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The music was too loud and the odors coming off too many bodies pressed together in the overheated room was enough to make him gag. The overlaying stench of lust and desperation actually did cause him to gag more than once and he had to focus everything he could to avoid a repeat appearance of the dinner he’d been in the middle of eating when his phone had gone off with a text from Erica.

Come get your boy accompanied by a photo of Stiles in tight black jeans and a sweat-soaked white shirt clinging to his skin was what greeted him.

Leaving the food on the table, Derek was in his car and on his way downtown to where the only club that Stiles could legally get into was located. Although it was possible he’d faked his way into another club, he didn’t think Erica would’ve gone with him. Oh, who was he kidding? Of all of his betas, she was the most likely to be Stiles’ partner in actual crime.

He growled at his phone, thankful that somehow Siri understood him and sent a text to Erica asking if they were at Jungle. He got an affirmative answer within moments and another photo, this one of Stiles between two men that Derek did not recognize. His foot pressed down a little harder on the accelerator and he prayed that Stiles’ father didn’t have a patrol out in that part of town.

He pulled into the parking lot, squealing to a stop and jumping out of the car, barely remembering to close the door behind himself. He strode past the line and the bouncer took one look at him and stepped to the right, allowing him to enter without question. The protests of the people waiting were lost in the sensory overload inside the club.

He stalked through the crowd, people instinctively moving out of his way until he was right next to Stiles. He growled low in his throat and he saw a couple of heads turn towards him but Stiles was oblivious to what was going on less than a foot away from him, stupid human hearing. 

Making sure his claws were retracted, he reached forward and ran a hand from Stiles’ shoulder to his elbow, watching his eyes flutter open and a smile spread across his face when he spotted him. Derek flashed his eyes briefly and saw Stiles swallow audibly as he paled slightly. Derek’s caress turned into a grasp as he pulled Stiles from between his two suitors who started to object, words dying on their lips and between one blink and the next they were disappearing into the crowd and Stiles was falling against him.

Derek’s nostrils flared but he didn’t scent alcohol or drugs, only sweat and nerves. Shaking his head, he wrapped an arm around Stiles’ waist. His mind was on walking out of the club and dragging Stiles back to the loft and forcing him into a shower to get rid of the scent of other people that clung to him. Before he could put his plan into action, Stiles wrapped his arms around his neck and started to grind on him.

“Dance with me,” he shouted and Derek winced. “Dance with me,” he repeated, voice lower and teeth digging into his lower lip as he looked up at him through his lashes, playing at being coy and Derek snorted at his obvious ploy. 

The noise was becoming bearable as his ears adjusted and if he pressed his nose against Stiles’ temple, he only smelled him. He bent his legs slightly, sliding one between Stiles’ leg and let him dance against him, leading their movements since Stiles was the better dancer. Of course, that was equivalent to being the tallest dwarf in this case.

His nose traveled from Stiles’ temple to his neck before he licked at the sweat there, mixing their scents in an attempt to assert his dominance again. He knew that Stiles didn’t understand just how much he meant to Derek, but he would one day and until then he’d just keep reclaiming him any way that he could. 

The song faded into another and Derek heard Stiles’ yawn, feeling the exhalation of breath against his skin and chuckled. “Bedtime,” he whispered into Stiles’ ear, chuckling darkly at the shiver that ran through him.

Standing behind Stiles, wrapping his arms around his waist, Derek guided him toward the doors. Erica and Boyd fell into step behind them and they all made their way out to the parking lot. Derek kept his hold on Stiles as he wished Erica and Boyd a good night and watched as they drove away.

Stiles had his arms on the roof of the Camaro, his head on top of them, his breathing already falling into the steady rhythm of sleep. Smiling fondly, Derek moved him into the passenger seat and pulled the belt across him. His eyes met Stiles’ half-lidded ones and he pressed a quick kiss to his lips.

“Thought you were too busy for me,” Stiles muttered when Derek got into the driver’s seat. The pout was clear in his voice and Derek frowned.

“I’m never too busy for you,” he said, voice soft as he pulled out into traffic and headed towards the loft, knowing the Sheriff was working all night and wouldn’t mind if Stiles stayed with him; he wasn’t entirely on board with them dating but Stiles had very recently turned eighteen and he did like that his son wasn’t spending so many nights alone. 

“You didn’t want to come to the club, though.”

“Are your ears ringing?” Derek asked after a moment and Stiles nodded. “Does your throat hurt from shouting?” Another nod. “Do you have werewolf senses?”

Silence and Derek would’ve thought he’d fallen asleep if it weren’t for the not so steady beat of Stiles’ heart. “You like to go dancing. Erica likes to go dancing, although how she stands it with her senses is beyond me. The two of you go dancing and I stay in.”

“You stayed and danced with me,” Stiles responded, voice quiet.

“I was already there and seeing you dancing with those other guys, it reminded me that sometimes we have to do things outside of our comfort zone to keep the people we love happy,” Derek explained.

“ love me?” 

Derek barely managed not to slam on the brakes when he realized what he’d said but he just took a deep breath and refocused on the road. “I do. Is that a problem?”

Happiness smells like cotton candy and his car suddenly smelled like a fair in the middle of fall and he glanced to the side to see the wide smile peeking out from behind Stiles’ hands over his face. “I love you, too,” he managed to say. “I just didn’t know how to tell you or if it was too soon.”

Derek reached over and squeezed Stiles’ hand. “Not too soon.”

He kept his hand on Stiles’ for the rest of the drive except when shifting gears and he listened as his breathing faded into steadiness and he knew he was asleep. Arriving at the loft, he picked Stiles up out of the car in a bridal carry and made his way up to the loft, setting him on the bed gently before pulling off his shoes and jeans so he could sleep comfortably.

Once Stiles was settled, Derek moved into the kitchen area to clean up the food he’d left behind, thinking over the night and what he and Stiles had revealed to each other. He’d known that Stiles was it for him from long before he’d seen him that day in the woods. He’d known him as a child, but Stiles didn’t remember him. He probably would’ve forgotten himself if Laura hadn’t spent all their time in New York reminding him of all the times they’d found him on a full moon outside the Sheriff’s house curled up in the bushes beneath Stiles’ window sleeping.

His parents had thought about introducing them when they were young but decided against it because they didn’t want to put Stiles into a confusing situation or risk Derek revealing their secret before he was ready. He remembered the decision being made that they would wait until Stiles had graduated from high school. After the fire, the plan was forgotten.

The day in the woods, when he’d seen Stiles with Scott, it had all come back to him and he’d wanted to confess right then and there, but instead, he kept his words to himself by speaking the bare minimum of words and probably coming across as the crankiest bastard of all time. Or a Sourwolfk as Stiles still insisted on calling him when he was feeling sassy.

Once the kitchen was cleaned up, he grabbed a bottle of water to set on the nightstand next to Stiles’ side of the bed. He stood and watched him sleep for a few minutes, stepping away as he heard “Creeperwolf” in Stiles’ voice inside his head. Crossing to the window, he glanced out over the building surrounding the loft, wondering how long until the sun came up. 

He knew he should sleep and with Stiles there, he probably could but he’d spent more nights than not standing right where he was while sleep eluded him. He knew he didn’t need as much sleep as humans, but he missed it. He missed the escape into dreams that didn’t haunt him during his waking hours. He missed waking up with his face stuck to the pillow because of drool from sleep so deep he could feel it in his bones. 

He was so lost in memories of a peaceful sleep that he actually jumped when arms wrapped around him from behind and Stiles pressed his forehead to the center of his back over his tattoo. “Can’t sleep?” he asked, his voice rough and his skin sleep-warm.

Derek shrugged and laid a hand over Stiles’, squeezing gently. He allowed Stiles to sway them gently from side to side, smiling when he started humming against his skin. “Not done dancing?” 

“Never done dancing with you,” he told him. “Especially now that I know you love me and are willing to do it.”

Derek turned around and held Stiles against his chest, pressing a kiss to the top of his head. “I do love you.”

“And I love you, so if you still want to go for that camping trip in Yosemite…”

“You hate camping,” Derek said, pulling back to look in Stiles’ face. He’d been trying to get Stiles to get him to go camping with him for over a year, wanting to take him after graduation so he could get a break from Beacon Hills, so they both could, before he left for college. Every time he’d mentioned it, Stiles had gone on a rant about how terrible he was at being outdoors and how evil nature was to him.

“But I love you,” Stiles said. “And sometimes, you have to step outside your comfort zone for the people you love.” Hearing his own words repeated back to him should’ve made him feel like Stiles was teasing him but there was such sincerity in his voice that he blinked back tears.

Stiles grinned and reached up, running his thumbs underneath Derek’s eyes before pressing a brief kiss to his lips. “Now, if we’re going to start planning this trip, you need to get some sleep.”

Derek chuckled and let Stiles lead him to bed, stripping out of his clothes and crawling in to curl up behind him. He rumbled contentedly as Stiles snuggled back into him and let out a hum of contentment. “If you aren’t asleep in a half-hour, wake me up and we’ll watch a movie or something,” he offered.

Derek agreed and rubbed his nose behind Stiles’ ear, smiling as he giggled before starting to drift off. Derek laid there, listening to him breathe. Just when he was sure that he wouldn’t be joining Stiles in slumber, he let out a yawn and felt the unfamiliar pull of sleep.

His dreams were full of happiness and light as opposed to fear and darkness. He woke to Stiles sitting up next to him, laptop open on his lap, fingers flying over the keys. He pushed himself to sit next to him and saw he had so many tabs open that he couldn’t see what each one was but the page he was looking at was a beginner’s guide to camping.

Leaning his head on Stiles’ shoulder, he saw that his face was splotchy red and he smelled embarrassed. “What’s wrong?” he asked. “If you don’t want to go…”

“No, we’re going,” he said, voice serious. “You love camping.”

“You hate it,” Derek said.

“If you keep reminding me of that, I’ll change my mind.”

“About everything?” Derek asked, his chest tightening.

Stiles set the laptop down and moved to straddle him, cupping Derek’s face in his hands. “Dude, I love you. That will never change.”

“Don’t call me ‘dude’,” Derek growled, but he was laughing as Stiles pressed their lips together briefly, both of them wrinkling their noses at morning breath.

They spent the day together planning the trip to Yosemite and by the end of the day, Derek could tell that Stiles was getting cautiously excited about the trip and even called his dad, putting him on speakerphone, to tell him they were going. After the Sheriff was done laughing, he made Derek promise to take lots of videos and send them to him. 

After the call, Derek drove Stiles back to Jungle to pick up his Jeep. Stiles hesitated before he got out of the car. “I was wondering...they’re playing a marathon of the classic Superman movies on tv tonight. Did you want to have a pack night?”

Derek thought about it, thought about all the times that Stiles had planned pack nights, stepping into the role of Alpha mate even before he and Derek were together. Now, he seemed less confident about doing what he’d been doing for years. “I think that would be a great idea. What time should I tell the…” He trailed off as he saw Stiles pulling his phone out and texting the pack group chat he’d set up a few months earlier.

The weeks passed in a blur of planning and packing and a couple of fights against random baddies that made their way into Beacon Hills. On top of all of that, graduation happened and Derek stood with the Sheriff, both of them with tears in their eyes as Stiles crossed the stage in his maroon cap and gown to take his diploma from Finstock who, of course, called him Bilinski. 

About two weeks after graduation, Derek had gotten a particularly bad Selkie bite and Stiles had nearly blown up the world with a Spark charge that no one was expecting. He’d passed out in Derek’s bed that night and despite the pain still in his own side, Derek had managed a few hours sleep beside him.

On the morning of their departure near the beginning of July, Derek pulled to a stop in front of Stiles’ house, surprised to see his father standing on the porch with a mug of coffee. “Good morning, sir.” The Sheriff narrowed his eyes over the lip of his mug as he took a sip of coffee. “John,” he corrected himself.

“Stiles overslept a bit. Come on in and have some coffee while he gets ready,” he explained and Derek followed him inside, settling down at the small kitchen table across from the man. “Are you sure you’re ready for this? Several hours in a car with my son can be...difficult.”

“I rode back with him from Mexico,” Derek reminded him. “It wasn’t so bad and I was a hormonal teenager again then, so if I didn’t attack him then…”

John chuckled. “Good point. Very good point.” They both looked to the ceiling when a loud thud followed by quiet cursing sounded out. “He tells me you’re camping in one of the remote sites and will be doing a lot of hiking.”

“I’ll keep a close eye on him. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks going to first aid and CPR classes that Melissa hooked me up with,” he assured John and was relieved to see his shoulders relax a little. “He’s going to be fine and I’m thankful you’re allowing him to come with me. I know the age difference is hard for you.”

“My son loves you.” Derek’s eyebrows shot up into his hairline and John nearly spit out his coffee laughing. “He didn’t tell me, I just know. He’s like his mother in that way, loves with his whole heart and if you’re lucky enough to be the focus of that, then there’s no way that I am going to stand in the way of that.” He took another sip of coffee. “Besides, I like you, son,” he said and Derek blinked back tears at the term. “Have you told him about the other legs of the trip yet?” He nudged the bag at his feet and Derek realized it must be the one Lydia and Scott had put together for Stiles.

Derek grinned and shook his head. He’d been planning the surprise for months, even before they’d decided to go camping and he’d discussed it with John in the very beginning and was met with enthusiastic approval and a promise to keep the secret. He’d also worked with him to plan the final part of the trip, he just hoped that Stiles was up to extending the trip beyond the time at Yosemite. 

He opened his mouth to voice his concerns, but Stiles chose that moment to lumber down the stairs and nearly fall into the kitchen, eyes wide and apologetic and hair dripping down onto the shoulders of his flannel shirt. He looked between the two men and made grabby hands at Derek’s coffee cup, smiling when it was handed over and he took a deep drink of it.

Twenty minutes later, they were in the front seat of Derek’s soccer mom vehicle, the secret bag hidden under a plaid blanket in the back, and pulling away down the street with John waving in the rearview mirror. They each had a travel mug of coffee and stopped for some fast food breakfast before hitting the expressway. Stiles had his phone out and was spouting off facts about Yosemite, something he’d been doing off and on for the past few weeks, and Derek knew he would burn out eventually so he let him talk and gesture wildly while he kept an eye on the road. 

It was a just over six-hour drive to the park but with numerous stops for food, bathroom, and anything interesting that caught their eye, they didn’t get there until late evening which Derek had expected. The first night there, they were staying in one of the cabins not too deep into the park and near where they would be leaving the car for the rest of the week while they hiked deeper into the park.

Derek hid a smile when Stiles tripped up the stairs to the cabin, too distracted by the forest around them to watch where he was going; he had his work cut out for him keeping him safe that week. “Are you sure we can’t just stay here all week?” he asked once they were inside and Derek shook his head, but if Stiles pushed it, he would do what he could to change their reservations. “Sad.” 

They ate the carryout Thai that they’d picked up before getting into the park and discussed the plans for the next day. Stiles pulled out an actual paper map of the park trails and unfolded it in front of them on the floor of the cabin. “So, where is our camp?”

Derek leaned over the map looking for the trail he’d found during his own research. Tapping the starting point, he traced his finger up and up. “This is the Cathedral Lakes Trail. It’s about eight and a half miles and we can camp anywhere along it. The pictures I’ve seen are beautiful.”

Stiles smiled. “You brought your camera, didn’t you?” Derek ducked his head, the tips of his ears warming. “That’s awesome. It’ll be nice to have the memories of our first vacation.”

“First?” Derek asked. “Not only, I hope.”

Stiles' smile was soft as he leaned into Derek. “I hope not, too.”

Stiles went to bed early; even though he’d slept in the car on the drive up he was still tired. Derek waited until he was asleep before slipping outside. The park was crowded, most of the cabins occupied and Derek hoped the trails wouldn’t be that bad and that maybe he’d be able to travel in his wolf form for at least a little while. The quarter moon was low in the sky and he saw a man and a woman walking hand-in-hand around the cabins and gave them a smile and a wave.

“Can’t sleep?” the man called and Derek made an affirming sound.

“We can’t either!” the woman responded, moving closer and Derek regretted acknowledging them. “We’re on our honeymoon!” She held her hand out like every newly-engaged woman in cheesy romance movies. 

Derek eyed the tiny chip of a ring and couldn’t fight the change in his emotions; it was clear these two were in love and that material things didn’t matter to them. “Congratulations,” he said, giving a small smile. “This is a beautiful spot for a honeymoon.”

“It is, but we’re only staying a couple of days,” she said. “We’re on our way to see my Nana in Oregon. She’s elderly and couldn’t make the wedding, so we’re going to spend the rest of our week with her.”

Derek’s heart clenched at that; the importance of family and found he felt genuine affection for the couple. “I’m Derek.” He held out a hand and shook both of theirs. “I’m here with my...boyfriend.”

“Aw, that’s so cute! I’m Chloe and this is Dan. Are you staying long?”

“Depends how long the hike takes. We’re heading off on Cathedral Lakes Trail in the morning and camping out on the trails,” he explained, not sure why he was sharing so much information with strangers.

“That’s a great trail,” the man said, smiling. “I’ve taken it a few times. It’s a pretty steep trail in the beginning, hope you and your boyfriend are used to hiking.”

“I grew up in the woods and we hike through them all the time,” he responded, worrying a bit that it might be too much for Stiles, but he’d given them a lot of time for the eight-mile trail so they could take plenty of breaks. He wanted this to be fun for Stiles so they could do it again in the future and it wouldn’t be a sacrifice for him like it was this time.

“Well, we’re going to try and get some sleep. You should, too, or you’ll be falling asleep before the first turn in the trail,” Chloe teased and Derek smiled.

They said their goodbyes and Derek went inside the cabin. Stiles was sitting up in bed, looking at something on his phone. “You should be sleeping.”

“So should you,” Stiles responded around a yawn. “I heard you talking.”

“Met a nice couple. Just married.”

“You didn’t roll your eyes at their happiness, did you?” he asked, putting his phone back on the nightstand and getting under the covers, lifting one side for Derek in invitation.

“It was a close call, but they were actually kind of...cute.” Derek whispered the last word and felt his ears warming when Stiles mocked him affectionately.

“Get some sleep, SappyWolf,” Stiles said, chuckling when Derek groaned. “I’ll come up with something and it’ll be perfect.”

Stiles fell back to sleep fairly quickly and Derek smiled as he watched him; soft breaths escaping his slightly parted mouth. His lashes fluttered over his cheeks as his eyes moved beneath the lids and Derek wondered what Stiles dreamt about. His heart rate remained even so Derek knew he wasn’t being bothered by the nightmares that used to plague him in the months following the Nogitsune. 

He tried not to focus on those days; it would make his own slumber difficult to achieve. He closed his eyes and tried counting sheep but couldn’t keep his focus on the task. Turning into Stiles’ body, he buried his nose in the back of Stiles’ neck, letting his scent flow over him, surrounding him. He counted his breaths in and out and before he’d gotten to fifty, he was in a deep sleep.

He was startled awake by a kiss to the tip of his nose followed by Stiles’ squawking loudly and a crash. Sitting up, Derek looked over the edge of the bed to see Stiles sprawled on the floor looking as startled as he felt. They stared at each other, mouths gaping slightly, until laughter took over both of them. 

“Note to self: Let sleeping wolves lie,” Stiles said, snorting a little around the words. 

“That’s it. Trip’s over. We’re going home,” Derek said, smirking as he climbed off the bed and started packing all of their stuff. 

“Sarcasm is my thing. Stop stealing my things!” Stiles said, getting up and helping Derek figure out what things were going to go back into the car and what was going into their packs. 

“What is my thing, then?” Derek asked.

Stiles studied him thoughtfully before shrugging. “Brooding. No one does a good brood like you.”

“You do know that could be taken in a very different way,” Derek pointed out, moving a couple of things from Stiles’ pack to his own to lighten it for him. Stiles’ brow furrowed. “Ever heard of a broodmare? A brood of chicks?”

Stiles’ eyes widened and he laughed. “Your brains are such a turn-on,” he said, grabbing the two duffles to put back in the car while Derek picked up both of their packs easily and carried them outside of the cabin. 

Once Stiles was back from the car, Derek helped him into the pack, holding him steady until he found a stance that worked for him. Once Derek had his own on, he grabbed the sunblock from one of Stiles’ outer pockets and handed it to him.

“I’m good.”

Derek shook his head and squirted some of the lotion onto his fingers and rubbed it into Stiles’ face, despite his spluttering and objections. “Either you let me do this or you do this. You are wearing sunblock because trying to carry a pack while burned to a crisp is probably not a terribly pleasant experience.”

He grumbled, but took the bottle and rubbed it over his bare arms. “You can’t get sunburn can you?”

“Skin heals too quickly,” Derek told him and apologized when Stiles stuck his tongue out at him.

They walked in silence for close to an hour, Derek leading the way but checking over his shoulder often to see Stiles looking around him with wonder. More than once, he’d reached back to keep him from stumbling and falling under the weight of his pack. They stopped to rest, sitting on some flat rocks and looked over the lakes. Derek took a few photos while Stiles drank water and ate a few granola bars.

“Have you hiked this before?” Stiles asked and Derek shook his head. 

“I saw some photos online and it wasn’t the longest or most difficult trail but it wasn’t an easy stroll, either,” Derek explained. “I wanted to challenge you but not turn you off hiking forever.”

“The view’s been beautiful,” Stiles admitted. “I like the preserve back home but this is on another whole level.” 

They stayed for a bit longer before moving on; a couple of people passed them and they waved a greeting. They waited long enough to give them a head start so they would hopefully not catch up to them too quickly; Derek was hoping to find a fairly secluded spot to set up camp. The weather was nice enough that they might even be able to forgo the tent and just sleep under the stars.

They walked side-by-side when the trail was wide enough and Derek grinned when Stiles reached for his hand, tangling their fingers together. Although they’d known each other for a few years now, they still managed to share stories the other hadn’t heard yet. Derek had to stop and lean against a tree to catch his breath from laughing at the story of the time that Stiles and Scott had climbed into Scott’s attic and Stiles’ foot had gone through the ceiling in Melissa’s bedroom, scaring her half to death.

Stiles seemed to enjoy stories about the Hale pack before the fire. He was especially curious about Derek’s parents and although it still hurt a bit to remember them, it got easier as he shared the stories of their courtship and marriage. “So, they were mates, like actual mates?” Stiles asked. “Soulmates?”

“I guess that’s the best description without being a wolf,” he responded after thinking about it. He wished he could explain it better, explain to Stiles that he was his mate because he knew that he didn’t feel it the way he did, only because he was human. If he took the bite, became a ‘wolf, he’d understand immediately, at least that’s what his father had told him.

“So, humans don’t feel the mate bond?” Derek shook his head. “Do other supernatural creatures?”

“That’s a good question.” Derek stopped walking as he thought about it, his eyes becoming unfocused as he tried to remember his parents ever mentioning something. “I’m not sure. I suppose we could ask Kira?” The kitsune never talked about feeling a mate bond with anyone but it was a possibility.

Stiles stayed quiet until they stopped for lunch but Derek wasn’t worried because he just smelled like he did whenever he was trying to figure out a puzzle; it was a strange mix of warm wood and cinnamon that sometimes made Derek sneeze. He stepped away to the edge of the trail to avoid such a thing happening and smiled as he saw a deer in the distance. 

It had taken a lot of training with his mom when he was a child to be able to observe wildlife without sending it running away in terror. Quietly, he lifted his camera, aiming it at the deer and held his breath. A moment later, a fawn stepped up next to the doe and looked up at its mother. The doe bent down and touched her nose to the fawn’s and Derek snapped the photo. Checking the viewfinder, he grinned. He felt Stiles at his back and moved the camera so he could show Stiles who let out a low whistle of appreciation, starling the deer and they bounded off into the woods.

“Oops,” Stiles said, leaning against Derek’s arm. “How much longer until lunch?”

The sun was getting high in the sky and he heard Stiles’ stomach growling quietly. “Another half an hour or so.”

Stiles nodded and continued down the trail in the direction they’d been headed. Their pace was slow as Derek kept stopping to take photos, getting some nice shots of monkeyflower, ignoring the sounds Stiles made when he named them. He was in love with a man-child; sometimes he questioned his own sanity. A moment later, Stiles pointed out a red-tailed hawk hidden in the trees. Grinning, Derek got a couple of shots before the bird took off and then he got one good photo of it soaring against a backdrop of the blazing sun.

They reached a clearing and set up their camp chairs, sharing a lunch of sandwiches and water. When they were finished, they shared an apple, Stiles laughing when Derek peeled and cored it with his claws, flicking juice at him and then licking the droplets off his cheek. He couldn’t remember a time when he’d been this playful with someone that wasn’t family and he had to take a deep breath before he started to cry.

Stiles was slowing down after lunch, which Derek had expected so the planned spot to camp was only about three-quarters of the distance that they’d walked before lunch. They stopped next to another lake and Stiles wanted to dip his feet in, but Derek told him to hold off until they stopped for the night and he could take his boots off for more than a couple of minutes. Siles whined but listened to him and got to his feet to continue walking.

They reached the clearing Derek had chosen, right on the edge of a lake and Stiles let out a joyful cry as he dropped the pack off his back and pulled his boots off. Derek’s nose wrinkled at the smell but as long as Stiles kept his boots away from the sleeping bags, he should be fine.

He started setting up the camp, checking the food rations. It wasn’t anything fancy but he knew that Stiles would get a kick out of the dehydrated food he’d brought as well as hot dogs over the small gas stove. He laid out the camping pads and a sleeping bag while Stiles explored the edge of the water.

“Sun’s going down!” Stiles called out and Derek chuckled.

“Are you sure?” he asked, grabbing his camera and joining Stiles at the water’s edge. The sky was a beautiful red color and he took a few pictures before wrapping an arm around Stiles and pulling him into his side. Stiles let out a sigh as the red faded to orange; Derek pressed a kiss to the top of his hair.

“My mom loved sunsets,” Stiles said when the sun was nearly gone.

“Mine, too.” 

Once the sky had faded to twilight blue, they focused on getting dinner together. After three hot dogs, Stiles leaned back on his elbows and groaned. “I couldn’t eat another bite.”

“That’s a shame,” Derek responded, reaching into his pack and pulled out a bag of marshmallows. “More s’mores for me.”

Stiles dove at him, grabbing at the bag and Derek laughed holding it out of his way. They wrestled for a few minutes until Stiles rolled off of Derek, panting for breath. “Why aren’t you always like this?”

Derek shrugged, staring up at the sky. “I have to be a leader for the others. I don’t need to be that with you,” he finally said, his words slow as he chose them carefully to be sure Stiles understood what he was saying.

He was silent for a long time and Derek would think he’d drifted to sleep if it weren’t for the unsteadiness of his breathing. When it hitched wetly, Derek rolled to his side and propped himself up on one elbow to look down into his face, eyes shining. He reached out to touch his cheek gently, his mind replaying his words to see what had garnered such a reaction and couldn’t figure it out.

The warm scent of happiness soured to confusion and distress and Derek whined, wanting to bury his face in Stiles’ neck but knowing he’d only get harder with the negative emotions. “What is it?” Stiles shook his head and started to force a smile but Derek repeated the question and knew he was pleading, something that his wolf usually fought against but for Stiles he would expose all of his soft parts.

“Am I...are you..aren’t I Pack?” Stiles whispered and Derek’s jaw dropped, words spinning through his head but none of them making it to his mouth. “Aren’t you my Alpha?”

Derek’s head was nodding before he managed to dampen his dry lips with a quick brush of his tongue. “Of course I am. You chose me.” 

He could see the moment clearly, the night that the Pack had fought off a rival pack who had harassed Stiles for having two Alphas, making insinuations that he and Scott passed the human back and forth between them. As the leader of the opposing Pack lay bleeding, not fatally injured but defeated nonetheless, Stiles had leaned over and snarled in his face, “I am Pack Hale. My Alpha is Derek Hale.”

Derek had looked to Scott, expecting to see anger on the other Alpha’s face but instead he saw something akin to pride as he kicked the Alpha in the side and muttered something that sounded like, “Yeah, bitch,” and the three of them had burst into laughter.

Later that same night, Stiles had curled into Derek’s side, head and one hand on his chest. His fingers ran through Derek’s chest hair and as he fought back a purr, Stiles had nervously asked if his declaration was alright. Derek had been speechless then, like he was at that moment, but he recovered then as he did now.

“You have been mine and I have been yours for longer than we’ve known,” he repeated to Stiles who nodded but his tears were starting to run down his cheeks. Derek nosed at his cheek, whimpering again.

“But you don’t want to lead me,” he said, his voice still quiet and Derek actually had to lean in ever closer to hear him.

“I didn’t say that. I said that I don’t have to. There’s a difference.” He bumped his nose against his cheek with a bit more strength. “I can trust that you’ll do the right thing or at least the same thing I would do.” Talking to Stiles was usually easier for him than it was with other people but with serious topics like this, he still struggled. He hated words at that moment.

He pushed himself up to sit and pulled Stiles up so he was mirroring him. He held his hands between them and ducked his head so he could look into Stiles’ eyes. “You are Pack, but you are also Alpha Mate. Your role is different.” Stiles’ head shot up at the m-word, eyes wide but lips edging into a smile. “You knew that, don’t act all surprised.” He shoved Stiles away, his skin feeling less tight at the sound of his mate’s laughter.

“Hey, we just said the l-word,” Stiles teased. “I figured that ‘mate’ wouldn’t come up for a while. If it ever did.” 

Derek shook his head and instead of using his words to try and convince Stiles, he picked him up and tossed him over his shoulder. He laughed when Stiles’ started playing out a drum roll on his butt. Moving towards the sleeping area, he carefully set him down to lay on the sleeping bag before turning away to tend to the fire still burning in the campstove. The night air should be warm enough they would be alright without a fire.

He joined Stiles when he was done and pressed him back against the sleeping bag, kissing him gently on the tip of his nose before nipping at it gently and getting a giggle out of him. Moving lower, he kissed the smile off of his lips, tasting as well as smelling the return to happiness in his scent before moving to nibble lightly at his neck. His wolf growling for him to mark but holding back, as much as his wolf had no problem with outdoor activities of a sexual nature, Derek was a bit more reserved.

They made out for a while, stopping when Stiles yawned into a kiss. “Alright, time to sleep.” 

Stiles gave a mumbled protest but started untying his boots. He climbed into the sleeping bag and then looked around, eyes narrowed as he yawned again. “Where’s your bag?”

Derek grinned as he began to slowly peel off his clothing. Once he was naked, he chuckled at Stiles’ grabby hands before rolling his neck and shifting fluidly through his beta shift into the alpha shift into a full-wolf. He gave a little shake while Stiles laughed and ran a hand through his fur when he got close enough. Turning a few times to make a comfortable spot next to Stiles, he laid down, laying his head over his stomach and huffing when Stiles stretched to press a kiss to the top of his head between his ears.

Stiles fell asleep with his fingers still running over him, but Derek stayed awake for hours. His nose filled with unfamiliar scents and his mind racing at every sound that he heard. His mind created danger where there was none. At one point, a few hours before the sun was ready to make an appearance, he heard footsteps and his fur bristled. 

He kept his head on Stiles, wiggling around until his head was on his shoulder. He closed his eyes so that he could barely see through the slits as a young man came down the trail he and Stiles would be heading up later. The man hesitated when he spotted them and Derek lifted his head slightly.

The man’s heartbeat sped up for only a minute before he continued to walk, his eyes still on Derek but no scent of threat coming off of him. Once his footsteps faded, Derek laid his head back down. He startled a little when Stiles rolled over and wrapped his arm around him. “Go to sleep, CuddlyWolf,” Stiles mumbled before he started snoring again.

Huffing, Derek laid his head back down, letting Stiles’ scent fill his nose. As he listened to the wildlife coming back to life around them, he found himself drifting into the sleep that had been evading him.

He awoke to the sound of off-key singing and blinked against the sun higher in the sky than he’d expected. Looking around, he saw Stiles sitting up with a book. His fingers were curling and uncurling the wires to his earbuds and he was singing along to whatever song was making him bob his head up and down as he turned a page. Derek considered howling along with him but didn’t want to startle anyone who might be nearby.

Instead, he shimmied into the sleeping bag and shifted back so he didn’t inadvertently flash any hikers. Sitting up, the material pooling around his waist, he grabbed the towel that was drying on a rock next to him and lobbed it at Stiles.  He chuckled at the flailing limbs, grinning widely as Stiles ripped the earbuds out and attempted to glare at him but started laughing too hard.

Once he was back under control, he brought Derek a change of clothes and they started breaking down their camp while eating a few energy bars. It took about an hour before they were loaded back down and heading further up the trail. Stiles was a bit more energetic that day and Derek kept his pace steady while he ran on ahead a few times before hurrying back and giving Derek impatient looks.

They’d gotten a late start to the day and although Stiles was moving quickly, the sun was setting while they were still quite a ways from the end of the trail where Derek had planned to spend the second night. If he were alone, he’d have no problem continuing the trek in the dark but knew it would be difficult for Stiles and his human senses. Finding a smaller clearing than the night before, they set up the sleeping bag and ate a couple of sandwiches that Stiles had packed.

They settled into similar sleeping positions as the night before and Derek huffed when Stiles’ heart kept speeding up instead of slowing into the rhythm of sleep. He eventually looked up and bumped his nose against Stiles’ chin. 

“Just thinking about the future,” he said, scratching between Derek’s ears. “I’m excited about college but terrified at the same time. It’s the first time I’ll be living away from home. Away from the Pack….” He trailed off but the fingers running over his ears carried the words ‘without you’ clearly and Derek snuffled against his chest. “I’m just glad I managed to get a single, I’m not sure I could handle a roommate.”

Derek knew he would have to talk to Stiles when he was back to human and he allowed himself to think over his words as he comforted him with gentle touches of his nose against Stiles’ cheeks. “I know,” Stiles whispered into his fur before drifting off. 

Derek waited until he was sure that Stiles was completely asleep before he wriggled out of his hold and stood to stretch his legs. He moved around the small clearing carefully, keeping an ear out for any other humans coming into the area. His mind was still racing and his muscles were singing with energy, with the strong desire to run full-tilt through the woods like he hadn’t been able to do in ages. He settled for racing up and down the path, his tongue lolling out when a bear lumbered to the edge of the path and froze upon seeing him.

Derek continued racing and eventually the bear grew bored and continued on its way away from Stiles and Derek wished he’d had his camera to take a photo. Eventually, he’d run enough to need to stop and catch his breath. His limbs were sore and he curled up next to Stiles to sleep.

He was up before Stiles, awoken by a curious marmot that had ventured too close to camp and let out a high squeal when Derek raised his head and made eye contact. It disappeared back into the trees, still squeaking.

“Scaring off the wildlife?” Stiles asked around a yawn and setting up, his nose wrinkling. “I know I’m sweaty but you reek, dude.” Derek growled and Stiles laughed, climbing out of the sleeping bag and stretching, giggling when Derek pressed his wet nose against the exposed skin of his stomach.

“Dude!” Stiles said, reaching out to swat at Derek but he ducked away and managed a pretty convincing play bow, his tail wagging behind him. He bounced backwards when Stiles took a step forward. “Really? You wanna play?”

Derek barked and Stiles laughed, lunging at him again. Derek whirled around and took off at a run, trying to take an easy path, knowing Stiles was still in just his socks. He let Stiles almost catch him a couple of times before spotting what he was looking for and leaping, landing with a huge splash in the small pond he’d discovered the night before. He resurfaced just in time to see Stiles at the edge, arms windmilling before he fell forward and landed next to Derek in the water.

He stood up spluttering and glaring at Derek as he wiped the water out of his eyes. Derek pushed forward with his paws and shoved Stiles back into the water and leapt backwards as he tried to grab at Derek to keep from falling. He managed to dunk Stiles a few more times before he climbed onto Derek’s back and wrestled him into the water. 

As he fought his way to the surface, Stiles clinging to him like a spider monkey, he shifted and Stiles squawked as he fell off of him, hands suddenly filled with skin instead of fur. “What the what?” he said, standing again and facing Derek who was grinning.

“You’re going to do fine at college. It’s only an hour away so you can come home for weekends and any time you want to see me, just call and I’ll drive up.” Derek cupped Stiles’ face in his hands and pressed a gentle kiss to his lips. 

“What if I call every day?” Stiles asked, trying for light-hearted and failing.

“Then I’ll drive up every day,” Derek assured him before giving him a longer kiss.

“Until you get sick of me,” Stiles mumbled against his mouth.

“Every. Single. Day.” Derek emphasized each word with another kiss before shoving him back into the water. 

They splashed around for a while and then Derek shifted back before they climbed out, making their way back to the camp slowly. When they arrived, the marmot from earlier and a couple of his friends were exploring the camp. A single, sharp bark from Derek sent them scampering. Once they were gone, their squeaks fading even from Derek’s hearing, he shifted and they dressed quickly.

They reached the end of the trail in a short amount of time. They discussed staying and hanging out, spending the night there before heading back. “I don't want to go back,” Stiles admitted, looking out over the landscape. 

“You don’t miss your dad?” Derek asked.

“Of course I do, but I like this.” He pointed between the two of them before gesturing around them. “Just you and I, no worries, no responsibilities. Our own little world.” 

Derek nodded. He understood. He loved his pack and knew that boundaries were always blurred but there were days he’d like to be able to change the locks on the loft and keep them out so he could have alone time with Stiles. He also knew Stiles understood why he couldn’t. “What if we didn’t go back?”

Stiles laughed. “We can’t just run away.”

“Why not?” Derek asked and Stiles gaped at him. “I’m not suggesting forever, but why not for a few more weeks. Maybe a month? That’ll give you time to be away and then time to be home with your dad and the Pack before you have to leave.”

“My dad-”

“Already said we should stay gone as long as we need to,” Derek told him. “In fact, he knows we’ll be gone at least a week longer than you thought.”


Derek wanted to smack himself. Now that he let that slip, he knew Stiles wouldn’t let it go. “It’s a surprise.”

“I hate surprises!”

“It’s a good one!” Derek countered and laughed at the astonished look on his face. “Just trust me on this.”

“Fine.” Stiles crossed his arms over his chest, puffing out his lower lip in a pout as he looked away. “StubbornWolf.” Derek snorted. “Yeah, that was pretty bad.”

They decided to spend the rest of the afternoon and night at the trailhead. They met up with a small group of college students who were planning to camp out for the night, so they ended up unrolling Derek’s bag for the first time. He laughed as Stiles struggled to zip the two bags together in one big bag and huffed when it didn’t work, swearing that next time they would get one big bag for the both of them.

“Next time?” Derek asked, trying to keep the hope out of his voice.

“Yeah, we can do this again. Maybe make it a yearly thing,” Stiles said, grinning. “I guess it hasn’t been all bad.” He looked over at the college kids who were making s’mores and telling ghost stories. “The Pack might like it."

Derek didn’t sleep that night. Having the other kids so close made him nervous and he jumped at every sound in the darkness. He accidentally flashed his eyes once but thankfully the only one who saw it was an owl that screeched and changed paths back into the forest. When the sun came up, he pressed a kiss to the center of Stiles’ forehead.

“Time to go?” he asked around a yawn.

With determination, they made the hike back down to where they’d started, including a side-track to the lower Cathedral Lakes where they had lunch. Once they reached the cars, they discussed whether they should try and get a cabin for the night or a hotel. “I could really use a shower,” Stiles said, looking over at the public showers. 

“Real food,” Derek suggested and Stiles nodded and started shoving things into the vehicle.

It took time to get things settled. They took their worn clothes out of the backpacks and put them into an old army duffle. Anything that was unworn went into another bag and Derek revealed the one that he’d hidden when they left. 

“Did everyone know but me?” he asked, digging through the bag and getting nervous when he pulled out a tie. 

Derek rolled his eyes and grabbed the tie, shoving it back into the bag. “I told Lydia that wasn’t necessary.”

“Good,” Stiles said. “Still no hints?”

“No hints.”

There was a nice hotel only about twelve miles from the west entrance and while Derek drove, Stiles managed to find a king-size standard room for the night. “Are you sure it’s not too much?” he asked.

“It’s fine,” Derek assured him. “Now, find food.”

Laughing, Stiles studied his phone. Derek watched him out of the corner of his eye. He nodded when Stiles showed him a website for a restaurant not far from the hotel that served a variety of food. He trusted him to figure out what to order for both of them and concentrated on the road, pulling into the hotel parking lot just as Stiles hung up the phone. 

“They said it’ll take about twenty minutes.”

“Alright, let’s get checked in and then you can shower while I grab the food,” Derek told him and they did just that.

When they were done eating and showering, Stiles dug his laptop out, hugging it to his chest and promising he’d never leave it alone in a car for days again. Derek shoved him and then grabbed him before he fell off the edge of the bed. He pulled up Netflix and they started up Community where they’d left off before they’d left for the trip.

“The show’s just not the same anymore,” Stiles complained. “I mean I love who’s left, but c’mon Troy was the life of the show! Abed is lost without him.”

“Abed is fine on his own,” Derek argued but he did miss the easy relationship between the two characters. Oddly, it reminded him of the two of them and the way they’d fallen together once everything had started going to hell when Scott had been bitten.

They argued good-naturedly through a few episodes. At this point in the final season, he was ready to stop watching because the show had lost its appeal but Stiles insisted they couldn’t not finish it when they were so close to the end. When even the paintball episode couldn’t hold his attention, he knew he was done and rolled over to try and sleep while Stiles kept watching.

He heard Stiles shut down the laptop. He rolled over when Stiles got off the bed to put it away in its case and then turned off the overhead light. He climbed in next to Derek, lying on his own pillow and grinning at him in the fading light coming in around the curtains. It was still early but he was clearly exhausted by all the hiking over the last few days.

“Go to sleep,” Derek told him and Stiles shook his head, scooting closer across the bed, a sparkle in his eye that caused warmth to woosh through Derek’s stomach. 

Despite having wanted to bed Stiles from the moment he’d seen him again, they had held off until Stiles’ eighteenth birthday, both out of respect for his father and Derek’s crippling fear of being just like Kate. Even the night of his birthday, Derek was hesitant and Stiles had told him they could wait until he was ready. It was that sign of patience that had been what broke through Derek’s last wall of insecurity and they’d finished the night exhausted, sticky, and sated.

Their sex life was hindered by a lack of privacy in the loft but they took the opportunities when they arose, so he wasn’t surprised when Stiles traced his fingers down his chest and tickled the hairs running from his belly button under the waistband of his boxer briefs. He licked his lips when Stiles pushed him over onto his back, straddling his lap and scratching blunt nails down his chest.

“Please tell me you brought stuff,” Stiles said.

“You mean you didn’t?” Derek teased, stretching out to grab the bag he’d dropped next to the bed.

“I thought we would be in the woods the whole time,” Stiles said, laughing as he grabbed the lube out of Derek’s hands as soon as he’d managed to get it out of the bag. “You didn’t tell me hotels would be on the menu.”

Derek contracted his abs to sit up, bouncing Stiles slightly in his lap and wrapping his arms around his middle. “Anything you want is on the menu,” he whispered against Stiles’ lips and felt a shiver going through him. “Within reason.” He laughed and kissed the pout off of Stiles’ lips before flipping them and removing his boxers.

The sun was too bright the next morning and Derek groaned as Stiles tried to pull away and they stuck together due to rushed cleanup the night before. His groan turned into a throaty chuckle when Stiles’ steps hitched a little on his way to the bathroom. Once the door was closed and the shower running, he sat up and reached into the bag next to the bed, pulling out the two lanyards he’d hidden in the inside pocket. He laid them both on Stiles’ pillow and climbed out of bed to join him in the shower.

Stiles was out of the shower first, leaving Derek to wash his own hair. He worked quickly, his ears tuned to the other room. The strain was unnecessary when Stiles let out a whoop and came running back into the bathroom in only a pair of boxers that hung precariously off his hips and one sock, the lanyards dangling from his hands.

“Comic Con? Are you fucking serious? Are these for real?” he asked, nearly tearing the curtain down in his eagerness. 

“Do they look real?” he asked, leaning back to rinse the shampoo out of his hair, grinning when he felt arms looping around his waist. He glanced down at Stiles and let out a laugh. “You could’ve taken your boxers off first. Or at least the sock.” He lost all train of thought as Stiles dropped to his knees.

After the second shower and a very grateful blowjob from Stiles, they packed up and left the hotel, heading to San Diego. Stiles kept looking at the lanyard and pulling his phone out, rattling off information about the convention and the center. “You had to have gotten these months ago!”

Derek smirked. “I did. Your father and I have been planning this part of the trip for awhile.”

“I still can’t believe he kept it a secret.” He reached over and took Derek’s hand, squeezing gently. “I can’t believe you came up with this on your own.”

“I remembered you mentioning wanting to go once,” he admitted. “It stuck in my head and after we got together, I thought it might be fun.”

“Fun in a crowded convention center?”

“As long as I’m with you, it’ll be fun.”

“SappyWolf,” he murmured, squeezing his hand again. “I think that one’s going to stick.” Derek growled and he laughed, returning his attention to his phone.

At some point in the nearly eight hour drive, Stiles drifted off to sleep and Derek took the time to revel in the silence and quickly realized he missed the sound of Stiles’ voice. They were about five minutes from their destination when Derek pulled into the parking lot of a Mexican restaurant. Stiles opened his eyes and when Derek asked, he opted for take out.

Derek went inside and got their food, bringing it back to the car to find Stiles on the phone with his dad, sounding fond and teasing as they talked. Putting the food in the backseat, he pulled back onto the road as Stiles finished the phone call. 

“Dad says ‘hi’.”

“Hi, dad,” Derek said, grinning when Stiles punched him in the arm. 

A few minutes later, he was pulling up into the driveway of a small bungalow located in Mission Beach. The two story home was sided with white and had blue shutters. There was a definite nautical theme to it and it was right on the water. “What is this?”

“It’s where we’re staying,” Derek explained.

“You rented a house?” Stiles climbed out of the car and headed up to the front, cupping his hands against the glass of the window and peeking inside.

“Technically, I bought it,” Derek explained. “I figured it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Pack to have a getaway place and Erica is already talking about learning to surf.” He handed over the keys when Stiles made grabby hands.

He listened to Stiles racing around the house, laughing, as he grabbed the bags out of the car. He looked over and saw a young couple coming out of the house next door. The guy raised a hand in a wave and Derek jerked his chin in greeting. He reached the door at the same time Stiles yanked it open and jumped on him. 

“This place is amazing!” Stiles said. “You obviously didn’t decorate it! There are so many bright colors and beach-themed things.” Derek kept walking into the house, dropping Stiles onto the couch before heading up the stairs to the master bedroom to drop off the suitcases. 

He grabbed the army duffle and opened the small closet in the room, he opened up the washing machine hidden away and loaded it up. He was starting the load when Stiles appeared, grinning. He jumped on the bed, bouncing on the mattress before falling back, starfishing over the bed and laughing.

“I think we’ve reached the slap-happy portion of the evening,” Derek observed, moving around and unpacking their bags into the closet and the chest of drawers. 

“How long are we staying?” Stiles asked, rolling onto his side, propping himself up onto one elbow to watch him.

“Well, we still have a day or two until the convention and then the night after, unless you want to stay longer.” He sincerely hoped Stiles would be ready to move on at that point or the reservations he’d made for the next stop would have to be changed as well as the plans already made with the rest of the Pack.

“Well, do you have other plans after this?” Stiles asked and Derek really was going to have to ask Deaton about Sparks and mind-reading abilities.


“Well, then you just tell me when to pack my bags and get in the car and I’ll do it,” he said, climbing off the bed when Derek put the empty bags away on the top shelf in the closet. “Let’s eat before the food gets too cold.”

They turned in early that night, planning to be up early to get breakfast before the convention opened. Stiles was already awake and out of bed, the sheets cool to his touch, when Derek’s alarm went off. Getting out of bed, he followed his nose through the house and found Stiles sitting on the small slab of concrete that served as a back deck, looking out over the water. He had his phone out, but the screen was dark so he was probably just using it to check the time.

“Couldn’t sleep?”

“Like a kid on Christmas,” Stiles responded, grinning. “Keep pinching myself because I cannot believe that this is actually a thing that’s happening to me.” He chuckled when Derek dropped down next to him, reaching over and pinching his nipple through the threadbare undershirt he’d slept in. “Stop that, PincherWolf!” he shrieked, jerking away and slapping at him.

They sat until the sky was bright and Stiles’ stomach grumbled. They dressed quickly, grabbing the lanyards and got into the car to drive the couple of miles to the diner they’d planned to have breakfast at before heading to the Convention Center. Stiles’ phone started buzzing as soon as they sat down and he picked it up after looking at the screen.

“Hey, Daddio,” he said and Derek waved a hand, ordering while Stiles talked to his father, grouching at him for keeping secrets but smiling and giving his love before hanging up the phone. “He says ‘hello’ and ‘congrats on keeping a secret’.” He frowned as he played with the straw wrapper as he put a straw into his glass of water.

“Are you unhappy that your father and I are getting along?” Derek asked.

“No, I’m pissed that you’re keeping secrets from me,” he muttered, trying and failing to get his straw into his mouth as his eyes moved around the room.

“It wasn’t keeping secrets, it was planning a surprise. No maliciousness intended,” Derek said, realizing that Stiles wasn’t teasing.

“That’s how it starts,” he muttered, leaning back when the waitress put down two mugs full of coffee in front of them. She opened her mouth, looked between them, shut it again before hurrying back to the space behind the counter.

Carefully, Derek moved his hand across the table, laying it over Stiles’ and squeezing gently when he tried to pull away. “What’s really going on? You were so excited when we left the house.” Stiles shrugged and Derek narrowed his eyes as he tried to surreptitiously scent the air but the scents weren’t matching what he was hearing and seeing. “Are you masking your scent?” 

Stiles shrugged, his eyes meeting Derek’s before darting away. “Are you...are you trying to practice lying to werewolves on me?” His lips quirked minutely at the corners and Derek picked up one of the sugar packets and threw it at Stiles, laughing when it bounced off the center of his forehead. “Don’t do that. Not to me.”

Stiles studied his face for a minute, the small smile fading before he nodded once, turning his hand so they could twist their fingers between them together. “I’ve already fooled Scott a few times and the Betas are easy, but you’re a born wolf so I thought it would be tougher.”

“It is,” Derek told him. “Try it on Cora next time she’s in town.”

“Agreed,” Stiles said, smiling. 

The rest of the meal was spent with Stiles rattling off all the things he wanted to do at the convention. Derek had taken a guess and bought passes to a few of the panels and photo ops with a couple of the actors he’d heard Stile talk about before, but they were going to try and get into a few other panels if there was room. He was just glad that Stiles was excited about the ones he had chosen.

The parking lot was crowded and Stiles was practically hanging out the window trying to take everything in and pointing to different people in costume. Stiles was disappointed that he wasn’t able to dress up but Derek had promised that they would do another ComicCon in the future so he could live out his cosplay dreams. The twinkle in Stiles’ eyes when he’d made the promise struck a cold shiver through Derek and he had a feeling he’d be dressing in blue spandex if Stiles’ muttered, “SuperWolf,” was any indication.

Once they’d parked, Derek grabbed Stiles’ hand to keep him from wandering too far; he knew he wouldn’t really get lost but it made him feel better to have the contact with so many unfamiliar people around them. He scented a few supernatural creatures but couldn’t pick them out based on appearance, although Stiles smacked him and pointed to a person dressed as a werewolf and they were both pretty sure it wasn’t latex.

The first panel was actors from a classic film that Stiles had made Derek watch more than once and he had to admit he found the entire thing interesting. He’d even asked a question about the filming process and puffed his chest at the strong scent of pride rolling off of Stiles as the director answered.

They were in line for close to an hour for a photo op with the two leads from that supernatural show that Stiles was obsessed with and he had to admit as they stood with the two young men that played brothers on the show that they were both fairly attractive. He also admitted there was a flare of jealousy when he smelled Stiles’ arousal. 

They just barely made it into the room for the next panel and Derek wasn’t as interested in this one, but he watched Stiles’ face as he listened to the actors talking about their experiences playing superheroes. He grinned when the guy who had guest starred as Superman on the show, squatted down at the very edge of the stage to talk to a little girl wearing a red cape speaking rapidly. 

The rest of the day went quickly and by the time they’d done everything Stiles wanted to do, Derek was more than ready to get away from the crowds and spend some time alone with Stiles at the house. They stopped at a grocery store and grabbed provisions before heading back to the house. They moved around the kitchen together making lasagna and Derek’s wolf settled at the sweet domesticity of it all; he wanted to do this for as long as Stiles would let him.

While the lasagna cooked, they went out to sit on the beach and watch the sunset, the colors fading and Derek took a few photos with his camera. “You should make a photo series of sunsets from this trip. I’m sure the gallery in Beacon Hills would love to display it.”

Derek looked down at the camera. Photography had become a habit after the therapist he’d started seeing suggested he look for the beauty in life instead of focusing on the negative. He’d never considered doing anything with it other than saving the photos to his laptop, but this wasn’t the first time Stiles had suggested he display them; he even had one of Derek’s photos of a Scrub Jay in a tree in the preserve framed and sitting on his nightstand.

“Maybe,” he finally said with a shrug. He knew that was enough that Stiles would keep on him until he followed through and maybe that was just the nudge he would need. 

They stayed in San Diego for a couple more days. Derek rented a couple of surfboards and signed them up for a lesson, laughing every time that Stiles wiped out. He would’ve felt bad if Stiles weren’t laughing as hard as he was. The failures made it even better when Stiles managed to ride his first small wave into shore, his face beaming as he flew off the surfboard and into Derek’s arms, laughing and pressing kisses all over his face.

They went to dinner that night at a nicer restaurant and Stiles grumbled about the tie that had been lost somewhere at the hotel near Yosemite, but Derek assured him that he was dressed perfectly fine. He kept tugging at the bottom of the button-up he’d borrowed from Derek, complaining that it was too big because of Derek’s muscles but Derek had to admire the way it actually stretched across Stiles’ shoulders, the open neck accentuating his collarbones and making Derek’s teeth ache to bite.

The night before they left San Diego, Derek woke up to find Stiles missing, the night sky still dark and the world around them too quiet for it to be a normal hour to be awake. Following his nose, he found Stiles sitting in one of the chairs on the patio, a mug of coffee in one hand and his phone in the other. “One of those nights?” Derek asked, sitting on the ground next to Stiles’ legs and leaning against him.

“This has been the perfect trip,” Stiles explained. “I love having you all to myself, but I think I’m having Pack withdrawals.” He tilted his phone towards Derek and he saw that he was scrolling through Facebook and was on Erica’s page. The screen showed a photo of the Pack crammed together on the sofa in the loft. “They had a movie night.”

The sadness in his scent wasn’t strong, but it was enough that he felt his own pull to be in the pile of bodies in the photo. He was ready to offer to drive back that night if that’s what Stiles wanted but he knew there was still one more surprise and that it would help ease everything. What he didn’t know was whether he wanted to give away the surprise or have Stiles wait to find out when they arrived the next day.

He pressed a kiss to the side of Stiles’ knee. “Do you want to cancel the rest of the trip?” The choice would be his; if Stiles chose to go home, he’d give away the surprise.

He was quiet for a long time and Derek didn’t need to look at him to know he was giving the question serious thought, his fingers carding through Derek’s hair and scratching gently at the scalp; something he enjoyed no matter what form he was in. He was starting to relax into it, eyelids growing heavy against his desire to stay awake, an odd development but one he’d like to get used to when Stiles finally spoke up.

“I want to finish the trip,” he finally said. “I don’t know what else you have planned, but it’s been great so far, so I want to see what you have up your sleeve next.”

Derek hid his grin in a bite to the side of Stiles’ thigh, eyes sparkling when he let out a yelp and tugged a bit too hard on his hair. “We should get some sleep,” he said, pressing a kiss to the injured spot before rising to his feet and holding a hand out to Stiles.

“I think you’re going to have to carry me after that,” he grumbled, rubbing against the spot with a frown but his scent was warm and happy.

“As you wish,” he said, bending down to put his shoulder into Stiles’ stomach and lifting him up and over before rising and heading back into the bungalow, relishing Stiles’ laughter the entire way back to the bedroom before throwing him to bounce on the bed before joining him under the sheets.

Stiles fell asleep fairly quickly and Derek sat up watching him sleep until the alarm on his phone went off. It was still early, but Derek wanted to get them there just when everything opened so they had to get on the road. He knew he’d be fine on the little bit of sleep he’d gotten, but he pretended to be waking up so that Stiles wouldn’t worry.

The drive wasn’t long but passed even more quickly than he’d expected with Stiles telling stories from when he was a kid; a lot of them Derek had already heard but he let Stiles keep talking, occasionally prompting him to keep going with questions. Derek found himself sharing stories about his childhood as well, something he’d never thought he’d feel comfortable doing again but found he wanted Stiles to know him, know his family, know what he lost.

He managed to get off the expressway without Stiles seeing the sign but it wasn’t long before his head was whipping around and he started laughing. “Are we going to Disneyland? Seriously?” He swatted Derek’s shoulder a few times. “This is fucking awesome!” He bounced a few more times before settling down and his lips curving down into a slight frown. “Wish the Pack could be here,” he said as they pulled up to the entrance of the park’s parking lot. 

Derek nodded and followed the parking lot attendants’ waving hands to where they wanted him to park and turned off the car. He reached into the back of the car for the backpack he’d packed with water and snacks, laughing when Stiles stumbled out of the car in enthusiasm despite the frown still present on his face.

Getting out of the car, he walked around and took Stiles’ hand, guiding him towards the entrance. They were about a hundred yards away when he heard what he was hoping to hear and started moving a bit more quickly, Stiles asking where the fire was as he scrambled to keep up. Derek knew the moment he spotted them, overwhelmed by the scent of happiness and the quiet gasp before Stiles ripped his hand out of Derek’s and took off running.

By the time Derek reached the group, Stiles had his arms wrapped around his dad and Scott was trying to climb on top of them both. Erica and Boyd were watching from a distance but only because Boyd had his arms around her, holding her back from jumping into the group hug. Isaac looked bored, but his lips were curling into a soft smile as he examined his nails. Liam and Mason were already looking at a map and he could hear them planning what rides they were going to go on first while Kira was talking to Melissa, the both of them laughing.

When Stiles was done hugging his father, John reached out and pulled Derek into his own hug, slapping on the back before pulling away. “You done good, son,” he told him and Derek ducked his head to hide his pleased grin but knew John had spotted it anyway.

They entered the park as a group, but quickly dispersed to do their own thing, making plans to meet up for lunch at Plaza Inn at around two. Derek could tell Stiles was disappointed they were splitting up, but when Scott and Kira agreed to go with him and Derek, his smile returned. Derek chuckled when Stiles and Scott took off running down Main Street, leaving him and Kira to watch them go.

“He looks happy,” Kira commented and Derek nodded. “What are you going to do when he goes away next year?”

“He’s not going too far,” Derek responded. “We’ll do what every couple in a long-distance relationship does, we’ll deal with it.” He wished he felt as confident as he sounded but at least Kira didn’t have a wolf’s nose and couldn’t tell he wasn’t speaking the whole truth. 

“Sounds like a solid plan,” she said, smiling at him and Derek wondered if there was something else that kitsunes possessed to detect fallacy but she was taking off after the others before he could question her.

Shaking his head, he thought this must be how John felt when dealing with the Pack when they forget they’re all nearly or just-turned adults. As he heard Stiles calling out his name, he realized he wouldn’t trade any of this for any other moment and he hurried through the crowds, offering apologies to everyone he ran into during his pursuit. 

They spent a couple of hours in the area devoted to Star Wars , Stiles and Derek trading trivia and favorite movie moments while Scott just looked on confused but laughed just as loud as Stiles when they went on Smuggler’s Run five times in a row, the lines not bothering any of them when Derek got tired of riding and ran for food and drinks for them to enjoy while waiting in line. They got photos with a couple of Stormtroopers and then headed off to Tommorowland. 

Derek tried to point out that it would make more sense to move through the park in order than to race all the way to the other end, but he was outvoted and found himself laughing as Stiles dragged him through the park. Before he knew it, it was time to meet the Pack for lunch and Stiles was already yawning and leaning into him once they’d gotten their food and settled at tables pushed together, shouting to each other and generally being disruptive.

They eventually quieted down as they started to eat and Derek could hear an elderly couple at a table not far from them. The man was complaining about their behavior while the woman just said that ‘the one with the moles’ reminded her of their grandson. She sounded wistful and Derek hoped that the grandson in question was still around and she’d be able to see him soon. Stiles caught him staring and followed his gaze and grinned at the old woman who was watching them. He waved at her, still grinning and the woman swallowed as she waved back, her lips in a tight smile and her eyes damp.

“Be right back,” Stiles said, getting out of his chair and before Derek could stop him, he made his way over to the table and introduced himself. He apologized for the loudness of his friends and she waved them off as the man huffed. Stiles stayed chatting with them for a few more minutes and by the time he went to leave, the woman was laughing and Stiles bent down to give her a quick hug before he headed back to their table and fell into his seat. His attention immediately went to an argument between Scott and Isaac about the best part of the park so far that day.

Derek reached over and squeezed his thigh, pressing a kiss to Stiles’ temple before being pulled into a discussion with John about what the plans for the rest of the day were. He and Melissa were going to leave after lunch and head over to the house Derek had rented for the entire Pack and get it settled for them all to crash after the parade and fireworks that night. 

Once the food was done, the group split up again, this time Stiles and Derek walked around with Erica and Boyd. They waited for hours to meet the princesses. Lydia joined them for that, acting like it was the last thing she wanted to do, but her smile was a bit brighter when she posed with Ariel, the mermaid fawning over Lydia’s hair. Stiles showed off Snow White’s lip print in the center of his forehead for the rest of the day, earning the nickname Dopey from Isaac. Derek just wanted to wipe it off and erase the character’s scent from Stiles. He growled when Stiles figured out what was bugging him and teased him that he was going to run off with Snow White and marry her.

Derek stalked off at one point when Stiles was showing his lip print to a group of kids who had noticed it and asked him about it. When Stiles eventually found him, sitting at a picnic table overlooking a small pond, his forehead was clear and he was wearing Derek’s hoodie that had been in their backpack. Before Derek could stand, Stiles dropped down next to him, pulling his arm over his shoulders and snuggling in and smiling up at him.

Keeping his smile small, Derek leaned in and pressed a kiss over the spot where the lip print used to be before rubbing his nose over Stiles’ temple. It was times like this, when Stiles appealed to his wolf, that he knew why he was his mate; even if the other times when he taunted his wolf drove him absolutely insane.

They sat together in silence while people wandered past them, chatting and laughing and having a great time. “All this happiness getting to you yet?” Stiles teased after a while and Derek snorted. “Thank you for all of this. How did you know I’d be missing the Pack by this point?”

“I know you,” he responded into Stiles’ hair. 

“So, what am I thinking now?” Stiles teased.

Derek pulled back to look into his face, eyebrows pulled together as he studied Stiles’ face. His eyes flashed for a moment before a smile spread over his face. “After one more day with the Pack, you’ll be ready to hit the road again for at least a month.” Stiles’ jaw dropped and Derek smirked. “I told you that I knew you.”

“We can’t do that, though,” Stiles said after a few moments and Derek raised his eyebrows. “We can do that?” His smirk turned into a soft smile as he nodded. “Do you have more plans?”

He didn’t but he was sure that Stiles would come up with something perfect. He was just about to say as much when Erica and Boyd dropped down on the other side of the picnic table, setting ice cream sundaes in front of them both. Stiles gave a happy squeal before grabbing the caramel one and digging in. Derek was more sedate in eating the hot fudge one as Erica and Boyd told them about the rides they’d gone on and what they still wanted to ride. By the time the sundaes were gone, they had the rest of the day planned and the four of them headed off.

Stiles was half-asleep when Derek parked in front of the house. The rest of the Pack were already going inside and he could hear John and Melissa giving out room assignments. He grabbed their bags out of the trunk and carried them inside, unsurprised when he came back out and Stiles was still in the car, forehead pressed against the window, eyes closed and soft snores coming from his slightly open mouth.

Shaking his head, he carefully opened the door and caught Stiles before he fell out, noting he’d been awake long enough to undo the seatbelt, Standing carefully, he pulled him into a bridal carry and used a foot to close the door behind him. John was smiling as he held open the door for them to come through, pressing a kiss to his son’s forehead before clapping Derek on the shoulder and wishing him a goodnight. 

The rest of the Pack were already settled into their rooms and Derek tried to tune out the noises coming from them. He heard Liam and Mason talking about the day and their plans for the next day to hang out at the beach behind the house and have a barbecue at night. Derek smiled softly as they claimed it was the best trip they’d had in a long time, even if they both wished it could be longer.

He continued down the hall to the master suite at the end, pleased to see that their bags had been deposited inside so when he laid Stiles on the bed, he was able to undress him down to his boxers quickly and grab a pair of his sweats from the bag, leaving them at the foot of the bed in case he got cold in the night or wanted to head down to the kitchen for something to drink or snack on.

After brushing his teeth, he climbed into bed, wrapping his arms around Stiles and pulling him against his chest. He grinned when Stiles pressed a kiss to his chest and mumbled, “I love you.” He returned the sentiment along with a kiss to the top of his head as he looked up to the skylight above the bed, the stars twinkling as he listened to Stiles’ heartbeat.

He was awake long enough to watch a cloud move completely across his view before he finally gave up and climbed out of bed, heading downstairs to the kitchen. He’d grabbed a book on his way out of the bedroom and settled on a stool at the island with a bottle of water and an apple. He made it through a couple of chapters when he heard someone coming down the stairs and looked up to find Melissa in the doorway, her face immediately softening into her ‘concerned mother’ face and warmth spread through Derek’s chest.

“Stiles mentioned you were having trouble sleeping,” she said, moving toward the refrigerator and pulling out a gallon of milk before taking a pan out of one of the cupboards and putting it on the stove.

“You’re not sleeping either,” Derek responded, putting his book aside and watched her heat the milk, carefully and continuously stirring it with a wooden spoon.

“Menopause. What’s your excuse?” Derek choked on a laugh and she winked at him over her shoulder. “Grab a couple of mugs, would you?”

Derek rose, opening and closing three cupboards before he found the mugs, pulling two out and setting them on the counter next to the stove. “I haven’t slept much since the fire,” he whispered as he took the full mug she handed him, blowing out over the steam when he was done speaking.

“Understandable,” she said, her tone thoughtful as she studied him. “Stiles told me about Kate.” Derek felt a quick stab of betrayal but pushed it down, knowing that Stiles hadn’t shared the information to hurt him and that if anyone could keep it a secret it was Melissa McCall. “I know he’s told you this, but maybe hearing it from someone who loves you but isn’t in love with you will drive it home. What she did was not your fault, Derek. You were young and grieving your girlfriend’s death and an evil, manipulative, poor excuse for a human being preyed upon that. Her actions were her own.”

Derek nodded, mouth twisted into a wry grin. They were words he’d heard many times before but perhaps Melissa was right, hearing it from her, from the closest thing he viewed as a mother since losing his own, rang a bit more poignantly through his soul. He started to thank her, but the words were lost in a yawn.

Smiling softly, she took his mug from him and pushed him towards the stairs. “Now, get back to bed before Stiles wakes up the entire house looking for you.”

He pulled her into a quick hug before following her instructions, trying to slip into the room without disturbing Stiles but he was already sitting up in bed, phone in hand, screen illuminating his face as he looked up at Derek with a concerned frown on his face. “Alright?”

He leaned onto the bed and kissed Stiles firmly on the lips. “Alright.” He settled on his side of the bed and looked over Stiles shoulder at his phone. “What internet hole did you fall into now?”

“I was thinking we could go to Big Sur next? Try to do some more surfing,” he said. “Then I started checking out shark attack statistics and now I’m watching the last Sharknado film.”

“Still can’t believe they made more than one,” Derek teased, settling in to watch the movie over his shoulder on the little screen but was asleep before he ever saw a shark.

Derek woke the next morning when the bed shifted and an elbow dug into his ribs. Opening one eye, he growled at Erica who just grinned and snuggled down between him and Stiles. Looking past her, he saw Isaac getting ready to climb into the bed and Boyd standing a bit awkwardly in the doorway. He opened his mouth to tell him to get in the bed when Stiles beat him to it.

“Dude, get your big, buff butt over here and puppy pile with us,” Stiles muttered, shifting around until he could make his way underneath Erica to snuggle into Derek. Boyd slid into the bed behind him, tucking Erica into his arms while Isaac laid across all of them with a sigh. Derek closed his eyes, knowing that most of the other occupants of the house would be joining them shortly except for the adults and possibly Mason who was still getting used to the tactile nature of werewolves.

When everything got to be too warm, Stiles slid out of bed and headed down the stairs, finding his father and Melissa sitting at the dining room table, a Scrabble board between them. He glanced at his father’s letters and opened his mouth to help when the man held up a finger and shushed him. “I will beat her on my own.”

“No, he won’t,” Melissa rebutted, smiling around the lip of her mug when John gave her a betrayed look. 

“I play winner,” Stiles claimed as he moved to pour himself a cup and join them at the table. 

They talked quietly as the game went on and when Melissa was declared the winner, she and Stiles set up a new game. They were down to less than five tiles in the bag when there was noise from upstairs indicating the rest of the pack had awoken. 

“Time to start breakfast,” John said, rising and encouraging the others to finish their game while he gathered ingredients. 

Derek was the first down the stairs, hair wet from a shower as he tugged a “Keep Calm and Steal Everybody’s Left Shoe” shirt, a silhouette of Stitch at the top and Stiles had to stop in the middle of laying down an ‘I’ next the ‘Q’ in ‘exquisite’ to lay his forehead on the counter and laugh wholeheartedly at his boyfriend’s insanity, proud that he was rubbing off on him.

“So, my son tells me that you’re continuing your trip,” John said as Derek came to stand next to him at the stove, stealing a slice of green pepper that he’d sliced up for omelets. 

“If that’s what he wants,” Derek says, swinging around the island to press a kiss to the top of Stiles’ head as he grabbed plates out to help set up a buffet on the island as Melissa cleaned up the tiles and gloated her wins over the Stilinski men.

“He wouldn’t tell me what the plans were,” John said, gazing after his son who was heading out of the house and into the small yard attached.

“We don’t have any. I’m thinking we’ll get into the car and drive, stopping when something catches his eye.” He scented the air, eyebrows raising. “Or maybe not,” he amended, heading out after Stiles.

“Hey,” Stiles said when Derek stepped outside. He was sitting in the middle of the small yard, one hand held out over the lush green lawn,  a small vine stretching up and twisting beneath his palm.

Derek settled quietly next to him, smiling when the vine began to twist and move and wrapped around his bare foot, tickling the sole of it before winding up around his ankle, a small yellow flower blooming as it came to rest. “You’re getting good at that.”

“It helps me focus,” Stiles explained. “I think I want to go home after this.”

“What made you change your mind?” Derek asked, trying not to sound judgemental. He would do whatever Stiles wanted to do because all of this was about his happiness. 

“Spending time with Melissa and my dad this morning,” he explained. “I’m not going to have a lot of those days left. It won’t be as easy for my dad to come up and visit me at school.” He wrapped his arms around himself and Derek noticed the petals of the flowers beginning to droop where they rested.

“You know he’ll come see you as much as he can. And he is so proud of you,” Derek told him, wrapping an arm around Stiles’ shoulders and pulling him close. “We can go home when they all do.”

“Thanks, Derek,” Stiles said, wiping at his eyes.

“No SomethingWolf?” he teased.

Stiles tilted his head up to study him, damp eyes studying his before shaking his head. “No because you’re my everything, ‘wolf.”

Derek couldn’t even hold back his laughter as he pressed a kiss to Stiles’ lips, teeth clacking together just before the rest of the Pack tumbled out of the house and tackled them to the ground in an overly exuberant call to breakfast. Listening to Stiles' laughter over the scent of happiness of his Pack filled Derek with more pride than he’d felt in all of the time since he’d become Alpha.