Actions

Work Header

After The Storm

Chapter Text

The air is crisp, it’s early morning and Derek rubs his beard as he steps into the store. He had chucked on the first thing he saw in his apartment, something simple – jeans, a shirt with a stain. He doesn’t really care how he looks anymore. He leaves his leather jacket at home. Laura had given it to him and he can’t wear it anymore.

He doesn’t mind being sent out before breakfast. The whole family had somehow forgotten about his nephew’s art project at school, too many things to remember now that his sister Laura has died. Derek blinks at the art supplies, not sure what he’s looking for.

Derek ends up taking too much off the shelf, hoping that this way Drew will get some choice. He carries it all in his arms and it’s a testament to how little attention he now pays his surroundings when he crashes into another figure.

Derek’s too tired to be angry. He sighs and stares at all the shit on the floor, rolling away.

He bends down to pick it all up at the same time the other person drops to their knees. Derek hears a small yelp as their heads bang, and the person lurches away, almost toppling over. Derek grabs his shoulder, keeping him upright.

“Sorry,” he says, finally looking up. Warm eyes meet his, warm and friendly, and Derek notices the soft redness on the man’s cheeks from the cold. He seems to recognize Derek and he grimaces. Derek spots the cop uniform over broad shoulders and it explains a lot.

“No,” the man says, “No, uh, I have a history of running into people so I should be apologizing, I guess.” His voice is awkward. He runs a hand through his hair.

Derek keeps his expression tight and starts to pick up all the art supplies. One of the packets falls and sharp, pointed pencils of all different colors spread all over the floor.

“It’s Derek Hale, right?” he asks. At least he’s not pretending he doesn’t know who Derek is.

Derek sighs. “Are you going to help or are you going to talk? I have somewhere I need to be.”

The guy raises his eyebrows, but he closes his mouth and begins to help pick up all the mess. Once they have everything together, they stand and Derek nods his thanks. He’s given a half smile of sorts, barely there but a little curious.

“Stiles,” he says.

Derek gives him a sideways look.

“It’s my name.”

“Nice to meet you,” Derek says flatly.

Stiles swallows. He waves a hand and turns around, muttering to himself. Derek hears every word. It’s talk about manners and being nice to strangers when they help you pick up your things. But the man isn’t exactly a stranger, he’s a cop, and Derek’s mind is already made up about him.

Derek watches him walk away, his uniform disappearing around a corner before Derek finally makes his purchase.

At home, Drew gives him a faint smile when he sees what Derek’s got. His pulse settles and the anxiety from his scent dissipates into the air. He launches himself in to Derek’s arms, trying to get as close as possible, trying to get his scent mingling with the rest of the pack’s, trying to replace what he lost.

He still smells faintly of Laura if Derek concentrates.

Drew picks what he wants from what Derek bought and puts it carefully in his school bag. It’s his third one over the past month. The others had been torn to shreds by his claws.

“I met a cop this morning,” Derek says to his mother, in the kitchen and making coffee.

Her smile is weak. “Was he one of the ones on Laura’s case?”

“I don’t think so. He knew who I was, though.”

Talia sighs, running a hand over Derek’s hair and down his cheek. He leans into her touch. “That’s over now. All we have is moving forward. Be there for Drew.”

Derek nods.

He doesn’t need to raise his voice when he calls for Drew, asking him if he’s ready to go to school. A moment later his nephew is down the stairs, hugging everyone in the room like he always does before they head out to school. The drive is quiet. When they get there Derek leans over and kisses Drew on the head, and unlike before Laura died, he doesn’t push Derek away.

“Bye, Derek,” he mumbles.

“See you after school.”

Derek goes home to his small apartment and falls onto his bed. The cop from this morning enters his mind and he wonders what he’s thought of. There was nothing linking him to his sister’s death, even though he was the only one with her when they went out of town on pack business.

There had been a run in with hunters. Some human was now in the hospital, put in a coma by Laura’s self defence. Her claws had made it look like an animal attack, but the hunter had managed to shoot and kill her before she could get away.

None of the cops could understand what happened. They all seemed to think Derek had done it, killed his own sister, and he had been interrogated thoroughly before being let go.

He turns over and tries to sleep. Sometimes it’s too much.

His father calls and asks Derek to pick up some food for dinner. He fits it in before he has to pick up Drew from school. Drew’s living in his old bedroom in the family house, and slowly his old things from high school are becoming Drew’s things. They all thought it would be a good idea if Drew lived where most of the pack visited.

Drew’s quiet on the way home, which isn’t surprising. Derek speeds a little, and he doesn’t realize it until he’s being pulled over by a cop. He puts a hand on Drew’s shoulder when his breathing speeds up and the kid relaxes. Derek winds down his window.

“Yes,” he says, reluctantly looking up. It’s Stiles, the cop from before.

“You again,” he says under his breath, before giving a forced smile. “Were you aware you were driving over the speed limit?”

“No,” says Derek, “But just write me a ticket and I’ll be out of here.”

Stiles shrugs, surprised, and starts writing. He hums to himself, glancing at Drew a few times. Derek grits his teeth and his impatience shows.

“You’re keen to get out of here.”

“He doesn’t like cops,” Drew says loudly, looking ahead.

Stiles looks between the two of them. “We’re only doing our jobs.”

Derek snorts. He gets glared at. Stiles flings the ticket at him and it floats in the air before falling onto Derek’s knees.

“Thanks, officer,” Derek says. Stiles rolls his eyes.

“Don’t trouble yourself with niceties,” he says, scratching his cheek. “See you around, Derek.”

From a cop, those words could sound like a thinly veiled threat but Stiles walks back to his patrol car instead of staring Derek down while he waits for Derek to drive away.

Derek starts the engine and Drew gives his uncle a narrowed look. “Do you know him?”

“Met him today,” Derek replies.

“Do we like him?” he asks, confused.

Derek shrugs. “You can like who you want, Drew.”

“No, I can’t,” Drew mutters, and Derek knows he’s thinking about hunters. The local hunters are okay, the ones that come in thinking they can bring their rules into a place which already have their own is the problem.

He drops Drew off with his own parents, brings in the food, but he doesn’t stay for dinner.

Derek hovers by the newspaper stand the next time he’s in the store. There are big headlines, blocks of letters announcing a big case closed. A woman named Blake was arrested. His eyes drift over the article and he sees Stiles Stilinski as one of the officers who worked on the case. Derek throws the copy he’s holding back down on the pile.

“See the good news, then?” comes Isaac’s voice from behind him. Derek’s getting rusty. He didn’t even notice him approaching. “Impressed?” Isaac asks.

“No,” Derek says.

Isaac stops trying to smile. “When are you coming back to work, Derek?” he asks.

“Sometime,” he replies idly.

“Sometime soon?” he says, vaguely hopeful.

Derek gives him a flat look.

“Fine,” Isaac sighs. “Erica’s on badgering you next. We have a daily rotation.”

“Good to know,” Derek tells him. He eyes the article one more time, the picture of a young woman in handcuffs blown across the cover. Her hair is dark and her face is narrow and Derek pushes his gaze aside.

Isaac clears his throat. “How’s Drew?”

“There’s a pack dinner on Friday night. Ask him then,” Derek finishes talking and looks up at Isaac’s weary expression. Derek knows he’s simply trying to help, that he wants Derek to go back to the office and get his life back together. But what he’s doing doesn’t make it any easier on Derek. He doesn’t want to go back to work and he’s happy taking Drew places and doing things for the people he cares about.

Isaac leaves him be.

Derek turns around and runs straight into Stiles.

“God,” Stiles says, “Is it always going to be this way with you?” He rubs his shoulder.

Derek steps around him, ignoring Stiles as much as he can.

“Dude,” Stiles says, and there’s a tight grip on his arm. Derek bites down on his lip before he faces him. Stiles’ face looks calm but Derek can hear his heartbeat quicken as he swallows, not sure what to say to Derek’s narrowed look.

“Congratulations on your case,” Derek says eventually. Stiles breaks out into a grin. Derek’s a little taken aback by how sweet his smile is, by how bright and pretty it looks spread out over his face. Stiles is still holding his arm and Derek has to tug it out of his grip.

Stiles drops his hold instantly. “Hey, thanks. It was a tough one. It’s nice to have a break and go back to giving people speeding tickets.”

Derek suppresses a smile. “I bet all those people are very well mannered,” he says. “No wonder why you like it.”

Stiles laughs, and it sounds a little startled. He licks his lips and his gaze becomes direct, his expression serious even though he looks like he has a face for laughing.

“Sorry about your sister,” he says nervously. “That was her kid in the car, right? I wasn’t on your case, too busy on the one we just wrapped up, but I get why you don’t like cops after the amount of bullshit we had to put you through.”

“If you got why I didn’t like them, you wouldn’t be here, talking to me,” Derek says.

“Maybe I’m not like the cops you’ve met.”

“I’ve met a few.”

Stiles shrugs. “See you around, Derek.”

Derek finds himself watching Stiles walk away. Again.

At Erica’s insistence, Derek meets up for coffee with her. Derek listens to her talk, nodding along when necessary, and she gives him a dirty look whenever his responses are too slow. She hasn’t mentioned going back to work yet. He’s counting down the seconds.

His attention is caught when Stiles enters the coffee shop. He hardly notices his gaze wandering but Erica does and her eyebrows rise.

“What?” Derek says, lost.

“Nothing,” she says quickly. Derek eyes her wearily and he’s surprised when he feels a tap on his shoulder. He looks up from the booth they’re in and Stiles is standing there, giving him a slight smile. The cop uniform is gone, replaced with a warm sweater and light beige pants. Derek sits up straighter.

“Want to join us?” Erica says almost instantly. Derek pretends she hasn’t spoken. He waits for Stiles to speak.

“Ah, no,” he says, raking his eyes over Derek. “Just thought I’d say hi.”

Erica smiles pleasantly. She kicks Derek’s leg under the table.

“Are you two...?” Stiles trails off.

When Derek catches on, he snorts. “No,” he says firmly.

Erica huffs. “Why do you sound so sure about that?”

Derek raises an eyebrow. “You’re in a committed relationship. You remind me of it enough.”

She sighs. “Maybe I’m trying to give you some hints.”

“Hints for what?”

“That you should try for a relationship yourself. Or at least go back to work,” she says sweetly. Erica’s not trying to tease Derek about being single this time, like she did before Laura died, but Derek still narrows his eyes. He feels Stiles looking between the two of them, over and over again, before he clears his throat.

He takes a step back. “I’m going to go,” Stiles says. “Nice seeing you.”

“Yeah,” Derek says, barely looking at him. Stiles sighs, turning away.

“I’m serious,” Erica tells him, trying to keep calm. “You need to go back to work. Do something with yourself. It’s been two months, Derek.”

He waits a moment. “Are you finished?” he asks, when she doesn’t continue speaking. Erica nods and Derek drains the rest of of his coffee.

“Good,” he says, standing up and throwing a bill onto the table. Her eyes flash yellow at him in annoyance, and Derek doesn’t care. He’s sick of people trying to get him to go back to work, even though Derek knows they mean well. He gets out of bed, he helps out at the house, and Derek figures that’s enough.

His car is now parked next to a police cruiser. Derek pauses before he heads over, the breeze tickles his nose, and he catches a glimpse of what must be Stiles’ scent. It’s nice. It’s oddly calming. Derek walks over, not feeling guilty for leaving Erica in the shop.

Stiles is about to duck into the car but he stops when he spots Derek coming near.

“Did you park next to my car on purpose?” Derek asks him.

Stiles’ grin doesn’t quite meet his eyes. “What if I did?”

“I’m failing to see why you’d want to.”

Stiles just stares at him, lip quirking like he’s happy to wait for Derek to figure it out. One of his arms is draped over the cruiser door, and his stance is wide and strangely open. Derek finds himself wanting to go over.

“I should get home,” Derek says eventually. Stiles nods at him and moves effortlessly into his car. Derek breathes in as he goes, getting what’s left of his scent. He doesn’t know why he’s trying to reach for it.

Derek glances over his shoulder and he sees Erica exiting the shop. She narrows her eyes at him from across the parking lot and Derek ignores her.

Just before he slams his own door shut he hears her clear mutter from across the parking lot. “You don’t have to be a dick, Derek.”

“Sorry,” he says, voice flat. He sees Erica roll her eyes and she waves him off.

His mother writes him a list of things that need to be done around the house. It’s easier for him like this, and it’s good to be busy, but the kind of busy where he knows he’s helping the people he cares about. Most of the tasks are mindless and it fits Derek’s headspace perfectly. He doesn’t really want to think right now.

 Erica and Isaac have laid off a bit. At the pack dinner on Friday night Derek overhears his mother telling them both to be patient. He can hear their words and heartbeats clearly, and Derek is only a little bitter that they didn’t bother to speak where Derek couldn’t hear them.

He keeps an eye on Drew as the whole pack interacts with each other. Some of the kids have shifted, young ones that are part of the pack but aren’t directly part of the Hale family. At the edge of where they’re playing Drew eyes them with frown, and his breaths seem shallow.

“Drew,” Derek says quietly.

His nephew finds his gaze across the room. Derek tilts his head to the side, as if to ask if he’s okay. He can see Drew’s claws lengthened at his side, pressing gently into his thigh. It takes a moment, but eventually Drew nods.

Derek turns back towards the kitchen. His father made him promise to stay the whole night, but all he really wants to do is go home and be alone.

His mother runs a hand across his back when he steps inside. Talia smiles, but it’s shaky.

“Thanks for looking out for him,” she says.

Derek narrows his eyes. “What else am I supposed to do?”

She sighs, loudly, pinching the bridge of her nose. Her hand squeezes the back of his neck, like she did when Derek was small, and without a word his mother steps back outside.

Erica’s leaning across the island in the middle of the kitchen, her cleavage showing, and she grins.

“So,” she says. “Who was that guy the other day?”

Derek says nothing but his mind flits to Stiles’ face. It’s a hard face to forget and for some reason Stiles is one of the only things Derek can think about without feeling like he’s lost something.

Erica grins. “When are you going to see him next?”

Derek steps past her, nostrils flaring in annoyance. He can smell all the food, he can smell the excited buzz of emotions in the air. This is the first pack get together not focused on Laura and her death. It feels a bit like forgetting.

He fucking hates it.

“He’s a cop,” Derek says gruffly.

“So?”

He remembers being at the station, he remembers all those fucking people who thought he had killed his own sister. Laura. He hates all of them, and says as much aloud.

Erica hums. “Sounded like you didn’t hate him.”

“Erica,” he says tiredly.

“What?”

“Please stop.”

She opens her mouth to speak but there’s a steady set of footsteps coming through the door. Boyd walks in and he nods at Derek, striding to the fridge and pulling out a beer. He offers one to Derek but he shakes his head. Only sometimes does he wish he could get drunk.

Boyd is human, married to Erica a month before Laura died. His hand travels down his wife’s waist and Erica settles her lips into a fine line. Derek’s relieved. She’s not going to say anything else.

He asks Boyd how work is, anything to stop them mentioning Stiles again. Their conversation is sweet and short, and even though Derek promised he wouldn’t, he leaves as soon as he finishes eating. The only person he says goodbye to is Drew, who seems sad that he’s going to go.

“Try playing with the other kids,” Derek tells him quietly.

“That’s what Grandma told me,” he says.

Derek’s wide palm squeezes the kid’s shoulder. He doesn’t know what else to say but he runs a hand through Drew’s hair, spreading his scent over him. Derek escapes before anyone can yell at him for leaving.

He steps inside a bar. Derek doesn’t know why but for some reason he can’t actually bear to go to his apartment. He orders some whisky, if only to feel the burn of it down his throat. He keeps his expression dark, just in case anyone tries to chat him up at the bar. Even the bartender is making eyes at him.

Derek sits there for half an hour, snacking on nuts. Laura used to love drinking, just for the hell of it, at bars, at clubs. It was easier to dance, to have fun, to be loose with body and mind when other people had alcohol in their system and just let go.

“Want another drink?”

Derek startles. Fuck, he’s getting sloppy. Stiles is standing next to him, a nervous grin on his face. He slides onto the chair next to Derek, biting his lip. Before Derek can answer, he’s already ordered two beers.

“I didn’t expect to see you here,” Stiles says.

Derek grunts. His lack of words doesn’t seem to sway Stiles.

“I was hoping to see you,” he says teasingly, wiping his hands on his jeans. Derek’s surprised at his honesty, at the open flutter of his heartbeat. He doesn’t seem to be lying either and Derek turns his body slightly towards Stiles. “I’m here with my friends,” he jerks his head over his shoulder but his eyes don’t leave Derek.

“Friends?” Derek asks.

Stiles grins, and he looks pleased, eager that Derek’s humouring him. “Only one of them is a cop, my partner Allison, the woman with dark hair. She’s married to Scott, my buddy, the guy with the curly hair. I know Lydia there from high school and my friend Kira is running late.”

“Why are you telling me all this?”

Stiles snorts. “So you can join us if you want to.”

Derek drops his gaze to the bar. He takes a sip of the beer, bitter and good, and out of the corner of his eye he sees Stiles’ eyes dull in color.

“You don’t have to,” he says, suddenly worrying his lip.

“Maybe another time,” Derek says. He tries not to feel strangely guilty as Stiles’ shoulders deflate, adding to his disappointed look. Stiles smiles weakly at him, sliding off his chair. His feet hit the ground and Derek’s suddenly aware of how tall he is.

Stiles wobbles on his feet, using Derek’s shoulder to keep himself up. He must feel Derek tense because his smile turns lopsided. “Sorry, man.”

He walks away and Derek listens in on his heartbeat, it still beating loud and quick in Stiles’ body. Derek finishes his beer, his throat moving as Stiles looks back over his shoulder, just a quick glance, and then Derek leaves the bar. The outside air is cool, easy on his skin.

“You tried,” one of the girls says sweetly to Stiles, Derek’s ears picking her words up easily before the bar door swings shut.

He takes a step forward and goes home.

Despite his own better judgement, Derek finds himself keeping an eye out for Stiles. Every time he sees a cop car he wonders if it’s Stiles in it, with his partner. These days it’s easy to let his mind wander and he’s even less of a conversationalist than he was before his sister’s death.

So he’s surprised by himself when he spots Stiles at the supermarket. He’s eyeing some broccoli with a frown, his hair is a complete mess, and he’s holding his shoulders like he’s tired. Derek moves over, face blank, and reaches over Stiles for the vegetable.

“Sorry,” Stiles mutters, stepping out of the way. He looks at Derek briefly, double taking and his pulse moving quick, before his face breaches into a smile. “Hi, Derek.”

Derek nods, putting the broccoli into a plastic bag. He doesn’t fail to notice the pleased look settling on Stiles’ face.

It’s been awhile since he’s managed to make anyone smile like that, light and easy.

Stiles is still staring at the broccoli. Derek raises a questioning eyebrow.

“Oh,” says Stiles, his cheeks visibly heating. “Some people are fussy eaters, so I’m not sure if this particular green is worth it.”

Derek shrugs. Stiles puts the vegetables in his cart anyway and his hands ring together as he faces Derek.

“How’s work?” Derek says stiltedly, even though he really doesn’t want to know.

“Slow,” Stiles replies, keeping it short. Derek relaxes. “But I’m going over to my friend Scott’s house tonight for dinner. I’m running late and I promised to cook.”

Derek steps back immediately. “I didn’t mean to keep you.”

He knows his words sound stiff, but Stiles’ mouth opens and his hand lurches forward, reaching for Derek’s wrist. His touch is too warm, too soon, and Derek freezes.

Stiles pulls back. “You’re not keeping me,” he says eagerly. “Okay?”

Derek’s eyes flit across his face. Slowly he nods, and he steps back from Stiles anyway. Derek tries to grimace his way through a smile, giving an aborted wave as he goes back to his shopping.

“Hey,” Stiles says.

Derek meets his eyes.

“Say hi to your nephew for me?”

He swallows. “His name is Drew.”

Stiles smiles, eyes softer than Derek’s seen them. “Say hi to Drew for me?”

It takes a while for Derek to nod, and he heads off without another word. Derek makes his way through the aisles of food and when he sees Stiles around the shop his lip is bitten over his smile.

“Someone’s looking at you,” Drew says to him, nervous. His hands grip the straps of his bags so tight that Derek can almost hear the fabric ripping. Derek steps closer to his nephew and throws an arm around his shoulders. He follows Drew’s line of sight and he sees Stiles, in his uniform, across the street from the school.

Stiles waves.

Derek nods back.

Stiles looks left and right, checking for cars before he jogs across the road. When he reaches them, his hands are on his hips and he first says hello to Drew. Derek licks his lips, watching Stiles’ neck and how it seems sticky with sweat, the hot sun beating down on them.

“Hi,” Drew replies, words slow as they come out of his mouth.

Stiles grins at Derek. “He takes after you a bit.”

Derek glares at him and instantly Stiles looks as if he’s stepped over some kind of line. He stutters and a hand comes up and pulls at his hair.

“Um,” he says.

“We’re about to get ice creams,” Derek says lamely.

“It’s the weather for it,” Stiles says.

Derek meets Stiles’ eye and they give up talking. There’s not much to say but it’s easy to see the way Stiles fills out his uniform, and it’s easy for Derek to let his eyes linger over Stiles’ torso. He wants to say something, he does, and the feeling’s a new one.

Stiles’ cheeks are red when he looks at his face again.

“I have to go,” Stiles says, looking over his shoulder. He sounds like he wants to stay and leave in the same breath.

Derek nods. Even Drew gives him a small wave.

When they’re in the car back to the Hale house, after eating ice cream, he feels Drew looking at him with a suspicious gaze.

“What?” Derek asks him.

“Nothing,” he says quickly. “Are you going to come in today?”

Derek taps his fingers against the wheel. “Do you want me to?”

Drew nods shyly.

“Then I will, okay?”

Drew settles into his seat, and there’s a faint trace of content coming from his scent.

 Erica calls him from work. It’s a local publishing company, small, but Derek used to throw himself into it. He liked his job a lot more than any of the other ones he had. It was close to home, the hours were decent and the pay was good.

Erica asks him to bring her and Isaac some lunch because they’re swamped. Derek agrees but sighs at his phone, irritated. He knows what she’s doing, trying to get him to at least go back to the building.

“Gosh, Derek, learn to smile,” she says when he arrives. “It looks good on you.”

Derek glares at her some more.

Her eyes are eager as she pokes around in the paper bag of food Derek brought her. Derek’s set on leaving, the walls of his work creeping in on him. He doesn’t want to be here and Erica knows it.

Erica grabs his arm before he can leave. Her wedding ring glitters in the light and she hums.

“I wouldn’t leave if I were you,” she says.

“What if I don’t want to be here?” Derek snaps.

She rolls her eyes.

“Never mind the fact that it’s busy at work, Derek, and that we have to hire someone new because you haven’t decided to come back yet, but there is a reason why I called you and not my husband,” she says.

Derek grits his teeth together, but he’s intrigued enough not to simply ignore her and walk away.

“Isaac’s dealing with something in his office,” she says, “So you should bring him his lunch.”

“Fine,” Derek mutters. He grabs what is left over and he stomps down the familiar corridor. He doesn’t run into anyone he knows or worked with and it’s a small miracle. Derek doesn’t bother knocking when he reaches Isaac’s office and he’s startled when he steps in.

Three faces turn to look at him and it takes a moment for Derek to get a hold of his expression.

“What’s wrong?” he says, eyes dropping to Isaac first. Isaac smiles easily, waving him in.

“Derek,” Stiles says, and Derek lifts his eyes to the two cops standing there. The room is small and Derek shuffles in, holding out Isaac’s lunch. He clears his throat and says hello, thinking he should leave but his feet are stuck to the floor.

Isaac’s face brightens at the lunch. “Nothing’s wrong, Derek. Well, we interviewed a guy for a job and we think he stole something. It’s not much, insurance will cover it, but we had to report it to the cops anyway.”

Stiles smiles at him. “Nothing to worry about,” he repeats. “This is Allison. We worked on the Blake case together.”

She beams, reaching out her hand for Derek to shake. Derek stares at it awkwardly before he leans forward and grasps it quickly. Isaac hides his smirk.

“Nice to meet you, Derek,” she says, shoving her partner lightly in the side.

“Yeah,” he says. Derek turns to Isaac. “You’re interviewing people already?”

Isaac glances at each face in the room. “Yes.”

“For my job?”

He shrugs. “It’ll only be temporary.”

Derek inhales and all he gets is distress coming from Isaac’s scent and concern coming from the other two. Derek closes his eyes briefly. He kind of fucking really wants to leave and he knows Isaac’s looking at him carefully. He’s also aware of Stiles watching him, watching him say goodbye to his job.

Derek’s not sure if he can stay.

“Let me get those papers from the car!” Stiles pipes up suddenly. “When I come back we can fill out the paperwork?”

Isaac nods, his shoulders deflating.

Stiles steps over to the door, only a foot away from Derek.

“Want to walk me down?” he asks.

Derek nods, throat dry, and he barely says goodbye before he follows Stiles. Erica straightens when they walk pass, her eyebrows raised and looking pleased with herself. Derek ignores her.

When he and Stiles get outside the sun is high in the sky. The police cruiser is parked around the corner whereas Derek used the employee parking even though he doesn’t know if he can be called that anymore. Stiles turns to Derek.

“Do you really have papers you need to get?” Derek asks.

Stiles shakes his head, smile small on his lips.

“No,” he says.

Derek doesn’t know what to make of that. He turns so that he’s not facing the building he used to work in and he takes a deep breath. Stiles is close. His warm scent fills Derek’s nostrils and it’s almost soothing, the kind of scent Derek wants to become familiar with.

“You worked at a publishing company?” Stiles asks.

“Yes.”

“Did you like it?”

Derek nods.

“But you don’t want to go back?”

Derek grits his teeth together. “Not yet,” he manages, and out of the corner of his eye he sees Stiles’ nervous smile. Stiles rocks back on his feet, his expression surprisingly non judgemental. Derek finds something in it to make him relax.

“I should go,” Stiles says. “But it was nice seeing you today, if only for a moment.”

“I don’t know why on earth it would be nice,” Derek mutters.

Stiles rolls his eyes. “Well, you’re not that bad to look at, Derek.”

Derek’s eyes widen in surprise but Stiles just leaves him there, a playful grin on his face. There’s a slight bounce to his step as he walks back to the building and Derek watches him until he disappears inside.

Derek stands, feeling completely unsure and slightly taken aback. It’s only when the rest of the afternoon has passed that he realizes for some reason he liked whatever happened today.

He liked seeing Stiles.

It takes a while before he sees him again. Derek searches and he feels agitated when a week passes and he doesn’t even get a glimpse of Stiles in town. Erica smiles smugly at him, not saying anything just in case it discourages him.

He asks his mother if there are any more errands he can do and she also gives a knowing smile, holding out a list. Derek gets the impression his family have been talking about him when he’s not there.

Derek does see Stiles once, but he was working and seemed too busy to approach.

Derek spends more time with Drew. It’s a constant reminder of Laura being gone but there’s something inside Derek that wants to make everything okay for this beautiful boy. He didn’t get to save his mother, so Derek’s trying his best with her son.

Drew eyes his homework when he talks to Derek, pencil scratching over the paper.

“When’s Auntie Cora coming home?”

Derek sighs. He doesn’t know. No one does.

“She’s still on vacation,” Derek says. “Did you see her last postcard?”

Drew nods. The lead on his pencil snaps and Drew nibbles his lip, offering the stick towards Derek. Derek extends his claws and slowly shaves the pencil, eyebrows furrowed as he thinks of what to say.

“Cora said that she needed some time away from Beacon Hills,” Derek says, matter of fact.

“What about pack?” Drew mutters.

Derek shrugs, handing over the pencil. “She’ll come back home when she’s ready.”

His nephew looks up at him, a scrunched up expression on his face. “Just like you’ll go back to work when you’re ready?”

Derek hesitates. His throat has gone dry and his words seem locked in his mouth. He meets Drew’s eyes and they’re soft, sad, honest. Derek nods.

“Hopefully.”

It’s a surprise when he next meets Stiles. He sees Allison first, standing by the side of the road and speaking into a phone. Derek watches her from in front of the bakery, a paper bag full of pastries in his hand. He thought his family at the house might want the treat.

He has no mind to go see her but Allison spots him and waves him over. Derek curses, but the hope to see Stiles is stronger than his apprehension. Derek crosses the road and he’s greeted by her friendly smile.

Derek swallows. “Allison.”

“Hey, Derek. Stiles is just picking us up some coffee if you wanted to wait for him,” she says.

“I’ll see him later,” he tells her.

She tilts her head to the side, her lips pursing till they settle sharp on her face. Allison hums under her breath.

“Just wait five minutes?” she asks.

Derek stares at her. He wants to say no but the words don’t come. Derek ends up saying nothing, hand gripping tighter around the paper bag as he waits. Despite Allison being a cop, Derek never met her during any of the interrogations and it makes it slightly easier to be around her.

She talks to him through his silence, not seeming to mind how little he says.

“You should join us for drinks next time,” she says brightly.

“Maybe,” he says.

Allison frowns. “We’re going out on Friday night, you should come.”

Derek’s saved from answering when Stiles calls out his name. He’s carrying two cups of coffee, his fingers curled around the top.

“Derek!” Stiles says, handing one of the coffees to Allison.

“Hi.”

He bites his lip, tilting his head to the side. “I heard what Allison just said,” Stiles says. “You should definitely come and have a drink with us.”

Derek clenches his teeth together. He’s trying to rack his brain for some excuse because his underarms are starting to sweat; he wants to say yes but he fucking needs to say no. He’s not ready to have fun or socialize. Derek can’t do it.

“First drink’s on me,” Stiles says softly.

“Fine,” Derek says, throat dry.

Stiles’ lips spread out into a smile. Allison seems to roll her eyes and she taps the radio placed at her shoulder.

“We should get going,” she says.

Stiles frowns but he still looks excited. He faces Derek, his cheeks flushed with pleasure and his heartbeat in a happy thrum. Derek can’t quite figure out why Stiles wants this so badly.

“Same place we saw you at last time, at six?” he says, taking a step back. “Just for a couple of hours, I can’t stay too late because, yeah, I have stuff to do.”

Allison clears her throat. Stiles glares at her.

A couple of hours doesn’t sound so bad. Derek tries for a smile.

“Okay,” he says.

His mother has a permanent smile on her face and even Derek’s father looks happy, barely standing still. Derek’s at the house, trying to convince himself to step out the door so he can meet Stiles and his friends for drinks.

“I shouldn’t go,” he says.

His mother, his alpha, points her finger at him. “You’re going, Derek. This is your first social engagement that hasn’t involved the pack in who knows how long.”

Her husband comes up to Talia and runs his fingers over her palm, drawing her hand back down. Derek’s father turns to him.

“Derek, we want you to have fun, but we also want you to do what you want,” Noah says, speaking quietly over his wife.

Derek stares at the floor. Drew is standing in the corner of the room, a pleased smile on his face. He wants Derek to go too.

He sighs. “Fine, I’m going.”

Derek’s mother beams.

Drew rubs his cheek on Derek’s shoulder before he leaves, scenting him. There’s almost fifteen minutes before six o’clock and Derek feels suddenly nervous. He takes a detour to Erica’s house.

She opens the door, her hair dirty and in a bun, her face free from makeup. Derek stares at her, horrified.

“I need someone to go with me,” Derek says.

She glares at him. “You know I need at least half an hour to get ready!”

“Stiles is only going to be there a few hours,” Derek says hopelessly. Erica turns smug when he mentions Stiles, like she had something to do with them going out tonight. She sighs and turns around, calling loudly through the house to her husband.

“Boyd, you’re going with Derek! Make sure he doesn’t chicken out!”

Derek glares at her some more, blood moving under his skin. She doesn’t seem to care though, kissing Boyd on the cheek when he appears at the door. He looks faintly amused and a little annoyed but Derek doesn’t care.

Derek stomps off to the car, Boyd following him in a calm manner.

“I’m glad you’re going out,” he says quietly, five minutes away from the bar.

“Isn’t everyone?” Derek says through his teeth.

“And he’s a cop?”

“Yeah. He’s okay.”

Boyd smiles faintly.

Stiles seems to be looking for him when he finally steps inside the bar. His face moves into a relieved smile and he gets up, rushing to them. He swallows when he sees Boyd, who is taller than any of them.

“This is Boyd,” Derek says gruffly. “I hope you don’t mind me bringing him.”

Stiles smiles. “Well, if he got you to come over here then I’m grateful. What can I get you both to drink?”

Derek shrugs and leaves it for Boyd to decide. He makes his way past some chairs and tables until he sees Allison, pressed up close to who must be her husband. She hurries to introduce him, looking pleasantly surprised that Derek turned up.

“So,” says Stiles when he returns. “I’m glad you came.”

“You had him worried,” says Scott. “Because you’re ten minutes late.”

“Sorry,” Derek mutters. He takes one of the drinks Stiles arrived with and feels marginally better when Boyd slides into the seat next to him. Derek only faintly registers that Stiles is blushing.

Stiles holds the conversation easily, asking Boyd where he works – at the high school – and he learns that Boyd is married to Erica. The talk is easy to listen to, and slowly Derek starts to relax.

Scott and Allison take over the conversation with Boyd and Stiles turns his attention to Derek.

“You okay there?”

“I don’t get out much.”

Stiles bites his lip. “I get that. I don’t get much time to go out but it’s always nice when I do. I get to unwind, have a drink.”

“Are you busy with work?” Derek asks.

He shrugs and takes a sip of his drink, not looking Derek in the eye.

“How do you unwind?” he asks.

“I don’t,” Derek says, and Stiles laughs. It sounds really nice. It’s a sound Derek could get used to and he can’t help the smile that creeps onto his face. Boyd catches his eye and smirks. “But, I, um, I exercise?”

Stiles’ eyes drop over his arms. “I can tell.”

Derek’s been checked out before. It’s kind of normal and he can often ignore it. This time he feels a soft burn at the back of his neck and at the tips of his ears. Stiles seems to notice his blushing and he looks smug.

The moment doesn’t last when Stiles peers at his watch.

“What do you have to get to?” Derek asks.

Stiles shrugs. “I’ll tell you some time. Sometime soon,” he adds.

Derek frowns.

“I promise,” Stiles says, leaning forward. Derek can smell the alcohol on his breath, even though it’s not very much. “And I don’t break my promises.”

Derek stares at his wide, amber eyes, dark in the light of the bar.

Scott snorts. “And you promised to get home by eight, so you should go.”

Stiles slides his chair back, glaring at his friend. He shoots Derek another smile, and he looks again like he can’t quite believe Derek turned up. Stiles leaves with a warm touch on Derek’s arm, and then there’s not much reason for Derek to stay.

“It was nice to meet you,” Boyd says, eyeing Derek. “But we should probably get going as well.”

Allison nods, probably not expecting them to be here much longer. Scott stands and shakes both of their hands. He smiles widely but his eyes travel over Derek like he’s trying to figure something out.

Boyd and Derek ride in the car in silence. Erica hears them pulling up the street and she’s already at the door before Boyd’s out of the car.

“How did it go?” she says eagerly.

“Fine,” Derek says.

She turns to Boyd.

“It was a little awkward,” he says. “But I wasn’t expecting it to be much else. The cop is definitely interested, though.”

Erica grins, wide and fearless. “Yes! Derek, you must have done something right. I’m so proud!”

Derek scowls at her from inside the car, but it feels fake. He quite liked how the night turned out, even if Stiles had to leave. The pressure was low, he didn’t have to stay long and he didn’t have to do much.

Erica waves at him from the front door, looking excited. Boyd is already in the house and Derek can hear him chuckling.

Derek drives away. When he goes to sleep, he remembers Stiles’ face clearly in the half lit bar.

Derek’s heart stays nervous whenever he drives around town. He’s hoping for a glimpse of Stiles and maybe another conversation. He’s had a slight smile on his lips that’s lasted for days, lasted for longer than it should.

Erica leans over the counter in the Hale house. “You need to ask him out.”

“Okay,” Derek says, without really thinking.

He watches as her artfully done eyebrows rise and he never thought that he would render Erica speechless. She puts a hand to her chest and lets out a happy squeal, her steps bouncing as she moves around the counter and into Derek’s space.

“Did I really hear that right, Derek Hale?” she asks.

Derek barely nods. He feels his cheeks go hot even though his interest in Stiles is not a secret from the rest of the pack. “I want to,” he admits quietly. He’s been thinking about it.

“Next time you see him,” she makes him promise. Derek can hear her heart working hard. She’s nervous for him. “Next time you see him you at least get his number, okay?”

Derek swallows, but he nods. He can do that.

His face looks pale and there are dark circles under Stiles’ eyes. His jeans look ratty but his hair is clean and soft, unstyled as it hangs over his forehead. Derek walks over through the store and he places a palm on Stiles’ shoulder.

He’s not expecting Stiles to leap away, his heart thundering loud in Derek’s ears. Stiles curses, his breath in sharp, before he catches Derek’s eye and seems to calm down. Stiles tries for a weak smile.

“Hey,” he says, “Hi. Sorry, you scared me.”

Derek grimaces.

Stiles puts the carton of milk back on the shelf and he turns to face Derek properly. He rubs a hand over his neck, skin turning red as he closes his eyes.

“Are you okay?” Derek asks.

“Yeah,” he says too quickly, and his heart jumps. “I’m good. I’m fine.”

Derek presses his lips together, noting the way Stiles’ shoulders slump forward as he tries to relax. His eyes are warm though, staring at Derek intently, like he doesn’t want him to leave. It gives Derek enough courage to say what he came to say, his mouth dry.

“I’d like it if I got to see you a bit more,” Derek starts.

He smiles. “Yeah?”

“On a date.”

Stiles’ lips part into a gentle circle. He blinks a few times, taking it in, and Derek swears his heart misses a beat. Something nice starts to come from Stiles’ scent and Derek feels almost hopeful, his hands sweaty as he waits for an answer.

“Fuck, Derek, I can’t.”

Derek’s skin prickles instantly. He – he wasn’t expecting that. Stiles’ face looks pained but Derek doesn’t wait around for an explanation, he can’t, and he knows he’s not owed one. Stiles takes a step forward, reaching out, but Derek shakes his head.

“No, of course not,” Derek manages.

“Thanks for coming and saying hi,” Stiles says, voice weak.

Derek feels disappointment wash over him. It’s worse than he thought it would be, hearing Stiles say no, and he doesn’t say goodbye before he’s turning around and heading out of the store. His teeth go sharp as he tries to rein in his feelings, pinpricks pushing against his lip.

He strides across the parking lot and dips into his car. Derek closes his eyes, not sure why the rejection is hitting him as hard as it is. He takes in a shaky breath before Derek makes himself snap out of it.

It was nothing, Stiles was nothing, and he’s going to go home and forget about it.

Derek texts Boyd and asks him to pick Drew up from school. He’s the least likely to ask unwanted questions. Five minutes later he gets a response saying that Isaac will do it.

Derek sighs in relief and almost speeds on the way to his apartment. He can’t shake Stiles’ tired eyes from his mind, can’t get rid of the images rattling inside his head from when Stiles said no.

He falls onto his bed and sleeps.

“He said no,” Derek tells Erica, after the fifth time she hinted about talking to Stiles. She blinks twice, disbelief rocketing over her face.

Erica points a finger at him. “Is that why you’ve smelt like a walking cloud of misery lately?”

Derek grits his teeth together and goes back to preparing the meat in the kitchen, dousing it with spices and herbs for the barbeque outside.

“No,” he says sullenly.

Her face melts. “Oh, Derek, I’m so sorry. I really thought he would say yes.”

“Me too,” he whispers, and Erica just stares at him, twisting the ring on her finger as her lip trembles.

“I shouldn’t have pushed you.”

Derek rolls his eyes.

“Fuck, I thought you were ready for something new instead of looking after the pack all the time,” she says, throwing herself down on one of the kitchen stools. “I mean, you pick Drew up from school and take him there, you buy the fucking groceries for the pack, you make sure all the cars are full of gas and then I saw that you fixed the handrail on the back porch the other day, not to mention the fact that you’re cooking for us now? As well as half the stuff I forgot to mention.”

Derek shrugs. “I like looking after you guys.”

Erica sighs. “I miss seeing you at work.”

“And I miss Cora.” He doesn’t mention how much he misses his other sister.

Erica flings a piece of tomato from the salad at him and Derek dodges it easily. “I thought you were going to say you miss me,” she huffs.

Derek washes his hands and lets the cool water wash over his skin. After he dries them he walks around the counter and kisses Erica on the top of her head, running his nose across her hair before he grabs the meat and heads outside.

Derek tries not to notice him when he walks into the diner. He thinks about turning around and going somewhere else, but Allison is sitting opposite Stiles and her frown almost disappears when she gets a hold of his gaze.

“Derek!” she calls out.

He sees Stiles’ shoulders slump and he drops his face into his hands. It makes something rattle inside Derek and he walks over despite how much he wants to leave, his jaw clenched.

Allison has her hands wrapped around a half full cup of coffee. Her sandwich is half eaten and already pushed to the side, and Stiles – Stiles meets Derek’s eyes with too much hesitance, and too much guilt.

“Hey, Derek,” he says, trying to smile, voice small.

Derek nods. He stuffs his hands in his jean pockets.

“We’re just on our lunch break,” Allison says, “Would you like to join us?”

“Allison –”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Derek speaks over Stiles, hating the way he can hear his heart speed up. Stiles’ scent turns bitter.

Allison looks between the two of them, second guessing herself. She catches Stiles’ eye and they stare at each other as Allison figures out that she’s missed something. After a few seconds she straightens and puts on a polite smile.

“Actually, things have gotten really terrible at work, so we should be getting back,” Allison says, shooting a dark look in Stiles’ direction. “It’s – yeah, it’s not good.”

Derek tunes out and stares right out the window. He’s not one to listen to police business, no matter how vague it is. Allison’s trying to make things less awkward, but the more Derek refuses to look at Stiles the more his rejection stings.

Through the window, Derek sees the paint on a dark van glint in the sunlight. Everything about it seems wrong, the way it’s coming around the corner too quickly, the van barely breaking, it unmarked and the number plates missing.

Derek doesn’t even register what Allison is saying anymore. A window winds down on the moving vehicle and Derek hears the click of the gun, unmistakable across the parking lot, before it points at the diner.

He doesn’t fucking wait. Allison is closest to him and so he yanks her shoulder down, maybe too hard, until she’s on the floor. He’s rougher with Stiles but only because he doesn’t have the time not to be. He grabs the front of his uniform and Stiles yells as he’s brought to the ground, landing awkwardly on his hip.

Derek’s too quick for a human and he hopes no one notices. The gun sounds, glass shatters, and Derek’s in the position to throw himself over Allison’s body, shielding her from the twinkling spray of the diner window.

“Shit, fuck,” Stiles yells, scrambling on the ground.

The sound of the gun shots leaves Derek’s ears ringing hard. His ears are too sensitive for this, the high frequency bearing down on his skull. Once he’s sure it’s the van’s tires he hears screeching away, he thrusts his palms to his ears and tries to block it all out.

Derek can smell blood in the air, salty and not just his own. He’s suddenly desperately scared that Stiles has been hurt and he lifts his head, eyes moving so he can search him for injuries.

Stiles is staring at him, shoulders quivering and Derek thinks for a second that he’s been shot.

“Are you okay?” Derek demands, though he can’t hear himself speak.

Stiles holds his hands in front of him, covered in scratches and bleeding hard where shards of glass have sliced his skin. It takes longer than it should for him to nod back, but when Derek’s sure he’s okay he feels his vision move back to normal.

Fuck. Derek almost throws up and he jerks his head away, but he knows Stiles saw the gold leaking from his eyes.

He turns towards Allison. The hot coffee had spilt over her pants and she’s wincing, but she manages to get to her feet without much trouble. There are shards of glass in her hair and her hands are also scratched, but she insists she’s okay and in a second they’re on their feet, guns out of their holsters and heading outside.

Derek sits on the floor, watching Stiles and Allison rush out of the diner. Stiles doesn’t afford him another look and Derek looks down at his hands, already healed. Derek swears.

He throws his head back, trying not to panic, hoping Stiles doesn’t realize what he saw. He – it was too hard to control, to keep his eyes human, to keep everything in as his instincts were screaming to use his senses properly.

He knows the van is gone. He knows that they’re relatively safe. He can hear Stiles calling for back up.

Derek opens his eyes properly and he can hear some of the customers crying. The girl behind the counter is hidden but Derek can hear her heartbeat. He scans the room to see if anyone is hurt, but no one is.

Allison’s already inside again, trying to calm everyone down. She checks if anyone needs help.

“Hey Derek, hey, just breathe for me, alright,” she says, crouching near him. Derek looks at her; unaware that he needs her soothing. Allison seems calm, but her curls are a mess around her face and her pulse is all over the place. Derek squeezes his eyes shut and tries not to see his sister’s dark hair, his sister bleeding and dead from a hunter’s gun.

“Is he hurt?”

Derek instantly moves to stand up. “I’m fine,” he says, avoiding Stiles’ eye.

“You sure?”

Derek nods. He’s still trying to process everything. He’s trying to figure out why anyone would be shooting at Stiles or Allison, and he’s hoping to hell that Stiles isn’t going to say anything about his eyes turning to yellow.

“I – can I go?” he asks.

Allison frowns, eyes too kind. “We should wait until the ambulance gets here.”

“I’m fine,” Derek snaps.

Her face turns sharp. “Well, you’re not driving in this state.”

Derek calls his alpha. His mother is the only one he can bear to see, and all his instincts move towards having the leader of his pack near. He has to avoid the hospital at all costs, being a werewolf and having his skin running too hot, his heartbeat too fast.

She barely has to listen to him speak before she says she’s on her way.

Stiles walks over to him, shifting awkwardly on his feet. Back up has already arrived and Derek can hear officers taking statements and shutting down the crime scene.

“Thanks,” he says.

“What?”

“You pulled us out of the way.”

Derek shrugs. He turns his head sharply and he can feel Stiles staring at him. Fuck, he wouldn’t have changed anything about saving Stiles and his partner, but he definitely moved too fast, he saw too well, he heard too quickly.

He can’t let them know about werewolves. That’s not his place and Stiles is a fucking cop.

Derek can’t get a read on Stiles either. He doesn’t know what Stiles is thinking right now and it’s driving him crazy.

“They got away,” Stiles says, sitting down across from him. “And it’s not the first time this week we’ve had an attack on one of Beacon Hills’ Police Department officers.”

“It’s not?”

Stiles looks grim. “It’s something we have to figure out.”

Derek says nothing. He hears the familiar thrum of his mother’s car engine coming into the parking lot. The police already at the scene stop her from coming closer so Derek walks out of the diner to her.

On the way he sees a man with lines on his face, and Derek recognizes him as the Sheriff. He seems to remember Derek from the interrogations too, opening his mouth to say something, but Stiles catches his arm.

“Dad, it’s fine, let him go,” Stiles says. “We’ll talk to him later.”

Derek grits his teeth together.

His mother is striding up to them, plastering on a smile and holding herself with a certain grace that Derek can only associate with his alpha. She holds her head up and her hand moves up to the back of Derek’s neck. He relaxes instantly.

“Is there a problem?” Talia asks.

Stiles shakes his head. “No, ma’am.”

“Is my son arrested?”

The Sheriff looks down at Derek like it might be a good idea if he was. Stiles hits his father’s arm.

“No, Mrs. Hale,” Stiles says firmly. “Derek made sure my partner and I didn’t get hurt.”

“Very well,” Derek’s mother says, her lips in a fine line. She doesn’t miss the way Stiles glanced wide eyed at Derek when he spoke.

Before anyone can protest Derek’s mother is leading him towards the car. They get in and drive, drive to the bottom of the long Hale driveway. His mother stops the car and faces Derek, putting a cool hand on the side of his face.

“Try and calm down,” she says, brushing her thumb across Derek’s cheek. “Okay? I can hear your heart moving fast.”

Derek’s claws extend and it takes the edge off a bit. He struggles with his words, not sure what to say, but he knows he can’t lie to his alpha. Derek swallows and stays facing ahead.

“Stiles, he, Stiles saw my eyes.”

His mother’s breath in his sharp. “Stiles?”

“Yes,” Derek says through his teeth.

“Did he see anything else?” she says softly, soothingly.

“I don’t think so,” Derek says.

“Then it’s fine,” Talia says firmly.

Derek doesn’t quite believe her. When they get to the house Derek heads for the kitchen, eager to wash his own blood off his hands. The scratches are long gone and Derek sees flashes of Stiles’ shocked face in his head, almost horrified, and a little bit of Derek is grateful that Stiles has already rejected him.

Someone else picks Drew up from school. He rushes for Derek immediately, throwing his school bag down on the floor and clutching Derek’s waist tightly.

“What happened?” he demands, and Derek bends down

“I’m fine,” Derek assures him, running a hand through his nephew’s hair, knowing Drew’s scared to lose anyone else in the pack.

Drew stays by his side and curls up next to him when they go to watch the television. The rest of the pack stays in the room with them too, and Erica, Boyd and Isaac have come to visit once again.

It’s nice to hear all their heartbeats. Drew falls asleep against Derek’s side after they’ve eaten and Derek tries to shift him awake but gives up quickly. He carries his nephew to his old bedroom, and Derek’s surprised by how much of it is the same as when he lived there.

When Derek gets back downstairs his father draws him into a hug.

“Are you sure you don’t want to stay over tonight?” Noah asks him. “Your mother is worried.”

“She’s always worried,” says Derek.

“It’s her way of coping,” his father says, shrugging a little.

Erica and Boyd drop Derek home and offer to get his car the next morning. Derek doesn’t care, and he lets them do what they want. Derek stays up all night, and he wishes that he had stayed with his pack.

Derek answers his phone on the second ring. The number is long and unrecognizable, and Derek holds his breath, hoping to hear his sister’s voice.

“You got shot at,” Cora yells at him.

He manages a faint smile. “Not at me, I don’t think,” Derek says.

“Were you in the line of fire?”

“Maybe?”

“Then you got shot at, Derek! Why did you do that?”

“It’s not my fault,” he snaps. “Besides, I’m a werewolf, I’d heal.”

He can feel her glaring. “Not if it was in the head.”

Derek grits his teeth. They both know that fact too well, and it’s always up to Cora to mention Laura’s death so bluntly. Fuck, he misses both of them.

Cora stays quiet for a bit too long, the static of the long distance phone call irritating both of their ears. “Maybe I should come home,” she says.

Derek hesitates. He wants her back, badly, but she’s travelling the world, she’s finding space, she’s getting over Laura being gone and Derek can’t judge the way she tries to cope.

“Only if you want to,” says Derek.

Cora sighs. She doesn’t have to say that she’s not ready, or she’d be home by now.

 

Chapter Text

Derek doesn’t expect the wait to be long; he has to be questioned and the police department already dislikes him. But the next evening when his ears pick up the light tread of steps to his front door, his face still pales.

He walks forward and rests his fingers on the door handle. Whoever is there seems to hesitate, their heart rate elevated, and Derek knows it must be Stiles waiting on the other side of the door. Derek pulls it open.

“Hi – hi,” Stiles startles. Derek’s nostrils flare. His scent is tainted with nervousness, still pleasant, but decidedly wary, like Derek might be a danger. It stings a little.

“Where’s your partner?” Derek says, gruffer than he means to be.

“In the car,” Stiles replies, standing straighter. His face turns calm, just for a second, and silence hangs in the air. “We need to take you in. Just to have a little talk.”

Derek gives him a dark look because it’s never that simple. He tells Stiles to wait there, aware of him staring, and he finds some shoes and a jacket. Stiles clears his throat when Derek steps into the hallway, keys in hand to lock the door.

Stiles suddenly moves forward and grabs Derek’s hand. The jagged metal of the keys is pressed between their palms and Derek goes still, unsure, wanting to take his hand back but seemingly unable to. Stiles’ hold is firm, but his thumb runs smoothly over Derek’s palm, tracing the inside of his wrist before he flips Derek’s hand and moves his rough fingers over Derek’s knuckles.

The keys drop to the floor and Stiles seems to break away from his trance.

“The glass. You don’t have any scratches from the glass,” Stiles says, voice higher than it should be. Derek catches a glimpse of Stiles’ skin. It looks red and battered, still healing, with some cuts deeper than others.

Derek’s flesh looks smooth and clean, healed with no way to explain it. His own eyes are wide as he meets Stiles’, and in Stiles’ grip his hand begins to shake. He can’t move; he hoped Stiles might trick himself into forgetting all that happened but that hope seems to be a lost cause.

Stiles lets go of Derek’s hand. He bends down and picks up the keys off the floor.

“Anyway,” Stiles clears his throat. Derek slowly takes the keys from him and makes sure the door is locked. “We need you down at the station.”

Derek feels numb. He follows Stiles out of the apartment building, listening to the wild throb of his heart as he thinks. Stiles is muttering under his breath, and his gaze lingers more than it should when he opens the cruiser door for Derek.

He sits in the back like he’s a criminal.

“Hello Derek,” Allison says, tired but cheerful.

“Hi,” Derek manages quietly.

Stiles exchanges a look with his partner and Derek wonders if they ignored protocol when Stiles came up to get Derek alone. The radio is on and it leaves a nice buzz in the air, even as Derek feels all the more sick the closer they get to the station.

He thinks of every other time he had to come here, Laura’s death still fresh and painful. It dragged out his grief, and he had to face the reality of stumbling across his own sister, dead, over and over again.

Derek sees the doors of the station, the indoor lights glowing through the windows. They pull to a stop, Stiles and Allison get out of the car, but Derek stays where he is.

“Do you reckon he’s okay?” Allison asks, her voice slightly muffled from outside the car.

Stiles shrugs. “I don’t think this is a nice place for him. You know, after his sister.”

Before Allison can reply, Stiles opens the car door. Derek lets the outside air into his nostrils, trying to find something to anchor him. He hates himself a little bit when he settles on Stiles’ scent, using its warmth to find the courage to get out of the car.

Derek walks briskly inside while the other two keep looking over their shoulders, like someone might be following them.

“Wait here, Derek,” Allison says, smiling kindly. She squeezes Stiles’ shoulder and heads down a corridor, returning with a young woman with dark hair, and holding some paperwork.

“This is Kira,” she says, and the woman waves. “She’s going to be asking you some questions since Stiles and I were at the scene.”

Derek nods stiffly. He recognizes her from each time he came in here, but she had always seemed friendly even if her heartbeat sped up whenever Derek was in the room, her scent full of worry and uncertainty, like she didn’t know what to believe.

“It won’t take too long,” Kira assures. Stiles glances between the two of them.

“Derek, will you be okay?”

“You guys didn’t care whether or not I was okay every other time I’ve been here,” he says, “So I don’t know why you’re asking now.”

Stiles lets out a breath and looks down at his shoes. Derek follows Kira into a small office, bracing himself for her questions. Derek has run everything through his head, replayed it all as if he was human so he can hopefully answer this cop without giving himself away.

“Derek,” she says, smiling gently. “It’s nice to see you again.”

Derek doesn’t reply to her clear lie.

She asks him what happened, what he saw. She asks if he had seen the van before and he shakes his head. She asks him how he knew to pull Stiles and Allison out of the way. Derek hesitates before answering. It had been instinct, the want to protect, but he can’t say that.

Her questions keep on coming, and they’re persistent and far too easy to answer. He wonders if she sees any inconsistencies in his story.

By the end of it Derek’s sweaty and his shirt is sticking to his back. His cheeks are flushed and hot. He hardly dares to breathe, just in case there’s another question to catch him off guard.

Kira smiles and leads him to the front desk. There, Stiles is waiting, tugging on the sleeves of his uniform. He visibly relaxes when he sees Derek.

“All in one piece?” he says, trying to sound light.

“I guess,” Derek replies, after a moment. He wants nothing more than to leave, but then Stiles’ heart pounds and he’s looking at Derek with a conflicted expression on his face.

The door opens and Derek bristles, recognising the scent and voice of Sheriff Stilinski. He walks through, wearing his uniform, gun in his holster, and with two children either side of him, their hands in his.

Stiles swallows and his eyes look panicked.

“Dad,” he says, “What are you doing here?”

The Sheriff frowns, eyes narrowing when he spots Derek standing near the exit. He folds his arms and even though he’s speaking to his son, his eyes don’t leave Derek. “Parrish said there was some paperwork I needed to look over, and that Hale here was coming in.”

“Nice to see you again, sir,” Derek says, voice stony.

Stiles grits his teeth, glancing at Derek, face moving into a shaky smile when one of the kids rushes forward. She has dark, straight hair, brown eyes, and pale skin. Stiles’ hand goes to her back, rubbing her shoulders before crouching down and meeting her eyes.

“Hey,” he says. Stiles looks at the boy still clinging to the Sheriff’s side. “I have to finish up here, but we can head home soon, okay?”

“Okay, Dad,” the girl mumbles, rubbing her eyes. Derek stares as Stiles kisses the top of her head before he stands up properly.

Derek takes in the scents of the two kids, lips parted and feeling completely thrown. Their scents are defined by Stiles’, as individual as they are, and if both children didn’t have Stiles’ eyes, his face, Derek would’ve known anyway.

Stiles has kids. He’s a father.

“Why don’t you guys wait in the Sheriff’s office?” Stiles says weakly.

The young girl, who is maybe nine or ten, shrugs, barely looking at Derek before she moves away. Allison offers to take them, not meeting Derek’s eyes. The boy’s face goes curious when he sees Derek, but he stays quiet, taking Allison’s hand before they’re both out of sight.

“Dad,” Stiles hisses, stepping closer. He tries to lower the sound of his voice, but Derek hears it clearly. “Why did you bring them here? Just because you don’t like Derek Hale doesn’t mean you can drag them to the station when there’s someone dangerous out there!”

His father’s eyes go soft. “Stiles, this is the safest place they could be. They’re not going to hurt you when you’re here.”

Stiles glowers.

The Sheriff reaches out and squeezes his shoulder, before he turns to Derek. “Derek Hale is another matter altogether,” he says coldly.

Stiles finally meets Derek’s eyes, and his cheeks go pink. Derek shuffles on his feet, feeling out of his depth but trying not to show it. There are too many things going through his head; Stiles’ kids, the investigations, the Sheriff’s distrust, and he wants to leave, now.

“If you don’t need me here any longer,” Derek says, “I’ll be going, then.”

“I’ll drive you,” Stiles says quickly, stepping forward. His father looks incredulous. “What? He’s not going to know anything, not when he was in the line of fire from a moving vehicle.”

The Sheriff grumbles but waves his hand. Derek walks past them, not bothering to look over his shoulder as he heads outside. The breeze has picked up and it presses nicely over his skin, cooling him down a little.

Derek hears Stiles’ footsteps behind him, his heart working hard as he hurries after Derek.

“Hey, hey,” Stiles calls out, catching his arm.

Derek waits, facing him.

“I was going to tell you,” he blurts out. “I was, I promise.”

His heartbeat doesn’t waver, but that only calms Derek a little and he gets inside the car. Stiles follows, and this time Derek sits in the passenger seat, too aware of Stiles next to him. The car speeds along, everything quiet, Stiles’ fingers gripping the wheel, and Derek’s hands sweaty by his side.

“What are their names?” Derek asks quietly.

“Marie,” Stiles says. “And Jack.”

Stiles walks him to his apartment door, chewing his bottom lip until it’s red and raw. He opens his mouth more than once to speak, but Derek’s gruff manner keeps him from saying anything until Derek’s stepping inside his apartment.

“I thought I should apologize,” Stiles says, hands in his pockets. His shoulders shift uncomfortably, eyes on the ground.

Derek stares at him.

“Or, maybe, I don’t know, explain?”

“You, you think you need to explain when I –” Derek stops abruptly, too close to admitting something. He has his secrets, too, and Stiles’ eyes go wide, remembering. Derek curses himself as Stiles’ heart goes shaky, and he takes a step back.

Stiles swallows.

Derek begins to close his apartment door, slowly, and without saying goodbye. His throat is dry and he hardly knows what to do or feel as he watches Stiles’ face disappear.

“Wait,” Stiles says, and his hand is at the edge of the door, stopping it from closing. “Look, Derek, I didn’t say yes to a date with you because of my kids - it’s not safe for them or anyone at the station right now and, it’s just, it’s not the time. I have so many other things to worry about.”

It takes a moment, but Derek gives a curt nod. He understands. It’s probably better this way anyway. He’ll give Stiles his space and there will be no more questioning eyes, no more wondering as to what Derek is.

Derek will keep his distance, and he won’t be in the way.

Stiles looks disappointed and relieved at the same time, his lips forming a thin line. He takes one more look at Derek, glancing at his hands, and then he takes the short walk down the corridor until he’s out of sight.

Derek closes the door and rests his forehead against it, breaths uneven as he takes in Stiles’ fading scent.

Drew and Derek turn up to the Hale house the next afternoon, the rain pouring down gently outside. He’s managed to keep himself sane over the day, keeping his mind away from Stiles and everything else that happened.

He prepares dinner for the family, watching Drew do his homework at the counter. When Erica arrives the weather has made her hair slightly frizzy, and she kicks off her shoes and settles down next to Drew, running a hand through his hair before she turns to Derek.

“Word has it you went to the station yesterday,” she says.

Drew stills in his seat.

“It was about the other day,” Derek says quietly. “Nothing else.”

“Right,” Drew says, reaching for an eraser.

Erica frowns. “Well, how did it go?”

Derek hesitates, and then tells her about meeting Stiles’ kids. He watches the way her eyes go wide, her mouth opening to hit him with a lot of questions that he doesn’t know the answer to. Derek tries his best, remembering Stiles’ panic when his kids arrived at the station, remembering the gentle kiss he placed on his daughter’s head.

Drew sits up, lip wobbling. “Are you talking about Marie?” he asks.

“Do you know her, sweetie?” Erica asks.

He nods. “Yeah, she goes to my school. Everyone likes her. I’ve never spoken to her before, though. She’s a little younger than me.”

Derek gives him a weak smile. “What about Jack?”

He shrugs. “I just know Marie,” Drew mutters.

“Well,” Erica says. “Are we sure he’s not married?”

Derek rolls his eyes and he feels the start of a smile on his lips. Erica laughs, and she does him a favor by not mentioning Stiles for the rest of the evening.

Derek’s thoughts flit to Stiles more than he’d like, his two children clear in his mind. He wonders why Stiles took so long to tell him they even existed, wonders what he was waiting for. It doesn’t matter now – whatever was between them finished before it started, despite the questions Stiles must have about him.

Derek is early picking up Drew. He waits in front of the school, hands in his pockets, counting the minutes until the school bell rings. There are other parents around who mostly stay away from Derek, and each time he comes to the school he wonders if he’ll see Stiles, or get a glimpse of his children.

He hears the squeal of tires down the street and Derek is suddenly alert. A cruiser comes to rest in a bus stop, parked illegally and without a care. Derek’s breath catches when he sees Stiles come out of the car, alone, walking too fast and his heart in a frenzy.

It takes two seconds to decide to follow him. Derek can smell the distress, the nervous sweat and the panic that’s coming off him.

“I need – I need my kids,” Stiles demands, breathing heavily. The secretary stares at him, slightly flustered.

“Let me get their class schedule,” the woman says, eyes flicking between her computer screen and the cop in front of her.

Stiles swears under his breath, his face scrunched together in an effort to stay polite. Derek approaches slowly, fighting the urge to turn around and let Stiles deal with this on his own. He’s not wanted, Derek knows, but he can’t just wait on the sidelines and see if this all works out.

“Stiles?” Derek says.

He jumps, and then Stiles turns, his face going red. His hand is near his holster and Derek freezes, eyeing it. Stiles grimaces.

“Sorry, sorry, I wasn’t expecting you here,” he drops his hand instantly. Derek keeps his distance, but he clears his throat.

“What’s wrong?”

He shakes his head, but Derek can smell the frustration in his scent, and the blood rushing in Stiles’ veins is loud to Derek’s ears. Stiles opens his mouth but before he can say anything the secretary interrupts, saying she has his kids’ classes.

Stiles follows her quickly, glancing at Derek as they go. His shoulders are knotted tight, posture stiff, and Derek makes the decision to stay a few steps behind him. His eyes are on the back of Stiles’ neck as they trail through the school hallways, colorful artwork on the wall.

They have to wait outside the classroom, and Stiles looks like he might vibrate out of his skin.

“I can hear her,” Derek says, quiet. It’s true. He only heard Marie speak once, but it’s easy for him to pick her voice out of the class of children, especially when it might be the only thing to do to soothe Stiles. “She’s okay.”

His face crumples. “Derek,” he says.

“She’s okay, and then we’ll see, um, Jack?”

Stiles nods. “Yeah, Jack.”

He looks momentarily distracted, eyes flitting to Derek’s ears. Derek is torn between being pleased that he can let Stiles know that his kids are okay, and uncomfortable, because he’s showing Stiles more of his abilities in the process.

“God, Derek, I have no idea what I’m doing,” it comes out in a rush, “I’ve just got to make sure they’re alright – there,” Stiles falters, “There was someone at our house. I came home for like a minute, and the front door was open and someone had been in, had gone upstairs...”

Stiles shudders and Derek has a hand on his shoulder, palm moving across his back in an attempt at being comforting. He doesn’t know how well he’s doing because Stiles keeps saying I don’t know what to do but then the classroom door is opening, and that dark haired little girl is stepping into the hallway and Stiles just throws himself at her.

“Dad!” her nose wrinkles. “Stop being embarrassing. My friends can see you.”

Stiles smiles weakly at her. “Sorry, sorry, can’t be embarrassing for you, can I?” He brushes her hair aside. “Let’s go find your brother.”

He grabs her hand and Marie winces but doesn’t say anything, bag over her shoulder. The secretary looks confused but she doesn’t comment and leads them to Jack’s class. He comes out a lot quicker and Stiles lifts him onto his hip.

“Hey, buddy.”

“Dad, what’s going on?” Marie demands. “I was trying to tell everyone about my birthday party.”

“Your birthday isn’t for four more months,” Stiles tells her. She shrugs, and then she catches sight of Derek and peers at him.

Derek stills. Stiles has seemed to relax now that he has both his children near him, and his hand never leaves his daughter’s shoulder. Jack has his chin tilted down, hand clinging to the collar of his father’s shirt.

“What are you doing here?” she asks.

Stiles clears his throat, but he looks at Derek as well.

“I wanted to make sure everything is okay,” Derek says slowly, meeting Stiles’ eye. “Maybe I can help?”

Derek’s voice is stiff and awkward, but Stiles’ heart skips a beat.

“I have to get back to the station, but I don’t want to take the kids there,” he says. “And they’re not going home.”

Marie opens her mouth to argue; more likely to speak now that she’s not rubbing the sleep from her eyes, but Stiles stops her with a stern look. Derek tries to smile at her but he doesn’t know if he manages.

“I could take them to my parent’s house,” Derek says. “They’ll be safe there, I promise.”

Stiles looks unsure.

“They’ll be safe,” Derek repeats. “I will be able to tell if anyone we don’t know is coming.”

Realization hits Stiles and he takes a step back. He stares hard at Derek, eyes searching, trying to probe into his mind and figure out exactly what he is. Derek can’t help himself, he can’t help but let Stiles know he has the abilities to protect, the instincts to keep the people he cares about safe.

He doesn’t know when he started caring about Stiles more than he should.

“Give me your number, and I’ll get them to call you when we’re there,” Derek says. Stiles swears under his breath, and Jack wrinkles his nose but doesn’t say anything. There’s a drop of sweat running down Stiles’ temple and Derek thinks he’s stepped over some kind of line, but Stiles groans and nods.

“Fine, okay,” he says. “Okay. I haven’t much choice. They’ll be safe with you?”

Derek gives him the firmest, sincerest look he can muster. It seems to settle Stiles and he puts his son down, reaching for his phone and asking for Derek’s number.

“We have to wait for Drew,” Derek says quietly. Stiles nods.

“That’s fine,” he says.

Derek turns towards Marie, who’s staring at them with a million questions in her eyes. “Do you know Drew?” he says awkwardly.

Marie stifles a giggle. “Everyone knows who Drew is, he’s the weird one.”

Derek swallows and his skin feels itchy. He doesn’t know who he should be angry at here, because children are children. It’s not Drew’s fault that his mother died, and it’s hard enough growing up as a werewolf around lots and lots of humans. Drew’s bound to have trouble making friends, but it doesn’t mean that Derek can’t hate this little girl’s reaction.

“Marie!” Stiles scolds, gripping her elbow again and dragging her to his side. Stiles is still too flustered to pass off the comment as a joke. “Sorry about that.”

“It’s fine,” Derek says stiffly, and then he adds, “He’s my nephew.”

Marie squeaks.

“Can you please just look after them for me?” Stiles pleads, voice shaky.

“I’ll take them to the house,” Derek says softly. “We’ll call as soon as we get there, and every half hour after that if it makes you feel better. They’ll be safe, I promise.”

Just for a second, Stiles’ pulse settles. He smiles at Derek, lip quivering.

They don’t have to wait long for the bell to ring. The secretary already left them ten minutes ago, and Derek knows Drew will spot the car and use his heightened senses to find Derek inside. When he arrives, Drew pauses, hands clutching the straps of his bags, and he stays a few steps away.

“Um,” he says.

Stiles kisses the top of his daughter’s head and runs a hand down Jack’s back, whose frown has grown. Stiles whispers something to them, soothing words that Derek tries not to listen to. Drew catches his eye and looks at him in a panic.

“It’s alright,” Derek says quietly to him. His stance relaxes. “Marie and Jack are coming home with us.”

“Oh, okay,” Drew stutters, glancing at Marie. She stares at her toes, hands in front of her, angling her body away from Derek. They head to the car and Derek holds Jack’s hand. Marie stands in front of them, walking side by side with Drew, but she’s quiet.

Derek doesn’t let them out of his sight, and he memorizes their scents quickly. He assesses every danger, every threat, looking for anything that might be out of place. Drew picks up on it, shoulders stiff, but he doesn’t say anything.

It’s a relief when they get to the Hale house and the scent of pack and safety washes over them. Derek ushers the children inside, gets Marie to ring Stiles, and for a moment he can afford to relax. Nothing can hurt them here, but Derek’s blood boils imagining someone who would even try.

“Um,” Erica says, staring at the children doing their homework in front of the television. Jack stays close to his sister, who dumped her bag down and jumped on the couch like she owned it. “Did I miss something?”

Derek hisses at her. “Help me. I don’t know what I’m doing!”

“Are those Stiles’ kids?” she says under her breath, stepping closer. Derek gives her a stiff look and she seems angry for a second. “What are you doing with Stiles’ kids?”

Derek tries to explain as vaguely as he can. Drew is hovering at the edge of the room, obviously listening in. He looks too nervous to go and sit with Marie and her brother, but with one hard look from Erica he trips into the room.

Marie looks up at him.

“Hi,” Drew says, awkward. Erica stares at him.

He’s the weird kid,” Derek mouths at her.

“Well, we all knew that,” she mutters. Derek hits her arm.

She takes off her heels and stands behind Drew, putting a hand on his shoulder. He immediately relaxes, tries for a smile, and sits down next to Marie. She shuffles a little to the side.

“I’m Erica,” she announces. Marie looks at her, assessing, and comes away unimpressed by Erica’s smart, beautiful outfits. Derek snorts. He’s never seen Erica look so affronted. She turns to Jack. “Hello!”

His eyes meet hers but his lips remain firmly pressed together. Erica tries another question, but gets no response.

“Um,” says Erica. “Does he speak?”              

“Yes,” Marie replies curtly. She passes the bowl of fruit Derek prepared for them to her brother, and he takes it wordlessly, the juice staining his fingers.

Erica seems to give up. She traipses back to the kitchen and plops down, staring at Stiles’ children with some kind of horror on her face. “I can’t believe I was even considering having children. I mean, look at them.”

Derek gently nudges her side. “Don’t be dramatic. They’re fine.”

“Drew looks like he’s about to throw up,” she whispers.

“Maybe he’s sick.”

Erica gives him an unimpressed look. “He’s a werewolf.”

Derek shrugs, returning to the mindless task he was doing in the kitchen. He can feel Erica’s eyes on him, and it turns out she isn’t much help in figuring out how to make sure Marie and Jack feel comfortable here.

“I don’t get you, Derek,” she says. “You’d rather babysit for the man who rejected you, than go back to work and hang out with me and Isaac all day.”

Derek sighs. “I – he needed my help. I couldn’t not give it.”

She doesn’t say another word, but Derek knows Erica hasn’t let the issue rest.

More and more of the pack start to come home: his alpha, his father, and Boyd. It automatically feels safer to Derek, more people to defend their territory and the people in it.

But it makes Marie and Jack’s scents go nervous – too many people in the house. She clutches her brother’s hand and Drew keeps attempting conversation, but Marie isn’t interested. Jack listens but doesn’t reply.

Stiles calls again, tells him that he’ll be there to pick the kids up in maybe an hour. Marie begins to pack up her bag straight away, sitting on the couch and trying to listen for the sound of the cruiser pulling up.

Derek begins to panic. He feels like he’s failed some sort of test.

“Relax,” Talia says.

“I want them to like me,” mutters Derek.

He gets a concerned look – probably because he doesn’t know where he stands with Stiles – but she takes pity on him. “Why don’t you make them a hot chocolate?”

Derek swallows, hand going out to grip at the counter. “Laura made the hot chocolates. It’s her recipe.”

Talia smiles, her scent tainted with sadness. “I know,” she says. “It will be good for you.”

Derek knows how to make the drink, and he finds it difficult to say no to his alpha even though it was only a suggestion and nothing more. He steps into the living room and Drew is staring at the floor, clenching his hands into fists like he’s trying not to make his claws come out.

Derek turns to Stiles’ kids. “Would you like a hot chocolate?”

Marie pauses. “Fine,” she says, giving a long sigh and trying not to look eager. Jack has turned to face him and he nods shyly, moving closer to his sister.

“Drew?” Derek says.

“I – I don’t know.”

“You can help me if you like,” Derek says, taking pity on him. Drew gets to his feet and they stay quiet, getting the pots out and heating everything over the stove. They’ve both done this a hundred times with Laura, but it’s different now, even if it’s nice that they’re doing it together.

“Can we have marshmallows?” Drew says hopefully.

Derek nods. “Okay. Go ask Marie and Jack if they want the small multi-colored ones or the big pink and white ones.”

Drew frowns but he does what he’s told.

Once the hot chocolates are ready, they take the steaming mugs out, telling Stiles’ kids to be careful. They have the big white and pink marshmallows on their saucers, two each, and Drew takes a measured sip of his own drink, watching the other two as they try it.

“I like this,” Marie announces. Derek is hit with relief. “Jack likes it too.”

There’s a trace of content coming from their scents, even Drew’s, and they sit and drink until Derek hears the cruiser pull up outside. He smiles before heading to the door, and outside he can hear the heartbeats of two cops instead of one.

Stiles and the Sheriff get out of the car. Stiles spots Derek on the porch and gives a stilted wave, but he turns to his father and they’re muttering over the roof of the car.

“I don’t understand why you’re trusting Derek Hale of all people,” the Sheriff says, voice firm. Stiles glares at him before letting out a harsh breath.

“Dad,” he says softly. Derek thinks he should leave or go back inside, but he’s not sure he won’t be able to hear them even behind a closed door. So he stands there, discomfort over his skin, wishing desperately that people outside pack would just understand without him having to give away all his kind’s secrets. “I know it doesn’t make sense to you, but I believe Derek didn’t do it. He didn’t. He can’t have done that to his sister.”

The Sheriff looks at him, hard. Finally, he nods.

Derek takes a deep breath. The Sheriff gets to the front door first, and Derek stands to the side to let him through. He still seems wary, but once he sees his grandchildren safe, his heartbeat slows.

“Thanks,” Derek says, suddenly grabbing Stiles’ arm when he gets to the door. “Thank you.”

Stiles startles. “You – you heard that?”

Derek hesitates, but he nods. He removes his hold but Stiles catches his hand. His skin is warm.

“You’re welcome,” he says, smile small. He opens his mouth to continue but seems to decide that seeing his kids is more important. Derek lets him pass and waits outside, wondering why in hell Stiles was interested in him, and why he didn’t share his father’s belief that Derek killed his own sister.

The Sheriff shakes his hand as he leaves, nodding politely and Derek can barely believe it. The man’s scent is still on edge, discomfort leaking through, but it’s better than the open hostility Derek faced before.

The kids are already sitting in the back of the police cruiser, looking sleepy, and Stiles smells exhausted, barely holding it together.

“Where are you going to go?” Derek asks. “Not home?”

Stiles shakes his head. “No. It’s a crime scene now. We’ll go to my friend Lydia’s, somewhere the kids know already so that they’re not too shaken.”

Derek clears his throat and nods. He wants to offer the house to Stiles, let him and his kids stay in one of their spare rooms but he stops himself. “Right, good.”

He doesn’t get a smile from Stiles when he says goodbye, but there’s sort of a breathless thank you that escapes his lips just as he steps from the porch. It makes Derek’s heart skip a beat and then Erica’s by the door, resting an arm on Derek’s shoulder and rolling her eyes. She waves to Stiles. Jack, despite being quiet, gives a small wave back.

He wants news. Derek wants to know what’s happening, how Stiles is, how his kids are. He can’t stop thinking about it and now he has Stiles’ number programmed into his phone. Derek could easily call him. He could ask if they’ve made any leads and it’s tempting but Derek knows better.

Stiles still rejected him. Stiles is still a cop. Stiles has too much on his plate to even be thinking of Derek at a time like this. It’s all terribly one sided, and even Drew picks up on the misery floating from his scent for the next few days.

It’s the middle of the day when he gets a phone call. Fingers shaking, Derek answers it.

“Derek? Hey,” Stiles says.

“Oh, um, hi.” He pauses. “How are you?”

Stiles lets out a bark of laughter. “Pretty shit,” he answers. “Thanks for asking. I was just wondering if I could ask for a favor? Maybe?”

“Of course,” Derek says, voice calm. His answer surprises Stiles, at least for a moment, and his words stumble before he continues.

“Lydia – my friend – she’s looking after the kids but she can only do it from about five thirty because she’s working,” Stiles tells him. “Hopefully you could look after Marie and Jack for a couple of hours after school? She’ll pick them up and everything. We’re all working late at the station.”

Derek lowers his voice. “Did anyone else get hurt?”

“Uh, yeah, we had another run in. Everyone’s fine, though,” Stiles admits, but the worry is clear in the tone of his voice.

“And you’re okay?”

Stiles is quiet. “I’m okay,” he breathes out. “So. Um. Can you do it? Can you pick them up from school?”

“Yeah,” Derek tells him. “Of course.”

He’s sitting in his clean apartment, watching a pot of water boil for his lunch. He can hear Stiles’ relieved breath through the phone’s speaker and he says thank you more than once before the line goes dead.

Stiles is coming to him for help. It’s strange, because it feels right.

Derek doesn’t get the chance to warn Drew that the Stilinski kids are coming over again. As soon as everyone is there they leave the school swiftly, before the rest of the parents clog up the road, and they’re at the Hale house within ten minutes.

Marie sighs when she gets out of the car, taking Jack’s hand.

“Do you have homework?” Derek asks.

“No,” she says, a clear lie. Derek raises an eyebrow at her and she scowls, mumbling something about math. He gets them both some food and they settle down at the kitchen table, Drew on one side and the Stilinski kids on the other.

The scratch of pens on paper tells Derek that they’re at least attempting to do work, even if Jack just sits there with some crayons. He stays by his sister’s side and Derek finds himself hovering at the edge of the room, just to make sure they’re okay.

It’s nice to have children in the house, and it doesn’t matter that they aren’t pack. Derek remembers Laura wanting a family like this, having kids even if her partner left them too soon. It’s nice, even if Drew’s conversation with Marie is more than a little stilted.

Things are mostly quiet, and at a half past five Derek hears a car pull into the driveway. Neither of the kids notices, so Derek waits for the doorbell to ring.

Lydia is beautiful and stern, nodding at Derek and introducing herself. Marie hears her voice and is instantly off her chair, throwing herself at the woman at the door.

“Hi sweetie,” she says. “Why don’t you go pack up and I’ll have a word with Derek here in the kitchen, okay?”

Derek swallows, shutting the door. He doesn’t need to show Lydia the way, moving easily to the kitchen herself. He waits by the entrance as Lydia assesses the place, looking around before her eyes are trained on Derek.

“Why does Stiles trust you?” she asks.

Derek shrugs. “I wouldn’t know. But I’m not going to do anything.”

“Define anything,” Lydia says, voice sharp.

Derek meets her hard gaze. “I don’t know what you’re implying, but those two children are safe in this house. I promise.”

There’s a beat of silence and Lydia licks her lips, trying to get him to break, but here he has nothing to hide and all those police interrogations must have given him some kind of practice because Derek doesn’t waver.

Lydia nods, pulling out a pad and pen and writing her phone number down. “Call me if you need anything regarding those two. I don’t know how long Stiles will need you to pick up his kids, but it’s best not to bother him while he’s trying to figure out who is giving everyone at the police department hell.”

Derek nods. “Okay.”

“Are there any questions you have now?”

“Um,” he says, lowering his voice. “Is it normal for Jack not to talk? He’s barely said a word.”

Lydia’s lip curls, but she sighs. “No, it’s fine. He’s always been shy but he’s been quiet since his Mom left, I guess. Stiles has been told he’ll grow out of it.”

“Oh,” Derek says, thinking of the kids’ mother. He hadn’t forgotten about her, knew she must exist, but those are questions he hasn’t really earned the answer to. He keeps his lips sealed and Lydia hums in approval, walking back to the kids.

They wave them off, and Drew turns to Derek.

“Will they be coming every day?” he asks.

“Yeah, until this mess is all sorted out.”

Drew frowns and sticks his hands in his pockets. “Grandma said someone wants to hurt them.” Derek nods, sad. “Is it like, is it like how some people don’t like us? Because of what we are?”

Derek crouches so that he’s at eye level with his nephew, placing his hands on Drew’s shoulders. “Yeah,” he says. “Yeah, it’s a little like that. But there are good people around, too.”

He gets a little smile. “I know,” he says. “You’re a good person.”

Derek bristles and Drew rocks back on his heels before he throws himself at his uncle, rubbing his cheek against Derek’s shirt, spreading his scent. Derek is shocked, but pleased, and he holds Drew tight.

The next few days Derek doesn’t get to see Stiles, even if he does see his kids. They’re slowly getting used to being there, but as the days go on their scents get more and more bitter. It’s barely been a week and they’re already missing their father, only a little glad when Lydia finally comes to the door at the end of the afternoon.

Derek texts him semi frequently, confirming each day that he will need to look after Marie and Jack. He gets one worded replies, hastily written with a few typos here and there that Stiles doesn’t bother to correct.

It’s mid morning when Talia approaches him, home for a few hours, and Derek’s frowning at his phone, worried because Stiles’ scent isn’t as strong on his children as it was at the beginning of the week.

“Why don’t you invite him to dinner?” she says, voice light.

Derek gives her a sceptical look. “He barely has time for his children, let alone for dinner here.”

Talia raises an eyebrow, and swipes her hand through Derek’s hair, scenting him briefly. “They’re clearly invited, too. Even the woman who comes to pick them up. I’d like to meet her if she comes by the house so often.”

He sighs and before he can talk himself out of it, he sends a text.

Do you want to come over for dinner tonight?

He’s not expecting it when the phone suddenly rings, and then Stiles’ voice is in his ear, asking the people around him to give him a minute. Derek quickly steps outside even though it won’t do much to stop his mother hearing the conversation.

“Derek, I – are you there?”

“Yeah,” he clears his throat. “I’m here.”

“Look, I don’t, um, I thought you realized, I can’t –

Derek interrupts him. “That’s not what I mean. I’m not helping you out just to –” he says, frustrated. “I know you don’t – you don’t want that.”

Stiles pauses. Derek can just hear the sound of his pulse through the phone, it quick and unsure. It feels good to hear his voice again. More than Derek was expecting. “So, what did you mean, then?”

“Marie and Jack can stay a bit longer, Lydia can come,” Derek grits his teeth together, “Even your father, if you want.”

“Won’t that be a bit awkward?” Stiles asks.

“My mother wants to meet the person who needs us to look after their kids in our home every day,” Derek explains. “Look, if you don’t want to, I know you’re busy, I just – have you gotten anywhere with the case?”

He doesn’t know how to tell Stiles that his alpha needs to know exactly who comes to the Hale house, that she needs to keep tabs on everything so that the pack stays safe, so that their visitors stay safe. It’s hard to explain but Stiles’ voice comes through, agreeing breathlessly.

“Yeah, okay, I’ll come. We got somewhere. I’ll tell you when I see you,” he says.

“Let me know who’s coming.”

“Will do,” Stiles says. He’s quiet for a second. “Thanks, Derek.”

The phone goes dead. Derek’s hand drops to his side and he stares at the trees before him, wondering what tonight will bring. His head swims and then Derek realizes he needs to buy food, he needs to get something Stiles’ kids might like, he needs to get all this done before he drives to the school and picks up all three children.

“Relax,” Talia says, coming up behind him. She gives him a considering look. “Do you know why you’re doing all this for him?”

Derek glances at his mother. “I want to,” he says.

“Be careful,” she tells him, even though Stiles is the one in danger, even though it’s him and his partner who are getting shot at.

Derek gives her a curt nod, and Talia smiles, kissing his hair before she’s out the door again.

He warns the kids straight away that they’re all having dinner together. Everyone who he invited is coming and Derek’s used to pack dinners but this isn’t pack. This is Stiles and the people who are closest to him.

“Really?” asks Drew. “They’re staying?”

“Yes,” says Derek. He lowers his voice. “Is that okay?”

He nods, but his scent has turned nervous. They all walk to the car together, Derek holding Jack’s hand again. Drew trails behind Marie, watching her wave goodbye to all her friends.

“Did you know,” Marie says, when they’re sitting at the table and eating a snack. She’s been talking almost non-stop now that she’s used to being in the house, bored out of her mind. “That my teacher told me I was the smartest in the class?”

Her heart speeds up before it skips a beat. Drew hesitates and looks over at Derek, who is trying hard not to smile at the girl’s lie.

Drew glares at his uncle, looking for answers, but Derek shrugs, raising an eyebrow and waiting for Drew to decide whether or not to call her out on it.

“Um,” he says quietly. “No they didn’t.”

Marie looks up. “What?”

“Your teacher didn’t tell you that.”

Her mouth drops open and Derek holds back a chuckle, feeling light all of a sudden because this is so normal, this isn’t hunters or romance or crazy killers or rejection. It’s a kid, trying to get away with something small.

“Are you calling me a liar?” Marie hisses, and they both watch Drew get more and more nervous.

Drew gives a slow shrug, squirming. “Your teacher didn’t tell you that,” he repeats, staring at his empty plate of food, cheeks on fire.

Marie huffs and says nothing. Embarrassment is coming clear from both their scents, and Derek watches from the doorway. When Marie awkwardly offers her last cookie to Drew, Derek’s hit with the sudden urge to tell Stiles about what he’s seeing.

He’s a little dazed with it, and then Drew takes the cookie, a hesitant smile on his face.

“Marie lies a lot,” Drew tells Derek, when they’re in the kitchen. His nephew is helping him prepare the meal. Derek can hear Jack and Marie’s heartbeats from the next room, steady, and even though he can’t see them he knows they’re okay.

Derek looks over at him. “Well, don’t say that when their father is here. Or their grandfather. Or Lydia. I don’t think they’ll appreciate it.”

“Even if it’s true?” Drew says.

Derek gives him a stern look.

“They’re not that scary,” Drew finally says, rolling his eyes.

“I want to make a good impression.”

“I think impressions are out of the window at this point,” Erica says, coming through the door. She drops her bag and leans over the counter, taking a slice of cucumber from the top of the salad Derek prepared. “What with the whole multiple police interrogations you’ve been through.”

Derek glares at her. “What are you doing here? I didn’t invite you.”

“Your mother mentioned it when she stopped by the office today,” she says. “I want to come. Stiles knows me already.” Erica narrows her eyes and flicks a lettuce leaf in Derek’s general direction. Drew giggles. “Thank you for your enthusiasm at my appearance.”

“I didn’t buy enough food for you.”

“Uh huh.”

“Isaac and Boyd aren’t coming too, are they?” Derek says, fighting back a groan. Erica shakes her head. Good. He can’t deal with too many people.

After his mother and father arrive, Sheriff Stilinski is the first one at the door. Derek opens it and they stare at each other, eyes narrowed before Marie shrieks her grandfather’s name and bolts to the door.

“Where’s Daddy?” she asks.

“Hey, kiddo, he’ll be here soon. Just finishing something off at the station.”

She nods and smiles, reaching for a hug. Marie’s scent grows more content when Lydia arrives, and Jack’s even smiling to himself, and then the food’s ready and Stiles isn’t there.

“Why don’t we just start?” Talia says calmly.

Lydia nods. “I’ll text him.”

They all sit around the table, the Sheriff near Derek’s parents and the kids in the middle of the table. Lydia, Erica and Derek sit at the other end, an empty chair between Derek and the kids. Stiles hasn’t texted back and Derek’s worried something’s happened. His alpha easily picks up on the distress in the air and she asks soothing questions, paying attention to the kids and their grandfather.

“It’s nice to meet you in an informal setting,” Talia says.

“Yes,” the Sheriff replies, glancing at Derek. “Of course. Especially your son, here.”

He stiffens in return, avoiding the Sheriff’s hard tone. Derek’s fingers clench around his cutlery and the room has gone silent, quiet enough for everyone to hear the muffled thump when Erica kicks Derek under the table, trying to get him to break the tension.

Lydia raises an eyebrow.

“Derek cooked this meal here,” Noah says, and Derek smiles at his father. “He’s taken to cooking for the rest of the family, recently.”

“It’s good,” Marie says around a mouthful of food. Jack nods next to her. “Is Dad going to be here?”

“Yes, sweetie,” Lydia says. “He’ll be here soon.”

She sighs, hardly believing it, and Erica makes a passing comment about the blouse Lydia’s wearing and the conversation turns light, easy. Derek no longer has to listen and he’s grateful, eating slowly and listening out for the sound of Stiles’ car.

They’re almost done when the car pulls up the driveway. All the werewolves hear it before everyone else does and they let out a collective sigh, relaxing when Stiles knocks at the door.

“I’ll get it,” says Derek, standing up a bit too soon.

“Hey, hey, sorry I’m late,” Stiles says, as soon as Derek opens the door. He wipes a hand through his hair, skin a little damp with sweat. Derek smiles at him, taking in the warmth of his scent and trying not to show how much he’s missed it.

He barely knows Stiles but he’s had every reason to think about him over the past week. It makes finally seeing him a little bit too satisfying.

“Don’t worry about it,” Derek says, stepping to the side. “We’re not finished yet.”

“Aw, so you didn’t wait for me?” Stiles says, a tired grin on his face.

When Stiles gets to the dining table he heads to his children first, giving both of them a long hug. Marie jabs her finger into his chest, scolding him for being late. Stiles gives them both a lopsided smile, apologizing, and as soon as he sits down his body collapses and exhaustion rolls over his scent.

“What are we having?” he says eagerly, reaching for the food. “Yes. Meat.”

“Derek cooked,” Drew says quietly, and Stiles looks over to him. Derek feels a faint blush move over his cheeks as Stiles tilts his head in acknowledgement, catching Derek’s eye for just a second.

Stiles almost breathes life into the room, despite how tired he is. Almost everyone has finished eating but he looks like he’s starving, barrelling the food down his throat like he hasn’t eaten all day. His kids perk up at his presence, asking him questions about work and telling their father what they did that day at school.

“Work was okay,” he says. “Had to take Allison home, that’s why I was a bit late. Did you finish your homework?”

Marie nods, proud of herself. “I did it all by myself.”

Stiles raises his eyebrow.

“Mostly,” she amends, glancing at Drew.

“You know it’s okay to ask for help, right?” Stiles says, reaching for more food. Marie nods at her father before she ducks her head, poking at the leftovers on her plate.

Noah clears his throat. “Stiles, it’s nice to finally meet you.”

Stiles nods. “Yeah. Thanks for having me. Derek said you all wanted to meet me.”

“Yes, of course,” Talia says, smiling at him. She’s been watching Stiles carefully, occasionally glancing at Derek. Derek, who can’t keep his eyes off Stiles’ messy hair and his crumpled uniform.

“Derek also wanted to see you again,” Erica says, smirking. Derek glares at her.

The Sheriff narrows his eyes. “Is that so?”

“Dad,” Stiles hisses. The room goes quiet – again – and this time when Erica tries to change the subject it falls flat. Her voice trails off and they all watch Stiles and his father have a silent conversation, foreheads creasing and eyes narrowing. It ends when the Sheriff sighs, crossing his knife and fork over his plate.

Stiles seems to lose his appetite after that. He pushes his plate aside, reaching for Jack and putting his son on his lap. Derek doesn’t want to stay. He can feel his parents’ concern through the air, their gazes hovering not far from Derek’s face.

“I’ll clear the plates,” Derek mutters, standing. For a second everyone’s eyes drift to him. Stiles’ shoulders sink and he looks apologetic, offering Derek a private smile. It takes a moment, but Derek returns it, lips pressed together, and relief seems to wash through Stiles’ scent.

Derek disappears from the table with his own heart beating loud in his chest. He hopes his family leaves him alone. This was all Talia’s idea and it hasn’t gone exactly the way Derek wanted it to. The Sheriff still hates him. At least he got to see Stiles, got to see him and make sure he was okay.

Erica joins him in the kitchen to clean the plates, rinsing and stacking them in the dishwasher. She quirks an eyebrow.

“That went well, I think,” she says.

Derek stares at her.

“Come on, Derek, I don’t really know what you were expecting when you invited over Stiles and the man who hates your guts right now,” Erica says.

“For no good reason,” he points out, voice hard.

“It could’ve been worse. He could’ve pulled his gun on you,” she says, smirking.

“Go get more things to clean up,” Derek tells her, shaking his head. He gently pushes her towards the dining area, but then Erica’s stumbling into Stiles in the doorway. She doesn’t even look surprised at his presence, saying his name far too brightly.

Fuck. Derek didn’t even notice him standing there, too lost in his own head. Stiles takes a few steps into the kitchen, hands swinging by his sides before he leans his hip against the counter.

“Hi,” says Stiles.

Derek hardly looks at him.

“Erica did know I was listening, right?” he says.

Derek gives a stiff nod. He closes his eyes before they shine gold, frustration swiftly taking hold of him. He can’t understand why the Sheriff hates him and why Stiles...doesn’t? Why does he trust Derek enough to take care of his children and why doesn’t he share his father’s opinion about Derek?

“I don’t get it,” Derek finally says, speaking through his teeth.

Stiles takes in a sharp breath. “You mean, my father?”

“It’s easy to see that he hates me,” Derek says back, turning around and looking Stiles in the eye. He doesn’t flinch. Derek watches the curiosity spark in Stiles’ eyes, and then Stiles is stepping forward, right into Derek’s space. He’s close enough to touch, and Derek registers that Stiles isn’t afraid of him. He doesn’t know what Derek is, but he’s not shy, not afraid.

“You have to admit some things don’t match up,” Stiles points out. Derek bites his tongue, nostrils flaring. “My Dad is a good cop. He can tell that you’re hiding something. That’s why he doesn’t like you.”

“So now you think I murdered my sister,” Derek snaps.

“No,” Stiles says slowly, eyes going soft. “But what motivation did that guy have for killing her? Why the hell were you able to find them in the woods? Why did you call home before the police? Why were there conveniently no prints on the murder weapon? How come this man’s in a hospital because of an animal, after he hurt your sister, but your sister’s body was left untouched even though they were right beside each other?”

Stiles’ voice seems to heat up the more he goes on, his questions burning holes in Derek’s eyes. Stiles finishes, his breaths loud in the air. Derek swallows.

“You seem to have thought about this quite a bit,” Derek says coldly.

“I wouldn’t be here if I thought you had done it,” Stiles says. “And I would have never talked to you to begin with if I thought you had done it.”

Derek can’t help but let out a little broken, “Why?” staring at Stiles like he’s a stranger.

Stiles ducks his head, ears going pink as he shrugs. “I don’t know,” he whispers. “I saw you with your family at the station, I saw you with your nephew. None of it makes sense, but it doesn’t mean that you did it.”

Derek closes his eyes, breathing in Stiles’ scent. It’s warm, it’s like honey, it’s tainted with embarrassment, and then it goes sweet, so sweet, and Derek opens his eyes in shock. Stiles’ pupils have dilated and he’s still standing near.

“Will you,” Derek says, voice hoarse. “Will you tell me about the breakthrough you had?”

“Oh,” he says, taking a step back. Stiles rubs his cheek. “Sure. Um. We’ve um, narrowed it down. The only people who have been targeted at the station are the people who worked on the Blake case.”

“And that’s you,” Derek says.

“Yeah.”

“Well that’s good, then. You have a lead.”

Stiles grimaces.

“Derek?” says Talia, standing in the doorway. Derek looks up. He knows most of his family have just heard all of their conversation, have heard them mention Laura and Stiles’ case and everything. He hopes Drew is okay. “Everything alright?”

He gives a quiet nod.

“Stiles, your children look as if they’re going to fall asleep.”

“I’ll take them home,” Stiles says, nodding. “Or, well, to Lydia’s. We’ve been crashing there.” He turns to Derek. “See you when I see you?”

“Okay,” he says, quiet. Derek startles when Stiles reaches for his hand, touch feather light as he thumb runs down Derek’s palm.

Stiles smiles weakly. “Thanks for helping me out. And for dinner.” He drops his hand and it’s all Derek can to do nod, breath gone from his lungs as he watches Stiles leave the kitchen. His mother gives him a knowing look.

“Derek, honey,” she says, and then Talia repeats her words from before. “Be careful.”

Drew goes upstairs as soon as all their guests leave. He was cold when Stiles tried to say goodbye to him, and Derek sighs. He shouldn’t have mentioned Laura’s death where Drew could hear so easily. Derek doesn’t want to, but he knows he needs to go up and say something.

Drew is curled up on Derek’s old bed, and Derek can smell the salt in his tears.

“I’m sorry,” Derek lets out, sitting on the edge of the bed.

“It’s okay,” Drew mumbles, but he turns over and throws himself into Derek’s arms. The kid looks a lot smaller than he’s ever done, and Derek tries his best to soothe him, to let him know that everything is going to be okay. “Are Marie and Jack going to keep coming over?”

Derek sighs. “Yeah, yeah they are. Until they figure out who is trying to hurt them.”

“I liked it when it was just you and me.” His voice is small and it’s a little painful to hear. Derek knows it’s hard for Drew, and that he doesn’t really have any friends. It should be good, having Stiles’ kids to keep him company, just so that he can interact properly with people his own age. It’s a lot more complicated than that though, with accusations flying about and danger always near.

“We’ll go out for ice cream when this is all over, okay?” Derek tells him. “Sound good?”

Drew nods, rubbing his nose over Derek’s shirt. Derek holds his nephew until his breaths slow, until his eyes start to droop and he’s almost asleep. He sets Drew down on the bed and pulls the sheets over his shoulders, wishing more than anything that Laura was still here.

He walks down the stairs and his mother is waiting for him.

“Maybe tonight wasn’t such a good idea,” she admits.

Derek shrugs. “It could’ve been better.” He liked that he got to see Stiles, got to see the way his kids lit up when he stepped inside the house. There was that, but Drew is exhausted upstairs and Stiles’ father still doesn’t trust Derek.

The thing is, all that Stiles said in the kitchen was true. To a human it would make no sense. Derek panicked and tracked Laura’s scent until he could smell the blood of her and the hunter. That’s how he found them so easily. Then he panicked and rang his alpha more than once, until she picked up, the instinct to be near pack so strong that Derek couldn’t help it.

The police took his phone. They saw his call history. It took twenty minutes before Derek had it in him to call the cops, to tell them where he was in the woods, and that was apparently enough time for some foul play.

He doesn’t understand why Stiles trusts him, but Derek’s grateful for it. Stiles is warm and Derek loves his pack but he feels like he’s doing something right, that he’s got some kind of purpose again, looking after Stiles’ children.

“I know the Sheriff,” Talia says. “I’ve known him for awhile. Maybe I could go and talk to him.”

“I don’t think that will help,” Derek says, shaking his head. He says goodbye to his mother and father before he disappears outside. The only way things will get better with the Sheriff is if he knows about the supernatural. Derek doesn’t want to tell him, doesn’t even want to tell Stiles for the fear of having a cop know about them.

It’s hard for humans to understand if they haven’t grown up around it. Boyd is human but he’s been in the pack all his life. Werewolves are monsters to most humans, and if Stiles found out, he wouldn’t be the first person to run away.

That’s why Drew has to live with his grandparents. His mother is dead and his father ran away before Drew was even born, the idea of werewolves and fangs and full moons too much to comprehend.

Chapter Text

The next week passes by with barely a glimpse of Stiles. They’ve had to reopen the Blake case to figure out who would want to hurt the officers so badly, and Derek gets vague updates from Lydia whenever she comes to pick Marie and Jack up.

She pretends to know more than she does. Derek feels like everything’s on edge, waiting for news when there’s nothing to come. The officers working on the case have talked to Blake in prison, but apparently she’s been making little sense since her arrest.

The second hand news lasts until Stiles is finally the one to pick up his children.

“Hey,” he says, stuffing his hands in his pockets.

Derek licks his lips and quirks a smile despite everything. They stare at each other for a few moments, long enough for Stiles to relax, and Derek asks if he wants to stay for half an hour or so.

“I shouldn’t,” Stiles says, looking at the ground. “But maybe, just for a bit?”

Derek nods, letting Stiles inside. He’s already disappointed, but he closes his eyes and breathes in Stiles’ scent while Stiles’ back is turned. They pause by the door to the living room and Derek’s not expecting the way Marie looks up from her work and glares.

Stiles sighs. “I haven’t had much time for them recently,” he says, but he gives his son a weak smile when Jack slides off the couch and hugs his father’s legs. Stiles bends down and scoops him up, even if he’s a little too heavy.

“Any progress with the case?” Derek asks.

Stiles shakes his head, lip quivering as he tries to hold his smile. He kisses Jack’s hair and tries to ask Marie how her day was. She ignores him and Derek’s heart breaks. Marie has been warming up to Derek, has been answering his questions with less irritation. Derek hates that at the same time she’s stopped talking to her father.

Derek doesn’t try to make Stiles stay. He seems to have the night off, and he clearly needs to spend it with his children.

“You go,” Derek says. “I’ll pick them up from school tomorrow.”

Stiles nods, grateful, but says nothing. Marie packs up her things slowly, and once they’re out the door Derek brushes his hand over Stiles’ lower back, trying to offer some comfort. Stiles stills, just for a second, but he doesn’t look back.

It’s Derek’s turn to sigh, and he wishes desperately for all this to drama to end.

 ∞

It’s past midnight and Derek’s in his apartment, trying to sleep. The sheets are tangled around his ankles and he’s somehow thinking of Stiles again, thinking about what it would’ve been like if this police case hadn’t gotten so out of control.

He wonders if he could’ve dated Stiles, if he could’ve met his kids under normal circumstances. Derek sighs, turning over and pressing his face into his pillow. There’s no point in thinking about what could have been, because it will only leave Derek disappointed.

At least it’s better than thinking about his sister, about Drew, and about Cora who still isn’t home yet.

His phone goes off, a sharp trill in the dark. Derek barely blinks, just rolls over and reaches for the device, holding it to his ear with a mumbled hello.

“Derek? You’re there,” the man breathes out, some of the panic draining from his voice. Derek sits up, heart quickening.

“Stiles? Are you okay?”

There’s a pause – and Derek only hears breathing. He clutches the phone tighter, suddenly nervous; sure that something bad has happened.

“Yes, I’m fine,” Stiles says, but his voice sounds uneven. “Sorry to wake you. I need someone to pick me up from the hospital –”

“I’ll be there,” Derek stands hastily, reaching for his jeans. “Give me ten minutes.” Then he lodges the phone between his head and shoulder, Stiles’ stunned voice in his ear as Derek stumbles around his bedroom, getting dressed and finding his shoes.

“Okay,” he says. “Please drive safe.”

Derek pauses, noting Stiles’ concern. “See you soon,” he says carefully.

Derek makes sure he slows down his movements before he gets to the car, walking slowly so he doesn’t get himself in an accident. He knows he’s too eager to get to Stiles, to help him and hear his heartbeat, to smell his scent and make sure he’s alright.

The roads are empty, all the traffic lights a bright green. He’s at the hospital in fifteen minutes and Stiles is waiting outside, head in his hands as he takes in shaky breaths. The air is cool and Derek walks over to him.

“Stiles?” Derek whispers.

Stiles raises his head, lip trembling. His eyes are bright with worry, and Derek sits next to him on the bench, letting their thighs press together.

“What happened?” Derek asks.

Stiles shakes his head and he closes his eyes, twisting so that he can rest his forehead on Derek’s shoulder. Derek stills, blaming Stiles’ actions on the lateness of the hour and the stress he’s under.

“Scott got hurt,” he mumbles against Derek’s shoulder. “He was in the car with me and Allison and someone ran a red light and crashed into us. It was the same van as before, when you were there in the diner.”

“You’re not hurt?”

“No,” he says. “Allison’s fine too. A bit cut up.”

“Will Scott be okay?” Derek asks, wanting to thread his fingers with Stiles’, wanting to stroke his thumb over Stiles’ skin and let him know that Derek’s here, that Derek wants to help.

Stiles nods. “Yeah, his Mom’s a nurse. She told me to go home, that Scott will be fine when he wakes up.”

Derek stands up and holds out his hand. Stiles looks up under his eyelashes, smile turning grim. But he takes Derek’s hand to haul himself to his feet and the touch lingers before Stiles finally lets go. They go back inside the hospital to say goodbye to Allison, and she looks just as bad as Stiles.

Stiles kisses her cheek and Allison gives Derek a half-hearted sort of wave. Scott’s lying back in a bed, face already bruised, and Allison’s holding his hand.

“We need,” Allison says, eyes darker than Derek’s seen them. “We need to find these people. I can’t do this anymore, Stiles.”

“I know,” he whispers. “Are you sure you don’t want me to stay?”

She laughs mirthlessly. “One of us needs some sleep.”

Stiles frowns but he leaves the hospital anyway, Derek one step behind him. In the car, Stiles slumps in his seat, voice quiet as he directs Derek to Lydia’s house. Derek wants to wrap his arms around Stiles when he walks him to the front door, but he stuffs his hands in his pockets and resists the urge.

“I – are you free during the day?” Stiles asks.

Derek blinks. “I still don’t have a job, if that’s what you’re asking.”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “No, I, uh. I don’t want my kids anywhere in public, not even at school. Not after Scott.”

“I can look after them,” Derek says quietly. “It’s no trouble.”

Stiles laughs, rubbing his eyes. “Of course it’s trouble. This is a fucking nightmare, and no normal person would need to ask so much from you.”

Derek takes a step forward, one hand reaching out to cup Stiles’ elbow. Stiles stills, his gaze meeting Derek’s. “I don’t mind,” he whispers. “It’s not like I want them to get hurt, okay?”

“I should hope not,” Stiles stays, turning away to reach for his keys. He ducks his head while he unlocks the door, glancing at Derek every so often. The breeze picks up around them and Stiles shivers, stepping inside. He stares at Derek for a moment longer, confusion evident in his eyes, like he can’t understand why Derek wants to help.

Derek doesn’t understand either, just knows that he’s far more attached than he should be.

Marie does not look happy when she arrives at the Hale house’s front porch the next morning. She grips Jack’s hand, so hard the boy’s wincing, and she stomps into the house with a sour expression on her face.

Stiles twists his mouth, staring up at Derek.

“Good luck with her,” he says. “She wanted to see her friends today.”

Derek shrugs. “Don’t worry about it,” he says, trying to sound light. Stiles has enough to worry about as it is. Today, Stiles’ hair is damp, his clothes fresh. Derek takes a breath in, searching for the warmth of his scent. Exhaustion is laced through it and Derek fights back a sigh, knowing that the coming days aren’t going to be easy.

“Thanks, Derek,” Stiles says, smile small.

“No problem,” he says back, lingering on the porch until the car Stiles arrived in leaves.

Marie looks at him expectantly when Derek enters the living room. Drew has already gone to school and Derek’s rather alone. Sometimes the pack drops by the house during the day, but mostly it’s just going to be him and these two children. Derek freezes, not sure what he’s gotten himself into.

“Can we watch the TV?” Marie demands.

Derek shakes his head. “You still have to do your reading. We didn’t finish it the last time you were here.”

She lets out a long sigh, but pulls out her books. It takes her five minutes when it took over twenty to get through a few pages the last time. When it’s done she puts the book on her lap and stares at Derek pointedly.

Derek gives in.

This time it’s Drew who doesn’t look happy when he comes home, and he heads straight upstairs. Derek admits that his brain has been occupied with Stiles, Stiles’ kids, Stiles’ case at work, and it means he’s been spending less time with his nephew. Erica had to pick him up from school today, and when she walks in she snorts.

“What have you gotten yourself into?” she says.

Derek rubs his face. He has a stain all over his shirt from when Jack spilt his drink over him. The boy had burst into tears almost immediately, and Derek was too stunned to move, realizing that this was the first time Jack’s been anything other than quiet.

Marie had glared daggers at him, holding her brother close and wiping his tears away. Jack fell asleep soon after Derek cleaned everything up, and Derek’s never felt more useless.

Marie refuses to touch any more of her homework. Whenever Stiles calls to check in on them, she doesn’t want to speak to her father on the phone.

“I don’t know,” Derek mumbles to Erica, wishing he had a spare shirt. He lets out a sigh, and Erica takes pity on him, running a hand through Derek’s hair. She makes him a hot drink and it’s nice to have someone else look after him for a moment.

“So they’re just not going to go to school, huh?”

“Yeah. Stiles’ best friend got hurt,” Derek says. “He’s not even on the force.”

Erica wrinkles her nose. “I wish we knew what the hell was going on with this case,” she says. “It must be driving everyone crazy.”

Derek clears his throat. “Do you think one of us should look into it?”

Erica raises her eyebrows, but she purses her lips thoughtfully. “You know your mother doesn’t like getting into human business. It raises too many questions, Derek.”

Derek frowns. “But – but it’s affecting all of us, and I know we could do something.”

“And you’re forgetting that you are not friends with the police department, even if one of the cops there has a soft spot for you,” she says.

“I guess,” he says quietly.

He hears the quiet patter of footsteps, and then a small hand tugs the sleeve of his shirt. Derek looks down and there’s Jack, his eyes red and lip quivering. Derek offers him a smile and reaches down, pulling Stiles’ son onto his lap.

“You okay?” Derek asks softly.

Jack nods, rubbing his eyes. He jabs a finger at Derek’s shirt, right next to the stain that still smells strongly of orange juice. “Sorry,” he mumbles.

Derek swallows, surprised that Jack is speaking. He exchanges a look with Erica.

“It’s okay, I can wash it when I get home,” Derek says, trying to sound cheerful. Jack looks like he might cry again so Derek runs a palm up and down his back, like he would with any other pack member. Derek has to freeze then, because Jack isn’t pack. He’s Stiles’ kid but he isn’t pack.

“I want Daddy,” Jack whispers.

“I know,” Derek says.

“Sweetie, do you want some fruit?” Erica says, when the silence goes on. She points to the fruit bowl. Jack says nothing to her, but he does shake his head.

They all count down the minutes till five thirty, when Lydia picks them up. They’re pleased to see her, even if she’s not their father, and Jack says a small, see you tomorrow, Derek, when they leave.

Lydia shoots Derek a curious smile.

“He likes you,” she says.

Derek shrugs.

Lydia drops her gaze down to Derek’s shirt, smirking. She doesn’t say anything, but Derek feels himself go red. He wishes he were better at the whole babysitting thing.

“Bye, Derek,” Marie scowls, suddenly appearing at the door to drag Lydia away. Derek raises his eyebrows at her.“Thanks for looking after us,” she mutters grudgingly, and Derek smiles at her.

“We’d better go,” Lydia says. Derek nods, and when they hear the car drive off, Drew comes down the stairs.

Derek turns to him.

“Are they gone?”

“Yes.”

“Are they coming back tomorrow?” Drew asks.

“You know they are.”

Drew sighs, rocking back on his feet. “Why do you,” he clears his throat, “Why do you have to look after them when all those other people think you hurt Mom?”

Derek lifts his head. It’s a surprising question and he takes a few steps forward, until he’s running a hand through Drew’s hair. His nephew comes closer to him, shoulders drooped.

“I – they need help,” Derek says. “Don’t you like them being here? I thought you liked Marie?”

Drew ducks his head. “She doesn’t like me.”

“I’m sure she will,” Derek says firmly. “Especially now you’re the only one to tell her the gossip at school.”

“But I don’t know any of the gossip,” he frowns.

“I’m sure you’ll think of something,” Derek tells him, clapping him on the shoulder. “But I think those kids will want to play with you after being stuck with me all day.”

Drew chances a smile up at him, his words tentative. “You are a little boring,” he says.

Derek rolls his eyes. “That’s what your Mom said, too.”

“She didn’t mean it,” his nephew tells him certainly. He lowers his voice. “I don’t either.”

He pulls Drew into a hug, and then the next few days are a little better.

Boyd comes to the house more often than he did before, just to help the kids with their homework. He’s a high school teacher and much better at teaching Marie and Jack than Derek is, and Derek’s extremely grateful.

“I hope they’re not too difficult for you,” Derek says.

Boyd smirks. “Just because you can’t handle them, doesn’t mean I can’t.”

Derek asks Stiles if it’s okay for some of the other people in his family to look after Stiles’ kids, because Derek still needs to buy food for dinner and do errands around town. Stiles hesitates over the phone, but says yes anyway. Derek gives Stiles the numbers of everyone who is left alone with Marie and Jack.

Nothing seems to be getting better at the station, but Scott left the hospital a week ago and is doing fine. Derek is relieved.

Derek has gone to picking up Drew from school whenever he can, because his nephew seems to look forward to that small stretch of time in the car alone together. Today, he’s been sent to pick up homework for Marie and Jack as well, but Derek has been shopping and he thinks Stiles and Allison might like some food.

It’s got nothing to do with the fact that Derek’s barely seen Stiles.

“Derek,” someone says. He looks up and there’s Kira, smiling even if her expression is wary. “What can I do for you?”

He lifts up the paper bag. “Everything’s fine, I just, uh, brought food. For Stiles,” he manages awkwardly, “And his partner.”

Kira nods, eyes sparking knowingly, before she gestures for him to stay there. Derek’s hands go sweaty as he waits, hoping that he won’t run into Sheriff Stilinski. A part of him is here to see Stiles, another part so that the rest of the department knows Derek has nothing to hide even though he hates it here, and the other...well.

He’s hoping to overhear something he can tell his mother. That way, his alpha can look into the case, maybe a little, just to get the whole process to go faster.

“Hi, Derek,” Stiles says, walking up to him.

Derek swallows, trying not to think so hard. He holds up the paper bag and thrusts it to him. Stiles raises his eyebrows, looking faintly amused.

“Thanks,” he says, after a beat. “There’s nothing wrong with Marie or Jack or anything?”

Derek shakes his head. “They’re with my mother. I thought I’d, uh, see how you’re doing.”

Stiles bristles. “I’m fine. Just, you know, tired.”

Derek nods, and for some reason this encounter is a lot more awkward than he was expecting. Stiles’ fingers are tapping against his leg, the paper bag is crinkling under his grip and his heart is moving too fast. Stiles hasn’t exactly showered recently either, but Derek still breathes him in, not sure what to say.

“I, are you going to be okay?” Derek asks. “You look like you need some sleep.”

“Yes, I’m fine ,” he snaps. “God, do I need people to stop asking me that.”

Derek’s eyes widen, realizing that his concern isn’t wanted. He takes a step back as Stiles swears under his breath, too quiet for Derek to hear if he was human.

“I can take care of myself,” Stiles continues. “And – I have my partner to look out for me.”  

  Derek looks to the floor, angry. “I, uh, sorry – fine. Sorry for worrying about you. Sorry for making sure you’re okay when you’re too busy to look after yourself. Whatever. The kids will be at the house for Lydia to pick up.”

He turns away, not bothering to look at Stiles’ face.

“Are you still going to pick up their homework?” Stiles yells after him. “Or do I need to do that now?”

“Yes,” Derek snaps, and then he’s out the door.

He almost turns around and walks right back in, because even if Stiles doesn’t want help he’s still in danger, and Derek doesn’t want the last thing he says to Stiles to be something angry. He pauses, catches his breath, and continues anyway.

He gets that Stiles is stressed. It makes Derek forgive him for snapping before he’s even out the door. Derek’s only annoyed that he didn’t get to overhear anything about the case.

At the end of the school day, they both turn up to pick up the kids’ homework. Derek stares at Stiles incredulously, who blushes.

“What?” he says, looking uncomfortable. He doesn’t meet Derek’s eyes. “I didn’t know if you meant yes you’ll do it, or yes I had to.”

Derek raises an eyebrow, relieved because he’s standing in front of Stiles again. “I think we can make sure our arguments don’t affect your children’s education, don’t you? Of course I was still going to get the stupid homework.”

Stiles gives him a tiny smile. “Fine,” he says. “I’ll go back to work then.”

“Be safe,” Derek all but growls.

Stiles rolls his eyes as he leaves, but his hand reaches out and brushes against Derek’s. Derek’s heart leaps and he curses himself for being far too gone already.

“Derek,” his mother says when he gets home, voice stern. He looks up, suddenly alert. He listens out for Marie and Jack’s heartbeats, and they’re fine, they’re safe, but he can’t stop worrying. Drew comes up next to him, hands clutching his school bag.

“What is it?” Drew mumbles.

Talia looks down at her grandson, hesitating, but it’s hard to keep secrets in this house. “I had a call from the local hunters. There are a few out of state hunters in town.”

“Why?”

She shrugs. “They’ve promised to stay out of trouble.”

Drew starts to tremble next to him, because hunters can only mean bad things. Derek has a hand on his shoulder instantly, thumb running across Drew’s ratty shirt. His mother holds out her arms and Drew trips forward, hopefully feeling better with the scent of his alpha surrounding him.

“I – why are they here?” Derek whispers. “It’s not because of Laura is it?”

His mother’s eyes glow red as Derek’s heart speeds up in a panic. He grits his teeth together, trying to stay calm but it’s hard. It’s so hard, because Derek doesn’t think that the hunters would be here for any other reason. They’d want to know why one of their own is in a hospital.

Talia speaks evenly, still running a hand through Drew’s hair. “I don’t know what they’re here for, but we have nothing to hide.”

Derek scowls. “I’m so sick of this,” he mutters. Then he looks back towards the living room, where Marie and Jack are sitting there, probably bored out of their minds. “Stiles’ kids can’t stay here.”

Talia shakes her head. “No.”

“Fuck,” Derek says. He has no idea how he’s supposed to tell Stiles about this, about hunters, about everything. Where would he even start?

“You don’t need to swear, Derek. Neither do you have to see these hunters,” she says. “I’m the alpha, and if they want to discuss anything they will discuss it with me. I will make sure this pack stays safe.”

Derek sighs, rubbing his face. “Okay...”

She smiles. “Good. But I don’t want Marie or Jack here while the hunters are in town. I think you’ll be okay at your own apartment, if Stiles is alright with that.”

Derek nods in return, trying to smile when he catches Drew’s eye. Fear is rolling off his scent and Derek doesn’t know how to make it better. He doesn’t know how to assure Drew that what happened to his mother won’t happen to anyone else in the pack.

Talia waves at him to go, and Derek heads into the next room, phone in hand as he texts Stiles.

I need to talk to you.

“I don’t understand,” Stiles hisses.

Derek takes a deep breath. Stiles has come all the way out here to pick up his kids instead of Lydia and he’s trying his best to explain. He’s still too scared to tell Stiles everything about the supernatural, way too scared even though it might be better if he weren’t in the dark.

“There are people coming for a few days,” Derek says again. “They’re dangerous, and I don’t think your kids should stay here while they’re in town.”

Stiles licks his lips, stepping closer. They’re outside on the porch and every werewolf in the house can hear every word they say.

“Dangerous?” Stiles says, eyes flickering. “Are they like you?”

Derek’s not expecting that, and his face pales. Maybe Stiles thinks that his whole pack is something to be scared of. Derek’s hands form fists by his side, and he’s wondering why Stiles is standing so close to him if he thinks that Derek is dangerous.

“No,” Derek says. “No. They don’t like us. That’s why they’re dangerous.”

Stiles tilts his head to the side, and Derek hates to add to his stress. He was supposed to be helpful, for God’s sake, and instead he’s making everything worse.

“Why don’t you just tell me what the hell is going on with you?”

Derek shakes his head. He can hear the hard beat of Stiles’ heart and he wishes he could say something more but Stiles would run , he would freak out and never let Derek near him or his kids again.

“Fine,” Stiles huffs. “You’re lucky I trust you. What do you suggest I do instead? Lydia has to work. My father has to work. Everyone I know except you is busy.”

Derek glares at him. Stiles’ words make him sound like there’s something wrong with him for not having a steady job anymore. Stiles rocks back on his heels, scratching his cheek and twisting his lips.

“Um,” he says.

“The kids can stay at my apartment while they’re in town. If they want to see any of us, they’ll come to the Hale house.”

Stiles nods. “Okay.”

Derek raises his eyebrows. “Okay?” he says. “Just like that?”

He nods slowly and doesn’t move. Stiles still seems suspicious though, his brown eyes roaming over Derek’s face and Derek tries not to falter under the attention. It’s a long, long moment before Stiles turns away, just as his scent spices faintly into something else.

Derek can’t concentrate. He follows Stiles into the house in a daze, wishing he could get more of that sweet smell.

Stiles drops his kids off at Derek’s apartment the next morning. He can’t stop thinking about one of the last times Stiles was here, when he reached for Derek’s hands and saw that they had healed far too soon.

Derek hears the end of a fight as Stiles drags his daughter up to Derek’s apartment. Jack dawdles sleepily, hand in Stiles’ and clearly used to his sister arguing.

“I want to go to Shirin’s house!” she yells, and Derek thinks she’s going to disturb everyone in the apartment building. “She’s having a sleepover; Drew said he heard them talking about it! I can’t be the only one who doesn’t go to her birthday party. Dad ,” she whines.

Stiles’ face is red, flushing even more when he spots Derek waiting by the apartment door. “No,” Stiles says firmly. “You’re not going anywhere. Not to school or your friend’s house or anywhere else.”

She scowls back, waiting only a moment before she’s at it again, yelling harder each time Stiles snaps at her. Stiles stares at Derek by the door, daring him to say something but Derek just stands to the side and lets them in.

“I have to go now,” Stiles says calmly.

“I won’t have friends anymore,” Marie says loudly, tears starting up in her eyes. “It’ll be all your fault, all your fault, I hate you!”

Stiles’ heart skips a beat. The silence rings out and Derek shifts awkwardly at the side of the room. Stiles carefully hands him both of the kids’ bags, lips pressed together before he takes a step forward. Marie is already staring at the floor and she doesn’t take back her words, but she lets Stiles kiss the top of her head.

“I love you, okay?” Stiles says. “I’ll see you later.”

Jack reaches his arms out for a hug, and Stiles lets out a relieved breath. “At least only one of them hates me,” he mumbles, so that only Derek can hear it.

Derek raises an eyebrow, and Stiles scowls.

“I shouldn’t be feeling so sorry for myself, I guess,” he says, attempting a grin.

Derek shakes his head, mouth twisting into a smile. “Good luck at work today.”

“I’ll try. Promise me they’ll be safe here?” Stiles whispers.

He nods. Derek even had extra alarms installed at a horrific price because it had been at such short notice. He doesn’t care though, he needs every reassurance that nothing will happen here while he’s meant to be looking after Stiles’ kids.

When he’s gone, Jack gives his sister a dirty look and takes one of the bags Derek is holding, before settling in Derek’s small living room.

Marie turns to Derek.

“Can you tell Daddy that I don’t hate him?” she says quietly, a single tear rolling down her cheek.

Derek gives her a small smile. “I think you should be the one to tell him that.”

She scrunches up her face, looking for pity. “Please.”

“Come on, let’s see what your brother is doing,” Derek tells her. She pokes out her tongue and rushes into the next room, curling up on the couch. She clutches a pillow and Derek sighs, knowing he’s in for a day full of crying and tantrums and kids not getting what they want.

The next morning when Stiles drops them off at Derek’s apartment, Marie grips her father’s legs, holding on for a few minutes before she finally lets go. Stiles smiles and he runs a hand over her hair, smoothing it out. Derek tries to fight the warmth starting up in his chest at the sight, but it’s too hard.

Derek wants to stay away from the hunters. They make him feel sick down to his core, and every thought he has of them makes him think of his sister’s dead body. The rest of the pack are at the house, even Boyd and the other humans.

Derek is the only one hiding, because he can’t, he can’t deal with them.

Stiles’ kids are at his apartment, and it’s about six o’clock in the evening. It’s dark outside and Derek has succumbed to letting them watch the TV. He’s not expecting it when there’s a knock on the door and he hears the familiar beat of his alpha’s heart, and the mad rush of his nephew’s.

He opens the door quickly, aware that there aren’t any threats, and as soon as he does Drew throws himself forward, crying. Derek drops to his knees, unsure, but his arms circle Drew’s back as he’s hit with the overwhelming grief coming from his nephew’s scent.

He looks up at his mother, unsure.

She smiles weakly, and there are tears in her eyes. “We talked to the hunters,” she says. Derek’s eyes widen, hoping desperately that no one has been hurt. God, what if Erica or Boyd or his father got caught up in it all? Why else would Drew come here, in tears?

“What happened?” his voice is hard.

“They apologized,” she says simply, “For Laura’s death. They didn’t realize how much the one Laura put in the hospital didn’t want to follow the code.” Derek stares at her. “They said if we’re ever in their territory and need help, they will give it to us.”

“They feel guilty,” Derek spits, disgusted. He grips Drew tighter, stroking the hair above his neck. Derek hopes his mother told them all to fuck off, because his sister is dead , she’s dead and nothing’s going to bring her back again. Those hunters should have done more to keep track of the people who had guns, wolfsbane, and everything else that can kill a werewolf.

Drew lifts his head, gripping the front of Derek’s shirt. “Can – can I stay with you?” he asks, voice trembling. Derek feels the tip of Drew's claws against his shirt.

Derek nods. “Yes, yes, of course. Stiles' kids are still here though, okay?” He touches his nephew's cheek, near where fangs drop over his lip.

"Sorry," says Talia, "I'd thought they'd be gone by now."

"It's okay." Derek turns to Drew. "Will you be alright?"

Drew nods, and with some effort, his fangs and claws disappear.

Derek awkwardly gets to his feet, aware of Marie coming around the edge of the room, curious. She hasn’t heard anything, Derek’s sure, but Drew is particularly vulnerable right now and he hopes Marie will be sensitive enough about it.

“I have to go back to the pack,” Talia says. She comes forward and hugs them both, wiping away Drew’s tears. “You two stay safe.”

Derek nods and then they’re alone. Drew is still sniffling, but he sits in front of the TV. Marie stares at him, lips pressed together in silence, looking like she has a million questions. It’s Jack though, who says something. He holds up two of his books, the ones with less illustrations and more writing, and he turns to Drew.

“Do you want to read with me?”

Drew stares at him, but he nods shyly. He even tucks Jack under his arm on the couch, and voice still shaky, Drew reads to him about flying objects and magic, only stumbling on a few of the words.

Derek is still in a daze by the time Stiles arrives. The kids are, for once, silent. Derek doesn’t try as hard to get them to finish their dinner, ignoring the way Jack puts his food on his sister’s plate when he thinks Derek’s not looking.

“Hey,” Stiles grins, and Derek’s heart lurches. Today has been a bad day. It’s been full of surprises, tears, and everything Derek doesn’t want to face. It’s somehow better having Stiles stand before him.

Stiles comes inside and sees Drew there, a little surprised by it but he says nothing.

“I was expecting Lydia,” Derek says. “But, uh, the hunters are out of town now.”

Derek winces when Stiles jerks back. He scans the room quickly, and Derek has no idea what he’s looking for because his children are right there.

“Hunters? Is that what you call those people?”

Shit. Derek spoke too soon. That word is too scary, but Derek doesn’t have the energy to explain. He wishes that the hunters didn’t even come into town. Derek didn’t want their dirty apology, their guilt. His sister is still as dead as she ever was.

Stiles sees him hesitate, and then he just smiles, shrugging off his jacket. “Can I come in and stay for a bit with you all?”

“Uh, yeah, sure,” Derek says. “You seem cheerful.”

“Small breakthrough with the case,” he says. “We found the van; you know, the one that hit the patrol car with Scott in it. There’s all sorts of stuff in there, and we asked the people around where we found the van if they saw who was driving it and a few people did. It’s a woman who matches the description of someone we already know is connected with Blake, so.”

“You have something to go on,” Derek says.

“Yeah,” Stiles says gently, and somehow he looks softer at the edges.

His kids tug at his clothes and try to get his attention when he sits down. Marie claims they’ve eaten all of their dinner when Stiles asks, even though half of it is in Derek’s trash.

Derek sits on the floor, by Drew’s hanging feet, hoping his presence will help him to settle. Whenever Derek catches Stiles’ eye he’s met with a lingering smile, and Marie has to jerk her father back to the present. Stiles blushes.

Drew stays quiet, only shrugging when Stiles asks him questions, and other than the hovering chaos at the edge of their lives, it’s nice. All five of them together is nice. Jack falls asleep first, then soon his sister and Drew.

“You can stay and borrow some of my clothes,” Derek says. “You’d save waking them up.”

Stiles hesitates, but he lets out a long yawn, running a hand through his hair. He nods. “Yeah, okay,” he whispers. “I’d like that. I don’t have to go into work until ten tomorrow, so that’s good.”

Derek smiles. He gets Stiles some clothes and puts Stiles’ kids in the spare bedroom, sharing a double bed. He leaves Drew on the couch, snoring softly, and Derek figures he’ll let Stiles sleep in the bedroom and Derek will sleep next to Drew on the floor.

When Stiles emerges from the bathroom wearing Derek’s sweatpants and a knitted sweater, Derek can’t help but think that this feels right. That Stiles belongs here.

“Want a drink?” Derek asks, feeling nervous. They’re not the only ones in the apartment, but they are pretty much alone. They’re alone and Stiles doesn’t have to leave anytime soon, and despite everything hopefully they’ll be able to relax.

Stiles shakes his head. “That’s okay,” he says. “You can have one though, if you want.”

Derek shrugs. “Alcohol doesn’t really affect me.”

Stiles wiggles his eyebrows, before collapsing at the kitchen table. He leans forward, chin resting on his arms. “Built up a big tolerance there, then?”

Derek looks at the floor, wanting to be honest. He still can’t quite grasp the fact that Stiles is still here when Stiles knows something is up with him. That his eyes change color and he can hear things he shouldn’t and there are people called hunters who come after them.

He lets out a breath and looks Stiles in the eye. “It just...doesn’t affect me the same way it does you.”

“Oh,” Stiles says, frowning.

“Look, Stiles,” Derek says, sitting down. “I haven’t told anyone – anything, ever . Maybe that’s why all my relationships ended, because they eventually realized I was keeping something from them. They never needed me to pull them out of the way of fucking bullets so they never had any idea what, but –” He swallows. “I don’t go telling people. Drew’s father found out, and then he ran.”

“He just left?” Stiles whispers.

Derek nods.

“Harsh.”

“Yeah, uh, it wasn’t a good time,” Derek says, listening out for Drew’s breathing to make sure he’s asleep, to make sure that he’s not hearing any of this.

“Did anyone run away from you?” Stiles asks quietly.

Derek looks at his fingers. His skin is running hot and he’s so close to telling Stiles everything. So close to letting him know what pack is, and how Derek wants so badly for Stiles to be considered part of it. But then he remembers. They’re not even in a relationship.

“I never really gave them the chance,” Derek says flatly. “They all left before I said anything.”

“Derek,” he says, rolling his eyes. “You can see the problem in that, right?”

Derek glares at him. “Yes,” he snaps.

Stiles holds up his hands, shuffling closer on the chair. Derek’s dining table is small, and their knees knock underneath it. Derek feels his hands go sweaty; cursing the fact that only a little physical contact from Stiles seems to drive him crazy.

“Is it just guys?” Stiles asks. “Or girls and guys you had relationships with?”

Derek blinks, thrown. “Um, both?”

Stiles licks his lips. “Me too, I mean obviously. I’m bi. The kids’ mother lives out of state. She’s a research scientist. The split was mutual – we weren’t even married.”

Derek tries not to act as curious as he really is. “Their mother?”

“Mmhm,” Stiles says. “She got an awesome job opportunity and I told her that I wouldn’t leave Beacon Hills or my father. I don’t know, it was kind of rocky before that and I guess that was the breaking point.”

Derek feels the flush on his cheeks, trying not to appear glad because Marie and Jack’s mother is out of the picture. He thinks he fails, if the amused smile on Stiles’ lips is anything to go by.

They sit in silence for a while longer, and Derek wishes he had gotten himself a drink or something to occupy himself with. Instead he just has Stiles’ scent infiltrating his apartment, settling everywhere and making Derek wish that it was like this always.

They stare at each other, exhaustion heavy in Stiles’ shoulders. He seems to be thinking hard and Derek lets him, happy to memorize each tired line on Stiles’ face.

Finally, Stiles looks down, nibbling his lip. “Do you think,” he says carefully. “That what you are has got something to do with case?”

Derek blinks. He didn’t expect the question, but it is easy to answer. “Um, no. I don’t think so. It sounds pretty human to me.”

The word sneaks out before Derek can take it back, and it rests in the air, a little sour. Stiles’ breath hitches because it’s one thing admitting that there’s something different about Derek, but not being human? That’s a scary thought for someone who doesn’t get it.

Stiles stares at him, eyes hard but bright, and the kitchen lights seem to do something to their brown shade. It’s sort of captivating. Stiles opens his mouth to speak, but nothing comes out, too surprised.

Derek swallows, trying to continue. “If you’d like, maybe my mother can check out one of the crime scenes? Just to be sure.” Maybe she can use her senses to find something that the cops all missed. Stiles doesn’t answer, though, and Derek wonders if he’s going to wake up his children and get the hell out of here.

“I’ll think about it,” Stiles says. “And it’s uh, it’s not... hunters ...or anything?”

“No,” Derek says.

Stiles falters. He hangs his head and Derek can see the back of his neck. His body shakes a little and Derek doesn’t know what to do or how he’s supposed to comfort him. Then Stiles looks up, and Derek sees the desperation on his face.

“How do you do it?” he asks, voice pleading for an answer. “How do you make it from one day to the next knowing that there are hunters about, knowing that there’s someone out there who might hurt your family –?”

“Stiles,” Derek whispers, hand reaching out on the table. He lets his fingers brush against Stiles’, but he pulls away when Stiles freezes. “Stiles. I don’t know, I don’t know how I do it because I do a shitty job of handling it. Look at you, you’re still working, you’re trying to figure everything out and I pretty much quit my job when things got too hard.”

Stiles shakes his head, like he’s disagreeing with him. Derek sighs.

“Hey, let’s get you some sleep.”

Stiles nods, the weight of the day falling down on the both of them. Stiles’ heart is humming in his chest and Derek leads Stiles to the bedroom, a hand on his elbow to guide him. Stiles doesn’t throw off his touch and Derek’s glad for it, wanting, needing the contact.

They pass by the spare bedroom and Derek pauses, tilting his head to listen to the kids’ heartbeats.

“They’re okay,” he murmurs, letting Stiles know. He almost misses the look Stiles gives him, his eyes wide and brimming with emotions Derek can’t quite understand.

“Um, well, here’s the bedroom, let me just get my stuff,” Derek says awkwardly. There’s a beat of silence where Stiles doesn’t answer him and Derek shuffles off to get his pyjamas.

Stiles’ breath hitches, like he wants to say something. Derek pauses, his skin prickling.

All he wants is to face Stiles and hold him, push him against the bedroom door and run his hands all over him, over every stretch of skin Derek can find, letting Stiles know how much Derek wants him. It’s far too tempting.

“Derek.”

He turns around and Stiles was right behind him, hands open by his sides. Derek breathes in and he almost chokes it’s so good. Stiles’ scent is warm and aroused and fucking everything, growing sweeter by the second and Derek’s eyes flutter shut.

“Yeah?” he says, voice strangled.

“Stay with me,” Stiles breathes, and then, like he can’t help it, Stiles steps forward, cupping Derek’s face. He’s still tired, so utterly exhausted, body collapsing into Derek’s as they kiss.

Derek is surprised at first, but a whine comes out of his throat and he has to have his hands on Stiles. It’s been too long, they’ve wasted so much time, and maybe Stiles has wanted this just as much as Derek has.

Stiles sighs into him, fingers playing at the edge of Derek’s hair before he mumbles something against Derek’s lips. He doesn’t know what Stiles says before they’re kissing again, the taste of him heavy on Derek’s tongue.

Then the bed is right there and they fall onto it, mouths moving together urgently, Stiles’ fingers gripping into Derek shoulders. His legs wrap around Derek’s waist and everything’s too quick, the both of them groaning when Derek grinds his hips into Stiles’.

He drops his forehead to Stiles’ shoulder, trying to catch his breath.

“Please, Derek, please,” Stiles says, gasping. Derek kisses his neck, rubs his stubble against Stiles’ jaw. He lifts his head and Stiles has his eyes closed as he asks for more , and Derek’s going to give it to him. Derek has to give it to him, has to make him feel good if he can.

He turns Stiles over so that his back is pressed against Derek’s chest, still mouthing at Stiles’ neck as he curls around him, listening to Stiles’ groans and sighs. Derek runs a palm over Stiles’ torso, up and down and then under his shirt. Stiles quivers at the touch of Derek’s fingers on his skin, before they drop down over his happy trail to play at the waistband of the pants Derek let him borrow.

Stiles bucks up his hips, eyes shut and mouth open against one of the pillows.

“Can I?” Derek murmurs, feeling dizzy.

“Yes,” Stiles says, “Yes.”

Derek sucks a mark into Stiles’ skin and slips his hands under the fabric, slowing jerking him off. The scent of sex is all around them and Derek loves it, it’s more perfect than he could’ve imagined. Stiles’ body trembles next to his and then he’s coming over Derek’s hand.

Then he twists, barely opening his eyes as he searches for Derek’s lips, soft pants coming out of his mouth. Derek kisses him, and it’s clumsy, teeth knocking into each other. The angle is awkward and Stiles flops back to the mattress, one hand reaching around to run it through Derek’s hair.

He looks shattered in more ways than one, Stiles’ chest rising and falling heavily. Derek drops soft kisses to whatever skin he can find, letting Stiles close his eyes and fall asleep.

His breaths even out fairly quickly, and Derek gets up to clean up the mess they made. Then he falls into bed next to Stiles, content just to lie there. He’s still hard in his jeans but Stiles is already out of it, something like happiness and satisfaction coming off his scent in lovely, intoxicating waves.

Derek doesn’t mind that he didn’t get off. He didn’t need to. The air smells like them and Derek’s going to hate the moment when Stiles’ scent fades from his sheets. He doesn’t let himself think about that though, circling an arm around Stiles’ waist.

When Stiles presses back into him, he feels more alive than he’s done in months.

A ringing phone wakes Derek up. He groans and ignores it, stretching out on the mattress and feeling Stiles next to him. He’s dead to the world and Derek smiles softly, listening to the steady thump of his heartbeat. Derek would give anything to have more days where he could wake up like this.

The phone rings again and Derek swears. He stumbles out of the bed, still wearing his jeans, hating to leave the warmth of the bed. It’s Stiles’ phone but Derek doesn’t want to wake him up just yet so he answers it himself.

“Stiles’ phone,” he mumbles.

There’s quiet on the other end.

“Don’t tell me that’s Derek Hale?”

Derek grits his teeth together. He curses himself for not checking the caller ID, because now he has to talk to the Sheriff on the phone.

“Hello, sir.”

“Can I speak to my son?” he says in a flat voice.

“He’s sleeping,” Derek says. “I don’t want to wake him.”

Derek can feel the quiet anger on the other end of the phone. Derek grips the phone tight, reminding himself that this is not an interrogation. He’s done nothing wrong. He doesn’t have to answer the Sheriff’s questions if he doesn’t want to.

“You’re right,” he finally says, sighing. “Don’t wake him. Tell him he doesn’t need to come into work today, okay? Are the kids with you?”

“Yes,” Derek says. “They’re fine.”

Derek wants to hang up as soon as possible. He knows that this is Stiles’ father, that if he wants something with Stiles then he should want to get along with him, but it’s hard to forget that he’s the Sheriff and that he thinks Derek is guilty of something.

The Sheriff lets out a tired noise. “My son trusts you.”

Derek says nothing.

“And you saved him that time in the diner.”

“Yes.”

“I can’t believe I’m saying this – and I don’t trust you, Hale. I certainly don’t think you’re telling me everything about what happened with your sister,” his teeth grind together, loud in Derek’s ear. “But I don’t think you did it.”

Derek is quiet. He doesn’t know what this means, but maybe Derek will be able to forget what happened that terrible night with his sister. Maybe without the Sheriff of Beacon Hills breathing down his neck he’ll be able to move on. When all this is over maybe he’ll be able to go back to his job, and apart from helping Stiles out, actually feel like he’s doing something with his life.

“Is that all?” Derek says, trying not to sound cold.

“Yes.” The Sheriff hangs up.

Derek puts Stiles’ phone down and takes a shower, trying to clear his thoughts. He thinks of Stiles last night, his mouth so soft and perfect, and Derek remembers the way Stiles’ fingers felt against his face when Stiles had kissed him.

He lets Stiles sleep instead of waking him up to do it all again. When he’s clean and dry he fiddles around in the kitchen, waiting for the kids to wake up. As soon as Jack begins to stir, hearing his heartbeat quicken down the hall, Derek goes over and whispers him awake properly.

“Hey,” he says quietly. Jack blinks his eyes open, yawning. “I was thinking we could surprise your Dad with pancakes. He doesn’t have to go to work today.”

Jack perks up a little, nudging his sister until she wakes. Marie grumbles and groans, smacking her brother’s hands away.

“Marie,” he shakes her. “Pancakes.”

“Yeah, yeah, okay,” she says, grimacing. Marie falls back into the pillows, pulling the blankets back over her shoulders. Derek shrugs at Jack, smiling when the boy takes his hand and pulls him into the kitchen.

He lets Jack stir the bowl until his arm tires. When he drops an egg on the floor he immediately looks like he’s going to cry, but Derek pulls out another from the fridge before he can.

“Eggs break all the time,” Derek tells him.

“I know,” he mumbles.

A little while later Drew wakes up, his eyes red. He helps Derek get out all the spreads and toppings while Derek fries the bacon, careful of Jack near the hot stove. When it’s all ready he asks Jack to go get his sister, telling him to make sure that they don’t wake up their father. He nods seriously and disappears.

“You okay?” Derek asks his nephew.

“Yeah,” he mutters. “I’m glad you’re here.”

Marie comes down a moment later, the smell of bacon drifting through the apartment. Derek tries to get them to keep their giggles quiet as the kids put random things over their pancakes, mixing all the toppings together. Derek puts aside some of the mixture for Stiles when he wakes up.

“That looks disgusting,” Drew tells Marie, voice quiet.

She scowls. “You’re wrong. Here, taste it!” Marie grabs the whipped cream Drew deliberately avoided and flings it onto his plate. He looks affronted and it’s only a look from Derek that stops the whole thing from becoming a food fight. Derek swaps his own pancake with Drew, not minding the cream Marie had put there.

The kids don’t help him clean up, but Derek doesn’t mind. Stiles is still sleeping upstairs and the kids are getting bored, but they seem to realize that their father needs the rest. They’re happy about the time they got to spend with Stiles the night before, right until they fell asleep an hour or so after their normal bedtime.

“Sooo, Dad slept in the big bedroom,” Marie says.

Derek looks at her. “Yeah,” he says.

“Where did you sleep?” she asks pointedly.

“Um,” says Derek, certain that his cheeks are going red. “I slept in the big bedroom too.”

“Are you and Daddy dating?”

Derek sighs. “I think you should ask your father about this.”

Marie scowls, and now the other two are looking at him expectantly. “I’m asking you.”

“I don’t know the answer,” Derek admits, rubbing a hand across his face. Drew meets his gaze and he smiles faintly, like he’s saying it’s okay to date Stiles if he wants to. Derek looks back at him gratefully.

“Adults are always supposed to know the answer,” Marie says.

Derek smiles. “If your Daddy knew the answer to everything then he’d catch the bad guys all the time. But he can’t, and it’s hard and sad.”

She frowns. “Like now,” she says with a sigh.

Jack nudges Derek in the leg, eyes wide as he looks up. “I want you to date Daddy,” he whispers.

Derek has to stop himself from saying me too , so he doesn’t show how desperately he wants to be with Stiles. Derek wants the whole deal. He wants Stiles’ kids safe and happy and alive. He wants Stiles to have the stress lifted off his shoulders, and he wants Marie and Jack to like spending time with him. He wants Drew and the rest of his family to like Stiles, and Derek even wants Stiles’ father to think well of him.

Derek doesn’t know when he started letting himself want again.

When Stiles wakes it’s one o’clock and his heart is beating hard. Derek listens to him rush down the hall, looking in the spare bedroom and not seeing anyone there. Then he bursts into the living room to find the four of them watching the TV again, the volume set on low.

“Oh,” Stiles says.

Derek raises his eyebrows.

“It’s after midday. I’m supposed to be at work,” he says, heading to the pile of work clothes he had neatly folded the day before.

Derek shakes his head. “No, uh, your father rang on your phone.”

Stiles gives him a sceptical look. “ You talked to my father?”

“Yes,” Derek manages. “He says you didn’t need to come in today.”

Stiles glances at the door, biting his lip. “But, the case.”

“Stiles,” Derek says, standing up. “You’re allowed one day off.”

Their eyes lock on each other and the night before seems to flood their memories. Stiles still smells like them, and he smiles shyly, his cheeks going a little red. Drew makes a choked noise at the edge of the room and then Derek’s blushing too.

Derek showered, got rid of the smell of sex as best he could, but Stiles didn’t. Drew is young enough to not always pick up on it, but right now it’s obvious.

Derek clears his throat. “Maybe you should shower, or something.”

Stiles glances between the horrified look on Drew’s face and Derek’s pink ears. Slowly, he nods, seeming to understand, before rushing to the bathroom. Derek lays out some fresh clothes for him.

“But,” Drew says, a little later, voice a whisper. “You said you weren’t dating?”

Marie stares at them curiously, and Drew shuts up. They seem to agree not to speak about it, but when Derek tells Erica later he knows that she’ll be laughing for days.

When Stiles returns his skin looks red from the hot beat of the shower. He smells clean and fresh and the full night’s sleep has been good for him.

“We had pancakes!” Marie says gleefully.

“There’s still some batter left that I can cook for you,” Derek says. Stiles nods, walking over to his kids to kiss his daughter’s head and to ruffle his son’s hair.

A minute later, when Derek’s watching the pancakes go a golden brown, Stiles comes up behind him. He rests his forehead against Derek’s back, between his shoulder blades.

“Derek,” he whispers.

“Mm.”

“When all this shit is over –”

Derek turns around. Stiles’ lips look wet and Derek sees one of the bruises he made last night dull on Stiles’ neck. Derek lifts his hand and runs his fingers over the mark, pressing gently. Stiles lets out a moan.

“I really want you,” Stiles says. Then he mumbles. “And I, sort of, uh, want to repay the favor? I know I fell asleep pretty quickly last night –”

Derek risks a peck to his lips. “After everything’s over,” he says lightly, like it’s not a big deal. Stiles smiles at him, lips spreading out happily. It’s only when Derek’s nostrils flare, the smell of smoke in the air, that Derek remembers the pancakes behind him.

“Shit,” Derek mutters. Stiles laughs, and the sound makes Derek feel light.

They could have something, be something together, with Stiles’ kids too. That’s enough for Derek right now, even though there’s so much going on.

He knows that he will have to tell Stiles about werewolves. He can’t not, now that the promise of a relationship hangs in the air. It scares Derek more than anything because Drew would have had at least one parent now if his father hadn’t left. He doesn’t want Stiles to be the one to run too.

Stiles smiles gratefully when Derek sets the pancakes in front of him. He’s just as bad as his kids, smearing all the toppings he can on his food. Derek watches, amused, wanting to kiss away the sugar that sticks to his lips.

“You should head home,” Derek says.

Stiles huffs. “Trying to get rid of me already?”

“Never,” Derek says, and he sounds a little more serious than he means to be. He clears his throat. “But I think your kids are probably getting sick of my apartment by now.”

“Probably,” Stiles agrees.

“I’ll take Drew out for ice cream. It’s not a school day, anyway.”

“Thanks Derek!” his nephew calls out from the living room, sounding pleased. It will be nice to spend the day together, especially after the events of last night. Derek hasn’t forgotten the way Drew had crumpled at his front door.

“That’s sorted then,” Stiles says, jumping up. Derek helps him get all his kids’ things together and then they’re at the door, trying to drag out the time it takes for them to say goodbye. He glances at Stiles’ lips, looking forward to when he can kiss them again.

“Bye,” Stiles whispers. Derek resists the urge to reach out and touch his cheek, just to get his own scent to linger on Stiles a little longer.

“Be safe,” Derek tells him.

He huffs. “I’ll try my best.”

“And, just to warn you,” Derek says. “Your kids might ask you why we both slept in the same room last night.”

Stiles puts his hands to his face and groans. It makes Derek smile.

“They already asked you, didn’t they?”

“Uh huh. It’s okay,” Derek says, shrugging. “I just didn’t know how to answer.”

“We’ll get there,” Stiles says firmly. “Right, well we should go. Kids! Say goodbye to Derek and Drew, then we’re going to Lydia’s and we can spend the rest of the day together.”

“Promise?” Marie says.

“Yes,” Stiles says. She looks excited, but like she doesn’t really believe it will happen.

Stiles looks over his shoulder more than once when he leaves, holding Jack’s hand. Derek wonders why he’s so lucky to have Stiles stumble into his life, and he rests his forehead against the door after he closes it.

Drew clears his throat.

“You really like him, don’t you?”

Derek turns to his nephew. “I thought it was obvious.”

Drew raises an eyebrow. “It is obvious and Erica doesn’t stop talking about it. But um, what I mean was, it looks like he likes you too.”

“Are you okay with that?” Derek asks him.

“Yeah,” Drew says, chewing his lip. “He’s okay, I guess. And I like hanging out with Jack and Marie.”

Derek steps forward and ruffles Drew’s hair. His scent turns happy, and he throws his skinny arms around Derek’s waist.

“Can we go for ice cream now?” he mumbles against Derek’s shirt.

“Sure,” Derek says back, and thinks that after ice cream they’ll go to the Hale house. He’ll see the rest of the pack and try and remember that even though he lost someone, he still has all those other people. He has Erica and Boyd, his parents, Drew, and hopefully he’ll be able to say that he has Stiles too.

Chapter Text

Now that he knows what it’s like to touch Stiles, to have him near, Derek doesn’t want to give it up. They’re waiting and waiting for the case to resolve itself, but every lead that the police gets seems to go nowhere.

Derek’s worry is worse than before. He dreams of never being able to hold Stiles again, he dreams of Marie and Jack no longer having a father. He wants to breathe Stiles in and have him safe.

He has a burning need to help more than he already has, to make all the pain go away for Stiles and his family. Derek’s frustration builds up as each day passes and he feels like he’s holding his breath, waiting for something terrible to happen.

“I need to help them,” Derek says in a low voice. His mother looks back at him with sad eyes. “I have to – please, please let me do something.”

“Derek,” Talia says, shaking her head. “This is police business. There’s nothing we can do.”

“There has to be something,” he says through his teeth, trying not to growl. His mother sighs, coming up beside him and placing a hand on his shoulder. This time it takes more than a few seconds for Derek to relax under her touch.

There’s silence between them. All his family knows what he thinks of Stiles. It’s something that’s hard to hide, and they know, Derek’s mother must know, how much it would kill Derek if Stiles got hurt. He’s in too deep.

“Let me tell the Sheriff,” Derek says, lifting his eyes. They shine yellow, letting his alpha know that he’s serious. His heart is steady. He’s got to help somehow. He’s not ready to tell Stiles exactly what he is, but if he tells the Sheriff then maybe he could take a look at the crime scene.

Talia gives him a sharp look. “What do you want to say?”

“Let me give him a reason for me to look at that van. Let me tell him – show him – about the supernatural,” Derek says, biting his lip. He doesn’t particularly like the Sheriff, even if he’s Stiles' father, but he has power. He could let Derek do what he wanted.

“Why tell him when you haven’t told Stiles yet?”

Derek closes his eyes, throat gone dry. When he finally risks looking into his mother’s eyes, he knows his heart trembles. “Because the Sheriff isn’t going to run away from me when he finds out that – that I might be something to be scared of. He already hates me. I doubt him knowing this will make that worse.”

“Oh, Derek,” Talia says. She closes her eyes. She hasn’t said no yet, which means she’s thinking about it. Derek tries not to let himself hope. There’s good and bad that comes with the Sheriff knowing about the supernatural.

The bad will happen if the Sheriff ends up thinking that werewolves are dangerous, are monsters. But if he doesn’t ... then things might get easier. There might never be a repeat of all Derek went through months ago, just because his sister’s death didn’t make sense to human eyes. And there might be times when the Hales could help the police – like now.

Derek could help this mess just end. He could help lift the stress off Stiles’ shoulders.

“Okay,” Talia says. “Okay. But you have to be careful. You have to promise me you’ll be careful.”

“Thank you,” Derek breathes. He gets to his feet and wraps his arms around his mother, breathing in his alpha’s scent. He wishes desperately that this will work. That telling the Sheriff will mean good things; will mean that this case will finally be over.

Derek drives to the Sheriff’s house the next evening. He parks across the road and it takes twenty minutes before he finds the courage to get out of the car, and even then his hands are shaking. He can’t believe he’s willingly opening himself up for another interrogation, but he’s here for Stiles and he will do it if necessary.

The door opens almost instantly when he knocks on it. The Sheriff stands there in worn, everyday clothes, and Derek relaxes minutely.

“Hale,” he says. “I was wondering when you were going to get out of your damn car.”

Derek says nothing, trying to get a control of his breathing.

“Stiles isn’t here.”

“It’s not Stiles I want to talk to, sir,” he manages. Derek can feel the apprehension coming from the Sheriff, can see the suspicion in his eyes.

“Is that so?” he says, folding his arms. His stance is wide and Derek wishes things were simpler. He wishes the Sheriff already knew so that he didn’t have to talk about his sister’s death again.

“But I am here for him,” Derek says. “I’m here because I want him and his children safe, and I want to help. I can help. I’ll tell you everything.”

The Sheriff raises his eyebrows. He stares at the man at his door, and Derek knows he’s getting curious. He wants to know. He wants to know how Derek found his sister in the woods. He wants to know if it really wasn’t Derek who killed her.

Derek looks down at his shoes. “We don’t have to do it here, if you’re uncomfortable. We could go and get a drink if you’d like.”

“Here’s fine,” the Sheriff says slowly. He leaves the door open and heads back inside, expecting Derek to follow him.

Derek wishes his mother were here too, or Erica, but he has to do this himself. He has to gain the trust of the Sheriff on his own.

He sits down at the dining table. The Sheriff’s gun sits there, already loaded, and Derek gulps. He can survive getting shot – if it’s not in the head – but he doesn’t want to risk it. He doesn’t want to be like Laura. He wants to be alive.

“I’m not going to shoot you,” says the Sheriff. He gets himself a drink, but doesn’t offer Derek anything. “Unless you give me reason to.”

Derek nods.

The Sheriff’s gaze is calculating. “Start talking, Hale.”

Derek takes a deep breath. “I want to help Stiles.”

“So you’ve said.”

“I – me and my family, we’re different from you,” Derek says quietly, but he knows the Sheriff can hear him. “There’s something about us that you wouldn’t even think exists.”

“I knew your family was involved in all this,” he mutters.

Derek’s heart beats hard. He narrows his eyes. “I hope you’re not accusing them of anything, like the way you’ve accused me.”

“So it’s not true?” he says, leaning forward on the table. His eyes are bright and Derek can’t turn back now. The Sheriff’s going to find out the truth, and he needs to know it, he needs to know it if Derek wants to help Stiles.

“You know it’s not,” Derek says, gritting his teeth together. “As I’ve said a thousand times. I had nothing to do with my sister’s death. I found her, and it was the worst moment of my life, seeing her there, with a bullet in her head.”

He has his hands on the table where the Sheriff can see them, and it takes all of his control not to let his claws out. He knows he’s breathing hard and he closes his eyes for a second, even though he’s feeling vulnerable.

“Stiles trusts you,” the Sheriff finally says.

“I don’t know why,” Derek admits. “I haven’t told him this yet. I’m afraid...” He swallows, not wanting to give this away but he doesn’t think the Sheriff will trust him unless he’s completely honest. “I’m afraid he won’t want to be around me, when I tell him. So please, after I tell you, let me tell him myself. Please.”

The Sheriff looks at him carefully. “What if he needs to know?”

“I will tell him,” Derek says. “Just not yet.”

The Sheriff licks his lips and then he waits. Derek doesn’t know where to start. It would be easier to simply show him, but he doesn’t want to scare the Sheriff and there’s a gun right there. He knows the man in front of him won’t hesitate to use it.

“Laura didn’t come back to our motel when I was expecting her, so I went to find her,” Derek says. “She wasn’t answering her phone.”

“I know this already.”

“When I got there I found a man nearly dead and my sister...gone,” Derek says, throat hurting with each word that falls from his lips. “There was a gun on the ground and the man looked like he had been attacked by an animal. I didn’t care about him, he killed my sister.”

“Did he now?” the Sheriff says. “Then how –”

“He had claw marks, all over him. My sister did that to him because he was trying to hurt her,” Derek says.

The Sheriff’s eyebrows rise. “You’re trying to tell me that your sister did that?”

Derek nods.

“What? Your sister grew claws and used them to put this man in a coma?” he says, barking out a laugh of disbelief. It falls flat when he looks down and he spots Derek’s hands. Derek hears his heart skip a beat before going wild in his chest. The Sheriff’s hand hovers over the gun and Derek retracts his claws, showing off his human fingernails, the soft pads of his fingers.

The Sheriff looks up at him, and Derek’s eyes flare yellow.

“I didn’t shoot my sister and leave her next to a man who had already been attacked by an animal, like you think,” Derek says. “He wanted to hurt her so he did. He shot her and then collapsed from his injuries.”

There’s silence in the Stilinski home. Derek just feels sad. He hates that hunter and he wants his sister here. He wants Drew to have his mother again.

“How did you find her?” the Sheriff says quietly.

“I tracked her scent into the woods, but I was too late. I rang my mother because she’s my alpha, the leader of my pack. I didn’t know what to do. My sister was dead,” Derek croaks. “She made me call the police.”

“What are you?”

“A werewolf,” Derek says. The Sheriff’s eyes widen. Derek can see he doesn’t quite believe him, so he shifts. First he drops his fangs and then he lets the hair sprout on his face. Only for a moment though – he doesn’t want to scare the Sheriff any more than necessary.

“How do I know there wasn’t a reason for this man to shoot your sister?”

Derek shrugs. “There are people you can talk to,” he says. “They’re called hunters. They’re mostly okay now, only look after feral werewolves, but some of them are still prejudiced. Some of them kill us just because we exist.”

The Sheriff is thinking hard. It looks like everything is slowly slotting into place in his brain, and once it happens, he looks like a tired man. He looks like a man who has seen too much hate in the world.

“I still don’t like you,” the Sheriff says.

Derek smiles weakly. “Don’t hurt my family, please don’t. We’re not dangerous. We’ve never hurt anyone.”

“I won’t come after your family, Derek,” he says. “I know your mother and I like to think I’m a good man. And I’ll keep your secret – no one would believe me anyway.”

“Good,” he breathes. “Thank you.”

“Now, how do you think you can help Stiles?”

He returns to the Hale house utterly exhausted. But he thinks he has the Sheriff on his side, and tomorrow he’s going to go to the station. Derek will be able to look through some of the evidence, and hopefully there will be a scent he can trace.

Stiles and his kids are one step closer to being free again.

There’s an intense feeling in Derek’s chest to be near pack. He can’t stop thinking about Laura’s lifeless body and it’s too much for him. Derek needs to be sure that the rest of his pack is safe. At least, after today, the Sheriff might come to trust him.

He opens the front door to the house and he’s hit by a scent he hasn’t smelt in a very long time. Derek stills by the door, eyes wide, barely having to wait a second before his little sister is in front of him.

“Cora,” he breathes, staggering forward. She grins before throwing her arms around his neck. Derek holds her tight, barely believing that she’s here. God, she’s at home instead of on the other side of the world.

“I missed you too,” she mumbles. Derek knows his whole body is shaking and Cora grips him harder.

Derek finally pulls back. “How are you?” he demands. “Are you okay?”

Cora rolls her eyes, tugging him inside. “I’m fine. I want to know how you are. Everyone’s been filling me in on you and a certain someone.”

Derek finds himself smiling as he blushes. “It’s not – it’s not anything yet. We have to wait.”

Cora frowns, dark eyes looking suddenly worried. “Yeah,” she sighs. “I’ve heard all about that too.”

“You have?”

She nods, but then she smiles playfully. “It’s why I came back. I didn’t want you to do anything stupid and then I’d never see you again – not after Laura.”

Derek understands. He pulls Cora close again, inhaling the scent of her shampoo. He missed her so much, and it’s hitting him hard now that she’s actually here.

The rest of the pack looks happy. It feels good for them all to have Cora home again. Derek thinks he might be able to breathe a little easier tonight than he thought he would, just by having her here. He tells his parents about his visit to Sheriff Stilinski’s house and they’re all glad he’s in one piece.

“Do you think it was the right thing to do?” Derek whispers. “Telling him?”

His father looks at him. “Do you think it was, Derek?”

Derek closes his eyes. Something has settled inside of him now that the Sheriff knows he’s not a killer, that he didn’t hurt his sister. He won’t get harsh looks from him anymore, and hopefully Derek won’t be interrogated anymore. He’ll be able to put everything behind him, he’ll be able to remember the good, happy times with his sister instead.

He nods.

“Then it was the right thing to do,” Noah says, squeezing the back of his neck.

He drives to the station in the early morning. The Sheriff is expecting him and he feels so nervous he can barely breathe. Derek doesn’t know if the Sheriff told Stiles about werewolves or not. He didn’t technically make any sort of promise to keep it a secret from his own son.

Walking into the station is slightly easier than it was before. He feels calmer, having explained the truth to the Sheriff. He doesn’t feel like he’s going to get so many accusatory looks, like Derek’s a man who should be behind bars.

Derek smells Stiles’ scent as soon as he’s inside. He remembers their night together and his heart wants more, his body wants more. He wonders if Stiles wants to see Derek as badly as Derek wants to see him.

He can hear Stiles’ voice somewhere in an office, loud and clear along with the sound of his heartbeat. It takes a moment for Derek to register that something’s wrong, and Derek doesn’t know if he should be hearing this, if he should be hearing the no that Stiles spits out to whoever he’s talking to.

Then there are footsteps, quick and hard against the floor, before Stiles bursts into the room. He stops short when he sees Derek and their eyes meet. Stiles glares at him.

“Did you hear any of that?” he hisses.

Derek shakes his head. “I just came in, I didn’t hear anything.”

Stiles closes his eyes briefly. “You didn’t hear?”

“No.”

Stiles looks up at him again. His eyes are hard and Derek thinks for a terrifying second that Stiles knows. That he knows about werewolves and Derek didn’t get to tell him. Then, he sighs, his anger leaving him.

“They’re telling me to consider sending the kids to their Mom but I can’t. I don’t want to. I need them here, I need them okay here,” Stiles says. “I can’t do this without them.”

Derek nods, and he realizes that Stiles isn’t mad at him. “It might be safer for them,” he says softly.

“Don’t tell me that,” Stiles snaps. “Don’t tell me I’m a shitty father for wanting them with me even though they’re in danger. They’re not your kids, you don’t get to decide.”

Derek ignores the way Stiles puts words in his mouth. He takes a deep breath instead. And Stiles is right, of course he is, those kids are not Derek’s. They’re Stiles’. As much as Derek wants to be there for them, as much he wants to protect them, he knows he can’t. Not forever. Not if Stiles doesn’t choose him after all of this is over.

“You’re a great father, Stiles,” Derek says. “The best.”

Stiles shakes his head. There are tears in his eyes but he blinks them away. “What are you even doing here?” he mumbles.

“Your father wanted to see me,” Derek says, voice stilted.

“Oh yeah,” Stiles says, wrinkling his nose. “He mentioned that.”

Derek says nothing to explain, even though it looks like Stiles wants him to.

“And the kids?”

“They’re with my parents at the house.”

“Okay, thanks,” Stiles whispers, staring at Derek with hopeless his eyes. He’s dead tired and Derek wants to take him home so he can get some sleep. He wants Stiles in his bed, where it’s safe and warm.

But Stiles has a lot of work to do, a case to solve.

Derek says goodbye quietly. It’s easy to find the Sheriff’s office and he knocks on the door. When he enters Derek doesn’t know who looks worse – Stiles or his father. There are too many people in danger. There have been too many close calls.

“Did you tell him?” Derek asks, closing the door behind him.

The Sheriff shakes his head. “Though I think he’s less in the dark than you were letting on.”

Derek shrugs, sitting down.

“Here,” the Sheriff says, sliding a plastic bag across the table. “Is it enough to do what you want to do?”

Derek doesn’t answer. Gently, he picks up the evidence bag and unzips it. He flares his nostrils and the scent hits him quickly. It’s slightly sour – and there’s the taste of gasoline in the air. He can smell the faint trace of a woman’s perfume and it all makes Derek feel sick.

He hates this person. He almost hates that he can put a scent to it.

Derek nods. “It’s enough, I think. I hope.”

The Sheriff nods. “Don’t do anything stupid that you can’t explain away,” he says. “You may have told me about what happened, but the rest of the officers here don’t know.”

Derek nods, and the Sheriff’s eyes stay on him until he’s out the door. Derek hopes he’s still not considered a threat.

He wants to say goodbye to Stiles again but he’s nowhere to be found. The air is fresh and nice outside, but the scent of the police department’s attacker is imprinted in his mind. He drives to the place the Sheriff said they found the van and if Derek concentrates, the same scent still lingers.

But it goes cold almost straight away. It’s been too long since they were here.

“Fuck,” Derek says, under his breath. He realizes he’s sweating and that he can do nothing. Nothing at all.

When he gets home he’s glad that Cora’s there. He feels so hopeless, looking in from the sidelines at Stiles’ case. At least his children are here, safe if they are a little unhappy. They wait for the hours to pass before they can see their father again.

Derek walks in to Cora telling Marie and Jack stories about her travels. Her face lights up and Derek thinks that it was good for her to go, to get away for a little bit. Her hair is shorter than Derek’s used to but it looks nice. She looks more like Laura, but he doubts Cora sees that.

“Derek!” Marie says. “Will you take me and Jack to Italy? Please? Cora went there for a whole month!”

Derek raises an eyebrow. “You don’t want your father to take you?”

She rolls her eyes. “He can come too if he wants. And Drew. But don’t tell him I said that.”

He bites his lip, sitting down on the couch when Jack shuffles over and makes some room for him.

Cora looks at them, half amused and half concerned. “They told me you got attached,” she says under her breath. Derek throws a glare at her. Cora shrugs. “It’s cute.”

“I want to go to Italy,” offers Jack.

Cora grins at him. “Yeah?”

“Then we won’t have to be here, where there’s someone who wants to hurt us,” he mutters. Jack then seems to think he’s said too much and he angles his body away from the group. Marie suddenly looks like she doesn’t have anything to say.

Derek rubs his back, and he can smell misery coming from the children. He doesn’t know what to do.

“Would you like another hot chocolate?” he asks.

Cora tilts her head to the side. “Laura’s?” she asks quietly. Derek nods.

Jack rubs his face but he nods. Cora keeps them company as Derek gets up to make their drinks. He makes one for himself and for Cora, and he honestly feels like everything has been going on for too long.

Stiles lingers by the door when he comes to pick up his kids. He leans against the doorframe and he stares at Derek. There are heavy, dark clouds in the sky and thick raindrops threaten to fall to the ground. In the distance, Derek can hear thunder.

“Sorry about today,” he murmurs.

“Stiles, it’s fine.”

“I’m going to do it,” he says, clearing his throat. Stiles’ hands clench at his sides. “I’m going to send the kids to their mother. Tomorrow.”

Derek looks on at him sadly.

“I don’t want to,” he whispers, voice breaking. “What if they never see me again? What if this crazy person gets what they want and I’ll be dead?”

Derek moves forward until there’s only a small gap between them. Gently, he uses his fingers to turn Stiles’ head towards him, so that they’re looking each other in the eye. Stiles’ breath hitches.

“I won’t let anything happen to you,” Derek says, determined. “You’re too important.”

Stiles shudders and sniffs, and he throws his arms around Derek’s neck. Derek holds him close, turning his nose towards Stiles’ hair, but their embrace doesn’t last long. When Stiles pulls back he looks embarrassed.

“I’ll see you later,” he says. Derek nods.

He leaves. Derek has an awful feeling in his belly when Stiles drives away.

Half an hour later Derek gets a text from Stiles.

Do you by any chance know anything about cars?

Derek calls him and Stiles sounds tired and frustrated on the phone. Derek offers to take a look. He’s fixed cars for the family before. There’s not really anyone else here to do it.

He drives down to the gas station Stiles is at, spotting him almost instantly. Stiles’ hair is sticking up and his face looks red from the cold air, the storm coming in. He kicks at the cruiser’s wheel before he spots Derek jogging up to him.

“Oh thank God you’re here,” Stiles groans, chucking his phone into the back seat of the cruiser. “I swear I filled up the tank yesterday and it’s already empty and I don’t know why.”

Derek reaches out and touches Stiles’ wrist, hoping it will calm him. “We’ll figure it out,” Derek says.

Stiles mutters something under his breath, too quiet for even Derek to hear. But his fingers slide past Derek’s, fumbling for a moment, before Stiles squeezes them gratefully.

“Hey,” Derek says. “Do you want to put your kids in my car so that they can stay warm with the heater on?”

Stiles nods. “Okay.” He opens the car door and lifts Jack into his arms. Marie’s face looks pinched and she stomps towards Derek’s car, following her father. She doesn’t bother to look at Derek.

At a first glance, the cruiser looks fine. He frowns and turns to Stiles. “We should test if there’s a leak in the tank. You probably don’t want to drive off and lose another tank of gas.”

Stiles snorts. “And how are we going to do that?”

Derek smiles at him. “Air and soapy water I think is the trick. But I’ll go inside and see what the guy in there thinks.”

“Okay,” Stiles says, biting his lip.

“And I can always drive you to Lydia’s if you need me to,” Derek points out. Stiles nods and he jogs inside. His eyes scan the gas station for an employee and he spots someone wearing an orange t-shirt. He hears the station’s toilet flush behind him and Derek barely registers it.

He’s about to call out to the employee when it hits him. That scent. That scent he smelt hours ago, in the Sheriff’s office. His stomach drops and he turns around slowly. There’s a woman in a denim jacket behind him, hair down past her shoulders and her skin dark.

She catches him staring. It’s an awful, awful moment before he breaks her gaze. Derek swallows. He turns back around and tries to walk slowly. Stiles is out there with absolutely no clue, and Derek’s willing to call foul play on the gas tank.

Once he’s outside he yells. “Stiles!”

Stiles looks up at him, stunned.

“Go!” Derek yells, “Go, get out of here, she’s here!”

Stiles stares at him and Derek wonders why the fuck he’s not moving. He’s got to go. He’s got to get out of here – be anywhere but here. Stiles’ eyes flit past Derek’s body, focussing on something that Derek really should’ve heard coming, but he’s too concerned about Stiles’ safety to care about his own.

“Oh God. Derek!”

A shot rings out and there’s a searing pain in Derek’s arm. He doesn’t fall over but it’s a near thing, and Derek clutches at his arm, already feeling, smelling his own blood. “Stiles, go!” he yells, his ears ringing.

Stiles moves quickly. He doesn’t have time to get his phone but he climbs into Derek’s car, yelling at his kids to duck down. There’s another gunshot and the windshield of Derek’s car cracks. He hears Stiles swear, the kids already crying, and Derek’s thankful that his car engine was already running, the key already in the ignition – because it only takes a second before Stiles is driving out of there.

Derek falls to his knees, relieved.

“Not again!” someone says behind him, and then that woman kicks Derek’s lower back. He’s surprised and it forces him to the ground.

He’s not healing yet, the bullet still lodged in his arm. He grits his teeth at the searing, shooting pain, and turns over. There’s a gun directed at his face. He wonders if this is how Laura felt before she died. Scared. Fucking glad that it was her and not the people she cared about.

“Who are you?” the woman demands. Derek doesn’t answer her, breathing hard, trying to shuffle away from the gas station’s doors so no one in there gets hurt. She kicks him again. “I recognize you,” she says. “You’ve been at the police station. You were there at the diner. You’ve been helping them.”

Derek glares at her. She looks wild. She looks worse than a feral werewolf, her white teeth bared even though she’s human. Her hair tangles in the wind.

“I’m not anyone,” Derek says. “Why the fuck are you doing this?”

The woman’s hand shakes while she holds the gun. Derek wonders if he can somehow get it away from her, if he can surprise her somehow. But he has no clue about what to do. Her finger is on the trigger and it will take less than a second for her to pull it.

“Are all you officers really so incompetent that you haven’t figured it out yet?”

“I’m not a fucking officer!” He can’t tell if she believes him.

Derek is still shuffling backwards. He feels strangely calm now that Stiles and his kids are gone. Derek won’t let this woman get away. He’s buying time, letting her talk, trying to get her distracted so that he can do something, anything.

He wants to kill her. His instincts are telling him to but he knows he can’t. Derek has to close his eyes to stay in control. He doesn’t want to shift, not when this woman will probably pull the trigger if she sees fangs or claws.

“I want to know how you knew it was me,” she says.

Derek says nothing. His arm is throbbing and he can’t come up with a clear lie. Not now. Not even all those interrogations at the station have prepared him enough for this.

“Fine,” she snaps. She shoots him again, this time in his abdomen. Derek hisses, wondering how much blood a werewolf can lose.

“You’re insane,” he spits. “Why do you want to hurt me? Why do you want to hurt any of them?”

She says nothing.

“I know you have something to do with the Blake case,” Derek says.

She raises her eyebrows, taking a step forward. They’re right by the road now. She’s followed him here with her gun, and Derek can see his blood red all over the ground. “And you say you’re not with the police.”

Derek feels blood pooling in his mouth, it tastes bitter, and he spits at her.

“Jennifer went crazy in there,” she says, like the words are burning inside of her and she needs to get them out. “It’s like she’s another person. You guys did something to her when you caught her, and now she’s in prison and she’s the insane one. She said she wanted to kill me. She hates me now, said that I did this to her, said that I got her locked up and that’s why she’s gone mad.”

Her voice comes out cold. She’s crazy, absolutely crazy, and Derek stares at her.

He feels less weak now, his healing starting up despite the bullets still in his wounds. Derek thinks he has the energy to take her out if he’s careful. But he doesn’t want to die. He doesn’t want Drew to have to deal with someone else in the pack dying.

Derek can hear another car driving down the road. There aren’t many people about because of the weather, but he hopes this person will see what’s going on and go get some help. He hopes Stiles is getting some help somewhere.

“But I didn’t lock her up in there,” she says. “You guys did.”

Derek swallows. “The police will be here soon.”

“I disconnected all the phones inside the gas station,” she says. “And there’s not much coverage out here, especially with the storm coming in.” She gives him a look that tells him to keep dreaming. That tells him that no one is going to come for him, not now that Stiles has disappeared with his kids.

But the sound of the car engine is getting closer. It’s sounding more and more familiar too, and Derek glances behind the woman. It’s his own car.

“No,” Derek groans, wishing Stiles hadn’t come back. But here he is, behind the wheel of Derek’s car.

He’s not slowing down.

The woman turns her attention towards the speeding car coming right for them. She lifts her gun and starts to shoot, and the windshield has gone completely, glass collapsing into the car. Stiles has already ducked though, and now he’s driving blind, coming straight for them.

Derek has to move. He has to get out of the way. The pain feels like too much, it feels like a fire crawling under his skin. He hates himself for not being able to think enough with it there.

Stiles slams on the brakes. Derek takes a gulp of air and rolls to the side, barely making it out of the way before the car collides with a body that isn’t his own. Derek winces when he hears bones break, but the gun is flung to the side and Derek can breathe.

He thinks they’re out of danger, finally.

Stiles clambers out of the car, glancing at the woman but she’s unconscious. Alive, her heart still beating, but unconscious.

“Holy shit, Derek,” Stiles says, and his hands are on Derek’s face. “Oh God.” He drops their foreheads together. “I can’t believe I did that. I can’t believe I did that. Are you okay?”

His hands are at Derek’s torso, and they come away bloody. Stiles’ eyes widen.

“All I saw was her gun pointed at your head,” Stiles starts to say, mouth moving too quickly as he speaks. “I’m sorry I left you, I’m sorry. I had to get Marie and Jack out of here but I came back.”

“Stiles.”

“Don’t worry, the ambulance should be coming, and some back up,” he says, slipping off his jacket. He presses it to Derek’s stomach to stop the bleeding. Stiles’ pulse is a mess, and his hands are shaking.

“Stiles,” Derek says, leaning back on his elbow. He puts one of his hands over Stiles’.

“Yeah?” he says, voice shaky, looking up. There are cuts over his face from the broken glass.

“I don’t need an ambulance.”

Stiles glares at him. “You’ve been shot.”

“Yes,” he says. “And I’ll heal too quickly. They’ll notice. That woman is the one who needs the hospital.”

Stiles looks over at her and he sinks to the ground. He sits so that his chest is against Derek’s back, and Stiles still presses his jacket onto Derek’s wound. Stiles shudders and he seems to realize what he’s done.

“I’m going to get in so much trouble,” he whispers.

Derek turns his head towards Stiles’, and he drops his nose to his neck. His scent is panicked but warm, and adrenaline courses through both their bodies. Then the rain starts, and despite the dark grey clouds in the sky it’s only a light trickle, nice on their skin.

“You shouldn’t have come back for me,” Derek whispers.

“You’re too important not to,” he says back, and they sit there, in the rain, listening out for the sound of sirens.

When everything is over, when it’s finally over, they all go back to the Hale house. It’s been Stiles’ safe haven for a long time now and it feels right to have them all there. Derek’s wounds are almost healed and Stiles’ kids are back to safety.

The woman Stiles hit with Derek’s car is in stable condition in the hospital, but she’s awake and mad and begging for a lawyer. Her name is Kali. It looks like she was in a relationship with Jennifer Blake. Derek doesn’t particularly care that she got hurt, even though he knows Stiles might be facing trouble at work for using too much force, especially since Derek doesn’t have any gun shot wounds to show.

But it’s a weight off their shoulders. They can all breathe.

Stiles’ kids are asleep on one of the double beds upstairs, a knitted orange blanket bundling them up. Drew has passed out on the chair in the corner, insisting he stay there to make sure that his friends are okay. It’s sweet.

Derek waits by the bedroom door, watching as Stiles breathes out. Marie and Jack’s faces are peaceful as they sleep and Stiles reaches out, brushing Marie’s hair from her face. His hands are trembling.

“They’re going to be alright,” Stiles croaks.

Derek comes up behind him. “Yeah. Are you going to get some sleep?”

Stiles nods, twisting around. His brown eyes look shiny and beautiful.

Derek hesitates before stepping closer. He has to get at Stiles’ scent, have him close now that he’s okay. Exhaustion is leaking off him – it’s almost three in the morning – but then Stiles’ hands reach for Derek. He presses his face into Derek’s clean shirt and they stand there, holding each other. The warmth of another body is the best comfort Derek could ask for.

“I’ll wake you up in the morning,” Derek says quietly.

“Okay,” says Stiles, lifting his head up and shrinking nearer, so that he’s settled perfectly in Derek’s arms. “I can’t believe you got hurt today, for me.”

Derek doesn’t reply. Stiles’ lips are not far from his own, and he feels Stiles’ cold fingertips press against his beard.

Stiles kisses him. The drag of their lips feels desperately good, and Derek is so thankful nothing worse happened tonight. He licks into Stiles’ mouth, pressing harder before he pulls away.

Derek cups Stiles’ cheek, brushing his thumb over Stiles’ wet lips. He feels overwhelmed and his eyes are shining gold, staring at Stiles with a glimmer, and he hears Stiles’ heartbeat stutter at the sight. His hold of Stiles goes limp and he takes a step back.

“Sorry, I, sorry.”

Stiles shakes his head, his hands gripping at Derek’s shoulders to keep him from disappearing. His nails dig in enough for Derek to feel it through his clothes and it makes him look Stiles in the eye.

“I’m too tired for this Derek, and I trust you, okay? I’d appreciate it if you finally fucking talked to me about whatever’s going on, but I’m so tired, and my kids are here and they’re supposed to be safe now. It’s driving me crazy not knowing what you are but I just want to sleep, okay?” Stiles says. “But promise me you’ll tell me soon.”

Derek nods. He watches as Stiles climbs into the bed next to his children, curling around his son. He wants to stay here, wants to listen those three heartbeats as they fall asleep, but he doesn’t think he’s wanted.

Derek moves to the other side of the room and picks up a sleeping Drew in his arms. He turns around and gives Stiles and his family some space.

His sister sighs at him when he gets to the living room. She shuffles so that there’s space for him on the couch.

“You don’t have to be scared to tell him, Derek.”

 He looks down. “I know.”

Derek doesn’t see much of Stiles for the next few weeks. Only saw him once, when Derek came into the station to make a statement. The kids are finally living in their own house and he’s heard it’s still busy for them down at the station. Derek misses them all, their scents slowly fading after they’ve been at the Hale house for weeks and weeks.

He’s barely been able to get away from the house himself. All of the pack members, Drew especially, have been trying to scent him, have been trying to soothe their nerves after he was shot. It’s slightly overbearing, but he likes it.

He likes it when Erica snuggles next to him on the couch, listening to his heartbeat. He feels cared for and like no one else is going to go away.

Derek visits the station one afternoon, his stomach swooping when he reaches the doors. He’s reminded of Laura, as always, but he’s here to see Stiles.

“Derek!” Allison says, walking up to him. Derek smiles at her, and it’s nice to see Allison looking brighter and less stressed.

“How are you?” he asks.

“Holding up,” she says softly.

“And Scott?”

Allison nods. “He’s good. We’re just all glad that this is over.”

“You can go back to giving people speeding tickets.”

“That’s right,” she says, and it looks like she wants to say more, like she wants to thank him for something. Derek doesn’t know how much Stiles told her about what happened, but it’s not a secret that Derek was there and that he helped. “I’ll go get Stiles for you,” Allison ends up saying.

Derek nods gratefully.

Stiles looks tired from across the room, but a whole lot healthier. He smiles softly when he sees Derek, putting down the stack of papers he’s holding immediately.

“Hey,” he says.

Derek shuffles on his feet, not sure what to say. He’s barely talked to Stiles recently, and he still remembers what Stiles asked him to do. Derek still has to tell him about the supernatural.

“Will you come to lunch with me?” Stiles asks him.

“I’ve already eaten.”

“Oh,” he looks down.  He seems to take a breath in, before meeting Derek’s gaze carefully. “I’m sorry for not being in touch, there’s been an awful amount of paperwork here and I’m trying to spend time with Marie and Jack and my father and –”

“I understand,” Derek says in a low voice.

Stiles’ shoulders deflate. “Will you come to lunch with me anyway?”

Derek inhales. “Okay. Okay.”

Stiles links their fingers together and pulls him out of the door, like he’s afraid Derek will change his mind. He snorts when he sees the car Derek’s been driving, a small looking minivan.

“Yeah,” Stiles says. “I’m sorry about your car and that now you have to drive that thing.”

Derek shrugs. “Lots of space. Kids - Drew - will be more comfortable in it.”

Stiles stares at him with something like awe, but Derek ignores him. Soon they’re at a shabby little diner, ordering their food mindlessly. Stiles has trouble keeping his eyes from Derek’s face and Derek wants to hide a little from the close attention.

“What have you been doing recently?” Stiles asks.

“I – I went back to work. Just for a day. Isaac was happy to see me there,” Derek says. His heart skips a beat when Stiles beams. “I might go back part time.”

Stiles nods and he leans forward, knocking their knees underneath the table.

“Any particular reason you were at the station?” he says after a moment.

“Yeah,” Derek says. “We’re going to have a dinner at the house.” A pack dinner, but Derek doesn’t call it that. “Drew has missed Marie and Jack, and you’re all invited.”

Stiles nods, smiling slightly. “Jack and Marie will like that.”

Stiles picks at his food, opening and closing his mouth every few seconds to say something. But he clears his throat and the words don’t come out. Derek sighs.

“Are you not going to ask me?” Derek says through his teeth, after fifteen minutes pass.

“I want to,” Stiles admits, licking his lips. “I want to know what you are but I think you’ll shoot me down.”

Derek doesn’t know why he feels so exposed. He has every reason to believe that Stiles is going to stay, but there’s still doubt hovering over his skin.

“Some people think that my family are monsters,” Derek says. “Some people don’t fucking care and they’ll kill one of us if we’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. There’s meant to be a code, something that stops hunters killing us in cold blood but it’s not always followed.” His voice breaks. “I don’t want you to think the same as them.”

Stiles stares at him. “You can trust me, Derek.”

“I know.”

“And you’re not a monster. None of you are,” he says softly.

Derek stays stubborn. “We can be dangerous.”

Stiles rolls his eyes, looking unimpressed. “Are you trying to push me away?”

“I want you to know what you’re getting into.”

Stiles laughs and Derek flinches in surprise at the sound. He looks Stiles in the eye properly. Stiles’ mouth is curled slightly, and his tone is slightly bitter when he speaks. “Yeah, really?” he says. “Telling me what’s up would be awfully helpful in that regard.”

Derek glares at him.

“Fine,” Stiles sighs. “Your sister talked to me. She said people have run away from this before, just because they found out. Like Drew’s father.” He rubs his face. “She’s pretty good at threatening you without actually doing it, you know? I, Derek, I want you to tell me. I have a few guesses but I want you to tell me.”

“Guesses?” Derek snorts.

He shrugs and checks the time on his phone. “I have to go. If you want to go out to dinner sometime, you call me, okay? But I need to know, Derek.”

Derek gives a quiet nod, his heart fluttering nervously when Stiles rises to pay the bill.

“Derek!” Marie yells, as soon as she’s out of the car. She races up the porch steps and throws herself at Derek’s legs. Derek pats her hair awkwardly, and he can’t help but smile. He looks up and Stiles is grinning at him from the car.

“How have you been?” Derek asks.

Her eyes go bright. “I’ve finally gone back to school and seen all my friends!” she says. “I told them all about how you fought the bad guy and how I helped!”

Derek snorts. “Do you see Drew at school?”

Marie rolls her eyes. “Yes. I’ve been trying to get him to sit with us during lunch but when he does he doesn’t say a single word.”

“Give him time,” Stiles says, finally at the door. Jack is beside him and he waves at Derek.

“Hi Derek,” he says shyly. Derek feels his heart blossom. These kids haven’t forgotten about him. They want to see him.

“Food’s this way,” he says, turning around. Derek can feel Stiles right behind him and he’s decided to take Stiles aside tonight and tell him. Sometime tonight Stiles will know about werewolves and he’ll either stay or go.

Derek tries not to work himself up, but then he feels Stiles’ warm hand on his shoulder. He twists his neck to see him. Stiles has crept up close.

“It’s good to see you,” he says. Derek has trouble pulling his gaze away. “The kids missed you. Me as well.”

“Yeah?” Derek croaks.

Stiles nods, licking his lips.

“Stiles!” someone calls out. It’s Erica. She grins and wanders up to them, holding out a drink. Stiles takes it gratefully. “It’s been too long since we’ve seen you around here. Poor Derek doesn’t know what to do with himself.”

Derek scowls, feeling the tips of his ears go red.

“I think he does,” Stiles says lightly. “He said he might be going back to work?”

Erica nods proudly, chuckling when Derek walks away, leaving the two of them to gossip.

Drew looks more comfortable than he did at the last pack gathering. He spends most of his time with Jack though, sitting at the edge of the crowd. Derek feels warm inside. Even though Laura’s not here, everyone else he cares about is.

They eat their food. The rest of the children in the pack have been told not to shift like they had last time, because the Stilinskis are here. They still laugh and run around, Marie joining them. Some time later Cora suggests that a bunch of them should go take a walk in the reserve, along one of the trails through the trees. Derek looks to Stiles, who nods. Marie and Drew go with them; Jack stays behind with Derek’s parents close by.

“It’s nice out here,” Stiles says. “It would’ve been fun to grow up around here.”

“Yeah,” Derek says. “It was. My sisters loved it.”

Stiles smiles at him and they walk side by side, shoulders brushing against each other. He seems to be able to tell that Derek’s nervous about something and he keeps the conversation light. Derek wants to know what he’s thinking.

Marie starts climbing one of the trees and Stiles yells at her to be careful.

“Come on, Drew!” she yells out, laughing. “Race you to the top!”

“Marie!”

She pouts. “It’s not that high,” she insists, looking delighted when Drew slowly walks to the tree. He pulls himself up onto the lowest branch and Derek sighs.

“I’m glad Drew’s got a friend,” Stiles says.

Derek silently agrees.

“So,” Stiles says, biting his lip. “Is there anything you wanted to say tonight?”

The rest of the crowd who came on the walk have moved on ahead. Derek can still hear the others and Cora, but he doesn’t think Stiles can. It’s like they’re alone.

Derek looks at him. He opens his mouth to speak when suddenly a branch cracks. Derek snaps up his gaze, and Drew is on the ground, gasping in pain.

“Oh fuck,” Stiles says, and he rushes over before Derek can stop him. Drew is already crying and Stiles – Stiles flinches back when he reaches him. “Oh my God.”

Derek shoves past him, to his nephew. Drew is howling in pain, his face contorted and furry as Marie looks down from above. His fangs are sharp and his claws scratch at the grassy floor.

“Drew,” Derek says. “Drew.”

His arm is already healing, but it doesn’t stop it from being painful. It was easy to hear Drew’s bones crack when he hit the ground, the branch falling under his weight.

Stiles’ heart is thundering madly behind Derek, and Derek’s face is hot, not sure how to handle this, how to handle Stiles’ reaction. He focuses on his nephew instead of trying to figure out what Stiles is thinking.

“It’s okay,” Derek says, kneeling. “It’s okay. You’ll be fine.”

Drew whimpers.

Derek flashes his eyes at him to get him to calm down, but it’s not enough. He’s not changing back into his human form. Derek shifts even though Stiles is right behind him. He shifts because it might help make Drew feel settled, knowing that it’s okay to be a werewolf, it’s okay not to always look human.

His tears still fall across his hairy cheeks, but he pats at Derek’s face, skinny fingers stroking the hair there. Drew shuffles closer to him and buries his face in Derek’s neck. Derek picks him up, mindful of his sore arm. Drew smells embarrassed.

Derek turns back to the house, aware of Stiles watching him.

“Wait,” Stiles calls, his hand gripping his daughter’s tightly. Marie must have climbed down the tree without Derek noticing.

“I – I have to get back to the house,” Derek says, keeping his back to Stiles.

Stiles steps forward, his hand pushing Derek’s chin aside. He gasps when he sees Derek’s face. Shifted. Changed. Different. Then Derek speaks, his voice muffled around his fangs.

“Stiles, I have to go.”

He doesn’t wait for Stiles to reply, and Derek races towards the house. He can’t tell if Stiles was scared or shocked or both. He can’t tell if Stiles hated the look of him, hated how he turned into an animal. Derek is scared. He’s scared Stiles won’t speak to him again.

“What’s wrong with Drew?” Marie asks, and Derek hears it from a distance.

“I don’t know.”

“Did he, did he turn into a monster?”

Derek is now far away enough that he doesn’t hear Stiles’ reply.

“Derek, stay,” Erica insists, looking exasperated. “You need to stay.”

“No,” he says, shaking his head. “Tell Stiles – fuck, tell him whatever you want.”

Erica’s nostrils flare, but she lets him go. Derek took Drew to his parents, made sure he was okay, and now he’s got to leave before Stiles comes back to the house.

Derek knows he’s good at avoiding things and he knows he shouldn’t, but he disappears. He doesn’t want to see Stiles’ face. He doesn’t want to see Marie, who thought he was a fucking monster.

His apartment is cold and empty. Derek feels like such a coward. He hears his phone ringing but he doesn’t even bother looking at it.

He doesn’t know how much time he loses, just thinking, panicking. Derek shuts his eyes and he jolts back to reality when there’s a banging on the door, getting louder with each knock. Derek’s head spins.

He sits up and he can quite clearly hear Stiles’ heartbeat, just outside the door.

“Derek, open up,” Stiles yells, “I know you’re there and I know you know it’s me. I’ll knock down the door, don’t think I won’t do it!”

Derek gets up and walks slowly to the door. He breathes in and out, until the knocking on the door begins to make his head throb.

He opens it, and Stiles stops yelling instantly. His cheeks are red, amber eyes full of determination.

“Nothing’s changed,” Stiles says quickly. Derek isn’t sure what that means. “You’re a, you’re a...?”

“Werewolf,” Derek says through his teeth. Stiles swallows and steps forward, closing the door behind him. He comes in close to Derek, voice firm, even if his heartbeat is irregular. His gaze is warm, and it’s the complete opposite to what Derek is expecting.

“Show me,” Stiles says.

He shakes his head.

“Can’t you control it?” he asks.

“Of course I can,” Derek hisses, taking a step back. Stiles rolls his eyes and shrugs off his jacket, throwing it so that it lands on the back of the couch. He stands there, waiting, like he’s going to stay for as long as this will take.

His stance is wide, open. “So show me,” he says.

“It’s not a fucking spectacle.”

“I know,” Stiles says softly, moving forward again. Derek is pressed almost against the apartment wall. “I know. I want to see.”

His words are enough and Derek closes his eyes, lets his features shift for the second time that night. He opens his mouth so that his sharp teeth rest on his dry lips. Stiles’ pulse picks up, nervousness dripping off him. There’s no smell of fear, and Derek clings onto that. A soft hand brushes under his chin, and Derek opens his eyes.

“Sometimes, it’s difficult to control?”

“We learn,” Derek says defensively.

“Yes,” Stiles says, exasperated, “But sometimes, like today, it’s hard?”

Derek gives him a sharp look. “When there’s a full moon, when I’m angry, when someone’s in danger, when I was a kid, when you smell so good and so much like sex that I want to just breathe you in, all of you – ”

Stiles kisses him. Hard. His lips catch against Derek’s fangs and he tastes blood. Derek’s back to human in an instant, licking the cut away. He holds Stiles near and cradles his face and he feels desperate. Now there are no secrets between them and he sucks on Stiles’ lower lip, already addicted to the sound of the moan that comes out of Stiles’ mouth.

Stiles presses their bodies together, clutching at Derek’s hips. It sends a thrill over Derek’s skin that he hasn’t felt in a while and it’s like they can’t help themselves, tugging at each other’s clothes way too soon.

Derek pushes him away. “And when we don’t have a pack, sometimes, sometimes there are reasons for hunters, Stiles, even though their methods and morals are often terrible, sometimes there’s one wolf without a pack and they can go crazy and –”

“And that’s not you,” Stiles glares at him. “And it’s not your family, and would you stop worrying for one second that I’m going to run the other way so that I can finally get my hands on you and –”

Derek turns Stiles around and pushes him against the wall. Stiles huffs out a breath, surprised, but there’s a glint in his eyes.

“That’s more like it,” he breathes, sighing when Derek kisses him again.

They seem to decide that there’s no more time for words, barely taking the time to breathe as they kiss. Derek’s dizzy with the feel of Stiles against him, groaning when Stiles catches Derek’s lip between his teeth.

It’s frantic when they make their way down the hall and to the bedroom, but they laugh when they fall to the bed sooner than expected, Stiles underneath him, and Stiles’ elbow hits Derek in the ribs.

“Come here,” Stiles murmurs, grinning.

Derek smiles, sliding his hands across Stiles’ bare torso. His shirt is somewhere in the hallway and Derek bends down to kiss Stiles’ hipbone. He makes his way up to Stiles’ neck, leaving a trail of kisses and marks over his pale, pretty skin.

Stiles shivers underneath him, gripping at Derek’s hair hard enough to hurt. Derek likes it. He likes the way Stiles grows impatient and arches his back, wrapping his legs around Derek’s waist.

“Fuck, you’re killing me,” he says, panting against Derek’s mouth. “I thought about this so much. Did – did you?”

Derek looks down at him, at Stiles with his hair a mess and his pupils blown. He feels completely overwhelmed with the scent of Stiles and his arousal all around him and Derek wastes time just staring.

“Derek?” Stiles asks, face going red. He sits up on his elbows and nibbles his swollen lips, waiting for Derek’s response.

“All the time,” Derek tells him seriously. He moves back and slowly unbuttons Stiles’ jeans, tugging them down with his underwear. Then Stiles is naked before him, looking utterly amazing, his cock hard.

Derek licks his lips, thumb circling the inside of Stiles’ thigh.

Stiles squirms under the attention, but he looks flushed and pleased. Derek climbs off the bed and quickly takes off his own clothes, feeling smug when Stiles can’t take his eyes off him.

“Come on,” Stiles whines. “Come here.”

Derek wants to tell him how beautiful he looks, how wonderful he is and how lucky Derek is to have him here. The words are in the back of his throat and he can’t say them today, but he will later. Derek is sure of it.

When he gets back to the bed, Stiles’ legs wrap around him again and their skin slides hot against each other. Derek groans at the feel of their cocks together and he can’t take it. He’s never wanted someone more.

He feels Stiles’ hand at his jaw, gently pressing there until their eyes meet. Stiles’ lips are hung open and he brushes their wet mouths together – just softly. Derek feels it all over.

“What do you want?” Derek says against his lips. “What do you want; I want anything, anything you want.”

“Fuck,” Stiles says. Derek feels fingernails scrape at his shoulders. “Can I fuck you?”

Derek pulls back, almost in a daze.

“Only if you want to,” Stiles says nervously, and he stares at Derek with a hooded, but open expression. Derek finds himself nodding, a heat travelling through him, and he doesn’t have to wait long before Stiles pushes him back onto the bed.

He knew things were different with Stiles. He knew that he’d never felt this way about anyone, that no one had ever known so much about him. But it doesn’t prepare him for the way Stiles makes him feel . Derek trusts Stiles more than he ever thought he would, and every skate of Stiles’ fingers across his skin means everything.

Stiles runs his fingers through Derek’s chest hair, plays with his nipples. Derek feels Stiles’ thumb over the head of his cock and down his shaft, teasing. It makes him feel breathless and wanted, even more so with each second that passes.

Once Stiles gets the lube and a condom he leans forward and kisses Derek wetly, says that he wants Derek to feel good, so good.

Stiles’ fingers are gorgeous. Derek rocks back onto them, trying not to say Stiles’ name too desperately. He doesn’t think it can get better than this but then Stiles finally slides into him, his eyes fluttering shut.

“You good?” he manages.

“Yes,” Derek groans, and then their skin is sweaty moving past each other. Derek doesn’t know where to put his hands, wants to put them everywhere. The sounds Stiles makes against his ear drive him a little insane, and he meets Stiles with every thrust, his eyes flashing gold when he finally comes, Stiles’ hand around him.

“Oh man,” Stiles says, fucking Derek through it. “You’re so beautiful. Your eyes are so beautiful; how the fuck do you do that?”

Derek doesn’t have time to answer before Stiles stills above him, body trembling over Derek before he collapses on Derek’s messy chest. Stiles groans and brushes his nose along Derek’s chin, breathing hard.

It smells so much like sex and Stiles’ scent with his own that Derek never wants to leave. His muscles ache and he’s wanted Stiles for so long, wanted him safe and happy and in Derek’s arms. They lay in silence until Stiles sits up, tilting his head to the side as he stares at Derek.

“Why did you run away today?” Stiles asks him quietly.

Derek looks at him, feeling his own heart stutter. “I – I heard what Marie said. I didn’t want to scare her or you.”

“Well, I don’t think she was exactly expecting what she saw,” Stiles says softly, brushing Derek’s damp hair off his forehead. “I told her you both weren’t anything to be afraid of, Derek. And how could I be scared? When the first werewolf I see is a crying kid?”

Derek swallows. He feels more than a little stupid.

“Besides,” Stiles grins. “I think she’s mostly excited. She was telling Jack all about it on the way back from your parent’s house.”

“Where are they now?” Derek asks.

“At home with my father.”

At the mention of the Sheriff, Derek looks down at his hands. “Oh,” Derek says.

“Don’t worry,” Stiles says, shuffling closer to him. He lets Derek put an arm around his body, and Derek strokes the skin at his back. “I don’t think he’ll believe them. And he seems to be warming up to you, at least a little.”

Derek clears his throat, and it takes everything to look Stiles in the eye. “He already knows. I told him.”

“What?”

“I told him so that he would let me help you,” Derek says quickly, feeling Stiles freeze in his arms. “And he let me look at some of the evidence and I got at her scent and I recognized it at the gas station. That’s how I knew it was her, that’s why I told you to run.”

Stiles blinks at him, a flicker of hurt in his eyes. His voice is small when he speaks. “Why him and not me? He hated you!”

Derek rolls his eyes. “Yes,” he says simply. “He hated me. He wasn’t going to reject me.”

“Oh,” Stiles says. He drops his head to Derek’s chest, his breaths long and slow. “Well I’m here,” he says. “I’m still here.”

Relief fills Derek’s body. He feels tired and happy and he’s even daring to hope. Stiles and his kids could be a part of Derek’s pack. Derek could be a part of Stiles’ family.

“I didn’t think I could have this,” Derek whispers to him, a little while later, after they’ve both gone to the bathroom and cleaned up.

“Well you’ve got it,” Stiles says firmly, kissing him once. “And I want to be here with you so much, and I’m so lucky. You’ve been – I wouldn’t have managed without you with everything going on. You deserve everything, Derek.”

The way Stiles says it, Derek finds himself believing that it might just be true.