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It’s Not Pretend When It’s Real

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A door slammed loudly through a large empty house, a figure standing unmoving in the entrance. The quiet that followed was almost suffocating, but it had been like this for a number of years now, so he wasn’t really surprised. His dad worked a lot, it was a thing, and despite the fact that he’d moved back home again since his job had approved the distance, he knew that there was no reason for his father to change his routine. 

Hadn’t mattered when he was in middle school, high school, university, part of a Werewolf pack. Wouldn’t matter now. Bills needed paying, and his dad was a good man who worked too hard and got little recognition for it. 

Stiles sighed to himself, tossing his keys onto the hall table and shrugging the straps of his bag off his shoulders, hearing it thunk loudly against the floor. He’d brought a bunch of books to the burial site they’d been investigating because knowledge was power and Stiles had already been possessed once, he wasn’t keen on being possessed again. 

He honestly hadn’t really been interested in going at all, but he was the resident researcher and apparently no one else in the pack had the ability to read. Or read for extended periods of time. To be fair, Stiles could only really do it because of the Adderall. 

Actually, he’d probably be able to do it without the Adderall because this shit was fascinating. Also deadly. Who didn’t want to be up to date on all the big, bad things in the world that could eat his insides while he slept? Stiles liked being informed. If his friends trusted their various Supernatural abilities to keep their intestines safe well, good for them. 

Stiles liked being extra sure his intestines were safe. He needed them for, you know, intestine business. And whatnot. 

Trudging into the kitchen without bothering to turn on any lights, he pulled open the fridge to see if they had any leftovers. 

They did not. 

Shrugging, he grabbed the orange juice container, shook it slightly, then uncapped it and drank right out of it. He felt like there was at least a sip or two left, so he put the cap back on and shoved it back into the fridge, even though he knew future Stiles—and his father in general—would be irritated at him for this. He didn’t worry about it, he just shut the fridge door and headed for the stairs. 

It was just past three in the morning, and normally he’d be exhausted, except he felt a little wired and pumped up on adrenaline from whatever the fuck they’d just done. He honestly still wasn’t sure, it was some real magical bullshit. Derek insisted everything was fine, they’d done all they had to do, and called it a night but he was positive the idiot was still camped out at the burial site watching it like some kind of creeper wolf, making sure all the bodies would stay dead and buried. 

Stiles’ life was neat. He got to go to bed knowing Zombies were a thing because a creepy Necromancer passed through town and tried to use scare tactics to get money out of the townsfolk and hadn’t exactly banked on a pack being around and chasing him off. Apparently chasing off a vindictive Necromancer was a bad idea because it risked him resurrecting all of the dead Werewolves buried out in the Preserve—because Derek’s family didn’t believe in graveyards apparently, how neat! 

All in all, just not the best of evenings for him, but hey, at least he hadn’t gotten mauled, or injured, or even particularly dirty. Small victories. He had to take what he could get. Small victories. 

Entering his room, Stiles flipped on the light and started to tug off his shirt when he paused, squinting towards his window suspiciously with his shirt half-way up his torso. Normally when he looked over at his window, it was because someone was perched on his roof. Usually Derek, apparently he was allergic to doors.

Today was different though because, while he was happy not to have any Werewolves hunkered down on his roof—for now—it was also the middle of summer. In California. 

It was hot. Stiles didn’t like it when it was hot. 

He distinctly remembered leaving that window open before he left for the night. So why was it closed now? There was no reason for it to be closed. His father certainly wouldn’t have closed it. And when the wolves entered, they usually left it wide open with the blinds down so that his room looked like a fucking horror movie with the wind blowing through it and making the blinds slap loudly against the windowsill. 

The only thing he knew for certain was that it wasn’t a Zombie, because he doubted a Zombie would climb to the second floor and specifically shut his window after entering his house. That just seemed needlessly complicated for something that was dead and probably lacking in many body parts depending on decomposition. 

Well, even the most recent of the dead Hales—sorry Derek—had been gone for a long time, so really, most of them would be bones by now. 

Moving slowly towards his window and letting his shirt drop back down, he frowned at the sill when he noticed grey powder along the edge. Which—made no sense, because why was there grey powder along the windowsill? And what even was it? 

Reaching out, Stiles ran his finger through the line, smudging it slightly, and brought it closer to his face while rubbing it between his fingers. It looked like mountain ash. It looked like there was a line of mountain ash along the inside of his windowsill. 

But why the hell would—

Stiles froze at the press of something against the back of his head, hearing someone draw back the hammer of a weapon. He very slowly shifted both hands out to the side and up slightly, showing that they were empty. 

“I thought you’d be taller,” a voice he didn’t recognize said curiously. “Though you’re plenty smart. Didn’t think you’d notice the window, but he always said you were observant.” 

“Look man,” Stiles said as calmly as he could, staying perfectly still and trying to figure out what the fuck was going on, “I don’t know what you’re doing in here, but my dad is the county sheriff and—”

“We know. He’s busy at the moment. Some bar fight that got out of hand, should keep him distracted for a while, at least.” 

The fact that this person had staged something to get his dad to stay away longer was actually something of a relief. For one thing, he hadn’t killed his dad—or injured him, but still!—and for another, it meant he didn’t risk the man coming home and promptly losing his shit. 

“Just behave, and we’ll be out of here without delay,” he said calmly. 

“Oh sure, no problem. Totally into being held at gun-point at three in the morning in my bedroom, sounds like a good time.” 

The man behind him said nothing, and Stiles had enough time to wonder if he was about to get his head blown off when a new voice spoke, making him jump slightly.  

“He didn’t follow,” it said. Stiles hadn’t realized there was more than one person, though the newer one suggested they’d been somewhere else in the house. He didn’t know what his comment was supposed to mean, but probably nothing good. 

Or maybe something good, considering they seemed to be after someone. Seriously, could Scott not stay out of trouble for five fucking seconds? That’d be really convenient, especially for someone like Stiles, who had to bail his dumb ass out of all the stupid situations he got himself into.

Well, explained the mountain ash. Kind of. 

At least, it made it clear it was there to keep wolves out of his house so that no one could rescue him except his very human father. 

And Parrish. And Lydia—though while he loved her, he wasn’t sure how much help she’d be in a situation like this. 

Not that Stiles needed rescuing! He was perfectly capable of helping himself out of this mess, thank you very much. But he wanted to know what the deal was first because again, knowledge was power, so for now he just stayed put with his hands raised. 

“I thought he’d be taller,” the new voice said. 

“Yeah, okay, we’ve established I’m not a giant,” Stiles insisted, hating these people already.

Sure, the one guy had a gun to his head but like, they could still come back from that. Chris Argent had pointed a gun at him multiple times, and they were still friends. But calling him short repeatedly was just rude. Stiles was a very comfortable 5'10", nothing to sneeze at! Sure he wasn’t a fucking giant like Isaac, but he was a good height! Why the hell were they suggesting he was short?! 

Also why did they think he’d be taller anyway? What had they heard to make them think he was Isaac-height? 

“Get his phone,” the guy with the gun said, voice hardening and sounding much more dangerous than it had a moment before. “And fix the mountain ash. Don’t want any uninvited guests.” 

Stiles didn’t move while the second guy came around to fix the mountain ash barrier. He didn’t recognize him, but he was older than he’d been expecting. Closer to his dad’s age than Stiles’, which was surprising. 

Honestly, nothing about him was at all what he’d expected, and it made him wonder about the guy behind him, holding the gun. The man replacing the mountain ash Stiles had disrupted looked a little thin and almost frail, with sallow skin, dark hair he kept cropped short, and what Stiles could only describe as beady black eyes. He kind of looked a little bit like a bad kid’s drawing, if he was honest. 

When he turned back to him, Stiles winced when the guy got right up in his business, pulling his phone out of his pocket. He hadn’t done it sexually at all, but it was still super weird having someone reaching into his pocket like that. 

The man swiped at his phone, then seemed to realize it was locked and held it out to Stiles. 

“Unlock it.” 

“I’m going to move my hand,” Stiles informed them both. “Try not to shoot me.” 

“As long as you cooperate, we have no reason to,” the guy with the gun said. 

Stiles contemplated whether or not he could get out of this situation safely in this moment. Realistically, he felt his chances were fairly high, all things considered, but he didn’t know what these men wanted and cutting this conversation short would mean never knowing. 

Besides, if Stiles ducked out of the way without managing to grab at the gun, the guy in front of him would get a bullet to the brain. Stiles didn’t really want to be the cause for the man’s death, even if he didn’t look like a real human being. 

Seriously, he looked like a drawing, it was sort of creepy.  

For now, he figured it would be best to just do as they said. Until he had more information, no point in anyone getting hurt unnecessarily. 

Stiles slowly reached out with his right hand and pressed his index finger to the bottom of the phone. It unlocked instantly and the guy snatched it away, Stiles bringing his hand back up where it had been. He felt kind of stupid, standing in his bedroom with his hands raised like that. His own fault, he was the one who’d raised them. 

Honestly, he wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting, but the guy in front of him didn’t even call anyone. He just held the phone up and snapped a picture. 

“Can you take another one? You didn’t get my good side,” Stiles said. 

“Shut up,” gun-dude snapped, pressing harder against the back of his skull. 

“Okay well, if you thought I’d be taller, you have clearly heard about me, and thus should be well aware that shutting up isn’t really my forte.” 

“You can tell he’s been in this life too long,” the guy with his phone said, seeming to be typing something on it. “He has no self-preservation skills.” 

“I have great self-preservation skills,” Stiles informed him. “I just happen to be used to scarier things than guns. I mean, a gun’s a pretty quick way to go. You ever seen a Berserker? Those things are scary. And like—Zombies? Apparently? Are a thing? Not to mention whatever the fuck that thing a year ago was. It had eyes on the palm of its hands, man. Like—that’s nightmare-inducing. That’s some Pan’s Labyrinth bullshit.” 

Before the guy behind him could literally blow his brains out for being annoying, Stiles’ phone started vibrating and the guy holding it answered, putting it to his ear. Stiles had just enough time to see the name, and was surprised to see ‘Derek’ on the screen as opposed to the assumed ‘Scott.’

Oh God, perfect. Scott may have gotten himself into trouble more often than not, but at least he wasn’t a fucking danger magnet like Derek. If these people were here for Derek, Stiles may as well kiss his sleep goodbye for the next four years or so. 

And he’d been doing so well lately. Got a full five hours a night at least three times a week and everything! 

“You have five minutes.” He pulled it away from his ear and hung up. 

“Five—okay, you know the loft is like, at least eight minutes from here, right? And if he speeds, he’s not gonna stop for a cop, and that means bringing the cops here and like, you don’t wanna see a pissed off Parrish. He is not someone to piss off. Someone tried to set him on fire once. It did not work. We were all very shocked, and some of us aroused, not gonna lie.” 

“Stop. Talking.” The guy with the gun pulled it away from the back of his skull and grabbed at his shirt, wrenching him around and shoving him hard towards his door. 

Stiles stumbled and ended up almost bashing head-first into the jamb, but managed to make it through the opening and towards the stairs, the guy still gripping his shirt. He stumbled down them unsteadily to the first floor, wishing the guy would let him go before he just fell clear down them. Thankfully he made it to the lower level without injury and he was shoved towards the front door, stopping a few feet short of it. 

Letting out a grunt when his knees were kicked out, he turned to scowl at the guy behind him, having hit the hardwood floor very hard, thank you sir. He didn’t look like he cared very much. Asshole. 

The guy behind him kind of looked how Stiles had been picturing him. Stocky, tall, hardened features. He was probably a few years younger than Stiles’ dad, maybe still in his early forties, with greying brown hair, a trimmed beard, and a very no-nonsense kind of air to him. He was clearly in charge despite the other guy being older. 

He kind of struck him as a Hunter, but for some reason, Stiles didn’t think he was. He had the same kind of air as Chris Argent, but there was just something about him that made Stiles feel like he wasn’t a Hunter. Experienced and well-travelled, clearly familiar with guns, but not a Hunter. 

He had no idea what drawing-man was, but if he was human, Stiles was a goat. 

He turned back to face the door when he heard the distinct sound of tires screeching against asphalt, a loud engine roaring down the street before more screeching tires. That was definitely right outside his house. 

“Four minutes, thirty-seven seconds,” the non-human said, moving past Stiles and his new buddy towards the door. He turned back to look at the man with the gun, the two of them evidently sharing a look. “Interesting.”

“Yes, Derek is adept at breaking the speed limit, how so very fascinating,” Stiles drawled irately. 

Seriously, he could’ve been sleeping by now. 

The guy with the gun let out an annoyed sigh, but the other man acted as if he hadn’t even heard him and pulled open the door just as Derek leapt onto the porch with a snarl. It would’ve been sweet, actually. Having Derek speed to his house, break through his door, teach these goons a lesson. Would’ve been really nice, and shown just how close they’d become over the years—it was a far cry from the good old days of Derek threatening to murder him by way of teeth and Stiles asking to let him die. 

Unfortunately, there was no sweet rescue, because the second the door was open, Derek leapt for it and immediately rebounded almost clear off the porch. He’d obviously hit the mountain ash pretty fucking hard to have been airborne like that. 

“Derek,” the non-human said pleasantly from the door, even as Derek leapt back onto the porch with a slightly more vicious snarl and braced both hands against the invisible barrier keeping him out. 

“Christian,” Derek said, face distorted and eyes bright blue. They shifted past the man at the door to look at Stiles. “Are you okay?” 

“Sure,” Stiles offered, shrugging with his hands still raised. “Just felt like getting my knees acquainted with the floor and being held at gunpoint at three in the morning after dealing with a potential Zombie apocalypse. Is this gonna take long? Can you like, pay them back their lunch money or whatever so they leave and I can get some sleep? I have work tomorrow.” 

“Shut up,” the man behind him snapped, giving him a rough shake by the shirt he was still holding. 

“Don’t,” Derek warned the gun wielder darkly, face twisting into something almost animalistic and unfamiliar. “If you hurt him Daniel, I swear to you—”

“Oh, you mean like this?” 

Stiles almost fell over, except the hand gripping the back of his shirt kept him upright when the hard metal of the gun was slammed viciously against the back of his head. He saw stars for a few seconds, Derek letting out an angry roar that he really hoped the neighbours hadn’t heard. He didn’t want to have to explain to his dad why the neighbours were worried there was a lion on the loose. 

“Ow,” Stiles grunted, shaking his head slightly, still seeing stars. His vision was crackling a little, and he hated how unrealistic movies were. People got hit and punched and thrown through windows and they were still up and running. 

Real life wasn’t like that, thank you movies for unrealistic expectations. Stiles was surprised the hit hadn’t just knocked him out. He’d have preferred that, actually. Then he’d be unconscious and wouldn’t be able to focus on his head hurting. 

Though—then he’d be unconscious and wouldn’t know what the fuck was going on. Stiles much preferred being informed. 

“Don’t,” Derek just said again, sounding even more pissed than he had a moment ago. 

“You know, I’m surprised,” gun-man—Daniel, apparently—said. “I thought he’d be taller.” 

“Yes, we’ve established I’m short,” Stiles insisted, giving his head another shake. 

“Stiles,” Derek said darkly. “Shut up.” 

Okay fine. He’d stop talking, but only because Derek had asked nicely. 

Really, his request was about as nice as Derek got when he was stressed out. And Stiles could tell he was stressed out. He was trapped outside the house one of his packmates was in with two people he clearly knew and didn’t trust. 

Also, Daniel was a dick apparently, because Stiles had been perfectly pleasant and he’d only gotten hit because they were trying to upset Derek. 

On the one hand, it was nice, because Derek cared. On the other hand, Stiles wished he cared a bit less so that it would’ve negated this entire occurrence. He could’ve been sleeping by now! It was three in the morning, and he’d just been dealing with the potential for Zombies, okay! He deserved to be able to sleep and it was unfair that he was not permitted this very hard-earned rest. 

“What are you doing here?” Derek demanded. Stiles could see him pushing hard at the barrier keeping him out, and a part of him wondered if he was trying to pull a Scott. After all, Scott had done it once, but—different circumstances. Things had been bad back then. While it was clear Derek was worried and pissed, he didn’t seem to have reached quite the same level of anxiousness over Stiles being trapped in the house with these people. 

Would they hurt him? Yes, clearly, without remorse. Did they want to? Hard to say, if he was honest, they were kind of sending mixed signals. But it didn’t seem like they would kill him which—was good for Stiles. For many reasons. One, he didn’t want to die. And two, if Derek didn’t think they’d kill him, he could probably get out of this situation without too much trouble. 

“What are we doing here?” Christian repeated, as if surprised to hear the question. “You know why we’re here.” 

“You know,” Daniel repeated harshly. 

“I don’t know why you’re here,” Stiles offered. “Someone want to enlighten me?” 

“Stiles,” Derek growled, fingers clenching against the barrier. “Let me handle this.” 

“Yes, of course, you’re doing wonderfully on that front. Can you speed it up a little so we can all move along with our evenings? Some of us have an early morning.” 

“Does he ever stop talking?” Daniel asked, clearly irritated. 

“No,” Derek informed him. 

Stiles didn’t correct him, because he wasn’t lying. It was hard to get him to stop talking, and it wasn’t like anyone here was giving him any real incentive to. Sure, the guy had a gun to his head, but he didn’t seem like he was going to shoot him for being annoying, otherwise he’d have done so by now. He was kind of an easy read. 

Actually, Stiles was pretty sure the guy didn’t actually want to hurt him at all, thinking back on everything that had happened. He clearly wanted something from Derek, but the fact that he hadn’t hurt Stiles until Derek’s arrival proved he was trying to hurt Derek by hurting Stiles. It wasn’t about the injury, it was about who it affected. 

Which was interesting. 

“We just want to talk.” 

“I said no,” Derek bit out. “Laura and Jethro may have had an agreement, but that had nothing to do with me. You don’t get to come here and threaten someone I care about as a means to get me to roll over and do what you want.” 

“We would never expect someone as proud as you to ‘roll over,’” Daniel sneered, still gripping the back of Stiles’ shirt to keep him in place. “But you also wouldn’t listen. So, here we are.” 

“And you think threatening Stiles is going to get me to agree to have a conversation?” 

“Threatening you worked on Laura.” Christian shrugged, unrepentant. “We just had to find your weak spot. Your new pack as a whole is your weak spot, so we went for the one who would cause us the least trouble.” 

“Definitely the most annoying, though,” Daniel muttered. 

Derek’s gaze shot to Stiles then, who just shrugged. If they wanted to underestimate the human, well, wouldn’t be the first time. That was the problem with the Supernatural. They saw a human and figured ‘no threat.’ Up until Stiles was stabbing them in the eye with a screwdriver or something. 

Humans were violent, okay! They may not have superhealing or claws or anything, but they were tough sons of bitches who didn’t want to die, and Stiles especially was not someone to underestimate. Derek knew that as well as anyone else. 

“The agreement Laura made with Jethro was honoured to the best of her ability at the time,” Derek said, clearly trying for patience, and surprisingly not failing like he usually did with Stiles. To be fair, Stiles was supremely annoying, that certainly hadn’t changed with age. “I don’t owe you anything.” 

“We were promised a Hale.” 

Stiles frowned, turning slightly to glance over his shoulder at those words. They were promised a Hale? What the fuck did that mean? 

He turned back to Derek, whose face had twisted to something unkind. He was still pressing insistently against the mountain ash barrier, like he honestly thought he might get through if he just tried hard enough.  

“Like I said, that was an agreement between Laura and Jethro, and she honoured it to the best of her ability at the time.” 

“But there was more to the agreement, and now, Laura is dead,” Daniel informed him, as if Derek wasn’t perfectly aware of that, what with having fucking buried her himself. 

“Wow, way to lack in compassion,” Stiles snapped, turning to glare at Daniel. “His sister was murdered, maybe show some respect.” 

Daniel’s gaze shifted down to him, and Stiles wasn’t really sure what to make of this guy. His expression was a mix of unimpressed and unsympathetic, but his eyes... 

His eyes betrayed him. He was sad to have said those words, like Laura’s death was as raw for him as it had been for anyone else who’d been close to her. Stiles wasn’t sure he understood the contradiction, but if he had to guess, he wondered if maybe this Daniel guy was putting on an act because of Christian being present. 

After all, in Stiles’ room, he hadn’t done anything at all to him aside from hold a gun to his head, and his voice had been calm, like he wanted to make sure Stiles didn’t panic. He only started getting rough and aggressive once Christian showed up. So maybe Daniel wasn’t actually this big, bad piece of shit he was pretending to be.

That boded well for Stiles, at least. 

“It was a long time ago,” Daniel said in response to Stiles’ words, “and I don’t have time for niceties.” 

“And you’re wondering why he won’t speak to you?” Stiles asked with a scoff. No point in being nice when he was just speculating. “Probably because you’re a fucking asshole. Doesn’t matter how long ago it happened, it still fucking hurts, and Laura deserves better than for you to act like she meant nothing.” 

When he turned back to Derek, he saw his expression had softened ever so slightly, like he appreciated Stiles sticking up for him. Which he shouldn’t have been surprised about, Stiles would always stick up for him. He may not have known Laura, but he knew how much it must’ve hurt to lose her. And Derek had always made her sound like an amazing person. 

“We need a Hale,” Christian said before anyone else could make the conversation worse. “Jethro has pushed back the threat to the north, but they are coming and your sister agreed to mate with Jethro to keep the peace.” 

Oh wow, okay, things were getting into the realm of weird now. So Laura had basically been threatened into agreeing to help this pack and had somehow ended up having to consent to mate with their Alpha. That was weird, considering she herself was an Alpha, but Stiles figured they didn’t care about that. It sounded more like the Hale name was what they wanted more than anything else. 

“I’m not mating with Jethro,” Derek deadpanned. 

“He’s chosen Bianca for you,” Daniel said, and the full body flinch from Derek was... telling. 

For fuck’s sake, could the guy ever catch a break? Seriously, Stiles wanted to wrap him up in bubble wrap and stick him in his basement or something, why did women always come for him like that when Derek clearly still had issues with intimacy? 

Well, Stiles knew why, he’d seen Derek without a shirt on, and his cheekbones could cut marble, but Stiles was a good person who liked people for more than their looks, and while definitely a bonus, his crush on Derek was like, ninety percent prickly personality, ten percent very nice package. 

“I was never part of the agreement,” Derek said again, as if he thought saying it enough times would make them listen. 

Clearly, they would not. It was cute that Derek kept trying though. 

Stiles was going to lose his patience soon, his arms were tired from being held up like they were and his knees were still smarting. Oh, and his head, too. Yeah, that hit hadn’t been kind to him, thank you very much, Daniel! 

Even if he was acting, Stiles wasn’t going to forgive him for that any time soon.

“The agreement has since changed. Your sister didn’t fulfill her position at Jethro’s side, so the  duty to honour what we were promised falls to you.” 

“I’m not an Alpha anymore. You wanted a Hale Alpha, there isn’t one.” 

“We’re aware. In your case, it’s probably best you’re only a Beta. Much easier to control.” Daniel was definitely smirking, rubbing salt in the wound. “Case and point.” He jabbed the gun harder into the back of Stiles’ head. Which, really, was rude. Very rude. “We haven’t got all night, Derek.” 

Derek was grinding his teeth together and the look he shot Stiles clearly said, “Do something!” but right now, Stiles didn’t really have enough data. As soon as he made his move, the conversation would likely end, and then they’d be flying blind. This was classic ‘let the super villain monologue’ behaviour. These people wanted a Hale for some kind of... peace treaty. Or something. And apparently Laura was meant to mate with another Alpha. 

Laura was dead, thus the whole mate thing hadn’t happened, so now they were coming for Derek. Still unclear about the peace treaty thing, but it sounded like things weren’t going well for them on that front either. 

Really, Stiles was not surprised. They didn’t seem to understand how to have a peaceful conversation given they’d broken into Stiles’ house, surrounded it with mountain ash, and were now threatening to shoot him as a means to get Derek to speak to them. ‘Peace’ was not something they were intimately familiar with, clearly. 

Able to tell that Stiles wasn’t going to help out right now—he got the angry eyebrows for that, which was impressive considering Derek didn’t have any, what with being shifted and all—he just let out another loud snarl and said, “There are other Hales. Peter would love the opportunity, maybe you can go after him.” 

“There is absolutely no way we would let Peter Hale in the same State as our pack. Not unless we wanted complete bloodshed on our hands, and that’s what we’re trying to avoid.” Daniel released the back of Stiles’ shirt, but he still had the gun pressed to the base of his skull. “We need a Hale, Derek. You know that name means something to the old families. We are asking for your help. Nicely.” 

This is nicely?” Derek snarled. “He’s human.”

“Hey!” Stiles insisted, but the look he got just proved that was Derek taking a jab at him to force him to get on with it. 

Fine, fine! Stiles’ knees were hurting anyway. 

“Yes, and very fragile, isn’t he?” Christian turned to glance at Stiles then, sizing him up. That wasn’t helping Stiles stay put, he hated being underestimated. “Imagine the things we could do to him right now.” 

“Come with us, as agreed, and I won’t have to redecorate his front entrance,” Daniel added. 

“Fun as this entire conversation is,” Stiles interrupted before Derek started arguing again and repeating the same things Stiles had already figured out for himself, “can you explain where I fit in? Where in this ‘we were promised a Hale’ discussion am I involved?” He raised his eyebrows, staring at Christian, then glanced over his shoulder at Daniel. “Why did you break into my house? I could’ve been asleep like, twenty minutes ago.” 

Daniel pressed the gun harder against his skull, shifting it up a bit so it wasn’t quite at the base anymore. People were so easy to predict. “Shut. Up.” 

Letting out an annoyed huff, Stiles rolled his eyes. “Sure, fine, whatever. I’ll just live in a constant state of sleep deprivation, no big deal. I’m gonna be so tired tomorrow. If I get fired because I fell asleep on the job, I’m sending you all my bills.” 

Daniel’s face twisted into something unkind, and it was clear he was about to start shouting, or swearing, or waving his arms like a maniac—one should never underestimate Stiles Stilinski’s ability to annoy. This was basically what Stiles had been hoping for, because the second he opened his mouth to retaliate, Stiles ducked his head, twisted on his knees while bringing one arm up and around, and wrapped one hand around the barrel of the gun. 

It didn’t go off, suggesting Daniel hadn’t honestly been planning on shooting him, which was nice because even with the gun aimed away from him, he would’ve burned his hand with how he was holding it. Stiles wrenched it from Daniel’s grasp, rolled away towards the living room, and was back on his feet in one fluid motion with the gun held properly in one hand, the other steadying it, aimed at Daniel. 

Nobody moved for a long while, Daniel seeming to be in shock, Christian stunned and Derek looking almost surprised. Like he’d expected Stiles to do something, but not something that impressive.

That was annoying and Stiles turned to give him an insulted look. “What? You think I work for the FBI and don’t know how to disarm someone holding me at gunpoint?! Come on dude, that’s just rude.” 

“You said he was a research analyst,” Daniel said, still staring at Stiles but clearly speaking to Christian. 

“He is.” Christian held up both hands and Stiles took a cautious step back when they began to glow. Okay, so some kind of weird Spellcaster, cool. 

This night was getting better and better. 

Stiles just wanted to sleep, was that too much to ask? He had to wake up at six to look into something for his boss, it was hard doing research while sleep-deprived! Especially the kind of research he had to do for work! 

To be fair, he acknowledged that he’d grown up doing research based on the Supernatural, which was much harder to find accurate information on online, and he’d been way more sleep-deprived back then given high school and homework and the running for his life more often than not. 

Wow, sometimes when he thought back, how had he survived high school? By comparison, the past few years had been so easy. He actually got to sleep more than an hour a night now.

Well, maybe not tonight specifically, but in general! That was a total step up from high school! 

“Okay,” Stiles said, still aiming the gun at Daniel, even though Christian’s glowing hands were concerning. To be fair, he was pretty sure he could shoot someone faster with a bullet than Christian could with gathering power in his hands or whatever. “Let’s all calm down and have a nice, normal, adult conversation. How about I put the gun down, you put the glowy hands down, we let Derek in, and have a civilized conversation?” 

That all sounded reasonable to him. Who wouldn’t agree to such a reasonable request? Everyone could get along, no one’s life was threatened, they could figure this whole thing out, it’d be a good time. 

Apparently, Christian and Daniel disagreed, because the former didn’t lower his glowy hands, and the latter pulled a second gun out of nowhere. 

Cool. Awesome. Fucking hell, he was so not getting any sleep tonight. 

“All right, so I guess that’s a ‘no’ on the civilized conversation bit. So, here’s what we’re gonna do then. You go and get your Alpha, and you come back tomorrow at normal waking hours, and we have a nice conversation with your Alpha and ours about this threat invading from the north or whatever, and we go from there?” 

Christian glanced at Daniel for his thoughts. Stiles could tell Daniel was more than happy to call it a night, but he seemed to hesitate on it, like he was worried about how that would look. Eventually, he recognized that they were at a bit of an impasse. They’d clearly underestimated Stiles—who didn’t, it was kind of annoying—and were now at a bit of a disadvantage. 

Daniel’s jaw worked, but he nodded once and Christian turned back to Stiles. “We shall bring our Alpha. Bring yours. We will meet back here at dawn.” 

“Dawn? Dawn is not normal waking hours! I have work!” 

Neither man answered, and before Stiles could argue more, Christian’s hands glowed bright enough to hurt his eyes and with a loud pop, the light disappeared entirely, taking both men with it. 

It took a few seconds for Stiles’ eyes to get accustomed to the darkness again after something so bright right in his eyeballs, but he shook his head, still gripping the gun, and lowered it while slowly heading for the door. 

“So they can teleport. That’s cool. Real great. Nice friends you’ve got there,” Stiles informed Derek, kicking at the mountain ash at the door so he could come in, and slapping on the light on his way back to the living room. 

“You could’ve stopped this entire thing long before you did, so don’t complain about it to me. And they’re not my friends,” he snapped, crossing the threshold. 

“You don’t say.” Stiles affected a shocked expression. “And here I thought you guys had been exchanging friendship bracelets and BFF necklaces.” 


“I’m a little stressed, okay!” Stiles insisted, waving his arms slightly before remembering he had a gun in one of them and stopping. He checked that the safety was still on, which it was, so at least it wouldn’t have gone off. “I talk when I’m stressed, you know this. It’s only been like, what, twelve years since we’ve met? Let me stress-talk, I’ve had a rough evening! I just had a gun held to my head for like, a good twenty minutes, all right?” 

He turned to move into the living room, slowly taking the gun apart to give his hands something to do. The magazine was full, and it didn’t look like the gun had been used in quite some time, unless Daniel cleaned it regularly. Which he might, he was very Chris Argent-like, and Chris took care of his guns. 

“So that was fun,” Stiles said, sitting down on the couch while putting the separate pieces of the gun down on the coffee table as he continued taking it apart. He was kind of annoyed at how silently impressed Derek looked while he walked into the living room, watching him. Just because he did research didn’t mean he hadn’t been trained! He knew things!

Also his dad was a sheriff, Stiles had grown up around guns, even if his aim had only improved in recent years. Didn’t mean he didn’t know how to take a gun apart! 

“What are you doing?” Derek asked. 

“Making a sandwich,” was Stiles’ immediate response, frowning slightly while he worked. “We gonna talk about what just happened? Apparently we’re gonna have company in like, two hours or something, and I’m gonna have to tell my dad not to come home, which of course means he’ll come home immediately. And for all we know, things will go south and you’re gonna get wolfnapped, and I don’t want you getting wolfnapped because you still owe me dinner for that bet you lost last month. Don’t think being wolfnapped is going to get you out of paying for all my stomach can hold, I’ll hunt you down for that meal.” 

Derek was silent for a long time. Stiles finished taking apart the eighteen different parts of the Glock Daniel had been aiming at his head and still his friend said nothing. Folding his hands together between his knees, Stiles looked up at him. 

The Werewolf’s eyes were on the parts laid out on the table, and Stiles waited to see if he’d finally look up. When he didn’t, he snapped his fingers over the parts and Derek’s eyes shot up to his face. 

“This is something we need to talk about,” Stiles informed him. “Don’t think I missed the look when they said Jethro had chosen Bianca as your mate thing. You kind of freaked out in your own little Derek way, so we need to address this. Starting with who those two jackasses were, and can they just poof into my house whenever they want?” 

Derek was doing that thing with his face where he kept his emotions locked away behind a mask of indifference. Stiles hated that face, it bugged him, because it was Derek’s way of keeping himself shielded from emotional harm, and also a surefire way of him getting killed, maimed, hurt, kidnapped or abused. Derek didn’t have a good track record with that face. 

Stiles allowed the silence to continue for only an additional thirty seconds before sighing, rubbing his face with both hands, and getting to his feet. “Guess sleep’s off the table for tonight. You get to call Lydia, I am not in the mood to get yelled at right now. I’ll call Scott.” 

He hoped Christian had put his phone down in his room somewhere, because if he’d poofed away with his only means of communication, Stiles was going to be pretty damn pissed. 

Unsurprisingly, Derek did not have good news for them overall when he started explaining everything to the pack as a whole at four in the morning on a workday. No one was happy about that, but at least they were used to it because, Supernatural. 

Well, Deaton seemed fine with it, but Stiles was pretty sure that was some kind of magical Druid thing that made it so sleep wasn’t a necessity and he could just be awake and alert at all hours of the day. Stiles wanted whatever Deaton was having, it’d be nice not to need to sleep, honestly. 

So, there they were, all seated around Stiles’ living room after he’d somehow convinced his dad that everything was fine, super fine, extremely fine, please don’t come home for another few hours. 

Parrish had promised to keep him at work, but Stiles knew his dad wasn’t stupid. He was well aware something was going on, but at least trusted Stiles enough not to destroy the house. 

God, Stiles hoped he didn’t destroy the house, especially since the people Derek described sounded... not great. 

Apparently there was a really large pack in New York that had helped Laura and Derek out for a time when they’d moved there after the fire. Of course wolves were territorial, so having unknown Werewolves in their territory hadn’t gone over too well with the locals, but the Hale name is well known. 

If the Argents were one of the big Hunter families in the US, then the Hales were the same in the Supernatural community. Just one of those families that had a long history and were well known. Talia’s grandfather had been one of the strongest Alphas on the west coast, and Talia herself was someone a lot of people respected and feared. She’d always been a person other Alphas came to for advice and guidance, particularly new Alphas who wanted to do right by their packs. 

While the pack in New York wasn’t happy about Laura and Derek being around, they tolerated them because they were Hales. And that was kind of where the idea had come from for that pack’s Alpha. He was in his late thirties, so quite a few years older than Laura at the time, who’d only just turned twenty-one when he started making his interest known. He was attracted to the Hale name, and had kind of promised the siblings sanctuary in his territory provided he got something in return. 

He wasn’t a cruel man—no worse than Peter would’ve been as Alpha, Derek had said—he just wasn’t a good man. But Laura was looking out for her brother, and it wouldn’t have been terrible being in a pack, so she and the Alpha, Jethro, had agreed that in exchange for sanctuary and protection, she would be his mate and they would join his pack.

The problems with the pack that lived to the north had started only about a month before this request, so Derek felt like the Alpha had only wanted Laura because she was a Hale, but had realized he would need to keep her around to keep the peace. And given she was gorgeous, it wasn’t like it would be a hardship so evidently they’d come to that agreement. Derek said he hadn’t known at the time that Laura had been threatened into it, though he’d acknowledged he knew she wasn’t happy. He’d always figured she’d agreed for his benefit, but not because they’d threatened to hurt him. 

The peace had been kept, albeit barely, and the mating ceremony was meant to occur only about a week or so after she’d returned to Beacon Hills. They were still working out all the details of the arrangement when she’d been killed. After all, Laura herself was an Alpha, and while it wasn’t impossible for two Alphas to be in the same pack, there had to be a clear hierarchy. Jethro didn’t seem to mind, because apparently their pack had a history of having multiple Alphas just to make sure the territory was kept as safe as it could be. 

They had a large amount of land, but the pack to the north had slowly been creeping up onto it, and despite being a formidable pack in their own rights, the other pack was just as impressive. 

Jethro’s pack had various types of Supernaturals specifically in an attempt to keep their land safe, ranging for various types of Weres, a few Chimeras, an Emissary and multiple different types of Spellcasters. But even with all that, it wasn’t enough to combat the pack to the north of them. 

If Stiles had thought their pack was a mish-mash of weirdness, it was nothing compared to the pack trying to take over, which boasted three different Emissaries, multiple Spellcasters, Chimeras, Kitsunes, a Fae, two Sirens, some nature Sprites and, of course, a large amount of Werewolves. They were a huge pack according to Derek, but they weren’t bad people. They just needed more land for their growing numbers, and while Jethro had been there first, he had far more land than he honestly truly needed and he was not good at sharing. 

The two men who’d been in the house threatening Stiles were Jethro’s Emissary—surprisingly Daniel and not Christian, which seemed weird but Stiles just let it go—and Jethro’s main Warlock. 

As impressive as the other two packs sounded, with their super special magical beings and their Fae and Sirens and whatnot, Stiles was at least pleased to know they didn’t have a Banshee or a Hellhound, because that made their pack cooler. Sure they didn’t have a Fae, but they had other cool things! And he didn’t know what Sirens were like in this day and age—his only knowledge of them were naked ladies on rocks singing sailors to their deaths—but that made him a bit nervous. He might not be a sailor on the sea, but he had a Jeep and there were a lot of dangerous places to drive off the road in Beacon Hills. He was pretty thankful the scary things sounded like they belonged to the other less hostile pack and not Jethro’s. 

It wasn’t necessarily a long story, Derek explaining everything to them, but it gave them a lot to think about. Evidently the Hale name had been very attractive to the pack, not to mention Laura was gorgeous according to Derek—it ran in the family, clearly, since Stiles felt Derek himself was gorgeous, as were Cora and Malia, and much as he hated to admit it, Peter. 

Having her return to Beacon Hills and die meant that Jethro wouldn’t get his promised Hale mate. Derek obviously hadn’t given it much thought since the deal had been between his sister and the Alpha of the pack, but apparently they didn’t see it that way. With the north beginning to creep up on them again, they were now back for a Hale and since Jethro clearly wasn’t interested in Cora—if he even knew she was still alive—it made sense to at least pull in the only other Hale he knew of without having to relinquish too much power. 

Take Derek, mate him to the Alpha’s niece Bianca—who evidently really wanted him—and they’d be done. A Hale for the pack, and a mate for the Alpha’s niece. Two-for-one. 

“But it’s not like they can just come in here and take Derek,” Liam insisted, looking and sounding positively exhausted. Stiles was pretty sure all of them were going to be suffering in the morning. Most of them would probably have to call in sick, except Deaton and Scott had the misfortune of working at the same place. Then again, Deaton never needed sleep, as Stiles had already ascertained, so he’d probably be fine. 

“Yeah, he already said no,” Mason agreed. “What are they gonna do, take him by force?” 

“If this Jethro guy is like Peter, then they might.” Stiles rubbed the back of his head, his eyes burning and a headache beginning to form. He really wished he was sleeping right now. “It’s not exactly like Peter listened when anyone else said no.” 

“He listened to you,” Derek countered. 

Stiles just flapped one hand at him in dismissal. Peter hadn’t been serious originally when he’d been saying he would bite Stiles. He was just playing with his food. It wasn’t until after he wasn’t Alpha anymore that he realized he should’ve bitten Stiles so really, he’d dodged a bullet there. 

“It sounds like we have two main problems,” Lydia cut in before anyone continued to argue. “The first is the pack wanting a Hale because of the others coming from the north. Something like that can probably be easily worked out, we can agree to be allies, help them with the negotiations. The Alpha will have to concede some territory, but we can probably help make it more level on both sides so nobody gets the short end of a stick.”

Scott hummed his agreement, arms crossed and frown on his face while he shifted his weight. Any solution that didn’t end in bloodshed was always a win in his book, so Lydia’s idea for solving that one problem would definitely work. 

Provided people behaved. 

“The second problem is that they want Derek to be the Alpha’s niece’s mate. Based on the conversation we’re having, I don’t imagine you’re particularly interested in that?” Lydia turned to arch an eyebrow at Derek. 

The unimpressed look he gave her said everything and she nodded once, turning to Deaton. 

“There are rules for this sort of thing, aren’t there? I doubt the Supernatural world doesn’t have specific laws for a situation like this. Just because Laura and Jethro agreed to mate doesn’t mean that her passing should automatically fall to the next person in line.” 

Deaton inclined his head slightly. “Both parties would need to agree.” 

“Well Derek’s already said no,” Stiles said, slapping both hands on his thighs and standing. “So that’s that. He said no, and they can deal with it.” 

“I would imagine it isn’t quite that simple in this particular case,” Deaton offered, giving him a pointed look. “If Derek were given a choice in the matter, I very much doubt they’d have shown up at your house.” 

“Yeah, why did they show up at Stiles’ house?” Mason asked, one hand half-raised, like they were still in school. “If they wanted Derek, wouldn’t it have been easier to just go to the loft and corner him there?” 

“He has to agree,” Deaton explained.

“So threatening him wouldn’t work, because we all know Derek takes shit care of himself,” Stiles cut in, ignoring the annoyed grunt that earned him from said individual. “So—they came for who they thought would be the weakest link? I mean, I’m the token human, and people always underestimate the human. They probably figured they could break in, strong-arm Derek into agreeing to the whole thing by threatening my life, and call it a night.” 

“Why would they think Derek cared enough about your life to give up his?” Malia asked bluntly. 

She was still as blunt as ever. 

Stiles sputtered a few times, insulted, and then motioned between himself and Derek. “I will have you know, Derek and I are quite close. I’d even feel comfortable enough calling us acquaintances. On a good day, it’s almost like we’re friends!” 

Derek let out another aggrieved sigh, but Stiles knew he was aware that he was just joking. 

He and Derek were close. They’d been friends when Stiles had first gone to his internship with the FBI, the two of them keeping in touch for a long time. When Stiles had finally gotten to a place where he was allowed to work from home—it hadn’t taken long, and Derek had insisted he was not surprised—he’d moved back to Beacon Hills and, lo and behold, Derek had decided to follow. He insisted life was less exciting without something trying to kill him every other day, but Stiles wondered if maybe he was lonely. 

He’d had friends before the McCall pack, but maybe they weren’t the same. Maybe because of all the shit they’d all been through together, the McCall pack meant something to him. Either way, Stiles was just glad that Derek had decided to come back. He’d missed seeing his grumpy face on a regular basis, looming from afar or hiding in dark shadows like a creeper. 

And it was a nice face, so it worked out for Stiles, who’d kind of never gotten over his high school crush on Derek. He’d never act on it, because he wouldn’t want to risk ruining a friendship like this, but he wouldn’t lie if someone asked if he liked him. Because he did.

He really, really did. 

“Regardless of why they went after you,” Scott said, shifting the conversation back to where it needed to be, “they definitely underestimated our token human.” 

Stiles offered Scott a thankful smile and got one in return. 

“Yeah, they definitely didn’t know what they were doing coming for him,” Mason admitted. “But it’s not like the problem’s solved. If Derek keeps saying no, based on what he’s telling us, they’re just going to keep coming. And next time, they’ll be prepared for Stiles and his unique way of getting out of trouble. So what’s the plan?” 

Mason. Always asking the right questions. Stiles was so proud. 

They were all silent for a few seconds.

“This is ridiculous,” Lydia insisted when it stretched on for too long. “There has to be some kind of Werewolf politics that disallows this. They can’t just take a Hale because they’re trying to bend the rules of an agreement and this Bianca girl thinks Derek is pretty.” 

“He is kinda pretty,” Stiles offered, which earned him a look from Lydia, clearly uninterested in his bad attempts at flirting with Derek right now. 

“And if they won’t go for it and insist a Hale was promised?” Scott asked, crossing his arms. 

“We find a reason they can’t take this one.” Lydia motioned Derek. “They want a male Hale so badly, Peter’s available.” 

“That’s what Derek said,” Stiles informed her. “They didn’t go for it.”

“I think most people prefer not having homicidal, death-defying Werewolves around,” Malia offered. 

“Fair,” Stiles conceded. 

“So what can we do to stop them from taking Derek?” Lydia asked, snapping her fingers to get them back into the conversation. “What options do we have?” 

Again, no one spoke for a long while until Deaton finally offered, “Werewolves cannot break a mate bond if one already exists.” 

Stiles turned to him, but he didn’t miss the way Derek’s head snapped in his direction, almost like he felt betrayed by Deaton saying those words. 

The Druid didn’t look unrepentant, which was par for the course with Deaton, really. Guy didn’t seem to care about much more than Scott not biting the dust. 

Well, at least there was that. 

“That’s true,” Malia agreed. “It’s one of those things even this pack wouldn’t be able to come back from.” 

“Problem,” Mason cut in, pointing at Derek. “He doesn’t have a mate. Unless—he does?” 

“No,” Derek snapped. 

“Perfect. Problem solved,” Lydia said. “We just tell them you’re already mated but we’ll provide them with aid on their problem and things return to normal.” 

Stiles saw Derek glance over at him but when he arched an eyebrow, Derek scowled and looked away, clearly grumpy. Par for the course with Derek. 

“There are things that are required for two people to be mated,” Deaton countered. Because of course there were things required. “A claim, for one thing. And courting.” 

“We can just say Lydia’s waiting for marriage before the claim happens,” Malia suggested with a shrug. 

“What?” Derek asked, eyebrows shooting up, Lydia almost overlapping with him when she said, “Excuse me?” 

“Do you see any other non-related women in the room?” Malia asked, motioning their small pack. “You and I are the only options. I might love Derek, but he’s my cousin, so looks like you’re it.” 

Lydia’s mouth opened, but no sound came out and she turned to look at Derek. He looked just as apprehensive, like they both knew this wasn’t going to work out in their favour, but didn’t have any other options. They were running out of time, if the pack’s arrival was truly slated to be at dawn, and it wasn’t like they could go out and find someone else. Braeden probably would’ve been amenable, since Stiles knew she and Derek still kept in touch, but God only knew where she was right now. 

Derek was staring at Lydia for an exceptionally long time, then shifted his gaze over to Stiles. For a second, Stiles wondered if someone was standing behind him, and had to resist the urge to turn around and check. If he was expecting him to have a better idea, he was mistaken, because Stiles didn’t have any better ideas. And Malia was right, Lydia was the only non-related female currently in their pack, so it was her, or nothing. 

The intensity of Derek’s look didn’t diminish as the seconds ticked, and it looked like he wanted to say something. Derek looked almost pained, hands clenching into fists, staring at Stiles so hard it was kind of making him uncomfortable. 

“It’s decided then,” Deaton finally said when the other two didn’t say anything further. Derek shifted his gaze back to scowl down at his lap, fists still clenched and looking unhappy. “We can claim Lydia and Derek are on the verge of being mated to avoid them arguing for Derek to be mated to the Alpha’s niece, and we can offer to aid them with the invasion coming from the north.” 

“Great,” Derek muttered, but at least he didn’t argue like Stiles was sure he would. 

Lydia looked like she was regretting getting out of bed. 

Stiles felt that way basically every day of his life. 

Most of the pack didn’t stick around for the meeting. Malia booked it, since she was technically a Hale and wasn’t interested in anyone setting their sights on her, and both Liam and Mason went home for naps before they had to head to work. 

Stiles would’ve loved to take a nap, but unfortunately, the meeting was happening at his house, so he was stuck in the living room with the others. Scott was sticking around, of course, as Alpha of the pack. Deaton was staying as Emissary. 

Derek and Lydia were both sitting awkwardly on the couch, making it clear to everyone that they were stiff and uncomfortable. Stiles ended up rolling his eyes and moving over to rearrange them, something neither of them appreciated. 

“Come on, it’s just acting. Both of you just pretend the other is someone you’re madly in love with and cuddle up or something. You both look like you’d rather be anywhere but here.” 

“Can’t say you’re wrong,” Lydia muttered, but she did lean into Derek a bit more, who’d shifted to wrap his arm around her. They still clearly weren’t happy about it and Stiles just hoped that they’d make it more believable when the other pack showed up. 

He didn’t know when that would be, considering they’d said ‘dawn’ and it was now... kind of dawn. Like, the world outside was beginning to lighten, but did they mean literal dawn or was that just an approximation of time? Stiles really wanted to get at least an hour of sleep before work. Forty-five minutes. Hell, he’d settle for thirty. Just—something


Stiles turned to Derek, kind of out of it from how tired he was, and it took a few seconds to realize he was apologizing to him

“For what? This isn’t your fault.” 

“Kind of his fault,” Lydia offered. She was much crankier than Stiles, which he felt was unfair since she actually got some sleep. Everyone had gotten some sleep except Stiles. And possibly Derek. He’d arrived really fast after the call, but to be fair, he didn’t have a job. He just got money thrown at him from some unknown sources. 

Unknown sources probably called ‘Peter Hale,’ not that anyone wanted to acknowledge that, least of all Derek. 

“It’s fine, we just need to get through this meeting, help them with their problem, and then move on with our respective lives.” Stiles perched on the armrest of the couch that Derek was up against, looking down at him and how stiff he still seemed with Lydia. 

It was kind of a shame the two of them weren’t closer. Stiles could literally lie on top of Derek and the most he’d get was an annoyed grunt. Derek had long ago gotten used to Stiles’ lack of personal space, as had everyone else who’d ever met him, so nobody ever reacted anymore when he got all up in their business. It was clear Derek and Lydia did not have that close of a friendship because they still looked stiff. 

Derek actually even leaned more into Stiles when he perched on the edge of the couch, like he’d rather be touching him over Lydia. Something he was going to have to get used to, given they had no idea how long the two of them would need to be faking this relationship. They made a good couple though, but Stiles figured that had to be because he’d once been in love with Lydia, and was now in love with Derek. They were both extremely attractive and Stiles was so happy he was bisexual and able to appreciate how aesthetically pleasing they both were. 

“Hey, how did they know about me, anyway?” Stiles asked after he got distracted watching Derek’s arm and the way his muscles looked when he flexed it to rearrange his position around Lydia’s shoulders so he was resting it along the back of the couch more than her actual shoulder. 

“What?” Derek asked. 

Stiles shrugged. “You said this was all from before, back when you and Laura lived in New York. You only met me after that. So how do they know enough about me to have assumed I’d be taller?” 

Lydia arched an eyebrow at the words, but didn’t comment. Derek seemed to have stiffened even further, but Stiles thought it might’ve been because Lydia had shifted into him a bit more. 

“I had a friend. She was in that pack for a long time. We kept in touch over the years, but she left them about eight months ago to live with another pack. I’m pretty glad she left, honestly, they didn’t deserve her.” Derek elaborated when he saw the confused look on Stiles’ face. “She was a Witch. Powerful one. She’d probably had enough after years of being stuck there, so she moved to Florida and lives with another pack now. She seems happy.” 

“That’s really cool that she managed to get away from them, they don’t sound great.” 

“Yeah,” Derek muttered, his shoulder leaning against Stiles’ hip even more as they spoke. “Anyway, we email a lot. I used to talk about how annoying you were back at the beginning of all this. She probably relayed things about the pack to the others. You’re kind of hard to ignore, so I might have been heavier in my talks about you versus everyone else.” 

“I do command a lot of attention,” Stiles offered with a grin. Derek snorted, but he didn’t deny it, and that just made Stiles laugh. 

He might have hated that the bad guys—well, not bad, but not necessarily good—had come to his place, but at least he’d shown them not to judge a book by its cover. Or a human by his humanity, at any rate. 

There was a loud pop somewhere out in the corridor and Stiles jerked to his feet off the armrest of the couch, looking at the entrance to the living room. Scott had been pacing by the window, looking out it as if he thought the others would be coming in a car like polite, civilized individuals. Why he thought that, Stiles didn’t know, since it looked like they’d just teleported right back into his house. 

Daniel and Christian were there again, which made sense since Derek had said they were Jethro’s Emissary and main Warlock. The Alpha himself looked... strange. He really was reminiscent of Peter in that he looked like a handsome man, very put together, charming kind of air to him, but he would definitely tear someone apart with his teeth if he felt annoyed enough by their presence. 

That was very Peter, in Stiles’ opinion. 

Good thing Peter had a soft spot for Stiles, maybe this Jethro guy would, too. 

There was also a girl with them. Her eyes were locked on Derek, and the hard set of her shoulders suggested she hadn’t missed the arm around Lydia’s frame. Stiles was willing to bet this was Bianca, and man did Lydia have to watch her back, because she looked pissed

She was gorgeous, though. Stiles would give her that. Older than Derek by a few years, from the looks of it, but she had long, glossy black hair, sharp green eyes and high cheekbones. She was taller than Stiles by about two inches, but he couldn’t tell if she was wearing heels or not, so it was possible she just looked tall without actually being tall. 

Stiles could tell both sides were sizing each other up, and felt a bit smug that Daniel hadn’t taken his eyes off Stiles once since they’d arrived. Clearly he wasn’t looking forward to being caught off guard again, though Stiles did notice he’d caught the abrupt jerk off the couch he’d done. He didn’t know why that warranted such an intense expression, Stiles had just been startled by their sudden reappearance in his house. 

“Derek,” Jethro finally said. His voice was deep, much deeper than Peter’s, but he spoke with the same sort of amused air, like everything was a private joke. “It’s been a long time.” 

“Hello Jethro,” Derek said obediently. 

“I was glad to hear you were willing to agree to have a discussion with me today. I’ve been trying to touch base for a long time, you see. You must have changed your number again.” 

“You know me and technology,” Derek offered. Jethro laughed, but it didn’t sound at all like a pleasant sort of thing. 

“Indeed. Your Alpha?” 

Derek glanced over his shoulder and Scott moved forward around the couch, holding his hand out. “Scott McCall.” 

Jethro’s eyebrows rose very slowly, and he gave Scott a condescending once-over, making no move to take his hand. Evidently Deaton wasn’t happy with that, because he moved into Jethro’s line of sight behind the couch, smiling pleasantly like he always did before he spoke. 

“Alan Deaton, Emissary to true Alpha Scott McCall.” 

That got Jethro’s attention, eyes snapping back from Deaton to Scott. “True Alpha? I’ve heard rumours of it being possible. How so very interesting for someone so... young.” 

He finally reached out and took Scott’s hand, shaking it loosely, like he was only really doing it because he saw some value in Scott now that he knew what he was. Scott didn’t seem to care either way, he—like Stiles—was used to being underestimated due to his young age when compared to other Alphas. 

He didn’t even look at Stiles, instead focussing back on Derek and Lydia on the couch. He smiled then, but it was a little cold. “And who might this lovely lady be?” 

“Lydia Martin,” Derek said. He hesitated for a bit too long, then pulled her into his side a bit more. “She’s my mate.” 

Stiles was watching who he knew had to be Bianca, and she looked furious. If looks could kill, Stiles’ entire living room would be on fire. He was glad she clearly couldn’t force a couch, or person, to spontaneously combust because his dad would’ve been pissed

“I see,” Jethro said. “I wasn’t aware you were mated.” 

“It’s not official yet,” Derek shifted uncomfortably. “She won’t let me claim her until we get married.” 

“Not my fault you’re dragging your feet,” Lydia snapped, the words sounding genuine probably only because of how cranky she was from lack of sleep. 

“I’m working on it,” Derek said, a bit too harshly. 

Stiles winced and shot a look at Scott. His friend was staring right back. This wasn’t exactly going well, and if the two of them didn’t at least try, they were going to get called out on their bluff. 

Derek was good at lying to other Werewolves. It was easier to mask certain reactions when people knew what they were looking for on the opposite side, so Derek and Scott lying would be easy. Stiles didn’t think Deaton had a heart, if he was honest, and he’d always been good at keeping a stony face, so him giving them away was slim. Stiles himself had an irregular baseline, so he’d been able to easily lie to wolves for years unless they knew him extremely well. As for Lydia, well, she was clearly nervous right then, so her heart was probably all over the place and they wouldn’t catch any lies from her. 

At least, not about being Derek’s mate. No one would have to catch her lying, all they had to do was look at them. They were still so fucking stiff. Derek was barely touching Lydia, and while she was leaning into him, it was obvious she was trying not to lean too much into him. 

This was a disaster. Why had they thought this was a good idea? This was clearly the opposite of a good idea. Fuck. 

“Derek mentioned that you’re having some territory disputes you wanted some help with,” Scott said, clearly trying to move the conversation along. “I thought we could talk about what we can do to help out.”

“How kind of you,” Jethro said, sounding extremely condescending, like he didn’t know how someone like Scott could possibly help him.

Evidently he’d never heard of the Alpha pack. 

“We came for a Hale,” Bianca said then, giving Scott her own condescending once-over. “You’re not a Hale. We don’t need you.” 

“If you’re not in need of assistance, then perhaps the conversation need not take place,” Deaton offered with a kind smile. “Derek belongs to the McCall pack. He is one of Scott’s Betas. He has a mate in the pack. As I’m sure you’re aware, once a mate is chosen, it would be very bad form for another pack to attempt to stake their own claim. I doubt your enemies to the north would take kindly knowing you forced a claim between, not only a Werewolf, but a Hale as a means to get him into your pack. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you how much weight the Hale name holds to the Supernatural community as a whole.” 

Stiles could tell things were about to go south. Not because of what Deaton had said, but because of the looks on everyone’s faces in Jethro’s pack. Daniel was still watching Stiles, but the other three were looking at Derek and Lydia. At the way they shifted uncomfortably, at the hand barely touching Lydia’s shoulder, and the awkward position Lydia was in. 

They knew Lydia wasn’t Derek’s mate. Wasn’t even his girlfriend. They knew she was nothing and no one to him and they were going to call them out on it, and then shit would fall apart and they would take Derek whether he wanted to go or not. 

Stiles couldn’t let that happen. He couldn’t let them call their bluff. But what could they do? Derek needed a mate for this to work, but if Lydia couldn’t pull it off, they needed to find a reason for them to have pretended it was her. And then they needed to find him a fake-mate. But who in their pack could—


“We’re starting off on the wrong foot,” Stiles said loudly, wanting to make sure nobody jumped in to say something they would all regret. Scott tensed and looked over at him, but Lydia and Derek didn’t shift their gazes away from the wolves in front of them. While Bianca didn’t turn to him, Jethro and Christian did. “We’re here to talk about an alliance, right? Our pack helping yours out with your territory dispute? It’s not much of an alliance if we start off by lying to each other.” 

“Stiles,” Derek said, turning to him sharply and looking worried. 

“Derek, I mean, come on. It’s not working. Everyone can see it’s not working. They know Lydia’s not your mate.” 

“Stiles!” Derek said again, more urgently this time, like he thought Stiles was about to fuck everything up. 

Sometimes, he wished Derek trusted him a bit more. Actually, even Scott’s incredulous look was kind of insulting. He was the guy with the plan, he was always the guy with the plan. At least Lydia seemed relieved, if nothing else. That meant she was smart enough to know that Stiles had an idea and wasn’t just blowing air out of his ass. 

“Babe, it’s not working,” Stiles said again, Derek’s head snapping back slightly. “I mean, look at how uncomfortable you are,” he insisted, motioning him and Lydia, who shared a look. “Everyone can tell you’re stiff and awkward because you’re not mates. And look, I know this wasn’t what you wanted from this meeting, but they know we’re lying, and this is no way to start an alliance so, cards on the table.” 

Stiles let out a slow breath, like he was bracing himself—which he kind of was, this was... not going to be great. For many reasons. But, consequences be damned, he’d live with them, because he needed to save Derek’s butt and he’d do anything for that giant sourwolf. 

“When I got home and found Daniel and Christian in my house, and then found out what you wanted, I actually thought they were here for me because of, you know.” He motioned himself absently. “Turns out they came for me because I’m the token human, but I actually honestly assumed they did because uh, Lydia’s not Derek’s mate. I am.” 

The silence that followed was so absolute that Stiles thought someone had sucked all the noise out of the universe. The only person who didn’t seem surprised was, for some reason, Daniel. He looked like this made a lot more sense than Lydia, and Stiles realized that was why he’d been staring at him. Because Stiles had been perched on the edge of the couch—again, no personal space, not in Stiles’ vocabulary—and he’d jerked away when the others had arrived. As if he’d been close to Derek because of reasons and had hastily moved back to not ruin their careful planning.

That was just a happy accident, in this case, but no need to mention that.  

After a few moments, Bianca let out a loud, bitter, incredulous laugh that had Stiles scowling. “I’m sorry, are you serious?” She let out another laugh, like this was the most ridiculous thing she’d ever heard. 

“What, that’s funny to you?” Stiles demanded. “I give good head. Babe,” Stiles snapped his fingers behind himself in Derek’s direction, but didn’t turn, “tell them I give good head.” 

“Stiles!” At least Derek sounded horrified instead of pissed off. That was good, made it more believable. 

“I give good head, he’s just shy.” Stiles smirked and winked at Bianca, who’d stopped laughing exceptionally quickly. “But uh, yeah. He doesn’t really like to uh, advertise it, but Derek is pretty gay. He was just confused growing up, had all those girlfriends, didn’t know what was wrong with him and why nothing felt right. Clearly things fell into place when I showed up, and helped him switch teams.” He turned to wink at Derek, who looked extremely annoyed. 

“You like to think you turned me gay, but I’ve always been bisexual,” Derek deadpanned. “You’re not that good with your mouth.” 

Stiles let out a few sputters of offense, turning to face him fully and crossing his arms. “Excuse me, I recall you completely losing your mind that first time. I’m pretty sure I sucked your soul right out of your dick.” 

“Okay.” Lydia said, clearing her throat and shifting away from Derek. He let her, his arm sliding off her shoulders like he didn’t even notice and his eyebrows rising. 

“Oh, is that what happened? That’s not how I remember it. I remember you being incoherent and half out of your mind with pleasure. You ripped through my favourite pillow, Stiles.”

Okay, that was true, but not because of any sex, as much as Stiles would’ve loved that. He may have gotten a bit over-excited about having a pillow fight one night. It wasn’t his fault the pillow was so damn old! 

“That is not how it happened and you know it!” Stiles accused, pointing a finger at Derek and moving closer to him. “That pillow was already on its last leg, don’t blame its destruction on your ego, you’re not that good.” 

“That’s not what you said last night,” Derek offered with a cocky smirk, crossing his arms and spreading his legs a bit. Stiles moved right in between them, leaning down to poke insistently at his chest.  

“I have been sleep-deprived lately, including today, I cannot be held accountable for any of the lies that have escaped my mouth in your presence.” 

“Stiles,” Deaton said before Derek could retort and he glanced up at the Druid. He was smiling genuinely for once, like this was the most fun he’d had in decades. “Your point?” 

“What?” Stiles blinked at him, then remembered—right, this was acting. He was just acting. Whoops. “Right! Point.” He turned around, almost stumbled since he was between Derek’s spread legs, and felt hands on his hips to steady him before he half-fell, half-sat beside Derek, kind of almost on top of him. 

Derek didn’t even react, it wasn’t like this was the first time Stiles had gotten distracted by something and accidentally sat on him. 

“My point. Um, so yeah, we uh, were well aware after Derek explained a few things to us that you would be extremely unhappy to find out Derek was already mated, but felt you would be even more unhappy to learn he was mated to a man. And not just any man, but a human man. So in our brilliance, we thought maybe it’d be better to still tell the truth—I mean, Deaton did say he was mated to someone in the pack—but uh, little white lie on who he was mated to.” Stiles winced, Derek’s arm shifting around his shoulders and thumb brushing lightly against his collarbone. They should’ve just gone with this from the beginning, Derek was so much more comfortable with Stiles. 

It occurred to him that maybe that was why Derek had been staring at him the way he had. Maybe he’d recognized that Stiles was the better choice, but Derek wasn’t the best at using his words and had just been hoping Stiles would butt in on his own. 

Well, he’d kind of been right. Stiles had butted in, just... not until the pack was literally in front of them.

“Sorry,” Stiles said with another wince. “It was clear you knew that we were lying about Lydia and Derek, and I just thought instead of making things worse when you caught us in the lie, it’d be better to just... come clean.” 

Daniel literally looked like he was nodding to himself in his head going, “Yeah, this makes sense.” And even Christian seemed to believe it without question. Testament to how close Stiles and Derek were, no way would this have worked with Lydia, they were dumb to even have tried. 

Wasn’t like Derek being bisexual was a lie, either. Stiles knew he’d been getting it on lately with a bunch of different guys in town. He’d started seeing men a few years back, so Stiles really wasn’t surprised Derek was okay with this entire conversation. At least with Stiles, he was used to him being all up in his business. 

“You’re mated to Derek?” Jethro asked, like he wasn’t entirely sure he believed them. He looked like he believed them more than he did Lydia being Derek’s mate, but was still sceptical. “Where is your mate claim then?” 

“Oh, the marriage thing is true,” Stiles insisted, thumbing at Derek. He kind of hated having to use that excuse, but he didn’t have anything else in mind for why he wouldn’t be claimed yet, and it wasn’t a bad thing to recycle what Derek had used with Lydia. Made it more believable. “What Derek said about getting married? Totally true. I wanna tie the knot before he claims me. And Lydia’s words in response are literally mine, because she hears me whining about it all the time. Someone has been dragging his feet.” He turned to scowl at Derek. 

“I told you, I’m working on it.” Derek sounded more defeated than annoyed this time around, and he rolled his eyes dramatically. Such a drama queen. “Marriage is a big commitment.” 

“Oh, marriage is a big commitment?” Stiles asked incredulously, pulling away from him slightly so that Derek’s hand slid down to his back instead of his shoulder. “Getting claimed by a Werewolf is nothing, then?” 

“Stiles,” Derek sighed, exasperated, like they’d had this argument a million times before. 

“I can divorce your ass by signing a piece of paper. Can’t exactly hack the skin off when you claim me. Pretty sure that’s more of a commitment and you don’t seem too fussed about doing that.” 

“It’s different,” Derek insisted, still sounding exasperated. “If you weren’t dead set on a huge wedding, we’d have signed the papers months ago and been done with both the wedding and the claim.” 

Oh, that was dirty! Now Derek was making him sound like some kind of bridezilla and Stiles was not interested in a big wedding, thank you! He was perfectly content having a small ceremony with family and friends. Nothing big and fancy, there was no need for that. 

What a jerk. 

“You only get one wedding, Derek! Excuse me for wanting to make it special!” 

“Can you guys finish this fight later?” Scott demanded, sounding both annoyed and embarrassed. “You always do this, it’s embarrassing. This is why I didn’t want you guys getting together in the first place, you’re always bringing your fights to pack meetings.” 

Stiles turned to Scott, winced apologetically, then settled back against Derek. He did elbow him for his comment about the big wedding though, and Derek retaliated by pinching his shoulder blade. Stiles smacked him with his opposite hand and Scott turned to give them both a look. Stiles affected an innocent look that Scott didn’t believe for a second, then sighed and turned back to Jethro. Before he could even say anything, the other Alpha spoke, eyes still on Stiles. 

“If you’re his mate, why were my people able to come for you here last night? Why not go to Derek’s loft?” 

Oh, so they knew about the loft. That was cool, in a totally not cool way. 

“Uh, have you been to the loft?” Stiles demanded, rolling his eyes. “That place is literally a furnace. Like, it’s so fucking hot there. You ever sleep in a furnace before while in bed with a furnace?” Stiles thumbed at Derek. “Werewolf. This is California man, and Derek doesn’t even own a fan!” 

Derek sighed in literal exasperation then, which was perfect timing. To be fair, Stiles had complained about the lack of fan thing many, many times during late night research sessions. Like, Derek did not own a fan! What kind of animal didn’t own a fan?! 

“So yeah, no. It was hot last night and I was not interested in roasting to death in his stupid un-fanned loft, so I came home. I mean, did you guys all miss how fast he showed up?” Stiles asked, raising his eyebrows at Christian and Daniel. “You said it was under five minutes, right? And the loft is a solid eight from here even when there’s a little speeding involved, so he was already on his way over. It’s why he got here so fast. He says he doesn’t need a fan, but when it’s hot at night, where does he go?” Stiles turned to him, eyebrows raised. “Where do you go, Derek? Huh? When you’re hot at night, where do you go?” 

Derek closed his eyes, like he was trying for patience. This wasn’t a lie, either. Stiles often woke up with Derek passed out on his floor. Why he didn’t just buy a fucking fan, Stiles had no idea, but Derek always inevitably invited himself into his room and passed out on the floor. Probably cooler down there than on the bed, if Stiles was honest. 

“I come here.”

“You come here,” Stiles repeated triumphantly, turning back to the other pack. “He was already on his way, because he sleeps over. It’s a thing, my dad hates it, but I am an adult.” Stiles slapped one hand against his knee. “And if I wanna blow my boyfriend in the morning before having my coffee, that is my right as an adult.” 

Scott had brought one hand up to pinch at his eyes, like he was regretting having answered Stiles’ call earlier. To be fair, Stiles may have been talking about blowjobs a little too much. He couldn’t help it! He fantasized about having Derek’s dick in his mouth, okay? If he was going to be his pretend-boyfriend-slash-mate, then he was going to live his dream aloud of having Derek’s dick in his mouth! 

Jethro watched him for a long while, as if he was trying to figure out if Stiles was serious of not. After a few seconds, he seemed to decide that someone who was this open about his sex life probably wasn’t lying about it, and he turned to Daniel to get a second opinion. The other man nodded once. 

“It was my assumption after what I saw last night,” he admitted. 

“Subtlety is certainly not the human’s forte,” Christian agreed. 

Score. Stiles was so good. Like, so good. He deserved an Oscar or something. Maybe he should quit the FBI and go into acting. 

Actually, he had work soon, he really hoped this whole thing could be over like, right now. In the next five minutes, preferably. He’d have enough time for a power nap before work, so he really wanted things to move along. 

“Well,” Jethro said, turning back to the pair of them and smiling coldly again, “it would appear Derek’s made his choice.” 

Derek pulled Stiles into his side a bit more and Stiles saw him flash his eyes, like he heard a threat in those words that he didn’t appreciate. Stiles didn’t appreciate it either, he wasn’t interested in getting offed by a bunch of assholes so that they could steal Derek from them. That’d be rude. 

Also he’d be super dead, and that would suck. He hadn’t survived years of crazy bullshit or an almost Zombie apocalypse last night just to get taken out by a jealous Were-bitch who wanted into Derek’s pants. 

Seriously, Derek couldn’t catch a break on that front. 

“So it would seem,” Deaton agreed pleasantly. 

“Yeah,” Stiles agreed. “So, he’s mine, and you can’t have him. But we will help you with the whole territory thing, if you want,” Stiles offered, motioning them easily while still pressed against Derek. He was getting hot, the guy really was a furnace and nobody wanted that in the middle of summer. “We’ll help with providing you, temporarily, with a Hale if you want our help, but you can’t keep him. This Hale belongs to me, sorry not sorry.” 

Bianca looked furious, Stiles was loving this. He was sure everyone in the room was going to smack him later for rocking the boat, but right now, he didn’t care. He was sleep-deprived and annoyed at being held at gunpoint, he wanted a nap and some chocolate and also a nice hard fucking, but he was pretty sure he wouldn’t get that last one so he’d settle for the first two when this was over. 

“We’re willing to provide assistance,” Scott agreed. “If required. If not, sorry you came all this way for nothing.” 

Jethro turned to him, expression tight. He really did look a lot like Peter, Stiles wondered if they’d taken lessons from each other or something. 

“Thank you for your offer. We’ll see what arrangements can be made with the pack to the north. If your assistance is... required,” Jethro gave him another condescending once-over, “we’ll be sure to be in touch.” 

“Perhaps a call,” Deaton offered with a smile, pulling a business card from one of his pockets and moving forward to hold it out. “To avoid any misunderstandings of your people being in this territory without permission.” 

Jethro’s smile was all teeth as he took the card. “Of course.” His eyes shot to Derek and Stiles. “Until we meet again.”

Stiles just smiled and raised one hand in farewell. Derek nodded once. 

Jethro kept his gaze on them as Christian’s hands began to glow. Stiles learned from last time and looked away and with a loud pop, the others were gone. 

For a few seconds, nobody spoke, all of them trying to process what had just happened, what they’d just gotten away with. 

After a few moments, Lydia turned to Stiles and punched him, rather hard, in the arm. 

“What the hell is wrong with you?! What were you thinking?” 

“I had to!” Stiles insisted, rubbing at his arm as Derek pulled his own away from around Stiles’ shoulders. “You guys were so awkward, it was a serious issue. I just resolved the issue! It worked, didn’t it?”

“I can’t believe it worked,” Scott insisted, rubbing at his face with both hands and dragging them down so it pulled at his skin. “They’re not going to let this go.” 

“They are not,” Deaton agreed. “I would imagine Bianca is going to be rather vocal in her desire to obtain Derek, particularly since he’s not officially mated yet.” 

“At least we got this far,” Stiles argued. “Could’ve been worse. For now, they know he’s taken by someone in the pack.”

“Mm hm,” Lydia said, giving him a look. “You realize that you are now going to have to pretend to date Derek, right?” 

Stiles rolled his eyes. “Oh no, what a hardship. That sucks, boo hoo.” He motioned Derek emphatically. “He’s like, my best friend.” 

“Hey!” Scott insisted. 

“He’s like, my second best friend,” Stiles amended. “It’s fine, we’ll figure it out. Right?” He turned to grin at Derek, who was scowling at him. 

“That was stupid and dangerous.” 

“How is that different from anything else in my life?” Stiles rolled his eyes, then groaned while getting to his feet. “Now if you’ll excuse me,” he pulled his phone out to check the time, “I have exactly forty-one minutes to sleep before I have to report to work, so I’m gonna go do that.” He motioned the stairs. “You can let yourselves out.” 

“What?” Scott asked, surprised. “You’re not staying here alone, no way. That Bianca girl looked like she wanted to murder you, there’s no way you’re staying here alone.” 

“Well in case you’ve forgotten Scotty, you have a job, and thus cannot babysit me.” Stiles motioned Deaton. “So uh, guess I’m gonna be staying here alone. Relax, they’re not gonna try anything.” 

“You don’t know that,” Scott insisted, rounding on Derek. “How likely is she to come for Stiles?” 

Derek had stood by then, and had his arms crossed with a scowl on his face. “On a scale of one to ten, seventeen.” 

Scott turned back to Stiles, giving him a pointed look. He just flailed his arms in response, because what was he supposed to do? 

“I can watch him,” Derek offered after a silent flail-fest. “We should spend more time together anyway, to make it more believable.” 

“You say that as if I spend zero time with you,” Stiles insisted. 

Derek scowled. “Well now you need to spend more time with me, thanks to your little stunt.” 

“I was helping.” 

“And now I am helping you not get mauled by a jealous bitch.” Derek raked a frustrated hand through his hair. “Don’t argue with me, just pack a bag, we’ll stay at the loft.” 

“Wha—why?! It’s hot there!” 

“Would you rather bring this shitstorm down on your father’s head?” Derek snapped. 

That cut Stiles’ argument off instantly. It was true that staying at the house would mean people showing up for him and finding his dad instead. If they went to the loft, then at least the assholes would only be hurting them and not his dad. 

“Is it a good idea?” Scott asked uncertainly. “It’s you they want, and Bianca wants to get rid of Stiles. Putting you both in the same place seems irresponsible.” 

“It’s fine, I was thinking while we waited on Jethro to arrive and I’ve got an idea.” Derek raked another agitated hand through his hair. “I’m going to speak to Greg.” When that earned him silence and a few puzzled looks, he elaborated. “The Alpha from the pack invading Jethro’s territory. He and Laura had a good relationship, it’s how she stopped him from pushing too hard the first time. I’ll just open the channels of communication and explain the situation. If Jethro comes for me without my consent, Greg will know and it’ll cause bigger problems for Jethro and his pack. Similarly, if Greg thinks I’m not mated, he might try and use that same line on me, so either way I’m going to have to pretend I actually sleep with that thing.” He motioned Stiles, who let out an affronted noise. 

“Jethro comes for you, Greg attacks,” Lydia said, nodding slowly. “Jethro stays away, he might be able to form a truce. Regardless, he stays away from you.” 

“Exactly. It’s not ideal, Greg will probably want a favour, but he’s more reasonable than Jethro. I’ll just have to hope the price isn’t too steep.” Derek looked exhausted all of a sudden, like too much had happened too quickly. To be fair, it sort of had. And on top of everything, he was now going to be stuck living with Stiles for the foreseeable future. 

Sure they hung out a lot, and crashed at each other’s places, but it would be different having to pretend. Not all the time, but enough of the time. One never knew when Christian might pop in unexpectedly. The only advantage they had was that they always heard him coming. 

“Are you still here?” Derek asked irately, looking at Stiles. “Go pack.” 

“You need a nap,” Stiles muttered, but obediently turned to head upstairs so he could pack some stuff up, along with his work laptop and files. His forty-one minutes were dwindling at record speed. 

Stiles figured he should at least text his dad, since he would have questions about his whereabouts when he got home later. 

Sighing while climbing the stairs, Stiles pulled his phone out to do just that, and really hoped he would be coherent enough for work. 

Adulthood was the best. 

Stiles took the world’s shortest power nap when he got to Derek’s, literally passing out on his couch and sleeping until his alarm went off. He tried not to think about how long he’d slept or he’d be depressed, so he just got up, made coffee, and settled at Derek’s small table to work. 

The Werewolf himself didn’t seem to have even bothered attempting to sleep. He made breakfast for Stiles, then went to eat his own food on the couch, staring at the television. Which would’ve been fine, except it was off, so he was basically staring at nothing. Stiles figured he had a lot on his mind, so he didn’t press about it. 

Derek ended up napping on and off on the couch. He’d jerk awake every now and then and hastily sit up to look over the back of the couch, as if making sure Stiles was still there before settling again. Sometimes he fell asleep again right away and sometimes he didn’t. 

Scott called a few times to check in, and Derek got up to make lunch around one. When Stiles’ work day finally ended, he went to sit on the coffee table across from the couch where Derek was still half-snoozing. Stiles honestly felt like he probably hadn’t actually gotten any sleep which was why he hadn’t moved the whole day. Stiles himself was exhausted mentally, but he’d had so much coffee he was pretty sure there was more coffee than blood in his body right then. 

“So are we gonna talk about what happens next?” he asked Derek, whose eyes were closed, but his breathing was too shallow for him to actually be sleeping. 

He was proven right when Derek answered. “There’s nothing to talk about.” 

“Not wanting to talk about it is not the same thing as there being nothing to talk about,” Stiles countered. “How long do you think we’ll have to keep this up, for starters?” 

“Knowing Bianca, forever.” 

Stiles tried not to be exasperated, but Derek was being pessimistic. As usual. To be fair, his life hadn’t exactly been sunshine and rainbows, so he couldn’t say he was particularly surprised by the pessimism, especially since yet another woman was after Derek because he was pretty. 

Kate, Jennifer, Bianca. Derek never got a break. 

Probably why he’d been getting with men the past few years. For someone with Derek’s history, it probably felt safer. 

It occurred to Stiles that, as much as Derek had been lying on the couch snoozing all day, he’d probably also been thinking about everything that had happened that morning. About how his life had changed yet again to something beyond his control. Sure, they’d done it for his benefit, but Derek was now stuck pretending Stiles was his mate for the foreseeable future, and it hadn’t escaped Stiles’ notice that he still hadn’t spoken to that Greg person.

He probably didn’t know what he’d have to trade, and considering Derek’s shitty luck, it wouldn’t be anything he was willing to give up.

“So I’m gonna be living here for a while, then,” Stiles said. 

“Looks like,” Derek replied. He was still lying on the couch with his eyes closed, one arm thrown over his head and the other across his stomach. He looked like he was almost bored, but Stiles knew he was thinking. 

“We’re gonna need to actually do this properly then, because no way am I living here with you without a fan in the middle of summer.” 

“Fine, we’ll go buy one,” Derek said heatedly. 

“I’m also gonna need a real workstation,” Stiles mused to himself, looking around. “The table’s fine for now, but if I’m staying for a while, it’s gonna get old real fast.” 

Fine, we’ll grab a desk from the store later.” 

“Do you have a preference on which side of the bed you like sleeping on? I’m not really big on not being against a wall, so I figure I should be furthest from the stairs or I’ll wake up all the time, which will probably bug you.” 

Derek jerked upright, half-startling Stiles, and turned to glare at him angrily. “Is this all a fucking game to you? We are in trouble, Stiles! These people are not going to take no for an answer, and now they’re going to come after you! What the fuck were you thinking?!” 

“Why does it matter now?” Stiles demanded. “You didn’t have any complaints when it was Lydia.” 

“Lydia knows when to keep her mouth shut! You’re a walking time-bomb! I never know what’s going to come out of your mouth, and this morning is proof of that! Stiles, they were in your house! They knew you meant something to me and they went after you! What if I hadn’t been on my way over already? I wouldn’t have made it in five minutes! And what then?!” 

“You act like I needed your protection,” Stiles said almost coldly. “You remember who I work for, right? You remember that you were stuck outside the house and I got myself out of the situation on my own, right?”

“And how long did it take before you did?” Derek demanded. “You waited, because you can’t stand not having all the answers! You always need to know everything, and it’s going to get you fucking killed!” 

“Why are you acting like this situation is any different than the countless others we’ve been through together?” Stiles asked, getting frustrated with Derek’s unreasonable tone. “Yes, fine, you’re going to be stuck living with me for a while, but it’s not like we don’t spend most nights together anyway. I usually wake up and step on your dumb face because you’re camped out on my floor, and it’s not like I haven’t passed out here before and woken up in your bed. So what, now that we have to spend time together on purpose instead of by accident, it’s a hardship?” 

“You don’t understand,” Derek bit out. 

“You’re right, I don’t understand!” Stiles threw his arms in the air. “They were gonna take you, Derek! They were gonna take you away from us! Did you honestly think we were going to let them, that I was?”

“And now they’re going to take you away from me if we fuck this up!” Derek shouted in his face. 

Testament to how often he was on the receiving end of Derek’s anger, Stiles barely reacted. He just blinked, seeing the blue tinge in Derek’s irises, the way his words slurred ever so slightly, suggesting he had fangs beginning to peek through. This wasn’t Derek angry, not really. This was Derek hiding fear behind anger, because he didn’t want anyone to know how he was really feeling. 

It was something they were still working on, the whole being open and honest about feelings. 

“We’re not gonna fuck this up,” Stiles promised calmly. “Look at what happened at the house. We can do this, you and me. We’ve gotten through worse, this is just another one of those things we have to get through. It’s different than our usual plans, but we’ll figure it out.” He nudged one knee against Derek’s, offering him a smile. “Come on, pretending to be my mate isn’t so bad.”

“I can’t lose another pack, Stiles.” Derek was staring at him exceptionally hard. “I can’t lose you. You know what that’ll do to me.” 
Stiles did know. He’d known for four years what losing him would do to Derek. Not like it had gone unnoticed after all these years that Derek didn’t rely on his anger anymore. He and Derek had been forced to have a rather uncomfortable conversation when Derek freaked out at him over something mundane, and that was when it came out Stiles was his anchor. 

They both knew what that would mean if something happened to Stiles, the same way it had happened to Scott after Allison. And Derek didn’t trust many people to help him through finding a new anchor, not even Scott. Stiles knew he was the only one Derek truly trusted, it was why he also knew that this whole plan would only work with him.

Him having a crush on Derek aside, he was the only person Derek trusted alone with him when he was unconscious. The more he thought about it, the more ridiculous it was that they’d thought it could work with Lydia. 

“You won’t,” he promised. “This is just like anything else we’ve been through. We’re just gonna be, uh, you know, closer. Which is why I wanted to set some ground rules.” Stiles nudged his knee again. “We’re gonna get through this, Derek. You and me, we’ll be okay. But I wasn’t going to let them take you without a fight, and they’re not gonna come at me if you let other people know I’m your mate. Deaton said it’s bad form, so all we have to do is make it real until they back off. They left you alone for years on end, they’ll get bored of this game eventually and move on. Okay?” 

Derek was still staring at him exceptionally hard but he eventually shifted his gaze away and nodded once, stiffly. Stiles nodded back, patting the grumpy lug’s knee and shifting a bit closer. 

“Okay, so like I was saying, ground rules. I know me and personal space aren’t friends, but this is going to be stretching the boundaries a little bit, especially for you since you’re not exactly big on touchy-feely shit.” 

“I’ll live,” Derek muttered. 

Well, it was about all Stiles could hope for, if he was honest. 

“Right. So I’m assuming we’re gonna be watched more often than not, which means hand-holding’s probably gonna have to be a thing in public.” 

“Kissing too,” Derek grunted, leaning back and crossing his arms almost defensively. He clearly wasn’t interested in having this conversation, but it needed to be had. “Shouldn’t be hard. Like you said, you’ve never been good with personal space.” 

“That is an advantage,” Stiles agreed with a smirk. “But like I also said, I know you’re not exactly Mr. Handsy, so I really want to make sure we set clear boundaries.” 

He could see the way Derek’s shoulders relaxed a little more at those words, like he was relieved Stiles recognized he still wasn’t super great at the whole intimacy thing. This especially would be a bit of a challenge because for one thing, they weren’t actually dating, and for another, Stiles would never want to use this situation as a means to act on his own feelings for Derek. 

He really wanted to make sure that he knew what was and wasn’t okay, and where he had to draw the line. The last thing he wanted to do was make Derek uncomfortable, and he definitely didn’t want to ruin their friendship. Stiles was the only person Derek trusted explicitly, and he wasn’t going to risk betraying that trust. 

“Hand-holding,” Derek confirmed with a nod, leaning forward again and folding his hands together, resting them between his knees, forearms on his thighs and bringing him fairly close to Stiles. “Kissing. I don’t mind if you get overzealous about it but maybe—leave the actual kissing to me.” 

Stiles nodded, because that made sense. He could kiss Derek’s face or hands or whatever if he wanted, but any kind of actual lip-locking he wanted to control. Stiles was cool with that, he didn’t think they’d really be doing much of that overall anyway. 

Realistically, at the end of the day, they wouldn’t be acting much different than they normally did. That was the advantage of this being Stiles over anyone else in the pack. 

Derek still looked worried, but Stiles knew it was about him. About losing his anchor. He honestly didn’t think these people would be dumb enough to come after him if it meant causing a war with their pack. They already had enemies to the north, racking up more of them while trying to defend their territory sounded like stupidity to him. 

When he opened his mouth to insist, again, that this would all be fine, Derek suddenly stiffened just as Stiles heard a loud pop. They both turned to look towards the second floor, where Derek’s bedroom was, but said nothing. 

Floorboards creaked overhead and then someone came down the stairs. Neither of them moved as they watched, Bianca making her way down the spiral steps with Christian on her heels. It made sense, since he seemed to be the one teleporting people around, and she clearly wanted some time with Derek. 

She paused when she saw them, as if not having thought Stiles would be there—which made him happy that he was—but it also occurred to him what they looked like. Derek was sitting on the couch, facing Stiles who was seated on the coffee table, but they were both exceptionally close. Stiles had one knee between Derek’s legs, and Derek had one between Stiles’ because of the way they were sitting. And given Derek had leaned forward during their conversation, he and Stiles were almost... intimate. 

Which worked out well, considering. 

“You usually invite yourself into other people’s homes?” Stiles asked when no one spoke for a bit too long. “It’s quite rude.” 

“Stiles,” Derek insisted, clearly wishing he could just tape his mouth shut. 

It wasn’t like Stiles was wrong! It was rude to just pop in and out of someone’s place without their consent. That was why doors had been invented, to keep out unwanted guests. 

And doorbells were created to warn people about unwanted guests so they could pretend not to be home. 

“I can see you’ve made yourself quite at home here,” Bianca said coldly to Stiles. 

He arched an eyebrow. “You can see I’ve made myself at home in my boyfriend’s loft? How observant of you.” 

Hilariously, that was sheer dumb luck and a solid friendship. Did Derek’s room smell like Stiles? Yes. Yes it did. Was it because they were dating? Stiles wished, but no. It was because he passed out at Derek’s a lot doing research and Derek dumped him unceremoniously onto his bed so he didn’t destroy his spine sleeping like a contortionist on his couch—Derek’s words, not his. 

Did Stiles have clothes at Derek’s place, and a toothbrush? Yes he did, because again, sometimes he passed out there and it was always good to have spare underwear. One never knew when a trip to the hospital was going to happen in his line of—life? Either way, Stiles was not going to get stuck admitted to the hospital wearing his laundry day underwear, that was just embarrassing. 

Actually, now that he thought about it, he had a lot of stuff at Derek’s... It explained why packing a bag hadn’t taken him long that morning. 

It was just convenient! Sure Stiles liked his place, and living with his dad rent-free at his age was pretty baller, but his dad was still a cop, and his dad. Even though Stiles was an adult now, he seemed to forget that sometimes and reamed him out when Stiles went drinking before remembering he was allowed to now. Besides, it was different, hanging out in the loft with Derek. He didn’t know, he just liked it. 

“Did you need something?” Derek asked before Bianca could tear Stiles’ face off. She did flash amber eyes at him, but Stiles just rolled his own at her attempt to intimidate him and turned back to Derek. 

He noticed he’d shifted a little bit. Not obviously enough to be something anyone else would call him on, but Stiles knew him really well, and he’d angled his body a bit more towards Bianca and to the side, like he was ready to jump in front of Stiles at a moment’s notice if anything sharp or magic-like went flying in his direction. 

“I can’t come visit with an old friend?” Bianca asked, moving forward more and looking around in what was clearly feigned interest. 

“Old friends usually use the door,” Stiles said dryly. 

“Stiles,” Derek insisted, giving him an annoyed look. Stiles thought about what Derek had told him earlier, about how he didn’t know when to keep his mouth shut and he conceded defeat, rolling his eyes again and sighing. 

“I’m making coffee,” he informed the room at large, getting to his feet. “Since I didn’t get a wink of sleep last night. And not because I had a fun time,” he said coldly, turning to glare at Christian, who was still at the base of the stairs. When the man just stared back at him, Stiles figured he wasn’t going to get a reaction and turned back to Derek. “Coffee?” 


Stiles turned back to Christian. “Coffee?” 

The man shook his head so Stiles focussed on Bianca next, who was over by Derek’s bookshelves, but she’d turned to look at him, one hand running along the spines like she could absorb the words by touching them. 

“Coffee?” he offered. 

“If you’d be a dear,” she said with a sickeningly sweet smile. 

Stiles was so going to spit in it.

Turning to head for the kitchen, he paused when Derek grabbed at his wrist and looked down at him. He looked nervous, like he thought they were about to try something, but Stiles wasn’t so sure. Clearly they hadn’t expected him to be there, planning on catching Derek alone—possibly in the lie—and had instead shown up to the two of them exceptionally close together having an semi-intimate conversation. It was clear they hadn’t scrambled to get into that position once they’d heard Christian arrive, because Bianca, being a Werewolf, would’ve heard them. 

And the fact that Stiles’ scent and clothes were all over the bedroom certainly didn’t hurt. 

Derek held on for a few seconds longer, then released him. Stiles offered him a small smile, then patted his arm lightly while passing him to head for the kitchen. He opened exactly the right cupboards, just to reinforce how many times he’d been in this particular kitchen, getting a fresh pot going and setting three mugs on the counter. He went to lean against the doorway to the kitchen when he was done, waiting on the pot to brew, and crossed his arms. 

Nobody had moved, Christian still by the stairs, Bianca watching Derek from the shelves, and Derek’s head turned towards the kitchen from his position on the couch. His shoulders seemed to relax when Stiles came back into view, like he thought he was in danger alone in the kitchen. 

To be fair, Stiles may have almost set the kitchen on fire once.

Or twice. 

He’d been tired, all right! He’d forgotten tin foil and microwaves were not friends! Things happened sometimes when he was sleep-deprived and hungry! 

“This is a positively titillating conversation,” Stiles informed them all. 

Bianca offered him another condescending smile and turned to Derek. “What was his name again?” 

“Stiles,” Derek replied, glancing at her. “Stilinski. His father is the town sheriff.” 

“Really?” She looked over at Stiles. “Big FBI agent with a cop dad. How cute.” 

“I’m actually an research analyst,” Stiles informed her with his own mocking smile. “I find things real good.” 

“Fascinating,” she said, not sounding fascinated at all. “Weren’t you just an annoying little boy a few years ago?” 

“I mean, I was an annoying little boy yesterday. As I recall, everyone thought I’d be taller and you’re never too old to be annoying,” he informed her, turning to check on the coffee. Maybe he shouldn’t have offered her coffee. For one thing, he couldn’t actually spit in it, she’d hear him. For another, it now gave her the excuse to stay longer. 

Not that that was necessarily a bad thing. She’d probably have stayed anyway to grill them. Joke would be on her, Stiles talked a lot and Derek listened very well. Derek knew more about Stiles than Scott did, because he actually paid attention, even when he didn’t want to. 

And Stiles knew Derek because he’d made it a life goal to know him. It was the proudest item he’d ticked off his bucket list. 

To be fair, it was also the only thing on his bucket list, but nobody had to know that. 

“Last time you wrote to Rebecca, I seem to recall you saying you wished the moronic human would just die already.” Bianca smiled pleasantly at Derek, seeming happy to be sharing such kind words. 

It was clear she was expecting a reaction from either Stiles, or both of them, but neither of them rose to the bait. Derek had wished for him to die as many times as Stiles had wished for Derek to die. Back at the beginning, anyway. That had been a very, very long time ago though. 

“You and Rebecca must not keep in touch,” Derek informed her. “I haven’t wished for Stiles to die in close to eleven years.” 

That made sense to Stiles, that was about when he stopped asking Scott to let Derek die. To think, it had taken them a whole year to stop wishing death on each other. They were a match made in heaven, clearly. 

“Still wish he had a mute button though,” Derek muttered. 

Stiles smirked. “Love you too, babe.” He winked at him, then turned back to check on the coffee and moved to the pot to pour their cups. He knew Derek liked his with two sugars and Stiles himself liked it as black as he could possibly get it. He didn’t know what Bianca liked, but he also didn’t care, so he just brought the three cups out together, holding two handles in one hand and the last in the other. 

He handed Derek his first, who nodded a thanks and took a sip of it. Wandering over to Bianca, he held the other cup out to her, taking a large swallow of his own and burning himself in the process. He didn’t care, he needed the caffeine, he was starting to feel tired again. 

Bianca gave him a sarcastic smile while taking the cup and then leaned back against the bookshelf. Stiles turned to head back for the couch, sitting down beside Derek and bringing both legs up to cross them under himself, knee pressed against Derek’s thigh. 

Derek put one hand on his leg, almost unconsciously, thumb rubbing lightly against the material of his pants. Stiles could barely feel it through his jeans, but it was one of those things Derek always seemed to do. Whenever he had one hand on Stiles, regardless of the setting and who was around, he always brushed his thumb lightly back and forth. It was kind of adorable, and Stiles had noticed him doing it earlier that morning, when he’d had his arm around him, thumb brushing against his collarbone. 

“How’re your peace talks going?” Stiles asked, since nobody else seemed to be moving the conversation along. 

“My uncle’s working on it,” Bianca said, moving forward and not having taken a sip of her coffee, like she thought it was poisoned. 

Damn, Stiles totally could’ve done that, why hadn’t he thought of it? 

“So you’re just,” Stiles shrugged, “what? Sticking around town for the scenery?” 

“It’s not safe to return yet,” Bianca said, affecting a surprised tone. “Would you have us go back to our territory when we face enemies to the north?” 

“I mean—New York’s pretty far. You could probably make your way there relatively slowly if you really wanted to. I heard the drive is quite nice, lots of touristy bullshit to see along the way.” He pointed the index finger of the hand holding his mug at her. “Also, is it wise to leave your territory unguarded? If you’re here, who’s holding the borders? Seems risky to me, and like an invitation to get overrun, but what do I know about Werewolf territory disputes, I’m just a human.” 

He offered her a brilliant smile before taking another loud sip of his coffee. Her expression had turned a bit stony, and Stiles had to wonder how much of this was honestly about the other pack, and how much was just Bianca wanting Derek. 

“I’m surprised you ceded your territory, Derek,” Bianca said, changing tactics and shifting her focus to him. “Didn’t realize you had such little regard for the land your family fought to keep.” 

Stiles scowled at that, not liking that she was taking a jab at Derek, but he didn’t seem to mind, shrugging one shoulder easily. “I’m not an Alpha anymore. Scott was the logical choice, this is his home, and he’s an Alpha.” 

“You trust him with your land?” she asked with a scoff. 

“No, but Stiles does. And I trust Stiles.” 

Stiles shifted his gaze slightly to look at Derek. He seemed completely sincere in his response, and it had never actually occurred to him before that Derek only trusted Scott to hold his family’s territory because Stiles trusted him to. That was a lot of trust to put on someone who didn’t have fangs or claws, but he supposed it made sense. After all, if Scott fucked up, Stiles was always the one there to clean up behind him. 

Bianca seemed to have lost her patience then, because she let out an annoyed half-snarl and took a step forward. 

Derek was on his feet instantly, coffee gripped tightly in one hand and the other out behind himself, as if warning Stiles back while he shifted to block him from Bianca’s direct line of sight. 

“He’s human,” Bianca insisted, though she didn’t advance any further. “Even that girl would’ve made more sense, she’s something. But him? What does he know about anything?” 

Derek was silent for a moment, then said, without turning, “Stiles, how many teeth does a Wendigo have?” 

He cocked an eyebrow. “Sixty-four, why?”

“How are Ghouls created?” 

Stiles didn’t understand. What was happening? “Usually when an evil spirit possesses a corpse. Alternatively, if monster blood is injected repeatedly over the course of several days into a living person but that’s gross and bad so we don’t like that.”

“What’s a Jinn?” 

“In what sense? Literal or romanticized?”


“Really fucking mean,” Stiles said, still bitter. He’d been tricked into believing Jinn were kind of like genies, but nope! Just spirits who liked to possess people and fuck with them. Stiles didn’t like spirits that possessed people, he had a bit of a sore spot about spirits possessing people! 

“More specific?” 

“Spirits? Like, high ranking spirits in the grand scheme of things? Like to possess people, be a bit trickster-like when they’re feeling like fucking with people. Definitely do not grant wishes like promised in stories.” 

Still. Bitter. 

“What harms a Hellhound?” 

“Lydia Martin.” 

Derek turned to give him an annoyed look and Stiles shrugged. 

“What? She broke his heart, it counts. Still insist she’s in love with him though, they really need to have a talk.” 


Sighing explosively, he said, “Daylight hours, mostly. Human host in control, harder for the Hellhound to do its own thing. What is this, a Supernatural test? Am I being graded on this? What do I get if I score one-hundred percent?” He smirked at Derek. “Do I get a prize later?” 

Derek smirked back. “Maybe.” 

Oh that was just mean. Stiles had walked into that one though, his own fault. 

When Derek turned back to Bianca, Stiles realized what he’d been doing. She was offended a human had caught Derek’s interest because what did he know about the Supernatural world? A fucking lot, actually, and Stiles was annoyed she thought he was too stupid to pick up a fucking book. 

Leaning around Derek slightly, he said, “I can also name every single part of most firearms, know what all police codes stand for, can hot-wire a car, break into a safe, am a master of distraction, and can name every hot pepper on the planet in order of spiciness, though that last one probably isn’t pertinent to this conversation unless you’re interested in my dad’s chili recipe.” 

As pissed as Bianca was about this whole thing, it was obvious one of her main arguments about Stiles was that he wasn’t something. He was just a plain, boring human and she’d been banking on that as a foot in the door. Derek had obviously known that was what she was trying, and instead of arguing the point with her, he’d just given her a demonstration. 

Stiles really wished the prize at the end was a real thing, he’d have liked that. 

“If you’ve seen enough for one day, you can go now,” Derek said, rather coldly. “If you’re thinking of trying anything, just know that if any of you touch Stiles, your attacking pack from the north will be the very least of your worries.” 

Stiles glanced at Christian when he made an interested sound, but he was looking at Derek, then turned to Bianca. For a long moment, nobody moved, Derek still standing in front of Stiles with one hand angled back to make sure he stayed where he was. 

After an age, Bianca set her coffee down on one of the shelves and moved towards Christian, turning to glance at the two of them. 

“You’ll slip up eventually,” she informed them. “Jethro may be fooled, but no human would ever allow themselves to be bound to a wolf for life. It just isn’t normal.” 

“I’m about as abnormal a human as you can get,” Stiles told her pleasantly. “Oh an uh, can you knock next time? I don’t want you catching my boyfriend naked if I decide I feel like blowing him after dinner.” 

Bianca’s smile tightened then, but she turned to Christian and jerked her head roughly in a, “Let’s go,” sort of way. Christian’s hands glowed, Stiles turning to look at Derek to avoid getting blinded, but he saw the Werewolf’s eyes locked on them until there was a loud pop and they disappeared. 

There was silence for a long moment, then Derek finally turned to look at him. 

“You have an oral fixation or something?”

“I mean, yeah,” Stiles said with a confused look. “Have you never noticed? I literally have something in my mouth all the damn time. Usually your cock, but that’s neither here nor there.” 

Derek frowned, opening his mouth to ask what the fuck he was talking about, but Stiles just glanced past him at the bookshelf. 

Bianca had been lingering there for quite a while, and Derek had spent more time looking in Stiles’ direction than anyone else’s. He didn’t trust that she hadn’t bugged the place somehow, so it’d probably be safest if they didn’t have any suspicious conversations until he could do a sweep.

He was tired, and really didn’t want to have to do one, but a part of him also thought that perhaps electronics wouldn’t be the only thing at play here. Maybe the idea was that Bianca’s presence would have them both think it was something electronic, when Christian had actually done something with magic. 

Stiles hated magic. 

“Wanna go out for dinner?” he asked instead. 

“Sure. The usual?” 

“Yeah. I deserve a burger after the past twenty-four hours. You’re paying.” 

“Don’t I always?” Derek asked with a snort. 

Not a lie. 

Sometimes, Stiles wondered if they weren’t actually dating and no one had told them... 

When Stiles’ alarm went off the next morning, it startled five years off his lifespan. He attributed it to the insanely deep sleep he’d been in, considering he’d had forty-eight hours to catch up on, probably more knowing his sleep schedule. 

After dinner, wherein he and Derek had quietly discussed the possibility of the loft being bugged, either electronically or magically, they’d returned home so they could both get some much needed sleep given neither had had much of it the past two days. 

Stiles had showered and promptly passed out in Derek’s bed, waking up only briefly when the Werewolf joined him before falling unconscious once more. He’d slept like a rock up until his alarm went off at five forty-five, ringing shrilly and forcing him back to consciousness. 

He tried to roll over to grab his phone and shut the alarm off, but found himself unable to. It took his muddled brain a few seconds to figure out why and he eventually realized there were arms wrapped around his middle. 

This wasn’t new, Derek was a cuddler. It was actually kind of adorable, though had definitely been a little awkward the first time Stiles had woken up to the Werewolf pressed into him from behind, holding onto him like he never wanted to let him go. Not because it hadn’t been pleasant, quite the opposite, actually. A little too pleasant. 

Groaning and burying his face in his pillow, Stiles just lay there while his alarm went off, Derek still holding onto him and clearly not at all bothered by the loud alarm wailing angrily at them. 

“Derek,” Stiles said, voice thick with sleep. He pulled his face out of his pillow, reaching back to slap insistently at him. “Derek, let go. I have work.” 

Said individual just groaned and tightened his grip, face buried in Stiles’ spine and rubbing his beard against his skin. 

“Derek,” he said again, opening his eyes and starting to roll over. “Fucking Christ!” 

Derek jerked up instantly, eyes opening sleepily and then flashing blue a moment later. He rolled on top of Stiles, half-crushing him beneath his weight, and snarled viciously across the room while going into his Beta shift. 

Jethro didn’t seem perturbed, flipping idly through a book while leaning back against the railing beside the stairs, paying them absolutely no mind. 

“Seriously, are doors a foreign concept to you people?” Stiles asked, voice thick with sleep while he rubbed at his face, Derek still half on top of him. At this point, Stiles was more at risk of being suffocated by the guy’s considerable bulk than he was in any danger from Jethro, who’d probably been there for a while. “Derek, we’re moving.” 

“Get. Out,” Derek snarled. 

“That isn’t very polite, Derek.” Jethro shut the book he’d been reading, or pretending to read, and folded his hands around it in front of himself, eyes on the pair of them in bed. “I just thought you might like an update on my progress.” 

“There are phones for that,” Stiles offered. “Also email. And letters. Smoke signals?” He patted lightly at Derek’s side. “Derek? Babe. You’re crushing me.” 

Derek growled, but he did slide to the side a little bit so he was closest to the stairs. It occurred to Stiles that they’re started the night with him closest to the window and Derek by the stairs, and had somehow woken up with Stiles closest to the stairs and Derek by the window. He didn’t even want to know how that had happened, because it suggested he’d probably rolled overtop the Werewolf and that was embarrassing. 

“What are you doing here?” Derek demanded. 

“Providing an update, as I said. Why don’t you and I head out to breakfast, have a little chat. Your... mate—” Jethro practically sneered the word— “can survive a few hours without you, I’m sure.” 


There was a weird surround-sound kind of effect when Stiles realized both he and Derek had said the same word at the same time, probably for different reasons. Stiles was not letting Derek go off alone with these people, and Derek probably didn’t like the idea of leaving Stiles home by himself with a Warlock who could poof in and out of the loft as he pleased. 

“What do you think we’re going to do?” Jethro seemed annoyed. “I’m uninterested in discussing pack business with him present.” 

“I’m not an Alpha. If you have pack business, I can give you Scott’s number.” 

Jethro stared at him, clearly frustrated. Nobody moved for a long time until the alarm started to get annoying and Stiles leaned over Derek to turn it off. Derek wrapped a protective arm around him while he did so, as if worried Jethro would try something, but the Alpha just stood there and watched. 

With the alarm off, Stiles winced when he saw he had seven minutes left. He worked from home, he literally woke up with exactly enough time to get coffee and start working, but with the Werewolf battle happening, he doubted he would make it to his laptop and logged into the secure server on time. Maybe he should take a sick day. 

Evidently he’d been in Jethro’s immediate line of sight for too long, because Derek yanked him back and half-rolled over so Stiles was on his other side again, once more keeping himself between Jethro and Stiles. 

Stiles would’ve been annoyed about it if he didn’t know it was just Derek being Derek. He knew perfectly well that Stiles could take care of himself, but he was his anchor, and Derek had always, always been more overprotective of him when compared to anyone else. 

“Gregory has advised he is willing to negotiate,” Jethro finally said when it became clear Derek wasn’t going to leave with him. “He mentioned you had a brief chat with him yesterday.” 

“I did,” Derek confirmed, which was news to Stiles, because he hadn’t seen Derek chat with him at all. Must’ve been when Stiles had gone up to bed. “I told him that your pack is here to discuss an alliance with ours.”

“That isn’t all you mentioned.” Jethro’s smile was a bit tight. “Seems he’s aware of your unconventional relationship.” 

Ah, right. Derek had said he was going to mention that he was kind of mated in an attempt to ensure this Greg guy’s pack would back him up if he was taken by force. Stiles had to wonder what he’d promised them, since Derek had been worried about the price when it had first come up.

“I hear Greg’s second is looking for a mate,” Derek said, matter of fact. “Might not be a bad idea, having someone from your pack and theirs form a bond. Would certainly assist with any further territory disputes.” 

Jethro looked really annoyed, but Stiles was kind of impressed. Derek knew the territory was a huge issue for Jethro, and he was basically giving him a way out of losing it by suggesting the same thing Jethro claimed would help their chances with Derek. Namely, they have Derek mate with one of their pack members, and the other pack backs off because he’s a Hale and they respect him.

Now Derek was basically handing them a peace treaty by suggesting Jethro could have his niece mate with this other pack’s second. The problem was: that wasn’t what Bianca wanted. 

“This was never about the territory,” Stiles said, inspecting the clear annoyance on Jethro’s face. “You want Derek because it’s what your niece wants, not because it’s your only option. He’s not a piece of meat, you know,” he snapped. “He’s a good person, and he’s honourable, and caring, and kind. He’s more than a pretty face and a respected name and fuck you for acting like he’s a fucking Ken doll you can parade around!” 

For a long moment, Jethro said nothing, watching Stiles with mild interest. He didn’t seem put out at having been caught, and it was obvious the territory issue was still a concern, just not as pressing a concern as he’d made it sound. Evidently he’d been pushing for Derek to make his niece happy and was now probably frustrated he was going to have to go home empty-handed, listening to her bitch and moan at not getting what she wanted. 

“We can have breakfast,” Derek agreed quietly. “If you need to discuss your situation in detail. Stiles will go to the police station, and Scott will come with me, have a conversation Alpha to Alpha.” 

“Agreed,” Jethro said, sounding very not agreeable but apparently knowing when to let things drop. “Where would you suggest we meet?” 

Derek gave him the address for the diner closest to the police station and Jethro confirmed he’d be there in the next half hour. He turned to leave, looking a little strange going down Derek’s spiral steps. Stiles expected another pop, like Christian was just chilling downstairs, but surprisingly Jethro pulled open the door and then exited the loft like a civilized person. 

That was surprising. Also meant Derek needed to invest in better locks. 

“What a bag of dicks,” Stiles said when he was sure the Alpha was too far to hear. “Finding someone pretty should definitely not be the end-all factor for mating with them. Christ.” He rolled off the other end of the bed, since Derek was still blocking the side closest to the stairs, and stretched. 

“It’s about control for them,” Derek said quietly, Stiles walking around the bed so he could unplug his phone. He winced when he saw the time and figured he should call in today. Not like he didn’t have an obscene amount of vacation time since he... never took it. 

Now that he thought about it, he should take it more often when he needed sleep, but he liked having the option of having a large amount of time off in case he got like, kidnapped or something. 

Which was looking a bit likely in this current situation. That or severely mauled. 

“Controlling you will give them what?” Stiles asked, distracted since he was texting his boss. 

“If they can convince a mated Werewolf to leave their old pack and find a new mate, it makes them seem more powerful than they truly are.” Stiles paused, turning to look at Derek. “They could do that before, with Laura and I. When we were just a pack of two, it was easy to manipulate us, control the situation, get what they wanted. It wouldn’t be as impressive if people found out he’d gotten an Alpha mate from another pack of literally two wolves, but still, mating an Alpha, a Hale, would’ve been impressive. They lost that chance, so while I’m not an Alpha, being able to convince me to join them and leave my current pack and territory for a different mate would make them seem like a force to be reckoned with.” 

“Well, tough shit,” Stiles said, looking back at his phone. “You’re mine whether you like it or not. Sorry babe.” 

He finished up his text and set his phone back down, rubbing at his face and wondering if maybe he could grab breakfast with his dad. He honestly didn’t know if he was working right now or not. 

“Why do you call me that?”

Stiles dragged his hands the rest of the way down his face, turning to cock an eyebrow at Derek, who was scowling at Stiles’ phone like it had offended him. 

“Call you what?” 

Derek’s scowl deepened, if that was possible. “Babe. Why do you call me that?” 

He knew Derek wasn’t asking him why he was calling him that, because they still didn’t know if the place was magically bugged. He was more asking why he was calling him that specifically. 


Stiles hadn’t really thought about it, it was kind of just the first thing to come out of his mouth at the time this had all started. 

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “I mean, isn’t that what people call each other? Terms of endearment and whatever?” 

Derek made a face, still not looking at Stiles, and it occurred to him how Derek probably perceived it. Babe was kind of demeaning, regardless of who it was addressed to. It was something generally used specifically to describe someone who was attractive, and considering Stiles had literally just ripped into Jethro about Derek being more than his appearance, he could see why following up that conversation with that term might not be something Derek enjoyed. 

“I can call you Sourwolf,” he teased. 

That earned him an actual look, Derek staring up at him, unimpressed. 

“Honey? Darling? Lover? Oh, lover. I like that one. How’s lover?” 

“Stop talking,” Derek sighed, standing up and leaning forward to kiss Stiles’ cheek lightly. Probably just for show, magic bugs might allow for video. Or at least really good sound. 

“That wasn’t a no,” Stiles informed him while Derek dug through his drawers for some clothes, sweats riding low on his hips. “Derek, that wasn’t a no! I’m gonna do it. That’s gonna be it going forward.” 

“Get dressed, Stiles.” 

Stiles grinned, because even if Derek argued it later, that wasn’t a no. 

He felt like he was going to enjoy calling Derek lover. 

Stiles exited the car, looking up at the station while Derek climbed out of the back and slammed the door, moving up beside Stiles. He turned to look at the Werewolf, poking him insistently in the chest. 

“You go, you eat, and you come back. Understand? If you run off on me, I’ll hunt you down and nobody wants that.” 

“I might want that,” Derek said with a half smile. 

Stiles just snorted, but didn’t have the chance to say anything since Derek leaned forward and kissed him. It wasn’t a deep kiss, just one of those soft lips pressing against each other kind, but Stiles had noticed Derek seemed to linger a bit. They weren’t quick pecks, they were slow, like he was savouring the moment. 

It kind of made Stiles a little sad, because Derek always seemed so careful with the way he kissed him, and he imagined it must be really nice to be someone on the receiving end of one of those kisses for real instead of having to fake it in case someone was watching. 

“If you leave the station before I get back,” Derek said, one hand sliding down Stiles’ arm and closing around his, “I’ll fucking tear you apart.” 

“Kinky,” Stiles teased with a smirk. 

“I mean it, Stiles.” 

“Yes, yes. I won’t leave the heavily armed men and women of the police station of Beacon Hills,” he said, rolling his eyes. “You know I won a shoot-out against Parrish, right?” 

“How anyone thought it was a good idea to let you carry a sidearm, I’ll never know.” 

“Take it up with my superior,” Stiles said with a grin, leaning forward to kiss at the corner of Derek’s mouth, since that was the agreement. Lip-locking was Derek’s territory. The rest of his face was fair game. 

Turning away from him and bending down to look through the passenger-side window, he pointed a finger at Scott, Derek still holding his other hand. 

“You come back without him, you might as well not come back at all.” 

Scott rolled his eyes and shooed him away. Stiles wasn’t exactly instilled with confidence at that easy dismissal, but he liked to hope Scott wasn’t going to get his boyfriend kidnapped. 

Nope, Stiles’ brain said quickly. Not your boyfriend. He is not your boyfriend.

Yikes, barely two days and already his mind was playing tricks on him. He hoped this didn’t last too long or he’d be delusional enough to think this was actually real. 

Turning away from the car so the other two could leave, Stiles felt another tug on his hand and turned, Derek pulling him back and reaching up with his free one to brush his thumb lightly along the sensitive skin beneath Stiles’ eye. 

“I’ll see you later.” 

“Why are you acting like you’re saying goodbye?” Stiles squinted at him suspiciously. “I swear to God, if you do something stupidly heroic and I have to go save your dumb ass—” 

“I won’t,” Derek promised, rolling his eyes. “I’ve had enough of your heroics to last a lifetime, I don’t need any more.” 

“If you’re not back in time for lunch, I’m tracking your phone,” Stiles warned, aiming to kiss the corner of Derek’s mouth again, but he turned his head at the last second so that Stiles caught his lips. He didn’t apologize, because for one thing, it was Derek’s own doing, and for another, it’d be insincere. 

He pulled away and Derek released his hand this time, letting him head for the station. Stiles climbed them quickly, nodding greetings to the few officers who called out to him. He paused at the door, turning to watch Derek climb into Scott’s car. It was obvious given he’d only just climbed in that he’d been watching Stiles walk away, like he was worried about the few steps between the car and the station swallowing Stiles whole or something. 

That was kind of why they’d opted to take Scott’s car. Well, Melissa’s. It was nondescript, harder to follow around town the way the Jeep or Camaro would be. Not that the other pack couldn’t still follow, but if a car chase started, it’d be easier for them to blend in with everyone else driving a silver sedan versus something as distinct as the Jeep or Camaro. 

Stiles watched them drive off and he couldn’t help how much it chaffed, having to hide out at the station like this. It wasn’t that he was helpless, he’d more than proven he could handle himself. The problem was the other side now knew that, and they had the advantage of claws and magic and all that other fun stuff. At the end of the day, Stiles knew Derek would never let him stay at the loft alone, just like Stiles would never have let him go to breakfast alone. 

This was the forced compromise. Derek had pro-actively agreed to take Scott with him so long as Stiles went to the station. Realistically speaking, that would’ve been the compromise Stiles came up with too, so it worked out that Derek knew him well enough to just go for it from the get-go. 

“That was quite the display.” 

Stiles jumped and whipped around, finding Daniel leaning back against the wall beside the doors. He hadn’t even noticed him, and wondered if he’d exited the precinct while Stiles had been distracted. He knew he hadn’t just popped into existence right there, he’d have heard it. 

“How much longer are you in town again?” Stiles asked impatiently, pulling open the door and stepping into the station. Daniel followed without a care, keeping in step with Stiles while he headed for the front desk. 

“He’s in love with you.” 

Stiles paused, turning to look at Daniel. Thankfully, the confusion was genuine, because he had no idea how to react to a statement like that. 

“Yeah, thanks,” Stiles said slowly. “Thank you for letting me know my boyfriend’s in love with me.” 

“You might have everyone else fooled, but not me, kid.” Daniel crossed his arms over his chest, looking unimpressed. “You want to know why it worked on the others?” 

Stiles said nothing, because anything that came out of his mouth would be incriminating. 

“Because you don’t have to pretend to love someone if you actually love them.” 

This—was a very confusing and dangerous conversation. Especially with Derek out of sight right now. Sure he was with Scott, but that didn’t exactly instill a lot of confidence. They were two Werewolves. If they got ambushed, Derek was gone. 

“Look,” Daniel said with a sigh, shifting his weight slightly and keeping firm eye contact with Stiles, “I’m not here with any underlying agenda. Our Alpha wanted Derek, he sent Merlin and I to your place to smoke him out. Weakest link, because that’s what humans are.” 

Stiles turned his head slightly, checking the distance between them and the front desk where Johnson was working. They were far enough away that he shouldn’t have heard anything. 

“But you’re not just any human, are you?” Stiles focussed back on Daniel. “You’ve been in this life a long time. Didn’t even flinch when the gun was at your head. Didn’t hesitate to disarm me. Mouthed off at everyone. I like that. I like people who can get out of a tough situation by using their head. I went after you because I was told to, but I’m not the only one in the pack who knows forcing Derek’s hand isn’t going to go over well with other packs.” 

“If you know it’s wrong, why are you doing it?” Stiles demanded, choosing to focus on that instead of anything else Daniel was saying. 

“Alpha’s word is law.” Daniel shrugged easily. “Bianca’s his niece, and she wants what she wants. Jethro wants to give it to her, because she’s like a daughter to him, but he’s at the end of his rope and he’s risking his territory and solid allies with the McCall pack to do it. It was a good idea when it was Laura. Hale only in name, new Alpha, strong, dependable, gorgeous. Did he manipulate her into the agreement by threatening her brother? Yes, he did,” Daniel admitted. “But he can’t do that with Derek, and he knows it. If he can get an honest to God alliance with your pack, and he and Gregory can discuss borders and Bianca mates with his second, problems across the board are resolved.”

“Maybe someone should tell Jethro that,” Stiles said dryly. “Like oh, I don’t know, his Emissary?” 

“Why do you think he was at Derek’s this morning?” Daniel asked, sounding annoyed, like Stiles wasn’t keeping up. “Gregory’s second mating Bianca is likely going to be a challenge, mostly on our side, but Jethro can get it done if he honestly wants the pack to survive this. But the borders are going to be a problem, and Jethro knows Derek has an in with Gregory.” 

Stiles thought back to what Derek had said, about the price. He knew Derek had already paid it, whatever it was. He just hoped it was worth it. And it sure as shit better not have been Derek himself, or Stiles was going to be really, really pissed. 

“So if everything is falling into place and we’ll all live happily ever after, why are you here?” Stiles asked. “Shouldn’t you be at breakfast with your Alpha?” 

“I’m here to tell you not to fuck this up.” 

“How am I going to fuck up a discussion I’m not even part of?” 

Daniel stared at him, then inhaled slowly, reaching up to pinch the bridge of his nose, clearly trying for patience. “Forget what I said about you being smart. Look kid,” he dropped his hand, “Derek is in love with you. And with the display outside, you’re clearly in love with him. Nobody is that good of an actor.” 

“Have you seen Idris Elba?” Stiles asked. 

That earned him an unimpressed look. “Once everything is settled on our side, things will go back to normal on your side. I’ve known Derek for a long time. Maybe not as well as I used to, but I remember what he was like before, and I can see how much he’s changed from that angry, scared, lost Werewolf who just wanted to find a place for himself. They say home is where the heart is and that man’s heart,” Daniel reached out and poked at Stiles’ chest, “is with you. So when this all blows over, maybe consider why he can kiss you so easily, why he sticks close to you, protects you. Don’t know how much you know about mates kid, but if you aren’t his, then I don’t even know which way is up anymore.”

Stiles opened his mouth to say something, but no words came out. He honestly didn’t know what was going on. Daniel had been an asshole to him not two days ago. Held him at gunpoint, said rather rude things to him, lacked tact when talking about Laura to Derek. And now he was here, in the station, having a conversation with him about how Stiles and Derek were clearly not dating but should be. 

It really made him wonder if Daniel’s gruffness wasn’t all for show, something he felt he had to put on in front of his own pack to be treated as something... more. After all, he was an Emissary, but that barely ranked above human in most people’s books. And he’d called Christian ‘Merlin,’ so clearly they weren’t exactly friends. Maybe Daniel had known from the beginning that Stiles and Derek weren’t mates, but he hadn’t called them on it because he didn’t see a reason to. He followed orders, and nowhere in his orders was he told to divulge what his honest opinion was on Derek and Stiles being mates. 

And even if he had been ordered to, maybe what he’d just said now was true. They were basically together in every way except officially, so it was easy when someone asked if they were mates for him to answer by saying he believed they were definitely made for each other. 

But that was still crazy. He didn’t know Stiles at all. He barely knew Derek, they hadn’t spoken in literal years! How could he just... know

“See you around, kid. Looking forward to our alliance. Never worked with a Hellhound before, should be interesting.” 

Stiles was still standing there with his mouth open when Daniel turned and left the station, disappearing down the steps while the door closed slowly behind him. He actually looked a little different somehow as he walked away. Like he felt lighter, a weight lifted off his shoulders. 

Maybe Derek wasn’t the only one who’d made a friend in that pack. Maybe... Laura had, too. And maybe Daniel had promised her he’d look out for her brother somehow. 

Stiles remembered the contradiction on his face when he’d been speaking about Laura. How his expression had been cold but his eyes had betrayed how he truly felt. Even if he hadn’t promised Laura he’d look out for Derek, maybe a part of him felt like he owed it to her as a friend. Evidently she’d meant something to him, and Daniel was only doing what he thought was best for Derek in Laura’s absence. 

After all, he hadn’t gotten Stiles to say anything incriminating, and if that was the reason behind his visit, he wouldn’t have left. He clearly just wanted to make sure Stiles knew what his opinion of their relationship was. Namely that he could tell they weren’t together, but should be. 

Maybe Derek’s friend Rebecca wasn’t the only one looking for an out from that pack. Maybe Daniel was looking forward to a change in the hierarchy too. And having an alliance with the McCall pack, and a peace treaty with Greg’s pack would mean changes he’d been waiting on for a long time. 

All speculation, but Stiles was pretty good at reading people. So maybe... 


He jumped and whipped around, Parrish frowning at him from the front desk, standing beside Johnson and holding a file in his hands. 

“Why are you just standing in the entrance like that?” 

“I—nothing.” Stiles looked back at the door, but Daniel was long gone. “It’s nothing. Uh, my dad working?” 

“Yeah, in his office.” 

Stiles nodded and moved past him, heading for the sheriff’s office. He knocked lightly on the jamb of his open door, the man looking up at him before pulling his glasses off and tossing them onto his desk. 


“Hey dad. You eat? We should grab a bite. Breakfast. On me.” Stiles thumbed over his shoulder, mind still racing and wondering what the actual fuck had just happened. 

“Sure, I could eat. As long as we don’t go to the diner.” The sheriff gave him a knowing look. 

Stiles stared at him for a long moment. “Derek told you.” 

“Called to warn me against you attempting to show up. Wants to make sure you’re not in sight in case things go south. Can’t say I’m too upset he wants to keep you safe.” He groaned while getting to his feet, wincing and rubbing at the base of his spine, muttering about getting old. “We can go to the coffeeshop down the block, they have some good muffins.” 

As much as he wanted to argue, he knew his dad wouldn’t let him within ten feet of the diner if Derek had told him about all this, so he just conceded defeat and followed his dad out of the station. They chatted idly about work while they walked, his dad informing him he wasn’t particularly happy to come home to find a disassembled Glock on his coffee table. Stiles had actually forgotten about that, a lot had happened in a short amount of time and he hadn’t exactly been thinking about the gun he’d taken apart. 

When they got to the coffeeshop, it only had one other person in it, the sheriff waving hello to them. Stiles vaguely recognized them, some old operator at the station who hadn’t lasted very long, and headed to the cash with his dad. 

He’d promised to pay, and he felt guilty for having tried to trick his dad into going to the diner instead of actually spending time with him, so he let him get whatever he wanted. Once they had their coffees and muffins, they went to sit in one of the back corners together. 

“How do you think things are going?” Stiles asked when they’d exhausted talking about anything but the deal going on right now. “You think things are going okay?” 

“Derek sounded pretty confident when we spoke,” the sheriff said, licking chocolate off his thumb. Stiles hadn’t noticed the pumpkin muffin he was eating had chocolate chips. Dammit. 

“When did he call you, anyway?” 

“Last night.” 

“Huh.” So Derek had called the pack attacking Jethro’s last night, and also his dad. That meant he’d already planned on having breakfast with Jethro this morning, or at least some kind of formal meal or meeting in general. 

Actually, now he wondered if Scott had also been called, because Stiles was in the bathroom when he showed up, but Derek hadn’t called him in the time they’d been together. He’d sent him a text, but considering what they were meeting for, it felt like more of a phone conversation. So it was almost like Derek had already planned all this out the night before, calling all the applicable parties to be ready for when Jethro showed up.

Not if, but when. And even this morning, Derek had known exactly what he wanted to say. He’d known Jethro would’ve been contacted by the other pack, and was ready to explain why he’d done it, as well as throwing in the fact that mating someone from his pack—Derek hadn’t said Bianca, but it was implied—to the other pack’s second would solve a lot of their problems. 

Derek had spent the entire day lying on the couch yesterday, pretending to sleep but not actually sleeping. He’d probably been thinking about the easiest way to get rid of the other pack quickly and safely. 

But... if he’d already had everything planned out, why had he bothered entertaining the discussion of their being pretend mates? Technically speaking, he could’ve just told Stiles he had an idea and they just had to stay close to each other until it was executed. If it was going to be resolved this quickly, why had he bothered with anything? 

He’d actually bought a fan. Before dinner the night before, when they’d left the loft after the visit from Bianca and Christian, Derek had bought a fan. He had no reason to if Stiles was only going to be sticking around for a few days. And he’d promised he’d get a desk. 

Why bother with a desk if Stiles was going home basically tomorrow? 

Daniel’s words came back to him, despite Stiles’ best efforts to keep them at bay. He didn’t want to think on them too much, because he didn’t want to set his expectations too high. He and Derek had been friends for years. Friends. He’d never once been given any indication that Derek was in love with him. Derek was terrible with feelings, but if he’d fallen for Stiles, surely he would’ve noticed. 

He worked for the FBI, for fuck’s sake, he wasn’t so God damn blind he’d have missed Derek freaking Hale, love of his life for the past eight years at least, loved him back. 

“I expect you to come ‘round for dinner at least twice a week,” his dad said, continuing a conversation that Stiles had clearly—and accidentally—tuned out of. 

“What?” he turned to him, confused, the two of them on their way back to the station by now. “What does that mean?” 

“It means,” the sheriff said, wrapping an arm around Stiles and pulling him into his side, “that your old man expects you to come ‘round for dinner at least twice a week. Derek can come, of course, but I don’t want you to stop coming by now that you’re moving out.” 

“Moving out?” Stiles repeated. “Dad, what are you talking about?” 

“You and Derek.” 

Had Stiles fallen into another universe or something? What was happening? 

“Dad, no, it’s not—” Stiles cut off, looking around. He didn’t want to risk it, and they were basically at the station by then so he just motioned for them to head inside, his father following him. When they got back into his office, Stiles shut the door and lowered his voice, sitting in a chair across the desk and inching it closer. “Dad, it’s not like that. It’s not real, we’re just pretending.” He hadn’t really explained everything in his quick text to his dad, only that things were going down and he had to live with Derek as his boyfriend for a while. But he felt he’d made it pretty clear it wasn’t real. 

The sheriff gave him a long, hard stare. “What do you mean you’re pretending?” 

“I mean we’re pretending,” Stiles insisted. “Derek needed a fake mate, and we’re so close that it kind of just—worked out.” 

“Worked out?” The sheriff crossed his arms, leaning back in his chair and raising his eyebrows slowly. “Is this a joke?” 

Stiles sighed. “What is that supposed to mean?”

His dad was giving him a calculating look, like he was trying to figure out if Stiles was fucking with him or not. He was most definitely not, because he was pretty sure if he and Derek were dating, he’d be the first to know. 

Because he’d be doing cartwheels and screaming that he was dating Derek in everyone’s face when they came too close to him. He’d probably buy one of those advertisement planes and everything. 

“You sleep over at his place,” his dad said. 

“Yeah, and I sleep over at Scott’s.” 

“Uh huh.” The sheriff crossed his arms. “How many spare sets of clothes do you have at Scott’s?” 

Stiles opened his mouth, paused, then shut it, thinking. How many spare sets of clothes did he have at Scott’s? He had to have some, right? Like, a shirt, at least? Maybe? 

“You got a toothbrush at Scott’s?” 

Stiles said nothing. 

“What about a spare phone charger, you have one of those at Scott’s? And do you keep your window unlocked for Scott? Because he usually uses the door, not the window. Only one person climbs into your room through the window, and it’s not Scott.”


“Pretty sure Werewolves don’t like turning their back on danger, but Derek seems to do that an awful lot for you. Only for you.” 

No seriously, wait

“And if he doesn’t, he’s putting himself between you and the danger. Has been for years. He knows you can take care of yourself, but it’s the wolf in him. Or so Parrish says.” 

Okay, but please, wait

“And I don’t know about you, but I’m fairly certain if you asked to kiss Scott, he definitely wouldn’t look the way Derek does when he kisses you. And he certainly wouldn’t be kissing you over and over again in front of your dad’s workplace. One kiss is for show, keeping up a facade. Two is stretching it, but maybe it’s just to be sure it’s believable. But what’s three, then? Why three times? And do you kiss in the loft? Why do you need to kiss in the loft? No one is there.” 

“They could be watching,” Stiles said, finally finding his voice. “They could—magic. Or-or cameras or something.” 

“Do you think couples are constantly kissing each other all the time behind closed doors?” his dad gave him a look, like he was questioning Stiles’ intelligence. 

Which, honestly: rude. Super rude. Stiles wasn’t dumb, he was just... slow to process. Or something. 

“Stiles, you’ve been dating Derek for well over a year. When I got your text, I’d just assumed you’d finally noticed.” 

Okay but, that all sounded super far-fetched. This was suspicious as fuck, okay! First Daniel, then his dad? Had someone cast a spell on them? Were they trying to make him slip up? Stiles wasn’t going to slip up! This was fake, he knew it was fake, he and Derek had set boundaries! There were boundaries! He wasn’t going to cross any lines and fuck it up, this was a trick! 

“No,” Stiles insisted. “It’s not—we’re not like that. Derek’s my friend, if he wanted more, he’d have—he’d have told me. Said something.” 

His dad snorted. “Yeah, because Derek’s a huge conversationalist.” 

Stiles shot him a look and the man gave him one right back. 

“I’m just saying, Stiles. There’s a reason those men showed up at our house. There’s a reason Derek sped to get to you. There’s a reason he didn’t immediately reject the idea of having a fake mate. Sometimes when you want something, you’ll take it in whatever manner the universe is willing to give it. Even if it’s just two days of playing pretend.” 

That was Stiles’ thought process. That was what Stiles had been thinking. Sure, he’d done the whole fake mates thing originally because it was necessary, but he couldn’t deny that he’d even admitted aloud that it wasn’t a hardship, pretending to be Derek’s mate. 

It wasn’t... it wouldn’t be a bad thing. And at least he’d have had this. Just this one moment where he could pretend, just for a little bit, that maybe he was actually worthwhile to Derek. That maybe Derek could look at him the same way he looked at other men. Like maybe Stiles was actually his type or something. 

Stiles jerked in his chair, knees hitting his father’s desk. He winced and reached into his pocket, pulling out his phone. 

It was a message from Derek. He and Scott were coming back to pick him up so they could head to Deaton’s and have a chat. 

He texted back that he’d wait outside and put his phone away, glancing up at his dad. 

The man stared back at him with a knowing look, and sighed in exasperation when Stiles just awkwardly got to his feet and left the office without another word. 

He wasn’t going to set himself up for failure like that. 

Clearly people were misunderstanding things. What did Daniel know? Nothing. He knew nothing.

As for his dad—well, maybe old age was finally catching up to him. 

Couldn’t be on the money all the time. 

“I’m actually surprised by how well it went,” Scott said excitedly, grinning from ear to ear. He always got like this, adorably excited, like a puppy, whenever things went according to plan. Which apparently this had, insofar as them being left alone, at any rate. 

The ride to the clinic had been conducted in silence, Derek smiling at Stiles when he exited the precinct, but it was obvious he knew something had happened. He didn’t ask about it, but Stiles noticed his shoulders getting more and more tense the longer they were silent in the car together, Scott driving them to his workplace. 

Scott hadn’t wanted to tell the story multiple times, so he’d called up the rest of the pack and told them to duck out early for lunch. Nobody but Lydia complained, because she hated using up all her free time on this ‘Supernatural bullshit’ when she could’ve gone for a massage or something during her lunch break. 

Alas, she was here. In the clinic. With everyone else. 

Derek had immediately moved to stand beside Stiles when they’d entered the back room. Not crowding him, but staying close. The same way he always did, like he wanted to make sure Stiles was within arm’s reach if he needed to grab him for whatever reason. 

“So they’re leaving?” Liam asked, stuffing a taco in his face and chewing loudly. Deaton didn’t look particularly pleased, but this was some people’s legitimate lunch break and Stiles figured he’d just get Scott to clean up any mess his Betas made in the room. 

“Jethro and Greg are still ironing out the kinks, but they agreed to mutual matings, trading one wolf per side to make things fair. Apparently one of the guys on Greg’s side is interested in one of the Spellcasters on Jethro’s so he’s agreed to join the pack. On the flip-side, Jethro’s promised one of his own to Greg’s pack for his second. It’s supposed to be Bianca, but I don’t know how easy she’s going to be to convince.” 

“Not our problem,” Stiles said, making a cutting motion. “As long as she leaves here empty-handed, that’s the goal.” 

“Yeah, they’re packing up and heading out in the morning. Jethro actually seemed kind of relieved, he wanted to get back to his territory before it got overrun.” 

“Shouldn’t have come out here then.” Stiles shrugged. “His problem. Seems like a bad Alpha.” 

“He was trying to do something for his niece,” Derek cut in, shifting his weight a bit in Stiles’ direction. “He figured he could kill two birds with one stone. Get me to help with the territory dispute, which I did without being in his pack, and find Bianca a mate, which I also did without offering myself up.” 

Stiles frowned, turning to him. “So what did you trade with that Greg dude to get him to agree to all this? Stop with the hostile takeover and all that.” 

“Knowledge.” Stiles arched an eyebrow and Derek sighed. “The vault? We have a lot of unique books and information down there. It’s not a secret we have one, but nobody knows where it is. Greg agreed to stop trying to take the land by force and come to a compromise on the borders with Jethro in exchange for some of the books he knows we have. I threw in the mates conversation as a bug in his ear, didn’t know for sure it’d stick, but his second has a crush on Bianca, and he’s not a bad guy. Good looking too, so should eventually appease her.” 

“You shouldn’t have done that.” Stiles scowled. “Those books belong to your family, they’re important.” 

Derek shrugged like it wasn’t a big deal. “Our pack is more important. I didn’t want to start a war over an agreement Jethro was twisting to his own devices.” 

“And photocopiers are a thing,” Liam cut in, licking taco sauce off his fingers and earning another disapproving look from Deaton. “We can photocopy or scan the books before sending them along, so it’s not like they’ll be lost, just not real books anymore.”

“That would be a good idea,” Deaton agreed, holding out a roll of paper towel to Liam, who took it with a nod of thanks. 

“So it sounds like everything’s worked out,” Lydia said, inspecting her nails and clearly irritated she was there when this could’ve been a phonecall. “Two days of lost sleep for nothing.” 

“I mean, we got allies out of it, so that’s not nothing,” Scott insisted. 

“But the danger’s passed?” she confirmed. “No one is going to throw Stiles into a dark basement and kidnap Derek in the middle of the night?” 

Scott opened his mouth to answer, but Derek beat him to it, turning to Lydia. 

“We don’t know that for sure yet. It would be beneficial for us to continue the ruse for now. Just in case.”

“But you said they were leaving tomorrow,” Lydia accused. 

“We don’t have any guarantees Bianca won’t try anything.” 

“That pack seems pretty big on listening to their Alpha,” Scott argued, sounding confused. “I don’t think—”

“I know them,” Derek cut in, turning to him. “It would be safer, for now, for the ruse to continue. Just for a while longer. A little while.” He turned to Stiles. “Right?”

Everyone was looking at him. Scott looked perplexed, but not annoyed. Lydia looked suspicious.

“Right,” Stiles agreed, nodding once, because Derek knew them better than anyone else in the room. “Yeah, of course. Just—like, a day or two.” 

“A week would be safer. Just in case,” Derek said. 

Stiles stared at him for a few seconds, then said, “Yeah, no. Sounds good. Yup.” What was he going to do, argue

“Okay,” Scott said slowly when silence reigned. “So we keep this up for another week. Until we hear from Greg about how things are going on their side of the country.” 

“Sounds good.” Derek reached out and wrapped one arm around Stiles’ shoulders, pulling him into his side, hand settling against Stiles’ collarbone and thumb rubbing unconsciously against his skin. 

Stiles was... confused. 

Very confused.


Jethro and the people who’d come from his pack left the following day, as promised. Scott was convinced the threat had passed but Derek wasn’t so sure so Stiles stayed at the loft with him. It wasn’t any different from normal, honestly. Stiles often hung out at the loft for days on end, there was just a bit more... touching. 

Not sexual touching, just regular touching. But still more of it than there used to be. 

Like Stiles making coffee in the morning, and Derek coming up behind him to start on breakfast, brushing his hand along the base of Stiles’ spine on his way by. Or when Stiles would wake up in the mornings and try and silence his alarm clock, only for Derek to hold onto him for dear life and nuzzle against his spine. Sure that was something Derek had always done, but he seemed to be holding on longer of late. So much so that Stiles had started setting his alarm earlier just to accommodate the octopus he seemed to be sharing a bed with. 

And Derek always found reasons to kiss him. His temple, his cheek, his shoulder, his hand. Whenever they were out, he always took Stiles’ hand in his, just in case. And when they watched movies, Derek always leaned into him, or pulled Stiles against him instead. Just in case. 

Just in case anyone was watching.

Just in case somebody saw them. 

Just in case

When the week was up, Scott had heard from Jethro, and Derek admitted to having heard from Greg. The territory had been discussed and hashed out. Neither side was particularly happy about it, but Greg had gained more than he previously had, and Jethro had lost less than he could’ve, so they’d both begrudgingly let the matter rest. 

The wolf on Greg’s side had gone over to Jethro’s for the mating ceremony, but Bianca was still resistant to being sent off to Greg’s pack, even though their pack was much larger and apparently wealthier. 

Scott was adamant that Bianca was aware Derek was off the table, no matter how many tantrums she threw—Jethro had promised, and with the shaky alliance with Scott, and Greg’s pack breathing down his neck, he wasn’t in a position to lie—but Derek wasn’t so sure. 

One more week, he’d insisted. Just one more. Just in case. 

Stiles was starting to struggle a little bit. He was getting too comfortable with Derek. Sleeping in his bed, having breakfast made for him, the temple kisses, the other soft kisses, Derek kissing the back of his hand when they were out in public... 

It was kind of a lot for him. And he couldn’t stop thinking about Daniel. About his dad. 

You don’t have to pretend to love someone if you actually love them.

That was what Daniel had said. And Stiles knew it was true for him. It had been so easy. So easy. Being Derek’s mate, bantering with him, pretending. Pretending. It had been easy, because it wasn’t really pretend for him, was it? 

Stiles was in love with Derek, and that made everything easy. Painful, because he wanted what he couldn’t have, but easy. 

And as crazy as it seemed, the longer everything stretched, the harder Derek seemed to be holding on. He kept finding excuses. They’d made sense, at first. Just in case. They made sense. 

But after the second week, they started making less sense. 

They should wait until Bianca was claimed, he’d said. Because once she was claimed, she would definitely leave them be. And maybe Stiles should actually move a few more clothes over. Just in case.

And Derek had bought him a desk. He’d cleared out an entire portion of the loft for Stiles’ workspace, had bought him a second screen to connect to his laptop. 

It started being a little less ‘just in case’ and a little more ‘please don’t leave.’ 

Stiles kept trying to figure out how to talk about it, but every time he thought he might do it, he worried that he was reading into it too much and he’d fuck things up between them. What if this was just Derek being lonely? What if he was used to having Stiles around and he wanted a roommate, but didn’t know how to ask? Derek was bad at asking for what he wanted. 

But then he always kissed him. In public and in private. Lingering kisses, something soft and sweet, like he was savouring them and not doing them just for show in case someone was watching. 

By the end of the fourth week, Stiles knew he couldn’t do this anymore. It was killing him, because he loved Derek so much, had for years, and this whatever that was happening hurt more than anything. Because he didn’t know. Daniel said Derek loved him, and his dad said they were dating, but if that was really true, why would they be continuing this facade? Why wouldn’t Derek have just said something? 

So that was how long Stiles lasted before he cracked. Before he couldn’t do it anymore. Because it was different from having and losing someone. This was pretending to have someone in his mind, and never truly having them, and when it went away, it was going to hurt twice as much, because he’d never get it back. 

The first day of week five, when Stiles woke up to his alarm blaring, he managed to extricate himself from a half-asleep, grumpy Werewolf and silenced it. He texted for another sick day, went downstairs, made coffee, and sat on the couch waiting for Derek. 

One way or another, he was going to get an answer today. 

And he’d just have to deal with the consequences, whatever they may be. 

Stiles stared down into his coffee, listening to the sounds of Derek slowly waking up upstairs. He always took a little while to get himself out of bed, Stiles usually already working by the time he came down to get breakfast started. Stiles always started the coffee, but Derek was the one who made breakfast. 

He liked to cook, said it felt therapeutic. After the life he’d had, Stiles couldn’t blame him for wanting to do something mundane like that. Derek also liked washing dishes and working on the Camaro, because those felt like things he could control, and for someone who’d spent a long time without much control over his own life, being able to do things like that probably helped him a lot. 

It took just over ten minutes for Derek to finally climb out of bed, Stiles listening to him open and close drawers before his footsteps sounded on the stairs. He knew the moment Derek spotted him on the couch, even though his back was to him, because the footsteps stopped before they hit the floor. 

Derek was silent for a long while, and then eventually descended the rest of the stairs—four of them, from Stiles’ count—before padding across the loft and around the couch, looking at Stiles somewhat apprehensively. 

“Everything okay?” 

“Yup.” Stiles thumbed towards the kitchen. “Wanna grab a coffee?” 

He could see Derek’s face slowly but surely beginning to lock down, like he was raising all his defences in preparation of whatever was coming. 

“Okay. You want breakfast?” 


That seemed to be the final shutter for Derek, because everything about him went on complete lockdown. Expression set to neutral, stance rigid and defensive, and motions jerky. 

He nodded once. Curt. Sharp. Final. 

Derek turned and strode to the kitchen, every muscle tensed, losing the relaxed gait Stiles had gotten used to over the past few years whenever they were alone together. 

Stiles listened while Derek poured himself a cup of coffee. Everything seemed too precise. He opened a cupboard, took out a mug, set it on the counter, closed the cupboard. He poured his coffee, put the pot back, opened a drawer, pulled out a spoon, closed the drawer. He grabbed the sugar, opened the jar, spooned some into his coffee, closed the jar. 

Then he stirred. And stirred. And stirred. Over and over and over again, endlessly. The sugar was dissolved, they both knew it was dissolved. But still he kept stirring. 

He was delaying the inevitable. They both knew it.

He wasn’t being subtle. 

Eventually, he stopped stirring. Stiles heard him put the spoon in the sink, run the water, turn it off. He picked up his coffee, and then silence. He was probably just standing there, in front of the sink, holding his mug. 

After at least a minute, Derek’s footsteps finally padded back across the loft, moving around the back of the couch. When he sat down, he took the cushion furthest away from Stiles, setting his mug on the coffee table and settling comfortably, half-turned towards him. 

Then they just stared at each other. 

Stiles knew he’d basically started this. He knew he had to be the first one to speak. He just didn’t really know what to say. 

Blurting out, “Are you in love with me?” sounded like a terrible idea. Similarly, saying, “I’m in love with you,” was equally bad in his opinion. 

So after a few awkward moments of silence, he finally settled on, “I can’t do this anymore.” 

“This?” Derek asked. Still stiff. Still defensive. 

Stiles just motioned silently between the two of them, coffee held in his other hand against his thigh. 

“Stiles, it’s just—”

“In case,” he cut off. “I know. It’s always been just in case. And that was fine. When ‘just in case’ made sense. But it doesn’t anymore, and I can’t do this anymore.” 

Derek looked like a statue in front of him. Like he wanted to say a million things, and nothing at all at the same time. His face was stony, but his eyes told a different story. 

He didn’t want this to end. This—whatever. This ‘just in case.’ 

This playing pretend. 

Stiles waited to see if he’d say anything. Argue, make excuses, fuck, anything

But he didn’t. 

Derek just sat there. 

Stiles had honestly forgotten that he still wasn’t good with feelings. Derek had never been good with feelings, but he was improving. Slowly. Little by little. 

Right now, he was back to day one Derek. Completely shut down, and unwilling to let the barest peek of himself through in case someone snatched at it and turned it around to hurt him. 

Stiles didn’t know how to talk to him about this. Not without ruining everything if he was wrong. He didn’t want to be wrong, and he liked to think his dad wasn’t completely off base, but one never knew when it came to Derek Hale. 

The guy was like Fort Knox when it came to feelings

“Daniel came to see me the last day they were in down,” Stiles admitted, Derek frowning ever so slightly. “He said something to me. Something I haven’t... really stopped thinking about.” He licked his lips, setting his coffee down and turning a bit more towards Derek. He didn’t move closer, just turned to face him head-on. “He said he knew we weren’t mates.” 

“What?” Derek asked, tone completely even. 

Stiles shrugged. “He said he could tell we weren’t mates. Not officially, anyway. But he said it was believable, and that it fooled everyone else, because...” Stiles paused, licked his lips again, took a breath, and bulled on. “He said it’s easy to pretend to love someone when you’re already in love with them.” 

Derek said nothing. He was still just as stiff as he’d been moments before, so Stiles couldn’t tell if he’d gone rigid or not. Maybe he’d already been that rigid. 

When he said nothing, Stiles ripped off the bandaid. Either Derek would admit everything, or Stiles would walk away feeling humiliated and like he’d just ruined a friendship that had taken years to form. 

“I can’t do this anymore, because he’s right. Because it’s easy to pretend to love you when I already do. And I can’t pretend anymore when the reality is slowly beginning to set in.” 

That got a reaction, at least. Derek’s hand twitched and his eyes widened, but he didn’t say anything. 

“I can’t wake up beside you anymore. I can’t come down and make coffee, and have you make me breakfast, and kiss you, and hold your hand. I can’t do it anymore, because it’s not pretend anymore, and it hurts realizing this isn’t real.” 


Stiles waited, but Derek said nothing. He just sat there staring at him, like his brain was slowly churning the words around in his head. Like he was trying to figure out where things had gone wrong. 

After a while, Stiles nodded once, jaw working. “Right. Cool. So we’re agreed then. Just gonna—danger’s passed and all that. You’re safe, I’m safe, back to normal and everything.” Stiles got to his feet. “You can uh, the loft. You can have your space back. I’ll just pack my stuff up and be on my—”


Stiles stared down at Derek. He wasn’t looking at him, instead focussed on his cup of coffee on the coffee table. 





Derek’s mouth opened. 



Stiles waited. 

Derek tried again. 

“I wanted it to be you.” 

“What?” he frowned. “What do you mean?” 

“When we—the conversation. They chose Lydia. They said it had to be Lydia. I wanted it to be you. I didn’t—know how to ask. And when they came, I thought it was better that way. If it was Lydia. You’d be safer if it was Lydia. And it would mean nothing if it was Lydia. But then you—” Derek cut off, and Stiles saw him swallow hard, letting out a breath. “You insisted it wouldn’t work. In front of them. You said—it was you. And I was furious. But happy. Because—at least I’d have you. For a day. Or two. I’d have you.” 

Derek reached up, dragging one hand through his hair, then leaving it there and tugging slightly, still not looking at him. “But then I realized it put a target on your back. I got—scared.” Stiles didn’t miss the hesitation, because Derek wasn’t good at feelings. Being scared was one he didn’t like admitting to. “I couldn’t let them do anything to you, so I had to fix the problem before it became a real problem. So I called Greg. I hashed it out with him, promised him things, a lot of things. Loyalty, favours, the vault, anything he wanted. But he’s a good man, a good Alpha. He respected my mother, so he didn’t take advantage. He didn’t—want anything, just a few books. He said he’d help me, because I was a good person, and because I was a Hale.” 

Stiles stared at him, Derek seeming to be unable to stop now that he’d started, words coming out like he couldn’t help himself. 

“Greg promised he’d help fix it. He wants territory, he needs it for his pack, but he promised to be reasonable. I just had to set things up with Jethro, open channels of communication, and he’d help me. Because he’s a good man, and he just wants what’s best for his pack. And he asked me why... why I was willing to give him anything he wanted. And I told him I wanted... I said I had to keep someone safe. I needed to keep someone safe, and I didn’t know how. And he knew about Bianca, and about Laura and Jethro, because he was there back then, he knew about the agreement. So he offered. He said it was in his interest anyway, if he could get Bianca mated to his second. He told me to put the cards on the table for Jethro, and he’d do the rest. So I called Scott. And your dad. And I told them I could get rid of Jethro, and I did.” 

Derek’s hands clenched in his lap, eyes still on his coffee, and Stiles still didn’t say anything, because he didn’t know what to say. 

“But then it was over. Jethro took the deal, agreed to speak to Greg, was willing to hand over a tiny bit of land, to make the exchange. It was reasonable, it made sense. Jethro might not be a reasonable man, but he knows when he’s beat, and this was the best outcome for him. He couldn’t push me, and he couldn’t risk a war with Greg. So he agreed. And then—he was gone. And it was over. And I realized—it was over. If it was over, then you’d... Things would just...” Derek licked his lips, swallowed again. “I wanted to keep you safe so badly that I did it too well. And it would be over. You’d go home, and we’d... be what we were. And I couldn’t... I didn’t want that again. I didn’t want—I lied. I just lied. Said we shouldn’t stop, just in case. Because pretending to love you is easier when you don’t know it’s not pretend.” 

Stiles felt like his heart was pounding in his chest, for some reason. He felt like oxygen flow was a little... stunted. Like he couldn’t inhale properly. Not fully, anyway. 

Because Derek had just said it was easier to pretend when Stiles didn’t know it wasn’t pretend. 

And Stiles... had already admitted he couldn’t pretend to do something that was true. 

He stood there staring down at Derek, who seemed to be getting more and more tense as the seconds ticked by. Stiles couldn’t help it. He knew he had to say something, confirm that they were on the same page, just—something. But his mind was kind of still reeling. 

Because Derek loved him. 

Derek loved him. 

Just like Stiles loved Derek. 

Fucking hell, his father had raised a complete and utter moron

“I don’t want a big wedding,” Stiles blurted out, Derek’s head snapping up, mostly in confusion. “I’m fine with going to get the papers signed and calling it a day. You know, if we get to that point one day.” 

Derek blinked up at him. 

“And we have to eat dinner at dad’s twice a week.” 

“What?” Derek asked. 

Stiles shrugged one shoulder. “Dad’s orders. He said—actually, he said we’ve been dating for over a year, he just thought we’d finally figured that out.” 

Derek’s gaze shifted away slightly, like he was thinking about it. Maybe he was tallying up the same things Stiles’ father had. The clothes, the toothbrush, the cuddling, the easy kissing, everything. 

Fuck, had they been dating this whole time?! How embarrassing. Why hadn’t anyone told them?

“Am I still in charge of kissing?” Derek asked, Stiles frowning down at him. 


“Kissing. Boundaries. Is that still me?” 

“Yes?” Stiles didn’t know how to answer that.

Apparently that was okay, because Derek took that answer and stood up, grabbing Stiles’ face and kissing him like he didn’t know the meaning of the words ‘hold back.’ 

It was nothing like the short, sweet kisses where he savoured every second of their lips pressed together. This was hot, and urgent, and desperate. This was Derek kissing him like he was on a time crunch, and he needed to make sure he got his fill of Stiles before the clock ran out. 

His hands were fucking everywhere. His face, his hair, sliding up under his shirt. Stiles could feel fangs against his lips and claws scraping against his skin, neither piercing through but prominent. When he pulled back to gasp in air, he let out a shout when Derek just shoved him onto the couch, windmilling his arms slightly in shock before Derek climbed on top of him and started trying to lick the back of his throat from the front. 

“Does this mean I don’t have to pack my stuff?” Stiles asked breathlessly while he struggled to yank Derek’s shirt up and off. 

“I can’t believe I fell in love with an idiot,” Derek growled, tossing his shirt aside almost angrily, like it was offensive, and tugging insistently at Stiles’ own shirt. 

“At least you’ll always be the smart one in the relationship.” 

“Shut up and kiss me.” 

“I love it when you get all bossy on me, lover.” 

“Don’t call me lover.” 

Stiles just grinned. They had time for it to grow on him. 

They had so, so much time. 

derek and I are dating now 
you know
thought you should know

You don’t say
What a huge surprise
Biggest shock of my life 
Had absolutely NO idea
Didn’t see that coming from a mile away at all

you done?

Not even close
See you both for dinner tomorrow
We’re having steak 
Don’t forget, twice a week

His dad... 

Was going to be intolerable