Peter's phone vibrates in his pocket just as he's walking toward the entrance of the omega school. He stops, checks his messages just in case it's important, and sees the text from his sister.
Don't forget Derek is going to be there. Please keep an eye on him.
Peter rolls his eyes. As if he could forget. Talia has talked of practically nothing else for the past two weeks, ever since she got Derek to agree to attend the coming out ball. He gets it; he knows where she's coming from. Derek going to this kind of function is right up there with turning water into wine when it comes to miracles. Talia is desperate to get Derek mated, but because of Derek's unique situation is (rightfully) worried. So yes, Peter will watch out for his nephew, and try to keep him calm and relaxed in an environment that's likely to make him anxious and uncomfortable. He just wishes Talia would remember that he's looking for a mate of his own, and this isn't exactly a cakewalk for him, either.
Talia, of course, would scoff if Peter voiced his own insecurities, so he never mentions them. Let her think he's completely confident. Let the whole fucking world think he is, for that matter.
Those thoughts make him pull himself out of his slouch and tilt his head at a cocky angle. So what if he's older than most single alphas, and to hell with the idea that his scars make him anything but distinguished and intriguing.
Derek won't be arriving at the venue for another hour, so Peter has that long to take a look at the available omegas and see if any of them turn his head before his handsome nephew comes in and sets everyone to swoon.
He huffs to himself and shakes his head. That thought sounded almost jealous. God knows Derek needs his looks since his personality won't do him any favors. Peter loves his nephew deeply, but he's aware of how difficult it will be for him to snare an omega's heart. Especially if the omegas at this particular event are like all the ones at previous balls Peter's attended. Traditional omegas have been the norm at past events. As he shows the attendant at the door his invitation, he wonders why he even decided to return. Year after year, he's found no one even close to suitable.
As he steps inside, the scent hits him, and he remembers. He's an alpha and he craves a mate. He may never find one, but the lure of unmated omegas is too great to ignore. The scent is heavenly, though it doesn't come from just one person. It's a mix, pheromones from several different omegas. He also smells nervousness, excitement, and desperation.
The desperation is probably coming from a few of the alphas. Alphas outnumber omegas these days, though it wasn't always the case. There has been a sharp decline in omegas born in the past fifty years. There are many theories as to why, but no one has so far found the definitive answer.
So it goes on like this. Omegas are whisked away to 'boarding schools' as soon as they present, and alphas are only allowed to interact with unmated omegas in carefully regulated situations, like this coming out ball (and the upcoming season's events). It causes a lot of frustration, but it keeps feral alphas — and betas who think they have something to prove — from just abducting omegas and force-bonding them.
It's easy to sympathize with the omegas. Talia's mate, Joseph, has told him all about the omega schools. Having to leave families and friends when they present isn't pleasant. He looks across the room and lets his eyes roam to the stage. All the omegas seem to be on their best behavior. Their dresses and suits are all white, symbolizing purity. They are sitting on uncomfortable looking chairs, and they all sit the same, with their knees and ankles together and their hands folded gently in their laps.
It should be time for their coming out soon. Peter has been to several of these, so he knows what to expect. Ms. Martin, the headmistress of the school, will read out a name and a short blurb, and the named omega will get up and do a bit of a walk across the stage. It's very much like an auction, now that he thinks about it, except the alphas don't put in their 'bids' — or rather, their courtship requests — until the days after the ball.
When all the omegas have been introduced, the ball will begin. Alphas will clamor for the omegas' attention, basically making a fool of themselves, and the omegas will be polite but aloof. He knows it's part of their schooling, that they're trained to be what society calls 'the perfect omega', but Peter is so bored with it.
He wants someone with a bit of spirit, who isn't afraid to show their intelligence. Is that so much to ask?
"Please, everyone, have a seat and we'll get started," Natalie Martin says into the microphone on stage. She's dressed elegantly, with her hair coiled on top of her head. She's different from the school's previous heads. She has a commanding presence, despite the fact that she's an omega. Everyone in attendance hurries to do her bidding.
Peter finds a chair about midway to the stage. It's impossible to get a seat up front, what with alphas growling at each other for a good spot. Peter's not about to act that foolishly.
Once everyone is seated, the headmistress nods and the show begins. There are ten omegas in total who are 'coming out' tonight, ten omegas who've recently come of age and are now available to bond. Peter looks around the room and counts at least forty alphas. The deck is stacked against him once again, but he won't let that bother him unless he sees an omega who actually intrigues him.
There's movement on the stage, though no name has been called yet. One of the omegas is fidgeting. Ms. Martin gives him a look, and the omega's eyes widen and he gives a 'who, me?' look. The headmistress looks exasperated and turns away. The omega sticks his tongue out.
It happens so quickly that Peter's not quite sure he actually saw what he thinks he saw. Beside him, another omega widens her eyes at the cheeky omega. Cheeky omega rolls his eyes and looks out over the audience.
For some reason, he looks right at Peter. Maybe because Peter is smirking. The omega blinks his big eyes and Peter… winks. He doesn't know why. It's just an impulse.
The omega's eyebrows climb. Then he quickly looks down at his hands in his lap and a delightful blush overtakes his cheeks.
It's the most animation Peter's seen from an omega at this function yet. The rest of them are all sitting still, looking pleasant but stiff, and the headmistress is starting to read names. Peter pays attention to what is said, to how the omegas walk, to where they look. Everything is too pretty, too nice.
Peter isn't interested until she calls out "Stiles Stilinski" and the fidgety omega Peter's watching stands and walks the length of the stage.
"Stiles comes from Beacon Hills. He graduated earlier this year at the top of his class. He enjoys gardening, reading, and playing chess."
There are others after Stiles, and Peter tries to pay attention, but he finds he doesn't care about them. His attention has been well and truly caught.
Stiles listens to Natalie list his most boring qualities and struggles not to make a run for it. He walks across the stage and doesn't trip. He doesn't look at the alpha with the scars again, not yet, though he can feel his eyes on him.
There are a lot of eyes on him, actually. He looks over the crowd and spots his dad. There's pride there in his eyes but also more than a little trepidation. Stiles knows his dad has been worried about tonight. Stiles tilts his head in a nod and gets a thumbs-up in return.
It's enough to put Stiles's head back in the game. He's been planning for this awhile. He wants to find an alpha as soon as he can so he can get the hell out of this place. He's been in the omega school for two and a half years now, though that's short compared to his friends here. Stiles was a late bloomer. Everyone figured him for a beta until his first heat hit him suddenly right after he turned fifteen.
From there on out, his life changed for the worse. Now he has a chance to get away from the omega school's oppressive walls, but he has to choose somebody who won't hide him away or keep him from his father.
He hopes to find someone in Beacon Hills. He wonders where the scarred alpha lives. He doesn't know why he's already wondering about an alpha, except that wink was unexpected and made his heart flutter.
He sits and waits for the rest of the introductions to end. Next will come mingling, as omegas move from table to table meeting alphas. Then the ball itself will start, complete with dancing. Stiles hates dancing, but he's competent enough at it. His dance teacher made sure of that.
He looks down the line of omegas being introduced to the world tonight. He and Kira are the only ones wearing suits. The rest of Stiles's class opted for dresses. Something about being more traditional.
Stiles doesn't want to be traditional, and he wants the alphas to recognize that.
He locks eyes with Kira and she gives him a small smile. He smiles back, grateful for her friendship. Down the row, Jackson also smiles, though his smile is bland and looks forced.
Stiles risks a look out into the audience. The alpha with the scars is watching him. Stiles thinks he knows who he is, but he can't be sure until they're introduced.
The headmistress is saying something about the school raising the newest generation and how proud she's been to see them blossom into lovely omegas worthy of the best matings. Bleugh. But at least that means this part is almost over. Sure enough, the music starts and Stiles stands with his classmates to walk down off the stage into the audience.
He goes from table to table, just like he's been trained for weeks to do. The room is thick with alpha pheromones, enough to make his head dizzy and his movements slow. The air filtration system must be broken again. He wishes he could escape outside and get some fresh air.
As the introductions go on and on, names flit around in Stiles's mind but he knows he'll never remember any of them. There are guards — or rather, chaperones — making sure the alphas don't get too familiar, but they still seem to crowd in on him, blasting pheromones and making Stiles weak-kneed.
He tries to stay calm, but his breath is coming faster and he can't stand it.
"Back off," an alpha snarls, and the large alpha looming over Stiles — Ennis? — gives Stiles a little more breathing room.
Stiles looks for his savior and finds the scarred alpha looking at him. He seems worried. Stiles gives him a wan smile and holds out his hand. "Thank you," he murmurs.
"You're quite welcome," the alpha says. "I'm Peter Hale."
Stiles was right about his identity. He's even more intrigued now. "It's good to meet you, Peter." He realizes it's the first time he's used an alpha's name tonight, the first time he's shown a clear preference for someone.
He wishes he could stop to talk to Peter, but he's not done with the introductions. There are at least fifteen more alphas to meet. The task is daunting.
Thankfully, one of the alphas is his dad. Stiles leans in for a hug. The chaperone knows him and allows it. It feels so good. He hasn't seen his father in weeks. The hug and proud smile from his dad give him the fortitude to get through the rest of the introductions, but by the end, he's swaying. Every introduction has been met with a blast of alpha pheromones, and they've definitely affected him. He looks over at Kira and sees that she's not doing much better. He's grateful that the omegas get a short break before the beginning of the ball.
"There's got to be a better way to go about this," Stiles grumbles to his friend once they're safely backstage.
Kira flops into a chair nearby and nods. "It's exhausting. Did you see what happened to Jackson?"
Stiles shakes his head. He'd been too focused on keeping it together to notice the other omegas.
"He got a fever," Kira whispers, even though everyone can hear her.
Stiles's eyebrows shoot up. "Jackson's going into heat?"
Kira nods quickly. "None of us have ever been around this many alphas before, not since we presented. I'm surprised it's only happening to one of us."
"What's he going to do?" Stiles asks.
"I guess sit out the rest of the ball?" Kira says. "I mean, he can't go back out there, can he?"
"What's that going to do for his chances, though?" Stiles wonders. "Wait, maybe they got to him in time. They have those emergency shots in the infirmary."
Kira sighs in relief.
Stiles may dislike some of his fellow classmates, but he wants all of them — himself included — to get the hell out of the omega school and find good mates. If Jackson can't even attend the ball, how's he going to find a good mate? He really, really hopes Jackson got a shot in time.
Now that Stiles can think clearly again, his thoughts stray to Peter Hale. Maybe he could be the one? Peter seemed interested, didn't he? Protective, too, which leaves Stiles with a small smile on his face.
More alphas will come for the ball segment of the event, he reminds himself. He doesn't need to decide yet. And it's not totally up to him, either. The alphas' opinions matter, too.
He can't stop thinking about Peter Hale, though. He wonders if any of the other alphas will charm him enough to compare.
Derek's suit is uncomfortable, confining, and scratchy. He glares at the plate of canapes offered to him until the waiter takes the hint and scampers away. The music is tinny and boring, and the whispers and titters behind soft omega hands are starting to make the wolf want to lash out, find a fight. There are plenty of posturing alphas around he could clobber.
The 'coming out' ball is unnatural. All the 'civilized' rules and etiquette just rub his wolf the wrong way.
He knows times have changed, that society has changed, to protect young omegas from being raped and forcibly bonded by half-rabid alphas desperate for a mate and unable to control themselves. That doesn't mean a part of him doesn't ache to go on a mating run and follow the scent of his perfect partner. To give chase and prove himself.
However, there's a hole in his life where a mate should be and his family has talked him into doing this, so he's at this ridiculous farce, glancing around with a scowl on his face, wondering if there's anyone here who will catch his eye.
So far, he's seen nothing but fluttering eyelashes. The few conversations he's tried to have dwindled down to nothing before they began. He knows he's not the best conversationalist, but there has to be someone who'll give him a chance.
An alpha bumps into him. He knows her scent right away, and he's surprised. "Laura? What the hell are you doing here?" You don't even like omegas is left unsaid.
His sister shrugs, but she looks across the room at a group of alphas. "I like the view." Just then one of the alphas laughs and tosses her reddish-blonde curls. Laura's scent goes sweet and Derek has to roll his eyes.
"Good luck," he says gruffly.
Laura turns to him and smiles. "Good luck to you, too. Try to keep it together. Remember what Mom said about-"
"Laura," Derek growls, looking around to see if anyone is listening.
She holds her hands up. "Just trying to help."
"Well you can stop," he grumbles.
Laura gives him a long look before she shrugs and wanders away. Derek lets out a long sigh and heads for the double doors leading to the balcony, determined to get some air.
The balcony is long and mostly empty save for two others who seem to be escaping the stuffy heat and uncomfortableness of the ball themselves. Derek doesn't look at them, just takes a deep breath and looks up at the waxing moon. He'd much rather be home on his family's land, maybe taking a run through the forest to burn off some of the energy that always seems to sit right beneath his skin.
He ignores the footsteps getting closer, scowling at the sound. He bristles when the person sidles up to him, hoping his body language will scare them away.
He's surprised when he hears an amused laugh. "You look about as thrilled to be here as I am."
He turns his head slowly, furrowing his brow, wondering what kind of person would approach him when he's doing his best to broadcast stay away or I will rip your throat out with my teeth.
It's an omega, male, with large brown eyes and an easy smile. Derek just stares at him, not knowing what to say.
The omega just smiles wider and says, "I'm Stiles."
Stiles is just close enough for Derek to catch a hint of his scent and for a moment Derek is dumbfounded. Stiles smells like faint thunderstorms and moonlight and wildness. Derek is leaning into his space before he can stop himself, nostrils flaring, and he can hear Stiles's heartbeat pick up. He doesn't move away, though. He stands stock still, nervousness rolling off him, until someone behind them clears his throat.
Stiles squeaks and jumps back two feet. "Dad!"
Derek turns slowly to find an Alpha looking at him with narrow eyes, arms crossed in front of him.
"He didn't do anything!" Stiles says quickly.
The other alpha and Derek stare at each other for a few more seconds before Derek remembers himself and holds out his hand. "Derek Hale, sir."
"I know who you are," Stiles's father says, voice flat and expressionless. "I'm Sheriff Stilinski, Stiles's father."
Derek nods. "It's a pleasure to meet you, sir."
The sheriff's mouth quirks up in one corner. "You arrived late."
Derek frowns. "My uncle told me I would hate the coming out ceremony, so I skipped it."
Stiles snorts. Derek loves it.
He racks his brain for the proper words. "I would like permission to speak with your son." He doesn't know why he's asking, he should just go home and call it a night. But there's something in Stiles's scent that's driving him crazy and he's determined to talk to him. Maybe he's another 'traditional' quiet omega like the rest of them, but maybe there's something more there.
He has to know.
"Permission granted," the sheriff says after a long, agonizing moment, and strides over to the corner of the balcony, sitting down in a chair there, probably strategically placed just for chaperones.
Derek takes a breath and looks back at Stiles. "What about you?" he thinks to ask. "Would you like to talk to me?"
Stiles looks like he's about to start laughing at a joke only he's heard. Derek starts to scowl again.
"Wait, no. Don't make that face," Stiles says quickly. "I just find the situation a little… amusing."
"What situation?" Derek asks.
"I think he's referring to me, nephew," Peter says from behind them.
Derek blinks at him. "Peter?"
"Um, yeah," Stiles says. "Meet your, um, competition."
Peter smiles sharply and Derek feels something heavy in his stomach, like he's swallowed a brick. His uncle is more intelligent and full of charm. Unlike Derek, he's never at a loss for words. And Peter doesn't have Derek's control problems, either. If Peter wants Stiles, Derek doesn't stand a chance.
He'd give up now if it wasn't for Stiles's scent, which is still wrapped around him and urging him to do something. And when he looks at Peter, he sees some kind of understanding in his eyes. He knows that look. He knows his uncle. He's about to make something up about how Stiles really isn't his type or that he needs to go and he'll leave them to it. But Derek can't have that happen, either, because when is the last time Peter looked interested in a potential mate?
They stand there, staring at each other, understanding dawning on both their faces. They both want Stiles, but they want each other to be happy even more.
"Hello?" Stiles says. "You don't look like you're about to kill each other, but I'm not sure, and if someone could just say something?"
Peter turns toward him and smiles. The corners of his eyes crinkle and he's so attractive it almost makes Derek melt. Stiles responds with a smile of his own, and Derek acknowledges they would make a beautiful couple. Peter says, "It seems we have a bit of a problem."
Stiles licks his lips, likely a nervous habit, but it distracts Derek for a moment. Peter too, if his sudden stillness is any indication.
"Problem?" Stiles echoes.
Derek scowls. He can't think. Stiles's lips and his eyes and his scent are driving him crazy. He wants to say something but when he opens his mouth to do so, nothing comes out but a soft growl. Stiles's pupils dilate, making his eyes look impossibly large.
"I think I speak for both of us when I say we'd like to court you," Peter says. "Derek, you're swamping him with pheromones. Ease off a little, would you?"
Stiles tilts his head, exposing his neck just a bit above his collar. "Derek's not the only one with the pheromones, buddy."
Peter looks surprised and it startles a rusty laugh from Derek.
"Oh. I apologize," Peter says. He closes his eyes and takes some deep breaths. Derek follows his lead, trying to rein in his alpha instincts, but with Stiles right there it's difficult.
"Thanks," Stiles murmurs. When Derek opens his eyes again, he sees Stiles is looking over at his father. Derek can't read the look on his face, but he doesn't seem unhappy when he says, "So you both want to court me? Like, winner takes all or…" He trails off, unable or unwilling to finish the thought.
"I'm sure you'll have other suitors," Peter says. "It won't be much different just because we're related."
"It won't cause problems between you?" Stiles asks, sounding worried for them. It softens something in Derek, and he's the one who answers.
"We're adults. We can handle it."
Peter gives him a thoughtful look, then nods. "Our relationship is not your responsibility, Stiles. Let us worry about that part."
Stiles gives him a small smile. "Okay, then. You're both… interesting. I can't wait to get to know you better."
"You're not like the other omegas in there," Peter says, and Derek silently agrees.
But Stiles laughs. "Oh, man, you are so wrong about that. I'm exactly like the other omegas. Just a little twitchier, maybe."
Derek frowns. "But you're…"
"Oh, everybody's on their best behavior tonight, but we're all hellions, to hear the headmistress tell it."
Peter smiles and takes Stiles's hand in his own. Surprisingly, it doesn't arouse any of Derek's primitive instincts, not even when Peter slowly moves and kisses the back of Stiles's hand. Derek notices he did it slowly to give Stiles a chance to stop him. He also realizes Stiles didn't.
"May I?" Derek asks, holding out his own hand. Stiles smiles and nods at him, gently pulling his hand from Peter's and giving it to Derek.
He can almost taste Peter's lingering breath when he kisses Stiles's hand. He lets his lips linger for a moment, and watches Stiles's eyes go even wider when he meets them with his own. His lips trace the same spot as Peter's did. His wolf doesn't object.
Stiles is putting out pheromones of his own, but neither Derek nor Peter points that out. If Peter is anything like Derek, he doesn't mind at all.