Derek could honestly say that he had never felt something so amazing in his entire life. He couldn't even explain the heady feeling that overcame him the second he stepped into the club, couldn't describe why he felt as if he'd been hit with a train, stabbed through with a (sweet, beautiful, painless) arrow, and now was being insistently pulled away from his sister's side by some invisible tether. It was stupid. It was insane. He hadn't wanted to come here to begin with, but-
But suddenly he couldn't think straight past the bliss that was thrumming through him, past the delicious scent enveloping him, convincing him that he was supposed to be here. He barely even heard Cora's protests as he wandered away from her, determined to find the source of his light-headness, even if somewhere, his logic was screaming at him that this was a terrible, horrible, awful plan. Who knew what could be doing this to him? He could be heading straight into a trap and he didn't even care, because holy shit, he felt positively weightless.
There was probably something very, very wrong with that, but- well. He just didn't care. (And that had to be this... this whatever talking, because he wasn't usually that stupid and careless, but fuck, even knowing that there was something screwing with his head didn't dissuade him.) Derek was a goner, hopeless, and he'd happily walk off the side of a building if that's where this tether led him, what the fuck.
It took him until he was nearly to the bar to realize that this was a person he was tracking, a human, no less, based on the delicious apple-cinnamon-warm scent, and Derek just... he didn't know what that was even supposed to mean, because what sort of plain, ordinary human let out as powerful a smell as that? That didn't- that didn't make sense-
And fuck, the closer he got the more intoxicated he felt, drunk on this stupid, warm, humming feeling, on what smelled increasingly like home and pack and the family he'd lost, and-
It hit him all at once, like a physical blow to his chest, and Derek stumbled to a jagged halt, dazed out of his drunken stupor by the realization. His mate. He was chasing after his mate, feeling the affects of being close to them, sucking in that scent like an eager puppy because this was his mate, not just some random human. He was... He didn't know what he was, but after the stunned disbelief had settled in, all he could think about was how now he had to find the source, had to find his mate. Mate, mate, mate. Derek's mate.
His wolf was going insane, whining and howling in his head, and Derek could feel his skin prickling with white-hot tingles. He wanted to doubt that this was even real, but there was no time for that, not with the wolf demanding that he give chase, that he- that he hunt their mate, because this wasn't Derek stumbling after a mystery any more, this was the wolf hunting down his mate like a predator after its prey.
A shudder trembled down his spine, and then he was shoving his way forward, his vision and head clearer than they had felt in a long time. He swept his gaze over everyone seated at the bar as he stalked along it, drinking in that taunting, honey scent as he went, single-minded focus buzzing with excitement under the surface. Derek knew it the second he had found them, because his wolf was suddenly deafening in his thoughts, and he couldn't tear his gaze away from the guy leaning up against a nearby stool.
He was perfect. (That's the point, his more rational thoughts snarked, only to be growled at by his wolf, which... Derek didn't know how that was even allowed to be a thing, what the fuck.) Lithe and messy-haired and smattered with moles that Derek was itching to count with his tongue, all slender fingers that gripped his beer in a way that was sinful, and-
And he was staring back at Derek with whiskey-amber eyes that sent a jolt through his chest. Derek hadn't known brown eyes could ever look like that, and now that he knew he wanted to write poetry about it, wanted everyone to know how perfect his mate's eyes were. God, was his everything perfect. His wolf tried to convince him that he was in love already, and while he was vaguely rational enough to acknowledge that was a little extreme, Derek had to admit that it wasn't far off.
He was still staring, and his mate was still staring back with a puzzled expression that bordered on embarrassment. It wasn't until a flush hit the younger man's cheeks that Derek finally registered with a jerk that he was staring, Jesus, and then he was taking a quick step forward in an effort to explain why he was being a stupid creep. (Mine, his wolf growled, offended that Derek was embarrassed about their staring, which- he wasn't going to bother trying to argue with his wolf. With himself. Whatever.)
"Hey," Derek forced out, his voice rougher than he'd ever heard it, and he felt himself flush slightly as he drew up close to his mate's side. Only he was leaning towards him a little more than he'd meant to, and when his mate turned around again he jumped slightly because of the proximity. Derek hastily inched back a little bit, flicking a nervous glance up to find the guy staring at him in disbelief, and mumbled out a gruff, "Sorry."
"What?" his mate sputtered, his voice smooth and whiskey-warm like his eyes and his scent, and god, Derek was a goner. A flush hit his cheeks again, darker than before, when he seemed to realize what Derek meant. "Oh- I mean, it's fine, sorry, I just wasn't- expecting you to, uh, come over here. Or to be so close."
"Sorry," Derek mumbled again, feeling himself gravitating slightly, leaning ever so slightly closer to the guy once more. It was only a little, tiny shift of his weight, but his mate seemed to notice. Derek felt flustered, and was about to step away again, but suddenly the younger man was leaning even closer towards him, his expression turning coy. "What- Why wouldn't I come over here?" Derek blurted out to avoid sighing at the sight of that playful smirk.
He wasn't sure what had prompted it, but his mate was openly flirting with him now, having gone from flushed and surprised to... Derek wasn't sure what exactly this teasing coyness was, but he was pretty sure it was going to kill him if it remained focused on him for too long. He simultaneously wanted to be out from under his stare and to make sure that his mate never looked at anyone else like that ever again. "Well, I don't know," the man said slowly, another flirty smile upturning his mouth as he looked up at Derek, "I just wouldn't have expected me to be in your league."
Derek felt himself flushing slightly under the compliment even as his wolf bristled up at that, because why wouldn't their mate be in their league? Their mate was perfect enough to be anyone's league. Their mate was their only league, and the only player in the game that mattered, thank you. "You're perfect," Derek found himself saying with conviction, the words slipping out before he had even registered them. His wolf felt more forceful, though, and it was harder to understand why those words might sound a bit odd. He was starting to loose a little bit of control of his instincts and thoughts to the wolf again, but Derek only felt himself smiling blissfully, his wolf content at having vocalized their approval.
"Oh- uh," the guy said, flushing bright red, and his pretty mouth hung open for a second before he snapped it shut and looked away. "Um- Thanks, I guess, but, uh-" He stopped suddenly and looked up in alarm, because apparently Derek had shifted closer again without even really noticing it. "Um."
"Wha-?" Derek mumbled, only to blink in slight surprise when he discovered that he was so close his nose was brushing against the guy's cheek. He didn't remember deciding to creep in more, but he could hear the guy's heart thundering and feel his breath against his face. It was horribly addictive, even if distantly he registered that he was acting insane. "Sorry," he tried again, the words feeling slow as he tilted his head down slightly, inhaling deeply, "You just- you smell so good."
The human tensed up, and then his hands were in Derek's hair, gently but firmly turning his face away from where Derek had tried to bury it in his mate's shoulder. He would have felt embarrassed about it if he were thinking straight, but as it was he could only focus on the hands gripping his hair, eyes going half-lidded in vague pleasure. The slight pressure probably shouldn't have felt as good as it did.
"Are you- You're a wolf," his mate said, looking slightly incredulous, and Derek wanted to sigh over how clever and quick he was. Of course he had figured it out that quickly. So smart. His wolf was swooning, and Derek was pretty much on the same page with that. "Um, you're not- You're not losing control, are you?" the guy asked a second later, his heart beating even faster in an uneven tempo, and Derek frowned.
"What? No," he muttered, his wolf wanting to boast and preen over how good Derek's control was, to show off, but instead he found himself saying in a slight slur as his eyes went heavy again, "Wouldn't hurt you, anyway. You're perfect. Smell so good." (He was pretty sure his eyes were glowing, which may have helped his mate come to his conclusion, but the wolf refuse to believe that the young man was anything less than a genius. It was a bit smitten. Derek might be, too.)
Derek watched at his mate blushed and swallowed, throat bobbing, and a moment later his face was buried against the smooth skin there. Which- yeah, Derek felt a little bit bad about the abrupt movement, but he couldn't really bring himself to care when that delicious scent was concentrated so strongly here. He felt it against his cheek when the guy swallowed this time. "Uh- Yeah, okay," he said in that honey voice, and all of a sudden his tone was dropping into something a little more suggestive, "I guess it would have been a little bit hot, though. If you lost control because of my scent."
Derek stifled a groan again the guy's shoulder at that, feeling his body flush hot at the implications, and then he was nuzzling at his mate's throat almost desperately. Something in his head was telling him that he should be more concerned about the quick thumping of the guy's heart, or about the thick swirl of anxious scents clinging to him, but all he could hear was the flirtatious tone. The part of him that was insisting that he cool it and slow down a bit here was drowned out by the wolf's howls of delight.
"Name," Derek gasped out suddenly, his open mouth pressed warmly against the pulse he could feel fluttering in his mate's throat, and he shuddered slightly at the control it required not to dismiss his own thoughts and start sucking. No, he wanted a name. He wanted to talk. He wanted to know his mate- It's just that he also really wanted to devour the man whole on the spot, and to worry about the rest later. "Your name," he mumbled, his conviction waning slightly as he licked a stripe over his mate's Adam's apple, "What's, uh-"
"S-Stuart," the man stuttered out, his heart as quick and rapid as his breathing, and Derek preened at how flushed he sounded. He wanted to lean back and get a look at his face, but instead he simply started kissing at his throat, nuzzling it. "My- My name is Stuart, yeah, um. Oh-"
His breathing hitched raggedly as Derek bit down suddenly, just the slightest bit, and he found himself purring slightly in delight. His mate liked that, then. Liked the nips and the bites and would probably like the marks Derek wanted to cover him in. His wolf was rumbling with pleasure, and Derek started humming then, his eyes sliding shut as he started sucking drunkenly on the same patch of skin. (Too soon, his rational side insisted, to which he and the wolf both responded with a sound, Shut up.)
"U-uh, listen- I should probably," his mate started to say, swallowing again, and Derek opened his eyes to watch the movement before lapping at his bobbing throat delightedly. Stuart swallowed, again. "I should probably tell you that I'm, uh, not exactly-" His breath squeaked out in a soft gasp as Derek bit down again, nipping, "-Legal."
For a moment Derek just went on suckling at his mole-speckled skin, the words not quite registering when he was so punch-drunk on that scent, but a tug on his hair drew his attention to what Stuart was saying. "Huh?" he mumbled, blinking slowly a few times as he lifted his head and squinted at his mate's face for a second. A pause, and then it registered.
"Oh," he said, blinking again, while his wolf let out an exasperated noise. After another moment, Derek was leaning forward again, practically smashing his face into Stuart's shoulder. "Don't care," he sighed, because he really, really didn't; he was perfectly content to wait for his mate forever if he had to. "You're perfect," he added, nosing at his shirt, "Made for me." There was no way in hell he was going to let something like age (but a number, his wolf sniffed haughtily) or having to wait for sex get in the way of this.
Stuart was still breathing raggedly, and he shuddered slightly when he wheezed, "What do you mean you- you don't care?" He sounded cautious, testing, and Derek nuzzled him again, wanting to get rid of that tone. "I mean- It's illegal," his mate added, sounding nervous and smelling a bit strange.
"Don't care about age," Derek huffed out, rubbing his cheek up against the slope of Stuart's neck, just he clamped down on the urge to bite and suck. See? He was still in control, even if his thoughts were hazy at the moment. His wolf wanted to preen again. "Can wait for you," he added, inhaling deeply, "We'll figure it out."
Stuart had shifted slightly, the movement jostling Derek slightly, and his heart hadn't ever really slowed. Adrenaline, he was sure, though he was starting to worry a bit that he hadn't smoothed Stuart's fears quite yet. Maybe he doubted that Derek was willing to wait for him? Doubted that he and the wolf wanted their mate, even if he was a tad bit younger?
He lifted his head up, blinking at his mate a bit slowly, only to find Stuart staring back at him with wide eyes. "It's okay," Derek insisted, trying for a smile that felt just a little bit drunken, "Don't mind. You're perfect just as you are." He let out a soft sigh of contentment, and added absently, "Just wanna kiss you, anyway. Don't have to-"
Derek paused in his rambling when he saw the look on Stuart's face, because he looked sort of... sad. Disappointed, maybe, but also still flustered and embarrassed. Derek could feel his wolf whining in response to that expression, and he was hit with a wave of concern as he pushed a little closer, nose practically brushing his mate's cheek once more. "What's wrong? Stuart-?"
"I just-," the slender man started, and stopped, drinking in a breath. His heart was still so quick, and the wolf started to whine, finally seeming to notice that there was something wrong that was more than just nerves. "I'm not- I can't be with you. I'm not legal," he repeated, staring at Derek, who felt a little bit lost.
"But- It's okay," Derek said again, blinking a little owlishly, confused as to why they were still hung up on that. "I don't mind, really, I don't, and we can wait. It's okay." He tried for a reassuring smile, feeling like his wolf was pacing anxiously, but Stuart had started to shake his head. "Stuart-"
Stuart's gaze flickered away, over Derek's shoulder, and that was the only warning he got before someone was gripping him tight by the back of his shirt and hauling him away. Derek jerked in startled alarm, having not even registered another presence with his senses clogged so full of mate, and he felt a wave of desperation slam into him when he realized they were being separated. "What-"
"Sir, you're under arrest for violating the age of consent, you have the right to maintain silent," someone said close to his ear, and Derek blinked in confusion, his thoughts still foggy and dazed. They were telling him his rights, repeating why he was being arrested, but he couldn't think past the befuddled panic.
Derek jerked as the officer started to guide him away, hands restrained, and shot a desperate glance over his shoulder. "What-" he tried, throat closing up when it hit him all at once that his mate was still back there, and suddenly he was frantic. He started to thrash slightly, throwing a look over his shoulder, but he couldn't see Stuart. "Wait- Where- Mate-" he stuttered between gasps of air, wolf whining high pitched in his head.
The officer was struggling only slightly, and Derek's limbs felt heavy even in the face of his panic, even when he was desperate to get back to Stuart's side. The pounding in his head kept getting worse, and he was stumbling, unable to make sense of what was happening now- something was wrong, it was hard to breathe- wolfsbane, he registered dully, head fuzzy- his mate, his mate, where did he-
Derek vaguely got the impression of fresh air and flashing lights as he stumbled somewhere after the officer. He thought maybe they were outside now, but he just couldn't- couldn't...
He was still mumbling softly about Stuart when the world crashed abruptly into black.
The thing was, Stiles loved his job. His dad hadn't been so thrilled about the suggestion when he first thought of it, but really, it was genius. Even if the Sheriff didn't like it, in the end he'd been forced to admit that it was a pretty good tactic.
It was just that there had been one too many cases of underage sex violations, of drunk teenagers who ended up in bad situations because they got seduced at a bar, too many damn cases of dubious consent and shifty gazes and even just flat out rape. For some goddamn reason there had been a hideous spike in cases involving minors like that in Beacon County, and Stiles was just done with it, okay? He couldn't handle it any more.
So he came up with a plan. A great plan, actually. He had always looked young for his age, and on top of that he was a trained deputy, so it wasn't like he'd ever be in an real danger. If he could lure potential threats to him, and away from the innocent teenagers, then he could expose them and lock their hideous asses up before anyone got really hurt. All those ironic jailbait jokes that the other deputies used to tease him with? Yeah, Stiles was going to put that shit to good use by becoming real jailbait.
It helped that there were a few other deputies on the force who could pass for jailbait, too, because that meant it didn't have to be him every time. That meant his dad could protest even less, particularly when Stiles had pointed out that he might just go ahead and do it without permission and backup, and that would actually be dangerous. It had been a long ass discussion, but eventually Stiles had gotten what he wanted, and the tactic worked flawlessly almost every time.
This time, however, Stiles couldn't shake the feeling that he'd made a mistake.
He wasn't sure how long he had been slumped outside his father's office, waiting for the Sheriff to return from patrol, but he had spent the entire time thinking of the wolf. He couldn't help it. Rationally he knew - he knew - that he was dealing with a criminal here, a pervert, but every time he closed his eyes he kept seeing the wolf's earnest expression, the open adoration in his eyes. Stiles told himself that it was just because he was attractive, just because he'd been hitting on Stiles, that he wasn't thinking straight about this. He was letting his dick sway his judgement. He had to be.
But- But still.
His skin scrawled whenever he thought of the startled look on the man's face when he was arrested, the confusion and the panic in his flashing eyes. He couldn't stop himself from replaying you're perfect over and over in his head. Fuck, it'd sounded so sincere, so- so affectionate, Jesus Christ, and he'd even- he'd said he could wait for Stiles, as if he were looking for more than just a night with jailbait. It was- it was confusing, and it was messing with Stiles' head, and he still felt sick even hours later.
He had almost asked Parrish if the wolf had woken up yet, but he'd bitten his tongue instead and forced himself not to ask any questions about the case at all. He'd done his part. He'd played bait, and gotten all the evidence they needed to put the asshole away, and there was one less pervert out of the streets. One less beautiful jerk to prey on innocent kids.
(I didn't feel like prey, a traitorous side of him kept whispering, Felt special. Felt right. Stiles was desperate to stop those thoughts, to stop all thoughts regarding the wolf, nervous that someone would notice that he was compromised.)
He just couldn't afford to think about the wolf. Period. Couldn't afford to be sitting there, worrying at his lower lip, for hours. Stiles tried to tell himself that he had to speak to his dad eventually for the report, that he wasn't hanging around for any other reason. Where else was he going to be, anyway? Scott was still out of town with Allison, which meant that everyone he cared to hang out with was here at the station. He wasn't lingering. He wasn't.
Stiles nearly jerked out of his chair when he caught sight of his father returning from his run, and he hastily forced himself to relax. He couldn't look too interested in the case. He couldn't. Stiles always hung around to see what happened to his catches, anyway, so it wasn't like he was being odd about it. "Dad! Hey, you're back," he called, pushing himself to his feet with little to no grace.
The Sheriff shot him a glance, shaking his head slightly, before he nodded to invite Stiles into his office. Stiles followed a step behind his father, willing his fingers to stop twitching, and hoped his smile was reassuring when John finally looked up at him. "I've got to go deal with your pervert, kid, so make it quick," he said as he tossed his keys in the jar.
Stiles swallowed as he leaned back on his heels slightly, worrying at his lower lip between his teeth. "He's awake?" he asked, relieved when he voice didn't shake. Some crazy part of him wanted to defend the wolf from his father's wrath. The urge was... fucking scary, actually. He needed to get a grip, damnit.
"Not yet, I don't think," John said with a shrug, shooting him a small, reassuring smile, "Doesn't mean we can't wake him up, though."
Stiles felt his stomach drop. He'd been the one to start the trend of waking up the most offensive assholes with buckets of ice water, a special bit of revenge he'd first used against Harris once they finally had the permit to arrest him. Stiles didn't even remember how he'd managed to talk his dad into letting it stay around for the Big Bads, but he knew immediately that he didn't want anyone going near the wolf with one of those buckets.
"Ah," he forced out, aiming for an amused smile and smothering the part of him that wants to flinch away. It's just water, he told himself. Wolves run hot, any way. No big deal.
Fortunately, his father was already distracted enough and half way out the door, which meant that he didn't notice when Stiles' smile fell a bit flat. "I'll catch up with you in bit, son. Get that report for me, please?" he called over his shoulder, and then he was headed down the hall towards the room the wolf had been left in for the entire time.
Stiles stared after him, biting his lip, and tried to tell himself for the hundredth time that he was an idiot, but that he was doing the right thing. That it didn't matter how pretty the face was if the heart wasn't, didn't matter that those gorgeous eyes had shone with awe, that Stiles was allegedly perfect. None of that mattered.
He had work to do, and after another minute he finally pushed himself to go finish it.
(He didn't look at the door as he passed.)
Derek woke up to a too-bright room feeling groggy and disorientated. His head was pounding with the echoes of an ache and his senses felt skewed, as if they'd been shut down and then forced to reboot. It was strange, and his thoughts were blank in those first few seconds, vision blurry as he blinked sleep away.
It wasn't until he heard a door click open and close softly that the thought of mate crashed into his chest, and then he was jerking upright with a startled gasp of "Stuart." Everything heightened all at once, and he swung his head around to stare at the man in the doorway in borderline panic, desperate to know where his mate was.
The shock of seeing Deputy Stilinski - Sheriff, that was a Sheriff's badge - again was enough to shut down his panic before it could truly settle in. It'd been- it'd been years, and the man standing there was simultaneously so familiar and so different, memories sharp in Derek's thoughts that were now being superimposed over what he was seeing. Stilinski was older, more experienced, every ounce the commanding leader he'd been that day and even more so now, and he was... he was here for Derek again, only-
The rest of his memories caught up to him then, and Derek slouched down his seat in numb, shell-shocked disbelief. He remember Cora dragging him to that bar, insisting they celebrate coming home finally. Remembered that pull, his mate, remembered getting arrested, holy shit- but- But why? He couldn't for the life of him remember a reason, only the burning fear and panic of losing sight of his mate, of Stuart; he didn't even remember the car ride, barely even remembered the wolfsbane smoke stinging his eyes and lungs.
He opened his mouth to ask, dazed as his gaze flickered up, but Sheriff Stilinski was leveling a steely glare at him that made him want to flinch back. It was nauseating, seeing that face he'd only ever associated with gentle comfort and protection now turned cold and hateful, and the jolt of it had Derek's teeth clicking together as his mouth snapped shut.
"Stuart," the Sheriff said, his voice even as he stared unwavering at him, "Is none of your concern now. He will never be any of your business, so you can forget about it right now."
Derek felt something in him shrinking at the harsh words, and belatedly realized that his wolf was whimpering in the back of his head. He was reeling, woken up too fast and thrown out of his depth before he got a chance to process what was happening. Steamrolled, he thought, and then the implications of what the Sheriff was saying socked all of the air of his lungs and he suddenly couldn't breathe.
"Now," Stilinski continued, unconcerned with the fact that he'd just torn the ground out from under Derek's feet, "I'm going to need you to answer some questions for me. If you answer them thoroughly and honestly, you might get off on a light rap." His gaze sharpened into that severe glare once more. "But if you think for just a second you are going to get off too easily, you've got another thing coming for you."
Stuart. He wasn't going to get to see Stuart again, ever, and Derek- Derek felt like he was going to throw up, staring up at the Sheriff in stunned distress. He was fairly sure he'd been cut open and left to bleed out, all of the pain and confusion and distraught plain on his face, but Stilinski didn't even bat an eye at him. He didn't even- He just didn't understand.
"What am I... Why-" he started to mumbled, flinching back when the Sheriff suddenly slammed his hands down on the table and leaned in towards him.
Stilinski's brow furrowed slightly as he stared Derek down, and Derek didn't even try to meet his gaze, staring down at the tabletop in submission as he shrank back. The Sheriff stank of anger and annoyance, his hatred fairly obvious, the violence of the scent coupling with the agony of Stuart's absence enough to make Derek want to curl up in his wolf form and never shift back. Even the wolf had opted for cowering, too stressed out to think of fighting.
Derek waited in tense silence for what felt like ages, shrinking backwards even more, worry and terror gnawing at him the longer and longer he thought about his current situation. What if Stuart had gotten hurt while he was out? What if-
"In the past year there has been a disgusting increase in statutory rape cases in Beacon County, as well as a number of murder victims involved in these cases. Last night you were caught seducing a minor and blatantly ignoring the legal age of consent, which not along pegs you with charges for statutory rape also makes you a suspect for any of the previous cases. You can play like you don't know what you're doing here all you want, but I swear to God, I will make this process hell for you. Now, what is your name?"
Derek jerked his head up, too stunned to remember to keep his gaze down, and stared at the Sheriff with his mouth half open. Rape? He was in here for rape? He didn't- he had only spoken to his mate, and he would never in a million years hurt Stuart- His insides twisted and flipped with horror when he realized that Stuart must have thought he was going to, because- because-
"I said, what is your name?" Stilinski demanded evenly, glaring even harder, and Derek remembered belatedly that he was supposed to be answering questions. His wolf shrank with the terror of disappointing the Sheriff.
"Der... Derek Hale," he finally managed, feeling his breaths shorten as panic started to creep over him faster. Stuart had gotten help because he felt scared, and thought Derek would hurt him, hurt his mate, Jesus- "Oh, god, he thought- I wouldn't- Stuart- I'm so... I'm so sorry, oh god, I'm sorry."
He stared stricken up at Sheriff Stilinski as realization and recognition dawned on the man's face. On some level Derek wanted to run from the fact that the Sheriff remembered who he was, remember how badly he'd fucked up as a teenager, but- but all he could think about was the fact that he'd fucked this up, that his mate was out there somewhere thinking that Derek might actually hurt him, that his mate had felt the need to call the cops-
"Derek Hale?" Stilinski repeated slowly, squinting at him slightly, and then he gave a shake of his head. He looked almost sad, and the weight of that disappointment was enough to make Derek's chest feel like it was caving in. "I can't believe I'm putting you away from something like this, Derek. I can't believe..."
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Derek mumbled, practically gasping the words out in a desperate hope that Stuart might hear them somehow and that maybe, maybe they'd take that look off the Sheriff's face, "God, I'm so sorry, I was never- I wasn't going to sleep with him, not while he's a minor, god, he must have- I'm so sorry-"
Derek froze suddenly, the implications of what Stilinski had said blind-siding him, and he stopped breathing. Kate. He was no better than Kate Argent, he'd gone after a minor, had- It didn't matter that it was his mate, because Stuart had felt threatened enough to make the call and Derek was supposed to be the adult. He'd let his wolf get out of control, and- and-
What if Stuart didn't even want to be his mate? Oh, god, he hadn't even stopped to ask- He'd just assumed and now his mate was gone and Derek was Kate, his throat closing tight with the horrifying realization. What was wrong with him? Fuck, his memories could be skewed, what if he had- what if Stuart, fuck, Stuart, where was he- Derek might have hurt him after all-
"Derek!" someone yelled, voice snapping the wolf back into focus, and Derek realized with a jerk of alarm that the Sheriff was suddenly leaning closer across the table. "Derek, I need you to pull it back together, damnit, Derek. Are you with me?"
"I'm Kate," Derek wheezed out in a whisper, his heart still thundering loudly (when had that started?) and his breathing uneven, choppy gasps betraying his panic, "I'm Kate, oh god, I'm Kate, I'm-"
"Derek," Stilinski said again, voice low and commanding, and the wolf found himself raising his gaze from the table to stare wide-eyed at the Sheriff. "Derek, I need you to come back. I can't tell what's happening if you don't pull it together. Breathe."
His tongue felt thick and swollen in his mouth, his teeth cramped, but Derek clacked his mouth shut anyway and forced himself to inhale. Some part of him was urging the panic down, willing him to think rationally past the terrible fear gripping his insides, but it felt like all he could focus clearly on was Stuart. Stuart, who he had scared and hurt and would never see again, and-
And he needed to breathe. Needed to breathe. In and out, inandout, alphabetaomega, alpha beta omega, just like his mother had taught him. Breathe in, think of his anchor - his anger, only, no, Stuart. Stuart. Breathe in and out, alpha beta omega, Stuart.
Derek's breath shuddered out of him slowly, and when he opened his eyes again he registered dully that he'd never had a panic attack before, never had to fight for his air like that. He drank in another lungful, thought of Stuart, and raised his head again to find the Sheriff watching him warily. "I'm sorry," he intoned flatly, feeling empty now that the panic was gone, "I'm sorry, he's my mate, I didn't- I was never going to hurt him, and I just meant... I only meant that I would wait for him, that I didn't care about him being younger."
He ducked his head down to avoid Stilinski's eyes, flinching at the surprise in the man's voice when he echoed, "Wait, your mate-"
"That doesn't excuse anything," Derek cut in as he closed his eyes, keeping his head low in a show of submission, burning with shame, "I'm sorry, I didn't- I just never expected it, and I wasn't prepared to find my mate, but that doesn't... I shouldn't have let my instincts cloud my senses, I should have been in control. I should have been able to recognize that he didn't want to talk to me. I'm sorry, you can- you can press whatever charges you want, I won't bother him again."
His throat felt tight at those words, at that promise, but Derek told himself over and over again that it was the best thing. He couldn't risk his mate like that, couldn't force him to endure Derek when he really didn't want to. He wasn't entitled to Stuart just because they were mates, and if- if he didn't want that, then fine. Derek could live with it. He'd spent years living with just Cora, he could survive losing this, too-
"Oh, god. Cora," he breathed out suddenly, jerking his head up. The Sheriff was still staring at him with this unreadable look on his face, but all Derek could think about was the fact that Cora wouldn't know what had happened. He'd just left her, fuck. "Oh, shit, you have to- My sister, Cora, she's... She was with me and I just disappeared and you have to let her know- If she doesn't hear from me..."
Derek had shoved a hand in his pocket, looking for his phone, and nearly panicked when he didn't find it. Instead he forced himself to breathe, to stay calm, and looked up at Stilinski pleadingly, "Please, her number's in my phone, could you just- could you call her and let her know I'm alive, please, she..."
He trailed off again, taking in the realization that dawned on the Sheriff's face, and tried not to cringe. Of course he understood. Of course he knew that if Cora didn't hear from Derek, she'd assume the worst, because the rest of their family had met the worst. Because of Derek again.
"I... Of course," Stilinski finally said, looking sympathetic and maybe even a little bit regretful, and Derek exhaled softly in relief. "We need to talk after, though, but let me just... I'm going to go call her for you, okay?"
When Derek nodded, the Sheriff left, glancing back at the wolf thoughtfully for a second before the door clicked shut behind him. It wasn't until Derek heard his footsteps fade that he set his head on his arms and tried not to think about the fact that he wasn't going to see his mate again, or that his baby sister was going to be all alone until he got out of here.
It took approximately 30 seconds of staring blankly down at his desk for Stiles to recognize that he wasn't going to be able to accomplish anything until he'd satisfied the itch burning under his skin. He couldn't even understand what it was, or what he wanted to come from this whole mess, only that he felt off balance and vaguely sick. His fascination with the wolf made this case so much different from all the others, but what did he think expect? For the wolf to suddenly not be a pedophile and ask Stiles out for real?
And he couldn't understand why a part of him wanted that. What the hell was so attractive about some evil pervert? Just that he had a nice face and told Stiles sweet things just to get into his pants? God, Stiles needed to get the fuck over it, because clearly this was not healthy. Clearly there was something wrong with him, and he just... He couldn't think.
Shoving away from his desk, Stiles concluded that he wasn't going to be able to finish his report until the asshole was gone, out of the station, locked up somewhere else. He knew himself well enough to know it'd be pointless to sit there and try for any longer.
He was just debating a coffee run when the doors to the station slammed open, snapping everyone to attention. Stiles himself jerked, and swung his head around to stare at the girl rushing through with stark disbelief.
"Where's my brother?" she demanded, her eyes flashing a bright, telling gold. She was all dark hair with a slim build that would have made her look dainty if not for the sheer fury radiating off of her just then. "My name is Cora and I'm looking for Derek Hale. Where is he?"
Stiles could practically feel the recognition pinging through nearly every single officer in the room, because there were very few who would not recognize those names, but he didn't have time to process it too much. Instead, he found himself stepping forward almost immediately, raising his hands soothingly when the girl - Cora - turned her fierce glare on him. "Hey, Cora, I'm Stiles. Would you mind talking to me for a minute so that we can figure out what's going on with your brother?"
He felt something ache low in his stomach at the way her expression cracked for a second, shining through to the worry underneath. His stomach twisted as he tried to imagine not being sure of where his dad was, and abruptly shoved the thought away; he had work to do. It seemed as if Cora, too, had composed herself, because when he glanced up at her again he found normal hazel eyes and a guarded expression before she gave a clipped nod.
"Alright, come with me," Stiles said lightly, silently thankful for a distraction. His nerves felt settled with something to do all ready, thank god. "Do you want to tell me where you last saw him?" he asked as they headed down a hallway, and ignored the fact that the entire floor relaxed once it was clear that Stiles would be the one handling the panicked panic.
"Yeah, I..." she started to say, only to stop suddenly, and after a beat Stiles stopped too and turned to give her a puzzled look. Cora was staring at him, though, and when he turned she took a step closer, thrusting into his space in a way that had him jerking back in alarm. "You... Did you arrest him?"
Her glare was suddenly sharp and accusatory, and Stiles was acutely aware that he was now alone up against her wrath should she choose to come after him. He tried to tell himself that she was just worried, just confused, that he could help her, there was no need to panic over misunderstandings. "Me? Uh, no, I don't think I've ever met him, actually. But we can check through the..."
Stiles trailed off when he realized that Cora was no longer glaring, only eyeing him suspiciously. "You smell like my brother," she muttered, taking another step closer to him as she inhaled and her eyes flashed, "You reek of my brother. You must have seen him. Is he- he's okay?" She looked stricken once more, those wide hazel eyes lost as opposed to angry.
"What? But the only person I've-" Stiles stopped dead, ice skittering down his spine as it suddenly occurred to him all at once who her brother was. The only person he'd seen that night was the man locked away with his father right now, which meant that Derek Hale- "Oh," Stiles said, staring blankly back at Cora in shock.
Cora's face tightened with worry at his reaction, but Stiles couldn't think about that right now. All he could think about were the stories, the very little he knew about Derek Hale and his sister who were supposedly off in New York... And now he could picture the man's face, the way his eyes had widened in shock, the complete adoration he doled out on Stiles- on his victims.
"Oh," Stiles repeated, and suddenly Cora's hand was on his arm, squeezing at his wrist as she stared at him with something close to desperation. What was Stiles supposed to say to her? Yeah, I met your brother, he tried to seduce me, a fake minor, and now he's been arrested? He was supposed to just- to just tell Cora that her last family member was possibly going to be locked up because of him?
"Stiles, what's going on?" his father's voice broke in suddenly, and both of them startled, swinging twin stares of surprise towards the Sheriff walking towards them. His brow was crinkled in concern as he drew closer, but the second he saw Cora understanding washed over him. "Cora. I was just about to call you-"
"Deputy Stilinski," Cora breathed in surprise, and Stiles flinched when he realized just how long it'd been since she'd seen his father. A second later she had let go of Stiles and was taking a quick step closer to the Sheriff, eyes bright with anxiety. "Is Derek okay? He's- you've seen him, right? Deputy?"
"He's the Sheriff now," Stiles intoned dully, feeling like he's been switched onto autopilot, too much happening too quickly for him to take it all in like he needs to. His head was buzzing with tension, and now that his father was here to take care of Cora, it was like he was letting himself off the hook a little bit here. Just enough breathing room to freak out a bit, was all. No big deal.
"Cora, Derek's okay, listen... I think there's been a bit of confusion, but he's currently being held for seduction of a minor-" the Sheriff started to explain, but he didn't get very far.
"Derek?" Cora practically shrieked, suddenly rigid and flashing golden eyes frantically, and suddenly Stiles felt very, very sick again. "You think Derek- You know Derek wouldn't- Not after Kate, you fucking know that Derek would never-" Her fangs were starting to appear, canines just a little too sharp, and when she flung her hand out angrily Stiles caught sight of claws.
"Cora! Cora, listen to me," Sheriff Stilinski was protesting, and Stiles watched numbly as his father grasped the wolf's arms, holding her gently but firmly. Something like a growl rose in her throat, but he didn't back down. "There's been some confusion, but I think I'm starting to get it now. Cora, are you listening to me? I believe you, and I believe Derek, okay? But I need you to calm down."
Stiles opened his mouth, about to voice his surprise at the sudden shift in teams, but abruptly clamped it shut when he realized that for one thing, Cora was starting to relax, which was what they desperately needed - and for another, Stiles hadn't been clear about whose side he was on since the very beginning, so he couldn't say shit.
He was clearly missing something, but his priority right now had to be keeping Cora calm. Departmentalizing was Stiles' main talent in life, and he latched onto it now, forcing himself to focus only on the task at hand just then. "Here- Let me just," Stile said suddenly, surprising both Cora and his father when he reached out slowly to pull Cora towards him gently. When she stared at him in confusion, he flushed and muttered, "Uh- I smell like your brother, so, you know... scent."
There was a heavy pause between the three up them, and then Cora was slowly leaning into Stiles' side, slouching on him as she reigned in the last of her wolf and drank in his scent instead. It reminded him eerily of Derek, and when he raised his head he found his father watching them quietly. He felt vaguely helpless, and asked, "You said you believed Derek now?"
It seemed like too much to hope for, and on some level Stiles feared that he might be getting too hopeful too soon. He hadn't even heard what his father had to say yet, after all, and besides, the evidence was damning. That's what he'd tried to tell himself all night, wasn't it? And yet Stiles couldn't help but to feel as if things were finally starting to look up.
"We've got a lot to talk about, son," the Sheriff said with a sigh, and pulled open the door of his office to invite them both in.
Stiles felt his father squeeze his shoulder as he passed, Cora leaning on his side still, and strangely felt the most at ease he had since he'd first seen Derek at the bar.
Derek couldn't say how long he sat silently in that room, slowly eating away at himself the longer he was left alone. It felt like there was too much to think about and yet he didn't want to think about any of it, just wanted to curl up in his wolf form and maybe sleep for a day before he had to face another interrogation.
The only issue was that he couldn't stop thinking. He couldn't shut it off. He was worried and anxious for Cora, sick with memories of Kate, terrified of disappointing the Sheriff, and above all, driving himself insane trying not to think about Stuart when it seemed like everything he looked at brought him back to his mate.
Derek could admit to himself that he was a goddamn mess, and he had no one to blame for himself. He almost wished that Stilinski would just come back to put him out of his misery already, but when the door finally opened it wasn't the painful relief that Derek had been expecting.
Instead, he was hit with a burst of freshhoneywarm scent, mixed with a swirl of his sister's familiar lavender, and Derek was suddenly sitting straight up in his seat, wolf alert. He could have sworn he was imagining Stuart standing in the doorway, only the boy looked apprehensive and a little nervous, which wasn't an expression Derek had seen before. Surely he couldn't be making it up then, right?
"Hi," Stuart breathed out in that smooth voice of his, a bit raspy, and Derek felt something in him singing at the sound of it. All he could do was stare stupidly, though, his heart pounding unsteadily in his chest and his wolf circling slowly, cautiously, scared to get too eager.
"I-" Derek started to say, and then stopped, watching in a daze as the guy slowly slouched down into the seat across from him. For a moment he forgot how to breathe, and then he was blurting in a rush, "Oh, fuck, I'm so sorry, Stuart, I'm- I'm really, really sorry." He let out a shuddering breath and turned his face away, terrified to see the look on Stuart's face.
"Oh," Stuart said quietly, and out of the corner of his eye Derek saw him suddenly shaking his head, "Oh, no, Derek- Look, dude, I'm sorry. We've sort of gotten off on the wrong foot, okay? Listen, my dad said..." He hesitated, and Derek felt his stomach drop suddenly, clicking together the words 'my dad' with 'Sheriff'. "My dad said we're mates?"
It sounded like a question, and Derek felt a stab of fierce want as his wolf reared up, determined to explain, to try and woo their mate back to them. Instead of blurting out all of the longing closing his throat, Derek forced himself to swallow and then said slowly, quietly, "Yes. But that doesn't... If you don't want to be mates, I mean, that doesn't change anything. You aren't obligated to me, and I should have..." He closed his eyes, breathing out shakily, "I should have stopped to check that you were okay. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, Stuart, and I swear, if you don't want to see me again, I understand."
There was a flame licking away at his stomach, burning him from the inside out, but the pain was worth it to know that he was giving Stuart what he wanted, showing him that Derek wouldn't hurt him. His wolf whimpered but understood that their mate first, came before them always, and for a brief second he thought that maybe his mom would have been proud of him for that.
"Hey," Stuart said, suddenly sounding a lot closer, and Derek startled slightly when he felt a hand pressing against his cheek. When he turned his head he saw the guy crouching beside him, staring up at Derek earnestly, and a flush hit the werewolf's cheeks at the proximity. "Listen, don't apologize to me, alright? You didn't do anything wrong, and I have some things to tell you first." There was a pause, and then he smiled sheepishly. "My name is actually Stiles, by the way."
Derek stared at him for a long moment, unsure of what to do with that information, but he had to admit that something about Stiles sounded good to him. A better fit, maybe, even if Stuart had been pretty good too. Only... "Why did you tell me a fake name?" Derek asked quietly, staring down at the youth in confusion. He felt irrationally betrayed, which was just stupid.
"Well... That's a long story, actually," Stiles breathed out with a quiet, nervous laugh. He shot Derek a quick, hesitant smile before dropping his hand and grasping at one of the wolf's instead. Derek felt a flush of warmth at the constant, and didn't even think of pulling away. "Look, Derek, I'm not actually a minor. I'm 22, and a deputy, and my dad's the Sheriff, and this whole jailbait thing is just a tactic to catch criminals." He winced. "Unfortunately, we accidentally caught you this time. I'm really sorry."
Derek was... Derek was reeling. It took a few seconds to register with him that his mate wasn't illegal, and that he'd been essentially tricked into arrest, and then all of a sudden all he could think about was the fact that he got to keep his mate. He got to keep Stiles. "Does that mean I won't get arrested if I kiss you right now?" he asked faintly, feeling a bit dizzy with the sudden need to reassure himself that this was real, that Stiles was real.
Stiles let out a surprised laugh, and peeked up at Derek hopefully through his lashes, "No, no, of course not, but... I mean, you're not mad?"
He looked scared suddenly, as if he was worried Derek might hold this against him, and maybe if he was thinking a little clearer he'd be pissed, but somehow Derek couldn't find it in him. Stiles was just doing his job, after all, and this was- this was more than he'd ever hoped for. This was his mate, right here, all his, and thankfully, thankfully legal.
Derek yanked the Stiles forward by his hand and practically devoured his mouth in his desperation to stake a claim, to feel that it was real as much as see it. Stiles groaned under his mouth, and then there were tongues and sticky hot heat and Derek could die happy right then and there. Derek slid out of his chair, and then they were both kneeling on the floor, clutching at one another. His wolf was vibrating with delight, practically howling with it, and Derek was close to shaking out of his skin, overcome with the sensation of those teeth tugging on his lower lip.
Instead of combusting in the face of the heat licking up his spine, Derek felt Stiles pulling away slowly, kissing at his mouth over and over in little pecks before he drew back slightly to breathe. Derek inhaled deeply as Stiles caught his breath, and found himself smiling before he could catch himself.
"You've got a great smile," Stiles mumbled, and Derek flushed, but before he could catch another kiss Stiles was pulling back slightly and cupping the wolf's cheeks. Those amber eyes were earnest and serious as they stared into hazel, making Derek feel vaguely exposed. "Listen, as much as I totally dig the kissing, I need to just say... I'm sorry, okay? I mean it, Derek. I made you think you were some sort of criminal when you clearly aren't, and I'm sorry, okay? I'll never lie to you like that again."
His words were firm, heart beating true, and Derek felt at a loss for words. He hadn't even realized he needed more reassurance until he was hearing it, and with a shuddering gasp he dragged Stiles into a tight hug. "You're perfect," the wolf mumbled into his mate's hair, inhaling that warm scent deeply, "I meant that. You're perfect. I... thank you."
Stiles pressed his face into Derek's throat with a smile that he could feel against his skin, and then started to pepper him with slow kisses again, savior the contact. Derek accepted the gentle affection with a happy hum, content to just forget about everything else for the time being, because he had his mate and everything was going to be just fine.
When the Sheriff found them there half an hour later, he merely shook his head with a soft smile and told them that he was relieved that they were okay, but that Cora was starting to wonder where her brother had gone. Stiles went home with the Hales that night, so that the three could bond and share stories and just talk about everything. (And sometimes things got a little deep, but there were always hugs to bring them back together, and by the next morning it felt as if they'd known one another for so much longer than little under 12 hours.)
It was beautiful, the little pack they built together. Derek and Cora had been intending to stay in Beacon Hills, but Stiles being there just sealed the deal; and soon there was Scott and Isaac and Erica and Boyd, and then Jackson and Lydia and Allison. (There were more, after that, those that connected with them in pairs or singles, like Kira, or Danny, or Ethan and Aiden - but soon they stopped keeping count of new pack members and just started to practice a bit of an open door policy.) They were a bit ragtag and mismatched and imperfect, but together they were perfect, and Derek couldn't say he'd ever been happier.
Except for when Stiles took to telling the story of how they met, which he always took particular joy in. Derek hated those times, because he got embarrassed and flushed every time, and Stiles still thought it was absolutely hilarious (with the benefit of time and healing, of course).
Horrible, that boy. Absolutely terrible.
(Derek loved him anyways.)