiles shrugs a little, barely moving his shoulders though because ouch.

“Letting everyone stay over. Doing your weird pain sucky thing.”

Derek’s expression goes soft, with a beautiful small smile. He opens his mouth, sucks in a breath to say something, closes it as they reach his bedroom. He shakes his head, lets Stiles slide into the room ahead of him.

“Anytime, Stiles,” he replies as he shuts the door, managing to keep hold of Stiles as he does so, turns on the light, “I mean it.”

And Stiles is so close, so honestly close – maybe seventy-five, maybe ninety percent there – to saying the words, he’s feeling it so fucking hard right now and in the way he does when he’s tipsy, or high. Maybe he’s not fully in control of his faculties, and maybe that’s what stops him. I love you’s on the tip of his tongue but he’s way too tired for that conversation right now, anyway.

“I know,” he says in lieu of what’s on his mind, “Thank you, anyway.”

Derek just smiles.

“Let’s get you to bed, see if we can’t get some sleep.”

Neither of them are thinking in that moment, and then Derek’s hand falls from Stiles’ hip as they move away from the door, and the pain shoots back into Stiles’ body and it’s not as bad as it was right after he woke up and that’s the only reason he doesn’t immediately fall down. His knees start to buckle, though he’s able to stay on his feet long enough for Derek to get to him, catch hold of him again.

 “Dude,” he groans when Derek immediately starts taking his pain again, leading him over to the bed and sitting them both down.

“Dude, thanks,” he breathes, “But you can let me go long enough for me to get undressed.”

“I’m not even taking more than half your pain, and it hurts me, and I know that it’s hurting me significantly less than you,” Derek retorts, “So no thanks.” He sighs, rubbing his eyes with his free hand, taking a moment to think.

“Just – how about kicking off your shoes and pants.”

Which is fair, Stiles supposes, he’s just wearing a t-shirt and boxers and they’re both comfortable enough to sleep in and normally what he’d sleep in anyway besides maybe some sweatpants but he can see the slight clench in Derek’s jaw and it doesn’t feel right, no matter what his boyfriend says, to be putting him through this. He ignores it, at least long enough to shrug off his shoes and toss them to the middle of the floor.

“You’re still going to have to go shut off the light,” he points out as he’s unzipping his jeans. Derek gives him such a god damn look – full on glare, nostrils flared, red glint to his eyes though not full-on alpha-ing, yet.

“Once you’re lying down,” he concedes, and its only once Stiles has shed his pants and Derek eyes him, pulling up the blanket to cover Stiles, almost like he’s tucking him in.  

“Ready?”

“I am,” Stiles says, only barely stopping himself from rolling his eyes, it’s dumb.

Except that the second Derek lets go of him everything comes rushing back and it’s nothing Stiles can’t deal with but it still hurts like a sword is being shoved through his abdomen and that’s followed by a pickaxe to his temple and he doesn’t moan because he’s too much of a prick and asshole to let Derek know how bad it actually hurts but it’s a near thing.

It’s still, he realizes, better than when he first woke up. Better, the memories come rushing back as the lights flick out and then Derek’s back, settling a hand on Stiles’, than when he collapsed. Just a speck of a second is all he knows about before it’s pure black, but that speck is more than enough let him know exactly how much pain he was in, probably why he collapsed. Sudden, one second he’s grinding on Derek and thinking about how well he’s gonna get fucked tonight and the next second there’s a jolt through his body, and eruption of pain radiating from his chest out, bright light overcoming his eyes and the split second of recognizing imminent death and he’s out cold.

And then Derek’s leeching his pain again, throwing his own shoes into the middle of the room and climbing up the bed and sliding in next to Stiles except –

“Take off your fuckin’ pants,” Stiles mumbles, feeling exceptionally tired for someone who just spent four hours blacked out. Derek snorts, pulls him closer and Stiles has never had a problem with being little spoon so he accepts it easily.

“’M fine. Sleep.”

Stiles opens one eyes, turns his head around just enough to look at Derek carefully.

“Go put on some fucking sweatpants or basketball shorts,” he tries, then – oh. He sighs.

“You can let go of me, Derek. I’ll be okay, and anyway, it’ll only be long enough to change your clothes because I know you and you have an inability to listen for your own sake and a weird streak of protectiveness.”

“It’s not weird to try to take care of the man I love,” Derek replies, a vein of anger clear in his voice like he’s frustrated Stiles is still talking about this but then – oh. Ohhhh.

Everything stills as they both process his words.

“Go change. I’ll be okay for a little while,” Stiles speaks after a few long moments of silence. Complete warmth has spread over him, and he’s still looking at Derek who’s staring back, eyes wider than Stiles has ever seen them. And that – that’s enough, Stiles smiles at him and hopes that’s enough for tonight because he’s too exhausted, in too much pain to have this conversation tonight.

It seems to be, because Derek lets out the breath he was holding and nods.

“Be right back,” he says, leaning down to kiss Stiles on the shoulder before letting go of him again. Stiles isn’t completely sure what happens in the two minutes he’s gone, just that Derek’s back in practically no time, pressing a hand to Stiles’ hip again and pulling him close, now in a pair of basketball shorts and a new shirt and he’s setting down a half-empty water bottle on the bedside table on Stiles’ side.

“Sleep,” Derek says again, settling his arm around Stiles’ middle, and with Derek taking some of the pain away and the pure weariness it’s all made Stiles, he falls asleep within minutes.

*

Something is buzzing. Loudly, like it’s in the room, and what the fuck, Derek thinks, rubbing his eyes and rolling away from Stiles. It’s another few moments before he realizes – oh, fuck, right, grabbing for his phone that’s on his bedside table, quietly extracting himself from the bed as to not wake Stiles as he answers with a mumbled, “’Ello?”

“Derek.” It’s his mom, and amusement laces her voice. “You just waking up?”

Derek yawns, pulling the phone away from his head just long enough to check the time. It’s just past nine in the morning, not late enough in the morning to be asking that question.

“We were up ‘til almost five,” he says, gently rising from the bed and padding over to his window, pushing back the curtains just enough to look out at the sunlight streaming in.

“Right. Well.” There’s a pause, some shuffling, a murmur in the background he can’t place but thinks might be Laura, or his stepdad, or even Deaton.

“Noshiko called me right after Kira called her,” Talia fills him in, “She and Satomi will contact some people they know, see what they can find out. It might be easier if we can see Stiles, if you can get him up here for a couple of days.”

Derek sighs, glancing over to Stiles still sleeping form, no pain detectable in his scent or on his face and he really wants to just leave him there for as long as he can.  

“I’ll see if he can get off work. I know I can, I have some sick leave I can use.” Derek yawns, looks back out the window. “Tonight?”

“As soon as you can get here,” Talia says, “Either way, we’re looking, I’ll let you know when we have something.”

“’Kay. Thanks, Mom.”

“Of course, Derek,” she responds softly, and Derek is twenty-eight but now he feels better knowing his mom has his back. He always will, he knows.

“Get back to Stiles. We’ll talk later,” she continues after a pause, and Derek nods even though she can’t hear him before speaking up with, “Yeah. Love you.”

“You, too,” she replies, and there’s the click of the phone hanging up as Derek pulls his own away, glancing once more out the window before putting the curtains back in place and looking over to Stiles.

He’s laying in the same place, but blinking, slowly, waking up with a large yawn and stretch.

“Your mom?” he guesses, and Derek nods, wandering back over to the bed and taking a deep breath. He doesn’t smell any immediate pain, though there’s something quiet, underlying.

“Feeling better?” he asks after a moment, and Stiles finishes stretching, sitting up a little more as Derek climbs back in the bed.

“More achy, less pain,” Stiles admits, blinking heavily again and settling his head on Derek’s shoulder once he’s close enough, “Fire’s not quite as hot in my veins.”

Derek hums, runs a hand through Stiles hair.

“Think you can get a couple days off work?”

Stiles turns to look at Derek a little too fast, if the grimace on his face after he whips his head up is anything to by. His eyebrows raise anyway.

“If I tell him I’m sick, probably. I don’t have any projects that are due within the next couple of weeks and we just hired a part-time to cover the front sometimes so that should be good. Why?”

“Mom figures having you around might help them better understand what’s going on,” Derek tells him, “I’m going to put in a few days of time off, I should get it since I worked so much overtime last month when everyone was sick.”

“You’ve got a meeting with Dickens on Tuesday,” Stiles reminds him, which Derek knows already but is kind of amazed Stiles remembers. But then, it had taken all of about two weeks of dating before Stiles knew his schedule better that even he did.

“We might be back by then, I’m not sure, but I’m gonna try to push it to next Tuesday instead. It’s the first one I’ll have pushed, she should be okay with it.”

Stiles nods, yawning and stretching again, and Derek gets up from the bed, sniffing just once more but again only the barest hints of pain are coming off Stiles and that seems promising.

“I’m gonna go get breakfast for everyone, and call Renauld about taking the next few days off,” he tells Stiles, grabbing his jeans from the chair he’d thrown them onto and going to his closet, pulling out a sweater.

“And I’ll call Jules,” Stiles agrees, sitting up a bit more and scrunching up his nose, “Maybe take a shower.”

Derek snorts, pulling the sweater over his head and coming over to the bed, dropping a light kiss on Stiles’ lips.

“Towel’s already in there for you.”

He goes over to his dresser, picking up some socks and pulling them on before slipping his feet into his shoes, and when he turns back around Stiles is watching him with a small smile on his face, expression maybe slightly contemplative.

“Yeah?” Derek asks, but Stiles just smiles wider, shaking his head.

“Just thinking.”

“Mhmm.” Derek doesn’t believe him, but Stiles will share if he wants to, when he wants to. He picks up his wallet and keys from the top of his dresser and gives a quick, “See you soon” to Stiles before heading out of the bedroom, closing the door behind him.

Cora’s coming out of her room at the same time, hair mussed and in her usual shorts/t-shirt combo she uses as pajamas, yawning.

“Good morning,” he says quietly, and Cora just nods in response.

“Food?” she asks sleepily, and Derek chuckles, nodding.

“I’ll be back soon. Put on some coffee?”

“I’ll get both the pots going,” she confirms, following him down the stairs.

The bakery they all like so much is only a couple of blocks away, and while they’re normally relatively busy on Sundays, it’s early enough in the morning post-St. Patrick’s Day that it only takes about twenty minutes for the entire trip, and they’re almost fully stocked so he gets his pick of pastries. He also gets a large box of their specialty coffee, because even though they have two coffee makers at home Derek thinks there’ll be probably about nine or ten of them out of the twelve and the majority are coffee drinkers and his pack alone can refill those two pots four times over in the course of day.

When he gets back he’s greeted at the door by Isaac and Ally, who help him with the boxes while he shrugs off his coat and shoes and they all head to the kitchen. Stiles is sitting at the bar with Cora and Lydia, one stool still open.  Boyd, Erica, and Jackson are sitting at the kitchen table on the other end of the kitchen, and Scott’s leaning against the island not far from Stiles. The three set down all the food and coffee, spreading it out and Cora gets up, grabs some plates from the cupboard. Everyone already has cups of coffee with them, some looking more harried than others.

Within a minute, everyone’s up and grabbing through the boxes, pouring more coffee and Derek stands off the side once he has his own mug, watches as the pastries are picked through and the coffee poured and the hush that had fallen over the room at his arrival dissipates, replaced with multiple conversations.

“So, any updates?” Scott asks as everyone’s finishing up, Allison having left halfway through to head to an appointment with a client, safe in knowing that Stiles was feeling marginally better. The kitchen quiets again, and Stiles sits up from where he’d been leaned against Derek.

“We’re going to head up to the Hale’s today. Talia thinks it’d be better to be up there, so that they can get a better sense of my symptoms.”

Derek nods, finishing off his coffee.

“She, Deaton, Satomi, and Noshiko are all talking to their contacts, trying to see if anything similar has happened to a spark before. Hopefully they’ll have something before we get there.” Derek pauses, looks over at Stiles and takes a deep breath.

“Of course, any of you who want to come are more than welcome, but those of you who can’t, we’ll keep you as updated as possible.”

Derek feels Stiles nudge him, lean into him again, and when he glances down his boyfriend is grinning softly, watching him.

“I’d like to come,” Scott speaks up almost immediately, “The clinic is closed tomorrow for some electrical maintenance, and I don’t have classes until Tuesday afternoon. I can drive Ally’s car up separately and head back down Tuesday morning unless it’s resolved before then.”

“Of course,” Derek agrees at the same moment Stiles snorts in laughter. Everyone’s eyes turn to him and he shrugs.

“Just – weird, I guess, how comfortable this all is considering how much I know and have experience with ‘wolves.”

When nobody agrees and a couple of them look confused, Stiles continues.

“I mean, having three alphas in one place.”

A couple of them chuckle at the reasoning, and Derek rolls his eyes while Scott shrugs, though Cora’s laugh breaks through the most.

“I mean, normally might be a bit hard,” she considers, “But Derek’s like, the least territorial alpha I’ve ever met, Mom’s been an alpha since before I was born and has her shit on lock, and Scott.” She looks over at him, cocks her head to the side as he raises his eyebrows, curious about the answer.

“Scott’s like a puppy,” Stiles inserts, and Cora laughs again, nods.

“Scott’s like a puppy,” she agrees, taking a drink of coffee.

There’s a moment of contemplation before Derek glances at his watch, sighs again.

“Well, we’re going to leave as soon as we can get packed and head out. I’ll grab some stuff and take you two over to your apartment?”

“Sounds good,” Scott says, and Stiles shoves off Derek once again as he gets up from his stool.

“I’ll pack up the leftovers for you to take up,” Cora offers, standing a well, “Laura might actually kill you if she finds out we had Breadsmith’s and you didn’t take her any.”

“Thanks,” Derek replies, taking a moment to give her forearm a squeeze as he walks past her. It’s as much a brotherly thing as an alpha thing; Cora’s still the one who has the most trouble with being a separate pack than the one she grew up in, and the reassurance and grounding helps her cope.

It takes Derek less than ten minutes to pack a bag – he doesn’t figure they’ll be there more than a handful of days, and packs as such; they can always do laundry if need be. When he gets back down to the kitchen, keys and duffel bag in hand, Lydia and Jackson are gone, Erica’s washing mugs and plates while Isaac dries, Cora’s sitting at the bar next to Stiles with a box half-full of leftovers and Scott’s leaning against the bar top again, on his phone.

“Ready?” he asks, and both Scott and Stiles nod, Scott putting his phone away and Stiles setting his mug down, getting up with a small wince. It takes Derek a moment, having been so focused on his scent and his pain, to recognize that while he’s wearing his own jeans and shoes, the shirt he has on is one of Derek’s black tees. It’s far from unusual for Stiles to be wearing Derek’s clothes, but every time he does it takes Derek a moment – a reminder to himself that they’ve only been dating three months, and this time it also throws back into focus what he’d said the previous night and – oh, right.

Stiles hasn’t mentioned it, but he also doesn’t seem scared by the fact that Derek had basically admitted to loving him, and that’s enough, right now.

More than enough, and beyond the scent of pain, anxiety, and the usual smell of Stiles, mate, mine that he always has, there’s also – contentment? – as he looks at Derek.  

“Shotgun,” Stiles says as him and Scott are grabbing their coats from the coatrack, and Scott rolls his eyes.

“Like you would’ve let me even if I’d called it,” he points out, and Stiles laughs, opening the front door and heading down the stairs.

It’s still relatively early on a Sunday morning, and New York traffic isn’t as bad as it sometimes is, which means it only takes them about fifteen minutes to get to Stiles, Scott, and Allison’s apartment.

Derek’s been to their apartment a handful of times, but it always reminds him how lucky he is. To have a fully separate kitchen with room enough for an island and a table, to have an in-house washer and dryer, to have a backyard space, even if it’s tiny, none of which they have. It’s not a bad place for it’s price, and they sublet it as a last-minute decision when they’d moved in and then renewed the lease a few months later because it’s relatively close to Stiles’ and Allison’s workplaces and there hadn’t been anything better at the time.

These days, though the majority of Stiles’ stuff is still here, it’s more like Scott and Allison’s place, considering how many nights Stiles stays at Derek’s.

It takes the two of them fifteen minutes to get everything around, going between their two rooms, the living room, and the kitchen, which Derek feels like would be messier if it weren’t for Allison (he’s not playing into all those stereotypes about men and women, it’s just he himself picks up after Stiles regularly and he knows Scott’s half the same person as his best friend), and as it is the two of them keep picking stuff up from the living room and kitchen. Derek sits on one of their kitchen chairs, watching them.

“Okay,” Stiles is the first to say, setting down a duffel bag on the floor and it’s not hard to tell he’s exhausted. Derek gestures him over and he sits in the other kitchen chair, leaning heavily over onto Derek.

“You seen my phone?” Scott calls from the other room, and when Derek looks at Stiles he rolls his eyes.

“You just had it!” Stiles yells back, and then Scott’s head pops out and he shrugs.

“I set it down when we came in and I can’t find it.”

“Probably on your bed,” Stiles says, and Scott disappears only to exclaim “Found it!” a moment later. Stiles looks at Derek again, shakes his head.

“And he’s supposed to be the alpha,” he says lowly, but definitely not low enough.

“Heard that,” Scott tells him as he comes out with a duffel bag as well, stuffing his phone into his back pocket. He passes by the two of them, grabs a set of keys off a hook on the fridge and turns back to them.

“Ready when you are.”

Stiles sighs but gets up out of the chair, Derek grabbing his bag before he can. When Stiles glares at him Derek shrugs and though Stiles rolls his eyes he doesn’t say anything, instead double checking his pockets to make sure he has everything.

“You can try to follow me as long as you can, but I also sent the address to you to plug into your GPS so you don’t get lost if we get separated,” Derek tells Scott as Stiles locks the door and they start down the stairs.

“Gotcha,” he replies as they get out to the street where both the cars are parked, veering off in different directions toward their own cars.

“Drive safe!” Stiles calls to Scott, and Scott raises his hand in gesture that he heard. Derek throws the duffel in the trunk as Stiles climbs in. He’s wincing, braced against the seat when Derek gets in the driver’ side. Without thinking Derek reaches over, takes his hand and starts sucking some of his pain. It’s not too bad, considerably better than the previous day, but still there. Stiles sags in his seat, throwing a grateful look at Derek.

“Ready?” Derek asks, and Stiles nods, squeezing his hand.

“Thanks,” he sighs, and Derek nods, letting go of Stiles just long enough to get the keys in the ignition and start the car, shifting and heading out onto the street before taking up his hand again. Scott slides out behind him, and they’re off.

*

Stiles has met Laura Hale on many an occasion, as she likes the city and she’s pretty close to both her siblings and so visits every few months. Derek also Skypes her often, and sometimes he’s present for those occasions. He’s even met Talia Hale twice, once just after his pack met the Hale pack and he’d run into Derek, Cora, Isaac, and Talia at a coffeeshop, and the second time just before Christmas last year when she’d come down with Laura for a few days.

But he hasn’t met the rest of them; the twins Nicky and Remi, or Talia’s husband Ricardo, or Talia’s brother Peter and his wife Noelle and their daughter Gina. There’s other’s in the pack – scattered throughout the town and the surrounding area, he’s been told – but he doubts he’ll meet all of them this trip. Maybe not even any of them, depending.

Besides, he hasn’t seen Talia at all since he and Derek started dating, and only been around twice when Derek was talking with Laura.  He doesn’t think it’ll really matter – they’re mates, and that means enough to him and significantly more to most ‘wolves, and they’d seemed to like him before anyway – but that doesn’t stop his anxiety from flaring up as they get closer.

Lockport is almost a seven-hour drive from the City as it is, so it’s nearing six thirty in the evening when they finally arrive, due to their detour in Binghamton for a late lunch. Though Stiles had spent at least part of the drive half asleep (god, but pain makes you tired), he’s exhausted by the time the sign telling them “Welcome to Lockport” comes into view and the city stretches out in front of them. Nonetheless, he feels his heartrate pick up and in response, his magic take a moment of defense and Derek squeezes his leg, glancing over.

“What’s up?” he asks, and Stiles looks at him, giving him a partial smile.

“Just nervous.”

Derek shakes his head, squeezes his knee again.

“We’ll figure out what’s happening and fix it. I promise.”

Stiles laughs, because if he’s honest the pain and fiery feeling, for a moment, took the backseat.

“Um. That’s not what I’m nervous about.”

This time when Derek eyes him, his expression is full of confusion. It only takes a few moments until Derek gets it, though, and he huffs a laugh, the corner of his mouth quirking up.

“This is the first time you’re meeting my family as my…boyfriend.”

And they’ve been dating three months, sure, but Stiles is pretty sure this is the first time Derek’s ever referred to him aloud as his boyfriend, and…yeah. He likes it.

They turn off main street and into a typical suburb, and as they continue down the houses start to get considerably bigger. Stiles knows the Hales come from pretty big shitloads of money, accrued over the last couple of centuries of being an influential pack in upper New York. But surely…

“You so didn’t grow up in the suburbs, did you?”

Derek laughs at that, shaking his head as he makes a right.

“Definitely not. Not sure Mom coulda handled that, and besides, we live in the same house my family’s lived in for generations.”

They keep going until they break out of the suburbs, and then there’s woods on one side and a field on the other. It’s not until they’re out past a water treatment plant that Derek turns onto a small gravel path surrounded by trees and another quarter mile that a sprawling white mansion comes into view. Stiles feels his jaw dropping as they get closer, and hears Derek snorting in laughter next to him, but god damn.

He grew up relatively middle-class, to be clear; his childhood home is nice, two-story little place on the edge of Beacon Hills, but his parents were both civil servants; a deputy-turned-sheriff when Stiles was six, and his mom had been a middle-school history teacher.

This, this is an entirely different side of life.

They park in a clearing in front of the house, what’s gotta be a four- or five-car garage on the left and the house on the right. There’s another car parked outside the garage, a black SUV that looks cleaner than Stiles’ own Jeep, still at home because no way was it going to make the drive to NYC, has ever been.

He gulps.

“Stiles,” Derek says, fondness lining his voice and Stiles looks over at him, sure his eyes are wide and his tone pallid.

“They’re going to love you,” he continues, “You’ve already met Mom and Laura and they both like you just fine.”

Stiles nods, though the words don’t really make him feel any better. He’s never had a great impression on people; Scott’s been his friend since childhood, and really Allison and Lydia came along through Scott and Ally dating in high school. Even then, Lydia hadn’t really liked him until college, and though he’s close to both of them Jackson and Malia are really only his friends because pack. He knows he’s gotten better since college; he’d dated a few times throughout that, and Derek’s pack likes him well enough he thinks, but.

But beyond the fact that his entire body is still sore and rough, he wants this pack to like him.

“Stiles,” Derek begins again, looking him carefully in the eye, “I – ”

But before he finishes that, his eyes go beyond Stiles to the house, and when Stiles glances over there’s Laura on the porch, two teenagers behind her, who Stiles guesses are Nicky and Remi. And Scott’s pulled up behind them, parked and getting out of the car.

“C’mon. It’ll be fine.”

There’s still a pit in the bottom of his stomach, but Stiles opens the car door as Derek turns off the car and does the same. There’s a soft smile on Laura’s face as she comes down the porch, and the other two kids are grinning at the sight of Derek emerging. He comes around the car and places a hand on Stiles’ back, pressing him forward and he’s the first to reach Laura, who goes in for a hug immediately.

“Stiles,” she says in greeting as she pulls back, sparkles in her eyes, “Good to see you again. Welcome to the family.”

Which is far from what Stiles expected from her, and apparently Derek too from the low thrum of a growl that emits from him for half a second. She laughs, nodding over to Scott in greeting, the only Hale he’s met from this pack, before going over to Derek to give him a hug too.

As soon as she’s pulled back Derek’s attacked by the other two teens, laughing all around as Scott sidles up next to Stiles, bag in hand and eyebrows raised at the commotion.

Once hugs have been given, the two Stiles assumes are Derek’s youngest siblings stand back, eyeing Stiles and Scott.

“Remi, Nicky, this is Stiles,” Derek starts, “And Alpha McCall.”

Stiles laughs at Derek’s address of Scott, and even Scott shakes his head.

“Scott, please,” he says, face scrunched up like he’s confused, which is fair because sure Scott may be an alpha, but he’s twenty-three years old, and he’s Scott.

Both the twins smile and wave at Scott, but then Remi’s looking Stiles over carefully, eyes squinted while Nicky watches his sister with amusement.

“Remi,” Derek sighs, rolling his eyes, but she doesn’t let up. Finally, what must be near a minute later, she lets out a small smile, cocking her head to the side and flaring her nostrils.

“I just wanna make sure he’s good for you,” she tells her brother, nodding at Stiles. Derek’s hand has settled on Stiles’ back, gentle but firm, and he shifts it around to Stiles hip, seemingly without thought taking a half a step closer. He rolls his eyes at Remi.

“He’s literally perfect for me.”

He says it with such annoyance that perhaps it shouldn’t make Stiles feel so good, but it’s words rather than the tone that have him smiling softly, and then there’s a groan from Laura and a laugh from Remi.

“Yeah, he seems alright,” she concludes, and Derek rolls his eyes again but there’s the tell-tale red tint to his ears and Stiles leans in enough to kiss him on the cheek.

“Are you guys going to stand out here all day or come in and meet the rest of the family?”

Everyone’s eyes turn toward the door, where Talia Hale is leaning against the doorjamb, watching the fiasco with a smile on her face.  Stiles feels his heartrate pick up, not because she’s an alpha but because that’s Derek’s mom. Her eyes meet his and there’s a soft smile on her face and, suddenly, it’s at least better.

“Mom,” Derek greets her, and he lets go of Stiles long enough to run up the porch steps and pull her into a hug. Laura gestures toward the house with a nod, looking over at Stiles and Scott and they follow her lead up onto the porch.

“Mom,” Derek says again as they pull apart, turning so he could see Stiles again, “You remember Stiles.”

“I do,” she agrees, and before Stiles really knows what’s happening he’s being pulled in for a hug that he returns after a moment of pause.

“How are you feeling?” she asks as she pulls back, eyebrows raised and she’s a good inch shorter than Stiles but the way she holds onto his arm, looks into his eyes, makes him feel like a small child with their mother.

“Good,” he tells her, an automatic response, and it’s only after her eyebrows go down while Derek’s to his right go up and he hears the small intake of breath from Scott that he realizes what he said.

“I mean. I’ve been better. But it’s also better than last night.”

“Mhmm,” she hums, scrutinizing his face before the pain that he’s relatively gotten used to at this point disappears all together, enough so that he slumps a little. Talia raises an eyebrow, unimpressed expression on her face in the same moment that the pain slides back in, slowly until it’s back at the level it was before.

“I’m a little surprised you’re able to function as well as you most certainly all, considering,” she comments, and Stiles shrugs.

“I’ve a pretty high pain tolerance,” he admits, “I got hurt a lot when I was younger. I was a pretty clumsy kid.”

“Was,” Scott snarks from behind him, low but loud enough for Stiles to hear so clearly loud enough for all the ‘wolves. Only Derek laughs, though Talia’s mouth turns up in a smile.

“And this,” Derek starts again after a moment’s pause, and Stiles sidesteps over by his boyfriend, “Is Alpha Scott McCall.”

“Yes,” Talia takes a step out of the door way, looking Scott over and putting out a hand, “I’ve heard bits about you.”

Scott’s eyes immediately go over to Derek, who shakes his head slightly.

“Not only from Derek,” Talia continues as Scott shakes her hand, “Though a little here and there. I am…acquaintances with Margherita Aquino.”

Who, as it happens, to be the alpha of the pack in Beacon Hills. Scott nods.

“Nice to meet you, Alpha Hale.”

She places her other hand over Scott’s, holding it there for a moment while she continues smiling.

“Talia, please.”

“Mhmm,” Remi hums from the yard, “Are we done with formalities so we can go inside now or what?”

There’s a “hush” from Laura and Talia drops Scott’s hand, sends her daughter a look, before she steps inside, opening her arms to gesture the rest of them in.

The front entrance is as mansion-like as the rest of the house; a huge room with a high ceiling, a mud room-esque feel to the left and an elaborate staircase to the right. Beyond that is the living room, huge fire place and a space full of couches, loveseats, and chairs, a coffee table and end tables, and a TV. A girl is sitting in the living room on one of the couches, probably mid- to late-teens, and she raises her head long enough from her laptop to say “hey”. Derek huffs.

“Great to see you, too, Gina.”

“I literally saw you at Christmas, that was like only three months ago.”

“She’s just crabby ‘cause the girl she’s been messaging hasn’t gotten back to her in a few hours,” Remi tells them, plopping down on the couch next to Gina, who shoves her cousin a little. Nicky rolls his eyes at the entire thing and goes to one of the other chairs, plopping down and pulling out his phone. Derek hums as if he’s disapproving, which Stiles thinks is rich considering half the time he’s over at his place Derek’s on his phone or laptop.

“Peter and Elle aren’t here?” Derek asks his mother, who shakes her head fondly, closing the door behind Laura as she finally makes her way into the house and they migrate an inch closer to the living room.

“Went to LA for their anniversary, they aren’t due back until next Thursday. Ricky’s out with Dex and Ray.”

“Actually I’m right here with Dex and Ray,” a voice comes from beyond the staircase, and as soon as a head emerges two massive great Danes come bounding out. One, light grey in coloring, goes directly to Derek, pushing himself up on his back paws, front on Derek’s shoulders, and gives him a big old lick across the face, while the other black one comes over to Stiles and Scott cautiously, nudging them both for pets when he’s close enough.

The voice soon belongs to a figure, just as tall and beautiful as the rest of the Hales even if they aren’t his biological children.

“Ricky,” Derek greets him, going in for a hug, “I’d like you to meet Stiles, and uh, Scott, alpha of the McCall pack back in the City.”

“Of course,” Ricky says, coming over to Stiles and holding out for a handshake, “I’ve heard so much about you. Both of you,” he shakes Scott’s hand as well, and they exchange pleasantries while Dex and Ray roam around the group, sniffing out Scott and Stiles particularly and seem to find nothing to their displeasure.

“Alright, let’s get you three settled in before we meet back up in the study; Deaton, Sotami, and Noshiko are still in there, we were just all meeting to find out what we knew when you showed up. Derek, you and Stiles are in the attic; Scott’s in the southeast guest room if you could show him that.”

“Sure,” Derek agrees, once again placing a hand on the small of Stiles’ back and pushing him gently toward the staircase, gesturing with his head to let Scott know to follow them.

“Jesus, how big is this house?” Stiles asks when they get to the second floor, another sweeping set of stairs leading upwards one way and a long hall the other. There’s a laugh from downstairs and Derek snorts.

“Just two floors and the attic.”

“But how many rooms,” Stiles stresses as they go around the staircase, two doors down to the right, a relatively large room with a four-poster, very light green in color with near one entire wall of glass, a huge window seat and yeah, Stiles is gaping again, but so is Scott so.

“Scott, this is your room,” Derek says, amused smile on his face, “In the main house there’s six bedrooms and four and a half baths, including the attic which was renovated when I was a teenager.”

“Six bedrooms,” Scott says with clear awe, stepping into the room, “I lived in a relatively nice-sized house and we only had three, and the guest room technically was made to be a den or an office.”

“The main house?” Stiles asks, the part he focused on. Derek nods.

“We have a guest house out back too, though it’s less a guest house and more the house Peter, Elle, and Gina live. That has two bedrooms and two baths, plus a full kitchen, dining room, and living area. It’s actually more updated than this house, since it was only built about a hundred years ago.”

“God, you’re rich,” Stiles replies, rubbing his eyes. Derek lets out a huff, smile dropping slightly.

“The Hale pack is rich,” he corrects, and at Scott and Stiles’ curious looks shakes his head, gestures again with his head toward the door.

“Get settled, let’s meet back down in ten minutes,” Derek says, “Just so you know, all the bedrooms are soundproofed, so if you want some privacy to call Allison or anything just shut the door.”

Scott nods, and Derek and Stiles head back out and toward the staircase, up the second flight.

The attic is its own little living space; stairs lead up to a lofted area, love seat and TV in the main room and one door to the left, the other to the right. Both are open, showing a bathroom and a bedroom.

“Stay here,” Derek says, “I’ll go grab our bags and be right back.”

“I can help,” Stiles tries, “I’m not useless.”

Derek rolls his eyes, which he rarely does, only when truly annoyed.

“It’s not useless to take care of yourself.”

And with that he turns away, heading back down the stairs before Stiles can respond, which is probably on purpose.

Stiles sighs, turning to look around the room, ready to explore until Derek gets back.

*

Noshiko, Satomi, Deaton, and Talia are talking in hushed tones when the three of them arrive at the study, but Stiles only barely notices them, instead in awe of the literal thousands of books scattered around the place, floor to ceiling of every wall holding bookshelves stuffed to the brim. He’s sure without a doubt, without even needing to look, that at least a good chunk are about supernatural creatures, mythological stories and truths, folklore and whatnot and he may have gotten a design degree from UCLA but he minored in folklore and mythology and this is a treasure trove.

Noshiko’s the only one to come forward for a hug from Derek, bright smile on her face and she looks so much like her daughter it’s incredible. Derek shakes hands with Satomi and nods to Deaton before turning back around, to where Scott is standing carefully constructed as one should when faced with a pack’s emissary and yet another alpha (Stiles isn’t sure how these things normally work but he can feel the little prickle in his magic over the pain and it’s weird, this much power in one tiny space).

“This is Stiles Stilinski and Alpha Scott McCall. Guys, this is Noshiko Yukimura, Kira’s mother, Alpha Satomi Ito, and Deaton, my mother’s emissary.”

They exchange greetings and handshakes all around and then there’s a half a second of silence before Talia stands up and speaks up.

“Well, Stiles, Satomi actually has a pretty good idea of why you might be experiencing what you are.”

The small spark of hope that goes through both Scott and Derek at the statement is enough for Stiles to feel, though a smaller one goes through him because the little bit of magic he’s used since arriving in the study, just enough to keep track of everyone, is making him jittery and causing a flareup in the fire of his veins. Scott’s closer to him than Derek, and takes it upon himself at the sudden acceleration of pain in Stiles’ scent to place a hand on his arm, sucking some of the pain.

Satomi, who Stiles notices has a calm, wise aura around her like she’s seen a lot, been through hell, and takes pride in that she’s still standing here, nods at Talia’s words, turning to face Stiles with a look in her eyes he can’t place.

“There is a phenomenon which occurs when any magical entity, be it a witch or a nymph or any other, initiate the bond that comes with being Fated with an alpha,” she says, speaking carefully, distinctly, “The dynamics of pack allow alphas to have more power than the rest of the pack; they’re generally stronger, faster, and are more in touch with the pack bond. When a person of magical leaning is paired with them, they’re powers are…upgraded. They’re able to pull of that natural energy of an alpha and become more powerful themselves.”

“I kind of wondered if it might be something kinda like that,” Stiles admits when she finishes. Everyone’s eyes turn back to him, and he shrugs.

“The only comparable feeling I’ve ever had was when I first came into my spark, though that wasn’t nearly as painful and was over in a matter of minutes.”

“And that’s the problem,” Deaton speaks up, “Sparks are undefined magical beings with possibly infinite amounts of power, completely unbridled and working within a different set of rules than witches or druids or mages or even fae. They’re also astonishingly rare, you’re only the second I’ve ever met in my life, and therefore we simply don’t have much – or any – research on sparks Fated with alphas.”

“And what does that mean for Stiles?” Derek asks. Talia answers after a moment, quietly and slowly.

“It means Stiles may, possibly, continue to gain power exponentially forever. Until it’s too much for his body to handle.”

“And then I die,” Stiles guesses. Nobody agrees with him, everyone avoiding eye contact all of the sudden, but nobody disagrees either. There’s a general silence throughout the room, letting the him, Scott, and Derek know that he’s exactly right on. He might die.

“No,” Scott says then, fiercely and the hand on Stiles’ arm tightens. There’s a tenseness in his jaw and fire in his eyes, just red around the edges, as he stares at Talia.

“No. There has to be a way to stop it.”

“Possibly,” Noshiko answers, her own gaze locked on Stiles, “There is a way to break the bond, which will stop you from advancing beyond what you’ve already.”

“And we can do this spell?” Derek asks, seeking Deaton again. The druid shakes his head.

“I cannot. But Noshiko has a friend in Montreal, a very advanced witch, who may be able to.”

Stiles immediately picks up on it, and he sees the cock of Derek’s head slightly to the right letting him know Derek caught it too. He asks first.

May be able to.”

“Bonds are, very simply, heard to break. Leila is easily the most powerful witch I know, and even she isn’t always successful,” Noshiko responds. Quiet falls over for a few moments, which Stiles is glad for because it allows him some respite to think over the million things racing through his head.

“The problem,” Talia’s soft voice breaks through the silence, and fuck, of course there’s a problem, there’s always a problem, “Is that should she be unsuccessful…Derek should be fine, because he can heal, but it may put you, Stiles, in a coma. At the very worst, being unsuccessful could kill you.”

“The chances of me dying if we don’t do the spell are unknown,” Stiles says, sighing, “What are the chances of me dying if we do the spell?”

The elders in the room have looks on their faces, without any prompting, that both lets Stiles know the odds aren’t good and also that he would totally win a game of poker against any of them, except maybe Satomi, who’s carefully neutral.

“She’s attempted to break three bonds in her lifetime. Two were unsuccessful. Only one of the participants was not a werewolf, and she did die.”

Scott’s hold tightens and Stiles doesn’t need to look to know there’s waves of anger and sadness coming off him. Derek’s looking at him, a look unlike one Stiles has ever witnessed on his face but one he can place nonetheless; heartbreak. His two alphas; his best friend and his…his literal soulmate.

“We’re going to continue to research, of course,” Talia says, “Contact anyone we can think of, see what else we can find out.”

“And Leila’s coming down tomorrow, regardless of what you decide,” Noshiko throws in there.

“But,” Talia looks down at the watch on her right arm, “Even with all this, the fact is that we need to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves.” She looks up at them all.

“We need to continue as if tomorrow is the same day as always, and so dinner is ready in ten minutes. Everyone is welcome to join.” She looks around the room, meeting eyes with everyone.

“Thank you, dear, but Ken is expecting me home for dinner,” Noshiko says, grasping a hand with Talia, “And this is where I will depart. I will continue to look through my rather meager collection, see what I can find, tonight.” She leaves with a kiss to Talia’s cheek, a hug from Derek, and a quick hand hold to both Stiles and Scott, smile on her face so like her daughter’s in that it makes you feel like you can’t help but smile back.

“And I’m meeting with a friend in Rochester in an hour and a half,” Satomi tells the room, looking at her phone, “May have some good news, we shall see.” She also departs, nodding at everyone as a goodbye. Finally, Deaton stands.

“I’ve got to contact my sister, who happens to be a much more successful druid than I. See if she knows anything.”

“Sure you won’t join us for a meal?” Talia asks once more, but Deaton glances at Stiles, shakes his head.

“Not this time, Talia, but thank you for the offer.” He’s gone in a flash, almost without another word. Talia’s attention falls completely on the other three, Derek still looking sad and unsure, Scott to Stiles’ right holding his arm hard enough he’s sure it’ll bruise tomorrow and when will Scott get used to the ‘wolf strength? Stiles feels…weirdly calm, maybe before the storm, maybe he’s in shock but.

It’s not the first time he’s been on the edge of death. He’s survived all the rest.

“I know we don’t feel up to it, but we all still need food. To keep us as ready as possible.”

They all nod, and then Talia’s leading them to the dining room.

*

It’s later, much later, hours of research with Talia and Laura and a rather good, rambunctious dinner later and past midnight and Scott’s in his room, telling them tiredly that he’d call the pack and let them know what was happening.

“You can tell them everything but don’t…tell them the chances of me dying,” Stiles had said, and when both Derek and Scott looked at him curiously, he’d shaken his head.

“Just…they don’t need to know that, to worry about that, yet.”

Which hadn’t really told them anything, but Scott had nodded, agreeing.

And now Stiles and Derek are in bed, both having showered, in a bed that’s somehow even more comfortable than Derek’s back in the City and Stiles had never considered that possible (that’s one – one very big – reason he’s always staying at Derek’s and Derek’s only stayed at his place twice). Stiles feels his pain as a dull ache, still there but he’s used to it but Derek’s hand is on his waist, sucking some of that pain again.

“What if we have to break the bond.” Stiles brings it up. Nobody’s brought it up since they left the study so many hours ago, but at least for him it’s been in the back of his mind. Derek shuffles, sliding his hand up slightly to his stomach.

“If that’s the risk you want to take,” he responds, voice low, whispery. Unsure. Not the answer Stiles is looking for, at all. He flips over so he’s facing Derek, eyebrows drawn together. The only light in the room, anymore, is the light from the barely-there moon outside, but his eyes have gotten used to the darkness, able to search Derek’s face.

“Tell me what you’re really thinking.”

Derek stares back, for a long enough moment Stiles is ready to give up because he obviously doesn’t want to share, when he sighs, moves, sits up a little. Stiles moves with him, leaning half into him because Derek’s other hand is now around his waist, unwilling to let go, and half leaning against the headboard.

“There’s this, um, romanticization of Fated couples in ‘wolf culture, kinda exactly the same as the romanticization of soulmates in the general culture, even though there are plenty of platonic Fated. But, uh, I grew up with it, y’know; Peter, and eventually Laura, would tell us stories of what it was like and it wasn’t far-fetched because my grandparents were Fated, and Peter and Noelle are, and Mom and Ricky are, and I was fourteen when they got together so I got to see that all actually happen.”

Derek pauses, actually looks at Stiles now, takes a deep breath and licks his lips.

“And the, y’know, Erica and Boyd got together when I was twenty, and we found out they were Fated and it was just this…it’s a pretty rare thing, actually. So to have so many couples in the Hale pack who are Fated is kind of crazy. But it only fueled my own desire to find my match, and even though I’ve always known they could just be platonic there’s always been this hope that it’s more than. And then I…got you.”

Stiles’ heart is fucking thudding by now, and he knows Derek can hear it from the gentle look on his face, the slight tensing of the hand on his hip.

“And it’s fucking dumb, actually,” he continues, staring at Stiles, “Because I was very much into you before I knew we were Fated and I can’t imagine that I wouldn’t have asked you out even if we weren’t, but…knowing that in just another few months we’d be able to feel each other’s emotions? That’s…I’d miss that. And it’s even more fucking dumb because breaking the bond doesn’t actually do anything. It’s just…this magical thing that allows us to do very miniscule things in the bigger picture. I’d still…”

He trails off, still staring into Stiles eyes and he doesn’t need to have advanced hearing to tell that Derek’s heartbeat has accelerated, because there go the tips of Derek’s ears, barely visible in the moonlight, but they’re certainly glowing by now themselves, embarrassed. Stiles’ heart is pounding, because he fucking knows what Derek was about to say. Instead, he goes a different route.

“We’d still be good for each other. It wouldn’t change the fact that our personalities are complementary, which is all that being Fated really is. It doesn’t mean we’ll be perfect, it just means we’re good together. We make sense. We get along well enough. And that’s not going to change just because the bond isn’t intact.”

Derek stops there, swallowing, for long enough that Stiles feels okay speaking up.

“But you still don’t want that, do you?”

“I want you to be okay,” Derek responds readily enough, tightening his hold just slightly, and pressing his lips briefly into Stiles’ hair, “I want whatever is good for you.”

“But the risks aren’t neatly laid out. Which means that who knows what’s better for me?”

Derek doesn’t agree, doesn’t nod, but the small uptick of his lips tells Stiles everything.

“And, besides, even though I know all of those things, even though I know nothing will really change between us, there’s also this…persistence in the back of my head that…things won’t be the same.”

And that’s apparently all that Derek’s planning on saying, because he presses his lips together after, eyebrows pressed down. It’s Stiles’ turn.

“Do you remember what you said to me last night?”

Derek’s expression turns to confusion for a few seconds that Stiles allows him to think before, suddenly, wide eyes and pursed lips and Stiles can feel the heat coming off him, the embarrassment all over again, so he continues with his story.

“I, uh, I dated this girl in college, for like two and a half years. From the middle of freshman year to the end of junior year.”

Derek’s back to confused again, maybe a tiny mix of hurt in there because sure he knows that Stiles probably dated before him, but he doesn’t want to think about it, and definitely doesn’t want to hear about it. Stiles holds his hand up.

“Hear me out. So I dated her for two and a half years, Derek. She was everything I was looking for; clever, and witty, and beautiful, and brilliant, and just the right streak of nerdy to keep up with me when I went on my weird rants about Marvel v. DC and loved to watch all those shows you and I like to watch together now.

“But, and here’s the kicker, Der,” he continues before Derek can say anything, clearly unsure of the moral of this entire thing, “Not once in those two and a half years did I ever think to myself ‘Yeah, this is the person I’m gonna spend the rest of my life with’. I knew, from the beginning and through the end, that there was an end to us. She stuck through it even when me and my friends were having crises, even though she knew nothing about what was going on, even though she surely could tell I wasn’t telling her everything, and I still…I still knew she wasn’t it.”

He stops, licks his lips, thinks about what he’s gonna say next because he knows what he wants to, but he doesn’t know if Derek’s ready. The softness in his boyfriend’s face lets him continue, though, obviously trusting him, trusting this. He swallows.

“I knew within a month of knowing you, nearly ten months before we kissed, Derek. I knew you were it for me. I couldn’t imagine, after that first month of hanging out with you and your pack, getting to know you all, knowing well and surely that me being the second in Scott’s pack could affect what we could ever be…I knew I wasn’t going to be nearly as happy with anyone as I would with you. A month, Derek, I felt better with imagining you than I ever had with Kendra. Even at two and a half years with her.”

Derek’s mouth is open, just slightly, almost like he’s in awe. Stiles gulps again, continues.

“I don’t know what I’ll…what we’ll decide, if it’s worth the risk of breaking the bond, if that risk is somehow less than just waiting it out. I don’t know, but Derek…I love you. I love you, and there’s nothing that’s going to change that, Fated or fucking not.”

Derek kisses him, as soon as he’s done, kisses him deeply and not quite like any of their other kisses, free hand on his jaw, gentle, thumb against his cheek, and Stiles brings his own free hand up to Derek’s bicep, kisses him back.

“I love you, too,” Derek breaths when they pull apart, and Stiles kisses him once more, just gentle, quick.

“We’ll be okay,” he says, and it’s honestly partly for himself, “We’ll be okay, no matter what.”

Derek nods, and he looks significantly less distressed than earlier, a certain peace about him, and Stiles counts it as a win.

*

Leila is brilliant. Old, definitely over a hundred, with dark, leathered skin and a shock of white hair on the top of her head, deep brown eyes that glow white every once in a while. Sarcastic and witty as well, she reminds Derek a bit of Stiles.  

She’d arrived early in the morning with Noshiko, apparently having caught a red-eye from Montreal the previous night.

When Leila first meets Stiles and Derek, in the study not long after breakfast where they’re back to researching with Talia, Scott, and Laura, she gives them a head cock, eyes searching and glowing for near a full minute before stopping, nodding slowly.

“Your bond is surprisingly strong for only having known each other three months,” she acknowledges, and Stiles and Derek glance at each other.

“We’ve known each other since January last year,” Derek informs, “We’ve only been dating since this January.”

“Hmm,” Leila hums, nodding again. She looks to Noshiko before turning back.

“Noshiko let me she’s let you know my success rate. That being said, none of the three bonds were quite…like yours. You have a mutual respect and trust with each other, and clearly were friends before your bond was initiated. In my other cases, that was not present. The successful break included cheating on one end. In the one where the girl died, the couple had been dating for a few months when it was revealed to her that her boyfriend was a werewolf and they were Fated, and did not take it well and decided to break the bond. In the last, there was a war between the two packs and neither participant honestly trusted the other. It was unsuccessful, and they learned to live with the bond, but it was not pleasant on either side.

“And finally,” Leila continues, squinting at them, “The spell will only have a chance of working at all if you both actually do want it to. I am willing to perform it if you so decide it’s worth it, but know that your bond is incredibly strong, and it’s hard to break a bond between people who don’t like each other at all. And you have to feel like it’s the best option, at the very least, in order for it to even have a chance.”

Stiles, Derek knows between what he’s said and the pain he’s been pulling at random from his boyfriend, had woken up feeling much the same as yesterday; achy, with some burning in his veins, a headache, a little nauseous. It hadn’t improved, meaning his powers are still upgrading, and he’d also admitted to feeling a little more on edge, something similar to anxiety in his gut but not quite the same.

Probably, if Derek had to guess from the little he does know about magical creatures, it’s starting to get a little too much for him to handle.

“Can you tell,” Stiles asks, “If I’ll be able to survive it if we don’t break it?”

Leila watches him a moment longer before stepping forward, reaching for one of his hands. She traces patterns into it, staring him in the eye, and Stiles meets her gaze, not challenging but just there.

“I can’t, unfortunately,” she tells him, dropping his hand and taking a step backward, and Derek can see the deflation in Stiles’ body before she continues with, “However, I can tell you’ve been through trauma – more than one. You’re a strong one, you’ve been through a lot and come out every time. You’re much more likely to survive than others might be.”

There’s a spark of hope in Derek’s chest at her words, and he can see it in the perk up Scott does too, eyes widening slightly. Stiles’ face remains neutral, but he nods.

“Thank you.”

Leila nods, steps backward once more, and opens her mouth again.

“I’ve known only one other spark in my life, when I was much, much younger. Before Noshiko and I even met. She was, without a doubt, one of the most powerful creatures I’ve had the blessing of being around, even more powerful than I am at this point in my life. Sparks, at their peak, are able to do much more than any other magical being. You’ve a way to go before you’re quite at her level, but the possibility is within you, Mr. Stilinski. Trust your own body to know when it can’t handle anymore.”

Silence, for a full thirty seconds as everyone absorbs what she said.

“Are you saying you don’t think they should go through with it?” Laura asks, caution in her voice. Leila smiles, keeps her eyes on Stiles.

“I’m saying that you were Fated with a werewolf bound to be an alpha long before either of you were born. I’m saying that Fate often – not always, but often – knows what it’s doing.”

It's a lot to take in, and Stiles stares at her for a moment, small smile on his face. Derek can feel his mother's eyes on him, but can't find it in himself to care too much because his heart is beating unnaturally fast, the entirety of the implication of what Leila is saying sinking in slowly.

"Besides," she continues before any of them respond, pushing up the sleeve of her long sleeve shirt to display small black markings across her forearm that Derek understands are tattoos, after a moment, "There are other ways to harness magic, if need be." A couple of her tattoos begin glowing, the same white color as her eyes, before fading black again.

"Tattoos are one way. You can also dispel little bits at a time into your territory, depending on the size of it, though I’m not sure how helpful that will be for you, living in a city. Enchanting items works occasionally. Having a familiar can be the easiest and quickest way, if you’re able to find an animal to bond with in such a deep way.”

She pauses, glances over at Derek with a sly smile on her face.

“Of course, another option to help dispense of some excess magic that’s also good for the body is sex with another supernatural.”

Scott does an actual spit take at her words with the coffee he’d been drinking, and Laura from across the room lets out an “Ew,” while Talia chuckles. Derek can feel the tips of his ears going red because fucking hell this is his family. Stiles, on the other hand, grins at Leila.

“All of these are routes you could take, or even all of them if that works best for you, and that way if you do at any point feel overwhelmed, as one can when they’re building magic ability, you can use them. I’m sticking around for a few days, more than willing to teach you and if, at the end of it all, you still decide that breaking the bond is best for you, I can attempt it. But I would give your body at least a couple more days to get used to this all.”

There’s a long silence after she finishes, along with a little kindle of hope in Derek’s chest. Not only that Stiles will be okay, though mostly that because he honestly can’t even begin thinking about a life without Stiles. Derek had a fine, even good, life before he met Stiles, but now…he’s important. Very important. Derek’s desperately and deeply in love with him, damned be it that they only kissed for the first time less than three months earlier.

And though it’s mostly that he actually would be a hell of a wreck without Stiles, it’s also that…yeah. He wants to have a mate, someone Fate decided would be good for him and he’d be good for. If it came down to it, he’d much rather have Stiles in any capacity than not have him at all, but if he’s being honest, at least with himself…he likes that they’re bonded. That in another few months they’ll be able to feel each other’s emotions, that he can pick Stiles’ heartbeat out instantly in a crowd, and even that Stiles can feed off his alpha energy. He likes all that, and he doesn’t want to lose it unless actually necessary.

“Thanks,” Stiles tells Leila eventually, and she smiles and nods in welcome.

“I’m here for a few days anyway, and even if you choose to keep your bond in place, I’m more than happy to do what I can to teach you to use your magic. In the end, it will be your own hard work, though, because sparks use magic so differently than witches.”

“I’d like that,” Stiles agreed almost immediately, “I’ve kinda been…going my own all this time, and I haven’t gotten very far.”

Leila nods again, reaching out to take Stiles’ hand once again.

“You have a lot of power, I can feel it, and it’s only grown in the last couple of days. You just need to learn to use it; if you can, you could be one of the most powerful magical beings of this age.”

Stiles seems surprised, eyes widening and with a quick glance Derek sees Laura’s eyebrows drawn together, mouth open slightly, and Scott is terrible at hiding his emotions, over on his bench jaw hanging and eyes near popping out his head, but Talia is just watching Stiles, curiously. Derek himself, meanwhile, he’s not amazed at all. He doesn’t know much about Stiles’ powers, he’s told him just the minimum that he’s a spark, came into it naturally, can’t actually use much except he’s pretty brilliant with mountain ash and knows how to manipulate wolfsbane in a few different ways.

But he’s not surprised in the slightest, because there’s always been something…different about Stiles, lingering in the background of his aura at all times. It makes sense that it’s that he’s always had the potential of being incredibly powerful. It just makes sense.

Stiles gulps, and looks over at Derek. Derek just smiles back.

*

They spend most of the rest of the day researching, and Satomi calls just after a quick lunch to let them know she hasn’t found anything else. Deaton arrives shortly thereafter, grim-faced with no good news but with a potion that should at least numb Stiles’ pain. Stiles refuses to take it, though.

“I just wanna be aware if it gets better or worse,” he says, which makes enough sense that everyone shrugs in agreement.

Noshiko and Leila stay for dinner, and afterward as the sun’s setting and at the start of what’s going to be a chilly night, Stiles and Leila both bundle up and head out to the backyard. The others go out on the deck, spend some time watching them as sparks fly from both their hands, Leila’s aura of chilly white and Stiles’ of burnt orange burn bright and dim multiple times. Derek can hear them, but it’s a gentle buzz, interrupted by the voices of the rest of his family and Scott and Noshiko talking lowly. It’s nearing midnight, and it’s only Noshiko, Talia, and Derek left watching when finally Leila and Stiles come up to the porch.

“He’s very good,” Leila informs them, and Stiles’ cheeks, already pink from the cold, tinge a little redder.

“How’re you feeling?” Derek asks, and Stiles collapses on the cement next to him, letting out a breath.

“Better? Minimally, but certainly better than even this afternoon.” He pauses, leans into Derek, snuffling.

“I think I wanna get a tattoo tomorrow,” he admits, leaning even further and Derek figures Stiles is probably cold, ‘wolves do run about four degrees hotter than humans and he’s chilly, in a coat and gloves. He puts his arm around Stiles, pulling him in close.

“Maybe runes, Leila says certain ones work best or…something to link me to pack. Keep me grounded.”

Derek hums, thinking, as Talia, Noshiko, and Leila talk behind them in quietly.

“Laura has a friend in town who’s a tattoo artist. He’s a human from a pack in Pennsylvania, so he’d be good and understand all this. I’ll see if she can get him to take us on last minute.”

“Mmkay,” Stiles agrees, and then yawns, loud and wide. Derek laughs, standing.

“Think it’s time for bed.”

Leila and Noshiko say their goodbyes, Leila letting them know she’d be back the next afternoon. They go to bed soon after, Stiles falling in from exhaustion as soon as he’s out of his clothes, an exhaustion that has a lot more to do with how much magic he’s used, and how much pain he’s been in (Derek sets a hand on arm as they’re walking up the stairs; the pain is milder, yet achier. He hopes that means it’s running its course), more than how late it is.

“I love you,” Stiles tells him sleepily once they’re settled in, probably aiming for tired nonchalance, but Derek can hear the stuttering nerves of his heartbeat. He pulls Stiles in closer, presses a kiss to his temple.

“I love you, too.”

*

Scott has to be to work that next afternoon, so he leaves after a quick breakfast, thanking Talia for everything and giving Stiles an extended hug.

“Make a good decision and call me as soon as you know anything,” he says, pulling back and there’s worry in his voice and in his face and in his smell, and Derek’s been thinking too much about this entire thing from his perspective, but fuck, yeah, Stiles has his entire pack, plus he’s close to Erica and Kira and at least friends with the rest of Derek’s pack. And Derek’s never met Stiles’ dad but they’re very close, he’s heard him talking on the phone on a regular basis. And Melissa, who’s also Scott’s mom, is his stepmom, and has cared about him since the boys met in first grade.

Stiles has so many people who care so deeply for him and. Derek feels a little guilty. His life would be dramatically altered if something happens to Stiles, but so would it be for a dozen and a half other people.

His train of thought is broken by Scott suddenly coming and hugging him. Derek’s both surprised yet not; Scott and he may not be super tight, but Scott’s an especially tactile person. And Derek is dating his best friend and second-in-command, he probably feels simultaneously close to Derek and very scrutinous of him.

“Take care of him, yeah?” Scott asks, patting Derek on the arm as he pulls back. Derek nods, of course.

“Always,” is what he says, and Scott eyeballs him for a moment before grinning, patting him on the arm once more, and he’s off.

Laura gets Isaiah to take Stiles in, and they get to the shop about eleven a.m. Stiles tells Derek to sit in the lobby and wait, and though he’s confused he does as told, ends up flipping through some of the artwork they have laid out, talks a little to the other two artists there between clients, texts Boyd and Cora to see what’s happening and letting them know in return.

It’s an hour and a half before Stiles comes back out, the upper right arm wrapped in plastic, and a little peeking over the collar of his t-shirt. He smells a little like blood, a hint of fresh pain, but significantly less…anxious? Nervous? Definitely less jittery. Derek hands him his coat, pays for the tattoo (at a severely discounted rate, but Isaiah tells him the number happily enough and Derek gives him a hefty tip to make up for it) and bats Stiles’ wallet away when he protests.

They eat lunch at a diner downtown, the owner an old friend of Talia’s who greets Derek by name and happily welcomes Stiles. He brings out an extra serving of curly fries at no cost when Derek confides that they’re Stiles’ favorite.

It’s at the end of their meal (and Derek is still constantly amazed that Stiles can put away as much if not more than a ‘wolf), munching on the last of the fries and Stiles finishes up his chocolate chip milkshake when Derek asks.

“How do you feel?”

Stiles smiles around the straw in his mouth, sucking down the remnants and making that awful sucky sound that’s way too loud to Derek’s senses. He glares, which makes Stiles laugh but stop.

“Sorry, I always forget,” he explains, and shrugs. “Much better, I think. Still achy, but I feel less…more calm, I suppose. Less likely to explode, and the fire in veins is more…watered down embers now.”

He licks his lips and Derek grabs another fry.

“I don’t think we’re going to have to break the bond, not if I trust my body. I feel okay, like it’s going to be okay.” He stops, snorts at the look on Derek’s face, who’d looked up quickly as soon as Stiles had said “break”.

“I know you’re probably glad to hear that.”

“I want whatever you want, and whatever’s best for you,” Derek replies. It sounds almost rehearsed by this point, he’s said it so often, but it’s still true. He likes the bond, but Stiles is always going to be more important.

The man in question shrugs again.

“I mean, Der,” pause, jaw tension before a small, soft smile, “I love you, and that wouldn’t change, won’t change, no matter what. But I…I like the idea of the bond, even if it’s not even kind of fully formed yet. I like the idea of some magic string connecting us because I love you. And this risk…I think it’s less than the risk of breaking a bond that’s clearly, at least from my POV, full of trust and love.”

It maybe feels dumb, the butterflies in his stomach and the thumping of his heart, but also, with the way Stiles is looking at Derek and everything’s that happened the last few days…

“I love you,” Derek says lowly, and loves the way Stiles smiles at that, the way his heartbeat skips at those words and god, he hopes that never ends, “And yeah, maybe I’m glad we’ll still have the bond.”

“Okay.” Stiles grabs the last fry before Derek can, stuffs it in his mouth and Derek feels nothing but fondness at the messy picture it paints.

“We’ll be okay,” Stiles tells him moments later, and Derek reaches across the table to take his hand, agrees.

“We’ll be okay.”