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That Thing, We Don't Talk About It

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"Stupid fucking werewolves," Stiles mutters, leaning his forehead against the steering wheel of his Jeep. He's outside the Hale house; there's a pack meeting in ten minutes and all Stiles wants to do is get away, go lock himself up in his room and avoid everyone and everything until the heat passes. He has a few toys hidden in his room, kept away from prying eyes. None of them would satisfy the desire for knotting, but that's okay. A first heat can't be all that bad, can it?

He was twitchy and restless all morning. Stiles didn't know what was wrong with him until he pulled up in front of the Hale house and a sudden tremor hit him. A gush of fluid escaped him, and he'd known. He's barely seventeen, there are years to go until he hits full heats. He experiences mini-heats which last for a day or so and prepare his body for the future. But nothing like this, where he feels the edges of his vision dim and blur, his body burn, and he wants. Craves. Aches.

The Omega thing sucks. Really sucks. Gross, disgusting hairy-sweaty-balls kind of sucking. It's bad enough that he's a human in a werewolf pack. But no, puberty had to go and make Stiles an Omega.

Well, puberty happened before the werewolf stuff showed up in his life but still, he'd been hiding it since puberty because he didn't want to be an Omega, even then. There are rules for male Omegas, even more rules than the women have. It's completely unfair. Male Omegas are prized (objectified) members of society (freaks of nature) who should be treated with dignity (locked up) and respected (ignored). That's what everyone says and they all just turn blind eyes to the truth.

The rules are decent, mostly. The rules allow them some form of personhood. Omegas are allowed to work, and technically can't be discriminated against, but there are never Omegas in high-profile jobs, and they make even less than women do. They can't be denied an education. Their orientation cannot be publicly announced. Decent, see? Except then it gets worse. Omegas are considered dependents of their parents until mated; mates are the ones who speak in public for their Omegas. To prevent conflict Omegas should not go places unescorted, especially after full heats set in. Omegas should give up all thoughts and ideas beyond staying home and raising kids.

The rules are mostly in place for safety reasons. Alphas get twitchy, testy and violent around unmated and unbonded Omegas. The heats Omegas experience can get bad enough that they end up crazed if they go unmated and unbonded long enough, and while they aren't violent like Alphas, the heats make them suspect to all sorts of unpleasant things. Things Stiles doesn't even want to think about, because the thought makes him ill. Being an Omega makes him ill. All rational thought gone, just the urge to have sex, get pregnant, be filled. He doesn't want that.

Full heats don't set in until the Omega reaches twenty, or thereabouts. Nature's way of protecting them, giving Omegas time to find a mate when they aren't suffering under a haze of teenage hormones. Not that twenty is all that old by modern standards. But at least they won't be in high school anymore and it gives Omegas a chance to find someone decent, get the most out of a college education (not that it matters because few Omegas work, even when properly mated and bonded), and figure out... well, Stiles isn't sure what all that time allows them to figure out. And doesn't much care because he's not going to get that time.

A month ago, Deaton had mentioned the pheromones werewolves put out affects body cycles. Stiles assumed it had to do with the girls of the pack and their periods so he ignored it. He's got enough to think about, given the Omega thing; he doesn't want to have to worry about girls and their periods.

He can leave. It would be easy, to turn the key in the ignition and drive home and curl up in his bed. Except everyone knows he's here and if he leaves it'll raise too many questions, also Stiles doesn't really trust himself to drive at the moment, not when his fingers are shaking and his mind keeps going back to sex.

Derek is inside, because it's Derek's house and he called the meeting. Stiles wants to run inside and throw himself on Derek, or any of the others - he knows that Boyd and Peter are Alphas, and possibly some of the others also. He's not sure, not anymore, not now that his mind is clouded and muddled and he wants nothing more than to throw himself at someone, anyone.

The front door of the Hale house opens and Jackson walks out, with Isaac right behind him, and Scott. Scott's an Alpha, has a knot and everything - Stiles didn't mean to look, it just happened. Scott would take care of him, not treat him like some poor, helpless thing, just a hole to be used. Scott is perfect, Stiles decides, and fumbles with his seatbelt, trying to get out of the car. With the strong scent of the wolves, coordinated movement is impossible. Isaac is a beta, but Jackson and Scott both smell so good, he just wants to climb one of them. Not that there’s any choice, because Jackson is suddenly there, a wicked smile curling his lips.

"So Stilinski's a little Omega whore," Jackson says, opening the door, he leans over to unbuckle the seatbelt and is all set to drag Stiles out of the car. It's terrifying, the way he looms, although it's no different than the usual way Jackson acts. "You smell ready to be fucked, ready to be filled. Should have known you were an Omega because a fucking is all you're good for."

And no, no, no, this isn't what Stiles wants. In the haze of hormones and pheromones, Stiles shakes, tries to fend Jackson off, his hands shoving pointlessly at Jackson's chest. He's worth more than sex, and he wants someone who will realize that. He wants someone who actually likes him and respects him a little. Love would be nice too, but even Stiles knows that one is pretty impossible; Omegas don't get the joy of requited love in most cases.

Jackson has his hands trapped and Stiles is out of the Jeep, leaning heavily against Jackson, when there's a roar from the front door. Stiles knows that roar and turns towards it, shoving at Jackson with the last of his strength. Derek. Derek will protect him. Derek can at least tolerate him and respects him a little considering that Stiles is already at the bottom of the pack, because he's just a graceless human with a smart mouth. He can deal with Derek using him.

Stiles blinks and suddenly Derek is there, looking at him with something akin to wonder in his eyes. It has to be his imagination, but there's no imagining the warm, steady pressure of Derek's arm around him, or the way his hand curls in Stiles' hair, pressing his face against Derek's shoulder. Dimly, Stiles is aware of the yelling going on around him, but for the most part, he focuses on the delicious smell of Derek, and the way he just wants to wrap himself around the werewolf.

A few words do reach him, though. And each of them make him flinch, curl in closer to Derek.

"-had no idea, what is going on?" from Scott, Stiles is so sorry for not telling his best friend, but he just couldn't; and

"-just a fucking Omega," from Jackson, "good for nothing but fucking-"

Derek is gone then, leaving Stiles to sway on his feet, but Jackson is the one on the ground, a whimpering, pathetic mess, with Derek's hand clenched in his shirt. "Don't ever say that again."

"Just because he's going to be your little fucktoy doesn't mean it's not true." Jackson really is an idiot, even Stiles can agree to that. Derek tightens in his fist in Jackson's shirt and slams him against the ground, Jackson's head making a loud thud against the dirt.

"Never say that again," Derek repeats, his voice a growl. "About Stiles or any Omega."

It's amazing because Jackson falls silent, doesn't protest at all, and then Stiles has that delicious feeling back, the smell of Derek surrounding him. The next thing he knows he's in Derek's arms and they're moving.

Stiles is gonna get what he wants and oh is it going to be wonderful.

-

"Please Derek," Stiles pleads through the door. "Please. I need you."

Derek grits his teeth, shaking his head even though Stiles can't see it. Instincts are warring with everything he's been taught and listening to Stiles beg through the door isn't helping. He wants to open the door and give Stiles exactly what he wants. But if he does that, he'd hate himself after. And worse, Stiles would hate him.

"No, Stiles," he says, and he's so thankful for the fact that he can temper his voice. It doesn't even tremble. "There are toys in there, use those for now."

Stiles whimpers and mutters, but Derek can hear his footsteps retreat away from the door. It's a blessing and a curse, improved hearing, because he can hear the way the bed - his bed - creaks slightly when Stiles flops on it, hear the rustling of linen, the opening and closing of drawers, and finally the steady hum of a vibrator. He can even hear slick sounds, an indication of Stiles stretching his body wide.

Derek's so focused on the sounds coming from his room that he doesn't hear the tread of another person in the house until the stairs creak. He turns and snarls immediately, partially shifting as the smell of Alpha hits him. Human Alpha, not the leader of a pack like Derek himself, but a possible threat to Stiles, to the unmated Omega under his watch, and Derek's not about to let anyone hurt Stiles.

Even if that someone is Stiles' father.

Derek relaxes a little, shifting back, when the Sheriff holds up his hands, a sad, resigned look on his face.

"I'm not - I wouldn't-" the Sheriff begins, and drops his hands, running one of them across his face. "Stiles is my son, first and foremost. I'd never do anything to him."

It's not unheard of for Alphas to take their Omega children, especially if there is no other Omega in the household. In Stilinski's case, widowered and alone, it would be almost encouraged for him to take Stiles as his Omega.

"I just wanted to make sure he was okay. Scott told me what happened. The heats weren't supposed to start for a few more years so I was worried. Especially with-"

He doesn't finish his sentence, but Derek doesn't need him to. He knows what the Sheriff is thinking, that with Derek there of course Stiles wouldn't be okay. It makes Derek bristle, and he snaps, "I'd never treat him the way you humans treat Omegas," without even thinking.

The Sheriff's hands go up again, trying to placate him. "I know that, Derek. I was worried because Scott and the others know, and I didn't want word getting out and someone trying to find him." He moves up the stairs and Derek watches him closely. He keeps his back to the bedroom door, refusing to let anyone, even Stiles' father, close. Derek firmly believes that the Sheriff won't do anything to his son, but he's not about to risk the possibility of being wrong. The Sheriff wasn't going for the room, however; he stops and rests a hand on Derek's shoulder, squeezing lightly. "I know you'll keep him safe. And hopefully the others won't say anything about this."

"You're ashamed of him." Derek accuses, watching the older man.

Hurt flashes across his face and the Sheriff lets go of Derek's shoulder. "No. I'm not ashamed of him. I just want something better for him. He's my kid, Derek. I don't want him to be reduced to nothing just because he's an Omega."

Derek remembers the Sheriff from before the fire, stopping by the Hale house sometimes, friends with his mother and his father and even his uncle Mark, who had been an Omega. He hadn't treated Mark any differently to how he had treated the rest of his family, which wasn't unusual in the Hale household, or even in werewolf society. But from what Derek's realized about human society, that's a rare and special case.

"I won't let anyone hurt him," Derek promises. The words are heavy on his tongue, because he can't remember the last time he made a promise. And this is one he has to keep.

"I know you won't." The Sheriff hesitates for a moment and then Derek gets the shock of his life when the man hugs him. "Thank you."

-

"You can let me out now," Stiles says. His voice is sheepish and hesitant, unlike the usual Stiles, and definitely unlike the Stiles of the past few days. He sounds coherent and collected. "I'll just, uh, head on home."

"Not yet, Stiles," Derek says. "It's nearly midnight. Get some sleep, we'll talk in the morning."

"Dude, I am not staying in here and sleeping on your bed! Do you know how much of a mess the sheets are?"

Derek knows all too well what the sheets look like, thanks to delivering food and water daily. Filthy and covered in Stiles' scent, his slick and his come, and the thought makes Derek grow hard in his jeans. He bites back a groan.

"Your heat isn't completely gone and any Alphas you encounter will smell you." He pauses, listening to Stiles stifle a yawn. "There are sheets in the closet, so change the bedding, take a shower, and get some sleep."

Stiles is unnaturally still on the other side of the door. If Derek closes his eyes, he can picture Stiles standing there, worrying his lower lip and his hands fluttering as he thinks. He wants to open the door and pull Stiles into his arms, and the urge is surprisingly strong, harder to resist than the all of the previous urges to fuck Stiles into the mattress. Derek is good at denial, though. He always has been, and the years since the fire have only improved his ability to deny himself anything and everything remotely good in his life. So he just glares at the door and waits for Stiles to respond.

"Okay, fine," Stiles huffs eventually, the words accompanied by the sound of shuffling feet. There's a pause and then, a soft "Thank you," from Stiles.

Derek lets out the breath he wasn't even aware he was holding.

-

Stiles emerges from the room the next morning - five days after his heat first hit - feeling exhausted and worn and achy. But they're okay aches, and the important part is that his mind is clear. He can focus again, concentrate on something beyond the desire to be fucked. It's glorious and he's never going to take it for granted again.

Of course, within weeks, Stiles will be busy researching again, and focusing on a million different things at once, and totally taking advantage of his pills, but that's different. Completely different. Mostly because it doesn't involve sex and fucked up hormones. It still involves fucked up biology, because seriously, fucking biology, but at least the ADHD doesn't cause him to leak all over the place.

"Fucking hormones," Stiles mutters, sparing one last look around the room, with the dirty sheets in the corner and box of toys on the floor and glasses of water on the desk. Derek's room still reeks, and he feels strangely guilty for that, even if it wasn't his fault that he was locked in said room for five days. Which, speaking of, he isn't sure how he came to be contained in Derek's room.

"The hormones aren't all that bad," Derek says from behind Stiles, and Stiles jumps, flailing his arms.

"Dude, a warning?" he says, spinning to face the werewolf. Derek scowls at the 'dude,' but otherwise says nothing. "And you're only saying that because you aren't an Omega. Hormones and puberty and everything else? They all fucking suck."

Derek frowns at that, looking like he is ready to argue, but all that escapes him is a sigh. A somewhat dejected sigh. "We should talk."

"Okay." Stiles tenses and waits for Derek to continue, say whatever it is he wants to say - probably something to do with the heat and how Stiles is now Derek's Omega and he's not even going to have the endorphins from the heat to make knotting easier or something like that. Or how Stiles is out of the pack now, because Omegas are useless, good for nothing but breeding and perhaps werewolves don't even use Omegas for breeding, so he's even worse than the traditional Omega. It's depressing and sobering and Stiles can feel tears prick his eyes, feel the way his throat closes up.

"Not here," Derek says after a minute of silence, and Stiles glances at him again. "It's too close to the room. Not the best place to talk when I can still smell you."

"Er, sorry about that. I didn't mean to... uh, well, I guess that was kind of unavoidable, really, what with being locked in and all." Stiles looks away, staring at the floor, doesn't protest when Derek grips his arm and leads him downstairs, into the living room, and pushes him to the sofa. He does talk, however. It's like Derek's touch opens a floodgate, or at least restores Stiles to proper working order. "I can come back and clean it later, if you want. I'm good at that, just ask my dad, and cooking too, I can cook. Make all kinds of things. It actually might be nice to have another person to cook for, really, because then I don't have to worry about cutting down recipes. Which is really hard, sometimes, how do you split an egg? But I can do it, so you can count on me."

"Stiles, what are you talking about?" Derek asks, as he sits across from the sofa.

"Well, I figure if I can cook and clean, be, you know, useful? You won't have to like, kick me out of the pack or anything. I can still research too. Even with babies. It's not like I'll be worthless or anything."

"Stiles." The expression on Derek's face is amazingly pained and Stiles doesn't get it. Or maybe he does. Maybe he's making this all so much harder on Derek. Stiles should be the bigger person and just leave now, before it becomes too much. "I'm sorry-"

"I get it, don't worry. You wouldn't want a worthless Omega around. Probably don't even use us for breeding or anything, why would a werewolf need that anyway? So, uh, yeah, I'll just go, we're not bonded or anything. Just don't take away all of my friends? Let Scott see me sometimes. I won't come here or anything...." He stands as he talks, trying to manoeuvre around the coffee table and sofas and armchairs and everything else in the room through the haze of tears.

"You're not letting me talk," Derek snaps, and then his hands are back on Stiles, pushing him back to the sofa. "Shut up and listen for once."

Stiles knows that Derek can order him to do just that, but hasn't. The surprise of that fact makes him clamp his lips closed, although he refuses to look up at Derek.

"I'm not kicking you out of the pack," Derek starts off, immediately. "And you don't have to prove your usefulness." He stops, for a moment, clears his throat, and continues. "You started your heats early because of the pack. Omegas in packs traditionally have their first heat around sixteen or seventeen. They'll be more frequent, as well, until you properly mate with someone."

Stiles opens his mouth to ask a question or ten, but before he can even form the words, Derek glares at him to shut up. Stiles quickly changes his mind and shuts up.

"Even when you mate with someone, they'll happen more often than normal for human Omegas. But they won't last as long, and most of them won't be as intense. So you can still have something of a normal life, even if you don't mate with someone for a while."

At that, Stiles can't stop himself. He laughs, although it's a cruel, bitter sound. "Yeah, like that's possible. I'm a fucking Omega. We don't get normal lives."

"Stiles-"

"I could maybe pass as a beta, if the heats aren't all that bad, but it's still going to get out and I'll just end up as some breeding bitch for some Alpha with a strong nose."

"Stiles!" Derek growls at him this time and Stiles falls silent again. He can't even get properly worked up about the situation. Right now, all he wants to do is go home and cry into his pillow and sleep. Or maybe cry on his dad's shoulder, because his dad is awesome like that and understands the deep, deep drive for touch and comfort.

"You can have a normal life, and you don't have to pass as a beta if you don't want to," Derek continues, once Stiles is looking at him again. "Being an Omega isn't something to be ashamed of." He looks slightly conflicted, like he isn't sure how to say everything, but Stiles remains silent, and waits for him to continue. "If anyone tries to give you trouble about it, I'll deal with them."

That makes Stiles tense again. He isn't sure why Derek would offer such a thing, unless he means to make Stiles his Omega, but that makes no sense. In fact, none of what is going on makes any sense.

Derek can read his body language quite well, Stiles realizes, when Derek's face softens imperceptibly. "Stiles. The offer doesn't depend on anything, not on you consenting to being my Omega, or the Omega of anyone in the pack. If anything ever happens, if anyone ever tries to force you - I really will deal with them."

Stiles stares at Derek, who looks painfully open, like he rarely is, and Stiles feels his throat close, words and air suddenly impossible. Derek's said the magic words. Consent. Force. Words that are thrown around for everyone else, but never Omegas. Omegas are never raped and consent is always assumed, even if the Omega wasn't in heat. To suddenly be offered choices - it's almost too much to deal with.

Derek looks slightly panicked and he moves to hover over Stiles, reaching out to pat his shoulder. Stiles laughs and waves him away, rubbing his hands over his face. "I'm fine," he mumbles, although they both know the truth. "Why would you even offer?"

"Human society is disgusting," Derek says, as he sits back down. "At least in the way they treat Omegas. Omegas in werewolf packs... they're cherished." Derek looks back at the coffee table between them, an old piece from the original house that Scott and Stiles found in the basement. All of them worked on fixing it up, restoring it to its current condition. "Omegas are extremely rare in werewolf society. Not naturally, at least, and most Omegas don't survive the bite. And werewolves... we're not especially fecund. It's hard for women to carry werewolf babies to term, even if the woman is a werewolf herself. It's usually not a big deal, because we can bite people. But Omegas, human or werewolf, have no problem carrying the babies to term." Derek finally raised his eyes, looking at Stiles. There's the hint of a smirk on his lips. "And Omegas fight like nothing else when one of their own is threatened. They're amazing strategists, and heaven help you if you get between an Omega and someone he loves. Especially his children. Or any of the children in the pack."

Stiles knows that is the most accurate statement ever. It might even be underplaying just how fiercely protective Omegas can be. He doesn't even have kids, doesn't want them for a few years, but already, Stiles knows he would do anything for them. He'd do anything for Scott's future kids, as well. Which... is true now, as well. He'd do anything for Scott, for his dad, for the random group of people he defines as Pack. They're family, and he loves them. That'll never change.

Stiles wonders if that's all there is to the discussion. It's comforting, in a sense, that Omegas are respected and cherished, because of their rarity and their nature, not maligned for the aspects nature gave them. But it's also disappointing: they're still objects, wanted because of their very nature. The entire thing feels unfair. Stiles wants to be liked - loved - for who he is as a person, not just his body.

Derek seems to sense something and frowns at him as he continues. "Omegas are stabilizing influences in Packs. Heats are special for Omegas." Derek stands then, and Stiles looks away, knowing the conversation is drawing to a close. "And - Omegas are people, too. Humans forget that. Werewolves don't. We don't force - It's rape to force anyone to sleep with you, and just because someone can't say no doesn't mean they're saying yes." Derek pauses, struggling for words, and Stiles wonders how hard all of this is for him. "I won't let anyone rape you."

For the first time since his heat started, Stiles feels okay. Safe. Maybe, just maybe, he'll come out of this as more than a breeding bitch. He nods, licking his lips, and looks up at Derek. "Thank you."

-

Derek releases a pent-up breath when the Jeep pulls away from the house. He wants to follow Stiles, make sure he gets home safely, because usually he can't trust Stiles to follow even the most basic of orders. But this time, things are different. For one, he doesn't think Stiles wants to do anything but go home and shower and sleep. Which, considering the past few days, is exactly what he needs. And second, Derek doesn't trust himself not to do something stupid, like lurk outside the Stilinski house, all night long. He needs to be away from Stiles at the moment. Not that he can fully escape everything, because the house, especially Derek's room, still reeks of Stiles, but at least there is space between them.

Derek remembers his uncle finally picking a mate. He'd still been a kid at the time, but he can recall the days of parties and the bonding ceremony, and how everyone else had gone on a trip to give the couple privacy. Omegas never marry out of their pack; Mark's bonded Alpha had been a beta from another pack, who took on the Hale name and left behind his home for his mate. At the time, Derek thought the bonding ceremony silly and kind of stupid and definitely gross, because it involved kissing and holding hands and looking stupid, but he remembers it with fondness.

He wants that. Oh, how he wants that. With Stiles, specifically. It had been there, before the Omega thing, the tension between them palatable and electrifying, and now that he knows Stiles is an Omega, he wants nothing more than to claim Stiles for his own. He doesn't know how to deal with the idea that Stiles might not want him in return.

Derek leans back on the sofa, right where Stiles had been sitting not even ten minutes before, and thinks about the other Alphas he knows. Thinks about what Stiles might like, what he'd want to do on dates. Wonders if he can convince Stiles to at least try going to dinner with him.

The front door slams open, and Derek closes his eyes and sighs. No one knows how to open doors around the place, it seems.

"What was so important that we had to meet right this minute?" Jackson asks, as he stomps in behind Scott and Isaac. Allison and Lydia are with them as well, although it's not quite as vital that they are present. Boyd is just pulling up, Erica in tow. "It better be good."

"We're going to discuss how you treat Omegas."

-

Stiles knows how lucky he is that it's summer, that he didn't have to fake an excuse for being absent from school, and that the chance of his status spreading is minimal. Provided none of the Pack talks about it, Stiles is safe from discovery. Derek's words are nice and comforting, but Stiles still doesn't want anything to get out, doesn't want Beacon Hills to know he's an Omega. There's no telling what could happen, and he's not going to depend on someone always being around.

The cruiser is in the driveway when he pulls up, and Stiles sits in the Jeep for a moment, wondering what to tell his father. Stiles knows he came by - he remembers hearing his voice and smelling another Alpha - but he doesn't know how much his father was told, or how he reacted to the information. Heats are ugly things, and it's not uncommon for parents to force their Omega children into the arms of an Alpha, just so they don't have to deal with an unmated Omega. Stiles doesn't think his father would do that, hopes he wouldn't, and even has somewhere to stay if such a tragedy ever did happen, but the what-ifs run through his head. His dad might not be able to resist an unmated Omega, or might not want to deal with the heats and the potential downfall, or might already be setting something up.

It's enough to send Stiles into a state of panic, and he doesn't even register the door to the Jeep opening, or the arms wrapping around him, pulling him out of the vehicle.

"Breathe with me, kiddo," the Sheriff whispers, pressing a kiss to Stiles' head, as he closes the door to the Jeep and wrangles Stiles inside the house. Stiles doesn't realize anything until he's situated on the floor of the hall, his father a comforting presence behind him.

"You back, Stiles?" the Sheriff asks, as Stiles' breathing slows.

Stiles nods, wincing a little as he flounders a bit. "I'm sorry."

The Sheriff only pulls him tighter to his chest, squeezing him a little. "There's nothing to be sorry for," he tells his son. "Whatever you're thinking, whatever you're apologizing for - it's not going to happen, there's nothing to apologize for."

Stiles can feel the prickling of tears at the corners of his eyes, but he doesn't want to cry, not there with his dad. He knows his father won't think anything less of him if he does cry, but there have been too many emotions in the past week that he just doesn't want to deal with. So he blinks rapidly, swallows back the sob in his throat and lets his father hold him.

-

Stiles spends the day mostly half-asleep. He showers, scrubbing himself down twice, and dresses in his most comfortable clothes in an effort to relax and forget about the past five days. He puts on movies that have very little in terms of sex or sexual exploitation - Lord of the Rings, he realizes, is good for that, as are most Disney movies, and giant monster movies - so curls up in his blankets, allowing the fog of summer laziness to take over his mind. His father comes in to say good night before he leaves for a shift, and it's pretty much the only time Stiles acknowledges the world around him, beyond putting different movies in the DVD player, or reaching for water or something to eat.

Scott shows up the next day, catching Stiles when he is rummaging in the kitchen for something to eat. Stiles thinks, if he hadn't been downstairs when Scott knocked, he probably wouldn't have opened the door, or acknowledged his visit, because he didn't really didn't want to deal with people. Even Scott. (Especially Scott.) But Stiles is downstairs and he knew Scott could hear him and there would be no getting rid of him.

"Come in," he calls, knowing Scott can hear him. He's got a key, so it's not like Stiles needs to walk over to the door to let him in, and he'd rather keep rummaging through the fridge in an effort to find something to eat.

"How are you feeling?" Scott asks when he reaches the kitchen, awkwardly hovering for a moment.

Stiles shrugs and says nothing, finally pulling out some leftover steak. It's not what he wants, but it's better than trying to cook something.

"Stiles." Scott walks further into the kitchen, leaning against the counter next to Stiles.

"What do you want me to say, Scott? That I'm peachy fucking keen? Fine and dandy, that's Stiles, he's always fucking great. Great for a-"

Stiles can't say anything more, isn't even sure what he would have said, because Scott pulls him into a hug, and it's there that Stiles finally lets himself cry.

-

"Jackson's gonna be in the doghouse for the next month, at least," Scott says. "Derek wasn't pleased with him.”

They are curled up on Stiles' bed, a movie playing in the background, volume on low, and junk food surrounding them. Stiles is sure his face is red and blotchy and he's got snot on his shirt - and on Scott's - but it's the most relaxed he's felt since before his heat.

"Because of what he did?"

"That, and when Derek was explaining how we treat Omegas, Jackson kept interrupting and being a douche."

"Not a new thing, that." Stiles snorts, just thinking about some of the stuff Jackson has said before about Omegas. He's not the most tolerant of people.

"Lydia's not talking to him. Jackson seemed to think that he and Lydia would get married one day, and he'd still have an Omega. Lydia wasn't pleased with that. She thought the... thing with you was just pheromones."

Stiles chuckles, thinking about Lydia discovering Jackson's plan. It's actually common for an Alpha to have a significant other and have at least one Omega on the side. But Lydia never seemed the type to tolerate such behavior.

"And Derek told him if he ever does that, he'll rip his throat out." Scott laughs a little, slightly nervous. "I think he was actually serious about that. Although Erica did bring up consensual threesomes and he seemed okay with that."

"Because of the consent." Stiles pulls the blanket tighter around his shoulders, curling further into his pillows. "If everyone is an equal partner in the relationship, that's fine. But Jackson wasn't talking about a consenting threesome."

Scott nods, a look of understanding dawning on his features. They both fall silent, neither really paying attention to the movie or anything, but lost in thought.

"Hey Stiles?" Scott asks, after a minute or two.

"Hmm?"

"You know I love you. You're my brother. And I won't let anything happen to you."

Stiles slides his hand out from the blankets and wraps it around Scott's, squeezing tightly.

"I know."

-

Summer is full of slow, lazy days, and Stiles spends the next week doing massive amounts of nothing. He goes through his DVDs, plays a few rounds of Call of Duty with Scott and replays the Bioshock games.

It's relaxing, soothing, and after a week his father stops hovering and complains about his laziness, the fact that the laundry is piling up, and the grilled veggies Stiles makes him eat day after day. Even Scott gets back to normal sooner or later, and it feels like his heat didn't even happen.

Until he goes out for dinner.

The Sheriff drags him out one evening after a shift, grumbling about the salad and how he just wants a damn burger. Stiles complains, but lets his dad herd him into the car and ten minutes later they're at Rosie's, a continual favorite.

"You can have a burger," Stiles tells his dad, when the waitress comes over to take their order. "No cheese, no fries, no milkshake-"

"I'm getting a double cheeseburger, large fries, and a chocolate milkshake," the Sheriff tells the waitress, talking over Stiles, and Stiles scowls. The waitress laughs, used to the behavior, and scribbles down the Sheriff's order.

"At least get a salad with it," Stiles grumbles, and the Sheriff relents, adding that to his order. Stiles gripes about it as he gives the waitress his order - which was essentially the same thing, just with a vanilla shake instead.

"You’re on steamed broccoli for the entirety of next week," Stiles promises, as the waitress walks away. His dad rolls his eyes.

The meal is mostly pleasant, with the Sheriff letting Stiles steal more French fries off his plate, and the two of them discussing plans for the rest of summer. His dad brings up the possibility of going to the beach for a weekend or so and Stiles gets so caught up in the idea he almost misses the couple who walks in, taking a booth right across from theirs. He doesn't even notice it's an Alpha and his Omega until the waitress arrives to talk their orders.

"I'd like the steak," the Omega says after the Alpha, only to be interrupted.

"Get him the salad instead," the Alpha says. "You don't need red meat."

"But - you said -"

The Alpha growls and Stiles stiffens in his seat, the Sheriff looking up from his milkshake. The Omega falls quiet, and lets the Alpha finish his order - a basic salad, a little chicken, a slice of whole grain bread, water. Small portions, of course, because he doesn't need a ton, the Alpha explains. Can't risk getting fat.

When the waitress finally leaves, the Alpha reaches over, grasping the Omega's wrist. "Don't ever question my orders," the Alpha says. "Especially not in public. You're going in the cage tonight for that." When the Alpha lets go, there are bruises around the Omega's wrist, and he looks defeated.

Stiles shudders and looks back to his milkshake, his appetite gone. Going out to eat is usually time to have things like steaks and carb-filled sides and dessert, things he and his father normally avoid at home. It's a treat, and he doesn't want to imagine never having them. A sickening thought crosses his mind, that could be him in the future, told when to eat, what to eat, and how much.

The Sheriff takes one look at Stiles' face and calls for the bill.

-

Pack meetings - official ones, where they discuss any issues and werewolf news and air out problems - happen every two weeks. The pack meets more often than that, for training and dinner and just to be close to each other, but the bi-weekly meetings are serious and attendance is mandatory. Stiles knows he missed one the night his heat hit - they all missed it, Derek kicked them out. And there was one the day he left Derek's, which he wasn't actually invited to. But after that, they fall back into a rough semblance of order, and Stiles gets the mass text a week after his heat ends, ordering all of them to show up for a pack meeting.

Stiles shuts off his phone and makes sure to lock his window that night. He doesn't want to go out, face the world, and the realizations that wait out there. Derek's given him a modicum of relief from the harsh realities of his world, but Stiles knows that words, even the promise of protection, won't change everything.

Stiles remembers what Derek said, about the heats being more frequent, and even though he fakes a good game of nonchalance and ignorance, he can't help but wonder just how often. It makes him twitchy, unsure if he can face the idea of getting his heat while at school, and what it will mean for him.

Another week goes by, and another, and there's a text message from Derek to everyone, with orders to show up at his house. Stiles ignores the guilt churning in his stomach and shuts off his phone, unwilling to face the Pack, unsure of his welcome.

It's not to be, though: Scott shows up and doesn't even bother knocking, which is normal for him, just marches in and up to Stiles' room.

"Derek told me to make sure you're there," Scott says, sounding apologetic, but determined. "You can't hide in here forever."

"Sure I can," Stiles contests, but Scott turns pleading eyes on him, and it's futile to resist. Stiles dutifully drags a clean t-shirt over his head with a sigh, and grabs his shoes. "I'll meet you there."

"No can do, buddy. You're coming with me."

Stiles can feel his hackles rise at that and he glares at Scott. "What, the poor little Omega can't drive himself?" He knows it's stupid, but he can't help the gut reaction. He doesn't want anything to change, but sometimes it feels inevitable.

"What?" Scott asks, incredulous. "It's got nothing - Stiles, I know you. You'll say you'll be there and then decide at the last minute you don't want to or take your time getting to Derek's and the meeting will be over by the time you do show up. It's not because you're an Omega."

"Oh." Just like that, Stiles feels all of his anger and outrage deflate, knowing that Scott is telling the truth. Stiles would do something like that, given the chance. And Scott - and probably Derek and Lydia and everyone else - know him well enough to prevent that.

He finishes getting dressed, runs his fingers through his hair, and follows Scott outside.

-

Derek watches Stiles, covertly, through the entire meeting. Okay, not that covertly, because Lydia smirks at him, Jackson glares and Erica snickers. Derek thinks everyone notices, except, of course, Stiles.

Stiles sits with his head down, tucked into a corner of the couch, refusing to even look anyone in the eye. It's ridiculous and so unlike Stiles that Derek wants to shake him.

"Does the Martinez Pack still want an alliance?" Lydia asks at one point. Derek raises an eyebrow, wondering why she brought up the topic. Stiles had fought against the alliance at the last Pack meeting he'd attended, pointing out things none of the rest had realized - suspicious activity in their area, reports of mountain lions, pack members who had been hesitant and reluctant to do much during their brief meeting, their territory suddenly expanding. Derek thought it had been settled then, but perhaps she's got more information.

"I told them we'd get back to them," Derek tells her. "I haven't given them my answer yet."

Lydia looks at Stiles, like she expects him to jump with something - a demand on why Derek's even bothering to wait, they aren't going through with the alliance, or information on why they aren't, or something - and Derek waits. Stiles stiffens, and Derek can almost see the flailing that will happen, Stiles waving his arms around, almost a danger to himself and everyone in close proximity. But Stiles seems to catch himself, settling back into the couch and remaining stubbornly silent.

Derek fights the urge to sigh, but does press his fingers against his temples.

"We'll talk about it next time," Derek tells Lydia, cutting off any potential comments from her. "Go home."

The meeting was awkward, as meetings invariably are, even meetings between friends, and everyone is quick to scramble out. Everyone, that is, except Stiles. He sits on the couch, picking at a thread, until everyone is gone, and even the rumble of engines is distant.

Derek just sits there and waits for Stiles to say something. He's got patience, sometimes, when he wants. He can outwait a normally hyperactive teenage boy.

Stiles breaks after a minute, which doesn't surprise Derek at all. He refuses to look up, however, and his voice is muted.

"You talked about werewolves having heats more often," Stiles says. "How often? Will I get my heat while I'm in school?"

Derek starts to shrug, because he really doesn't know all of the answers to those things, and it's not something he's qualified to talk about, but stops himself. If he rejects Stiles' questions, there's no telling what will happen, and he doesn't want Stiles to further withdraw from the Pack - from Derek.

"I don't know how often. My uncle Mark was the only Omega I really knew - I don't know when he had heats, all I know is that someone mentioned them happening more often. He didn't have any issues with his heats before he picked a mate. They didn't keep him out of work or anything."

"He worked?" Stiles blurts out, when Derek pauses to think about everything else he knows about Omegas. It sounds almost like Stiles, down to the incredulous tone, and that pleases Derek, even though the question is unfortunate.

"He owned a bakery." Derek has pleasant memories of his uncle's bakery, and misses it fiercely. "And he was in almost every day, except when pregnant. So no, his heats didn't affect work or anything."

That seems to get Stiles to look at him again, but he appears mystified, as though Derek is talking in another language.

"He owned his bakery?" Stiles repeats, puzzled. "Like, owned? It was his? His Alpha didn't just let him have it? And well, he must have been pregnant a lot, so maybe that's why he didn't miss days when his heat-"

"What? No. He and Uncle Nathan had one child. I think they were planning on another when-" Derek stops, not wanting to think about the fire, but he is sure Stiles know what he means. "He owned the bakery long before he married."

"But how does that even work?" Stiles asks. "Heats, and knotting, and all of that - they're meant to knock up the Omega. It's somewhere around a 60 to 70 percent chance of getting pregnant during a heat."

"Condoms exist."

"But they're not effective for-"

"Yeah, that's bullshit." Derek rolls his eyes. He forgets, sometimes, just how awful humans treat Omegas, and how Stiles' reactions are not all that surprising. Sometimes, though, the lies get to him. How does anyone ever believe this? "They work just fine. Might dull some of the sensation, but it doesn't stop an Alpha from knotting anyone. Condoms have no problem holding all the sperm. Just be careful when pulling out."

"Okay." Stiles looks at him, frowning, but contemplative. "It's still making no sense to me - I mean, the condoms, sure, but the heat thing? Makes no sense, dude. And the not getting pregnant-"

Derek sighs and looks at his phone, checking the time. It's late, too late for Deaton to be at the clinic, and he's not going to just drop by unannounced for an impromptu visit. "Deaton can answer more questions for you. I'll pick you up tomorrow morning and take you over there."

"Oh, the Omega can't manage on his own?" Stiles snaps, crossing his arms over his chest. Because this is Derek's life.

"Stiles," Derek growls, "it has nothing to do with that. It has to do with the fact that you won't go if someone doesn't drag you." For all that Stiles can research and find answers when it comes to his friends, he's not one to do something for his own good. Derek will just have to make sure he goes. "Be awake and ready by eight."

-

Stiles drags out of bed at 07:30 to shower and dress and shove cereal in his mouth, but he isn't actually awake. Existence is mostly a fugue state, because it's far too early to actually be awake, and he still feels oddly exhausted after the events of the past few weeks. Derek shows up a few minutes early, and doesn't bother to get out of the car, which, rude. Stiles hastily finishes his breakfast and spends too long struggling to get his shoes on; by the time he is running out the door Derek looks ready to murder him, well, more so than usual.

If he were more awake, it might be amusing.

Scott isn't at Deaton's when they arrive, which Stiles is grateful for, and Deaton doesn't appear all that surprised to see them. Derek mumbles something at Deaton, too low for Stiles to hear, and then Deaton is looking back and forth between them, surprised. "Are you sure?" he asks Derek.

It's not something unusual or surprising, because the Alpha always speaks for the Omega, but Stiles didn't expect it from Deaton, of all people. He scoffs, resting his hands on his hips. "I don't need Derek's permission to whatever it is he told you to give me," Stiles says, too loud. "He's not my Alpha."

Deaton graces him with a slight smile, inclining his head. "I know that much, Stiles. And it's not what you are thinking." He turns away then, motioning for them to follow him to his back room, Stiles smothers a sigh, sure he isn't going to get any definite answers. Deaton has an aversion to actually answering anything. But he wants to know what Deaton and Derek are talking about, so he follows, with Derek trailing along behind.

"I was asking to confirm that Derek wants to share this information," Deaton offers, when they reach the back room. Deaton pulls down a few jars of herbs, carefully measuring out portions. "It's not something that is discussed outside werewolf circles. It's actually rare for anyone besides Omega werewolves to know about this."

Derek looks just as puzzled as Stiles feels when Stiles glances at him, and he shrugs. "I have no idea what you are talking about," Derek says, as Deaton concentrates on the herbs in front of him, mixing them together and grinding them into coarse pieces. "I just remember Uncle Mark having an easier time of dealing with his heats than humans and thought you might know why."

"I might not be a werewolf, but I am part of a pack. So it's in my rights!” Stiles glares at Deaton as though daring him to say something about Stiles human nature. “I'm not going to go and tell anyone else about this - wait, what is this?" Deaton hands Stiles a large bottle, filled with the herbs he'd just been working with, effectively cutting him off mid-rant. Stiles stares at it, twists it open to sniff. It doesn't smell unpleasant, at least.

"It's a contraceptive," Deaton explains. "It will not prevent your heats, but it will minimize them, making them relatively manageable - you can still go to school, or work, although I would not recommend that for a few years. It's only about seventy-five percent effective at preventing pregnancy during your heat, so if you are going to have penetrative sex during your heat, use condoms. You can adjust portions, if necessary, to adjust the timing of your heats."

Stiles tightens his hand around the bottle, pulling it close to his chest and side-eyeing Derek and Deaton. Freedom is finally in his hands and he has no intention of letting it go. He's never imagined possibility of something like birth control, or adjust his heats, or minimizing them. He can actually finish school and work. Derek did say he could do that, but it's easy to make promises and not deliver. What he holds is the deliverance of said promises.

There have to be some drawbacks. Something horrid and nasty, like experiencing heats every month. Even if they are easier to handle, Stiles doesn't want monthly heats.

"Derek said something about having heats more often. How often? How long will they be? Does it only happen to werewolves?"

"Anyone in a pack, I'm afraid." Deaton smiles at him, but it's not very reassuring. "With the herbs, your heats will last about two days, four to six times a year. It's different for everyone. Once you stop taking the contraceptive, they will increase in intensity and length, but not amount."

So every two to three months. Stiles can deal with that.

-

Derek drops Stiles off at home, with a jar of herbs, along with a list of the ingredients and how to prepare the contraceptive. It was one of the things he'd insisted upon, not wanting to have to rely on Deaton. Derek doesn't blame him.

Stiles hesitates when they pull up, looking alternately nervous and subdued, until he finally sets his jaw and looks at Derek. "Thank you," he says, "for... all of this." He waves his hand around, the paper fluttering between his fingers. "It means a lot to me."

Stiles flees before Derek can say anything in response, all but throwing himself from the car and running up to his house. Derek waits until he's inside, can hear Stiles' feet pounding on the stairs, and his bedroom door open and close, before he pulls away from the house.

Taking Stiles to get answers and help is nothing - Derek would do it for any Omega in the pack. But it must be the first time Stiles, who is all too human, has an actual, physical reminder that he's not going to be regulated to breeding bitch. Derek can't even begin to imagine the relief that he must feel.

Derek drives for the rest of the day, pushing the Camaro up a few mountain roads it shouldn't be tackling. He can't go back to his house, because it still smells too much like Stiles, and the scent drives him crazy. Not even in a sexual way. It just makes him want to curl around Stiles and cuddle him, or feed him, or make him laugh. His mother said it would be like that, finding an Omega you were attracted to - he'd want to do everything for them, anything to protect them and make them happy and keep them safe.

Derek's hands clench around the steering wheel and he shudders. He wants to do all of that with Stiles, but he can't push it, can't force Stiles into anything he doesn't want. Derek can only hope that, when Stiles is ready to fall in love, he considers potentially dating Derek.

-

It doesn't take as long as Stiles expects for things to go back to normal. Once he starts throwing in comments at meetings, or cutting off Derek, or providing research on various things, everyone else stops treating him like he's spun glass. Jackson still looks at him oddly, but Lydia threatens to withhold sex, and that stops pretty quickly. All in all, it's almost like nothing happened.

Even school, when it starts again, is easy. No one mentions the Omega thing, so no one at school knows about it, and Stiles manages to get the herbs Deaton gave him to work with his body. His next heat doesn't hit until October, and although Stiles still has to shut himself up in his room, alone with the toys that don't satisfy him, it's nothing compared to the heat he had before. It's over comparatively quickly - it starts Friday afternoon and by Sunday evening, he feels strung out but is also aware, conscious enough to go to school the next day.

-

Life is good, the Omega thing isn't as bad as he feared, and Stiles can't complain about much. Except for Derek.

Derek stares at Stiles during every pack meeting and event and Stiles just knows that Derek drives past his house every evening to check on him. It would annoy Stiles, make him grumble about the Omega thing, but he knows it's not because Derek thinks he's helpless.

December hits, and with it the holidays, and the pack spends more time at Derek's than they do at their own houses, staying up too late with rounds of video games and movies and pizza. Derek joins them, sometimes, and Stiles watches him. Derek watches back, but flushes and looks away when Stiles catches him. It's frustrating, because he doesn't know what it means - if Derek wants him, why isn't he making a move?

Stiles stays when everyone else leaves, one night halfway through their holiday. It's the boring stretch between Christmas and New Year's and it's been chaotic enough that everyone wants their own beds. (Or rather, Stiles amends, watching people leave - Lydia wants Jackson to herself, and Scott and Allison seem more interested in each other and Isaac than they do in video games.) Derek wanders out from the kitchen when the door finally closes behind Erica and Boyd.

"Why are you still here?" he asks, hovering in the doorway, and looking fairly awkward, like he isn't sure what to do with himself. Stiles grins, amused. Derek scowls in response and crosses his arms over his chest.

"You keep looking at me," Stiles says, and it's somewhat accusatory, although he doesn't mean it to be. Derek's eyes widen and he looks away, his scowl deepening, he looks ready to flee. Stiles flaps his hands, hoping Derek realizes it means he wants him to stay. "I don't mind it. I mean, I kinda enjoy it. But, when are you gonna make a move, dude?"

"It's because of the 'Omega thing' that I'm just staring." Derek looks at him and drops his arms to his sides, shifts from foot to foot. Finally, he glances away and says, "I'm an Alpha. I can't make the first move, Stiles."

Omegas supposedly had a choice in their relationships, but that is generally a lie, especially when it's so easy to force the Omegas to comply. Catch them during their heats, or just before or after, and they fall easily. Even when not in heat, Omegas find it difficult to disobey direct orders from Alphas. There are people who use that to their advantage.

Stiles could smack himself. He knows that Derek wouldn't do anything that might remove an aspect of choice from him, and if Stiles wants him, he's going to have to do some heavy-lifting. Stiles untangles himself from the couch, crossing over to stand in front of Derek.

"Hey Derek," Stiles says, waiting for Derek to look at him again before continuing. "Want to go to dinner tomorrow?"

Derek's eyes widen, but he jerks his head. Stiles mentally fists pumps, and leans in for a kiss, only to be stopped by Derek's hand in his face.

"I don't know what kind of a guy you think I am," Derek says, "but I'm not going to kiss you before our first date." His voice is flat and his lips are frowning, but his eyes are twinkling, and the tension in his shoulders, the tension that's been present for ages, is gone.

Stiles grins and blows a raspberry against Derek's palm, but he feels just as relieved, and he's already mentally preparing for their date, and the one after that, and the one after that. Stiles only laughs when Derek pulls his hand away and ignores Derek’s muttering about disgusting teenage boy habits. He’s got a wedding to mentally prepare.