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I Need to Show How Much I Can Come and Go

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Forest background. Text in top lefthand corner reads "Interlude of An New Perspective.' Center text reads "I Need to Show How Much I Can Come and Go." Text in bottom righthand corner reads "Asterekmess (Livinginfictions)."

Stiles had thought that he was finally getting used to going back to school after world-changing nights and pretending nothing had happened, but walking into the building on Monday morning, nursing slowly fading bruises and a scabbed over split lip, he was struck by the normalcy of it all.

There were a couple changes, of course, like the staring Stiles got. He hadn’t considered how weird it must’ve looked from the outside, him going missing right after helping them win the game. No wonder people were confused.

Then there was the melancholy that hovered over the student body despite their championship win. The halls now were solemn and quiet, when the last time the lacrosse team got anywhere near winning championships, there’d been goddamn streamers.

Halfway through first period, Stiles realized the cause of everyone’s subdued attitudes. He leaned over the bar of his chair, careful to keep it from pressing into his ribs, and hissed, “Scott.”

Up at the front of the room, Mr. Curtis kept reading a poem out of the textbook, pausing every few lines to explain the context of certain phrases.

“What, Stiles? I need to pay attention,” Scott muttered back.

Stiles snorted. “Since when? Dude, the whole school thinks Jackson’s dead, still.” He looked around at the somber faces. “Should…should we tell them or something?”

Shrugging, Scott refused to even lift his eyes from his book. “It’s not really our business, man. Now leave me alone, I’m trying to listen.”

“Why are you so hung up on this? You usually sleep through this class.” Stiles slunk down in his chair a bit and poked at his textbook.

“Curtis said if I show ‘dedication’ until school’s out, he’ll change my grade to a C, so quiet,” Scott hushed.

Flopping his arms against his desk, Stiles quieted and let Scott listen. He even tried listening to Curtis himself, but following along with such a slow reader was nigh impossible, and once Stiles had read ahead a few stanzas and jotted down some notes, he gave himself another break to look at the room.

Allison was sitting about as far from them as she could get, tucked into the back corner. She wasn’t just ignoring them, she was outright hiding. Her book was open flat on the desk and she had both hands up against her temples as she stared down at it, her hair falling in curtains of unstyled waves that completely covered the profile of her face.

Stiles didn’t spend too long looking. Just seeing her was making him jumpy.

The minute class was over, Scott gathered up his books and scurried out of the room. Stiles nearly rammed into another kid trying to catch up with him, and by the time he made it out the door, Scott was already disappearing around the corner toward the Geometry room.

Stiles leaned against one of the columns of the hall and slapped a hand on his knee, studiously ignoring Allison as she rushed by as well. “What the…” Since when was Scott in a hurry to get to Harris’ class?

A flurry of leather dive-bombed Stiles, and his knees went weak for a whole different reason than the aching bruises all over his body. It was a fight not to let disappointment turn into annoyance when Isaac was the one to squeeze him tight and not Erica.

“Hey, you’re back at school.”

Isaac jumped out of the hug as quickly as he’d jumped in, swiping his hands up and down Stiles’ arms the same way Boyd had done before standing at his side against the wall and putting a hand on the back of Stiles’ neck. “Derek said I have to finish the year. Morrell gave me all my homework, and I have two—”

“Woah, woah,” Stiles interrupted, jerking away. “What are you doing? No wolfy powers in public.”

The cool rush that’d seeped from Isaac’s hand into his skin and pulled a little layer of pain from Stiles’ body was nice, but not at the expense of their safety.

“Would you chill?” Isaac reached out and grabbed at Stiles again, this time holding him still. “Nobody can see anything this way. The smell of your pain is disgusting.”

He had a point, since Isaac’s hand was pinned between Stiles’ neck and the wall, so Stiles stopped fighting and just pressed into it. “Oh. Right. What were you saying?”

“I have two tests to make up and about a dozen worksheets, just from French class. How the hell am I supposed to get all this done while we look for Erica and Boyd?”

“You let Derek focus on looking for them, and you get your homework done,” Stiles explained. “If you need somewhere to work that isn’t the depot, you can always come to my place.”

“We’re not actually at the depot anymore, Stiles,” Isaac admitted. “It was….compromised, so we left. We haven’t been to the depot since the full moon.”

“What?” Stiles straightened up. “Wait, then where have you guys been staying?”

When Isaac didn’t answer, Stiles groaned. “No, do not tell me Derek’s been making you live in the house.”

Isaac shrugged. “He hooked up a shower and got the mini-fridge working. We won’t be there very long. Derek’s taking me to see the place he wants to pick in a couple days. He made promises of hot water and a stove, so I’m excited.”

Stiles gaped at Isaac’s nonchalance. For over a month, Isaac had been living in literal ruins, squatting in abandoned buildings and eating gas station food, and he couldn’t care less. In fact, he looked on the verge of peppy at the thought of having the bare minimum of human comfort. Being a werewolf, being Derek’s pack, meant that much to him.

“And I thought I was codependent,” Stiles muttered.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Isaac blinked at him.

Patting Isaac’s arm, Stiles lifted his shoulder until Isaac’s hand was dislodged. He already felt about a hundred times better. “Nothing, man. If you’re gonna use my room, just text me before you head over, okay? Maybe it’ll set a good example for Derek.”

Geometry was just as bizarre as English, with Allison practically curled up in her chair to avoid looking at them and Scott refusing to look away from writing notes. Even Harris was being weird, his sadness tangible in the air. There were no snappish comments or jokes at the students’ expense. He just read out the formulas and gave basic explanations for how to use them, and that was the whole class.

This time, Stiles was ready when the bell rang, and he beat Scott out of the room just in time to grab his arm as he came careening out the door.

“Stiles, I don’t want to be late!” he complained. “Finstock—”

“Finstock’s gonna be at least five minutes late himself, and you know it, Scott,” Stiles retorted. “Would you just tell me what the hell is going on with you? Since when are you Ultra Nerd?”

Scott scowled, but tucked his thumbs behind his backpack straps and said, “Fine, but can we at least start walking to the room?”

“Jesus, who are you and what have you done to Scott McCall?”


“Fine!” Stiles let go of Scott and pointedly took a step in the direction of their Econ class. “Now talk.”

But Scott was watching Allison walk off. Only once she was out of sight did he turn his moon eyes to Stiles. “We broke up.”

Something hard in Stiles made him snort. “Fucking good.”

Scott’s eyes got even wider. “What? That’s not good!”

“Yes, it is. Or did you forget the whole ‘helped her grandpa kidnap and torture Erica and Boyd and cut Isaac to shreds’ thing? She literally put a knife to my throat right in front of you.”

“What happened to wanting something to go right? I thought you were rooting for us.” Scott was practically pouting, his walk slowed to a crawl.

Stiles pointed down the hall Allison had walked. “That? That is not right, Scott. Her mom died, so she tried to go on a killing spree, starting with our pack.”

“She knows she screwed up, Stiles,” Scott sighed. “She apologized, and I know—.”

“Wait, what?” Stiles interrupted. “What do you mean she apologized? Since when?”

Scott shrugged, “When I took her home afterwards, she said she was sorry for everything she did. I told you, she gets that she—”

“That’s such bullshit!” Stiles cried, looking after Allison even though she was long gone. “Are you kidding? She doesn’t get to just tell you she’s sorry and think that it fixed anything. Derek, Isaac, Erica, and Boyd are the ones she should be apologizing to!”

Puffing up at his words, Scott raised his own voice. “She said she’s sorry, what does it matter that I’m the one she said it to?”

“Because she didn’t do anything to you!” Stiles exploded. “Yeah, she scared you in the station because she told you to get out of her way, but that’s like it. Isaac’s the one she shot. Erica and Boyd are the ones she helped Gerard catch and electrocute. She doesn’t get to apologize to someone she didn’t do anything to and treat it like a catch-all just because she doesn’t want to feel bad about going on an attempted murder spree.”

“Her mom just died, she was freaking out! You don’t know what—” Scott froze when Stiles met his eye.

He waited. The unspoken warning to tread carefully hung between them. If there was anyone in the world who understood what Allison was going through, losing her mom, it was Stiles.

After a second of tense silence, Scott switched tracks. “Look, we broke up while she figures things out. So, I decided that I’m gonna be the guy she needs. I’m gonna fix my grades so I don’t get held back, and I’m gonna…I don’t know. Read all those books Curtis keeps ranting about. That way, I’ll be ready when we get back together.”

“What, so she turns into Hunter Lite, and you embark on a ‘Be a Better Scott McCall’ program? What does any of this have to do with dating?”

Scott sighed and started walking again. “We’re gonna work on ourselves, and then when we get back together, it’ll be awesome. We’ll be unshakeable.”

But Stiles just squinted at him and put out a hand to grab his sleeve. “Scott, dude, she was pissed at you even before her mom died. Did she suddenly get over you freaking out on her at the rave and telling her to date someone else?”

“That stuff doesn’t matter.”

“I cannot believe I’m saying this,” Stiles groaned, “but yeah, it does. That isn’t the kind of stuff you just ignore. Dude, did she say she wanted to get back together later?”

“She knows I’ll wait.”

“That isn’t the same thing.”

“Stiles, we’re gonna be late.”

Stiles huffed sharply. “Fine, fucking fine. You just do your thing. Go study or whatever. I’ll be busy making sure she doesn’t try to come after the pack again.”

The short break between classes was actually nearing its end, but Scott didn’t rush off like he’d been trying to do the whole conversation. He actually stopped walking all together and faced Stiles. “You know I’m not in Derek’s pack, right? I heard him tell you at the warehouse.”

“Yeah,” Stiles said, shifting from foot to foot. “Don’t worry, I get it. Seriously. But no more fighting with Derek. You don’t know how hard it is to be stuck in the middle of you two.”

Scott’s face screwed up into something weird for a second, then he asked, “Are you and Isaac…”

“Are we what?”

Scott bobbed his head forward and shrugged a little. “You know? I mean, you guys are really, uh, touchy. I mean, it’s cool if you are, even if he’s kind of—”

“Wait, what?” Stiles put his hands up. “Woah, woah. You think I’m dating Isaac? Dude, no. First off, and you should know this already, I’m not into blonds, and his hair is toeing that line. Second, I told you, the handsy stuff is a pack thing.”

“Okay,” Scott conceded, but he was still squinting weirdly at Stiles. The bell rang, drilling into Stiles’ skull like it did every day, with an extra touch of flashbacks to the alarms at the station. Scott instantly beat it toward Finstock’s room, grumbling to himself, and Stiles just followed behind him, resigned to being a little more studious for the rest of the year for Scott’s sake.

It was nice though, he realized, sitting in Econ and listening to Finstock compare another economic concept to lacrosse with increasingly far fetched metaphors. It wasn’t for the right reasons, necessarily, but Scott was trying to be better, and that could only bring good things. Who was Stiles to stand in the way of self-improvement?

It was also pretty cool to not have to keep the pack secret anymore. Scott hadn’t said a word about Stiles still being in Derek’s pack, even though he himself wasn’t. He wasn’t mad like Stiles thought he would be, and Stiles felt a bit bad about underestimating him so much. Scott was awesome, why had Stiles been so worried?

When Jackson showed up the next day, the school went wild. All the lacrosse celebrations were suddenly kickstarted, banners were hung up between classes, and Stiles was roped into wearing his jersey for the day with the rest of the team. Harris had bounced to the other end of the emotional spectrum and was positively chipper, so there were still no insults or random detentions given out.

For all intents and purposes, the world was right again. Except for the part where Boyd and Erica were still missing, and Jackson was acting like his old self. No, not his old self, the self that’d come out right after he’d gotten the bite. That new level of assholery from just before the kanima had shown up.

Stiles couldn’t get within a couple feet of Jackson, surrounded as he was by ecstatic admirers. He met Lydia’s eye across the hall and knew that she’d been shrugged off too.

It didn’t make sense, the complete shift in Jackson’s behavior. He’d been…better. Half decent, at least, while he was at Stiles’ place, and Stiles knew Lydia had spent most of the day before with him while he went to the hospital and got checked out.

Isaac appeared in between classes again to say that Jackson was ignoring him too, but he was at least able to confirm that Jackson smelled like a werewolf and like pack, complete with the annoying urge to get up close and personal with him.

After spending lunch in the library with Scott, keeping him company while he worked through extra credit assignments and whatever papers Curtis was letting him rewrite for half credit, Stiles caught up to Lydia in the gymnasium.

They were in open gym, Finstocks’ gift to the class to celebrate winning the championship, and Lydia headed to the free-weights immediately, grabbing a couple seven pound dumbells and slowly curling them up to her biceps. Stiles copied her with the next size up and absently raised one up as he asked, “Did something happen yesterday while you were at the hospital with him?”

Lydia shook her head, not bothering to ask for clarification. “No, the doctors just did some tests while we tried to hide the fact that all his needle pricks were healing almost instantaneously. It took hours. He got really nervous when some officers showed up to ask him how he got out of the morgue and why he disappeared for the night, but he seemed fine when I left.”

“Derek didn’t mention anything to Isaac either. We have no clue what’s wrong with him.” Stiles sighed and let the weights hang from his hands. “He’s not possessed again, Isaac checked, so what the hell is it now?”

“Stiles,” Lydia said, “you’re thinking about this all wrong. What if it’s not something supernatural? Maybe he just needs a day or two to adjust.”

“But Derek’s supposed to teach him control. We can’t wait until he exposes himself.”

Dropping her weights back onto their shelf, Lydia rounded on him. “There’s no more lacrosse for the rest of the school year, which means no more practices. Right?”

“Right, but—”

“And nothing else has started attacking people in the four days since Gerard died, right?”

“Well, yeah—”

And the full moon isn’t for a couple weeks, right?”

“Right,” Stiles sighed.

Lydia poked Stiles’ chest with a manicured finger. “Then you have time to give Jackson space.”

Stiles glared at her for a second, then deflated. “I’ll ask Derek about it. Why are you so protective of Jackson anyway? Are you guys back together?”

“No,” Lydia huffed. “But Jackson was my friend more than he was ever my boyfriend.”

“What do you mean? You’ve been together for years, aren’t you like…in love?”

She laughed a little. “Not really. Not like that. We just—We made sense. We’re the most popular kids in school, dating was just the best way to stay that way.”

“Consolidating power,” Stiles said, nodding. “What, so you never even had sex?”

Scott had told him some of the stuff Lydia had said during that bowling date, and he’d seen her making out with Jackson at the hospital right after Scott separated Jackson’s shoulder.

Lydia just rolled her eyes. “I never said that. Have you seen Jackson?”

Stiles gaped a little as she walked away.

At the end of the day, Isaac appeared in front of Stiles’ locker holding up a folder stuffed with worksheets and assignments. With a wave, Stiles ushered him into the back of the Jeep, where he sprawled across the backseat. The whole way to drop Scott off at Deaton’s, he made disgusted sounds at his surroundings and whined about Stiles needing to get the car cleaned.

He completely ignored Scott, who hopped out in front of the vet’s positively scowling, but thankfully saying nothing.

As soon as they pulled away from the building, Isaac clambered into the front seat in a whirlwind of limbs that nearly sent Stiles off the road.

Stiles side-eyed him when he finally settled. “You good?”

“Yeah. What is with Scott and Deaton?”

“What, you mean right now specifically, or just in general?”

Shrugging, Isaac just slumped against Stiles’ side in a position that didn’t look remotely comfortable. It didn’t feel too comfortable either, until Stiles gave up and just threw an arm over Isaac’s shoulder, driving with one hand. “He’s pretty much always idolized the dude. Deaton’s like the one grown-up Scott doesn’t argue with. And now…” Stiles flailed his hand against the steering wheel. “I dunno. I think he’s just imprinted on him even more or something, since Deaton actually knows about wolves. Scott says he’s been teaching him ‘werewolf things.’” He curled two fingers into quotation marks, then used his palm to turn the wheel and pull onto his street, letting the rubber slide against his hand as the car straightened out.

“Like the werewolf things that Derek’s been trying to teach him for ages?” Isaac grumbled.

Parking the Jeep with a sigh, Stiles turned off the engine and just sat for a second. “Come on, can’t we just be happy he’s learning? Scott found a teacher he’s willing to listen to. And besides, I thought all that stuff with Derek was over? The whole thing with Gerard, they worked together and it worked. Gerard is dead and gone, and let me tell you, this time I’m definitely not sneaking into the funeral.”

Isaac just grimaced and sat up. “Right.”

An hour into their homework, Isaac was sat on Stiles’ bed a few feet away, but his eyes were boring holes in Stiles’ head.


Isaac shot his gaze back down to his worksheet and scribbled something down. “Nothing.”

“Dude,” Stiles turned his chair to face the bed. “What?”

Frowning in discomfort, Isaac put his worksheet down. “I’ve been sharing a bed with Erica and Boyd for weeks.”

The world of werewolves wasn’t one Stiles was fully immersed in, human that he was, so he couldn’t deny that his brain went to some very interesting places in the first second. Quickly shoving those thoughts aside, he put himself in werewolf research mode. “So…you’ve been kinda rolling around in their scents for a while now?”

That got him a nod, but nothing else. Isaac was turning into more and more of a mini-Derek, latching onto his only semi-decent role model and mimicking him right down to the way Derek made Stiles work to know what was going on in his head.

“And…since they’re gone, you’re probably missing them even more than I am,” he continued. He scanned Isaac’s face for any more clues. It popped out easier than he’d expected. “You can’t sleep, can you?”

There weren’t any bags under Isaac’s eyes, since Stiles was pretty sure werewolves couldn’t get sleep deprivation eye bags, but when you stopped looking for human tells, he practically oozed exhaustion. He was swaying, even sitting down, rocking back and forth just a little, probably without knowing it. Looking down, he put a hand on the bed.

“You wanna take a nap or something?” Stiles offered. “I’ll wake you up in time to get your homework done.”

Slowly, Isaac nodded and pushed his homework to the very foot of the bed before sliding up and dropping his head on the pillow. His eyes didn’t close, and Stiles finally made the connection. “Isaac, do you want me to lay down with you, man?”

“Being a werewolf is fucking stupid,” Isaac muttered.

It was one thing for Stiles to find the whole scenting and touching and clinging thing weird. He barely felt echos compared to the way Boyd and Erica had described it. But Isaac was an abused kid whose Alpha was almost completely touch-averse. He was bitten too, so unlike Derek—if Derek was even feeling the same stuff as the rest of them—he still had the entirety of human rules for social interaction conflicting with his instincts. If Stiles was embarrassed for hugging Boyd and Erica every time he saw them at school, or standing too close to Isaac’s side, then Isaac had to be mortified.

Stiles was good at just sort of shoving down his own issues with things to make other people feel better. He’d always been the friend who asked the question Scott was embarrassed to ask, or went and ordered his and Heather’s food at the rink because she was the exact opposite of Scott and talking to grownups made her anxious. By himself, he’d usually just go without if he wanted something that it freaked him out to ask for, but for other people, for his people, there wasn’t a lot he wouldn’t do.

So, he absolutely refused to make a big deal out of it. Closing his laptop, he stood up and gathered Isaac’s homework into a pile that he dropped on his chair. After a quick trip to his bookshelf, he went over and nudged Isaac’s side. “This bed is fucking tiny, scoot.”

When Isaac obliged, Stiles toed his shoes off and sat on the bed, shifting to sit up against the headboard. The whole time he moved, Isaac was stiff as a board.

“Dude, it’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with cuddling a friend. Scott and I totally cuddle when I stay over,” Stiles reassured. He wasn’t even lying. It wasn’t the physical touch that bothered Stiles, just the unfamiliarity of Isaac. “Just get comfortable, take a nap, and I’ll wake you up in a bit.”

Sighing, Isaac shifted onto his side and resolutely mashed his forehead into Stiles’ bruised ribcage while wrapping an arm over his waist and squeezing him tight enough to ache. “Shut up,” he mumbled, but at least he relaxed.

Stiles lifted the book in his hand, even though Isaac’s eyes were closed. “Yeah, well the mushy pack talk is payback for you making me need to read the Artemis Fowl books again. I haven’t touched these in years, you butthead, then you started stealing them, and I had to crack them open just to keep myself sane.”

“Clearly, it didn’t work,” Isaac retorted.

He was asleep in minutes, leaving Stiles with a very clingy seatbelt and sweating only on his right side. They weren’t even under any blankets, Isaac was just a heater. Fucking werewolves.

His phone buzzed in his pocket half an hour later, and Stiles had to inch his fingers into his jeans in order to keep from jostling Isaac. He managed to slip his phone out without Isaac so much as twitching and clicked through to his messages.

Peter Pan: Why isn’t Isaac answering his phone?

That’d b bc he’s asleep.

Peter Pan: You got him to sleep?

Yes? It wasn’t hard. He just needed sm pack cuddles apparently. Out like a lite in abt 10 sec.

Peter Pan: Can he stay with you tonight? He needs the rest.

U wnt him here? W/me?

Peter Pan: Yes.

Uhhh, ok. Sure. Do u need 2 come c him or smthng? Shld I bring him back 2 urs in the morning? I’ve never bbsat b4, how does this work?

Peter Pan: You’re not babysitting, Stiles. You’re letting pack stay with you. He’s 16, just ask him.

Fine, but I’m calling u if he has a tantrum.

Peter Pan: Fine.

Snorting down at his phone, Stiles set it gently on his nightstand and went back to reading about the most batshit dwarves he’d ever seen.

Without needing to worry about getting Isaac to bed at a decent time, Derek ran through the preserve until he was ready to drop. Searching for scents at this point was almost useless, but there might still be signs of disturbance or a trail he could follow. It was his only lead. He knew the land like the back of his hand, every running path and animal trail, but that only meant that he knew just how massive it was. It would take weeks to search the whole thing properly, even with Peter taking part of the load.

Not that Derek wanted Peter’s help. If Derek had his way, Peter would be staying as far away from the pack as possible. But then, if Derek had his way, Erica and Boyd wouldn’t currently be hostages to a pack of murderous Alphas. He didn’t have the freedom to turn Peter down.

But he still had more freedom than he’d had since his arrival in Beacon Hills. For the first time, he could actually go in public without fearing for his life. Neither cop nor hunter was on his or Isaac’s tail, which meant they didn’t have to live in hiding anymore, and it was time to finally leave the ruins of his childhood home.

Derek didn’t want a house. He barely knew how to live in one. He’d done his fair share of chores in high school, but for the last six years he’d been living in tiny apartments with Laura so they could keep a low profile. There was no porch or garden to worry about, no mortgages or homeowners associations to contend with. Talk of interest rates made his head hurt. The only house he wanted to be in was his own, but with that unavailable, he had to find somewhere for Isaac to actually live.

A proper apartment was also out of the question. He and Laura had been in control, able to keep quiet and avoid catching anyone’s attention even while sharing thin walls with strangers. It’d been uncomfortable, but they’d done it. Isaac wasn’t remotely ready to spend a full moon with neighbors, and Derek didn’t want him to have to.

Being around humans was stifling and weird. Even just getting the mail or doing laundry in an apartment building usually involved bumping into at least one of them. In public, everything had to be reigned in and suppressed to keep people from noticing there was someone not quite human in their midst.

Not that they ever knew what he was. Humans were blind as bats when it came to recognizing the supernatural. But their instincts still worked, telling them something was off. It was half the reason he could barely get through a grocery trip without getting the cops called on him. The other half was what Laura liked to call his “perpetual bitchface.”

Isaac didn’t deserve to spend all day trying to stay under the radar at school, just to have to do the same thing afterwards in his own home. Derek had never gotten used to it himself, and since he finally had the option to not put himself in that position, he refused.

He’d found the perfect middle ground on accident during the brief period of calm before the rave, seeing a battered “For Sale” sign on the outside of a dusty, dark building in the industrial district on his way to pick Isaac up. Curious, he’d gone back the next day.

Most of the buildings in the area were just condemned warehouses, but this one looked like some kind of complex. The door was unlocked when he twisted it, so Derek just walked in, finding a small lobby with a wall of dull brass mailboxes.

It was an apartment complex as far as he could tell, filthy and full of cobwebs, but structurally sound. It seemed to have been abandoned not because of damage, but just because there weren’t enough people to live in it anymore. The bottom two floors had semi-normal looking apartments, the kind that he’d lived in in New York, and there were a couple more basement spaces that felt like standing in a cave, but when he ventured up a couple flights of rickety metal stairs, he found the top floor of lofts. Each of them had a big, metal, rolling door. Heavy and sturdy, if not very attractive.

To the far right was a loft with windows up to the ceiling in the main room. The walls were heavy concrete and brick, with exposed concrete beams throughout the room and a whole section of brick smashed away as though it was about to go through a renovation when the owners left. Vestiges of counters and a disused stove sat in the corner next to the hole in the wall, making a pathetic little kitchen area, and a doorway off to the left of the front entrance led to a small bathroom.

Walking slowly into the room, Derek rolled his shoulders and looked up at the high ceiling. There was a spiral staircase at the back, leading up to another floor that, after investigation, yielded another bathroom and two bedrooms.

The whole place was dirty and worn and probably a death trap for anyone capable of getting tetanus.

Derek wanted it.

It took five calls total to find out that the building was still for sale by a distressed sounding owner who was desperate to get rid of it, and that Derek could easily afford to buy it with the inheritance he’d finally gotten access to. The only hitch in the plan was suddenly being stuck in the depot for weeks with his three Betas.

Now that he was a free man, Derek went right back to the loft to look it over again, this time with Isaac on his heels.

As the second youngest of four children, Derek was used to sharing his space and his property. Even after the fire, he and Laura still shared everything from a laptop to gloves and hats. His first instinct when buying food was to get enough for a small army, which’d made feeding all three Betas practically a relief, since nothing went to waste.

But the feeling he got when thinking about introducing Isaac to the loft, seeing if he liked it anywhere near as much as Derek did, vibrated differently in his chest. It was less like having a sibling and more like being a parent, if he had to guess. He knew he had the last say, and even if Isaac didn’t want to, Derek could still make him live there. Was that what Laura had felt like, whenever she’d had him look at apartment listings with her? Like she was giving him a choice, knowing it wasn’t really much of a choice? Isaac was the same age Cora would have been, a six year difference; he shouldn’t have felt so much like Derek’s actual kid.

But he did.

All the worry was for nothing, since Isaac lit up like a Christmas tree the minute he walked in the building. As Derek had suspected, Isaac’s eyes instantly went to the high ceilings and the big window filling the back wall. The big space made Isaac feel free, while the thick walls and isolation made Derek feel safe.

“Can you seriously buy the whole building?” Isaac asked.

“It’s better if I do,” Derek explained, wandering over to the sad little kitchenette. “Then no landlord, no neighbors. We’d probably be the only people on this side of town.”

Isaac nodded, poking at one of the beams. He put a hand on it and walked in a circle, swinging slightly and hanging from its side. “Yeah, but you said buy, like…like buy it. Outright.”

Derek twisted his mouth a little, trying to keep from scowling. “I’m not paying a mortgage.”

“Woah, what happened over here?” Isaac rushed over to join Derek, reaching out to touch the bricks around the edge of the massive hole in the wall.

“It looks like they were trying to renovate, move the kitchen in here. I can finish the job myself. We wouldn’t need to hire contractors.”

“Do you even know anything about home renovation?”

Derek shrugged. “I’ll figure it out. Go pick a bedroom.”

“It’s been a week,” Stiles pointed out. “Actually, it’s been ten days.”

“So?” Lydia sighed.

“Soo, I think that’s plenty of space. A downright generous amount.”


And Jackson needs to fucking talk to us now. Or at least listen when we talk.”

Lydia stabbed at her lasagna, eyeing Stiles and Isaac next to him. “And what do you want me to do about it?”

Stiles spread his fingers around the corners of his lunch tray. “I want you to arrange a meeting with him.”

“This isn’t The Godfather, Stiles.”

“No, but maybe if you’re the one asking to see him, he’ll stopping running away,” Stiles retorted.

It was becoming a near daily occurrence. Stiles shared every class with Jackson except gym, and while Stiles had been trying to give Jackson space, every time he got close, accident or not, Jackson found a reason to bolt. Harris was always indulgent of Jackson, so he barely had to raise a hand before being excused, and Finstock just thought he had a bug.

Stiles leaned forward, elbow bumping Isaac where he was ignoring them both and eating his own lunch. “Just tell him you wanna talk to him, and we’ll show up instead. Or too. I mean, if you want to stay you can. You know, I could probably talk to Derek—”

“Don’t even start,” Lydia hissed. “I might be willing to help you out once in a while, and since my options for friends have dwindled to about zero, I’ll hang out with you and your little entourage. But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to follow Derek around begging for treats. I’m not joining his pack.”

“She has a point,” Isaac finally said, poking his fork in her direction. “We did kind of try to kill her.” He shot her an insincere smile. “No offense, by the way.”

Lydia’s eyes narrowed. “Plenty taken.”

Eager to keep the peace, Stiles waved his hands around. “Okay, message received, Lydia is a lone wolf. But Jackson needs to not be, if you wanna sleep soundly on the next full moon.”

“Excuse me?”

“I told you about Scott, remember? He went looking for Allison every time he turned for like two months. You guys might not be dating, but Jackson’s still closer to you than anyone else in the world, so who do you think he’s gonna run to on the full moon if we’re not around to either teach him control or lock him up?” Stiles shrugged apologetically. “I know that sounds like a threat, but it’s not.”

Pushing her tray to the side, Lydia folded her hands together and looked Stiles dead in the eye. “Did you ever think maybe that’s why Jackson doesn’t want to talk to you? All you guys care about is making him keep the secret and chaining him up on the full moon. And, need I remind you, you’ve all been trying to kill him too, for ages?” She pointed at Stiles and turned to Isaac. “Stiles is his only frame of reference for someone actually becoming part of your pack, and Derek put him through the wringer. None of these are good reasons to want to talk to you.”

Isaac sighed and leaned back in his chair. “Yeah, well, he tried to kill us too. Pretty sure we’re even. Besides, Derek says we don’t have to like pack, we just have to accept them, so that’s as good as he’s gonna get right now.”

“Baby steps,” Stiles said to Lydia. “Would you just help us get in the same room as him?”

The meeting was in the choir room, the same one that Lydia had dragged Stiles to so he could explain the supernatural to her. Admittedly, it was a nice change of pace from the smelly locker rooms. They set it up as a sort of ambush, with Isaac at one exit and Stiles at the other so that Jackson couldn’t leave.

When they came in their respective doors, Jackson was already chewing Lydia out.

“You’re kidding me, right? What the hell are you doing?” he hissed.

Lydia crossed her arms. “Would you just get it over with and stop whining?” She turned to Stiles. “I’m done doing you favors, Stiles. Friend or not, you’re wracking up a lot of them.” Stomping as primly as she could in heels, Lydia turned and left out Isaac’s door.

Stiles watched her go, groaning once she’d disappeared. “I don’t even wanna know what she’s gonna make me do to even us out.”

“What do you want?” Jackson asked, gaze snapping between the two of them.

“I wanna actually talk you, for one thing,” Isaac sniped, “but you’ve been fucking ignoring me for a week.”

Snorting, Jackson dropped into a chair and spread out, stretching his legs and crossing his arms. “What am I, your boyfriend?”

“No, you’re pack. That’s supposed to trump your dumb social status, jackass.”

“And who says I still want to be?”

Stiles groaned again and kicked Jackson’s legs out of the way so he could grab his own chair to sit backwards on. “Jackson,” he said calmly, “you absolute fuckwit. You say you still want to be pack, or the bond wouldn’t be there. Frankly, I don’t see what your issue is. You were all for this when we talked at my place.”

“Yeah, well, I can change my mind, alright?”

Isaac pulled over one more chair to complete their little triangle, cocking his jaw like he wished he had something to chew on. “Yeah, you can. Of course you can.” He leaned into Jackson’s space and grinned a little meanly. “But you don’t want to.”

Never one to be intimidated, Jackson didn’t back off from Isaac. Instead, he leaned forward as well until there was barely an inch between their foreheads. “You don’t know what I want.”

“You want the same thing the rest of us do. You want to be Derek’s Beta, to be our pack. There’s no point in lying about it, cus’ I can feel it.” Isaac hissed. “You can’t hide this from me, or from Derek for that matter. If you didn’t want to be pack you wouldn’t be pack. Just like if Derek didn’t want you in the pack, then you just wouldn’t be. This isn’t as complicated as you’re making it.”

Stiles didn’t say anything, just watched from his chair. There was some stuff he just didn’t get, as a human. The bond was so much more real for Isaac, a tangible thing that he’d started referring to just like Derek had, as a rope or a cord between him and the others.

Startling Jackson, Isaac reached out and grabbed the back of his neck, pulling their foreheads together. “We want you, dumbass. Stop fighting it.”

The same way he’d done in the van after Stiles’ outburst, Jackson just sort of deflated. When he pulled back, Isaac let go, and he settled into his seat again with a small huff. “What is this ‘bond’ thing you keep talking about?”

“Tell you what,” Stiles said, hopping back into the conversation. “We’ll explain everything if you come to Derek and Isaac’s place today.”

“I’m not going back to that nasty bunker.”

Isaac snorted. “You don’t have to. We got an apartment.”

Buying the building the loft was in was only part of the process, as Derek was disgusted to find out. Then there was paying someone to come out and confirm that it was structurally sound, letting a stranger wander around the apartments and lofts until he was satisfied that the building was safe, if filthy and in need of repair. Then Derek had to set up the utilities so there was actual water and lighting. So much red tape just to live somewhere he could actually get mail.

Derek had it all done in a little over a week, since he didn’t have a job to keep him from scheduling things in the middle of the day. There was more to do; the kitchen was still unusable, and every faucet, door, and appliance needed replaced. But it was already safer and more secure than any of the other places Derek had been living with Isaac, so he moved them in anyway, once he’d scrubbed it down.

As he chucked Isaac’s bag into the room he’d picked out, Derek’s phone buzzed.

Isaac: Mission accomplished, Jackass is coming today…

Good. Do you need a ride?

Isaac: Nope…

Stop ending your texts with ellipses. You look passive aggressive.

Isaac: I am tho…

No, you’re not. You’re actively aggressive.

Isaac: Fuck you too???

Case in point.

Not twenty minutes after school got out, someone knocked on the front door. Behind the metal, Derek could hear Stiles and Isaac just standing there, even though the door wasn’t locked. He stood up from his crouch and dropped the brick he’d been examining, brushing his hand off on his thigh.

“What are you doing?” he asked. “Just come inside.”

Neither of them moved to open the door, so Derek sighed and went over to it himself. He lifted the latch and pulled to open it. “What—”

A bunch of leaves hit him in the face, nearly jabbing his eye before he closed them. Reaching out, Derek took the pot being held toward him and glared around it. “What is this?”

Stiles snorted. “It’s a housewarming gift, duh. Isaac got one too.”

Isaac nodded, holding up a small cactus in a pot.

“He gets a cactus, and I get a Pothos plant?”

“Is that what it’s called? I just sort of grabbed it.” Stiles put an arm on Isaac’s shoulder and used him as a prop to lean against. “I figured Isaac should get something he can’t kill. But you lived in the woods, so you should get something more high maintenance. Something that looks ugly if you don’t take care of it.”

Turning away, Derek walked into the loft and put the pot on the floor near where he’d been reading. There wasn’t exactly any other furniture to set it on. “Do you have any idea how hard it is to kill a Pothos plant? They’re literally advertised for people with black thumbs. Besides, this isn’t a housewarming party.”

“Uh, yeah it is.” Stiles had followed him in and was looking around eagerly. “You just moved in, now your friends are coming over and bringing plants. Housewarming party. Or, is it denwarming? ”

“You’re not my friend, you’re pack. There’s a difference,” Derek pointed out, ignoring the last comment.

Stiles put a hand on his heart. “Ouch, dude. That cuts deep.”

The skip of Stiles’ heart made the lie clear, but Isaac still glared. Rolling his eyes, Derek dropped back down to the floor, sitting properly this time. “He’s pack, that doesn’t mean I have to be nice to him.”

Surprisingly, Stiles snorted a laugh. “Dude, you couldn’t be decent to me when you were bleeding out in my car. If you were nice, I’d worry.”

Derek pointedly ignored him and picked his book back up. When Stiles’ shadow fell over him, he ignored that too, along with the sliver of Stiles’ forehead that he could see over his book when Stiles crouched in front of him.

The Book of Home How-To? What are you doing?”

Not looking away from his page, Derek waved a hand at the pile of bricks.

“Wait, you’re teaching yourself how to renovate the loft? With actual books?”

“What else would I use?”

“Uh, have you heard of Youtube? Or like, the internet in general? Exactly what century do you live in?”

It was like having Peter in the room. “Don’t you have things to do?”

Abruptly, Stiles bounced back up to his feet. “Hell yeah. Isaac, show me your new room. I need to know whether to judge you or envy you.”

As their footsteps headed for stairs, Stiles voice lowered conspiratorially, though he had to know Derek could still hear him. “So, what name did you pick out?

What the hell are you talking about?” Isaac asked, the ting of the metal steps layering over his words.

For the cactus!

Tell me you’re joking.

Names are important, Isaac.

I’m not naming my—what the fuck?

Derek!” Stiles shouted.

Sighing, Derek just flipped his book closed. It wasn’t like he was getting any reading done. Climbing to his feet, he headed over to the stairwell, absently noting that the metal railing needed refinished.“What?”

What’d you do to my walls?” Isaac called back, much calmer than Stiles.

“I ripped the old drywall out.”


“So, the next time Stiles does that I don’t have to hear it.”

There was an indignant, “Hey!

As he looked up, Isaac’s face appeared next to the railing. “Is it that soundproofing thing you mentioned?”

“I’m picking up the material tomorrow. Can you stand it for a night or two until I get it finished?”

“Can I pick the color it gets painted?”


“Then yeah. I’m good.”

Derek nodded and walked away again. Soundproofing Isaac’s room was just one of the fixes he planned to make. It would be nice, actually, to have something to focus on when he couldn’t be searching, or when Isaac was home. Derek didn’t like leaving Isaac alone, so unless Isaac either went with him or went to Stiles’, Derek was stuck. At least now he was stuck with something to do.

They were all waiting, he knew, but after an hour with no Jackson, Derek was ready to leave Stiles with Isaac and go for a run through his next section of the preserve. Then, Stiles came padding down the stairs, frowning at his phone. Though he wasn’t paying any attention to where he was going, Stiles didn’t so much as stumble down the steps.

“What’s wrong?” Derek asked.

The moment Stiles looked up and around himself, he tripped on the last step down from the stairs. Arms pinwheeling, he took a second to get steady, then held up his phone. “Jackson’s outside. He said he needs ‘proof’ that I’m in here and it’s not just you.”

Derek grimaced. “Great.”


“The last time I had Jackson meet me somewhere abandoned, I may have threatened his life to get him to shut up about werewolves.”

Slowly, Stiles nodded. “Ah, so he’s gonna use me as a human shield. Got it.” He shrugged. “Be right back, if your damn stairs don’t kill me. Why’d you pick the third floor?”

“Aren’t you supposed to be an athlete?” Derek called to his back as the door rolled shut.

Stiles’ mocking was still audible on his way down the hall.

He returned with Jackson, who looked decently calm right up until he caught sight of Derek.

This was going to be fun.

“Glad you could make it.”

“I’m here so Stilinski and Isaac tell me what I want to know.” Still, Jackson looked around the loft with curiosity, stepping over to gaze out the window. “Shit place, decent view.”

“I could say the same thing about you,” Stiles pointed out. It was a little harsher than Derek was expecting, considering how careful Stiles had been about Jackson lately, wanting to give him space and wait until he was adjusted before approaching him about pack things.

Having Jackson as a Beta was undoubtedly uncomfortable. Derek had not only thrown him in a river and forced a paralytic down his throat, but he’d also put his hand through Jackson’s stomach and tried to kill him. A lot.

In return, Jackson had paralyzed him three times, beat the shit out of him, Isaac, and Erica, and nearly killed Stiles.

But that didn’t mean Derek didn’t want Jackson as a Beta. All worries about strengthening his pack aside, Jackson needed pack just as much as Boyd did. More, actually, since Boyd hadn’t turned into a kanima over it. Besides, the fact was that Jackson was a werewolf who needed control, and Derek could give it to him. End of story.

So, he sucked up the urge to just snarl Jackson out of the apartment and leaned against a beam, projecting nonchalance, if not actual friendliness. “What is it you want to know?”

“As if that’s any of your business,” Jackson sniped.

Having followed him across the room, whether out of worry or suspicion, Stiles backhanded Jackson’s arm. “Would you knock it off?” he snapped. Again, sharper than Derek was expecting.

Jackson rounded on him, instantly hostile, and the tension in the room went thick. “Stilinski, if you don’t stop touching me, I’m gonna pummel you into the ground. Got it?”

Straightening, Derek took a step forward to break them up. Isaac had told him that Stiles and Jackson didn’t get along, but what the hell was this?

Stiles sneered right back at him, not an ounce of fear in his scent despite the faint bruises Derek could still smell on his body. “Bring it on, Whittemore. Werewolf or not, I will kick your ass if you don’t stop calling me—”

“Hey, what the fuck?” Isaac appeared on the steps, jumping over the last couple to land on the ground. “This isn’t the field, put your sticks away.” He put a hand on Jackson’s chest and shoved until Jackson backed up. “Rule number one; we don’t hurt humans.”

Derek’s chest wanted to puff up with pride at Isaac’s calm demeanor, but he was busy squinting at Stiles. “What the hell is wrong with you?”

“What?” Stiles asked, still side-eyeing Jackson. “You’re the one that said I don’t have to be nice to him just because he’s pack.”

“That doesn’t mean you provoke a new wolf,” Derek scolded. “Not if you want to keep your limbs. You’d think ‘Werewolf Yoda’ would know that.”

But Stiles looked unbothered by the possibility of Jackson losing control and attacking him. It was like when Isaac and Scott had been forced to share a building at the vet’s, only Stiles wouldn’t heal if Jackson lost his temper.

Making a note to keep them on opposite sides of the room, Derek turned his attention back to Jackson.

He was still glaring at Stiles, snarling roughly when Stiles flipped him off.

“Jackson,” Derek said. “Look at me.”

Jerkily, Jackson turned to face him with bright blue eyes. And that…that hurt.

“Ask your questions, Jackson, and I’ll answer them.”

Immediately, Jackson’s eyes melted down to a much more human blue. “I’ve seen Scott on the field. I know his asthma is gone. And Erica turned into a bombshell after she got the bite, so I’m guessing she’s not having seizures anymore. They got fixed when they got the bite, so why didn’t I?” Jackson set his jaw and stared Derek down, like he thought he’d have to fight to get a response.

Derek just shook his head. “What are you talking about? What do you mean, fixed?”

From where he’d dropped onto the steps and pulled out his phone, Stiles scoffed. “Holy shit. Is that why you’ve been so pissy? The bite didn’t cure your dyslexia?”

Jackson growled again at that, but was knocked out of it by Isaac grabbing his arm and gaping at him. “You’re dyslexic? Since when?”

“Since forever, dipshit,” Jackson snapped. “That’s kind of how it works.”

“But it hasn’t gone away?” Derek interrupted, before Jackson could go off on anyone else. “Since the bite, you’re still having…issues?” It was the only way he could think to phrase it, since he didn’t actually know what Dyslexia was besides getting letters mixed up.

Jackson shrugged. “Yeah, it’s the same as usual.”

“Hey, Jackass,” Stiles said, “spell ‘sulfuric acid.’”

Derek had to grab the back of Jackson’s jacket to hold him back, snarling at him to make him calm down, then growling at Stiles. “That’s it.” He pointed. “Out, we need to talk.”

Snapping his human teeth in Jackson’s direction, Stiles practically sauntered out of the apartment.

“Just, talk to him or something, calm him down. I’ll be back in a minute,” Derek told Isaac, pushing Jackson in his direction before following Stiles’ scent.

It led him all the way down to the ground floor and out the front of the building, way out of earshot of the others, since Stiles probably didn’t know how far he needed to go. He was leaning back against the wall, blowing out a breath and rubbing the heel of his hand against his temple. He jerked up straight when Derek let the door close behind him. All the annoyance and fury was gone, replaced by anxiety and embarrassment. How had he completely changed moods in the time it took to go down two flights of stairs?


“What’s wrong with you?”

“Nothing, lots of things, take your pick.” Stiles looked up at the sky. “God, he’s just so fucking aggravating.”

Derek crossed his arms and snorted. “He wasn’t actually doing that much.”

“He doesn’t have to!” Stiles burst. “Why’d it have to be him? The one person that I would happily kick off a cliff is suddenly this damsel in distress, while also being the big bad, and now he’s in my pack. Why him?”

“I didn’t get a choice, Stiles. He—”

“Yeah, I know, he just showed up and you couldn’t say no. I get that, seriously. I just—” Stiles spun and kicked at the concrete wall, growling a little, human yet vicious. “It’s one thing when he needs something, you know? Like, he’s pack, I get it, I’ll help. It’s not even hard to be nice. But the minute he’s not in danger or something, I wanna beat the snot out of him! He’s just such a douchebag.”

Derek nodded. “Yeah, but so is Isaac, and you put up with him just fine.”

Stiles scoffed. “No, Isaac’s a dick. It’s different. And for the record, you’re an ass. It’s a scale I’ve been carefully cultivating since I learned the word butthead.” He planted both hands on the wall and leaned on them, looking down at the gravel. “Dude, I just…Ugh, I just don’t wanna mess this up, okay?”

There was still enough space between them that Derek felt comfortable stepping forward a bit. “Why do you think you’re going to mess up Jackson joining the pack?”

If anyone was going to screw this up, it would probably be Derek. It was starting to be a routine, now that he’d already scared off Erica, Boyd, and Isaac once, and outright chased Stiles out of the depot.

“Cus’ I fucking hate the guy,” Stiles admitted to the wall. “He’s been tormenting me since the fifth grade, and now I’m supposed to care about him and that’s just bullshit. But if I fuck up, I’ll scare him out of the pack altogether. Or, hell, what if he becomes the kanima again because I held a grudge?”

“He won’t.”

“You don’t know that!” Stiles finally looked over at Derek, eyes wide and angry. “I could reverse everything we did and get people killed, just because I have like zero emotional control.”

Grimacing, Derek stepped up and pushed Stiles to stand on his own, his right hand on Stiles’ right shoulder, even though it was uncomfortable. He was absolutely shit at these situations, but he knew that touch was important, whether he liked it or not. “I don’t know what happened with you two, and frankly, I don’t care. But you’re not gonna be the one who scares Jackson away. He yelled at me for not letting you in, remember? Douchebag or not, he’s clearly fine with having you in the pack, so just…get over it and try again.”

Stiles looked at him balefully and jerked back until Derek’s hand was dislodged. “Get over it and try again? That’s your advice? The great Alpha wisdom you’ve decided to bestow upon me is to ‘get over it and try again?’”

Derek shrugged and pulled his hand back to the safety and comfort of his pocket. “I never said you couldn’t be pissed at him. Be pissed, then get over it and try again.”

He left Stiles standing there and headed back upstairs to deal with his next problem.

The loft was bare except for their mattresses, Isaac’s in his room and Derek’s down in the corner. Without a place to sit, Derek entered the loft to find Isaac and Jackson sitting across from each other on the floor, legs stretched to keep the most distance between them, while still letting their feet touch.

“What’d you do to him?” Jackson asked, frowning at the door.

Derek raised an eyebrow. “I talked to him. He’ll be back eventually.”

Jackson looked at Isaac, who shrugged, then back at Derek. “So, since when is that Peter guy still alive?”

“Since the last full moon.”

“But he was,” Jackson swallowed, “He burnt to a crisp, even before you slashed his throat. Stilinski and I doused him with Molotovs.”

Derek hadn’t known that. He remembered seeing Peter on fire, smelling chemicals in the air, but not what’d started the flames.

Isaac sat up and crossed his legs, pulling away from Jackson to stare at Derek. “That’s how Peter died?”

“So, he did die?” Jackson confirmed. “But now he’s…back?”

“Yes,” Derek said simply. “Next question.”

For a second, Jackson’s eyes shot to the door, then over to Isaac again, before he pulled one knee up and wrapped an arm around it. “What’s the point of you?” Before Derek could respond, he elaborated by waving his free hand in Derek’s direction. “The whole Alpha thing. What’s the point? Stilinski said you need a pack to not be nuts, but why would we need you? What do we get out of it?”

“Well, for one thing, you get to be stronger, faster, heal quicker, and your senses are more heightened than an Omega’s. I’m not the only one who becomes more powerful from having a pack. The bigger the better.” Derek dropped down into a crouch, then shifted to one knee. “For another, a pack literally can’t exist without an Alpha. You can get all the Betas together you want, but without an Alpha, the bond won’t form.”

“What bond?”

“It’s what connects you to us. How we know you’re pack. You should be able to feel them.”


Derek nodded. “You have one with every member, not just me.”

“It’s like a tugging in your stomach,” Isaac added. “Erica said it’s kind of like just before her cramps started? Boyd said it’s like being hungry in a weird way, except you’re craving people instead of junk food. When we’re away from pack for too long, it kind of buzzes under your skin to make you want to go find them or see them.”

Jackson put a hand on his stomach and looked down. “Okay, but I’ve been feeling like that even when I’m with you guys. Even when Stilinski was here. So why isn’t it going away? I thought I had food poisoning or something.”

Isaac picked at his nails. “That’s because Erica and Boyd aren’t here.”

“Where are they then? Stilinski said you guys had to find them, but where did they go?”

“They were taken by an Alpha pack,” Isaac said. “We’re still trying to find them.”

“Wait, wait,” Jackson dropped his knee. “An Alpha pack? How the fuck does that even work?”

Sighing, Derek rolled his shoulders. “It’s not supposed to.”

He stopped at the clatter of footsteps outside the door. He’d left it open, and after a few seconds, Stiles appeared, silent but for the tapping of his fingers on his sides. Taking a deep breath, he crossed the room toward Jackson and stood next to him, looking down at his upturned face.

“I hate you,” he said, no hint of a lie in his heart. Then, he collapsed neatly into crossed legs and scooted right up next to Jackson to press their sides together. Like he’d done with Isaac earlier, he lifted an arm and propped it on Jackson’s shoulder.

The room was silent as Jackson looked over at Stiles with furrowed brows and his mouth half open as though he was about to start shouting. He looked down at Stiles’ arm and his face twisted up even more angrily. Then, he stopped and growled before just turning back to Derek, leaving Stiles to lean on him.

“What do you mean it’s not supposed to?” he asked roughly.

Derek assumed Stiles would be capable of catching himself up, so he didn’t re-explain anything, just moved on. “I mean that it’s not supposed to happen. Technically, it’s possible for Alphas to bond with each other, but it’s incredibly rare, and it usually means two packs are merging into one that has an Alpha pair.”

“That’s not what this is?”

“No. It’s at least four Alphas, maybe more, that made their own pack, without any Betas.”

Stiles squinted. “If they’re Alphas, what happened to their old packs?”

There wasn’t a tactical way to give the answer, but Derek didn’t have to, because Isaac piped up instead. “They’re dead, aren’t they?”

Derek nodded. “It’s our job to protect you. That’s an Alpha’s entire purpose, to take care of their pack. The need to protect and provide is biological. In the natural world, wolf packs are just families. The Alphas are the parents, the Betas are their kids. With us, while the Alpha spark can be held by technically anyone, they’re still hardwired to take care of their pack like flesh and blood. It’s…it’s sacrilege to kill your own Beta, let alone your entire pack. So, yeah, technically it’s possible for Alphas to join up and make their own pack, but the implications of it are so taboo that it isn’t even considered. Until it happened.”

“And now they’re here, and they have Erica and Boyd,” Jackson said, quietly seething. He seemed to move without knowing it, putting an arm around Stiles and tugging him closer, ignoring Stiles’ small yelp.

Isaac went over to his other side pushing into his space too. “Hey, we’re gonna find them.”

Jackson just growled again and grabbed at him to pull him into the pile they were creating.

In spite of the situation, and how much his chest hurt from the gaping holes in the room where Boyd and Erica should’ve been, Derek smiled.

That, however much Jackson would try to deny it later, was a pack bond.