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Out of the Ashes

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They’re all sitting in one of the few rooms in the Hale House that has four walls. It’s a couple of days after Christmas and the temperature sits around freezing. Their breath puffs out in white clouds, hanging in the cold air as reminder of the state of the house and the weather outside. As pack meetings go, this one has been pretty miserable so far.

It’s kind of a relief when Stiles says something out of the blue, mainly because nobody else is brave enough. Also, for reasons nobody can fathom, Derek is a lot less likely to rip off Stiles’ head than anybody else’s. So after the initial sharp intake of breath when Stiles says, ‘Dude, no offense, but you need to do something about the house. Because seriously, this is not only kind of creepy, but also freezing cold and super depressing’, there’s a collective exhale of relief when Derek just looks at Stiles.

‘Or we could leave it like it is…’ Stiles says after about thirty seconds of Derek’s stare. But now it’s out in the open, the subject is not being ignored. Lydia steps in.

‘No, we can’t’, she says, shooting Stiles a glare for being a total wimp. She turns to Derek. ‘We’re not trying to undermine you as Alpha or anything, but your house is in serious need of redecoration and general structural renovation. I have nightmares about coming here and getting crushed to death by some bit of the ceiling.’ Derek turns his gaze on her, but even though she’s scared and he knows it, Lydia doesn’t back down. Instead, she takes a deep breath and arches an eyebrow at him. ‘What? It’s been over six years and wood doesn’t do well when it’s exposed to the elements. It’s perfectly possible for pieces of the house to collapse. Personally, I don’t want to be around when that happens. So unless you want to move the pack meetings elsewhere or get us all killed, you need to do something about the house.’

Derek arches an eyebrow in return, then looks at Scott and Jackson, who’re sitting very quietly, clearly trying not to draw attention to themselves. Lydia regards them with disgust.

‘Do the two of you feel the same?’ Derek asks. The two boys share an awkward glance, then both stare fixed at the table.

‘I guess it would be nice if it was a little more homely’, Scott says.

‘And a little less like the scene of a murder’, Jackson mutters, picking at the cracked wood of the table they’re sat around. Lydia hisses at him for that, but he gives her a ‘so what?’ look and shrugs his shoulders. ‘I’m just saying. It’s kind of gross.’ He darts a quick look at Derek. ‘Sorry, boss.’

Derek looks at them all for a long moment, during which Scott looks like he might puke, Jackson starts making a large dent in the table, Lydia tries to keep her heart rate down and Stiles’ gaze flickers around the room, settling anywhere but Derek.

‘Ok’, Derek says finally.

The way the four of them jump is almost comical. ‘Seriously?’ Stiles says.

Derek rolls his eyes. ‘Yes, Stiles. Seriously.’

Lydia grins. ‘This is brilliant! It can be your New Year’s Resolution, Derek. And the rest of us can all pitch in to help you.’ Any protest from the rest of the pack is silenced by a glare and she turns a sweet smile on Derek. ‘How does that sound?’

‘I’m not doing this on my own’, is his only reply.

Lydia grins again. ‘Fantastic. So if we meet back here in a week, we can think about what needs doing before we go back to school. Then we can work out a rough budget outline and get started.’ She frowns at Derek. ‘You can afford this? I mean, I know your car isn’t exactly cheap, but still. You are living here.’

Lydia’, Derek growls.

‘What? It’s a big house. This is going to be expensive, and I want to know that we’re going to be able to finish what we start.’

Derek growls again, eyes flashing red. Lydia sinks back into her chair. ‘Sorry’, she mumbles.

Derek looks at her for another moment, then nods. ‘Yes, I can afford it.’ Lydia’s smile appears again and she’s about to speak when he says, ‘I think we’re done for today. I’ll see you all next week.’

Lydia looks a little put out, but Jackson and Scott are already scrambling out of the door, so with a sigh she gets up and follows them. Stiles doesn’t, for some reason.

‘Stiles? Did you want something?’ Derek says, somewhat impatiently. Dealing with the pack often makes him feel tetchy.

Stiles doesn’t look up from the table. ‘I get it’, is all he says. Derek raises an eyebrow at him.

‘Get what?’

‘I mean, I get why you haven’t done anything about the house before now.’ Derek can hear the slight increase in his heart rate that means he’s nervous, but Stiles doesn’t stop. ‘When my mom died… I wouldn’t let my dad move any of her stuff. I didn’t even want him to change the sheets on their bed. And it hurt, seeing all her things around the house, but in a way it was easier to see them every day because it felt like… it felt like her death wasn’t real. Like she could come back. And I know it’s not the same here, but I know how it feels. I know what it’s like to be scared that you’ll forget them.’ He looks up at Derek, his eyes slightly brighter than usual. ‘You won’t forget them though, and you know that. But hanging on to everything like this… it doesn’t help you and it doesn’t help them either. They wouldn’t want you to live like this.’

‘You didn’t know them. You don’t know what they would have wanted’, Derek hisses around the lump in his throat.

Stiles just looks at him sadly. ‘I did know them. Everyone did. And they wouldn’t have wanted this.’ He gets up. ‘You’re only going to be able to do this if your heart is in it. Don’t make promises you’re not going to keep.’ He walks away from the table, stopping at the door. ‘I hope I’ll see you next week.’

Derek stands there, listening until he can’t hear Stiles’ jeep anymore. Only then does he let out the howl of misery that’s been sitting in his chest for the last half an hour.

Stiles is strangely happy when a week later, they’re sitting at the table again, especially as this time there’s a small brazier in the corner, containing a fire that’s flickering away merrily. Scott has already expressed concerns about it being a fire hazard, but the rest of them gave him enough dirty looks to make him reconsider, firstly because it’s freezing and secondly because seeing as they’re in a burned out house, fire hazards aren’t really something they need to worry about.

Lydia has, of course, done extensive research into local construction crews, price rates, and the cost of various house-building materials. Stiles feels slightly smug at how put out she looks when he presents his own contribution: a copy of the original house blueprints that he found on the internet.

‘I can’t believe you guys are getting competitive over this’, Jackson says, like the arrogant dick he still is. Lydia shoots him a super-fake smile.

‘Well at least some of us contributed. What did you bring – your attitude?’

Stiles smothers a chuckle and tries very hard to keep his twitching lips from breaking into a full-out grin. He sees Scott having a similar problem. Then Lydia turns her gaze on him. ‘McCall, don’t think you’re getting off the hook. At least Jackson is capable of logical thought – you’re about as useful here as a forklift truck. Probably less so.’

Stiles really shouldn’t find that as funny as he does.

‘Lydia.’ Derek’s tone is just edged with a touch of Alpha command, but it does the trick as Lydia pulls back in her chair, looking chastened.

‘Sorry, Derek’, she says.

He nods at her. ‘I’m very grateful for what you and Stiles have done. But I know all of you will prove your worth throughout the renovations.’ He directs his gaze at Scott and Jackson, filling it with part encouragement, part authority. They look suitably attentive. Stiles sort of wishes he had a magic voice that could make Scott shut up and pay attention. It would have saved him a lot of trouble over the years.

‘So where do you think we should start?’ Derek asks, looking at Lydia and Stiles.

‘Assess the damage’, they say in unison, then look at each other, startled.

‘You guys are such nerds’, Jackson says, laughing. Derek raises an eyebrow at him.

‘Jackson, perhaps you’d like to take the top two floors.’

Derek makes a pretty good Alpha, if Stiles says so himself.

Assessing the house is actually pretty fun. For the next few evenings after school, the pack (of which Stiles is the lone, proud human member) scrambles over Derek’s house taking measurements, scribbling them down in notebooks and marking down the degree of damage. By the end of it, the rough clothes they’ve been wearing all reek of smoke and damp and are covered in black marks and dirt. Lydia has a black streak down one cheek; Jackson has one across his forehead. Scott’s entire face is covered in charcoal smudges. Only Derek and Stiles have managed to restrict the dirt to their hands. Still, as they sit on the porch and check out the details they’ve got written down, there’s a general feeling of content and achievement.

‘I’ll take this to the construction crews I spoke to and see if I can get a quote’, Lydia says. ‘I can do it tomorrow, actually.’

‘Would you like me to come with you?’ Derek asks, in an uncharacteristic show of consideration. Stiles is kind of shocked, even though he knows by now that Derek is actually pretty decent, despite his big bad wolf exterior. Lydia shakes her head.

‘No thanks. I can handle them. Besides, I don’t want to scare them unless I absolutely have to.’ She grins at Derek, who cuffs her shoulder with a growl. As it’s clearly a playful gesture nobody worries. Stiles is surprised again though. Derek certainly seems to have got out of bed on the right side today.

‘Well, I need to head back. I have a load of chem homework to do for tomorrow.’ Jackson gets up and stretches. ‘Is that ok, boss?’ Derek nods.

‘Sure. Lydia, if you let me know when you’ve got the quotes, we can sort out when the work’s going to start.’

Lydia smiles cheerily. ‘Yep. Hey, Jackson, can I get a ride back with you? Stiles’ jeep gives me a headache.’

Stiles scowls at her. ‘Ungrateful harpy’, he says sullenly. ‘Jessie is a mechanical goddess.’ She sticks her tongue out at him and prances off with Jackson.

‘Don’t think you’re getting anything out of this though’, he hears Lydia saying. ‘I’m still mad at you about everything that happened last semester.’

Jackson wisely says nothing in reply, but looks over at Scott. ‘You want a lift too, McCall?’

Scott looks at Stiles questioningly. Stiles nods. ‘Sure. I need to get home and cook dinner anyway.’

‘See you tomorrow?’ Scott asks. Stiles rolls his eyes, wondering how Scott manages without him sometimes.

‘Yes Pumpkin, see you tomorrow.’

Scott scowls at him. Stiles laughs, watching as his friend heads over to Jackson’s Porche, where he ends up in the back seat because Lydia refuses to ride anything other than shotgun.

‘I’d better get going too’, he says, looking over at Derek.

‘Wait a minute’, Derek says. ‘I want to talk to you.’

Curious, Stiles stays where he is and waits until Derek turns to him – presumably when the others are out of earshot.

‘I wanted to thank you for… for what you said the other week.’ Derek frowns, as if saying this is painful. ‘I think you were right – about my family.’

Stiles is silent for a few seconds, thinking carefully about what to say next, knowing that this moment is fragile. Then he sighs.

‘It just didn’t make any sense, that’s all. That’s why I said something in the first place. I mean, yeah, the house is kind of not a fun place to hang out, but it’s not going to make you happy living this way.’ He laughs a little sadly. ‘Like I said before, I get it. And I also know that in the long run, this is the right choice.’ Then he smiles, trying to shake off a little of the melancholy that always settles on him when he talks about his mom. ‘Besides, have you seen what it’s doing to the pack? I mean, Jackson offering Scott a lift is like… like Anakin Skywalker not turning into Darth Vader. Or something.’

He blushes when Derek laughs. ‘What?’

Derek shakes his head, looking more carefree than Stiles has seen pretty much ever. Derek should smile more often, he thinks.

‘Only you would find an equivalent metaphor in Star Wars.’

‘Well you knew it was from Star Wars, so I guess that makes you just as bad as me.’

Derek just looks at him. ‘No. No, never. Not possible.’

‘You’re kind of a douche, you know that right?’ Stiles says as he gets up. ‘And that really wasn’t funny either.’

Derek’s laughter follows him all the way to his jeep.

In the end, they don’t meet up again until Saturday, because Allison wanted to go and see a film with Lydia, and Jackson was going to some party with Danny. Scott and Stiles spend Friday night playing X-box and watching crappy movies, fighting over the last slices of pizza until early in the morning, when they fall asleep on the couch in the McCall’s living room.

Stiles is woken by the smell of bacon and the insistent buzzing of his phone in his jeans. Grumbling sleepily and trying to shift the drooling dead weight that is Scott, it takes him far too long to answer the call.

‘Sup?’ he mumbles, as Scott snuffles into his shoulder.

‘God Stilinski, please tell me the reason you’re not awake at 11am isn’t because you and McCall finally admitted your undying love and had sex last night.’ Jackson’s voice is way too assholish and way too Jackson for first thing in the morning, so Stiles flips him off. Which, of course, Jackson can’t see. Stiles sighs.

‘Shut up, Jackson. Just tell me what’s going on.’

‘We’re meeting at Derek’s for lunch at one. You can give McCall a lift, right?’

Stiles looks at the sleeping Scott, who has one hand curled into Stiles’ shirt and is starting to drool again. He sighs. ‘Sure. See you there.’

‘I hope he realises what a gentleman you are’, Jackson says, the grin evident in his voice.

‘You’re funny’, Stiles says, with as much sarcasm as he can muster. Jackson laughs and hangs up. ‘Asshole’, Stiles says to his phone.

‘Stiles, what have I told you about language?’ Melissa McCall has come into the living room with two huge plates of breakfast, piled high with bacon, sausages, beans and hash browns. Truly, she is a goddess among women.

‘Sorry Mrs McCall’, Stiles says, blushing a little. ‘But Jackson kind of deserves it sometimes.’

Melissa puts the plates down on the coffee table. ‘Jackson? The Whittmore kid?’ Stiles nods. ‘Huh’, she says. ‘Well I guess I’ll let it slide this one time.’ She winks at him and Stiles needs to get his dad to marry her like yesterday. She grins at him. ‘Wake up Scott will you? He’s drooling on your shirt again and I need to get the pancakes.’

Stiles looks down and groans, because she’s right and he likes this shirt.

It shouldn’t be possible for Stiles and Scott to eat another mouthful after the phenomenal breakfast they’ve eaten, but being teenage boys, anything involving eating more food is possible. Lydia actually claws Scott when he tries to get another slice of pizza. Scott whimpers and does puppy dog eyes, which she dismisses with a glare that rivals Medusa’s, before eating the slice he tried to take and another two slices in quick succession. Stiles watches in horrified fascination, because if there’s one thing that Lydia really loves about being a werewolf, it’s that she can eat whatever the hell she wants and her metabolism will burn it right off. Even Jackson – who knew about her junk food addiction beforehand – is pretty impressed by what she can put away.

When they’re all finally done, they sprawl about around the brazier, curled up blankets that Derek found somewhere, in an unprecedented moment of thoughtfulness. The rugs are a little musty-smelling, but it’s a big improvement on lying on the floor, so nobody is complaining.

‘So I got the quote’, Lydia says, pulling a piece of paper out of her coat pocket. ‘It’s not going to be cheap.’ She lays the paper in the middle of the circle and Stiles cranes his head to get a look, before falling back in shock.

‘Jesus Christ’, Jackson says. It’s a pretty accurate summary.

Derek just looks at it for a long minute, then nods. ‘That’s fine. Find out when they can start the work.’

Even Lydia looks surprised at that. Scott gawps, looking even more slow-witted than usual. 'How?’ is all he says.

Derek shoots him a look that says, ask another question and I will use your blood to paint my walls. And Stiles thinks he might know the answer, but says nothing, because Derek doesn’t use his psycho-killer glares anything like as often now, so there’s usually a good reason when he does. Stiles’ theories can wait.

‘I’ll call the contractors now then’, Lydia says, slipping out of the room in the blink of an eye and leaving behind awkward silence.

‘So…’ As always, it’s Stiles who breaks the silence. ‘Have you decided what you’re going to use all the rooms for? I mean, it’s not like you need the space.’

He sort of kicks himself when he realises what he just said, but Derek is seemingly unbothered by the reminder that it’s just him on his own now. Stiles supposes that he’s had time to get used to it. The thought makes Stiles ache in sympathetic sadness. Still, he realises that at least Derek has a pack again now, even if it's kind of rag-tag.

Derek shrugs. ‘I was thinking I’d keep most of the bedrooms, in case any of you need to crash – we are a pack after all’, he says and whoa, freaky – Stiles does not like feeling like his mind is being read. He has to admit though, having his own room at the Hale House a nice idea. Apparently he’s not the only one.

‘That’s cool’, Scott says with a grin. ‘Maybe we could do movie nights here sometimes – it sure would beat sleeping on my couch with Stiles.’

‘Dude, you aren’t the one who got drooled on!’ Stiles says indignantly, at which Jackson laughs. The corner of Derek’s mouth twitches and they’re a pair of smug bastards who Stiles would kill if they weren’t freakish wolf things and also kind of his friends. Scott, at least, has the good manners to look ashamed.

‘Sorry’ he mumbles. Stiles rolls his eyes.

He asks, ‘What about the rest of the house?’ Derek shrugs again.

‘Well, the kitchen is pretty ok, so I’ll probably just leave it. I might see if the builders can take out the wall between it and the dining room, so we can have it as open plan. Here… I’m thinking maybe a living room? And I haven’t really thought about the rest of the house.’

‘Whatever you do, you have to sort out the dungeons downstairs’, Lydia says as she re-enters the room. ‘They’re creepy and they smell like hunters.’ She complete ignores the dirty looks being levelled at her as she sits down again. ‘Personally I think they’d make a great mini gym and sparring area.’

‘I’ll think about it’, is all Derek says. Lydia beams.

‘Great. Now, the contractors said they can start a week from Monday. I figure we can think about what materials we’re going to need to buy for decorating. We’ll need to get in a plumber and an electrician, but I’m pretty sure we can handle grouting and tiling the bathrooms ourselves. Obviously we’re going to be doing the painting. And by the way, I told Allison she could help.’

The room freezes, all warmth and companionship dissipating in an instant.

‘You did what?’ Jackson says. ‘She’s a hunter. Did you forget that or something?’

Scott growls. Jackson ignores him. Stiles holds his breath.

Lydia rolls her eyes. ‘Shut up Jackson.’ She looks at Derek, slightly more cautious and submissive than usual. ‘I know she’s an Argent, but she’s Scott’s girlfriend and my best friend. She’s practically pack by extension and she’s super nice. I just don’t feel right leaving her out of this.’

Derek says nothing.

Jackson sputters. ‘Lyds, what the hell?’

Lydia rounds on him. ‘Quit it, ok! I didn’t ask your opinion. I’m just saying… well, Stiles is here. I don’t see why Allison shouldn’t be too.’

Stiles tries not to take it personally, because she has a point, but it’s reassuring nonetheless when both Scott and Derek hiss, ‘Stiles is pack.’

Lydia shrinks back, just a little, lifting her chin to expose her neck and show submission to Derek. ‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry.’ Then she slumps, eyes softening to pleading. ‘Could you consider it? Just consider it. Please?’

Derek shuts his eyes from a moment, a sharp sigh gusting out of him. ‘Ok. I’ll think about it.’

‘What about Danny?’ All eyes turn to Jackson.

‘What about Danny?’ Derek asks. Jackson shrugs, looking slightly irritated.

‘Well if you’ll think about letting Allison hang out, why not Danny? He’s my best friend and he’s not related to any werewolf-killers. That I know of.’

‘Yeah but Danny doesn’t know about us’, Scott says.

And he’s not dating anyone in the pack’, Lydia adds. Jackson shoots her a glare and she smirks at him.

‘Well maybe if Stilinski finally came out, he could be’, Jackson says, because he has a mighty and searing wit.

There’s a moment where Stiles feels himself gaping like a fish. Then he manages to reconnect his brain and say, ‘I am not gay’, vehemently.

Jackson smirks. ‘Sure. Danny told me what you asked him.’

‘What did Stiles ask?’ Lydia asks, eyes sharp with interest.

Jackson looks even more smug – a feat which shouldn’t really be possible. ‘He asked Danny if he was attractive to gays.’

‘It’s true’, Scott pipes up and he is such a shit best friend sometimes. Stiles blushes. Furiously.

‘Look it wasn’t like that ok?’ he says. ‘Besides, everyone ever knows about my deep and undying love for Lydia.’

Lydia rolls her eyes. ‘Yeah, cause that’s totally still happening.’

‘It is!’ Stiles says hotly, despite the fact it totally isn’t and they know he’s lying. ‘Ok, so maybe it isn’t. But that’s not the point! Stiles likes girls! End of.’

‘Keep telling yourself that Stilinski’, Jackson says with a Cheshire Cat grin. Stiles is going to murder him. Soon. And painfully.

‘I’ll think about adding Danny too’, Derek says suddenly, as if the past couple of minutes haven’t happened. ‘Now can we please talk about something else? Stiles’ sexual identity crisis is not high on my list of conversation topics.’

Stiles thinks maybe he should murder Derek too. He’s totally not a good Alpha at all.

The pack clear out the house before the building work, making sure that there’s nothing untoward around the place – especially in the basement – because the last thing they want is people asking weird questions. Derek’s mattress and few belongings are moved to the outhouse, where he plans to stay during the renovation. In the end though, Stiles manages to persuade him to bring his things back to the Stilinski house, because Derek’s not wanted man anymore or a total sour-wolf, and living out in the forest is kind cold.

Surprisingly, convincing his dad wasn’t all that hard. It would appear that Sheriff Stilinski was never all that sure of Derek’s guilt anyway, so when he hears where Derek’s been living, he even goes so far as to make the guest room ready. He also orders in pizza, offering Derek a beer and chatting to him about baseball – all of which makes Derek noticeably more relaxed. Stiles is once again proven that his dad is the best.

And although Derek doesn’t invite them over for the first day of work, they all turn up anyway. They’re pack after all, and it’s not like they don’t realise that this whole thing is pretty huge. So they stand and watch as the contractors wander around the house, making notes that can’t be as thorough as Stiles and Lydia’s. It’s a couple of hours wait, but finally the guy in charge wanders over to their little group.

He nods at Lydia, eyeing the rest of them a little suspiciously – not all that surprising considering that Derek looks at least twenty-five and therefore way too old to be hanging out with a bunch of high school kids. At last his gaze settles on Derek, and he sticks out a hand.

‘Nice to meet you at last, Mr Hale. I just wanted to update you on what we plan to do with the house.’

Derek shakes his hand. ‘Go on, Mr Jamieson.’

Jamieson nods. ‘Ok, well the second floor is almost totally gone – we’re gonna have to rebuild pretty much all of it. We might be able to salvage the front room on the far right, but I’d recommend starting from scratch. In fact, most of the house is going to have to be completely redone. I’m thinking we’re just going to knock it down and start from the ground up, except for a couple of rooms on the right hand side. The walls there will need re-doing so you don’t get any lingering smoke damage, but the structural beams are ok to use, from what we can see.’ He shrugs. ‘It’s going to be a big job, but pretty straight-forward all told, so the quote I gave your friend should be right. That sound ok?’

Derek nods. ‘You’re the expert’, is all he says.

Jamieson nods in return. ‘Ok then. I’ll leave you in peace and let the boys get to it.’

When the first wall is ripped down, they all instinctively move closer to Derek. Lydia takes his hand. Scott and Jackson each lay a hand on his shoulder. And as the digger crumples blackened wood like matchsticks, Stiles reaches out too, brushing his fingers softly against Derek’s in wordless reassurance. Derek doesn’t meet his eye, staring straight ahead as he grabs Stiles’ hand and laces their fingers together so tightly that it hurts.

That night, Stiles pretends he doesn’t notice the muffled sobs coming from next door.

Stiles isn’t used to having anyone in the house apart from him and his dad – it’s been years since his mom died – and having another person around is kind of strange sometimes. Namely when Stiles walks out of his room first thing in the morning to find a shirtless Derek Hale doing pull ups from the doorframe of the guest room.

It’s actually kind of hypnotic, watching the way his back muscles ripple and bunch under his skin, as well as the sheen of sweat covering him and making the black ink of his tattoo shiny. Stiles is staring for a good minute or two before he realises what he’s doing and feels like a total creeper.

‘Sorry’, he mumbles, because he knows Derek knows he’s there. Then he heads downstairs and makes breakfast, feeling kind of weird. He eats his cereal on automatic and tries not to think about how he was legitimately in thrall to back muscles, or about how you’d really have to be dead not to realise that Derek is super, super hot.

Things that do not help Stiles’ feelings of weirdness: heading back upstairs to find Derek doing press ups on the landing. Still shirtless, but more sweaty.

‘Dude, get a room’, he says for no good reason. Derek shoots him a glare while he continues doing press ups and with a pretty horrifically unmanly squeak, Stiles disappears into his room to get dressed, trying hard not to feel seriously inadequate.

As it turns out though, having Derek living in the same house as him makes Stiles both happy and distracted. Happy, because there’s someone else to help with the cooking and it means Stiles isn’t on his own half as much, especially as the Alpha proves to be pretty good company. Distracted, because Derek seems to like to do most things shirtless and Stiles is pretty sure that Derek’s abs – like his back muscles – have hypnotic powers.

He’s also pretty sure that the whole gay crisis thing has stopped being a joke and started actually being an issue because seriously, he knew Derek was hot before, but now it’s like he can’t stop thinking about it. God, the Alpha is even managing to creep into his fantasies and that is a whole new level of awkward, because Stiles is pretty sure Derek can hear everything that goes on in the house, which includes Stiles jerking off.

In the end, he decides not to dwell on it too much. That way madness lies.

Thankfully, it’s only a month later that the house is ready to decorate, which gives Stiles plenty to take his mind off the ‘I may or may not have some fairly non-platonic feelings for the Alpha werewolf currently staying at my house’, thoughts he’s been having.

And it’s pretty awesome when the pack (plus Allison and Danny) are gathered in front of the house, looking up at the fresh new wood and shining slate tiles. It’s strange too though – the old house was part of the wilds around it, weathered and covered in moss and creepers. On the other hand, the new house is pristine and sharp, the outline of it large and unfamiliar against the sky. Stiles decides it’s ok to feel like this though, as this house is more than just a house; it’s a symbol of starting over, with a fresh chance for happiness and a normal life.

Derek opens the front door while they’re all still standing there, looking comfortably at ease; like he belongs. It makes Stiles feel warm even as something inside him twists, because he’s got used to having Derek around and he realises that that’s going to change.

‘I didn’t ask you lot to come here so you could stare at the house’, Derek says, as grouchy as ever – except for the underlying tone of warmth that Stiles has learned to recognise by now. The whole Sourwolf thing? Totally a front.

Derek sighs like he knows exactly what Stiles is thinking. ‘Get inside. We have a lot to do.’ Then he turns around and go back inside, leaving the front door open.

Allison looks a little hesitant as the pack starting walking towards the house, but Scott gives her a reassuring smile and Lydia tugs on her hand. Danny just looks curious, which is probably a good sign. It took him a couple of weeks to come to terms with the whole werewolf thing – which really didn’t go down well when Jackson tried the ‘big reveal’ – but he seems to be on board now. Stiles is glad – Danny’s actually a really cool guy and a positive influence on Jackson too. He’s a good addition to group, even if he’s not a proper part of the pack.

Stiles shares Danny’s curiosity; he’s been itching to see the house since he found out that it was finished. He’s not disappointed with what he’s seen of the outside and can hardly wait to see if the inside matches up. He starts walking up the steps to the front porch when Derek growls from somewhere inside, ‘If any of you come in with your shoes on, I’ll make sure you never walk again. The floors haven’t been varnish yet and I don’t want to get marks on the wood.’

It’s kind of surreal, them all padding around in their socks as Derek leads them from room to room. It’s also really nice though, finally getting a chance to take in the pale wooden floors and walls, lit up by sunlight streaming through the windows – all of which are now uncovered and filled with glass. And almost more incredible than the physical state of the house is the fact that there’s now electricity in every room and water in all the bathrooms, as well as the kitchen. The tour of the house takes a lot longer than it should because of this – none of them would ever have figured having working utilities was exciting before now – but Stiles figures Derek is kind ok with it, because he has this tiny, tiny little smile on his face the whole time. Stiles thinks the guy might actually be proud. It’s a good look on him. And finally, they all crowd up on to the widow’s walk and stare out across the forest. It’s so gorgeous Stiles feels like crying.

There is not a chance in hell that he will admit that to anyone though, ever.

After the tour, they make it down to the kitchen and all perch around the place while Derek boils the kettle and makes everyone hot drinks, because apparently having a house that isn’t a complete shit hole has made him discover his domestic side. And ok, he only has kettle because Jackson bought him one and he only has mugs because Allison bought those as a house-warming gift/‘thanks for letting me hang with you guys even though my crazy aunt burned your house down and my dad might want to kill you’ peace offering, but it doesn’t really matter. The best bit is that Danny brought tea and coffee and Stiles brought milk and sugar, so they can actually have proper hot drinks.

In hindsight though, the milk might have been a mistake, because Derek has no fridge yet. Still, Stiles figures it’s the thought that counts.

Actually, Derek has no furniture at all. The whole house is completely bare; big rooms full of sunlight and emptiness. It’s pretty awesome though, sitting on the floor and sipping a mug of tea – Scott won’t let him drink coffee because the caffeine makes him even more hyper than usual – watching everyone chatting away in Derek’s brand new kitchen. Ok, so it’s completely bare of anything that makes a house a home, but it has under floor heating – super awesome – and it’s not burnt or rotting or damp. Stiles counts this as massive plus.

And even though they don’t do any actual work that day except for heatedly debating the colour paint/wallpaper/curtains/carpet/tiles they want to use in each room, it still feels like they’re making something happen. It’s kind of magical.

They start work the Saturday after, and it marks the beginning of a long period of going over to the house after school most evenings and spending almost whole weekends there too. Derek still lives with the Stilinskis (mainly because Stiles bugged him about until agreed not to move into the house until it at least had furniture) but he’s at the house a lot, often not going back to his room at Stiles’ until late at night. Stiles doesn’t blame him though – decorating the house is really exciting.

The first thing they do – after fighting over who gets which room – is decide exactly what to do with the floor of each room, which takes longer than anyone expected – Derek proves to be surprisingly vocal about what Lydia can and can’t do the house. Even more shocking is the fact that the rest of the guys weigh in too, Stiles included. In fact, the only person who doesn’t express much of an opinion is Allison, but Stiles figures that’s because she’s too polite and still kind of worried about her place here.

Eventually though, they manage to settle on what to do. Slowly, they work their way through the house, staining and varnishing in some rooms, tiling in others and even laying down carpet in a couple of places. It takes the whole of March, and Lydia remains conspicuously absent throughout this process, stating that she finds it dull. Instead, she monopolises Allison –which makes Scott moody and Stiles laugh – and starts thinking about what they’re going to with the walls.

‘So anyway, in the end I just bought pretty much every paint sample they had that wasn’t totally hideous and put it on your card’, Lydia says, smiling sweetly at Derek. ‘They’re in the car.’

Derek looks at her like he has no idea what to do with her – probably true – and sighs. ‘Ok. Go and get them. We can start putting trial colours up on the walls today.’

‘You’re the best!’ Lydia says and literally skips out of the door. Stiles watches her with kind of horrified fascination.

‘Girls are strange’, he says. ‘And I’m not sure I like them.’

Derek looks at him strangely and Stiles realises what he just said. He blushes. Like a lobster.

‘Shit, I didn’t mean like that.’

Derek just rolls his eyes and disappears to do his Alpha thing elsewhere, leaving Stiles to be captured by Allison and Lydia – who has about a million paint pots in a box – to help them paint patches on to the walls.

The patch painting proves to be pretty fun, but not as much fun as the actual painting, which they start the next weekend – it really did take a whole week to decide what colour to paint the rooms on the ground floor. ‘They’ is Allison, Lydia and Stiles, and involves dressing in shitty clothes, laying old sheets over the floors and taping down the edges, before getting down to work with rollers and brushes.

It also involves Lydia’s iPod and her ‘feel-good motivation playlist’, which is made up of a lot of happy, upbeat pop music. Insanely catchy pop music. All of which adds up to the three of them dancing around like total idiots and shouting along to ‘Last Friday Night’ by Katy Perry, waving their paint rollers in the air and generally splattering paint everywhere.

And this would be totally ok if they weren’t singing Nikki Minaj’s ‘Super Bass’ when Jackson walks in.

Stiles gets his revenge for all the abuse the next day, by kicking out the bottom of the ladder Jackson is currently at the top of. He totally does not dash off and hide behind Derek when Jackson gets up and starts chasing him. Or squeak slightly when Derek picks him up, and throws him over his shoulder, before walking downstairs and dropping him back into the room he’s meant to be painting with an intense look and a growled, ‘Stay’.

It’s all worth it when he catches Jackson nodding his head and humming along to Kelly Rowland a couple of days later.

Slowly, the house begins to feel like it’s theirs. Admittedly, it’s still empty, but as they move through the place, painting walls and putting in lights, it doesn’t seem to matter. The house belongs to the pack, and now they’re making it their own.

Stiles is almost sad when he’s taken off painting duty a couple of weeks later, because hanging out with Allison and Lydia (and Lydia’s iPod) is a actually lot of fun, and paint fights are a seriously underrated sport. But Derek says he needs Stiles’ help and Derek is the Alpha, so Stiles does as he’s told for a change.

As it turns out though, Derek is a lot more than just the Alpha.

‘So what, you’re actually a carpenter? Like legitimately a carpenter?’ Stiles asks as he watches Derek make a chair leg out of a piece of pine.

Derek scowls at him. ‘What’s so hard to believe about that? I worked for a guy back in New York who trained me.’

Stiles is practically speechless. ‘No, uh, no, it’s just not the kind of thing I’d imagined you doing. That’s all.’

Derek raises an eyebrow. ‘And what do you imagine me doing?’

And yeah, that’s not the best question to ask when Stiles may or may not have jerked off in the shower this morning while thinking about Derek shoving him up against a wall and grinding against him until they both came. Stiles giggles. Hysterically.

‘Stripping!’ Danny shouts from a couple of rooms away. This doesn’t help with the giggling.

Derek growls. ‘You’re idiots’, he says, going back to the lathe that he managed to get from god knows where and the chair leg he’s turning on it.

After a couple of days though, Stiles is willing to admit that he was totally wrong about the carpentry thing. Scott and Jackson get sent out to buy a whole load more wood and Stiles gets to sit and watch as Derek turns said wood into furniture. He’s now fairly in awe of the Alpha’s skill, because what Derek’s doing is pretty incredible.

On the negative side, all of this is totally not helpful with the ‘Derek is insanely hot and also a pretty awesome dude, who I may or may not have a giant crush on’ thing that is going on in Stiles’ head right now.

Also not helpful: the way Lydia and Allison have started giggling whenever they walk past where Stiles and Derek or working. From previous experience, Stiles knows that this means Lydia knows exactly what’s going on in his head right now. Yeah, he’s totally screwed.

Of course because this is Stiles’ life, it gets worse. After taking care of various tables, chairs, cabinets and cupboards for the house, Derek still wants his help with the furniture building – specifically, with bed building. What this means is that Stiles is helping Derek build beds and Derek + bed = Stiles’ thoughts going in entirely inappropriate directions, all of which head down south.

Stiles figures it’s not entirely his fault though, because for one thing he’s a seventeen year old guy and secondly, watching Derek work is like some obscure kind of porn. He’s all rippling muscles and sweaty wife-beaters and skilful hands that can make furniture that looks like art. If it weren’t for the fact that Danny has taken to doing jobs wherever Derek is working – and doesn’t actually do much except watch Derek – Stiles would feel seriously pathetic.

It’s more than simple lust though, and Stiles knows it. It’s the fact that he’s got used to having Derek around; the fact that actually, he likes having Derek around. Stiles has grown accustomed to just kicking back on the sofa at home and watching movies with the Alpha, fighting over pizza and arguing over whatever film their watching. He’s got used to the fact that Derek is actually kind of a sci-fi geek; that Derek loves jalapeno peppers; that Derek has kind of a soft spot for Jack Daniels, but can’t stand rum. He’s ok with knowing that Derek doesn’t feel properly awake if he doesn’t exercise in the mornings, or that he’s still a little twitchy around fire, even the hobs on ovens on bad days. Stiles is even ok with knowing that Derek still doesn’t feel able to talk about his family, which is why he does his grieving alone, when he thinks nobody can see or hear him.

Stiles is beginning to think he’s ok with the fact that he might be half in love with a fricking Alpha werewolf.

He just hopes that Derek doesn’t notice.

Spring break is taken up almost entirely by house decorating, as well as lying to everyone’s parents about their whereabouts and how much studying is happening. Beside the work on the house, they all go for long walks in the woods that somehow end up with the puny humans (which basically means Stiles, because both Allison and Danny are crazy fast) being chased by a bunch of excitable wolf-kids. They also have cook outs and camp outs and a movie night or two, because Derek was convinced by everyone (but mainly by Stiles) that what he needed before anything else was a tv and DVD player. It is hands-down one of the best holidays that Stiles has ever had.

Sadly, spring break is followed by intense revision for the upcoming exam season. Work on the house basically stops, although Derek starts buying all the pieces of furniture that he can’t actually make, which has the effect of the pack – which pretty much includes Danny and Allison now – coming over to the Hale House to groan at their textbooks and eat Derek’s food. It doesn’t hurt that Derek has somehow managed to buy the most enormous, most comfortable couches ever for what was once known as the living room and is now called nothing but the ‘den’.

So they grumble and revise together and Derek orders pizza or ropes one of them into helping him cook and the days go past far faster than they should. Nobody is complaining though, because exams are hellish and kind of actually matter a bit this year. It’s fantastic when they’re finally out of the way and the only thing left to do is go to the last few days of school and attend the school prom.

Despite much begging and pleading, Derek point-blank refuses to attend, instead saying he has plans. It turns out that he’s hanging out with the Sheriff for the evening (which Stiles has a sneaking suspicion that his dad took time off for on purpose, just to keep Derek company) and doing something manly like watching the game.

‘I’ll see you all after though, if you want’, Derek says about a week before, looking strangely nervous.

‘What, you mean like an after party? At the house?’ Jackson looks delighted by the idea. In fact, everyone does.

Derek shrugs. ‘Yeah. I mean, if you don’t have parties to go to with the rest of your school.’ And in that moment Stiles realises that Derek is still very much vulnerable when it comes to this new pack, which is hardly surprised considering what happened to his last one. He smiles reassuringly at the older man.

‘No, it’s cool. Only Lydia and Jackson and Danny get invited to those kinds of things anyway and it’s not like we want to split up the pack. We’ll come here after.’

Everyone nods, without even being prompted. Stiles counts that as a win.

‘You’re going to buy us alcohol though, right?’

And yeah, Danny has a fair point.

Junior Prom is not at all what Stiles expects. For starters, he goes with Lydia – which he’d been fantasising about since he was fourteen, up until recently anyway – but just as friends, which is actually pretty awesome. Scott and Allison go together – surprise, surprise – and Jackson and Danny go stag. Basically, they just go together, but it’s kind of not really a thing yet, because Jackson is too much of an idiot to actually admit that he likes Danny and Danny is too smart to try and push Jackson into anything – something he’s clearly learned from years of dealing with his friend.

So the whole pack turns up at the same time, meeting up outside the school and heading inside together, all chattering and laughing and secretly kind of nervous. Of course, in reality there’s nothing to be nervous about because it’s basically just the same as the winter and spring formals, except that it’s warmer and they hang out together all evening. Last time, they’d still all been sort of pretending that they weren’t pack.

Stiles realises it’s actually pretty weird after he sees people staring at their table. And he gets it, he really does, because when did Lydia Martin, Danny Mahealani and Jackson Whittemore leave the popular table to hang out with Scott McCall and Stiles Stilinski? But he also totally doesn’t care, because he’s got some pretty fricking incredible friends now, and he just so happens to be part of a werewolf pack with those friends, half of whom could maul anyone who complains. Also, Allison has a crossbow.

But he stops caring after they all drink from the flask that Jackson has smuggled in; it’s enough to take the edge off enough to get them all up on their feet and dancing. Lydia asks Stiles to dance this time, which he doesn’t even hesitate to say yes to. They sway on the floor together and he breathes in the scent of her hair, thinking about the last time they danced like this. Stiles can’t say how glad he is that Lydia is ok – that she’s even stronger and more beautiful than before – or that they’re just friends now. He still loves her, it’s true, but it’s in a brotherly, pack-related way that feels so much more comfortable and natural than the years he spent pining over her.

‘Love you Lyds’, he whispers above the soft music playing, knowing she’ll hear him regardless.

‘You’re a disgusting sap, Stilinski’, she returns with a sharp grin. ‘And I love you too, but I’ll deny it if you ever ask me again.’

Somewhere to the left, Jackson laughs, clearly having overheard every word. Stiles feels surprisingly ok with this. In fact, as he looks around, taking in Scott and Allison dancing slowly and Danny and Jackson talking quietly over at the table, bodies close and heads closer, an overwhelming sense of peace comes down on him.

‘Stiles, you’re leaking feelings on me’, Lydia complains, stepping on his foot with one of her heels. It’s not hard enough to draw blood though, so he knows she doesn’t mean it.

Afterwards, they all get in their cars and get away from the crowds of people heading into town, driving out into the woods to where the house is waiting, lights shining out warmly from the windows. Stiles feels his heart squeeze at the sight, because the word home is so strong in his mind that it almost hurts.

Then Derek opens the front door, a strong, familiar silhouette against the lights inside, and Stiles’ heart flips. That’s the moment he realises that he’s completely and utterly, head-over-heels, crazy in love with Derek.

Lydia just gives him this look from the passenger seat.

‘It took you this long?’ She sighs, long suffering. ‘You boys really are stupid.’

‘You’re an evil, evil human being’, Stiles tells her. ‘The fact that you’re always right is a big part of it.’

Lydia smiles, all teeth and predatory intent. ‘Not so human these days, sweetheart. Still, you’re not wrong about my infallibility, or the being evil.’

And at that point, Stiles gets out of the car, because words like infallibility do not belong on nights like tonight. The house is a siren call that draws him inexorably to the front door. As he gets closer, Derek’s expression seems softer than usual. Stiles dismisses it as a trick of the light, but can’t deny the way it warms him to the core.

‘Hey you’, he says, not even caring if he sounds like an idiot, because it just feels so good to be here right now.

Derek just smiles at him, small and gentle. ‘Hi. Did you have a good time?’

Stiles shrugs, then nods. ‘Yeah. Yeah, it was good. I’m glad we’re here though. It wouldn’t feel right if we didn’t spend any of tonight with you.’

‘He’s right’, Lydia chips in from behind him. ‘Although there’s no way I’m ever going to say it such a sappy way.’ She steps around Stiles and leans up to press a kiss against Derek’s cheek. ‘Did you have a nice evening with the Sheriff?’

Derek nods, his eyes still fixed on Stiles. ‘Yes. I’m glad you’re all here though.’ He jerks his head at the inside of the house. ‘Come on I have something to show you guys. His gaze flickers briefly to the other two cars parked up. ‘Scott, Jackson; that means you too.’

He waits until everyone is gathered on the porch before herding them inside, closing the door behind them and leading them through the house. They go through the kitchen, to where the French windows are open. And with the exception of Derek, everyone stops.

Hundreds of white fairy lights have been strung up in the trees and bushes near the house, twinkling in the lowering darkness. Tea-lights in glass jars flicker gently, while a couple of braziers burn more brightly. There are rugs and cushions on the ground, as well as the kitchen table and chairs, which are set up for dinner with shining cutlery and more tea-lights. It’s breath-takingly beautiful.

‘That is the gayest thing I have ever seen any guy do’, Jackson says, because he’s a dick. In fairness though, he gets his just desserts in the form of a smack upside the head from Danny and a sharp to elbow to the ribs from Lydia.

‘It’s gorgeous’, Allison says, eyes wonder-struck and shining. ‘Really.’ She turns to Derek, smiling and happy. ‘Thank you.’

He nods his head in wordless thanks, but Stiles can tell that he’s pleased. Derek’s just like that – he has the whole broody, gruff façade going on, but behind it he’s just as human as everyone else, and probably more vulnerable. When Stiles thinks about how he knows this about Derek, his heart does the strange flip it did back in the car and all the wolves look at him. Lydia rolls her eyes, obviously realising what’s behind it. Jackson frowns, as does Derek. Scott looks concerned.

‘Are you ok dude? Your heartbeat just went all weird.’

Stiles tries to remember that it’s not Scott’s fault that he’s so stupid, and smiles reassuringly at his best friend.

‘Yeah man, I’m fine. I’m just all emotional tonight – Lydia practically impaled my foot earlier for ‘leaking feelings’ on her.’ And it’s all true, to an extent, so his heartbeat stays regular. Derek is still frowning though.

‘Is there food?’ Lydia asks. It’s clearly a distraction. Stiles loves her for it.

Derek nods. ‘Yeah. Give me a hand?’

‘What about the booze?’ Jackson asks. And yeah, he’s still a dick, but he kind of has a point. Six expectant pairs of eyes fix themselves on Derek.

‘Stop looking at me like I’m Mommy bird’, he says, raising an eyebrow. ‘There’s beer and mixers in the fridge. The Jack and rum are in the cupboard next to it, and the vodka’s in the freezer. If any of you puke in the house or on any of the furnishings, you’re cleaning it up.’

‘Now there’s the Sourwolf we all know and love’, Stiles says with a grin.

Nobody pays the least bit of attention when Derek growls.

It’s definitely not what Stiles had expected to be doing post-Junior prom, but he finds he doesn’t much mind. They’re all a little, uh, juicy – with the possible exception of Derek – and giggling like idiots. There’s also a certain amount of play fighting, because apparently wolves are very playful creatures, but as it’s mostly flicking bread pellets across the table there’s not much chance of anyone getting seriously hurt. In fact, the only really danger is that everyone’s going to reek of garlic butter for the next couple of days.

‘So does anyone want dessert?’

There’s a sort of collective groan from around the table. ‘Derek, are you trying to kill us?’ Allison asks. ‘I think I might explode if I eat anything else.’

‘Well I want dessert’, Lydia says. ‘And I know Stiles does – you know that it’s practical impossible to fill him up.’

‘I’m sure there’s a way’, Jackson says with a wink, doing his usual thing of taking a perfectly innocent statement and ruining said innocence.

‘Dude, you’re like the innuendo rapist’, Stiles says without thinking. As expected everyone looks at him strangely, and he sighs. ‘Yeah, it made sense in my head. Sorry. But dessert sounds good.’

Danny nods. ‘Count Jax and I in.’

‘Do you want two puddings, or two spoons?’ Derek asks, grinning slightly. Stiles figures maybe he is a little tipsy after all.

Danny flushes, gaze darting to Jackson, who shrugs. ‘Two spoons dude. I’m not gonna eat a whole portion.’ Danny’s shoulders relax. Stiles catches Lydia’s eye and they share a grin.

‘Baby steps’, she mouths at him. Then she gets up and starts clearing plates. ‘Let me give you a hand in the kitchen, Derek.’

‘I’ll help too’, Stiles says, pushing back his chair awkwardly and grabbing some dishes. He follows Lydia and Derek into the kitchen.

‘Just put the dishes down by the sink. I’ll deal with them later’, Derek says. ‘Stiles, could you grab the bowl of cream from the fridge? Lydia, there are meringues in the cupboard to your left.’

‘What’re you making?’ Stiles asks, intrigued. Derek goes into the larder – yes, there is an honest to god larder – and brings out a bowl of raspberries.

He looks up and smiles. ‘Eton Mess.’ Stiles must look as confused as he feels, because Derek explains, ‘It’s a dessert made of whipped cream, broken up meringues and raspberries. My mom used to make it when I was a kid.’

‘It sounds seriously fattening’, Lydia says. Then she sighs happily. ‘Good thing my metabolism is so high now.’

After that, they watch quietly as Derek breaks up the meringues, squashes the raspberries and puts everything together, spooning layers of each ingredient into glass bowls.

‘That is one very pretty dessert’, Stiles says, feeling hungry just looking at it. ‘Jackson is totally going to call it gay.’

Lydia nods. ‘Yep. It’s not his fault really – once he’s finally out he’ll stop saying it.’ She frowns. ‘Well, maybe.’

‘Danny is one patient guy’, Stiles says thoughtfully. ‘I don’t know anyone else who’d wait around for someone to realise they like them for as long as he has.’

Lydia shoots him an odd look. ‘You did, idiot. It’s not as rare as you think. In fact -’

‘Lydia’, Derek says quietly, with just a hint of a growl. ‘Don’t go prying into other people’s business.’

‘Sorry Derek’, Lydia mutters, looking chastened. Stiles frowns, shooting looks at both of them with the sure feeling that he’s missed something – Lydia never apologises unless she has to.

‘Dessert’s ready’, Derek says. ‘Can one of you carry these?’

And for the time being, Stiles decides not to think about whatever just happened, because hey, dessert.

Lydia sets up her iPod dock after dinner, putting on some playlist that seems to be made up entirely of the kind of songs that makes Stiles want to curl up on the couch with someone and fall asleep. Ok, so by someone he means Derek and yeah, he’d like there to be some making out first, but details, details. There just needs to be a couch.

What actually happens is that Scott and Allison start slow dancing in the soft light, while Jackson and Danny sprawl on one of the rugs, talking quietly, tilted towards one another. Lydia, Derek and Stiles remain at the table, watching Scott and Allison.

‘I really wanted to hate her’, Stiles says. ‘I mean, this girl comes out of nowhere and all of a sudden my best friend is never around and can’t think about anything but her. I tried, I really did. But she’s like some Disney princess or something, and I’m a woodland animal – she starts singing and I’m unable to resist her song.’

‘Stiles, your thought processes are seriously worrying.’ Lydia is looking at him with a perplexed expression on her face. ‘I honestly don’t understand where you get this stuff from.’

‘It’s the Adderall’, Stiles mumbles vaguely.

‘She’s a good addition to the pack, in spite of her family.’ And then both of them are looking at Derek, who still has his eyes fixed on the dancing couple.

‘Seriously? She’s pack now?’ Lydia looks like someone’s lit her up from the inside, all glowy and full of joy. Derek’s gaze flickers to her.

‘Yes, she’s pack now. Danny too.’

And like a wave cresting on the shore, suddenly everyone is there, smiling and happy, and shining like the lights are inside them. Stiles can’t explain it – couldn’t if he tried – but warmth spreads through him like sunlight.

‘Wow’, someone breathes, and yeah, that’s pretty much how it feels.

‘This is the pack bond, right?’ And that’s just typical Lydia to already know all the answers.

Derek nods. ‘Yes.’ Then he smiles, the kind of smile that Stiles thinks he’s only seen maybe once or twice before because it’s so honest and so full of genuine happiness that it kind of hurts to look at. Stiles realises with a shock that this must be the first time Derek’s had a proper pack since the house fire, and has to hold himself back from pulling the Alpha into a proper Stilinski bear hug.

They share a look though, Derek giving him a small nod and Stiles finding himself grinning like an idiot in return, because he understands and Derek knows that he understands and it’s a pretty awesome feeling all told.

And because he can’t say what he’s feeling, he says, ‘Anyone want to watch a movie?’ instead.

The pack ends up in the den, along with insane quantities of snacks, drinks and blankets. They’ve all changed out of their prom clothes by now, and are variously wearing casual clothes or pyjamas, which adds to the feeling of relaxation and calm; an aura of contentment filling the house. Scott and Allison are curled up on the loveseat together, looking sickeningly cute, while Jackson and Danny are sitting close on another couch, shoulders brushing. Stiles has Lydia on one side and Derek on the other, but as Lydia’s taken up about half the couch – probably on purpose – he’s a lot closer to Derek. Actually, they’re side by side and he is way too conscious of the heat that seems to radiate from the Alpha.

Thankfully he gets distracted by Star Trek, which is one of the few movies they all enjoy. Admittedly he does get told to shut up a few times, because he has problems controlling his need to tell everyone how awesome particular scenes are in reference to the old Star Trek mythology, but all in all it’s a nice couple of hours.

‘We’re heading to bed’, Scott says when the credits start rolling. ‘See you guys in the morning.’

They all say their goodnights, Allison waving sleepily at them. Then it’s time for another movie, which ends up being A Knight’s Tale because Lydia likes Heath Ledger and everyone else likes medieval badassery.

Lydia ends up leaving about halfway through, eyelids drooping. She yawns and waves, disappearing upstairs as silently as a ninja. Danny and Jackson leave soon after; or rather, Jackson carries Danny upstairs, because Danny seems to have fallen asleep at some point. Then it’s just Derek and Stiles, because Stiles refuses to go to bed before the end of the movie and Derek doesn’t want to leave him on his own.

‘You’re really warm’, Stiles mumbles a little while later, wondering when his head ended up on Derek’s shoulder. ‘That’s a werewolf thing, right?’

Derek nods. ‘Yes. I mean, some people are naturally warm-blooded anyway, but as I was born a shifter I just assume it’s related to that.’

Stiles sighs happily, snuggling up to Derek because he’s warm and Stiles is kind of sleepy.

‘I like it.’

‘Thank you?’ Derek sounds a little like he’s laughing, and Stiles should probably say something scathing to defend his honour, but it’s all way too much effort. Sarcasm can wait until tomorrow.

He wakes up to bright sunlight and warmth. And the distinct smell of man. More specifically, the man who’s been staying at his house for the past six months or so.

‘Derek?’ he mumbles and oh my god his lips are brushing skin. He cracks his eyes open with a groan. For a moment, he stares. Then he shuts them again and tries not to read into the fact that he’s at eyelevel with a sliver of Derek’s abs of steel.

When he realises that his head is probably about a centimetre away from another dude’s junk – a hot, hot dude who Stiles may or may not fantasise about when he jerks off – his brain pretty much implodes.

‘Ngggh?’ he manages.

And then, thankfully, Derek wakes up.

His expression rapidly goes from ‘ugh morning’, to ‘mmm, morning’, to ‘oh shit’. Derek hurriedly lifts his hands – which Stiles belated realises were in his hair and on his chest, and ok, maybe Derek waking up isn’t so great – and stares down at Stiles with a look of abject horror.

‘I’m really sorry!’ he says and wow, ok, Derek Hale is apologising, which is pretty much a first. ‘You fell asleep on my shoulder, but when I tried to pick you up you got, uh, kind of grumpy. So I thought I’d wait for you to fall asleep properly, but then I fell asleep and I’m really sorry, Stiles.’

Stiles just stares at him, wondering if today is role reversal day or something, because this is all a lot to process. Does that mean he gets to be all broody and badass?

When he realises that Derek is still looking at him with that weird, apologetic look on his face, Stiles knows he has to do something.

‘It’s fine’, he says, levering himself up into a sitting position and yeah, ok, so he’s of sitting on Derek’s lap and this should be weird, but whatever.

‘No, it’s not. I should have just-’

‘Shut up Derek’, Stiles says. And then, like it’s the most normal thing in the world – and before he has a chance to wake up properly and realise what he’s doing or chicken out – he leans forward and kisses him.

It’s just a brush of lips, a little shy and utterly imperfect. Stiles pulls back after a moment and thinks, for a couple of dreadful seconds, that he’s completely misread everything and he’s now going to experience having his throat ripped out with Derek’s teeth first hand. Then there’s a hand in his hair and another on his waist and lips on his and oh, this is better. There are lips moving against his like they know what they’re doing and fingers pressing into his skin and tongue and ok, yeah, he’s been missing out.

The last time Stiles kissed anyone was fifth grade. This is definitely an improvement.

He gets so lost in feeling that when someone coughs behind them, he practically jumps out of his skin. Heart jack-hammering in his chest, he turns around to see Lydia in the doorway, smiling like the cat that got the cream.

Good morning’, she says. ‘Just to let you know that the others will be up soon and I’d like some help making breakfast. That’s all.’ Then she turns and practically skips out of the room, leaving Stiles and Derek watching her with matching expressions of what the fuck.

‘She would make a terrifying Alpha’, Stiles says. Derek ‘hmms’ in agreement, bringing Stiles’ attention back to far more important things, like the fact that somehow he ended up straddling Derek without realising, there’s a hickey or four on his neck and oh yeah, Derek.

‘Hey you’, he says softly, and oh my god he’s turning into a girl.

But Derek is smiling at him like Stiles is some kind of undiscovered treasure and kissing him so sweetly that it kind of melts Stiles’ brain. Apparently Stiles turning into a girl isn’t such a bad thing after all.

They don’t say anything about it to the rest of the pack, but Stiles figures you’d have to be blind, deaf and mute – or Scott – not to realise that something happened. For starters, Derek hasn’t scowled once this morning, and Stiles himself is grinning like he’s won the lottery. Which he kind of has, if the lottery had a really hot Alpha werewolf called Derek Hale as the jackpot. And yeah, ok, he’s well aware that there’s the age difference thing, the former murder suspect thing and a whole bunch of other things which aren’t fun, but right now, all that stuff can wait. Right now, he’s started the morning with an awesome make out session with a hot guy, the best breakfast he has ever eaten – sorry Mrs McCall – and all his friends. Life is great.