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Self-Acceptance

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The worst day of Derek's life came two months after his fifteenth birthday.

Most people his age had already presented as alphas, betas or omegas, but he was a late bloomer. When it finally happened for him, though, everyone was expecting him to be an alpha—he looked the part, acted the part, was the part. He was expecting it too, looked forward to it, even. So imagine his surprise when he woke up one day not to a knot at the base of his dick but to slick leaking out of his aching ass. He was disappointed and humiliated. His family tried to reassure him that his omega status didn't change how they felt about him, but their words fell on deaf ears. They were lies anyway, and Derek knew the awful truth.

Being an omega changed everything.

He'd seen them, the omegas at his high school. Very few people respected them, and in a lot of cases, alphas and betas alike would outright bully them. Once, he'd overheard one of the guys on his basketball team say that omegas were good for nothing but pumping out babies, and none of their other teammates disagreed. Derek privately did, having been raised to respect everyone, but he was in the minority and hadn't been brave enough to call the other boy out.

Derek didn't want to be treated like the other omegas at school.

He didn't want to get kicked off the basketball team and suddenly be seen as meek and in need of a big, strong alpha to take care of him.

He didn't want to hear others make snide remarks about him being a slut who was desperate to hang off of an alpha's knot 24/7.

He begged his parents to get him suppressants for his future heats and alpha pheromones so that everyone would think he was an alpha instead of an omega. As far as anyone but his family and his doctor would know, he'd presented as the former, and that was that. His parents—and his older sister, Laura—attempted to talk him out of it, but once they saw how much being an omega was already making Derek hate himself, they had no choice but to give in.

For years, the medication worked so perfectly that no one questioned his status. The only thing was that he could never let anyone get close to him for fear of them discovering his secret. Everyone just thought he was an alpha who had no interest in taking a mate or in dating at all, and that suited him just fine. He didn't want all that hassle anyway.

At least, that's what Derek thought until Stiles Stilinski came flailing into his life.

When they met, Derek was twenty-four and had just moved back to Beacon Hills after spending six years living in New York City with Laura. He had known of Stiles' existence during his teenage years, but only distantly. Stiles was the Sheriff's kid, and that made it so that basically everyone in town knew who he was. They never actually interacted before Derek went to NYC with Laura, but Derek remembered seeing the younger boy a couple times. He thought that Stiles was small and actually kind of cute—once he got past Stiles' loud mouth, that was.

The day they spoke to each other for the first time, they bumped into each other in the grocery store and Derek discovered that Stiles was still loud, but he was no longer small and his scent was no longer unassuming and innocent.

It was full of alpha musk.

Stiles didn't look like the alphas Derek knew in high school, who all seemed to just be born with huge muscles, but he was tall, around the same height as Derek himself, and his bare arms were still nicely defined with good potential for more. After talking for a few minutes, out of the blue, Stiles had invited Derek to a get-together he was having with some friends, and before he could even think of saying no, Derek's lips were moving and an agreement rolled off of his traitorous tongue.

Now, a whole year later, Derek loiters in the corner of the Stilinskis' living room while a bunch of eighteen- and nineteen-year-olds play Monopoly. How did he get here, with people seven years his junior as his only friends? How did Stiles wangle him into coming to his house that day, and why does Derek keep coming, even when he has better things he could be doing? Like laundry, or…or changing the oil in his car. It's a mystery that Derek doesn't believe he'll ever solve.

Or maybe he's just too scared to try.

If he really looked, really examined the situation, Derek wouldn't be able to deny the truth anymore. Stiles got him to agree because Stiles was still cute—just not the same kind of cute he was as a kid. Back then, he was all childlike innocence and inquisitiveness, and from watching him from a distance as he interacted with the people in his life back then, Derek knew that Stiles had everyone wrapped around his little finger. Now, Stiles' cuteness has morphed from the kind that makes you coo and pinch his chubby cheeks to the kind that's dangerous. It makes Derek want things.

Things that should be suppressed.

That's largely why Derek still keeps coming to these damn hangouts. He always remains on the fringes, but he just can't stay away from Stiles. Every time Stiles calls him, he comes running, his inner omega whining with the need to please the alpha it had apparently taken a major liking to. The suppressants stop Derek's heats, but they don't change his core biology. He's still an omega, and the need to be close to an alpha will always be present in him.

The self-hatred is still there too. Derek hates his inner omega's neediness. In Derek's mind, it just proves all those horrible things his peers used to say about omegas back in high school. What would everyone say now if they knew? What would Stiles' friends say? Would they make the same jokes, insinuate that Derek is salivating for Stiles' knot?

No matter how factual said salivation might be, they can never know, and Derek can never act on his most base desires. Even though he hasn't talked to his teammates on the basketball team since just after graduation, some part of him can't bear the thought of giving them the satisfaction of knowing they were right.

"Yo, Derek, are you listening to me?" someone speaks to him, bringing him out of his thoughts.

Derek blinks a few times and refocuses to find Stiles standing right in front of him, frowning. This close, all Derek can smell is Stiles' alluring scent. "No, sorry. I was just caught up in my own head."

Stiles snorts. "You must've been thinking about something super important. I've been trying to get your attention for a whole minute!"

"Nah, it was nothing like that," Derek lies. "What were you saying?"

"I was trying to ask if you wanted to come to the movies. A few of us are going."

Derek glances behind Stiles and notices that the Monopoly board has been packed away and the room is much emptier. Only Scott McCall and Allison Argent remain, a beta and an alpha respectively.

"Umm…" Derek flounders for something to say. "What are you seeing?"

"We haven't decided yet, but if you come, you get a vote." Stiles grins, lightly punching Derek's shoulder.

Derek should decline, but like with every offer Stiles has made him over the past year, he doesn't. His tongue is still not in his control when Stiles is around, so he consents to tag along and prays that he'll be able to get through the next few hours without incident. Because Scott and Allison are in the process of courting, there's no doubt in Derek's mind that he'll end up sitting next to Stiles in the movie theatre. Being in such close proximity for so long with the lights down low…Derek hopes that whatever movie they choose is good enough to provide a distraction.

He'll damn well need it.

* * *

At the theatre, Stiles, Scott and Allison bicker briefly about which movie they should all watch. Allison wants to see some girly flick, and Scott of course agrees with her, but Stiles wants to see something else. Derek doesn't have a problem with chick flicks—Mean Girls is one of his favourite movies, something that only Laura knows—but he would prefer not to see the newest Jennifer Aniston romcom. He sides with Stiles, which means that the vote is split.

"Damn. How're we gonna sort this one out?" Stiles wonders aloud.

"Easy," Allison answers, linking her arm through Scott's. "We'll see our movie, and you two go see something else. C'mon, babe."

Before Stiles or Derek can protest, Allison takes Scott away to get their tickets, leaving the two of them by themselves. This whole thing is starting to feel even more intimate than Derek feared it would.

"Well, I guess they're gone," Stiles sighs, shaking his head. "Whatever. We don't need them to have a good time, do we, Der Bear?"

Derek pinches the bridge of his nose. "Don't call me that."

"But you're so big and cuddly! You totally suit Der Bear," Stiles teases him, smacking his back.

Jesus Christ, why is Stiles so tactile? Even platonic touches like that and the shoulder punch earlier have his inner omega stirring in his chest.

"Stiles, just…shut up," he says exasperatedly. He's not really mad, though.

Stiles laughs good-naturedly and copies Allison in linking one of his arms through Derek's. Derek is too stunned to do anything but go along with it as Stiles walks him over to look at the board that displays showtimes. There are a lot of different movies playing at the moment, to the point where Derek is overwhelmed by all the choices. He doesn't give much input because of this, and that's how he pretty much leaves the decision entirely up to Stiles. The only thing he does is use a veto when Stiles at first suggests that they see something scary. Derek isn't scared of horror movies—he's not, damnit!—but he isn't in the mood for one today.

In the end, they settle on some action movie Derek has never heard of but Stiles seems very enthused about. When it comes time to pay, Derek gets out his wallet to buy his ticket, but Stiles pushes his arm down before he can get his card out and pays for both tickets himself.

"What?" Derek says dumbly, caught off-guard.

"I'm the one who invited you out, so it's only right that I pay," Stiles explains with a shrug. "You can get it next time."

Derek gets lost in his thoughts once more when Stiles drags him to get refreshments, worries proliferating about how this outing is feeling more and more like a date.

But that's impossible. Two alphas together… Derek isn't an alpha, but Stiles thinks he is, and two alphas just don't work in a romantic relationship. Everyone knows that. The nineteen-year-old must just be teasing him again. Yeah, Derek thinks, that must be it. Stiles loves to pull his leg any chance he gets. He just prays that Stiles isn't doing it because he has cottoned onto Derek's pining.

"Ooh, they have Reese's!" Stiles exclaims as they wait in line.

"You're gonna rot your teeth," Derek says, trying to function normally again. It's tough, though, because Stiles has their arms linked once more.

"It'll be totally worth it. Reese's is the shit!"

Derek sighs and shuts up, knowing there's no changing Stiles' mind once he sets it on something. Seems like he'll have to deal with him all hopped up on sugar during the movie. Oh boy…

"What do you want, Der?" Stiles asks him when they're next in line.

Derek doesn't even bother to look. "I'm fine. I'm not hungry."

"C'mon, it's the movies! You don't go to the movies and not get some junk food to snack on!"

"Stiles, I'm seriously fine—"

"Nope, unacceptable." Stiles cranes his neck to look around the people in front of them. "I'm buying you popcorn. You want butter? I think they do chocolate sauce too."

"Stiles—"

"Choose, Der," Stiles commands. "This is non-negotiable."

Derek is sure that Stiles doesn't mean to go all Alpha on him, but the omega in him responds anyway. "Butter," he mumbles, looking at the space between his feet.

Stiles squeezes his arm. "Good choice."

When it's their turn to get their refreshments, Stiles orders two large popcorns—one buttered for Derek and one with chocolate sauce for himself—the aforementioned Reese's, and two blue raspberry slushies. Derek doesn't ask how Stiles knew that blue raspberry was the only favour he liked.

The good thing about Stiles ordering so much is that it means they have to unlink arms to carry it all. Derek grabs his popcorn and drink and walks beside Stiles toward their theatre, chiding himself for acquiescing so easily. As far as anyone knows, he's supposed to be an alpha, so he should damn well act like one. To do that, he needs not to give in immediately when a real alpha asks or tells him to do something. Basically, he needs not to do what he just did and cave into Stiles' every whim. He's an omega, yes, but he should still have a backbone, damnit. He's had ten years to give himself one, but with Stiles, all his hard work means nothing.

Derek shoves his self-hatred back in its box as they walk up the steps toward their seats in the back of the theatre. There are only a few other people in here, and they're all sitting in the middle rows. This means that no one will be able to see him and Stiles. Clichés about making out during a movie enter his head, but he pushes them away.

Not gonna happen, he tells his inner omega. His relationship with Stiles is purely platonic, and it'll stay that way.

* * *

When the movie is over, Derek drives Stiles back to his house. With his Camaro idling on the side of the road, he expects Stiles to say goodnight and get out right away, but he doesn't. Instead, the young alpha fiddles nervously with his own fingers and stares out the front windshield, his teeth worrying at his bottom lip.

"Stiles?" Derek calls, shaking his shoulder.

Stiles snaps out of his daze and whips his head around to look at Derek, his eyes wide. "Oh, sorry. I pulled a you, didn't I?"

Derek frowns. "Pulled a me?"

"Yeah, y'know, in my house earlier, right before I asked you to come out with me?"

Realisation dawns. "Oh. Please don't make using my name as a verb a thing."

"Can't promise that, Der Bear."

"Not to sound rude, but are you gonna get out anytime soon, or…?"

Stiles unbuckles his seatbelt and puts his hand on the handle of the passenger door, but he doesn't open it. He seems to still be thinking hard about something, but Derek can't hazard a guess as to what.

"I had fun with you today," Stiles says eventually.

Derek is just getting more and more confused, but he plays along. "The movie was shit, but yeah, I had fun too."

This emboldens Stiles. He sits up straighter in his seat and meets Derek's eyes with all the stubborn confidence an alpha can possess. "Then would you be up for doing this again sometime? Officially?"

"What? You mean seeing another movie with you?" Derek shrugs. "Sure, I guess."

"No, I'm asking if you want to go on a proper date with me," Stiles clarifies, his confidence already waning.

Derek gapes and his brain stops working. It takes him several moments to reboot it. "Excuse me?"

"I like you," Stiles reveals. "I mean I really like you—in the romantic sense—and I want to date you. Maybe even court you, if you'd be okay with that."

Derek doesn't know what to say in response to such a big revelation, so he says nothing. Where is this coming from? He thinks back to all the times he and Stiles have been around each other over the past year and can't see anything that could've clued him into Stiles' interest in him. Sure, Stiles touches him a lot, but he does that with all of his friends. Derek isn't special in that regard, or at least that's what he thought. Apparently he was wrong and he missed whatever signs there must have been because, from the hope on Stiles' face, this isn't coming out of nowhere. Stiles didn't just suddenly decide this evening that dating Derek would be a hoot. No, asking him out must have been something the alpha has been contemplating for a while now.

"Did I break you?" Stiles asks him. "Or did I freak you out? Fuck! I didn't ruin things between us, did I? I'd hate it if I did."

"Stiles…" Derek sits back in his seat, still in a state of shock.

"You can totally say no! I promise I won't be offended or anything, and we can still be friends," Stiles hastens to reassure, holding up both hands. "Or if you need time to think about it, I'm okay with that. It's just…I really like you and thought I'd see if, y'know, you wanted there to be an us too."

"Stiles, I'm an alpha," Derek points out. This is the first time he has ever felt bad about the lie. "We can't. It wouldn't work out."

"I think it could," Stiles insists.

"Everyone knows—"

"I don't care what 'everyone knows'," Stiles interrupts. "The only person whose opinion I care about right now is yours. If you think we can get this to work, that's all that matters. I think we can."

Say no. Derek should say no. Stiles learning his secret would ruin everything, and agreeing to be courted would inevitably lead to just that. There'd be no way to keep his omega status a secret if they engaged in a proper relationship, sex and all. And if they ended up mating…Jesus Christ. Even if Derek somehow managed to keep up the ruse until then, Stiles would notice that Derek doesn't have a knot. Fucking say no, he orders himself. You need to say no.

So of course, Derek opens his mouth and says the exact opposite, his inner omega winning again.

"Really?" Stiles says, perking back up in his seat like a meerkat. He looks so damn excited that Derek is only half regretful. "Like, really, really?"

Hesitantly, Derek nods. He could take it back, but he can't bring himself to. He's going down, and it's going to be in flames. Stiles is going to hate him when the truth finally comes out.

"Awesome! I promise you're not going to regret this!" Stiles effuses. He leans over the centre console and hugs Derek tightly, his nose in Derek's neck. "You always smell so good," he whispers.

Derek shuts his eyes and allows himself to enjoy the moment. He can panic later. "You do too," he admits.

After a few moments, Stiles pulls back and puts his hand back on the passenger door handle. He smiles almost shyly at Derek, and it's such an endearing smile that some more of Derek's regret is whittled away.

"I'll text you, alright?" Stiles says. "I'll take you out for a proper dinner next time."

"Alright," Derek echoes.

Stiles finally opens the door, but before he gets out of the car, he leans over one last time and plants a chaste kiss on Derek's bristly cheek. "Bye, Der Bear," he murmurs, and then he's gone.

Derek sits in his car and watches Stiles walk up the front path to his house. After he has opened the door, Stiles turns and waves at him, and Derek finds himself waving back without even thinking about it. His inner omega is practically giddy as Stiles disappears from view, over the moon that Derek is finally on track to be claimed by their chosen alpha. Derek tries to ignore it, but it's so loud that he can't. He also can't ignore the dread that has settled in his stomach.

He's so royally fucked.

Chapter Text

Derek is a mess for the entirety of the following week, especially after Stiles texts him to confirm that their date will take place that Saturday. He goes back and forth between feeling excitement and trying to come up with an excuse to get out of it. He hasn't been able to come up with one, though, no matter how hard he tries. He tells himself that he shouldn't even worry about having a decent excuse. Just saying that he changed his mind would be enough for Stiles to back off, he's sure. Stiles isn't like the pushy alphas from high school or even the cocky ones he knows from his office. Stiles would be saddened by the cancellation, but that's all. Nothing overly bad would happen.

But that's just it.

Just the thought of Stiles' crestfallen expression is enough to preclude Derek putting an end to things before they've even begun, so he's forced to resign himself to his fate and prepare for the worst. For the inevitable. There's also the excited part of Derek that doesn't want to cancel at all. He wishes he could get a better handle on his emotions, but it is what it is.

When Saturday morning finally rolls around, Derek goes about his usual routine and does his best not to think about what's going to happen that evening. He goes to the gym, works off some of his nervous energy and then washes the sweat from his skin in the communal showers. The other men around him are mostly just like him, betas or alphas with muscles and plenty of body hair. Derek doesn't remember ever witnessing an omega in the locker room, and as he walks toward his locker with a towel around his waist, he ponders what would happen if everyone currently there were to find out his true identity. Would he still be as welcome?

He doubts it, and that just fucking sucks.

After subtly reapplying the alpha pheromones he'd dampened in the shower, Derek gets dressed in a pair of black jeans and a long-sleeved, emerald-green henley and leaves the gym, already making a mental list of his tasks for the day:

Grocery shopping.

Meal prep for the upcoming week.

Changing his bedsheets.

Laundry.

Meeting up with Laura for their biweekly lunch together.

His bathroom could probably use a good clean too. It's been a while.

All in all, it's looking like a busy day for him, and that actually works out in his favour. He'll have plenty to do to keep him distracted.

After he gets in behind the wheel of his Camaro, Derek tosses his gym bag in the backseat to add to the laundry he's going to do later and sticks his keys in the ignition. Before he can pull up the parking brake and drive away, his phone buzzes from his jeans pocket. He could wait to check it until he gets to the grocery store, but he knows better than that. Chances are it's Laura texting to remind him about their lunch date, and she always gets on his case if he doesn't respond right away.

Sisters. They're nothing but pains in his ass.

Derek sighs as he slips his phone out of his pocket and presses the home button to light up the screen. The expected text from Laura is there, but she must have sent it while he was exercising because it's a half hour old. The new text is from somebody else.

[STILES / 10:13 a.m.]
I'm excited for tonight. :D

Despite himself, Derek finds himself grinning as he stares down at Stiles' short message. He unlocks his phone and types out a reply.

[DEREK / 10:16 a.m.]
I'm excited too. Where are we going?

It's not a lie. As sure as Derek is that it's a bad idea, he's still foolishly looking forward to this evening, purely because it means he'll be around Stiles again. He's such a needy omega, it's pathetic.

The thought threatens to bring his mood down, so Derek shakes it off and refocuses when his phone buzzes with another text.

[STILES / 10:18 a.m.]
Not telling. ;) It's a surprise.

[DEREK / 10:19 a.m.]
Do I at least get a clue?

[STILES / 10:19 a.m.]
Nope. All I'll say is that the dress code isn't casual. I'm gonna make you swoon.

Derek snorts. Stiles must be taking him somewhere reasonably fancy. Considering that Stiles is a college student who lives with his dad to save money, it surprises Derek that the alpha would be able to afford to take him someplace like that. He's aware that Stiles has a part-time job at some small shop in town in order to pay for the stuff that the scholarship he worked hard to earn doesn't cover, but surely there can't be that much left over.

The longer Derek thinks on it, the less comfortable he feels. As someone who already has a steady, full-time job that pays incredibly well—and who comes from a more wealthy family anyway—allowing Stiles to spend what little money he has on some fancy restaurant doesn't sit well with him. But Derek is certain that Stiles would never accept Derek paying for his own meal. That's just the kind of alpha Stiles is, and he already refused to let Derek buy his own movie ticket last weekend because, as Stiles said, he was the one to ask Derek to come.

Sighing, Derek puts the issue with all the other stuff he's not worrying about.

[DEREK / 10:24 a.m.]
I'm curious now. You're mean.

A moment later, Stiles texts back.

[STILES / 10:25 a.m.]
You dunno the half of it. ;)

Concluding that their exchange has come to its natural end, Derek answers Laura, dumps his phone on the passenger seat and backs out of his parking space in the gym lot. Referring back to the mental list he'd compiled earlier, his first port of call is the grocery store. The parking lot there is packed because it's a Saturday, but he manages to find a single free space in the back corner. He takes a moment to prepare himself for the chaos he's about to have to wade through, and then he gets out of his Camaro and heads toward the entrance, acquiring a cart on the way.

Using the shopping list he made on the Notes app on his phone over the past week, Derek navigates the aisles of the store and grits his teeth because it's just as busy as he feared. He hates being crowded, but there's nothing or it. He'll have to put up with it for a while.

It's loud too, thanks to all the children that are currently screaming their little heads off as if they're being murdered. When a particularly piercing shriek threatens to give him a headache in the cereal aisle, Derek briefly wishes the parents would find a way to shut their kid up, no matter what it takes. But no, he's being unfair, his nerves from his impending date making him easier to agitate. He takes a deep breath to rid himself of his frustration. It isn't always easy to keep children well-behaved, and they can be unruly and unpredictable no matter how good their parents are. He, Laura and Cora certainly caused their parents some grief when they were younger, and in his unbiased opinion, his parents are the best.

Continuing on his way, he offers a conciliatory smile to a particularly aggrieved-looking mother as he pushes his cart past hers.

"One of those days," she says with a tired laugh, her blonde hair a tangled mess.

Derek is glad he doesn't have children. He has the impulse to procreate at his core because of his omega status, but thanks to his suppressants, he has always been able to ignore it.

In the dairy aisle, Derek reaches for some milk. He turns around to put it in his cart and bumps into a teenage boy with brown hair and blue eyes. The scent of omega assaults Derek's nostrils before the boy leaps away with wide eyes.

"Sorry! I didn't meant to get in your way!" he squeaks, scurrying off like he's scared of Derek.

"It's no problem!" Derek calls after him, frowning.

He's self-aware enough to know that he can be imposing, especially when he's not in the best mood like right now, but the boy's reaction seems a bit extreme to him. It takes him right back to high school, when he'd see the omegas in the halls doing their best to avoid getting too close to any alpha. That included him after he starting lying about his status.

It's not a good feeling to be reminded of that, and he feels awful for scaring the boy. If he was open about his omega status, the boy wouldn't have been scared of him.

Sacrifices must be made, though, because Derek doesn't want to be on the other side.

Over the next twenty minutes, Derek finishes gathering the groceries on his list, checks out and pushes his cart toward the corner of the parking lot. He looks at the time and guesses that he'll have just enough to get home and put all his groceries away before he has to meet Laura at their local coffee shop. He just hopes that his sister won't be able to tell that something's up with him. She has always been far too good at reading him, so it seems likely that she will.

Great.

* * *

Arriving at the coffee shop just in time, Derek enters and looks around to see if Laura is already there. He spots her sitting at the table in the back corner and makes his way over, skirting uneasily around all the other tables and chairs. He arches an eyebrow at his sister when he reaches her and sees the half-empty cup of coffee and the half-finished danish in front of her.

"How long have you been here?" he asks curiously.

"A while," Laura responds, flicking her long brown hair back over her shoulder.

Today, she sports minimal makeup—eyeliner, mascara and some nude lipstick—a soft-looking red sweater and tight jeans. As someone who always likes to look put together, this is about as casual as Derek ever sees her.

He rolls his eyes. "Why'd you get here so early?"

"I was hungry."

"Whatever. Hang on; I'm gonna get something too."

Laura waves a hand at him as he walks toward the counter and gets in line behind the two people who beat him there. Derek is already pretty sure of what he wants, but while he waits for his turn, he still reads the menu that's written in white chalk on several blackboards behind the baristas. When it's his turn, he orders his usual—a mocha and a cinnamon roll—and returns to his and Laura's table. The pastry seems fresh from the oven, and the sweet smell of it makes his mouth water and his stomach rumble loudly, his appetite worked up from the gym.

"You're so unadventurous," Laura comments when she sees his selection.

"I know what I like, so what's the problem with sticking to that?" Derek counters, taking a sip of his mocha.

"You might like other stuff."

Derek narrows his eyes at her. "We're not doing this again."

"Fine, fine, whatever you say, little brother," Laura says, holding up her palms in surrender. "So what's new with you?"

"Nothing really," Derek fibs. "Same old, same old."

Laura hums sympathetically. "Those alphas at work still being jerks?"

"Pretty much. I just block them out now, but there's this new intern who started at the office earlier this week, an omega. You can imagine the kind of shit I overhear." Derek rips apart his cinnamon roll with his hands and takes a bite.

"Sounds lovely," Laura says sarcastically. "Are you gonna do anything about it?"

"Well, I'd like to beat their faces in."

"Der, be serious."

"I am. S'just a shame I can't. I made a complaint with HR instead. There's a policy against that sort of thing, so we'll see if the higher-ups do anything."

"And if they don't?"

Derek looks over Laura's shoulder instead of at her face. "Then I don't know."

"You could say something yourself. You can be very intimidating when you want to be."

Derek knows that his sister has a point—his encounter in the grocery store is proof of that—but he's also sure that he wouldn't be able to speak up when it really counted. It's like the locker room in high school all over again. He'd thought such behaviour would be left behind once he graduated, but apparently some adults can be just as closed-minded and catty as hormonal teenagers. It's depressing.

"I'd say something," Laura goes on.

"Well, I'm not you…" Derek says with a sigh. It's just another thing to make him disappointed in himself.

His sister sighs too and then mercifully moves on. "What about your love life?" she enquires. "Any new developments there?"

Choking on his next mouthful of cinnamon roll, Derek recovers quickly. "Why would you ask me that?"

She knows better, or at least Derek thought she did. She used to ask him all the time, until he got so annoyed with her trying to butt into his business that he snapped at her to leave him the fuck alone right in the middle of a family dinner. The dining room went completely silent following his outburst, all of them shocked that Derek would act like that since he usually held on so tightly to his emotions. Derek stormed out, his food unfinished, and Laura had stopped by his place later that evening to apologise. She looked so contrite that Derek could do nothing but forgive her, and he said that he was sorry for yelling at her too. She never mentioned his lack of a love life again.

"Well," Laura begins cautiously, obviously not wanting to be snapped at this time, "I ordinarily wouldn't bring it up, but a little birdie told me that they saw you at the movies with Stiles and things looked suspiciously date-like."

Crap, Derek thinks. Stiles had been particularly touchy-feely with him then.

"It wasn't a date," he denies, trying to act nonchalant. "Just two friends going to see a movie together. And who's this little birdie, anyway?"

"My friend Amber. She was there that night too, and she said that it definitely looked like a date. Apparently you guys were all cute, arm in arm and everything."

"Laura…"

"I'm not pushing," the woman placates. "I'm just saying that, if you two were going on a date, I'd be happy for you. That's all."

"We weren't," Derek mumbles, swirling his mocha around in its mug.

"Okay."

Derek glares. "We weren't!"

"Okay," Laura repeats. She looks like she doesn't entirely believe him, but Derek is pleased when she doesn't say anything else about him and Stiles for the rest of their time in the coffee shop.

When they both walk out of the building half an hour later, Derek foolishly thinks that he has managed to get away from his sister relatively well. He's disabused of that notion just before they part ways, Laura grabbing his arm right after he has said goodbye and begun walking down the road to where he parked his car. Bracing himself, he turns back toward her.

"One last thing," she says tentatively. "And please don't bite my head off again."

Derek clenches his jaw but nods.

"You deserve to be happy, little brother," Laura tells him, reaching up to cup his face. "I've only met him a few times, but I think Stiles is perfect for you. I know that your mind is messed up and filled with so much bad stuff. Even if you know none of it's true on a rational level, you internalise every bad thing you hear those assholes say about omegas and apply it to yourself, and that's going to make it incredibly difficult for you to find your happy ending. But I think that Stiles can help you there. He's one of the good ones. Just…when the time comes, don't run away from him, okay? Promise me."

Yeah, Laura definitely didn't buy it when he said that the night at the movies wasn't a date. She's wrong, but he does have that date later today.

Derek won't be able to keep his word when shit hits the fan, but he tells Laura what she wants to hear anyway. "I promise," he says, his voice a quiet croak.

Laura hugs him tightly. "I love you, little brother."

"I love you too," Derek responds, holding her back.

His sister ends the embrace after a few more seconds and pulls him down to kiss his forehead. She whispers, "Let him make you happy," and then rushes off, leaving Derek alone with his thoughts.