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A Light in the Darkness

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Friday

To Spazlinski: Hey. I'm coming back from london in a week. Can you talk to Scott about me maybe joining the pack? 

Sunday

To Spazlinski: Are you there? Answer me, jerk.

Monday

To Spazlinski: If you dont fuckin answer me in one minute I will kill you!

To Spazlinski: Oh my god! What happened? Is anyone hurt? 

To Spazlinski: TALK TO ME YOU JACKASS! WHEN I GET THERE IN TWO DAYS YOU BETTER NOT BE DEAD!

Wednesday

To Spazlinski: I talked to Lydia. I know what happened. Fuck Scott.

To Stilinski: For what its worth, I'm sorry.

To Stilinski: Its ok if you dont want to talk about it

To Stilinski: Be back in Beacon Hills in a couple hours. Do you want me to come over

To Stilinski: Kira told me they've been ignoring you on Scott's orders. Fuck him sideways. 

To Stilinski: I'm to pack meeting at Scott's tomorrow. Txt you later.

Thursday

To Stilinski: What's up with that Theo guy? He's got slasher movie villain written all over him. I think I'll call him Ghostface.

To Stilinski: And...Scott's mad that I'm txting you during a pack meeting. Fuck him. I do what I want.

To Stilinski: Ghostface looks way to proud of himself. I want to kick his ass.

To Stilinski: Correction. I'm going to kick SCOTTS stupid ass. He won't let anyone speak up for you. Just keeps talking about not killing those we try to save. 

To Stilinski: Just brought up that Ghostface is the only witness in his story and it has plot holes larger than the avengers. Scott's brain might explode he's thinking so hard.

To Stilinski: Ghostface just cornered me in the kitchen and tried to talk shit about you. Oh, now he's trying to threaten me. Does not appreciate that I'm txting while acts tough.

To Stilinski: He knocked my phone out of my hand. Bitch, I was a lizard. You don't scare me, mini-Derek.

To Stilinski: I clawed his fuckin ghost face. May have been kicked out. But so was Ghostface. So...

To Stilinski: Scott wants to talk to you because he thinks everything will just magically be ok. I told him to go fuck himself.

To Stilinski: He's coming to you after the meeting. Bar the windows.

To Jackson: Come over?

To Stilinski: On my way. 

Stiles was curled up on his bed, crying softly, when Jackson gently opened the window to his room and climbed in.

"Stiles?"

The smell of misery and unwashed clothes was thick enough that it almost masked the salt in the air. Jackson stepped slowly to the bed and sat on the edge, letting Stiles take things at his own pace. The other boy's stillness was creepy to Jackson. This wasn't the twitchy nerd he remembered. This was a young man who was breaking right in front of him and Jackson didn't know if he could fix it. They sat in silence for a few minutes before Stiles reached out his hand and curled it in Jackson's sweatshirt. Jackson sat perfectly still, letting the other boy anchor himself.

"Th-That's the f-first time anyone's s-said my name in weeks," Stiles whispered, his voice hoarse from disuse though it gained strength as he talked. "My dad...he stopped trying after the first week. Nobody talks to me at school. They talk about me and call me other things. But not my name. Not even my so called friends, the ones I fought for, bled for, lied for, cried for, I fucking did everything for them! And nobody even cares! They act like they would have preferred if I died instead of Donovan, that way their precious 'no killing' rule remained unsoiled."

Jackson remained silent when Stiles's voice reached yelling levels, sensing that his presence was all that was necessary. He did not cry. He would concede however that his eyes got glassy. Stiles quieted down after some deep breaths, and his fingers curled tighter in Jackson's sweatshirt, pulling the neckline down Jackson's collarbone. The story of that night, and the night that Scott turned him away, spilled out like Stiles just couldn't stop the words.

"I didn't mean for him to die. I was just trying to get away. I was scared. I didn't want to die. I just...and then he fell...and oh god the sound he made when he died..." Stiles pulled himself closer to Jackson on the bed, wanting more contact. "I killed him. Jackson, I-I'm a murderer."

"No," Jackson snarled. "You aren't. And Theo is a liar and I'm going to kick his ass again!"

"What?" Stiles wiped his eyes on his sleeve. Jackson turned to face Stiles fully. 

"Theo told Scott you beat that monster with a wrench or some shit. That's not what happened and our idiot "leader" fell for it," Jackson growled and wrapped a hand around the one fisted in his sweatshirt. "What the hell was he thinking?"

"Let's be honest. McCall isn't exactly known for thinking with his upstairs brain. That's what I was for," Stiles blurted without thinking.

Stiles giggled and looked surprised at himself. Jackson felt his heart sink a little at then. Even when Stiles was laughing at him or at one of his own stupid jokes that annoyed Jackson to death, it was preferable to the strange stillness that Jackson had found when he first climbed in the room.

"Unrelated: Why did you text me?" Stiles fiddled with the sheets on his bed. "I mean, you could have just texted Scott directly. Or Lydia."

"Scott doesn't trust me, and you-"

Stiles was caught off guard by Jackson suddenly pulling him behind him on the bed. Scott's head popped up behind the window and he tapped in the glass. Jackson felt anger and something else that was hard to define building in his chest.

"Let me in!" Scott yelled. Stiles started breathing raggedly behind Jackson, gripping the other boy's shoulders tightly with both hands. "I heard the whole story!"

"Get him away from me!" Stiles cried shrilly. Jackson growled at Scott who had the audacity to look confused.

"He's having a panic attack!" Scott opened the window and slipped into the room. Instantly, Stiles became worse. Much worse.

"And you are only making him worse! Go away!" Jackson yelled back. "You've done enough!"

After one more pleading look at Stiles, Scott reluctantly backtracked toward the window. 

"Stiles, please-"

"Get out!" Stiles shrieked. He ducked behind Jackson trying to make himself as small as possible. Scott slipped out the window and closed it behind him. 

"He's gone. It's okay," Jackson fumbled for what to do. Stiles was definitely panicking. He carefully gathered the lanky boy (God, he was thin, too thin) and pulled him into his lap. Stiles curled into his chest and rocked himself, trying to calm down. Finally, his breathing slowed and he mumbled something about being thirsty to Jackson. Before he even paused to consider what he was doing, Jackson had gently tucked Stiles into bed, gotten him a glass of water, and brought him his laptop to watch a movie. If Stiles was uncomfortable about the way Jackson climbed into bed with him, or even surprised, he didn't say. He just sipped the water and pointed at a random comedy to watch. When Jackson woke the next morning, it was to a pair of green eyes staring at them from the corner of the room.

Chapter Text

Jackson and Derek made extended eye contact as Stiles slumbered on. Stiles had not ended up spooning with Jackson in the night and was instead curled up on his side of the bed drooling into his pillow. The only contact he had with his bedmate was their linked hands, which had joined at some point. Derek motioned for Jackson to follow him downstairs, which Jackson reluctantly did. As soon as Stiles's bedroom door closed behind them, Derek shoved Jackson up against the wall.

"What the hell man?" Jackson hissed. He didn't want to yell and wake Stiles. Derek flashed his eyes at him.

"If you're messing with him, I'll kill you."

"Dude, what's your problem? Apparently I'm the only person in this shitty place that will speak to him! Get off me!" Jackson shoved Derek away and straightened the shirt he had worn the day before and slept in. "This is expensive and claw holes are hard to fix."

"You haven't changed much then," Derek grumbled as he led the way downstairs. Jackson snorted.

"Look who's talking, asshole. Still shoving people into walls, I see."

Derek ignored the jab and sat down at the kitchen table. Jackson sat across from him and awkward eye contact resumed. Derek had never considered himself and Jackson "close" since the teen had at first turned into a giant murderous lizard and tried to kill him. He didn't even really have much contact besides that and the horrible black goo incident. And judging by the look on Jackson's face, he wasn't high on the list of people Jackson was happy to see. Still, it was good to see that Stiles wasn't as completely alone as he had feared when he first returned. Scott wouldn't even talk to Derek, on the phone or in person.

"So I assume you're here because of Scott." 

"What's going on with Scott?" Derek was back for Scott, technically. But he was out of the loop when it came to current Beacon Hills events. "Stiles was talking in his sleep."

"What the-How long were you lurking the corner, old man?" Jackson sighed and rolled his eyes at Derek's unimpressed look. "He's a moron as usual. Except this time he really fucked up and Stiles is paying the price."

"Tell me what happened," Derek said gruffly. Jackson rolled his eyes. 

"Why don't you just ask Stiles? I just got here and I only know part of the story, okay? But you should know that the new kid Theo is a jackass that needs a good ass-kicking," Jackson sized Derek up for a moment. "You can help. I might need you to hold him down while I mess up his face."

"Who's Theo?" Derek was so lost. He had come back to town two nights before and tried to talk to Scott about maybe joining the pack, or at least having some kind of arrangement that allowed him to live on the fringes. Scott had dismissed him, saying they had bigger things to worry about and not to bother Stiles because he wanted to be alone. 

"I don't fucking know, I just met him last night and I probably made a bad impression since I ripped up his face when he threatened me because I don't believe his bullshit," Jackson paused. "Stiles is awake."

"I know," Derek listened closely. "He's so quiet. Usually he moves around so fast he's already tripped over something and he talks to himself. Why is he so quiet?"

"It's creepy," Jackson agreed. "I think he's being bullied at school now that the pack kicked him out."

Jackson wished he could suck those words back in almost immediately. Derek's eyes went hard and he balled his hands into fists where they had been resting on the table to keep his claws contained. The air became thick with tension as Derek warred with himself for control. The anger poured off the older wolf and almost choked Jackson.

"What do you mean, the pack kicked him out?" Derek growled. 

"It was more of a 'ignore Stiles no matter what and don't let him try and explain what happened' kind of kicking out," Stiles appeared in the doorway to the kitchen and took in the scene before him: Jackson carefully not making eye contact with Derek and Derek on the verge of freaking out. "It's not like I was officially pack anyways, being human and all."

"Shut up, Stiles," Derek stood abruptly and seized Stiles by the shoulders before Stiles could even track his movements. Jackson started to get up to protect Stiles on instinct as Derek's claws were still out, but stopped when he saw Stiles fall forward into Derek's chest as Derek whispered in his ear.

"You are the one reason everyone in this-Scott's pack, is alive. You saved him, me, Lydia, hell, you even saved Jackson. And more than of them has tried to kill you," Derek smoothed a hand up and down Stiles's back soothingly. Jackson felt a twinge in his stomach that he couldn't define. "So don't say you were never pack. Because you were always pack. Being human doesn't mean anything and if Scott would listen to the pack bonds he would know."

"Stiles, tell Derek what you told me about Donovan," Jackson prodded. Stiles nodded and steeled himself. How he ended up in his kitchen baring his soul to the two people who had never been his biggest fans, he wasn't sure. Just another way his life had gone completely crooked. They all sat around the table and waited for Stiles. it was only after Derek had stood and worked the coffee machine that Stiles started to talk. When Stiles finally finished his tale of the chase, the fight, the hand-teeth, showing them the scars, and the scaffolding accident, Derek was on edge. 

"Does your dad know?"

"Scott talked to him kind of. He knows about Donovan's death and he knows that I was involved, but he's given up on talking to me because we had a huge fight and he doesn't believe what Theo apparently told Scott because if he did he definitely would have said something. I just don't know how to approach him now that I can wrap my head around happened," Stiles sighed. "He's taking a bunch of extra shifts because he can't stand to be around the house when it's just me and him. What if...what if he blames me too?"

"You need to talk to him," Derek pointed out. "Your whole avoid-problems-until they-go-away isn't going to work this time."

"Yeah, alright," Stiles sighed. "I'm not going to lie to him."


Scott was caught completely off guard when he knocked on Stiles's door Sunday afternoon and instead came face to face with Derek.

"What are you doing here?" Scott asked with a mix of contempt and confusion.

"If you had bothered to pick up your phone when I got back to town, maybe you would have been able to save me the trip. Imagine my surprise when I found out Stiles was thrown to side. By you," Derek leaned against the doorframe nonchalantly. Scott looked at him with obvious disbelief.

"You don't know the whole story! Stiles, he-I mean, I had to think about what was best for the pack, for us!" Scott flared his eyes. "I'm the Alpha. I have to think about all of us!"

"Just because you've abandoned him doesn't mean I have to. I was never actually formally accepted into your pack, remember?" Derek sneered. Scott tried to speak but Derek talked over him. "Before you try to make excuses, I need you to think really hard about why you trusted the word of a stranger, a non-pack member, over the word of your best friend."

"I-Theo lied to me," Scott tried to push past Derek in the house. Derek placed the flat of his palm against his chest and pushed him back. "Derek, let me in!"

"No. From what I understand, the last time you tried to barge into Stiles's life you drove him into a panic attack. So before you come back, I need you to think about what you were going to say. If it involves making excuses for Theo, blaming Stiles for acting in self defense, lecturing on the importance of life, or telling Stiles he can be in the pack again as long as it never happens again, you can go fuck yourself."

"Hey!" Scott sounded offended. Derek snorted, looking at his former almost-prodigy with such disdain and disappointment that Scott shrank back feeling young and clumsy again.

"You are not the victim in this situation, Alpha. Remember that," Derek slammed the door and went back inside to find the others.

Jackson was sitting in the living with Stiles looking online at furniture for his new apartment. It was in the same area as Derek's loft but it was a more modern space. Jackson's parents, while reluctant to let him move back alone, had been eventually given in like they always did to Jackson.

"I'm not getting a bright red sofa, Stiles," Jackson said through gritted teeth. "Stop pointing out red sofas!"

"But red is awesome!"

"I don't want a red-nevermind. Why am I even asking you? You wear plaid!" Jackson scrunched his face like he'd just stepped in something rotten. Stiles giggled but placed his hand over his heart and tried to look offended. 

"Plaid is a legitimate and cost effective fashion choice you heathen!" Stiles smacked Jackson's arm and turned to Derek. "Right Derek? Don't look at me like that! There are other options besides henleys and leather. You are both hopeless."

"What'd Scott want?" Jackson asked carefully, watching Stiles's smile falter but not disappear completely.

"He wanted to make excuses for himself," Derek replied dismissively. "He needs to learn that his decisions have consequences. What we need to do is talk about what we're going to do about Theo."

"We?" Stiles looked from Jackson to Derek and back again, then he looked down. "You're both...you aren't leaving me?"

"No, we just got here," Jackson said lightly, trying to bring Stiles back from the dark place he was heading. "Why would we leave?"

"Wouldn't you rather be with the pack? Not their leftovers?" Stiles spat bitterly. Jackson looked at Derek for help.

"Scott never liked me anyways," Derek shrugged. "Go take a shower. You smell, Stiles."

"Jeez, bossywolf. Fine, I'll go," Stiles dramitaclly stood, only to trip over his feet and nearly crash into the coffee table. "I meant to do that. Oh, um...are you coming back to school Jackson?"

"Duh. I'm under strict orders not to skip, ditch, or fail any classes," Jackson confirmed. Stiles gave him a thumbs up and bounded up the stairs. "So...he seems better."

"For now. He's hurting and it will take more than a day of our company to heal," Derek sat heavily next to Jackson. "Look, I know we don't have a great history."

"Yeah, that's one way to phrase it," Jackson muttered.

"But we can both agree that Stiles needs our help, and we both owe him more than he's willing to accept," Derek continued unfazed. "He's saved both our lives, and he's never asked for anything in return. Can I count on you?"

"You're different," Jackson said, squinting at Derek as if trying to figure out an optical illusion. "You use words instead of anger."

"You're one to talk. I thought you hated Stiles," Derek pointed out. "You made his life miserable for years."

"Well when you temporarily join an established pack halfway across the world, the alpha doesn't have to make their betas be nice to the temp omega," Jackson's blue eyes were far away for a moment and the harsh lines smoothed out. Derek hesitantly squeezed Jackson's shoulder. "It's eye opening to be on that side of the line."

"So, taste of your own medicine and all that," Derek pondered for a minute. "Think you still have enough attitude to get Stiles through school tomorrow?"

"Dude, I ruled that school. The pack won't be a problem."


Stiles went outside to start his jeep on Monday morning only to find Jackson parked in his driveway leaning on a new version of his Porsche. 

"Nice car."

"Hey, I liked my old car but I needed an upgrade," Jackson opened the driver's side door and slid into the car. "Get in, we're going to be late."

Stiles gave one quick glance at his jeep and mouthed an apology. He loved his car, but he couldn't pass up a chance to ride in this sleek piece of machinery in his drive way. The interior was amazing and smelled new, a smell that Stiles had never particularly enjoyed. But he could get over it for the sake of this car.

"Stop molesting the leather," Jackson smacked Stiles's hand off the dash and continued driving. He could feel Stiles becoming more and more agitated as they neared the high school. "So what am I walking into here?"

"What do you mean?"

"How bad have things gotten?" Jackson asked. Stiles sighed. 

"None of my 'friends' talk to me, so I sit alone at lunch and in class. Kids take my stuff, trip me in the halls, spread rumors about me," Stiles shrugged, trying to hide how sad he was. "You know, your basic nerd stuff. At least Danny tries to talk to me sometimes. He keeps the worst away from me. Can't say I've been overly receptive to him though."

"Well, that's not happening anymore," Jackson snuck a glance at his passenger. "I still wish you'd let me take you shopping."

"You can't mess with this perfection," Stiles gestured at his red plaid button-up and Iron Man t-shirt. "Besides, I'd look like you and that's not happening."

"Ugh fine. Let's do this," Jackson pulled into a parking spot. "Remember. I am going to be there with you. Anyone you don't want to talk to, I'll be there. Got it?"

Stiles looked out the window and saw people already watching the fancy car. The pack was there too, and Scott was approaching slowly.

"Got it."

Stiles slipped out of the car and walked with Jackson towards the school doors. Danny looked up and grinned at them, mostly Jackson, and came up to them. He and Jackson hugged.

"It's good to see you! I wasn't totally sure you were for real when you said you were coming back today," Danny turned to Stiles and his smile grew more hesitant. "Hey."

"Hey, Danny! Sorry I've been a tool lately. Friends?" Stiles thrust out his hand for a hand shake which Danny rolled his eyes at but shook. "Sweet. How'd you do on Harris's test?"

"He hates you, not me, remember?" Danny laughed at the face Stiles made. "Come on, let's go. Scott's coming."

Stiles walked into his first class and was immediately met with the sight of Scott waving him over to sit next to him. Stiles stared at him for a second before deliberately sitting next to Danny. Scott looked hurt, but Stiles couldn't find it in himself to care. Danny tapped him on the shoulder and began discussing the homework with him until class started. Jackson was sitting at a table in the cafeteria with Danny waiting for Stiles when Lydia approached him.

"I don't know why McCall can't talk to me himself, but go ahead," Jackson sneered. Lydia looked at Danny for support and received nothing but a raised eyebrow.

"We both know this is ridiculous. Scott made a mistake and Stiles is just being stubborn," Lydia flicked her hair over her shoulder. "This needs to end."

"Well maybe he should tell me himself," Stiles said quietly behind her. Lydia stiffened and turned around. Instead of adoration or respect in Stiles's eyes when he looked at her, all she saw was emptiness. Stiles pulled her to the side away from Danny but still in earshot of every wolf in the cafeteria. "I need him to talk to me. And when I say talk, i mean discuss why he chose to throw away over a decade of friendship for some guy he barely knew. Why, after all the times I've been right about something and he didn't believe me, why he couldn't just trust me for once! I have always been there for him, and he threw me away. So until he can talk to me without making excuses for himself or trying to turn this around on me, I don't want to talk to him. No more research, no more late night fights against pixies or whatever, no lying to dad about crime scenes. I just...can't."

"Stiles-"

"No. I won't be the bad guy here. You spent a month ignoring me and letting me drown all alone. You've lost the right to police my decisions," Stiles nodded in Jackson's direction. "I'm going to sit with Jackson and Danny, and when you guys are ready to have a real discussion with me, and by "you guys" I mean Scott, call me."

"You really think Jackson will pick you over the pack? Over me? Have you forgotten who he is?" Lydia asked coldly. Stiles met her cold eyes with his own. 

"Jackson is his own person. Maybe that's why he could see Theo was a liar before everyone else, and he didn't even need to know the full story to do it," Stiles laughed coldly at Lydia's confused look, and glanced over where the rest of the pack was staring at a blushing Scott. "Oh, he didn't tell you? He knows what really happened that night. Guess that wasn't something he thought you needed to know."

Lydia glared at him for a minute before breaking eye contact and stalking back to her table. Stiles let out a huge sigh and sat down with Danny and Jackson. Jackson gave him a significant look.

"So...are you a werewolf now or something?" Danny asked suddenly. Jackson whipped his head around so fast that if he wasn't a wolf he would have whiplash. Stiles choked on the fries he had just started eating. "Don't look at me like that. I dated Ethan remember? And Scott practically shouts it from the rooftops."

"You knew...you know?" Jackson looked at Stiles, who just shrugged. "Oh my god, you guys suck at keeping secrets!"

"Hey, not my fault!"

"So are you?" Danny pressed. Jackson glared briefly at Stiles and then confirmed it. "I knew it."

Stiles laughed and bickered with Jackson and Danny for the rest of lunch, and inwardly appreciated the way Jackson not-so-subtley made Stiles eat all of his lunch instead of picking at it. Jackson didn't tell Danny the full story, but it was enough for Danny just to know he was included in his friend's life again. Scott was at Stiles's locker when the final bell rang. He looked at Stiles with heartbroken eyes and Stiles sighed.

"You have sixty seconds. What do you want to say?" Stiles started getting his books out of his locker and putting other things away. Scott fidgeted for a few moments. "Fifty seconds."

"Are you mad at me?"

"Yes," Stiles replied without looking. 

"Oh," Scott scraped his foot on the floor like a small child and lowered his voice to a whisper. "I didn't mean to make you think I hate you. But...you killed someone. What was I supposed to do?"

"I thought I said no excuses. Twenty seconds."

"Stiles, I didn't know!" Scott hissed, struggling to keep his voice down. Stiles slammed his locker closed and zipped up his backpack.

"Know what? That I haven't been able to sleep or eat for a month because you convinced me I'm a murderer? That I haven't spoken to my dad in weeks because neither of us know what to say to each other because you told him I killed someone? That nobody in your pack stops others from bullying me? Or, no, I bet you mean you didn't know that Theo was a bad guy even though I told you he was!" Stiles let out a long breath, refusing to look away from Scott's shocked face. "Your time's up."

"Stiles, please-"

"No, go away," Stiles walked away. Kira popped up in front of him. "Not now."

"Come on, come back," Kira begged. "If we had known-"

"That's the problem, Kira," Stiles sighed, relaxing when he saw Jackson striding towards him. "He should have trusted me, his best friend, so he claims, over some new kid. Or at least asked for my side of the story."

"I...I understand," Kira looked at him with sad eyes. They had never really gotten to each other that well, mostly fighting together and superficial conversations. But it felt nice to know that at least one pack member would accept his feelings without pushing. Lydia strode over and pulled Kira away. Jackson walked with Stiles back to the porsche and they drove to Stiles's house.

"I need to talk to my dad alone," Stiles sighed when he saw the cruiser parked outside. "But...can you come over after?"

Jackson shrugged. Stiles steeled himself for the discussion and walked inside with a purpose. His dad was sitting in the kitchen drinking coffee and reading the newspaper after his double shift. John looked at his son and took in the improved color in his cheeks and the smile on his son's face. Stiles took a seat in front of him.

"Hi daddio."

"Hey, kiddo, how was school? I heard the Whittemore boy moved back. He's not going to renew the restraining order, is he?" John joked. Stiles rolled his eyes.

"Well, he drove me today, so I hope not," Stiles and his dad sat quietly for a moment. "Can I talk to you?"

"Sure," John put down the paper and fixed his exhausted eyes on his son. When had he gotten so thin?

"I'm sorry I've been so...distant lately. Me and Scott got into a fight and I don't know if..." Stiles felt his eyes prickle. His dad was staring intently at him. "I don't know if we'll ever be friends again."

"What was the fight about?"

"Well...the new kid Theo told Scott that instead of pure self defense i murdered him, and instead of just asking me if that was true Scott turned his back on me and turned everyone against me. I mean, I know I screwed up and I should have told you or Scott or someone right away but I was so scared, Dad, I was scared! I didn't want to lose anyone else and then I lost everyone because I screwed up again! It was an accident, I didn't mean it. It was...I didn't...I killed someone, daddy," Stiles wiped his eyes with trembling hands and John was reminded of the small child that he had found in the hospital waiting room when his wife died. "I-"

John watched his son fall apart in front of him and scrambled out of his chair to pulled his son into a hug. Stiles sobbed into his father's beige work shirt and clung tightly to him, apologizing and begging for forgiveness. The Sheriff whispered assurances to his only son that he didn't hate him, everything was going to be okay, they'd figure it out, yes Stiles had made a mistake but everyone makes mistakes, it was all going to work out, he didn't hate him, he didn't have to apologize for defending himself, he was forgiven for lying, everything was alright. Stiles's legs crumpled under him so the Sheriff lowered them both carefully to the floor and just let his son lean on him as he held him tightly to his chest. Stiles warred with himself to stop crying.

"And the worst part is, even though Scott knows the truth now I think he wants to just pretend nothing happened!" Stiles had finally stopped crying, and now his red-rimmed eyes were tired and sorrowful. "I need him to accept that I can't just move on without a discussion or something! He wouldn't listen to me and he just...assumed I was a murderer. It's like he blames me for not trying harder to tell him the truth when he wouldn't even listen to me every time I tried and then I just...it...Dad I'm sorry I shut you out."

"I don't know what that kid told Scott, but I can tell you that it's okay to mad at him, and it's not your fault, alright? It's not your fault, okay? If I have to tell you that everyday, I will. I'm sorry I let you do this alone. Let's go to the diner tonight, huh?"

Stiles smiled and wiped his eyes.

"You're manipulating my emotional state for bacon, cheater," Stiles laughed wetly and John ruffled his hair, falling back into their easy banter. He pulled Stiles to his feet and got him a glass of water.

"Is it working?" John watched his son pretend to think about it while he gulped down the water.

"Yes. But no fries, just the bacon burger and a side salad!" Stiles negotiated. John sighed a put upon sigh.

"Deal." Stiles stood to go upstairs, but paused. "Oh, and Derek Hale is back in town, he's my new best friend, he came to see me and convinced me to talk to you. Good talk, going to take a shower.."

"Stiles, sit back down."


Derek pushed open the diner's door and was flooded with old memories of family outings for burgers and milkshakes. He made eye contact with the waitress and asked for a takeout menu. She eyed him warily but handed him the menu. Derek was about to order when he heard a loud voice call his name.

"Stiles?" Derek turned and saw the boy waving frantically at him from where he was sitting with his father. He waved back awkwardly. The Sheriff was looking at him with an amused smile that quickly changed as Stiles almost knocked a tray of food out of a waitress's hands.

"Come over here, son," John motioned for him to join them. Derek froze, looking around. One exit, front of the store, would only take a few seconds to escape if the Sheriff pulled his gun. Stiles was now waving him over as well so he approached them slowly if only to make them stop drawing attention to him. "How are you Derek?"

"Um...fine, sir."

"Don't call me sir, Mr. Stilinski is fine. Would you like to join us?" John indicated the empty chair at their table. Derek looked at Stiles who shook his head. So he wasn't getting out of this. "Great. Tell me something.Why did you visit my son?"

"Dad!"

"No, it's okay, you deserve to know sir-Mr. Stilinski. I tried to contact Scott but I was ignored, so I went to see Stiles and Jackson was there so we talked and Stiles told me about..."

"I know what happened, Derek," John said quietly. "I know about Scott's recent behavior as well. What I want to know if you are here permanently and if this will cause any special problems."

"Oh. Well, I was thinking about staying here. I'm the last Hale and this is our ancestral territory. It's the only place I've ever considered home," Derek looked down at the table. "As far as Scott goes, he's the local alpha but he never claimed the land the way my mother did."

"Great. Well, if you have any problems let me know," John was interrupted when the waitress came to their table. "Derek, what do you want?"

They ordered and ate, talking about this and that. When they finished, Derek managed to convince the Sheriff to let him pay for everyone's food. He felt a weight lift from his shoulders when the sheriff just smiled and handed him the bill with a minimum of fuss. Stiles hugged when they said goodbye in the parking lot, causing a nice feeling to bloom in Derek's chest. It had been a long time since he had simply enjoyed someone's company, and even longer since someone had wanted his without a motive. Braeden had been great, but they were on a mission together and the romantic part of their partnership had eventually fizzled when they ran out of things to say to each other in the car.

Stiles was easy to talk to, and Derek doubted that the eighteen year old would ever run out of things to say. 

That was a random thought, where did that come from? Derek asked himself as he drove to his loft. When he pulled up to the building, he immediately smelled Scott. He sighed. he was having such a nice night.

"What do you want?" Derek asked as he walked into the area where he kept his couch. Scott growled softly at him. "Don't growl at me, you aren't my Alpha."

"What did you say to Stiles?" Scott stood and faced Derek who just sank into his sofa and closed his eyes.

"Scott, go home. It's late, I'm tired, and you are obviously not thinking straight," Derek threw an arm of his eyes, feeling fatigue creeping over him. 

"Ever since you and Jackson showed up Stiles has been different! I want you to stop whatever it is you're doing!" Scott ordered. Derek, now more awake, chuckled cruelly.

"What I'm doing? What Jackson and I are doing is showing your  best friend that he isn't a monster. I'm telling him it's okay to feel sad, and betrayed, and lonely, because at least now he has people who will stand with him. Jackson and I listen to him, something you apparently will never learn to do no matter how many times you endanger your friends and family by ignoring him. I'm trying to help him," Derek uncovered his arms and looked Scott right in his surprised puppy eyes. "I care about him, and I know you do too. You just have a shitty way of not showing it. Now get out."

"Derek-"

"Get. Out. Of. My. Loft. Now, Scott."

The door slammed behind the angry alpha. Now that he was alone, Derek allowed the warm feeling from earlier spread through him again. It was only when he was just on the cusp of sleep a few hours later that he realized what it was: He had provided for Stiles.

He was showing he could provide for Stiles.

Oh, shit he was courting a teenager.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

"Derek, can I come in?" Liam called from outside the loft door. Derek looked up from his book and sighed when he could hear that Liam was still standing outside five minutes later. "I really...Derek, please?"

Derek sighed and went to the door. Sliding it open he was met with the sight of the youngest and newest member of Scott's pack. And the smell of blood. Derek stepped to the side and motioned for him come in. Liam walked into the loft like he thought Derek might eat him.

"What do you want?" Derek slid the door closed behind them and led Liam into the kitchen area where he sat the boy down. Liam took a deep breath and opened his hoodie. Inside, down his chest and almost to his stomach, were deep gashes that were bleeding sluggishly even as they healed slowly. "How'd that happen?"

"Scott lost control when we were arguing," Liam looked like he wanted to cry but he was too angry. "I went to his house and I was trying to convince him to talk to Stiles and apologize, or at least let the rest of us talk to him again because we miss him, and he didn't pull his strike fast enough and-"

He gasped in pain as Derek pressed an old, clean dish towel against the cuts to stop them from bleeding all over his floor.

"Why come to me? Why not someone in the pack?"

Liam looked away for a moment. Derek felt awkward around this boy. He barely knew him, and it was weird to have a sixteen year old in his loft as he was quite a bit older. Liam let out a shaky breath, snapping Derek's thoughts back to him.

"I don't want the rest of the pack to leave," Liam whispered. "They're already mad at Scott for how he's handling things, and this would just drive them away more. Scott's not a bad person, he just can't admit that to himself that he was wrong."

"It's an Alpha thing," Derek muttered as he walked to the fridge. Liam nodded.

"Normally I'd go to Stiles, but..." Liam accepted the bottle of Gatorade Derek offered him. The blood loss was making him woozy. "But Stiles probably hates me for not standing up for him."

Derek sighed. Liam wasn't really to blame. While an Alpha's order wasn't completely binding, it was hard for betas (espcially those bitten personally by the Alpha) to go against them. It wasn't Liam that Derek truly had a problem with, he decided. It was Lydia and Kira. They weren't werewolves and therefore the Alpha's hold over them would be lessened and they would have been able to go against it. 

"Stiles doesn't hate you," Derek took away the dish towel and motioned for Liam to take off the remains of his shirt so he could patch up the scratches until they healed. "He's hurt, and you're not entirely blameless so I won't say you are. But...as a true beta of Scott's, it's hard for you to go against his orders and Stiles knows that."

"I can't even talk to him at school though because Scott will smell him on me and I can't...I want to help but I don't know how," Liam shrugged helplessly, wincing as his skin pulled. Derek paused in taping gauze over the deepest cut and thought about what to say. He wasn't that great with teenagers, he knew that. He hadn't been the best Alpha, but he had never used his alpha status to force his pack to do anything.

"Why doesn't Scott want you to talk to Stiles?"

"He's afraid we'll all leave him," Liam pulled his hoodie back on. "He's afraid that if he admits he was wrong, if he can't get Stiles to come back to him that we'll all leave for Stiles."

"I know he's your Alpha and everything, but Scott's an idiot."

Liam barked out a laugh that ended in a grimace.

"Yeah, I know," Liam stood and made his way to the door again. "Thanks, I know I'm not your favorite person but I didn't know where else to go."

"It's fine. You might want to make sure you don't smell like me before you see Scott again. He's not my biggest fan," Derek stood in the doorway and watched Liam leave. He sighed and pulled out his phone.


Stiles looked over where his phone was vibrating on his desk. He grumbled something about interrupting his show and paused Netflix.

"Do you know what time it is?"

"Shut up Stiles, I know you're watching Breaking Bad on netflix," Derek's growly voice said. Stiles could only imagine the look on his face.

"How do you know that? Are you a psychic wolf now too?" Stiles looked around his room as if Derek would pop out of the shadows at him.

"I know because you're using my account. How did you even get my password?," Derek growled. Stiles giggled. "Shut up, Cora made me get the account."

"How do you think I got the password?"

"Seriously? Now you're talking to Cora?" Derek groaned. His sister was a great person and he was over joyed when she was alive and not evil. But she could be...overwhelming.

"Hey, she just wanted to make sure you got back alright," Stiles fidgeted with his pencil. "So what's up?"

"Liam came to see me," Derek paused, looking for the right words. "Scott's losing control."

"How is that my problem?" Stiles mumbled, but he lacked conviction. 

"Liam came to me bleeding and upset because Scott and him fought. Don't tell me you don't care," Derek snapped. Then he softened his voice. "Just...listen. Scott is worried that if he shows weakness, if he admits he made a mistake and that he was partly at fault, then the pack will abandon him and go to you."

Stiles was stunned. He didn't want the pack to abandon anyone, especially Scott. He just wanted Scott and him to have a real conversation about why Scott reacted the way he did. He knew Scott wasn't a bad person, and he knew that he himself had made a mistake. The situation wasn't ideal, but he didn't want to just accept "Theo lied to me" as a reason to forgive Scott.

"Is he okay?" Stiles asked softly. Derek confirmed he was fine. "I can't believe it's gotten this bad. I just want my life back. I want my friends, and I want my brother. I just..."

Stiles was interrupted by Jackson knocking softly on the window. He motioned for him to come inside and the teen slipped into the room gracefully. 

"Look, I know this is hard on you, but Scott will come around, okay? And...there's something else we need to talk about," Derek paused. "But it should be in person."

"Yeah, sure. Jackson just snuck into my room so I need to go. Talk later?" 

Derek agreed and hung up. Jackson, a werewolf, was alone with his newly discovered possible mate during the first stages of Derek's courtship. It was a volatile situation in the best of circumstances, but Derek didn't feel any sense of jealousy or rage when he thought about it. Derek decided to go for a late night run to forget about it.


Jackson handed Stiles the package of Reese's he had bought at the gas station when he drove over. After spending an entire week as Stiles's new friend/bodyguard/confidante, he had learned a few things about him. Stiles's favorite candy when he was feeling down was Reeses, but his favorite celebration candy was redvines. His favorite color was yellow but he preferred to wear red because it reminded him of his favorite Avenger. His favorite food was curly fries but his favorite meal was spaghetti with meatballs (not meat sauce) but he didn't eat it very often because it reminded him of his mother. These facts were just the tip of the iceberg. And how did Jackson learn all of this in one week? Because Stiles literally could not stop talking now that he again had someone he could talk to.

"Hey, thanks!" Stiles grinned at him, but it was tinged with sadness. Jackson inwardly preened a little bit at having provided the correct candy for Stiles's mood. He had thought about bringing Redvines to celebrate completing the week, then he considered bringing laffy taffy because Stiles liked stupid jokes but then he reconsidered when he remembered what told him about the Nogitsune and riddles. He spent almost half an hour finding the right candy because he wanted to show Stiles he had changed and was worthy.

Worthy? What the Hell?  Jackson froze briefly while he considered where that thought came from, but Stiles was too busy tearing into the package and rambling about how he never got to have a king sized Reese's without someone asking to share. Then he side-eyed Jackson and pulled the candy closer to his body. Jackson rolled his eyes and pulled out his own Reese's. Stiles grinned bigger and started eating, groaning in delight. Jackson blushed and hid his face by carefully picking up the piles of folded laundry on Stiles's bed and gently putting them on the floor.

"What did Derek want to talk about?" Jackson asked, flopping down on Stiles's bed. Now that Stiles had started cleaning again and doing laundry, the room smelled like detergent, dust, old books, and Doritos, Stiles's favorite web-surfing food. It smelled like Stiles and his unique blend of scents. It was strangely calming to Jackson after being in his empty apartment.

"He had a visitor tonight," Stiles sighed, putting down the last peanut butter cup to eat later. He told Jackson what Derek had told him about Liam, Scott, and the fears that Scott held. "What am I supposed to do now? Scott knows we need to talk but he's afraid of looking weak? It's so stupid! Maybe I should just-"

"No, you shouldn't. Don't give in. This is Scott's mess and he needs to figure it out. If you let him off easy he'll never learn, ok? It has to be his choice, no one else's," Jackson looked so earnest the Stiles wondered what had happened to change him so much. "He's got to grow up and face you."

"I guess so."

Jackson settled more comfortably on Stiles's bed and pulled a pillow under his head. Stiles shot him a look.

"So...what are you doing here on a Friday night? I mean, I know Danny's off doing his thing, or whatever. But...No wild parties? No girls? Or boys, no judgement," Stiles held up his hands at Jackson's pouty face. "What?"

"I don't party anymore," Jackson mumbled quietly. "It's not...safe."

"What does that mean?" Stiles waited for Jackson to answer. When all he got was a blank stare at the ceiling, Stiles pulled the chair up next to bed and sat in it again. "Jackson, what happened in London?"

"Nothing that bad, really," Jackson muttered. "Just...drop it. Please?"

"Well, now you know I can't. Come on, tell me!" Stiles prodded. Jackson rolled over so he was face down on Stiles's pillow because he didn't want Stiles to see his face. Stiles waited for him to talk. When all he got was silence, Stiles jumped up and pulled on Jackson's sleeve. "Come on, get up."

"No," Jackson grumbled. Stiles pulled harder, fully aware that if Jackson didn't want to move he wouldn't move. "Ugh, what do you want?"

"You just moved back to a sleepy murder town after spending years in London. London, Jackson!"

"Yeah, I know where I moved from. What's your point here?" Jackson allowed Stiles to roll him over to his back. Stiles gestured wildly around his room.

"I can't let you spend your first Friday night back in town sitting in my messy room doing nothing! We need to celebrate!" Stiles threw his arms wide and almost tripped backwards over his chair. Jackson smirked at him.

"Oh? What's the plan?"

"A night on the town, my man!" Stiles held up his finger when Jackson started to protest. "And by night on the town, I don't mean a party at the Jungle. No booze, I promise. Just ice cream at the new ice cream place one town over. No one will even notice us there."

Jackson pretended to be put off by the idea until Stiles started whining about how much he now craved peanut butter ice cream with chocolate sprinkles and chocolate sauce because of the candy Jackson brought. Stiles then pointed out that he knew Jackson would love the mint chocolate chip because it was delicious and not green so Jackson could eat it without worrying about artificial colors. Jackson appreciated that Stiles avoided pointing out that the real reason he couldn't stand his favorite ice cream flavor was because the green reminded him of the scales of the kanima no matter how fake it was. It was hard to find mint chocolate chip ice cream without green food coloring in it that tasted as good. When they were finally in Stiles's jeep after much complaining by Jackson ("Hey, respect my baby, Jackson!"), Stiles took a moment to really look at his friend while they waited at a stop light. Jackson still looked about the same physically. He had sharp features, and blue eyes that could display emotions in rapid fire succession as easily as they showed nothing but blankness. But he seemed...softer. Less hard to reach. Instead of sneering and snarling his way through life, this Jackson was kind, and considerate if still a little annoying. In the red glow of the stoplight, Stiles could almost believe for a moment that Jackson's face had never held cruelty. Or pointy teeth.

"Uh...Stilinski. The light is green. Green for go," Jackson snapped his fingers in front of Stiles, snapping him out of his trance. "Why were you staring at me? Do I have something on my face?"

"Nope," Stiles fixed his eyes on the road for the rest of the drive. He could feel Jackson's eyes boring into the side of his head for the rest of the drive. Jackson eventually gave up and turned back to his phone. It was pinging like the world was coming to an end. "Somebody's popular."

"It's me, of course I'm popular," Jackson scoffed. Besides Stiles and Danny, Jackson didn't seem to have any kind of social circle. All of the other people he used to hang out with were either in Scott's pack, moved on, or dead. "Lydia and Scott are tag-teaming me to try and get you to talk to Scott. I thought we covered this already, but apparently they need a reminder that I won't make you do shit."

"I appreciate that, man," Stiles grinned as he parked outside the ice cream parlor. "Ok, here we are."

"Why do we have to drive all the way over here to get ice cream?" Jackson hopped out of the Jeep like he was on fire as soon as the jeep stopped. "That piece of junk is not safe!"

"Aw, don't listen to him baby," Stiles cooed to his jeep, stroking the hood. "He's just a fraidy-wolf."

"Shut up! Come on let's go."

Jackson spent the next hour with Stiles eating ice cream and fending off the stares and declarations of "Oh my god you two are so cute together" "Look how cute they are." "Good for them!" from the other patrons, mainly a pack of teenage girls that were giggling and making cute face at them. Jackson blushed to the tips of his ears when an elderly lady came up to them and commended them for their bravery in this world of bigots. Stiles just smiled and thanked the woman, sending her on her way. Jackson scowled at Stiles when he called him "sweety-pie" when Jackson handed him a napkin, and Stiles informed him that it was his own fault people thought they were dating since he insisted on paying for both of them.

Not too long ago one of them (probably Stiles) would have ended up with a black eye and hurt feelings. Instead, Jackson held the door open for him as they left and then cursed under his breath when one of the girls cooed at him for chivalry. Stiles winked and flashed a thumbs-up at the girls through the window as Jackson grudgingly got in his jeep complaining again about how they should have just taken his car.


Stiles let himself into his house after dropping Jackson off at his apartment, noticing that his dad's cruiser was still gone, so he was alone. Jackson had decided to go for a run as the full moon was coming up soon, but he had promised to come back after he was done and watch a movie with Stiles. He made his way to his room and collapsed on his bed without turning the lights on.

"What, do hello for an old friend?"

Stiles flailed, his heart rate skyrocketing.

"Fuck! What the fuck are you doing here?" Stiles stumbled to his feet and reached blindly for the bat he kept next to his bed. Theo switched on the lights and twirled Stiles's bat between his fingers.

"Nice balance on this thing," Theo remarked absently. "I see why you like it. Not much use in your hands, though. Is it?"

"What do you want?" Stiles stood his ground as Theo approached him.

"I just wanted to talk about your little friends. I don't appreciate having my good name dragged through the mud by your snake," Theo growled, all semblance of friendliness bleeding from his eyes. "Scott's pack is mine, and there's nothing you can do about it."

"Listen up, asshat. The pack isn't some carnival prize you get for winning ring toss. You have to earn a place with them," Stiles snapped. He didn't care that Theo's claws were out and he looked close to losing control. "You may have turned them against me, but I turned them against you too. Now we're even."

"Even doesn't begin to cover us," Theo pounced on Stiles and knocked him to the floor, jostling Stiles's desk and sending pens and papers everywhere. Stiles yelped and tried to shove the werewolf off of him but obviously didn't get very far as Theo pinned his wrists above his head. "You want to know why Scott picked me over you?"

"Fuck you!" Stiles spat. Theo grinned and leaned in close.

"You're a murderer," He whispered in Stiles's ear. "You can tell yourself and everyone else that it wasn't you, that it was the Void. But we both know the truth, don't we? You. Liked. It."

"No!"

"Don't fight the truth. You're only human, after all. Except when you weren't. When you were strong enough to take down a wolf. To be useful to your Alpha, not a whiny little burden that gets his friends killed," Theo dropped his fangs and growled at Stiles. "It's still in there, isn't it? That part of you that likes to kill, likes to cause pain, likes the power! I need that Stiles, I need Void! Let it out!"

"Get off me!" Stiles shouted, trying to wriggle away again. Theo released his wrists and wrapped his hands around the pale throat of his victim. 

"Then you're worthless to me," Theo tightened his grip, ignoring the scratches that Stiles carved into his arms as he scrabbled for purchase. "You got in my way, and once I'm done with you I'm going to get your friends."

Stiles began to struggle harder as his vision danced with black spots and blurred with tears. Stiles's scrabbling fingers closed around a discarded pen on the floor and he grabbed it as a last resort. Theo let loosened his grip when Stiles jammed it into the fleshy part of his neck. He grinned, blood staining the white of his fangs.

"See? There is is, the last little bit of darkness," Theo let Stiles take a few breaths. "I can show you how to nurture it, expand it, make you one with it. You can useful again."

Tears were rolling town Stiles's face as he tried again to get away from Theo, both from the pain and the thought that maybe Theo was right. Before the Nogitsune, would he have really stabbed anyone in the throat? He didn't know.

"Let me go," Stiles gasped. Theo  started to say something but was cut off by the sound of a furious Derek bursting into the room. Theo jumped off Stiles and the wolves circled each other growling and occasionally swiping at one another. Theo might be strong and well trained, but Derek was more experienced and furious. Seeming to realize that he couldn't beat Derek in this situation, Theo reverted to plan B.

"You have two options, Hale. Kick my ass, drag me to justice, try to talk sense into that moron of an Alpha. Or, you can go retrieve your scaly friend from a potentially bad night," Theo edged his way toward the window. Derek gave him a hard stare around the fangs. "I may have mentioned a few days ago to some...unsavory hunters that an omega with a bad past had rolled into town and was out for a run in the preserve tonight."

Stiles froze and Derek hesitated.

"You fucker! Jackson isn't a monster like you!" Stiles shouted, and then he grasped at his throat in pain as his bruised throat burned. Theo shrugged as he stepped out the window. 

"He used to be."

And then he was gone. Derek took one look at Stiles that conveyed Theo or Jackson?

"Save him!" Stiles rasped and gestured at the window. Derek was already half way out the window. Stiles set about cleaning up his room, righting the overturned pencil cup on his desk and stacking the papers. His throat burned but he couldn't find it in himself to be bothered by that. When he was done repairing what he could, Stiles sat on his bedspread and shivered in the cold. Derek had broken the glass in his window to get to him faster. Stiles pulled out his phone and looked at the familiar number for a long while before typing out a short perfunctory text.

To Scott: Theo paid me a visit. You're on his hit list and he set hunters on Jackson.

To Stiles: Thanks for the heads up. Can we talk?

long pause

To Stiles: I miss talking to you.

To Stiles: You'd know what to say.

To Stiles: I'll call Deaton and get him to turn away the hunters.

Stiles sighed and put down the phone again. He may not have forgiven Scott or the pack, but they deserved to know what was happening. Theo was just going to continue being a problem until he was taken care of permanently. But he wasn't sure how to do that without involving death, which he knew wouldn't go over well with Scott. But it would be easier. And more long lasting. Stiles shook himself forcefully away from thoughts of death. He had just yelled at Theo about not liking to kill, and here he was with thoughts about doing that very thing. But it was necessary, right? Maybe not in the same way Donovan's death  Was he a monster?

It was possible.


Derek followed Jackson's trail with an almost fevered concentration. Jackson hadn't gotten far from his porcshe which Derek found parked on the edge near a hiking trail. There was another car parked next to it, engine still warm and trail fresher. Derek could hear the muffled sounds of a fight and picked up his pace. He came to an area just to the left of the path about half a mile into the preserve and saw them. One hunter was unconscious on the ground, and two more were circling Jackson who had an arrow sticking out of his shoulder blade in a place where he couldn't reach to pull it out. Jackson was fighting like a scared animal, and his attackers were gaining purchase on him. Derek felt rage building in him at the rabid fear in Jackson's eyes.

"I didn't do anything!" Jackson snarled, dodging a knife one of them swung at him. His arm was heavy at his side on the side with arrow sticking out of him. "Leave me alone!"

"Shut up, freak!" A second arrow thudded into Jackson's abdomen and sank deep, driving him to his knees. A third arrow landed in the meat of his arm with a dull thud. Neither were wolfsbane, but they hurt. Derek growled low in his throat. These hunters didn't kill quickly. They liked to play with their victims.

Derek looked around and found the archer just as they prepared a wolfsbane arrow to fire. Derek full shifted into his black wolf and bounded over to the archer, biting the complicated bow with his teeth and crushing it. The man looked at him and turned and ran, calling to his companions to retreat. They barely had enough manpower to handle a single beta-shifted wolf, much less a fully shifted one that practically foamed at the mouth with anger. They grabbed their unconscious friend while an enraged Derek guarded an exhausted and bleeding Jackson by standing in front of him growling and snapping. When they were gone and Derek heard their car leave, he shifted back. He prodded the arrows gently, gauging how deep they had gone and Jackson whined in pain. His blue eyes were clouded with pain and receding fear.

"Hold still, they aren't wolfsbane," Derek growled, still high on adrenaline. Jackson  cried out as Derek pulled the first arrow out of his shoulder blade. Derek gave him a moment to recover, rubbing his newly healed skin. Jackson grabbed the one in his upper arm and yanked it out, a gasp of pain escaping his lips. Derek eyed the last arrow. It looked like it had almost gone all the way through him. 

"Ok, last one. It's deep and it's gonna hurt. On three: One. Two-" Derek ripped the arrow out and Jackson howled in pain. Derek's wolf howled with him but Derek kept his face blank.

"You asshole! Fucking goddamn bastard asshole I fucking hate you oh my GOD go jump off a fucking cliff!" Jackson yelled through gritted teeth. Derek smirked at him and waved the arrow in front of him. Jackson breathed deeply for a few moments as the worst of the wound healed. Derek pulled enough pain from him to take the edge off but not wound Jackson's pride. Derek stood and reached out a hand to Jackson who took it and stood with a grimace. "How'd you know where I was? Stalking Stiles and me now?"

Jackson pointedly looked away while Derek grabbed his clothes which thankfully weren't too badly mangled during the shift and Derek drove Jackson back to Stiles's place. He explained to Jackson what had happened, and how Stiles had sent him after Jackson alone because he was injured from being choked. When they pulled up to Stiles's house, Derek knocked on the door so Jackson wouldn't have to climb and pull at the still-healing muscle and tissue in his abdomen. Stiles answered the door holding ice to his neck and beckoned for them to come inside silently. Jackson immediately reached for the ice pack and pulled it away to look at the damage. Deep bruises were forming around his neck and a few shallow scratches were scabbed over on his wrists. Even though Stiles was technically more injured, he waved away the hands and refused help until Jackson got in the shower. While Jackson showered off the dirt and blood from his fight, Derek stripped off Stiles's shirt to better check for injuries. He sucked the pain from the unnaturally silent boy's bruises, both on his neck and chest, and then he cleaned and dressed Stiles's wrists. Stiles remained quiet the entire time, though due to the strange mix of emotions Stiles was giving off Derek was unsure whether that was due to pain or something else.

Eventually, after Jackson had dressed in a pair of Stiles's sweatpants and a sweatshirt, and Derek had done the same, the three of them sat on the couch together and watched some television. Stiles flinched away from physical contact when Derek got too close to him and he chose to move to the armchair and sit alone. Derek caught Jackson's eye at one point and looked pointedly at Stiles. Jackson gave Derek a look that said "What do you want me to do?" and looked back at the screen. When Stiles nodded off, neither wolf paid him much mind. 

"So...thanks for saving my life i guess," Jackson said to break the awkward silence. 

"Sure," Derek replied. They were quiet for a moment longer. "Jackson, I need to ask you something."

"What?"

They were interrupted by Stiles jerking awake and breathing fast. He looked around wildly and settled his gaze on Derek but it was clear from the unfocused nature of his eyes that he was sleep-walking.

"No, don't," Stiles whimpered. Derek stood slowly and took a step towards him only to have Stiles scream. "I won't let you in!"

Jackson shared a look with Derek. 

"Stiles, you won't let what in?" Jackson asked carefully, holding his hands up in placating way. "What is it?"

"No no no you're trying to trick me, this is one of your riddles," Stiles started muttering to himself, his unseeing eyes flitting around the room. "I won't let you in this time!"

"What's going on, Derek?" Jackson backed away, giving Stiles more room as he started crying and begging the unseen force to stop. "What's he talking about?"

"The Nogitsune," Derek breathed. Stiles's head snapped up and he paused his ramblings. "Stiles? Wake up." 

"Stiles is gone," Stiles's eyes were glassy but they held cruelty now under the sleep. "There's nothing but the Void."

"STILES!" Derek shouted. Popular logic on not waking those who are sleepwalking be damned, Stiles needed to wake up now. He grabbed Stiles by the shoulders and shouted at him. "Stiles wake up!"

Stiles shuddered deeply and fell limp, closing his eyes. Jackson crowded into the space too and stroked Stiles's hair without thinking.

"Come on, Stilinski. Wake up," He urged. Stiles's eyes snapped open and he took a few gasping breaths.

"It's back, it's back, don't-" Stiles surged backwards and fell off the side of the armchair, yelping in pain as his arm bent weirdly under his body. "Oh god, it was so real, Derek it was back..."

"No, no it wasn't," Derek sat next to Stiles, close but not touching. Jackson stood over them, unsure of what to do. "Just a dream, okay? It was just a dream."

"Am I still dreaming?" Stiles looked at Derek and then up at Jackson. "Are you real or a dream?"

"I'm real, Stiles, you can't dream this kind of perfection," Jackson quipped weakly as he knelt down on the other side of Stiles. Stiles nodded seriously. 

"Count your fingers," Derek prompted. "Do it, Stiles. We're real. Count your fingers."

Stiles lifted a shaking hand and tried to start counting, whimpering when the shaking made his fingers seem like too many. Jackson reached out instinctively and steadied it. He gave Stiles what he hoped was an encouraging smile and Sties tried again.

"...10," Stiles gasped. He pulled his knees to his chest and wrapped his arms around his legs. "Am I the Void?"

"No, you aren't," Derek replied sternly. "You aren't that thing."

"But what if...what if it wasn't all...him. What if it just brought out what was...was already inside me..." Stiles shivered and Derek pulled down the blanket from the back of the chair where Stiles had been sleeping and wrapped it around him. Jackson reached out from Stiles and pulled him gently into his side where Stiles stiffened momentarily before melting into his side.

"When I was the Kanima, what was it that convinced you to save me even after everything I'd done?" Jackson asked after a few moments. Stiles curled tighter into himself. "Even after I killed those people, tried to kill you, nearly drowned Derek-"

"It wasn't you though!" Stiles blurted. Derek placed a comforting hand on Stiles's back and rubbed soothing circles over his spine. "It...it wasn't you."

"But I only became the snake because of who I was," Jackson felt his heart constrict as he relived the few flashes of memory he had of his time as the kanima. Derek reached out and brushed his fingers briefly over Jackson's arm. "It fed off of my insecurities."

"But that's...that's different," Stiles protested. "You didn't have a...choice."

Stiles fell silent. Jackson let what Stiles had just said sink in. Derek stood and made his way to the kitchen to prepare some hot chocolate for the teens and some tea for himself. He added Stiles's required amount of mini-marshmallows, then paused over Jackson's. He didn't recall ever having made the drink for him, but he knew instinctively that Jackson wouldn't want enough mini-marshmallows to almost overfill the cup. Instead, Derek searched for and found a container of cinnamon and sprinkled a good amount in and added just a few marshmallows. When he returned to the living room, Jackson was coaxing Stiles to sit on the couch instead of the ground and once seated he curled back into Jackson's side. Derek handed a mug to each of them, and enjoyed Jackson's surprised look when he realized that Derek had used cinnamon. He retrieved his own tea and when he once more returned, Stiles had begun to uncurl from the little ball he was in to sip at the drink. His color had returned and Jackson was absent-mindedly stroking Stiles's hair as if he had been doing it for years. Derek felt something in his chest loosen, something he hadn't even realized was wrong. Jackson smelled like contentment, and home. Derek's suspicions were confirmed, but they could wait.

"Sorry for freaking out on you guys," Stiles said, still drinking his hot chocolate. "I...I guess I was thinking about what Theo said as I fell asleep."

"What did he say?" Derek asked, sitting close to the two teens. Stiles told them about what Theo had said about wanting the Void, about needing the Void and nothing else in Stiles. 

"Wow. He's completely insane," Jackson said. "Something like that can't be controlled. He obviously doesn't get that."

"I told Scott to be on guard," Stiles placed the empty mug on the coffee table. When he leaned back into Jackson's chest, Derek found that he had shifted enough that his side was pressed against Stiles's. The line of warmth was comforting to both. "I couldn't just not let him know he's a target just because I'm not friends with him right now."

"You did the right thing," Derek reassured him. "You usually do."

"Hey! I'm always right!" Stiles pointed out. Jackson snorted. "Like, 95% of the time I'm right. 90%. Like 85% of the time I'm always right! Don't look at me like that, broody McEyebrows."

Derek shot both giggling teenagers an unimpressed look, which only made the laugh harder.

"Sorry, Der-bear," Stiles smirked at him, but his smile dropped at the sad look on Derek's face. "What? No Der-bear?"

"It's just...that's what my mother used to call me," Derek shrugged, trying to control the wave of emotion. "I hated that nickname."

"Well, it's too cute for you. You're definitely more of a butch-nickname kind of guy," Stiles said lightly, trying get Derek to smile again. "Like Sourwolf."

"I hate that too."

When Stiles fell asleep again for the second time, they waited a few hours to make sure it was restful sleep. Derek carried him to bed much to the delight of Jackson who wanted to take a picture. Derek had glared him into not following through, but he still laughed. When Derek laid Stiles down in his bed, he held onto Derek's shirt in sleep and muttered something unintelligible. Derek tried to pry his hand off but gave up and sat down on the edge of the bed. In all honesty, if he really wanted to get away he could have.

"So..." Jackson sat on the bed next to Derek. "What did you want to talk about? Earlier, I mean. You said you had a question for me."

"What do you know about mates?" Derek asked flatly. He had decided the direct approach was the best, though the look on Jackson's face made him wonder if he had made the right choice.

"Um...like soulmates?"

"Sort of. Mate, for wolves at least, are two people that are compatible. It's not...fate, or love at first sight," Derek searched for the right words, and he looked at Stiles's peaceful sleeping face. "The wolf side recognizes those that would the best match. When two wolves find each other compatible, they can begin courtship if that is what they want."

"Ok...so why tell me now?" Jackson asked suspiciously, moving unconsciously closer to Stiles.

"I'm telling you because I think we've both found ours," Derek sighed at Jackson's confused look. Derek gently pried Stiles's fingers off his shirt, this time succeeding. He threaded his fingers through Stiles's limp ones, and they curled around Derek's.

"What do you mean?"

"Stiles is my mate," Derek started, only to be cut off by Jackson's growl. Jackson looked almost surprised at himself, but he didn't stop. "Let me finish. Stiles is my mate. And I'm pretty sure that...he's also your mate."

"Wait, how can that be? How do you know? What do I do?" Jackson looked at him with panic in his eyes. "Does that mean we have to fight each other?"

"No, dumb-ass. Let me finish!" Derek growled softly. He reached out hesitantly and grasped Jackson's hand. "It works because...I'm pretty sure you're also my mate. And I'm yours."

"And...Stiles is, what, both of ours?" Jackson looked like might hyperventilate. "But-"

"Have you been bringing Stiles little gifts? Food, trinkets? Yes? Have you felt an almost irrational need to be around him and take care of him?" Derek waited for Jackson to nod again. "So have I. Towards Stiles. And...towards you. When I saw you getting hurt...I wanted nothing more than to make it better."

"But you hate me. And I've known Stiles for years! Wouldn't I have noticed this before? I think I would have noticed if I was into Stiles. Or, you know, guys in general," Jackson snapped. Derek shushed him but it was too late.

"Mmm what are you guys talking about?" Stiles stirred and sat up, rubbing his eyes with his free hand. He caught sight of Derek and Jackson's joined hands, and then noticed Derek's fingers in his own. "Um...what the hell is going on?"

"You'remymateandsoisDerek!" Jackson slapped a hand over his mouth. Derek rolled his eyes. Stiles looked at both wolves, then down at their joined hands.

"I'll go put on some coffee. And then you will explain what the fuck is going on."

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Stiles made coffee the way his mom used to make it. That meant that the coffee Derek and Jackson found themselves drinking with Stiles was strong enough to strip the paint off a wall. 

Stiles tapped his fingers on his mug and stared at Derek and then Jackson with an expectant look on his face. Derek dropped his gaze to Stiles's mug and was met by a picture of Captain America staring judgmentally at him from the porcelain. Jackson still looked like he might lose his marbles at any moment, so it seemed like Derek would have to do all the talking.

"What do you know about mates? For werewolves," Derek started. Stiles rolled his eyes. "What? They're real!"

"Dude, I know they're real. I probably know more about them you do," Stiles raised his eyebrow at Derek's confused expression. "What? I was doing research on them because a rogue omega got in the territory a while back and he was driven crazy by the death of his mate."

"Right. Anyways, I have something to tell you about-" Derek was cut off by Jackson.

"Derek thinks you're my mate and his mate, but it's okay because he's also my mate and I'm his mate but we're...both...yours?" Jackson trailed off. Stiles studied him for a moment before turning his attention back to Derek.

"Okay, spill. How do you know? As the human in this potential love triangle, I don't feel the weird supernatural pull the same way. I need to know," Stiles turned to Jackson. "Actually, it explains a lot with you. In the beginning of a courtship, a werewolf will begin to offer their potential mate food, comfort, and protection. You have done all three. Derek, you have also done all three. For me. So...I get that. But how do you know for each other?"

"I knew things about Jackson that I would only know through a pack bond or a mate bond,"Derek explained the hot chocolate and the way he reacted so strongly to Jackson being hurt. "Since we don't belong to Scott's pack and am not an Alpha, I can't make pack bonds, so it's a mate bond. A weak one, easily broken if the need arises. I feel one to you too, Stiles."

"So, just to be clear: I'm the third member of a werewolf sandwich?"

"Oh my god, you can make anything sound so stupid! How are you not freaking out?" Jackson stood up quickly and the chair fell backward. He caught it before it fell, but it seemed to snap him out of his little fit. "Sorry, it's not that I don't...you know, care about you guys. It's just, I move back to a town where I have a shitty past and a week later I'm bound forever to two people that can't stand me? And are also guys?"

"Okay, first of all, mate bonds aren't permanent until they're consummated. And two, they're consensual," Derek waited for Jackson to look him in the eye. "You don't have to do anything, alright? If you want out, then you can have out. Either of you, or me. It's a simple matter of willing the temporary bond to go away."

"I-I didn't say that i wanted out," Jackson breathed deeply and Stiles hesitantly reached for his hand to ground him. Jackson curled his fingers around Stiles's hand, staring at their locked hands like he was unsure how they got that way. "I just...where do we go from here?"

"We need to talk some terms here," Stiles stated firmly. "A consummated mate bond means exactly what i think it does, right? Sex and a bite? Thought so. I might be legal now, but just barely, same with Jackson. I guarantee my father will try to shoot you if we don't let him in on what's happening beforehand or if we rush into something without testing the waters. Not to mention the ridiculous amount of gossip that this town will do. So, I propose in the mean time, we continue with what we've been doing already. We can court each other, or not, but I don't think we can afford to spend too much energy on this with a murdering psychowolf that isn't Peter on the loose."

"What if we decide to...you know, go through with it?" Jackson asked, his cheeks flaming. Derek turned toward him, sensing Jackson's trepidation.

"Well, I personally won't be willing to do anything permanent until after you two are done with college. The permanent mating bond will make it almost impossible to be apart for extended periods of time for at least one year afterwards. I can't ask you to put off your education, and you're both young and deserve to experience life first," Derek looked at both boys. "That's my term. I won't mate with either of you until you've lived your own lives and can decide what you want."

"But we've already started to bond, right? Won't it be hard to be apart already? What if we meet someone we want to date? Or like, a one stand happens or something? Will we die?" Stiles asked. Jackson inwardly thanked heaven that Stiles was able to ask these questions. He was still stuck on the soulmate thing.

"After the initial shock of a temporary mate bond forming wears off, it will fade to more of a light buzz in the back of your mind if you are apart from your potentials. You won't notice it unless you want to. It won't break unless you forcibly make it break," Derek sounded so calm, but his face was flushed. "You will be able to date other people if you wish without breaking the bond and without it interfering, but we will all feel if one of us decides not to cement it."

"What about the whole we're-all-guys thing? Aren't mates supposed to...breed?" Jackson blurted. Derek looked at him like he wanted to laugh while Stiles looked like he was mentally picturing something that made him cringe.

"Not really. Our species's survival is ensured through the bite, and while there are hunters we aren't endangered. Also, mate bonds are based on the person's soul, not their gender. If you didn't already have to capacity to love another man, you wouldn't have bonded with me and Stiles," Derek explained patiently. Jackson's heart clenched. "What's wrong?"

"So...if I had never come back we would have never bonded? You and Stiles, me and you, the three of us...oh my god what the hell is happening with my life?" Jackson buried his head in his arms on the table. Derek reached over and rubbed Jackson's back. Stiles looked equally stricken.

"Hey, hey, we don't have to do anything, ok? The bond is young and there won't be lasting damage if we break it now. And if in a few years we're still compatible the bond might reform," Derek held up his hands in a gesture of surrender when both boys shot accusing looks at him. "I'm not saying we have to do anything right now. Stiles has the right idea. We can just keep going as we are." 

Jackson and Stiles looked at each other, then at Derek. Derek looked at both boys individually, scrutinizing them. They weren't the same people he had met years before. They were different. Hell, he was different. Some soul searching, some travel. Derek hadn't felt this in tune with himself for a long time, which was probably why he was even able to have a mate at all.

"So...if we're going to do the...courting thing..." Stiles blushed and rubbed the back of his neck. "Does that mean that I can...kiss you guys?"

Derek raised an eyebrow. Jackson choked on air. Stiles's small smile faded.

"Well, we are basically dating," Jackson grinned, a shadow of his normal confidence back. "Besides, whoever said never kiss of the first date was obviously just a bad kisser."

Derek laughed and Stiles looked at them hopefully.

"So, who's first?"

Jackson took a deep breath as everything suddenly became far more real. Stiles noticed the way Jackson's hands were white-knuckle gripping the edge of the table and the wood creaked. It occurred to him that Jackson had never kissed another guy before unless he and Danny ever experimented. 

"Hey, hey, relax man. If you want, me and Derek could kiss first, and then you can kiss one of us?" Stiles waited for Jackson to think it over. "It's like kissing a girl. But with stubble."

"It's not like I never...thought about other guys," Jackson shrugged awkwardly. "But I was always with Lydia, so I never really thought about it that much."

"Hey, that's okay," Stiles soothed. Jackson stared at Derek.

"Is it...is it okay with you if Stiles and you...first?" Jackson mumbled. Derek looked at Stiles for confirmation which Stiles gave enthusiastically.

"Kinky," Stiles giggled. Jackson rolled his eyes, but some of the tension leaked away. "So Derek. How do you propose we do this?"

"On the mouth," Derek deadpanned. Stiles pretended he was shot in the heart. 

"Oh my god you made a joke!" Stiles was still laughing when he all but jumped out of his chair and leaped onto Derek's lap where he sat sideways. Derek supported him easily with a hand on his neck and an arm around his lower back. "You ready old man?"

"Don't call me that, runt," Derek growled playfully. Stiles's scent wrapped around him like the boys arms around his neck. 

Derek's lips were soft, and his stubble brushed against Stiles's mouth, leaving a tingling feeling behind. Warmth spread through both of them as they kissed, a sense of calm washing over them. Stiles tasted like coffee, and a little like morning breath but Derek didn't mind. He was a little inexperienced, but more than made up for it with young enthusiasm. Derek pulled back first, and Stiles pressed a quick peck on his lips and hopped out of his lap.

"Not bad old man."

Jackson giggled.

"Oh, you think you can do better?" Derek challenged. Jackson rolled his eyes. Stiles pulled Jackson to his feet and gently stroked Jackson's cheek, watching Jackson's blue eyes dilate a little.

"I'm Jackson fucking Whittemore, of course I can do better," Jackson leaned in and kissed Stiles. Jackson was more dominating, leading the kiss and Stiles grabbed his neck and allowed Jackson's tongue to enter when it brushed over his lips. 

"Hey no fair! I didn't know tongue was an option!" Derek complained. "I want a redo!"

Stiles broke away, breathing a little harder and flushed to his ears.

"Why the hell didn't I kiss you before now?" Stiles pushed Jackson. "Does Danny know you can do that?"

"Shut up, Stiles," Jackson muttered, but he was grinning, proud of himself. Derek cleared his throat.

"Excuse me, but I think I want a demonstration too."

"Holy shit, Der. You're on a role. Where's you buy your sense of humor because I would like to leave a five star rating on their Yelp! page," Stiles quipped. Derek flipped him off. Jackson approached the older man more cautiously. As much as he enjoyed kissing Stiles, Derek was more intimidating. But Jackson's wolf, already on a high from Stiles, pulled him toward the former Alpha.

Jackson and Derek were awkward for a brief moment before finding their balance. Derek was not as gentle with Jackson, but he wasn't rough either. Jackson, used to being the dominant one in a kiss, was about to add tongue but was surprised when Derek beat him to the punch.

Derek was definitely a good kisser.

"Holy shit I think I might a voyeurism kink," Stiles gasped. He watched his two mates back away from each other. "Hey, I want to try Derek again. I got stiffed."

Later, when Jackson was curled into Derek's side on the couch with Stiles on his other side draped over his side, the boys felt their bond growing a little stronger.  

Chapter Text

Stiles was in a great mood. It had been a week since his wolves had confessed their mate bond, and it had been a great week of chaste kissing (chaste with tongue, of course) and cuddling and hanging out in Derek's loft helping him patch up the holes and make it more livable after homework was done. Derek had even shown Stiles and Jackson his stock portfolio to prove that he wasn't stealing the money. If his inner wolf was satisfied by showing his potential mates that he could take care of them financially, then that was just icing on the cake. Jackson was already rich, riding the trust fund pony, but Stiles refused to be pampered and had begun filling out scholarship applications for the colleges he applied to. He was smart, and could fend for himself afterall. Derek and Jackson's latest "trinket" for Stiles had been a brand new bat, one made of metal that had been infused with wolfsbane and mountain ash so it would make a dent in werewolves and other supernatural baddies. If Stiles insisted on getting himself into trouble, Jackson figured they should make sure he was going to be able to protect himself and Derek had the contacts to make it happen.

Stiles was bouncing down the hallway after the last class of day on Monday talking to Danny about the inaccuracies of Supernatural when his shoulder collided and then bounced off what felt like a solid brick wall. He turned away from Danny to apologize and was met with the huge deer-in-headlights eyes of Scott. Stiles froze, unable to get any words out after spending so much time actively avoiding his oldest friend. Seeming to notice Stiles's reluctance, Scott opened his mouth to speak, then closed it and looked at the ground. Danny walked away silently, leaving the two old friends alone. As alone as they could be in a school hallway. Scott avoided his eyes, looking at the ground and fiddling with his fingers. Stiles couldn't help but notice the dark circles under his eyes and the pronounced slump in his shoulders. It was then that he realized he had stopped paying attention to the pack, so absorbed was he in the new courtship he found himself in. He hadn't noticed the change in Scott until now. The boy looked like he hadn't slept in days.

"Hey...are you-" Stiles started, but Scott winced at the sound of his voice.

"S-sorry," Scott whispered and turned to leave. Stiles considered letting him go, but his hand reached out without asking his brain for permission and grasped Scott's arm. 

Scott stopped, still looking at the floor. His hands clenched and let Stiles hold him in place. Something felt wrong about the situation, and Stiles realized that Scott was alone. No pack members were near. Kira wasn't walking with him holding his hand. Liam wasn't trailing after him like a puppy or playfully shoving him as they discussed whatever topic they had settled on. Lydia wasn't anywhere nearby, and Malia hadn't been to class for a few days now that Stiles was thinking about it. 

"Where is everyone?" Stiles asked. Scott stiffened. Stiles saw his eyes fill with tears. "Dude, what's wrong?"

"I-I..." Scott's lip trembled. "I drive everyone away. Why do I do that?"

Stiles was stunned into silence as Scott pulled away from him and all but ran out of the school. Danny was at his side again and gently pulled Stiles along with him to find Jackson. Jackson looked up from his locker with a soft smile when he smelled Stiles near him but it faded when he smelled the concern flowing from his mate. Stiles tucked himself into Jackson's chest with his head hiding in the teen's neck, uncaring if the few students still the hallway were starting to stare. Jackson whined low in his throat and gently stroked Stiles's back.

"What happened? You smell like Scott," Jackson was cautious. If Scott had hurt Stiles, he wouldn't smell so concerned. But something had definitely happened. 

"Scott's falling apart and I want to fix it but how can I even start when everything is still so fractured between us? I can't be the person he leans on because I can't support him if I can't talk to him openly about everything so how can I possibly even begin? We've been friends forever and now he's spiraling and I want to stop it but I can't because I don't know if he even wants my help after everything," Stiles babbled as Jackson walked him to the Porsche flanked by Danny. Stiles waited until Danny said goodbye and went to his own car and Jackson was driving him home before crying silently. Jackson watched him, unsure how to comfort his mate because Stiles didn't look like he wanted physical contact. So he stopped at the Starbucks drive through and bought him a java chip frappacino with soy milk because Stiles swore they tasted better with soy milk, and Stiles offered him a small watery smile. Jackson also ordered one for Derek because the man might look like an espresso man, bitter and dark, but deep down he was a frappacino man. It was closely guarded secret. His own latte seemed plain in comparison, but he preferred the simpler drink.

Derek looked up with a smile from his painting when Stiles and Jackson walked into the loft. The coffee was well-received and stiles excused himself for a minute. They had offered to help finish the painting after school and Derek knew he really had no choice in the matter. His smile faded at the way Jackson pulled him aside while Stiles was in the bathroom and told him about Scott. Derek was concerned. An alpha that felt isolated from his pack was dangerous. If the pack bonds began to break totally, Scott could go into a rage or a depression. Laura had spent the first few months of her Alphahood stuck in a rut before pulling herself together after Derek's third fight at school. 

"So, painting then?" Stiles asked as he reentered the room. He was already feeling less shaky in the presence of both males. Derek scowled at him.

"Not you. You're not going anywhere near the paint. I know what happened when you tried to help your dad paint your room," Derek crossed his arms as he spoke. Stiles spluttered and looked at Jackson for help but received only a smirk.

"Dad told you about that? Oh, he's eating tofu for a month!" Stiles shouted.

The Sheriff had been understandably concerned (upset, shouty, confused, etc.) about his son's involvement with two men. Especially Derek, who was older. After Derek explained what his conditions were, and that nothing permanent would happen for at least four years (Stiles and Jackson's undergraduate), he was slightly less upset. Jackson and Stiles had also promised the Sheriff that they wouldn't permanently bond with each other without Derek. The same concerns about their future, missing out on life, and so on, were discussed at length and afterwards John had insisted that they eat dinner together at least once a week every week. Apparently, John liked to tell embarrassing stories about his son when he left the table. While John wasn't quite sure how to think about a polyamorous relationship, he knew that Stiles was happier, and improving every day. It was hard for him to rip that away, so he let it go. The door remained open when they were Stiles's bedroom though. 

"Think of it more like a public safety warning. Your dad wants the loft to get done, not be turned into a warzone," Derek laughed. Stiles shot him an annoyed glare. "Oh, come on, you can help, I was just kidding. Why do you think I covered the floor in plastic and moved the furniture?"

"I'm an artist, you asshole."

"Aww, don't be like that," Jackson dipped his palms in a little of the paint that was in the paint tray Derek had been using and approached Stiles. "Give me a hug."

"No, don't come near me you maniac!" Stiles squealed and darted behind Derek. Jackson laughed and started chasing Stiles around the loft until Derek grabbed both of them, Jackson by the back of his shirt and Stiles around the waist.

"Be careful, you idiots!" Derek growled playfully. Jackson and Stiles glanced at each other and together tackled Derek who went down in a tangle of limbs and laughter. "We have to work now! Stop trying to tickle me Stiles, it doesn't work!"

"Yeah, I think the way you're squirming really confirms that!" Stiles giggled until Jackson pulled him up. Derek scowled up at them. 

"Come on, time to work, let's go," Jackson pushed Stiles toward the paint rollers. "Your dad is expecting us at six, and the paint needs to dry overnight before Derek can finish the loft."

"I think my dad just want to embarrass me more," Stiles groaned. "I'm never leaving you guys alone with him again."

"Less talking, more painting," Derek said as he walked past them, dropping a quick peck on the top of Stiles's head and running hand along the back of Jackson's neck without thinking. Jackson beamed at him and Stiles rolled his eyes at the way Jackson reminded him of a puppy. That thought made him sadden, he had always reserved that description for Scott. Sensing the change in mood, Derek turned to Stiles.

"Something wrong?"

"I just...I think I need to talk to Scott," Stiles sighed, waving off their protests. "I'm not going to go back to him without a fight, but...he's so alone. He said he drives everyone away. I think...he needs me."

"If you're sure, I'll drop you off at the school to pick up the Jeep," Jackson said reluctantly. "Just...meet us for dinner at six, okay?"

"I'll be there."


Stiles stood outside the familiar house with a sense of dread. The door was still the same color it had always been, and his key still fit in the lock. Stiles stepped slowly into the house and looked around, absorbing the familiar sights and smells. A note on the fridge informed Melissa that he was out for a run if she got home early. It was quiet, too quiet. Stiles sat on the porch to wait. He was just finishing a game of candy crush when his phone rang and the caller ID was Scott. Against his better judgement, Stiles picked up.

"Scott?"

"I-Stiles-I can't breathe! In-in-inhaler not-working!" Scott was wheezing. Stiles was in motion before he even registered what he was doing. The familiar sound of Scott's asthma triggered automatic responses he barely thought about. 

"Where are you?"

"Be-be-hind the gas-station," Scott wheezed, his voice frantic. Stiles put the Jeep in drive and kept the phone to his ear.

"Okay, I'm coming, stay on the phone with me," Stiles was only a few minutes away. Scott didn't speak anymore but his wheezing turned to choking when Stiles pulled up to the gas station. He ran around the building and ignored the rancid smells of the dumpster the Scott was sitting against. His eyes widened when he saw Stiles, and he tried to speak. Without saying a word, Stiles ran to him and fell his knees. He pulled out Scott's spare inhaler that he had always carried around, even after the bite because it was a habit and Stiles had always reasoned "what if it comes back?" Scott reached for it desperately and tried to grip it with trembling fingers but it kept slipping. His vision started to dance with black spots and vaguely he was aware that Stiles was talking to him. Why was he so quiet? 

Scott barely felt Stiles's arm picking him up to lean against a warm living chest instead of the disgusting cold metal of the dumpster, all he felt was the long fingers that wrapped around his own and guided the mouthpiece to his lips. The first puff of medicine passed his lips like a miracle. When he finally pushed the inhaler away, he expected Stiles to release him and leave, job complete. But Stiles stayed, stayed kneeling on the filthy ground with the smell of rotting garbage around them, stroking Scott's hair the way he had done as a child when Mr. McCall left their family. Scott couldn't hold it together anymore, and he shattered. 

Stiles held his friend tighter, trying to hold the pieces together and knowing that he would never be able to do it if Scott couldn't pull himself together. Finally, Scott forced himself to stop crying and looked up at his first friend with puffy red eyes, and saw confusion and pity and something else. Not anger, but not forgiveness. 

"I-"

"Let's go home, okay?" Stiles said softly, his voice pitched in such a way that Scott was reminded of how Deaton sometimes spoke to injured animals at the clinic. "We can talk there."

Scott nodded and let Stiles pull him to his feet. A discarded inhaler was on the ground and Stiles pocketed it quickly. It raised questions that needed answering. It was then that Stiles noticed rips in Scott's t-shirt, and small bloodstains where he had bled before quickly healing. Stiles stripped off his zippered hoodie and let Scott wear it so they wouldn't be stopped by the police. Scott sat in the passenger seat with his head against the window and his eyes tightly closed. He took another puff from his inhaler and slipped it into his pocket. Stiles was silent, but he tapped his fingers on the steering wheel in an erratic rhythm. His apprehension was thick in the air, and Scott didn't need enhanced smelling to sense it. The McCall house was still quiet, and Melissa wasn't home yet. Scott kicked off his shoes and trudged upstairs hoping that Stiles would follow. When the boys were in Scott's room, Stiles told Scott to go shower and then they could talk in the living room. When Scott emerged some time later, wet and pink from the hot water, he was ready to talk but unsure how to start. His helpless look at Stiles prompted the boy to start. Stiles patted the seat on the sofa next to him.

"Why didn't you listen to me?" Stiles asked quietly, the hurt evident in his voice and eyes. Scott swallowed hard and steeled himself.

"Because you were so paranoid about everything. And everyone. You were scared, all the time, and it scared me," Scott whispered, flinching at the look on Stiles's face. "It sounds so stupid now, but I was convinced that...it I could just prove to you that he was good, maybe you wouldn't be so suspicious and you could go back to living a normal life instead of being afraid of everyone."

"I'm paranoid because of past experience, Scott," Stiles answered sharply. They'd already argued about this a little. "I didn't need you to fix me. I needed you to take me seriously, to take everything that's happened in this town seriously! After the shit we've been through, what I've learned? There's no going back to a normal life and you should know that. You're a freaking werewolf!"

"But I was happier when our lives were normal!" Scott hunched in himself a little more where he was sitting. "Weren't you?"

"That's not the point! We have the lives we have, and there's nothing we can do about it! You have always been in my life Scott, you know me better than anyone. How could you think I'd kill someone on purpose?" Stiles asked, tearing the metaphorical bandaid off. "Why would you think that after everything the Nogitsune made me do that I'd ever try to take a life?"

Scott stared at Stiles with wide eyes, unwilling to share his answer. It would hurt Stiles, cut him to the bone. Stiles sighed and stood to leave, and Scott whined in a panic and grabbed his arm.

"I still have nightmares about you stabbing me," Scott blurted. Stiles froze. "I don't mean to, they just happen and then when Theo told me about Donovan all I could see was you coming towards me and this little voice kept whispering what if it came back? What if it left part of itself behind?"

"You were afraid I'd hurt you?" Stiles asked accusingly.

"No!"

"Oh, so you thought you'd just take the first account you heard as the truth?" Stiles stood and shouted. Scott shook his head and sniffled. "What!"

"I was afraid you were the next thing we had to take down!" Scott wiped his eyes. "I didn't want to fight against you, okay? You're my best friend! I didn't want to have to make that decision, so I tried...I tried to get you out of this life But that backfired in a big way because I'm still just a loser that never does anything right, so why wait for you to leave when I can just send you away on my own terms? And by the time i realized what a mistake a made, I'd already rationalized my dismissal of you so much that I couldn't let it go and then I was alone."

Stiles was silent for a few minutes, still standing over Scott as Scott waited for his friend to scream at him, leave him, any number of the worst case scenarios he had envisioned.

"Where's the pack?"

"They abandoned me because I fucked everything up because I just couldn't let go of my pride and get you back!" Scott looked up into Stiles's eyes. "I try so hard but I'm just...stupid. The universe made a mistake making me an alpha."

"Scott..." Stiles sighed and sat down with him. "You aren't stupid. But you are naive, okay? You see the world in black and white, and I loved that about you because you were a good person. But the world isn't black and white anymore, okay? People make mistakes, we fuck up, and then we either fix it or we move on. You can't just push everyone away."

"I...please let me back in your life, Stiles," Scott begged. He was tired of holding onto his fabricated anger at Stiles. He just wanted his brother. "I don't deserve it, but...I can't..."

Stiles pulled Scott to his chest and let Scott cry it out. 

"Scott please don't cry, I'm sorry I yelled at you," Stiles sighed and stroked Scott's hair again. "I messed up to, I should have trusted you. If I had just called you after Donovan happened, maybe none of this would have happened. I was afraid that...if you saw me standing over another dead body I would lose you so I didn't tell you, and then when I went back the body was gone so I thought, hey, maybe it was all in my head? But...that was worse. We're going to get Theo, okay? Together. He won't beat us."

"The worst part is...even after everything, Theo is still in my head," Scott whimpered. Stiles just pulled him closer. "He switched my inhaler with something else, I know it! The one Liam gave me, it doesn't work! I'm not supposed to have asthma anymore but it came back weeks ago and then when I was running today I smelled Theo so I followed the trail and it led to the gas station and we fought. I started to breathe heavier and he was right there. He offered me my inhaler if I let him go but-" 

"It wasn't right, was it?" Stiles finished for him. He pulled out the discarded inhaler from his pocket and studied it. It was just slightly different from the real thing, the plastic just a shade too dark, the writing a touch too large. He decided he'd take it to Derek and ask him what he thought.

"It burned. I thought...I thought this was it. This is where I die, alone behind the gas station of something I thought i would never have to face again," Scott shuddered. "I tried to call Liam, and Lydia, anyone, but nobody answered so I called you."

Stiles felt a stab of anger at the pack, but in honesty he couldn't really be that mad. They were angry like he had been. You don't answer the phone when the person you're ignoring calls. And Scott couldn't call an ambulance since it would immediately be apparent to anyone that looked closely that Scott wasn't completely human.

"Do you still feel the pack bonds?"

"yeah," Scott answered after a moment of introspection. "But they're fading."

"We can fix this, okay? But you have to trust me, and I have to trust you. You have to listen to me," Stiles made sure Scott was looking at him. "Can you do that?"

"I can do it," Scott nodded frantically. "I'll whatever it takes for your forgiveness."

"Good. Because right now you need to pull yourself together and put on your big boy Alpha pants, okay? It's time to take charge of your pack. The right way," Stiles poked Scott in the stomach. "No more ordering your betas against their will, no more making decisions without consulting us, no more talk of normal lives. Can. You. Do. That?"

"Yes."

"Good," Stiles ruffled Scott's hair. "I love you man, but sometimes i wish I could smack some sense into you."

"Do you...do you think you'll ever forgive me?" Scott asked after a moment. "It's okay if you can't, I'd understand."

"Jackson and Derek are going to kill me for this, but I think I've forgiven you for the whole make-everyone-ignore-Stiles thing. We need to talk more about the Theo thing though, okay? Not tonight though, I've got a date," Stiles said. Scott brightened considerably.

"A date? With who?"

"Oh. Long story..." Stiles began.


"What is he doing here?" Jackson snarled when Scott walked into the Stilinski house with Stiles just before six. Scott shrank back under the venom in his tone. Stiles smacked Jackson on the back of the head.

"Stop that, you big meanie. We talked, we cried, we worked on some of our issues, and he's still my friend," Stiles stated simply. Derek raised an eyebrow. "What? We still have a long way to go, I can acknowledge that. But we're still brothers."

"Scott your breath smells like wolfsbane," Jackson took a step back. "What the fuck?"

"What are you talking about? That's imposs-That's it!" Stiles produced the inhaler that he had gotten from Scott. "Scott how often have you used this thing?"

"A couple times in the last few weeks," Scott answered. Derek groaned. 

"It's probably aerosolized wolfsbane with a masking agent to keep you from having noticeable symptoms. Each breath releases some wolfsbane and it dulls your nose. That's how he's kept you weak," Derek grabbed it and held it carefully. "Each time you have an attack it your body trying to remove the last of the wolfsbane from your lungs, and then you take a puff and restock it. The masking agent must also cause the symptoms to die down for awhile."

"Am I going to die? Is it permanent? Oh god-" Scott started to panic. Derek clamped a hand on his shoulder.

"It's not permanent, okay? But next time you have an attack we need it to be a planned one that we trigger so we can be there to control the result. The rest of wolfsbane should be expelled then."

"How did he even get it?" Stiles asked. Derek tossed it on the table like it was trying to bite him.

"It's similar to something hunters use to keep wolves easier to control while they interrogate," Derek heard the Sheriff pull up as he spoke. "Who ever gave it to him is gifted at chemistry. The dosage has to be perfect. Too much will kill, too little will be immediately expelled from the body."

John entered the kitchen and did a double take at the sight of Scott standing there. He looked at Jackson, who still looked pissed to see the other boy, and then at the easy way Stiles was holding himself.

"So. Patched things up, have we?" John asked as he sat heavily at the counter. Scott blushed under John's intense stare, suddenly feeling much much smaller. Stiles nodded, wrapping an arm around Scott's shoulders to calm him down.

"I'm sorry I caused Stiles so much grief, Mr. Stilinski," Scott said formally. John looked at him silently. "If you want me to leave, I understand. I don't want to intrude."

"Dad, come on. Now is not the time for grudges when we have a crazed teenager running around trying to steal the pack," Stiles pointed out. Scott seemed to shrink against him. Finally john just sighed and motioned for everyone to sit at the table and help themselves to the chinese food he had brought home. They ate in relative silence while the Sheriff detailed his day at work and asked the occasional question about school. Afterwards they went into the living room to watch television. Derek remained silent for a while before asking Scott to help him get some drinks from the kitchen. Scott trailed after the older wolf, eyes downcast.

"Are you going to hurt Stiles again?" Derek asked seriously. Scott stared at the floor. Derek sighed and took pity on him. "Let me rephrase. Are you going to try not to hurt Stiles again?"

"Yes."

"You need to stay centered, Scott. You need to talk to us," Derek continued. Scott nodded. "I'm serious. Why didn't you talk to Stiles about what you were thinking before everything happened?"

"I...I was trying to be strong," Scott whispered. Derek cracked and walk to Scott and placed his hand on the back of Scott's neck. "Alphas are supposed to be strong, and I thought...I don't know."

"The Alpha is supposed to be strong, but they draw their strength from those around them," Derek rubbed small circles in his neck as he spoke. "You're already strong alone, but you're stronger as a pack."

"But they left," Scott pulled away from the comfort Derek was offering. "I wasn't worth staying."

"Even if that was true, you can change."

"So...Stiles told me about you and Jackson and him. How's that...working for you?" Scott asked awkwardly. Derek grinned, allowing the subject change.

"Oh, you know. They're both perfectly normal people so it's completely uncomplicated," Derek said dryly. Scott giggled and helped Derek carry some sodas back to the living room. Stiles was cuddled into Jackson's side and Jackson had his arm around Stiles's shoulder and was absent-mindedly playing with the sleeve of Stiles's t-shirt. Scott stared at them for a second before shaking off his confusion and taking a seat on the other side of Stiles. Derek sat down on the floor in front of Jackson and Stiles. He knew that while John may have decided not to intervene, the sight of the older man being physically affectionate with the teens still made him uncomfortable. It was the result of being a cop for most of his life. After an hour of TV, Scott said goodbye and tried to leave alone. Stiles, however, had other plans.

He found himself in his own room with Jackson and Derek. He sat on his bed and watched as Stiles called each pack member one by one and told them to come over. Liam was the first to arrive. He stood warily in the door way to Scott's room and eyed his Alpha. He hadn't spent much time with him since the injury incident. Scott stood and haltingly apologized. Liam didn't move until the first tear slipped down Scott's face. Then he was wrapped around his Alpha like a monkey. Liam consoled Scott and forgave him, but warned him not to do it again.

Kira was next, and she entered the room with a smile and hug for Stiles, a nod to the other wolves, and kissed Scott before embracing him for a long time. She had brought Malia with her and the werecoyote entered the room with a disinterested air around her. She merely stated that she knew Scott would eventually come to his senses, and he was going to have to work for her trust again. Lydia was the last to arrive, and when she did she was cold and aloof with Stiles, but Derek could smell how excited she was to have Stiles back in her life. The complete avoidance Stiles had practiced had made her feel unbalanced and lonely. Stiles always understood her, and Scott had been much like a petulant child. It had frayed on her nerves, to say the least. 

Stiles eventually managed to get her to hug him and they started bantering. Jackson clarified that he and Derek were not confirmed members of the pack, but they were there to help. Stiles told them what had happened to Scott earlier that day and let Kira fuss over her boyfriend for awhile before letting Derek explain the wolfsbane inhaler. Eventually, when everyone had settled, Scott shakily addressed them.

"I just wanted, needed to say that I'm sorry for how I've acted. I never should have treated Stiles the way that I did, and I never should have put you in this position to begin with. I stopped listening to you because I thought an Alpha was supposed to be the leader, and by ignoring what real leadership is I endangered the people i care most about," Scott looked at Stiles for encouragement. "I'm sorry I've been so childish and mean, but I will be better if you let me fix this. Theo is still out there and he's not going to stop until we're dead, or you accept him as your alpha, and I never want that to happen."

The room was deadly silent for a few seconds before Lydia flipped her hair over her shoulder and spoke.

"Good to see you've gotten over yourself, Scott," Lydia turned to Stiles. "You've talked?"

"Yup."

"Have you forgiven him?"

"Not completely," Stiles answered firmly. Scott winced but remained strong.

"Good. Now this is settled, we need a plan. A real plan, no more of this waiting around for something to happen," Lydia said. The others nodded.

They were a pack again, a fractured, small pack with a lot of issues to work out, but they were together again.

 

 

Chapter Text

"Lydia, can we talk?" Jackson asked as the rest were leaving. Stiles gave him a thumbs-up over Lydia's shoulder and went back to talking with Scott. From the tension in the air, they were talking about their issues more, which Jackson was happy about he supposed. Stiles had asked to be left alone with Scott, and he would make time to speak with each other member later.

Lydia drove her own car back to his loft and followed him inside wordlessly. Jackson sat down at the kitchen counter and Lydia sat down next to him.

"So. You and Stiles, then?" Lydia asked slowly. Jackson nodded with a small smile. "And...Derek, too?"

"Yeah, I can barely believe it either sometimes," Jackson admitted. Lydia was silent for a few minutes and Jackson shifted under the weight of the silence. 

"I guess I just thought...if you ever came back, we'd be together again," Lydia said finally. Jackson sighed.

"I guess I did too, because it'd be easy to fall back into the same patterns, be the same guy that left you, but I'm not the same person," Jackson took her hand gently. "I'll always care for you, Lydia. You brought me back from the dead. You were my first...everything. But you aren't the same person either. I'm...I'm broken, Lydia. It's like pieces of me are just missing, and Stiles...and Derek, they understand what that feels like, to feel nothing but guilt sometimes. They're both missing pieces of themselves too."

Lydia felt a flare of jealousy rearing its ugly head inside her, cold and painful. Jackson sounded so content, so sure of himself though that she stamped it down. It wasn't as though she really wanted to marry him, settle down. It was just...familiar, with Jackson. Like he had said before, it would be easy to fall back onto old ways, griping and fighting and controlling each other with sex and insults. They were perfect, and complete poison for each other. 

"I just...I want you to be okay," Jackson said when Lydia wouldn't answer. "And I can't be who you need. You're going places I just can't follow, and I need someone that is my equal. Someones, in my weird once-in-a-century case."

"You would end up in a gay threesome, Mr. Overcompensation," Lydia teased. Jackson scowled at her. "Oh please, don't give me that. i know you, remember? I saw your internet history when we were dating."

"Shut up!" Jackson laughed. "I didn't know what to think back then."

"Just...be careful with them, okay? They've both been through a lot, especially Derek when it comes to his love life, and so have you," Lydia warned. "I think that this might be exactly what you all need, but I also know that if this blows up then none of you will ever be okay again."

"I know that," Jackson agreed. "We've talked it over."

Jackson explained what their agreement was, college and waiting for each other, and possibly dating other people if they felt a connection to someone else. Lydia listened intently, nodding along at some points and interjecting little bits of advice. By the end of their discussion, Jackson was smiling. Lydia had always been a good friend when he needed one, when she allowed the old 'I'm just a ditzy popular girl'-act drop.

"You should talk to Stiles, you know," Jackson said after awhile, changing the subject abruptly. "I think your actions have hurt him the most behind Scott."

Lydia went rigid.

"I was acting on Scott's orders. I thought he killed someone."

"Bullshit," Jackson said easily. "That's not why you're mad."

"What do you know? You weren't even here!" Lydia snapped. Just like that, all of the friendly, open atmosphere evaporated. "If we're such good friends why didn't he call me?"

Jackson had to take a moment to steady himself.

"No, I wasn't. I don't know everything that's happened while I've been gone, but I wasn't on vacation, okay? I missed every single person I left behind, and I didn't get to say goodbye to Allison either. So don't pretend like I haven't suffered too!" Jackson was pacing now, rage building in him. "Are you really so petty that you'd abandon Stiles because he didn't confide in you? He didn't even tell Scott! Can you honestly tell me that if he had called you, and you found him standing over a dead body, that you wouldn't have been concerned even for a second about the circumstances? That you wouldn't have wondered if maybe the Nogitsune didn't fuck him up somehow? That you wouldn't have flinched away from him?"

"No-"

"You're lying!" Jackson snapped. "Don't deny it."

"Fine! I guess I don't know how I would have reacted in the moment," Lydia said, crossing her arms. 

"And you threatened Stiles. You made him think you'd make me abandon him," Jackson looked at Lydia with sad eyes. "Would you really have tried to seduce me just to get me away from him?"

"Let's just drop it, okay? We were having a nice talk before!"

"No, I won't drop it! Stiles is my mate and I care about him! Why would you do something like that?" Jackson asked loudly.

"I don't know," Lydia whispered after she thought about it. "I just..."

"We've always brought out the worst in each other," Jackson sighed, sitting back down. "You have to talk to Stiles and apologize."

"Fine, I'll do it," Lydia conceded. "Do you think he'll forgive me?"

"Only if you earn it."


 

Stiles was exhausted. Dragging up your deepest darkest paranoid feelings and sharing them with your best friend after spending so much time completely separated was draining. Scott looked only slightly better. They were laying on Scott's bed staring up at the ceiling. The air was heavy with emotions and the smell of tears, but the boys felt lighter than they had for a long time.

"Well, I think that's it," Stiles said when he couldn't hold the words in anymore. Scott snorted. 

"What do we do now?"

"Sleep. Your mom called us out of school tomorrow, so I say we make the most of. Sleep in, spend the day having bro-time. Long time overdue, my man," Stiles decided. Scott nodded and rolled his side, studying Stiles.

"You smell different."

"Happy?" Stiles quipped. Scott shook his head. Stiles's base scent was just slightly different. Somehow stronger, but less...something. It was hard to explain.

"I don't know. Must be the mate thing. What's the sex like?"

"Oh my GOD! Dude, you can't just ask that without building up to it!" Stiles groaned and rolled onto his stomach, burying his head in the pillow. "And I don't know."

"Oh," Scott poked Stiles in the side. "Are we good enough friends again that I can ask you for advice with Kira?"

"Sure, go ahead. I have so much experience in the relationship department," Stiles said, his voice muffled but still obviously sarcastic.

"I just keep messing up on our dates," Scott sighed. "I'm so awkward around her! The first time I felt like it was actually working we got attacked in Derek's loft! What the hell?"

"Are you making big plans? Complicated setups?"

"Um...no," Scott mumbled. Stiles giggled and rolled over to his back again. 

"Kira is a fun person, but she's the type that enjoys nights in as much as expensive dates. She likes being a part of your life, have her over for some of your mom's cooking more often. Get a netflix account," Stiles advised. Scott looked intently at him and Stiles swore he could see Scott mentally writing everything down. "You spend most of your time running from bad guys and fighting monsters with her, and I get that it's hard to avoid that stuff. But you have to make some time for her."

"I can do that!" Scott smiled blindingly. "I can totally be relaxed and stay in with her."

"Good. Now, what do you want to do tomorrow on our epic day of bromance tomorrow?"

"Um...Netflix and chill?" Scott asked innocently. Stiles groaned.

"Oh my god, you have no idea what that means, do you?"

"What?" Scott asked. Stiles rolled his eyes and checked his phone. There was text from Lydia asking to talk to him tomorrow after school over a cup of coffee. "Lover boys?"

"Ew shut up Scott. No, it's Lydia, she wants to talk tomorrow after school. I guess I can, now," Stiles shrugged and typed out a quick response. "She was so...It was like, nothing in our friendship even mattered to her. She was mean."

"I don't know what she was thinking, but I know it was at least partly my fault, the way she acted. I told them to avoid you," Scott sighed. Stiles rolled his eyes.

"Stop that, we're not dragging that up again because there's nothing left to talk about."

Scott nodded and settled with his head on his pillow, eyes heavy and drifting closed.

"I love you, bro. You know that, right?" 

Stiles nodded.

"I know."


Jackson was sullen and distant on Thursday, which Stiles found concerning. The pack was piecing itself back together, Theo was worryingly absent but it was a welcome change, and Scott was working with Derek to strengthen both his own bonds to the betas and his ability to read the bonds. To use them to understand the feelings and thought of his pack mates without words.

Still, Jackson sat quietly and was absent from Stiles's house when John prepared them dinner and Derek said that he could feel a muffled sense of dread from their bond, as if Jackson was worried but trying to hide it. When John expressed concern, Stiles and Derek promised to find their missing friend. Derek drove them Jackson's loft and when they pressed the buzzer nobody answered.

"He's in there," Derek said after listening for the familiar heartbeat, narrowing his eyes at something only he heard. "He wants us to fuck off."

"No he doesn't. Jackson let us in right now or I'll just break in," Stiles replied. After a pause the door unlocked and they stepped inside. "See? He can reasoned with. Come on."

Derek followed Stiles upstairs, listening intently to Jackson's bond. It was tinged with relief now, even though it was mostly dread. Fear. A small amount of shame. Stiles pushed the unlocked door of Jackson's loft open and looked around. The main space was empty, so they walked into Jackson's bedroom area. Stiles took in the sight of Jackson. He was sitting quietly on the edge of his bed with his hands clasped in his lap. And he was shirtless.

Stiles gasped and rushed forward. Jackson didn't flinch when his mate ran trembling fingers over the scar on his shoulder blade. Derek approached more cautiously and sat down next to him. Jackson sighed and leaned into Derek's side.

"When...when I was in London, Deaton made sure that the local pack knew I was there," Jackson started. Derek nodded slightly, it was standard courtesy to inform the local Alpha of new wolves. "The Alpha, Sybil, she...she didn't like the idea of an omega running around, especially one like me. I wasn't exactly respectful when i arrived but Sybil liked the idea of the extra wealth if my parents were told the truth about werewolves. I wouldn't submit to her though, my parents can't know." 

"What happened?" Stiles prodded gently, sitting down on his other side and allowing Jackson to curl their fingers together.

"She told everyone in the pack about my past, the Kanima stuff, and they-" Jackson took a shuddering breath. "I wasn't popular. One of the conditions of being allowed to live was going to pack meetings and functions. I showed up to the first one and they treated me like a servant."

"Did the alpha do this to you?" Derek asked tightly, tracing the scar on Jackson's back. Few things could scar a werewolf.

"No," Jackson squeezed Stiles's hand. "I...I was skipping a pack meeting to go to a club with some guys from school. i didn't realize I was in a different territory."

"Wolf?"

"Fae. They thought it was an invasion, so they messed me a up a little and tried to ransom me. They let me go when they realized my temporary Alpha wasn't going to negotiate for me, so there was no invasion," Jackson shuddered. "They marked me, though."

"So that's why you don't..." Stiles whispered. Jackson shrugged.

"This isn't what's bothering you right now," Derek said thoughtfully. Jackson shook his head.

"Sybil called me last night. She wants me to come back to her pack since I didn't officially tell her I was leaving. She just wants to take advantage of my parents, and now she has no claim at all," Jackson hung his head. "I don't want to go back."

"You don't have to, there's no claim over your life," Derek said gently. Jackson shrugged. "Did she send one to collect you?"

"I don't know, probably."

"Scott can send them away if the show up. Any possible claim was invalidated when she left you to die at the fae's hands," Stiles said confidently. He wasn't sure if that was true by wolf law, but it was by his. "Besides, you just got back, you can't leave now."

"So can we just...cuddle or something?"

"Nope, Dad wants you to come over for dinner still," Stiles said, jumping to his feet. "Come on, up and at 'em."

"Ugh fine!" Jackson said, flopping backwards onto the bed. "Cuddling afterwards. Upstairs. Where your dad doesn't stare at Derek like he's a pervert."

Stiles fist-bumped the air and pecked Jackson on the lips, only to lose his balance as Jackson pulled him back by the front of his shirt. Derek smirked at the squeak Stiles made. Stiles flipped him off.


Theo held up the old-fashioned needle to the light. It was filled with a mercury solution laced with a particular mix of ingredients. It was beautiful. The Dread doctors had faded back to where ever they came from after the deaths of their various creations, but before gifting Theo with one last weapon. Whether the Doctors were coming back was irrelevant to Theo at this point. He looked at each member of his pack one by one. 

They disgusted him. The smell of rot emanated off of them, and the sickly look in their eyes made Theo want to rip them apart again. But after the failure of his earlier plans, he needed help to eliminate Scott. But to do that, he needed to distract the human and the former Alpha. And Stiles was easy to distract, Derek not as much. 

Jackson was the weak link. It had been easy to convince the pack in London to call him to mess with him, throw him off balance, make his remember his past. It was time to strike.

Chapter Text

Jackson walked into school the next day amid a sea of stares and whispers. He pushed his way to his locker and stopped in his tracks. Leaning on the locker next to his a sly smile was the devil himself.

Theo.

And taped to his locker was a candid photo of himself and Stiles kissing in front of Stiles's bedroom window. Someone had been stalking them, apparently, and Jackson was positive he knew who it was.

"So this is the great Jackson Whittemore," Theo said, and Jackson glared. He couldn't lose control in the halls of the school, and technically Theo hadn't done anything the police could prove so there was nothing he could do.

"What do you want?" Jackson snarled as he jerked his locker open after ripping down the photo. Theo was standing too close to him. It made the hairs of the back of Jackson's neck stand on end. He grabbed what he needed roughly from the locker and turned to face his enemy with a slam of his locker.

"Education is so important, don't you agree?" Theo said casually, but Jackson could smell the hostility pouring off the other boy. "I figure the safest place for me is in a crowd of humans. You wouldn't want to make a scene. Things could get...messy, and Stiles is just so human."

"Stay away from Stiles," Jackson said through gritted teeth as his claws dug into his palms. He saw Kira round the corner and made brief eye contact with the kitsune who then ran off, hopefully to find Scott.

"Oh, I will," Theo pouted. "I wouldn't want the big bad wolf after me."

"I will kill you if you hurt him," Jackson said quietly, too quiet for regular humans to hear. The malice in his voice didn't phase Theo. It made him laugh.

"Oh, not you. I meant Hale. Now that he's back, what use would i have for you?" Theo looked him over disdainfully. "You're just a fucked up freak, not even a real werewolf. At least Derek would be an asset, even with his blue eyes. Tell me, how does it feel to know that after so many years of trying to prove your superiority to the world you end up at the bottom of the pack? You're nothing more than the pack bitch."

"That's not how it works," Jackson hissed.

"Oh, really? Maybe you're special case then," Theo sighed dramatically. "That's what you've always wanted, right? To be special? You, the perfect son, harboring dark secrets. All that bravado was just a cover for a weak waste of space. How you managed to get in with those two is beyond me. It must be pity. They barely touch you."

"Go away!" Jackson made to move around Theo but was blocked. 

"Tell me you don't see the way Stiles and Derek are closer. The way they fit together and you, you're just a third wheel. You've never belonged anywhere because you have nothing to offer. You. Are. Nothing," Theo leaned in. "A distraction. How long do you think it will take Derek to convince Stiles to abandon you? Or do you think it will be the other way around?"

"Shut up!" Jackson exploded. Other students stared at him and Theo looked smug. Scott stalked up to the pair flanked by Kira and (Jackson almost sighed in relief) Stiles, who looked murderous.

"The cavalry has arrived," Theo laughed. "Look at you all crawling back to him, pathetic. Wasted potential."

With that Theo strode off, leaving Jackson shaken and angry. Stiles wrapped a hand around his bicep and said something that Jackson tried to focus on. Stiles looked worried and pissed, and Scott was texting someone, and people were pointing and a few were giggling. So he did something completely rational: he grabbed Stiles by the neck and kissed him. It was brief, but it had the desired calming effect. When he pulled back, Stiles looked confused but a small smile graced his face. Jackson blushed, suddenly very aware of his surroundings.

"It's not like it's a big secret anymore," Jackson shrugged. Stiles nodded and grinned, the confusion bleeding away. They hadn't really made a big deal about their changed relationship outside the privacy of their respective homes, but not because Jackson was ashamed. They just hadn't discussed whether they wanted to go public or not when the third person in the trio was out of school and definitely a secret.

"So which picture did Theo tape to your locker?" Stiles asked as he fell in step next to Jackson on their way to their classes. Jackson handed him the crumpled paper. "Nice. I liked that kiss. Mine was pretty similar, but Derek was definitely cropped out."

"So he wants us to be embarrassed but not actually in trouble," Jackson said, shaking his head. "He is a weird dude. I want to punch him in the face everytime I see him."

"Get in line," Scott growled behind them. Stiles smiled back at his friend and high fived him. "He threatened you."

"Not the first time," Jackson shrugged. The tightness in his chest wouldn't ease though, not until Stiles hesitantly slipped his fingers into Jackson's hand, loosely holding it while they walked. Theo was on the fringes for the rest of the day, in his classes, eating lunch at a table by himself, and passing by him in the hallways. Each time, Theo would look at him with what was probably meant to be sympathy. It grated on Jackson's nerves.


"Stiles?" Jackson called quietly. He was lying on Stiles's bed waiting for Stiles to finish doing whatever research had piqued his interest in that moment.

"Yeah, what's up?" Stiles asked, not turning away from the screen. Jackson sighed.

"Will you look at me?"

Stiles swiveled in his chair at the defeated tone in Jackson's voice. Jackson was staring up at the ceiling.

"What's wrong?"

"Do you...am I a third wheel?" Jackson asked softly. He looked over where Stiles was and saw the scrunched face his mate was making. The one that said Stiles wasn't sure why he was being asked something.

"What brought that up?"

"Nothing, it's stupid. I just...you and Derek were so...cool with this, and I was the one freaking out about being with you," Jackson shrugged. "I mean, I'm the one that's holding you back on the physical...stuff, you know?"

"Okay, first of all? When you live here you have to start grading supernatural bullshit on a curve. Second of all, Derek is the king of masking emotions, and I know he was freaked out too but didn't want to show it," Stiles softened the tone of his voice as he continued. "The physical stuff isn't really that important. I've barely had a functional relationship, neither has Derek. You're the only one with any kind of long term dating experience."

Jackson mulled this over as Stiles continued to babble on about why supernatural bullshit needed a curve and the various points on said curve. Eventually he sighed and tried to forget what Theo had said and joined in the discussion with Stiles. They decided that rogue omega attacks ranked lower than witches, and witches were lower than Kanimas, but they argued over where to put chimeras. Jackson wanted them higher on the scale. They were still arguing over where Peter should be placed when Derek called and told them to come to the loft for a last minute pack meeting. He wanted to discuss what Theo's reappearance would mean for the pack. Stiles and Jackson climbed into the Jeep and Stiles drove them into town to pick up some snacks and gas. Stiles went inside to get the snacks while Jackson filled up his jeep. When he got back, Jackson was gone.


Jackson woke in a situation so cliched his first act was to roll his eyes which triggered a ridiculous headache. He was chained to a tree in the Preserve. Of course he was, because Theo was an asshole that liked theatrics as much as Peter but lacked the finesse. 

"Theo, get your ass out here I can hear you mouth breathing from here," Jackson shouted. The trees rustled in the wind, carrying the stench of rot. Jackson felt his wolf clawing to the surface but the chains were hooked to a car battery so he couldn't find the strength. The rustling grew closer and soon Jackson could see what looked like teenagers emerging from the surrounding trees. But their eyes were dead, as dead as their decaying bodies smelled. Jackson felt real terror flooding him as a girl he vaguely recognized slowly broke ranks and approached him. She reached out one hand and trailed cold fingers down the side of his face. Jackson jerked away from her but didn't get very far.

"Jackson, Jackson, Jackson," Theo tutted. "You were so easy to take. Have you learned nothing? Of course not. You weren't worth training, were you?"

Theos voice was laced with fake pity, and it made Jackson's skin crawl.

"I realized something, you know," Theo continued, motioning for the girl to step back. "You might be useless to me as a wolf, but I know a way you can contribute."

"Oh really? How's that?" Jackson hissed. Theo grinned and his fangs dropped.

"You used to be a tool for violence, destruction," Theo leaned in and whispered in Jackson's ear. "Vengeance. This pitiful excuse for a pack will serve its purpose, but I could use a real weapon."

"No!" Jackson snarled, thrashing weakly against his bonds. "You'll never win!"

"I don't need to win. I just to make Scott lose," Theo chuckled. "I need to distract him, and what better distraction is there than the gory death of his best friend and the rage of another wolf who loses his mate?"

"Don't you dare touch him! Even if you kill me, Derek won't let you hurt him!" Jackson shouted. Theo shrugged.

"I'm not going to kill you. And I'm not going to do anything to Stiles," Theo pulled a metal syringe from his pocket and waved it in front of Jackson's face before stabbing it into Jackson's neck and depressing the plunger. Jackson screamed. "You are."

"I would...never..." Jackson asked weakly before whimpering. The contents were rushing into his bloodstream and beginning to spread through his brain, filling him with fire. His stomach rolled and his legs gave out, but he was held by the chains.  He could feel the evil radiating from the zombified teenagers around him, and from Theo as they moved closer to him in a circle.

"You will do whatever I tell you to do. Because. I'm your master," Theo snarled. "Say it."

Jackson shook his head, fighting the rush of aggression surging through him. He leaned forward as much as possible and threw up black bile as the werewolf fought the intrusion. Sweat poured down his face and dripped into his eyes as shivers wracked his frame. Tears started running down his face as he retched again. He just wanted his mates to come get him. He wanted Stiles's gentle touches and bright smile, and Derek's strong presence comforting him and holding him close. He had never been small enough in a relationship to be a true little spoon.

"Stop fighting it and it will stop hurting!"

Jackson refused and spat an obscenity, but he could feel himself fading. Theo grabbed his face with clawed hands. 

"I can wait. I have all night."

Jackson tried to hold on to his mind, but it was like grasping at smoke. The last thing he remembered before his body went lax was the first night he held his mates' hands.

"Master."

The chains fell around him with heavy clanging sounds as one of the zombies released him. He looked up at his master though slitted eyes and waited for instruction. Theo smiled down at the kneeling teenager and stoked the scaled skin curiously for a minute.

"Bring me the human," Theo ordered. "I need him alive."

Chapter Text

Derek opened the door of loft before Stiles was even five feet away. Stiles pushed past him into the loft and started talking. He had texted Derek to send everyone out to search the surrounding areas for any sign of Jackson or Theo.

"Nobody at the gas station saw anything and nobody remembered seeing anyone usual around while I was inside. I asked to see the security camera footage but the manager said they had been broken for a few days, so that's a bust. And Jackson was acting really weird today after school and asking me weird questions and...and..." Stiles took and deep breath and faced Derek, who looked as concerned as he felt. "I feel wrong, Derek. Something is wrong!"

"I know, I felt it too. He was scared and then..." Derek shrugged helplessly. "He's alive, I know that. But there's something blocking his emotions."

Stiles looked around at the empty loft. The painted walls reminded him of all the work they had put into the space to make it livable and open and inviting. The sofa where Derek had fallen asleep waiting for them to come over from school. The TV that the three of them had watched horror movies on while Stiles hid his face in Jackson's shoulder while Derek laughed at both of them. What if they never got the chance to be the three of them? Jackson-

"Stiles, calm down, we need to be ready," Derek rubbed Stiles back, taking him back from the brink of panic. "Come on, let's go to your house. I think if there was anywhere Jackson would try to go it's your house."

The car ride was silent and the air thick with tension. Derek was so focused on the boy next to him he didn't see the figure laying in the road until it was too late to do anything but slam on the brakes and jerk the wheel to the side. He threw his arm across Stiles's chest as Jackson's filthy face was light up by the headlights. Stiles screamed as the car flipped over and skidded to a stop in the ditch.

"Stiles? Are you hurt?" Derek coughed. His lung was punctured and three of his ribs were broken, but he was healing slowly. His arm, still across Stiles's torso, had kept Stiles from slamming against the dashboard and his arm had bits of windshield embedded in it. Stiles groaned and opened his eyes. A gash on his forehead dripped blood into his eye, most likely caused by a bit of glass from the windshield. 

"What the hell..." Stiles flexed his fingers and tested his legs. He was pretty sure nothing was broken, but the line of the seatbelt had dug into his chest and left a bruise. Derek looked like he was in much worse shape. The steering airbag hadn't deployed and the wheel was dented from the impact of Derek's body. "Derek, that was Jackson! What the hell is going on? Holy shit we're upside down! Oh my god, are we going to die?"

"Stiles calm down, I'll get you out of here," Derek soothed, though it was ruined by the blood he proceeded to cough up. Suddenly they heard footsteps approaching them. 

"Who's out there?" Stiles called. "Jackson?"

The car creak as something climbed on top of the undercarriage. Stiles held his breath and waited. The passenger side window exploded as a fist went through it. Jackson dropped to the ground beside the window and peered inside at the occupants. Derek took a deep breath, ignoring the pain in his chest to smell the air. Something was wrong. Instead of Jackson's normal scent, he smelled mercury. Wolfsbane. Scales. His hand reached for his seatbelt but it was jammed.

"Oh my god, you scared the shit out of me! What's wrong with you?" Stiles tried to regulate his breathing. "What were you doing in the-"

"Stiles! That's not Jackson!" 

Jackson bared his his fangs and started to shift. Stiles watched with terror building as instead of the wolf, he found himself face to face once more with the kanima. Derek struggled with his seatbelt but was still when Jackson swiped at him with his claws. He watched, paralyzed, as Stiles was ripped from the car and dragged away. Derek howled, hoping someone would hear.

"Jackson, what are doing? Let me go!" Stiles struggled against the kanima and tried to twist out of its grasp but a single strike to his face knocked him out. Derek yelled after him long after they disappeared from sight. 


Stiles blinked groggily and rolled to his front. He was dimly aware that there were no windows in the room he way laying in, and the only light came from a single light fixture on the ceiling. A set of decayed stairs led up to a blackened door. The air smelled damp and old, like rotting wood and mold. There was only one place this could be.

"Derek?" He called weakly. Someone laughed behind him. He turned and saw Jackson leaning against the wall behind him. "Jackson? Why are you doing this? We have to help Derek."

"What exactly are you hoping is going to happen here?" Jackson asked coldly, his eyes flickering between normal blue and the slitted pupils of the kanima. "That love will conquer all and I'll just roll over like a bitch?"

"What? No! Jackson-" Stiles was attempting to stand when Jackson slammed him into the wall. "You're hurting me!"

"You should used to it by now," Jackson whispered, leaning in close. "When you run with monsters, you get hurt."

"Stop it! I can help you! I swear, I can fix this!" Stiles tried to reason with his mate. Jackson looked conflicted for a second but it passed and a feral look bled into his eyes.

"That's right, I need fixing. I always need to be fixed because I'm broken and only the great Stiles can save me, right? I was fine before you and bullshit ruined my life!" Jackson slammed his fist into the wall next to Stiles's face. Stiles flinched and closed his eyes.

This isn't Jackson, this isn't Jackson, this isn't Jackson, Stiles repeated over and over in his head. He wanted to run but he knew Jackson would just catch him and drag him back.

"Please, you have to don't do this," Stiles begged. Jackson forced Stiles to look at him by hooking a finger under his chin.

"But I want to," Jackson purred, then crashed his lips over Stiles's. Stiles jerked in surprise and tried to move his head away but he was no match for Jackson's supernatural strength. When he finally pulled away and released Stiles's shoulders, Stiles slid down the wall and pulled his knees to his chest. His lips were bruised and Jackson looked horrified. Stiles reached out for him tentatively.

"Jackson?"

"I-Stiles, oh god what-" Jackson backed away, looking around wildly. He whipped around when the door creaked open and Theo walked slowly down the stairs. Stiles watched as Jackson's shoulders sagged and the tension leaked from his body. Scales crept over his skin until he was fully shifted.

"What are you two up to?" Theo asked calmly when he reached the bottom of the stairs. He regarded Stiles critically, taking in the dried blood that was caked on the teen's face and the new bruising on his slightly swollen lips. Stiles flipped him off in response. 

"What did you do to Jackson?" Stiles spat, standing shakily. The kanima stared impassively at him.

"I needed a weapon, I made a weapon," Theo said dismissively. "Why do you care, anyways? You have another."

"Jackson is not some toy you can play with! And he's not a weapon!" Stiles shouted, swinging wildly at Theo.

His fist connected with Theo's cheek and pain shot up his arm and he felt one of the bones in his hand crack. Jackson lurched forward before settling again at a flick of Theo's wrist. Theo grabbed Stiles's wrist and twisted his arm behind his back, ignoring the way Stiles screamed as his shoulder was dislocated. Stiles dropped to the ground and cradled his shoulder. He bit his lip to try to keep from crying but a few tears slipped out at the pain.

"I must say, I underestimated you. I think that even if your little mates hadn't come running back here, you might have found a way to put McCall back in power," Theo ran a hand along the scales of Jackson's head. "I guess I just need to be more creative."

Jackson lunged at Stiles, knocking him over and pinning him to the floor. Stiles cried out in pain as his shoulder was jostled. Stiles forced himself to think of Jackson as the kanima, not his mate and friend. The kanima scraped his claws down Stiles face and trailed them down his neck without breaking the skin. Stiles stared up at the slitted eyes and tried not to let his panic show.

"J-Jackson?" Stiles whispered. Jackson tilted his head to the side, recognition flashing in his eyes for an instant before disappearing. 

"Have you ever seen what happens to a wolf when their mate dies?" Theo asked. Stiles nodded, unable to speak as Jackson began sniffing his neck. "Then you know Derek will be blinded by rage, irrational, distracting. Especially since it will be his mate killing his mate."

Stiles whimpered. Jackson lifted his hand to strike.

"Not yet. I want him to suffer," Theo grinned. Jackson looked up at Theo, his reptilian features contorted into what looked like confusion. "I want you to have a little fun first."

"Leave Jackson alone!" Stiles shouted.

"He's not Jackson anymore. He's nobody," Theo shrugged. "And he knows it. He's always known, deep down, that he is nothing."

"No, please don't do this. Don't make him do this!" Stiles looked into Jackson eyes even as he struggled uselessly. The teen holding him down held no humanity in his eyes, or recognition. "Jackson, please! This isn't you! You know who you are!"

"It doesn't matter," Theo said dismissively. "He has to do what I say."

The kanima shuddered and hissed at Theo, earning a disdainful glare for his troubles. 

"Well, go on!"

Jackson remained motionless. Theo growled at him. Jackson looked down at Stiles and hesitated once more, his hand paused in the air. Theo growled again and Jackson lost whatever fight he was putting up and raked his claws down Stiles's chest, slicing through his shirt and drawing blood as Stiles held in a scream. The venom spread and he stopped struggling. Stiles took in a ragged breath, the smell of his own blood permeating the air.

"Any last words?" Theo asked gleefully. Stiles's lower lip trembled but he looked deep into the slitted pupils, searching for any sign of his mate.

"Jackson, it's okay," Stiles whispered. "It's ok, I know it's not really you. But...if you're in there, you need to know that even you're unsure of who you are, I know who you are to me. To Derek. You're our mate, okay? And Derek will understand, because I don't blame you."

"Shut up!" Theo yelled. "You're making me sick. Finish him, snake."

Jackson moved his face close to Stiles's and hissed. Stiles took a chance and lifted his neck the sparse half-inch he needed to close the gap. The kanima's "lips" were dry, and warm, but smoother than he had expected, but it wasn't a kiss, not really. Just a touch of Stiles's lips to the mouth of sharp teeth. 

"It's okay, Jackson," Stiles said as he flopped back down, tears filling his eyes. "It's okay."

 The kanima's claws wrapped around his throat.

Chapter Text

Derek regained the use of his limbs after what seemed like hours, but he wasn't sure how long it really took. As he ripped the seat belt lock off and dropped to the ceiling of the flipped car, he was already trying to make it to the side of the road to track Stiles. A hand reached through the broken passenger side window and Derek snarled at the new person.

"Dude! Calm down, it's me!" Scott snapped as he ripped the remains of the door open and helped Derek to shaky legs. Derek leaned heavily on the alpha and let himself be led to the bike that Scott had rode there.

"What happened?" Scott asked as Derek slid to the ground and began flexing his limbs to stimulate blood flow. "I've tried calling you and Stiles like, twenty times!"

"Jackson!" Derek growled. 

"You found him?" Scott asked, shocked.

"You could say that," Derek told Scott everything that had happened from the car ride to Jackson being the Kanima. "Theo did something to him, and I'm going to kill him."

"Jackson?"

"No, you idiot! Theo!" Derek yelled, staggering to his feet. Scott looked chastised, and Derek realized that Scott was probably thinking the same thing. "I'm sorry. But I need to find them! I can't sense them, okay? They're alive but that's all I know."

"That's a good, thing alight? I'll call everyone, we can follow the blood trail," Scott said, resting a hesitant hand on Derek's shoulder. "We'll find them."

"What blood trail? Stiles wasn't bleeding that badly," Derek looked in the direction they had disappeared. Sure enough, small drops of blood lead away from the car. Scott gave him a strange look.

"It's not his," Scott said cautiously. "It's Jackson's."

Derek examined the blood while Scott called the pack and the Sheriff and told them where to meet. It took every ounce of self control not to race off on his own to find his mates, but he knew that it was probably a trap and he couldn't risk getting himself killed. Scott walked over to him.

"The pack's coming," Scott watched Derek for a moment. "What are you doing?"

"What's wrong with this blood?" Derek motioned to the ground. Scott shrugged and gave Derek a confused look. But he looked closer at the stains. Then it hit him.

"It doesn't...smell right?"

"Mercury," Derek growled. "Who you know that uses mercury?"

"The..." Scott looked behind him as if they were there. "But they disappeared after all the chimeras died!"

The sound of pounding feet alerted Derek and Scott to the presence of Liam, who skidded to a halt.

"Yeah, they aren't nearly as you would hope," Liam said. The teen looked like he had seen a ghost. Scott reached out instinctively for Liam, not liking the way Liam was almost in tears.

"What happened?"

"I saw..." Liam turned wide eyes to his alpha. "Hayden took Jackson."

"What?" Scott stepped back.

"Who's Hayden?" Derek asked. 

"She is...was, my girlfriend until the Dread Doctors fucked her up and she died but not before i tried to kill Scott-" Liam forcibly shut himself up at Scott's pained expression. "But she's not dead, okay? Look!"

Liam pulled out a folded piece of paper. Derek grabbed it and unfolded it. It was a snapshot from the traffic camera in town. Scott looked at it as well.

"That's not possible."

"It was taken not long after Stiles called Derek!" Liam folded it back up and pocketed it. "The sheriff gave it to me. I went to the gas station and I could smell...death."

"Liam, if you don't want to..." Scott trailed off. Liam wouldn't look up. Derek felt his pain even without knowing the whole story. Liam just shook his head.

"It's not really her. She wouldn't help Theo, not by choice," Liam wiped at his eyes quickly. "I want to help, okay? She doesn't deserve to be used like this."

Kira and Lydia arrived in the Sheriff's cruiser a few minutes later. The sheriff took in the sight of the bloody but healed Derek and his twisted car.

"Let's go find my son."


 

Stiles closed his eyes and waited for the strike. Nothing came. He cracked open an eye. The kanima was still on top of him, staring down with slitted pupils. But he was trembling.

"What are you waiting for? Kill him!" Theo screamed. The kanima shuddered, and the scales partially receded until Jackson's face was recognizable again and his skin only had patches. His eyes were still wrong, but they held recognition, and guilt. 

"Jackson?" Stiles whispered. Jackson shuddered, and moved the hand he had curled around Stiles throat so that it instead was cradling the back his head. Theo growled at them. Stiles stared in horror as bluish-black veins crawled up Jackson's neck and across his arms.

"You little cheater," Theo laughed. Jackson flinched and placed himself even more in between Theo and his mate. "You're trying to shift, aren't you? Well it won't work. You can't heal with wolfsbane in your system."

"He's dying?" Stiles turned his head to look at Theo, which Jackson seemed to take as an invitation to hide his face where Stiles's neck met his shoulder. Stiles felt his fingers twitch.

"Yes, of course he's dying. The wolf inside him is trying to reject the change," Theo said condescendingly. "An infusion of wolfsbane, mercury, and kanima venom mixed with whatever shit the doctors came up with isn't exactly medicine, is it?"

"This is bat-shit insane, even for you," Stiles spat.

"Submit to me!" He grabbed Jackson and wrenched him out of Stiles's weak hold. "I'm your alpha!"

"You're not an alpha," Stiles said in a deadly serious tone. "You're nothing. I don't know what made you this way, or if you were always this pathetic. Even if you manage to kill Scott, you'll never have a pack. No one would ever follow you."

Jackson gasped for air as Theo's hand tightened around his throat. Stiles tried to stand but fell down. Jackson made a horrible gurgling sound. Theo rolled his eyes and loosened his grip. Jackson looked at him, a shadow of his best bitch-face painted on his features.

"Fuck you."

He slashed his claws across Theo's face with the last of his strength. Theo dropped him, clamping a hand over the bloody gashes. He lurched forward towards Stiles, snarling and feral until he legs gave out. Jackson crawled over to Stiles, dragged him away to sit up against the wall, and laid his head in Stiles lap, whimpering in pain.

"I am the alpha!" Theo screamed from his place on the floor. Stiles flinched away. Jackson started to convulse. 


 

Derek stopped in his tracks as overwhelming fear and guilt and pain flooded Jackson's bond. 

"Something's wrong!" Derek whispered to himself. "Scott, we have to hurry."

"Isn't your old house out here?" Scott asked innocently, then realization crossed his face. "Oh."

"Yes, oh. My house, my mates, everything is leading to-" Derek stopped, and the others paused as well. Derek shifted and growled as the smell of rot and death permeated the air. "Friends of yours?"

Liam started growling as he shifted. His claws dug into his palms. Scott flashed his red eyes.

"Scott, hold these things off!" Derek called. Scott started to argue even as the silent undead started to circle. "I have to get to them!"

Scott gave a curt nod and Derek sprinted off, slamming the girl that tried to follow against a tree. Liam roared, Kira unsheathed her katana, and Malia growled through fangs.

"I can't fight Hayden," Liam said. Malia nodded and charged her.


 

"Jackson! Jackson, no come on!" Stiles grasped weakly at Jackson's shoulders as he convulsed. Theo started to laugh but Stiles ignored him. He wasn't going anywhere. "Just, breathe okay?"

Jackson latched onto Stiles's hand with his own, searching his mate's face desperately.

"I'm sor-"

"Shh, shh no, don't," Stiles whispered. "It's gonna be okay."

Jackson's back arched and he yelled. Stiles tried to soothe him but Jackson was unable to stay still, bucking and writhing. Finally, he went still, his breathing was shallow and fast. He looked up at Stiles with tear-filled eyes.

"St-Stiles?"

"I'm right here, okay?" Stiles squeezed Jackson's hand, still unable to properly move. "I'll always be right here, with you."

"I-I didn't mean it," Jackson started to sob. "I didn't mean to-to-"

"Shh, we'll fix it, ok? I promised," Stiles soothed, trying desperately to move his arms to cradle his mate, but he remained paralyzed. "Just stay with me, alright?"

"I ca-can't," Jackson hiccuped. "Where's Derek?"

"I'm right here!" Derek called as he bounded down the stairs, claws out and eyes blazing. He saw Theo lying on the ground and snarled. "You!"

"Derek?" Jackson called weakly. Derek turned away and fell to his knees in front of his mates. He took Jackson's other hand.

"Hey, hey I'm here," Derek kissed Jackson's hand, then his forehead. Stiles looked at him with pleading eyes.

"I'm s-sorry I paralyzed you," Jackson gasped as pain wracked his frame with renewed intensity. "I didn't want to. But I tried to fight it, i tried so hard...I cut my palm..."

"I know, I know," Derek said, fighting back tears. Jackson already smelled like death, and corrupted black goo was starting to leak from his nose and mouth. "You left a trail to follow, you led me here."

"I hurt Stiles. I hurt our mate," Jackson whimpered. Derek shook his head and Stiles started to protest. Scott and the others barreled into the room, and Scott immediately felt out of place in the midst of such a personal moment. Scott sniffed the air and flinched. He pulled out his phone and called the only person he thought might know how to help. After a few minutes he hung up and knelt next to Derek. Stiles looked at him with puffy red eyes and Scott noticed the way his shoulder was hanging strangely.

"Okay, this is junk science with literally no basis in fact or practice, but I think if we can get all of the black stuff out of him before he...when it's out of his system I might be able to save him. We need to open his veins and drain the poison while he still has a little healing ability," Scott flashed his eyes red. "I'll give him the bite again."

"But he's already a wolf!" Stiles replied, grasping tighter to Jackson as feeling began to return to his arms. "That won't help."

"Deaton said that the only way that Jackson's body could reject the kanima was by rejecting the wolf too, so if I can bite him at the right time, it won't be rejected by the kanima and it will save him," Scott explained quickly, frantically. "It's the only way!"

"He could die if you do it wrong!" Derek shouted. Scott didn't rise to the challenge in Derek's voice. Stiles took a shaky breath and managed to raise Jackson's hand to his mouth so he could kiss his knuckles.

"He's already dying," Stiles whispered, silencing Derek. Jackson groaned, squeezing Stiles's hand. "Just do it."

"Stiles?" Jackson looked terrified. Stiles tried to look reassuring.

"I'll see you soon, okay?" 

Jackson nodded and closed his eyes so he wouldn't have to see the way Stiles looked so defeated already.

"I'm ready."

"I'll bring him back," Scott said, a determined look stealing over his face. "I will. I promise."

Derek looked like he wanted to protest, but they had no other options. Stiles let Derek and Scott take Jackson out of his lap and let Liam and Kira fuss over him while Malia enthusiastically shackled the still paralyzed, cursing Theo. The Sheriff had remained behind to handle the shocking discovery of several bodies in the preserve. Derek and Scott took Jackson outside, and Stiles waited with a pounding heart and fear in his veins for them to return. A piercing scream rang through the air, unmuffled by burnt rotten wood and the basement walls. Stiles closed his eyes and covered his ears, waiting for it to end.

Chapter Text

Stiles had surgery on his shoulder when Melissa confirmed that it had been completely dislocated and then some. He was groggy and sick when he woke from anesthesia, and in his state all he could see was that Jackson still hadn't returned. He caught a glimpse of two green eyes staring into his own before blackness crept in. As he slipped back to unconsciousness, he was haunted by what had unfolded two nights before. After Scott had re-administered the bite, Scott had come back down into the basement with a heart broken, lost look on his face. Stiles had backed away, bolstered by the gentle hands of his packmates, shouting at Scott to tell him where Jackson was. Scott had revealed that Jackson had run off after receiving the new bite and Derek had gone after him. Stiles collapsed and re-awoke in the hospital to Melissa and his father explaining that he needed surgery. 

"He's so quiet," Derek whispered. He knew Stiles had been conscious for a few seconds, he had sensed the change, but it hadn't lasted long. The sheriff sat next to Derek in an uncomfortable chair, observing the man next to him. Derek's eyes were haunted and scared, and his hair was messy and his clothes rumpled. After losing Jackson in the Preserve, he had returned to Stiles too late to see him before surgery. 

"He'll wake up in his own time," John soothed. "The doctor said it was normal for him to wake up a few times. He won't even remember it."

"I just...I can't stop assuming the worst is going to happen," Derek confessed. "It always does."

He looked down at Stiles's hand that he had been gently holding for over an hour. John had taken one look at the distraught werewolf and moved to the side to give him some space with his son. John sighed.

"You'll find him, I know you will."

"D'rck?" Stiles slurred. Derek looked down into his slitted eyes and he smiled for the first time since he had to watch Jackson take off.

"Hey Stiles," Derek whispered. He brushed a hand through Stiles's hair.

"Dad?" Stiles called, a little stronger as he woke more fully. The Sheriff moved into his sight and smiled at his son. "Feel weird..."

"You had surgery, kiddo."

"Oh. Cool," Stiles turned back to Derek. "Hello handsome."

"Flatterer," Derek smirked.

"Where's Jackson?" Stiles looked sad. Derek turned to John for help. The Sheriff took over explaining why Jackson wasn't there as Derek had to step out into the hall until the sound of rushing water in his ears subsided.

Stiles let the doctor check him over, and when he was allowed to leave the next day, his dad helped tuck him under a blanket on the couch. Derek sat with Stiles head in his lap for hours, watching movies and bringing him food and generally fussing over him in a very un-Derek kind of way. It made Stiles sad.

"I can walk to the kitchen, Derek," Stiles snapped. It had been six hours since he returned from the hospital and neither Derek nor his father would let him do anything for himself.

"I'm just trying to help," Derek snapped back. Stiles sighed and smooth his hair back.

"Look, i'm sorry. But I need you to stop treating me like I'm made of glass, okay? I'm fine."

"But you weren't!" Derek blurted. Stiles froze, and then he settled back in Derek's lap. "You were bleeding and for a moment, all I could smell was death. I thought..."

Stiles urged Derek on when the older fell silent. Derek took a deep, grounding breath.

"I thought I was going to lose both of you."

Stiles didn't know how to respond, so he remained quiet and let Derek breathe him in. They sat there for a few minutes until Stiles decided to actually get the water that he was going for in the first place. Derek didn't stop him, but he did follow behind like a kicked puppy. Stiles carefully retrieved a glass and filled it in the sink using only one arm, smiling when he managed not to drop anything. Derek smiled softly at him, and made sure he took his pain pills. Stiles was only taking a half dose, and using Derek for the rest of the pain. 

"I want to find Jackson," Stiles whispered later when Derek slipped into bed behind him. Derek nuzzled the back of Stiles's neck.

"He doesn't want to be found," Derek said, but his voice cracked on the last word. "He'll come back when he's ready."

"Was he...was he him? When he bolted?"

"He was half feral when Scott bit him," Derek whispered. He didn't want to tell Stiles this, but he deserved to know. "I don't even know if the bite took. He just took off and when I chased him he told me to stop and go back to you. I left him."

"He needs time alone," Stiles reassured Derek. He was also trying to reassure himself. "He was so close to killing me. I really thought he was going to do it, but he fought it back. Saving me...it almost killed him."

A wave of sadness and pain flooded Stiles's mind. Stiles started to breathe faster, not panicking, just trying to keep his tears from falling. Derek pulled him closer, tangling their legs together and pressing his lips to the nape of Stiles's neck. He murmured soft words to his mate, trying to make him calm down, and reaching out through the bond to find Jackson. He was far away, and the bond was thin. Jackson was trying to break it. Derek forced raw emotion through it, knowing that Stiles was unknowingly doing the same in response to his subconscious recognizing Jackson's distress. When Derek could feel Jackson lessening the relentless pressure on their bond, he slumped, exhausted, and fell asleep behind his mate.

Far away, where he was hidden in the shadows of an alley, Jackson closed his eyes and wept.


"I think I might have found Jackson," Lydia said, not bothering to knock as she stormed into Stiles's bedroom. Jackson had been missing for four days.

"Hi Lydia, how are you? Beautiful day," Stiles said wryly. Lydia shot him a look. Stiles sighted. "What makes you think you found him?"

"A girl twenty miles away filed a police report saying that she was walking home alone and two men tried to mug and assault her, but then a 'really muscular guy with amazing blue eyes' beat them off and then ran away," Lydia shoved the printout into Stiles's hands.

"Okay, compelling," Stiles conceded. "But before I get my hopes up, what chance is there that this is just a guy with blue eyes?"

"He growled at them and had fangs," Lydia flipped her hair over her shoulder. "I had your dad call the officer in charge for extra details they left out of the report because they sound crazy."

"I'll call Derek."

 

Chapter Text

Stiles was sitting on the hotel bed on his side of the room searching police blotters and blogs and anywhere else he could think of for more sightings of Jackson. He was using the hotel's pay-by-the-hour wifi and he knew the bill was going to horrendous. Derek had driven them the entire way in the Jeep and every now and then he would curse the Jeep for its faults. Stiles ignored him, but only because he was focused on his own task. They had already checked the area around the attempted mugging Jackson had presumably stopped, but no one had seen or heard of him since that night a week ago. There were only so many excuses the school principle would take before he started getting suspicious. 

"I have no idea what to look for anymore," Stiles said, shutting the laptop with a little more force than necessary. Derek pulled the laptop away from him and gently pushed Stiles down onto the pillows.

"You need to rest," Derek insisted when Stiles tried to squirm away. "Seriously, you look like shit. Just sleep for a few hours!"

"I hate you," Stiles muttered as he closed his eyes and snuggled awkwardly into Derek where the man sat on the edge of the bed. It didn't take long for him to fall asleep. He hadn't slept well for two nights and Derek had confiscated his Adderall when he caught Stiles taking too much. He now made sure Stiles had the correct dose every day instead of abusing it. Derek ran a hand through Stiles's hair and sighed when Stiles leaned into his touch. He missed Jackson. Derek had slipped into a light doze when the buzzing of his cellphone brought him painfully back to the present, Stiles's soft snores and the rain outside.

"Hello?" Derek snapped. He didn't recognize the number and was in no mood to chat. There was silence on other end of the line for a few moments, and Derek was about to hang up when a familiar voice spoke.

"Derek."

"Argent?" Derek sat up sharply, dislodging Stiles who groggily flailed under the blankets.

"Good to know you're still alive," Chris Argent replied. Derek noted that the man sounded...happy, almost, to hear from him. "I was hoping you hadn't changed your number."

"I told you to call if you needed anything," Derek replied. "What's going on?"

"An old hunter contact of mine gave me a call, hadn't heard that I'm not really around anymore. He said he had a lead on a potential omega in California, close enough to Beacon hills to be concerning," Chris explained. Derek thought the older man sounded hesitant.

"You wouldn't have called just for that, would you?" Derek asked suspiciously. Stiles motioned at the phone so Derek put it on speaker. There was sigh from the other side of the phone.

"There are rumors that this particular...omega, is more than what he seems. The last hunter that went after him was found by his back up paralyzed by Kanima venom but he swore up and down it was a wolf. Anything I should know?" Chris sounded like he was asking a three year old passive questions about missing cookies in the cookie jar.

"Um...probably better if you know less," Stiles said, flashing a quick look to Derek. "You know, plausible deniability is highly underrated thing nowadays what with all these weird-."

"Shut up Stiles," Chris almost sounded fond. 

"Where are these rumors coming from exactly?" Stiles asked sharply. "This is important!"

"I'll call in some favors."


Jackson was scared. He hoped the man that he had clawed was still alive. He hadn't meant to hurt him badly, just scare him enough that he could get away. The way he had dropped to ground reminded Jackson of the way he used to have the same effect with his venom. But he wasn't the kanima anymore. He wasn't the kanima because if he was still the kanima he couldn't go home.

He huddled closer into the corner of the abandoned house he had broken into. Foreclosure was a terrible thing, but at least it provided a safe enough place to hide. He had tried the sinks in the slight hope that the water was on. He just wanted to clean off his hands and face, wash away the smell of blood and grime, but of course he had no such luck. The streets had quickly lost their appeal after the seemingly endless rounds of "hey pretty boy" and roaming hands that Jackson had encountered when he wandered into a rough side of a rundown town, and even if he hadn't been chased out by the hunters tracking him he would've kept running.

Jackson pulled out his phone, and held the lifeless piece of machinery in his hand. It was off, so no one could use it to trace him, and every night he was tempted to turn it on and let his mates come to him. But how could he ask them to risk their lives from hunters and even himself? He had already proven himself to be weak, corruptible, unworthy of their love and gentleness. He had tried to break their bond but was overcome by the emotions that flooded him.

But they want me back. They didn't let me break our bond even though they would have been safer without it. I want to go home. I want to go home and sit on the couch and cuddle with Stiles and let Derek rub my back because I'm upset and eat the food Stiles makes and watch baseball with John and run in the forest with the pack again-

Tonight was the night that Jackson cracked. He was so tired. Tired of running. Of being cold, and dirty, and isolated. He just wanted to be safe. And he was weak. The screen flared to life, bright and artificial in the surrounding darkness. The pings and message alerts started almost immediately. Jackson waited for them to die down before selecting the most recent voicemail left by Stiles.

"Jackson I know you're scared and alone and possibly hurt. And maybe you don't want us to find you. But you don't get a say in this. We're coming to get you and you will come back with us and let us aggressively cuddle you and feed you ice cream while we lecture you on running away from your mates. You will never be alone again when we find you. I promise. And since you're listening to this I know you've turned on your phone. In approximately five minutes Danny's going to call me with your GPS coordinates and you had better be-"

Despite Stiles's best efforts to talk as fast as possible, the voicemail cut him off. Jackson started to cry, silently at first, holding his hands over his mouth as harsh breaths were muffled and tears rolled down his face. It soon devolved into all out sobbing as he read through the dozens of texts, mostly from Stiles, then Derek, and Lydia. A few were from the rest of the pack members too. His hands were shaking when he raised the phone to his ear.

"Jackson!"

Jackson let out a strangled sound, his voice rusty from the recent disuse. 

"Jackson, just stay where you are, we'll be there soon, okay? We're in the area, please don't run! We'll fix it, okay?" Stiles sounded frantic, and Jackson felt guilty for putting that frantic note in his voice. 

"Don't abandon me," Jackson whispered, stopping Stiles mid-ramble. Then Derek's voice filled the air.

"We will never abandon you," Derek said soothingly. Jackson could hear background noise that was from a car on the road. "Just...don't run, promise?"

"P-promise," Jackson hiccuped. His phone beeped from low battery. "My phone is dying."

"Don't worry, we're close, just sit tight," Stiles was back. Jackson whimpered pathetically. "Hey, just breathe, breathe. I'll stay on the line as long as possible."

Jackson sat on the cold floor and listened to Stiles ramble about how annoying Derek was to travel with, the way he only ate healthy snacks that smelled weird ("They do not smell weird, Stiles!") and his strange habit of checking every cabinet and drawer in hotel rooms.

"And he's a blanket hog!" Stiles exclaimed, making Jackson laugh weakly. The phone beeped again.

"I only have 1% battery left!" Jackson was starting to feel panicked again. "Are you almost here?"

There was no response, just silence and darkness. His phone was dead. He sat in complete silence for ten minutes. The front door opened slowly, and at first Jackson thought maybe it was his mates. Then he smelled them. Three men rounded the corner, bright flash lights blinding Jackson momentarily. 

"There he is," One of them snarled. Jackson recognized him as the one he had taken down before. Any momentary pang of relief that he hadn't killed anyone was quickly overtaken by fear.

"Don't make this harder on yourself, kid. I'll make it quick," His companion said mockingly. There was blip in his heartbeat.


"This is the place," Derek said decisively. Jackson's faint scent led to this exact house. "There are four heartbeats inside, one is Jackson and the rest are human."

"Hunters?"

"Based on the fear in Jackson's bond, yes."

Then Derek started stripping. Stiles stared at him open-mouthed before snapping out of it when Derek reached for his underwear.

"Dude. What the fuck are you doing?"

Derek gave him a withering glance.

"I don't have any spare clothes in the car," Derek said. Stiles slapped a hand over his eyes dramatically as Derek stripped completely naked and when the sounds of his shift were over, Stiles lowered his hand in time to see Derek's black tail as he entered the house in his full shift. He found Jackson sitting quietly in the corner, three men laying in front of him seemingly unconscious but definitely alive. Jackson didn't seem to notice him at first, until Stiles tripped and fell into the room.

"Son of a-" Stiles sat up quickly. "Jackson!"

Said teenager looked up at him and Stiles felt his heart break.

Jackson was filthy. His face was tear-streaked with dirt and his hair was greasy. His clothes were torn and ill-fitting, the result of a quick shoplifting, and his feet were bare. His eyes were the worst. They were lost and broken, and he almost looked like he was afraid of Stiles. Skinny Stiles.

"Jacks, it's me," Stiles said softly, approaching carefully. Jackson whined low in his throat.

"I shouldn't, I shouldn't have called you," Jackson mumbled. "I tried to let you go but I couldn't. I was st-strong enough."

"No, you were strong enough to hold on," Stiles moved a little closer. He was within reach of Jackson now. Jackson looked down at his hand where his nails were still elongated into claws. "You won't hurt me, I know you won't."

Stiles reached out and took Jackson's hand and held it up to his face and slowly pulled so that Jackson's claws glided harmlessly over his mate's fragile skin. His claws finally retracted and Stiles allowed their twined hands to fall to Jackson's lap.

"See? No hurting," Stiles smiled encouragingly. "I trust you. You can hear my heart. I trust you."

Jackson just shook his head.

"I shouldn't have called, i should have let you go."

Derek, too upset to shift back, approached Jackson. His nails clicked on the floor until he dropped to his belly and carefully crawled the last few feet until he could lay partially in Jackson's lap. He bumped at Jackson's hand with his head, urging him to pet. Jackson looked shocked at the open affection, and hesitantly stroked Derek's fur. His lower lip trembled, then his eyes filled with more tears.

"I'm so sorry," Jackson sobbed, wishing he could just stop crying for once. But Stiles and Derek didn't seem disgusted, or annoyed by his weakness. They just seemed...relieved. Derek's tail was wagging and he was shamelessly tilting his head so Jackson could scratch at the best place behind his ears. That made both Jackson and Stiles laugh.

"I thought I'd have to wait a little longer before I had you naked between my legs," Jackson smirked. It was a shadow of his normal self, but Stiles still giggled at the way Derek seemed to glare back at Jackson. The effect was ruined by his still-wagging tail.

"Come on, let's go home," Stiles nudged Jackson with his shoulder. "Or, you know, to the hotel. You can shower and stuff cause dude, you stink."

Jackson wanted to snark back at him, but the idea of a hot shower was too much.

"Did you mean it when you..." Jackson tried to remember the exact words. "Are you going to aggressively cuddle me?"

"Absolutely. Promise," Stiles rubbed Jackson's neck, spread the smell of his skin over some the grime that Jackson never seemed to able to ignore. Jackson looked grateful. Derek whined. "Oh, you prude. Go change back and we'll be out in five minutes."

"I've seen you naked before..." Jackson muttered. Derek bolted. Stiles stared after him.

When the three mates reached the hotel room, Jackson let Derek lead him to the bathroom while Stiles went out to find them something to eat. Jackson was still in a bit of a daze, so Derek started to help him undress. When Jackson was finally naked, Derek ushered him towards the shower. Suddenly, Jackson turned and seized Derek's arm.

"Stay? Just...in the room?" Jackson looked like he thought Derek could ever refuse him something in this state. Derek nodded.

"I'm going to grab you some clothes, ok? I'll be right back."

Derek quickly sifted through the bags he and Stiles had packed to select a t-shirt and boxers from Stiles and pair of his own sweatpants. Jackson was standing under the spray when he returned, his image distorted by the frosted glass wall. Derek waited with him, sitting silently and listening to Jackson scrub vigorously at his hair. A lingering air of uncertainty was troubling.

"He doesn't blame, you know," Derek said. Jackson stilled, hands still raised from washing the shampoo out. "He would never blame you."

Maybe he should. 

Jackson realized he must have said it out loud because Derek started to talk again.

"Stiles isn't perfect, none of us are. But of people, he knows how it feels to be controlled by someone and forced to do things you don't want to do," Derek sounded like he was far away in thought.

Jackson quickly finished showering and Derek left the room to let him change. When Jackson reemerged, skin slightly pink and hair damp, his eyes were blown from the mere presence of his mates' scents on their borrowed clothes. Stiles had brought back a relative feat of takeout Italian food and they made sure Jackson ate his fill while feasting on their own entrees. Later, after they had all showered, Jackson suddenly felt out of place again. When Stiles slipped into one of the queen-sized beds, Jackson hesitantly joined him. Stiles pulled him to his chest, letting Jackson bury his face in the crook of his neck and breathe in his clean skin. Derek laid behind him, scooting in close and throwing an arm over Jackson so they were spooning.

"Thank you," Jackson whispered. I love you.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Jackson was still half-asleep when he felt Stiles start to get out of the bed. Derek, still snugly cuddled up to him from behind, hadn't even shifted. Stiles pulled on a sweatshirt and some jeans, and when he noticed Jackson watching him with sleepy eyes he smiled softly. Lips pressed to Jackson's forehead and Stiles whispered that he'd be back with breakfast soon, so just sleep. Jackson let himself bask in the domestic nature of that moment before closing his eyes again. When he woke for real about forty minutes later, he was lying on his side face to face with Derek, who was quietly observing him. His green eyes were content, and crinkled at the edges, and a lazy hand was smoothing up and down his arm.

"Hi," Jackson whispered, not wanting to break the laziness of the moment. Derek grinned.

"Hi, yourself," He moved a little closer until there were only a few inches between them. "How do you feel?"

Jackson shrugged. He felt fine, physically. Werewolf healing was amazing like that. But inside he was still hesitant.

"I think...I think i might still be a little wrong," Jackson flashed his eyes. They were the bright electric blue of an omega, but the pupils were different. They were slitted. Derek studied his eyes, and slowly brought the arm that he had been stroking up to examine Jackson's hand. Jackson extended his claws. Kanima venom was coating them.

"That's...different," Derek said after awhile. Jackson huffed and started to move away. "Hey, not in a bad way. Just...different."

"I'm a freak," Jackson grumbled.

"You're a hybrid."

Stiles happened to return at that moment with large coffees and several brown paper bags. Both wolves could practically smell the combination of bacon, eggs, hashbrowns, and pancakes from the second Stiles opened the car door. Jackson dragged himself from the bed and opened the motel room door to snatch a coffee from a very surprised Stiles. Derek was sitting up in bed with a very amused expression on his face when he turned back around.

"Shut up, I haven't had real coffee in a long time," Jackson muttered.

Stiles placed the food on the bed and climbed in. Derek sighed. He'd have to leave a good tip for whomever had to clean this room. Stiles eating on an uneven, unstable surface was a definite recipe for disaster. Stiles's phone started to ring halfway through his second helping, and the "Hungry Like the Wolf" hung in the air. Derek and Jackson both shot judgmental stares at Stiles who merely ignored them.

"Hey! Sorry i didn't call but we found-" Stiles paused. Both wolves could hear the conversation on the other side of the line.

"Stiles! First off, awesome. Come home soon, we want to have a party for you Jackson. I know you're listening. Second, you should know a very pissed off representative from an Alpha Sybil from London came to town yesterday. Something about a claim on Jackson as pack omega?" Scott's voice had an edge of a growl in it. "Sybil claims she doesn't want to start a fight, so I informed him that he can tell her that if she sends anyone else after Jackson that's what she'll get. Deaton's helping me deal with her though. She should be gone in two days tops."

Jackson had gone very pale halfway through and missed the part where Scott said Sybil would leave. The room started to spin and he felt his stomach lurch. Distantly, he heard Stiles telling Scott that they'd be back in town by nightfall, but he was too wrapped up in his thoughts to really listen. He didn't want to have to leave so soon after reuniting with his mates. And leaving without them wasn't an option, not when his feelings were this strong, but he couldn't ask them to leave their home for him. If Sybil had come all the way to California for him, she must think she had a much stronger claim to him and might put up a fight to get what she wanted. Jackson felt like he might throw up.

"Jackson, breathe!" Derek was rubbing his back, speaking into his ear.

"She's really going to take me back..." Jackson started breathing too fast. Not the result Derek was looking for. "No, I won't go!"

"Come on, to the bathroom. You look like you might need it," Stiles said, hauling Jackson to his feet and helping him stagger to the bathroom. Jackson collapsed in front of the toilet and waited for his stomach to decide what it was going to do. Stiles procured a cold wet washcloth from somewhere, he didn't pay attention, and settled it over the back of Jackson's neck. Derek was behind him rubbing his back again and growling so softly it sounded like purring.

"I don't want to leave again," Jackson whispered when his stomach finally settled.

"You seem to think we'd let you," Stiles said as he dabbed the sweat from Jackson's forehead. "We have first dibs."

Derek rolled his eyes and Jackson side-eyed Stiles who just smiled back at him. 

"Scott said she was leaving. They sorted it out, alright? You aren't going anywhere," Derek soothed. "Just breathe, there you go. No one is going to take you. Alphas can't force people to be in their packs if they really want to leave. Well, it's illegal. She won't gain any support."

Jackson nodded, letting that sink in. He was free. 

Derek and Stiles pulled him to his feet again and sat him on the bed. Together, the two men packed up their room and put their belongings in the car while Jackson finished collecting himself and showering once again. They needed to leave. Jackson found himself nodding off in the car, and by the time Stiles stopped for gas, he was asleep again. When Jackson opened his eyes, it was because the car had come to a stop and they were outside Stiles's house. There were cars parked outside down the street and the lights were on. Stiles looked annoyed.

"Dammit, I told Lydia to wait a few days before overwhelming you with a party," Stiles groaned. Derek turned around in the driver's seat to look at Jackson in the backseat. His eyes were bleary from waking up in a bad place in his sleep cycle, the shirt Derek had lent him was too big, and his forehead had a fading red spot from leaning against the window while he slept. The teen looked back at him, then shrugged.

"You can kick them out if it's too much, I guess," Jackson undid his seatbelt and climbed out of the car. Stiles was by his side in an instant, grabbing his hand and squeezing it tightly. The front door opened and Lydia leaned against the doorframe. Stiles glared at her as they walked past her into the house.

"Don't give me that look, Scott told us he was coming back today. If you wanted to keep it a secret, you shouldn't have blabbed to Scott," Lydia tossed her hair over her shoulder before pulling Jackson into a hug, which was returned with one arm as he wouldn't let go of Stiles. The pack was waiting inside, including John and Melissa, with pizza and soda. Jackson blushed at the attention he was being shown and allowed each person to hug him and scent him until he came to Scott. Scott stood awkwardly in front of him before Jackson finally let go of Stiles's hand and wrapped him in a tight, almost desperate embrace. Scott looked over Jackson''s shoulder at Derek and Stiles in confusion, his hands hovering awkwardly over Jackson's back. Stiles's shrugged, his face a comical mix of surprise and confusion. Scott took that as permission and bestowed one of his bone-cracking hugs onto Jackson. 

"Are you alright?" Scott asked when he let go. Jackson nodded, not quite meeting anyone's eyes. "Good. Movie?"

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Jackson stayed with Derek in his loft for a few days after he returned to Beacon Hills. Stiles visited often, doing his homework and hanging out with them, though his father was less understanding of him staying the night. Then a week later Jackson showed up at three in the morning at the Stilinski residence. He had been sleep walking and Derek stood behind him, apologizing but explaining that waking a werewolf that was sleepwalking could be very dangerous. Jackson, without waking, went upstairs and crawled into bed with a groggy but accommodating Stiles. He wrapped his arms around the snuggling werewolf and fell back to sleep at Derek's quick reassurance.

Derek went back downstairs with the Sheriff, slightly apprehensive if he was being honest with himself. John hadn't looked particularly happy to see them, but it may have been the early hour. The sheriff prepared some coffee, handing a mug to Derek when he was done.

"What happened?"

Derek sighed. Jackson had been having nightmares every night, sometimes they went away on their own and sometimes Derek had to wake him up. He had sleepwalked once before but Derek had managed to keep him in the apartment that time.

"He went to bed early, walked out when I was in the shower," Derek rubbed a hand over his eyes. "I followed him so he wouldn't get into any trouble, but I didn't want to risk waking him up."

"Why Stiles? He had you to...sleep with, right?"

"Stiles...Stiles makes us both feel...safe," Derek shrugged. "I think it's because he's seen both of us at our worst, saved us even though it was dangerous to his health, I don't know for sure. I know he's better at offering comfort."

"That's always come naturally to him," John smiled fondly. "He gets it from his mother."

They sat in silence for awhile, sipping their coffee and remembering their respective lost loved ones. Derek could smell the confusion still pouring off the sheriff.

"What do you really want to say?" Derek asked finally, almost dreading the answer. John studied him for a moment.

"I don't know if this is healthy, this dependence you three feel on each other," John said, choosing his words carefully. "Jackson spent the better part of a decade bullying Stiles, even to the point of panic attacks when he was younger, and now he's sleeping in his bed upstairs because he feels a supernatural bond to him. And you, with everything I know about you, how can I ever possibly believe that Stiles would safer with you than halfway across the world with a human?"

"You think I don't worry about the same things? I've been alone for so long. And now I have two people that rely on me, and even more terrifying, I rely on them," Derek sighed. "I want to keep them as safe as I can. Maybe in another life, Stiles would never have found out about us. But I can't change that, and you can't stop him from staying in my world anymore than I can."

John knew he was right. Stiles was never one to give up without good reason. Not even on Scott.

"You love them."

It wasn't a question, and Derek didn't respond.


Jackson reached blindly for the alarm clock, only to smack his hand against something fleshy.

"Owwww Jackson, cut it out," A voice groaned. Jackson cracked open an eye.

"Stiles? Why are you in my bed?"

"Uh, look around genius. You're in my bed," Stiles groaned, rolling over to spoon Jackson again after hitting the snooze button. Jackson felt his cheeks flush.

"I'm sorry."

"Shh, sleeping," Stiles muttered, burrowing his icy nose into Jackson's neck, surprising a giggle out of him. Jackson allowed himself to into a semi-sleep state, enjoying the feeling of comfort. He could hear Derek in the kitchen making coffee, and eating what was probably cereal. He felt a little bad for no doubt worrying Derek. Again. After ten minutes, the alarm went off again and Stiles grumbled a curse. Jackson fished some of the clothes he left in Stiles room out and went to shower while Stiles went downstairs to greet Derek. When Derek heard the shower running, he turned to Stiles.

"His nightmares are getting better, but the sleepwalking..." Derek shrugged. "I don't know how to help him there."

"We just need to wait," Stiles shrugged, grabbing a bowl from the cupboard. "He's been through an ordeal."

"What about you?" Derek asked. 

"Meh, I've been through worse. Hardly nightmare material at this point,"Stiles tried to joke, but it fell flat. Derek grabbed his hands to force Stiles to stop fidgeting and look at him. Derek looked at him closely. Stiles looked tired, but not the way he did right after the Nogitsune. More like, he had been having a little trouble sleeping but not insomnia.

"Are you really okay?"

"Are you?" Stiles asked quietly. Derek couldn't deny that he had had trouble sleeping lately, preferring to lay in bed and listen to Jackson's heartbeat, or go on patrol to make sure Stiles was okay. Like Stiles, he was used to nightmares.

"You should go get ready for school," Derek said finally, not answering Stiles's question. Stiles squeezed his hand, then planted a lingering close-mouthed kiss on his lips.

"Be a good boy while I'm gone," He called, laughing as Derek swatted at him.

 

Chapter Text

The incident happened about a week after Jackson's sleepwalking field trip. That's how Stiles chose to think of what happened, "the incident". Very fitting. Stiles and Derek had decided to crash at Jackson's loft after having a movie night with Scott's pack, a practice-run for possibly joining Scott officially. Jackson used his power as host to veto the Notebook and Stiles convinced the rest of them to watch the two new Star Trek movies amid much complaining from Scott. The tv room was left in a sorry state even with guests trying to remain tidy. It was late when the rest of them left, and Stiles had decided to help Jackson clean up, which meant Derek stayed too. Jackson had a large bed, one that Stiles never tired of waxing poetic about, with its expensive sheets and fluffy comforter. Derek was curled around Stiles with Jackson on the other side facing Stiles, the "Stilinski sandwich" as Stiles called it. Derek had been slightly worried about Jackson moving back into his loft alone, but Jackson had assured him that he could handle it.

 

The smell of smoke isn't the same to a werewolf as it is to a human. A human smells burning, maybe differences based on whether it's a barbecue or whether it's a leaf fire, but that is mostly the extent of what the normal nose can pick up. A werewolf is different.They have heightened senses. They don't smell smoke. They smell what is burning. That is what Derek smelled as he stood outside his childhood home, the pack house, the only place he had ever truly felt he belonged. He could smell the paint on the walls, the metal, the wood and drywall. The flammable carpets and paintings, polyester and cotton and synthetic fibers all melting and charring and mixing together.

He smelled the mountain ash surrounding the house.

He smelled flesh.

 

Jackson woke to the smell of blood and Stiles's pained whimpers. He snapped to attention, zeroing in on Derek's hands. His claws were out and digging into Stiles's arm and chest. The cuts weren't deep yet from Jackson could see. Stiles was trying to stay perfectly still, but his wide scared eyes were burned into Jackson's memory.

"Derek!" Jackson tentatively placed a hand over the one Derek had on Stiles's chest. "Derek you're safe, wake up. You need to wake up and let go. Wake up!"

He kept up the stream of soothing words and pleas until Derek's hands relaxed, the claws retracting and Jackson could pull Stiles away. Derek took several minutes to actually wake and open his eyes, and when he did, he ran.


Melissa McCall was just finishing her shift at the hospital when Scott called her and asked her to come home as soon as possible. She sighed mentally. Somebody needed patching up and ten-to-one it was because something werewolf related had happened. She quickly made her way home, content to know it couldn't be that bad if Scott was asking for her instead of calling Deaton, but she had a feeling something else had happened by the shaky tone of Scott's voice. Jackson's car was in their driveway looking starkly out of place and she knew it was Stiles.

"Alright, what happened?" She called as she put her keys away and took off her shoes. Stiles called back for her to come to the kitchen. Stiles smiled sheepishly at her from his seat at the table, and Jackson was behind him looking nervous and exhausted.

"Sorry about this," Stiles started, but Melissa cut him off with a wave of her hand. The clumsy bandaging revealed his wounds and she asked for the story. Jackson relayed what happened while she cleaned and checked the depth of the punctures. A few of them needed a couple stitches, so Scott took his pain while she put them in. Stiles, though he was smiling and joking with her as usual, seemed forced. 

"So you don't know where he went or what he was dreaming about?" Melissa asked as she threw away the gloves she had worn to put in the stitches. Jackson shrugged.

"He didn't exactly stick around to talk about it."

"It's getting pretty close to the anniversary of the fire..." Stiles sighed. Scott paled and Jackson just looked shocked. He hadn't known that. "My dad...he wasn't the same for awhile after that. I remember he came home all smoky and dirty and he kept me home from school. We watched all the Star Wars movies."

"A lot of people weren't the same after that night," Melissa replied softly. "You need to find him, okay?"

"We will," Stiles said, then he yawned loudly. "Come on, Jacks, let's go to my place."

Jackson nodded and they both thanked Melissa for her help. Stiles muttered something about being constantly unlucky in his attempts to sleep in on Saturday mornings to which Jackson just rolled his eyes. Scott looked very concerned as he watched his oldest friend leave, and Melissa knew he was thinking about going to find Derek himself. The concern melted into guilt when Scott joined her for a cup of tea before she went to sleep. Melissa sat and let him stew for a while until her curiosity got the best of her.

"What are you thinking about?"

"I just..." Scott shrugged. "I just wish that, I had made different choices. Maybe if I had listened to Derek, or tried to work with him, I would be a better alpha. Or he would still be an alpha. I don't know. I mean, he's been through so much. And I was such a jerk."

"You made the choices you made, and there's no use in dwelling on the past. But you can listen to him now," Melissa ran her hand gently through his hair. "When did you get so big?"

Scott smiled at her.

"I have to find him, talk to him," Scott told her, resolute in his decision. Melissa just told him to be careful, kissed his forehead, and let him go.


The wrecked mass of the old Hale pack house didn't smell like smoke anymore. Rain and time had taken care of that. It smelt of mold, and old timber and animals. Derek wasn't sure if that was better. It used to smell like family, like countless batches of cookies and Laura's perfume and his mom's cooking and his father's aftershave. It was his home. And now it was nothing, rotting away in the forest. 

But that wasn't what Derek smelled right now. Right now he smelled Stiles's blood. It had coated his claws, his fingers, and it wouldn't go away. Jackson's panic and Stiles's pain had been a jarring wake up call, and the way Jackson held Stiles, as if shielding him, when he opened his eyes. They were scared of him.

He ruined everything.

"Derek?"

If that had been either of his mates, he would have bolted. Instead, Scott carefully stepped over the ruins to sit next to him on the perpetually damp, moldy floor.

"How did you find me?" Derek asked after it became clear Scott wasn't going to talk first.

"Where else would you go if you wanted to be alone?"

Scott picked absently at a bit of moss growing near him. Derek could smell Melissa and Stiles on him, and to a lesser extent Jackson. Scott finally looked at Derek, though the other man didn't look at him.

"It doesn't smell like smoke," Derek said softly. "That's why I came here."

Scott nodded.

"Are you alright?"

"Why are you asking me that? You saw what I did," Derek scoffed. Scott sighed.

"You didn't do it on purpose, they know that," Scott watched Derek tense. "Look, I can't tell you what to do and I won't. My recent decision making has been pretty bad. But I know Stiles. I know him better than anyone. And he's worried about you. He doesn't want you to be scared of your past or what happened tonight. If you looked a little less murdery I'd bet you five bucks that the first thing he does when he see you is scold you for running away."

"I know..." Derek trailed off. "But maybe I should stay away."

"I don't know. Look where avoiding Stiles got me."

With that, Scott stood and brushed off his jeans.

"So. Are you coming back?"

"Not yet. I need to...I need to be here for a little while," Derek decided. The ghosts of memories were still here. He had never liked being here, but it felt different this time. This time he felt final. "I'm going to bulldoze this place to the ground."

"Just so you know, if Stiles asks me if I found you I'm a terrible liar. And he'll come out here himself," Scott grinned at Derek's reluctant smile. 

"I know," Derek finally met Scott's eyes. "Thanks."

"For what it's worth, I'm sorry about...well, everything," Scott kicked the ground shyly. "I never said that, so...yeah. I was a tool and you were just trying to help."

Derek nodded, accepting the apology. Scott waved awkwardly before leaving. Distantly, Derek heard his bike revving but he wasn't paying too much attention. He pulled out his phone, staring at the barrage of texts from Stiles ranging from pleas to threats to bribes and back pleas again.

To Stiles: I'll see you in the morning.

 

 

Chapter Text

Stiles was not angry with him when he showed up at the Stilinski home early the next morning. John had squeezed his shoulder in a tight, grounding way that reminded him of his own father, and told him to help himself to a shower. The smell of mold and rotten wood clung to his clothes and his was dirty from sitting in his old house. When he came out of the shower, Stiles and Jackson were waiting for him in the kitchen with a blanket and a mug of green tea sweetened with honey. He wasn't prepared for the gentle way Stiles draped the blanket around him, but he knew he would have to make it up to him.


 

"You've literally faced down monsters beyond the average person's wildest dreams. You are a strong, confident, masculine werewolf. You can do this."

He sounded like Stiles. Derek wanted to crawl back into bed.

"I can hear you psyching yourself up in there," Jackson called, knocking on the bedroom door. "Hurry up. Stiles is already waiting outside."

"Why do I have to go shopping with you?" Derek scowled at Jackson when he opened the door. Jackson just smirked at him.

"You promised Stiles you'd do anything he asked," Jackson reminded him, poking him in the chest to emphasize his point. "And he asked for one day where you let someone else take care of you."

"I meant...I don't know, paying for dinner or something," Derek groused as he followed Jackson outside. "Since when does letting you pretend you're my personal shopper count?"

"It counts because grabbing one of every color Henley and two pairs of jeans at a thrift store does not count as a wardrobe. You have arguably one nice sweater, and most of the clothes you brought back from your little road trip are ruined," Jackson said as he slid in the back seat of the Camaro behind Stiles. "And...you deserve nice things, Derek."

The last part was said much softer, with real warmth. Derek sighed. How could he possibly argue against two pairs of pleading eyes. The drive to the mall was mostly consumed by Stiles's animated chatter about whether or not werewolves could feel the texture differences between natural and synthetic fibers. Jackson told him that yes, they could tell the difference because only heathens couldn't tell the difference between acrylic and real cashmere, while Derek remained silent, content to listen in.  A long time ago, he wouldn't have thought twice about buying a cashmere sweater or asking his parents for one as a gift. 

"We're starting with pants first, jeans and slacks," Jackson announced as they pulled into an adequate (by Jackson's standards) parking spot. "Then moving on to casual shirts, button downs, and sweaters. You too, Stiles."

Derek shot a triumphant glance at his other mate. At least he wasn't alone in his misery. Stiles looked like he was reconsidering his choices.

"My clothes are fine!"

"I'm buying. And we'll get ice cream after," Jackson offered. Stiles pointed at him.

"Make it a chocolate milkshake, and you have a deal," Stiles said. He turned to Derek. "Can werewolves have chocolate? I mean, dogs-"

"Shut up."


"So that's what complete and utter exhaustion feels like," Stiles said, flopping down on the couch with his long limbs sprawled out. He heaved a sigh. "Seriously, Jacks, what the hell?"

"It's not my fault you both needed extensive fashion re-education," Jackson said, looking as calm and put together as always. Derek crawled over Stiles to lie behind him on the couch. Stiles made a pleased little sound and snuggled into Derek's chest. 

"I think I tried on more clothes today than I have in my entire life," Derek grumbled. But he couldn't deny that he was very pleased by some of the reactions he got from his mates when he stepped out of dressing rooms. Jackson rolled his eyes and walked to the loft's kitchen while grumbling under his breath about whiny werewolves and stupid t-shirts. Stiles poked him lightly.

"Hey. Thanks for going along with today. I know you weren't thrilled about it this morning," Stiles said softly. Derek shrugged.

"I said I would do anything and I meant it."

"You don't have to keep hanging on to your guilt," Stiles said, rubbing Derek's back lightly. "It was an accident, and I already forgave you."

Derek didn't get the chance to respond because Jackson returned with three steaming mugs of coffee, fresh from the little keurig brewer that Derek had bought not long ago. He liked that little machine. Coffee pretty much all tasted terrible to him anyways without sugar to cut the flavor, so he wasn't picky about the brewing system. Jackson drank his coffee with a little half-n-half and chocolate sauce, while Stiles drank his with a healthy portion of whatever disgustingly sweet non-dairy creamer he bought at the store for the week. From the smell of it, this week was something with amaretto. 

"Come on you big babies. Be glad I didn't sic Lydia on both of your asses," Jackson said, gesturing for them to sit up so that he could join them. They settled with Derek leaning against the arm of the sofa with Jackson leaning into him, and Stiles laying length-wise across the couch with his head in Jackson's lap.

"Let's watch The notebook," Derek said, his face serious. Jackson tensed and turned to snarl at him when he saw the grin break over the older man's face. 

"I hate you."