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Worth the Wait

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Stiles focused his attention on his textbook, ignoring the way Coach yelled at the players on the field. He didn’t bother to adjust his glasses as they started to slip down the bridge of his nose, his focus resting somewhere besides the typed text of his book. That somewhere was running across the field and shoving Jackson into the ground before winning the final goal of practice. That somewhere was Derek Hale—son of Talia, the Alpha leader of Beacon Hills, and Andrew Hale, the activist who rallied for Omegas Rights worldwide.

Stiles continued to lie to himself by repeating that he wasn’t staring at Derek, but the game. He tried to believe the lie that Derek was nothing special, when in reality, Derek was an exceptional everything.

Derek was captain of the basketball team, co-captain of the lacrosse team, part of student council, honor roll student, genuinely nice guy and all around fantastic Alpha. And every Alpha, Beta, and Omega knew this about Derek, and every one of them wanted his approval.

That is where Stiles came in. Stiles was Derek’s best friend since they were kids, their parents arranging play dates between them since they were potty trained. Derek, at first, hated Stiles, and let everyone know this from the beginning. Stiles, for his part, would grin and bear it whenever their parents would inquire about it. It wasn’t until third grade, when Stiles was being bullied on the playground that Derek suddenly changed.

Derek had never been mean to Stiles when they were together, he just didn’t bother actively playing with him. He would often ignore Stiles to go read his book, or to get his bicycle out and ride circles around the other boy. Part of him seemed to enjoy the fact that Stiles always wanted to spend time with him, regardless of the fact that they hardly had anything in common. Derek loved the attention Stiles gave him, making his wolf preen with pride.

The minute Theo shoved Stiles onto the ground, kicking dirt at him as he demanded that Stiles cry like the baby he was, Derek was there. Derek was supposed to be lining up to leave the playground with the other fourth graders when he heard Stiles cry out, catching sight of the younger boy collapsing onto the ground with a group leering over him. Derek had ignored his fellow students telling him he was going to get in trouble for leaving, and marched his way over to Stiles.

Derek helped Stiles up, inspecting him when he saw the tears collecting in the corner of his eyes. He bit his inner cheek when he saw the strong pout on Stiles’ lips, an attempt to stop his lips from trembling. He turned his attention towards the others, and without thinking, he flashed his eyes and roared at them. He held back his snicker when they bolted, terror covering their scents. He allowed himself to puff out his chest, proud that he was able to intimidate others. He turned his attention back to Stiles when he felt a smaller hand grab his own.

Stiles was staring down at the ground, holding onto Derek’s hand as if it was a life line. He didn’t want Derek to leave him on the playground alone. That was how their parents found them in the principal’s office, Derek receiving a warning for intimidating other students. Once Talia and the Sheriff arrived, however, Stiles told them what happened, mumbling into Derek’s shoulder as he refused to let go of him.

If it bothered Derek, he never made a motion to show or say it.

Derek and Stiles remained friends from then onward. Derek started to play with Stiles when he asked, offering to do whatever he wanted. Even as they grew older and Derek’s interests shifted to more mature things, he still maintained his friendship with Stiles.

That was why Stiles, of all people, was sitting on the bleachers on a Wednesday afternoon as the lacrosse team practiced. He had dreams of trying out for the lacrosse team, but reluctantly bowed out the minute he realized he would be in a locker room with Derek. He had seen Derek change his clothes, even seen him in his swimming trunks, but Stiles didn’t think he could handle seeing Derek in nothing but a towel—or worse, actually seeing him in the shower.

Stiles blamed his biology, even though he knew he liked Derek way before his Omega biology kicked in. He knew there was no way he could handle disguising his chemical receptors well enough in a room full of werewolves, and then everyone would know he was crushing on Derek, and humiliation galore wouldn’t even start to cover the worst of it.

“Hey, Stiles,” a sweet voice greeted him as the owner sat beside him, pulling him from his thoughts.

“Hey, Paige,” Stiles answered, trying to mask his melancholy mood.

Stiles liked Paige. Everyone liked Paige. Everyone, including Derek. That was part of Stiles’ problem. It started when on day one of Harris’ AP Chemistry course, Paige—the only other residential Omega in Beacon Hills—beat Stiles to Derek’s desk and asked him to be her lab partner. Stiles had bristled at that, until he saw the smile on Derek’s face. He couldn’t be completely mad since Derek had asked him if it was okay—but what was Stiles supposed to do? Tell Derek that he couldn’t be lab partners with a girl he clearly liked because then Stiles would be stuck with Greenberg? That was the beginning of Stiles’ problems.

Paige had begun to implement herself into Derek’s life—which meant she was in Stiles’ life as well. She began to sit with them at lunch, she began to show up to Derek’s practices, she even ended up stealing quality ‘Derek-hang-out’ time from Stiles.

“You okay?” Paige asked in genuine concern.

And that was what Stiles hated the most. Paige was kind, and actually concerned about others and their wellbeing. It made it nearly impossible for Stiles to actually hate her. He at least could hate Kate and Jennifer when they were trying to date Derek—both attempting to latch themselves onto one of the strongest Alphas in and around then Beacon Hills territory.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Stiles answered, closing his book as he turned to look at Paige. “You here to talk about Chem stuff?”

Paige blinked as she looked at Stiles for a clue as to what he was talking about.

“With Derek,” Stiles expanded.

“Oh,” Paige stated, turning to look out onto the lacrosse field to see Derek. “No. Derek, um,” she gently brushed a strand of hair out of her face and behind her ear. “Derek actually asked if I could meet him here.”

Stiles stared at Paige in disbelief before turning to look out onto the field to see if Derek had noticed them. He wasn’t sure if he was relieved when Derek looked up onto the bleachers with what looked like slight disappointment pulling at his features. He turned back to Paige, giving Derek time to come over to them. “He didn’t mention that.”

“Well, why would he?” Paige innocently asked.

Because every Wednesday night we hang out after lacrosse practice.

“Oh no,” Paige turned to look at Stiles. “Were you two hanging out?” She started to stand when she noticed how rigid Stiles looked. “I don’t want to intrude on that.”

Part of Stiles was happy that she was standing, another part felt guilty.

“Paige,” Derek’s voice surprised both Stiles and Paige into looking at him.

“Derek,” Paige smiled at him before looking back to Stiles, a small frown pulling at the corner of her lips.

Stiles was still looking at Derek, waiting for him to say his name as well—some part of him needed Derek to say his name too—to prove that he was as important as Paige. He tried not to focus on the way Derek’s eyes lingered on Paige before looking at Stiles.

“Stiles, can we talk?” Derek hopefully asked.

“I can go,” Paige offered, looking between Derek and Stiles.

“No,” Derek quickly stated. “It’s only going to take a few seconds.” He looked pleadingly at Stiles to come down the bleachers and talk to him.

Stiles hesitated, his brain screaming at him to stay where he was—Derek couldn’t say or do whatever it was he was planning on doing if he stayed there. He turned his eyes to look at Paige, evaluating her briefly before looking at Derek. “Sure,” he weakly answered, dropping his textbooks into his bag before descending down the steps.

“Be right back,” Derek smiled at Paige as he put his arm around Stiles’ shoulders, steering them away from the others.

There was a heaviness in Stiles’ stomach at how final Derek’s words sounded—at how cold and unwelcoming Derek’s arm suddenly felt across his shoudlers. He wanted to run away, and pretend that Derek couldn’t have whatever conversation he wanted to have.

“You okay?” Stiles asked when they were out of everyone’s hearing range.

“What?” Derek asked in a distracted tone. “Oh, I’m fine.”

Stiles nodded, unsure how to take that. He awkwardly looked at the ground when Derek removed his arm from around his shoulder. It was then that Stiles realized how strange it was that he just noticed how cold his shoulders were without Derek’s arm to warm them.

“It’s about tonight,” Derek started.

“You’re going to be late?” Stiles asked.

Derek frowned, sheepishly looking at the ground. “I can’t make it,” he finally stated.

Stiles swallowed the lump in his throat. “Okay … um, why?” His inwardly cursed when his voice cracked.

Derek looked up at Stiles, a faint look of uncertainty crossing his features. “I, uh, I was going to ask Paige on a date.”

Stiles felt sick. His entire world was collapsing in on itself. “I … I don’t get it,” he stated, thinking his voice sounded small and pathetic. “We always hang out on Wednesdays. That’s why I stayed for practice.”

“I told you earlier I had something planned for tonight,” Derek explained.

“I thought—” Stiles stopped himself. “I don’t know what I thought you meant.” He was glad he didn’t utter his intended, I thought you meant for us.

“I’m sorry, Stiles,” Derek apologized. “I thought you knew what I meant. I didn’t even see you there until the last minutes of practice.”

Stiles wasn’t sure what hurt more, hearing Derek say that he had plans to date Paige, or that he didn’t notice Stiles was there for all of practice. He felt like a knife was piercing down into his stomach, a hollowing ache in his chest as he forced himself to ignore the pain.

“Yeah, I’m sorry, too,” Stiles answered, turning to head towards the parking lot.

“Stiles,” Derek called after him.

“It’s fine,” Stiles called back, not daring to look—knowing that he would cry, the tears burning his eyes.

Stiles wasn’t surprised Derek didn’t come after him. He wasn’t surprised when his phone lit up with a single text message a few hours later. He stared at his phone for almost an hour before he finally looked at the message.

From: Derek

I’m sorry. I should have explained the situation better. You’re my best friend, and I wanted to talk about this with you, but I was afraid she would have said no.

At first, Stiles scoffed at the word ‘situation,’ rolling his eyes at how oblivious Derek was—not realizing that he didn’t make it clear that he couldn’t hang out. And then his eyes zeroed in on the last few words. ‘Would have said no.’ ‘Would have.’ ‘Would have.’

Stiles hated the way his stomach twisted, rapidly uncoiling as if someone was unraveling his intestines without his permission. He ignored the pain in his chest as he moved to run for the bathroom, throwing up what little food his stomach didn’t manage to digest from his last meal.

Stiles cried all night, telling his parents he didn’t feel well in hopes that they would leave him to wallow. He thought he couldn’t cry any more, only to have his phone light up the darkness of his room once more, proving him wrong. He knew he shouldn’t look, but he did.

From: Derek

Please, Stiles. I’m really sorry. I really just wanted to talk to my best friend about tonight.

From: Derek

I’m sorry, that was low. I’m just aggravated. Can I talk to you tomorrow?

To: Derek

It’s fine. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.

Stiles turned his phone off, setting his alarm clock for tomorrow as he threw his blankets over his head. Apparently, he still had a few tears left to shed.

~*~

Scott did his best to cheer Stiles up the minute he saw him the next morning. He smiled his puppy dog smile as he climbed into the Jeep, asking if Stiles was okay to drive. He tried to ramble in order to take Stiles’ mind off of what happened, understanding that he didn’t want to talk about it the minute he avoided all questions inquiring about what happened.

“You staying for the game tomorrow?” Scott asked as they pulled in to the parking lot.

“Probably not,” Stiles replied, his eyelids feeling heavy from crying last night, and he was certain they were going to be worse tomorrow.

Scott remained silent, not moving to hop out of the Jeep after Stiles silenced the engine. His nose scrunched up in disapproval before he turned to look at Stiles. “It’s Derek, isn’t it?” he questioned in understanding. “What the hell did he do?”

“Nothing,” Stiles answered.

“Stiles,” Scott sternly started.

“Scott, he didn’t do anything,” Stiles stated once more as he looked at Scott. “I’m just tired, okay?”

Scott looked like he was about to argue before he nodded in acceptance.

Stiles managed to get through most of the day, thankful that Scott was in a majority of his classes. He completely lost it when he entered Harris’ classroom. Somehow, Stiles had let the fact that both Derek and Paige were in his Chemistry class slip his mind. He felt as if his lungs were crushed when he walked in to see both Derek and Paige sitting at their lab station, huddled together as they shared a private joke. He had paused in his steps when he noticed just how close Derek and Paige were, Derek’s head tipping down in laughter—and then complete horror set in when he noticed what Paige was wearing.

Paige was wearing Derek’s letterman jacket. The same jacket Derek had only ever allowed Stiles to use before. Derek had made a joke that he would have to always have the jacket in order to keep Stiles warm. Stiles remembered smelling like Derek for almost a week after that, his scent comforting him throughout the day.

Stiles didn’t know what was happening when his heart suddenly starting slamming against his chest, some unknown force wrapping around his lungs and squeezing until he couldn’t breathe. He stumbled backwards, reaching for the doorway. He thought he heard someone say his name, but he was uncertain as he fell over. He placed his hands out in front of himself in an attempt to save himself from getting hurt as his vision blackened.

A cold metal hit the back of his head as he collapsed, with equally cold tiles cooling his burning skin as his body hit the ground.

~*~

Stiles had broken his phone.

It didn’t break in the fall, like Stiles told his parents. It broke when Stiles threw it across the room and into the wall. It broke because Stiles couldn’t take the way it lit up with texts from Derek.

From: Derek

Hope you’re okay.

From: Derek

Please let me know you got these

From: Derek

Paige was wondering if you were coming to the game tomorrow.

From: Derek

Stop being childish and answer me

From: Derek

Stiles, we’re worried about you.

It was the last one that made Stiles throw his phone across the room. He couldn’t stop the bitter taste in his mouth when he read how Derek wrote ‘we’re’ instead of ‘I’m.’ He didn’t want Paige’s worry or her pity. He had a panic attack and blacked out as a result of seeing Paige with Derek. He didn’t need anyone feeling sorry for him when he already felt enough sorry for himself to last a lifetime.

Stiles felt enough sorry for himself that he somehow convinced his parents that he had to stay home the next day, staying locked away in his room for the entire weekend. He shut out the world, thankful his parents decided to agree with his methods and allow him to lick his wounds in private.

It was Stiles’ mother that broke Stiles’ cycle of self-pity. She brought in a cup of tea as a peace offering, setting it on the nightstand as she ushered him to sit up. She took a seat on the edge of the bed once Stile sat up.

“Thanks,” Stiles offered as he took the cup, taking a test sip to gage its temperature.

“Are you going to tell me what is going on, kiddo, or do I have to get your father in here to interrogate you?” Claudia playfully inquired as she watched her son sip at his tea.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Stiles simply stated.

“Honey, I’ve had to stop the Hales from allowing Derek to storm the house like we have you held hostage,” Claudia explained. “I need something if I’m to keep deterring suspicion that you’re dead.”

Stiles sighed, setting the cup of tea down in favor of picking at his blanket. He stared down at his hands, not wanting to have this embarrassing conversation with his mother—at least not yet. “I turn seventeen in a month,” he started, quickly looking up to see if his mom understood where he was going with this.

A sad, knowing smile crossed Claudia’s lips. “You know you don’t have to get a mate right away,” she started. “Your father and I agreed, when we found out your were an Omega, that you could choose your own mate.”

“I did,” Stiles weakly stated.

Claudia looked taken by surprise. “Honey, if you picked someone, we should meet them.”

“I picked them, but they didn’t pick me,” Stiles verified. “I was waiting until I turned seventeen—you know, having it all be official. But it turns out that … that he’s happy with someone else.”

Claudia frowned, reaching his hands out to take Stiles’, gently rubbing reassuring circles into his hands. “He made a mistake,” she stated. “You’ll find someone that deserves you.”

“What if someone I don’t want turns out to be … to be the only one who wants me?” Stiles asked, knowing that once he turned seventeen, the offers would start—if there were any offers.

“You don’t have to accept them,” Claudia replied. “You hold the power of accepting and denying any Alpha or Beta who comes your way.” She smiled at Stiles, leaning in to place a gentle kiss on his forehead. “You get some more rest, because you have school tomorrow.”

Stiles groaned, flopping back in the bed as he watched his mother get up to leave.

“Oh, and honey?” Claudia turned around in the doorway to look at Stiles. “You need to speak with Derek. He’s becoming … a little hostile the longer he goes without word from you.”

Stiles reluctantly nodded, knowing that his mother was right.

~*~

Stiles was surprised when he caught sight of Derek leaning against his locker early Monday morning. He wished that he had picked up Scott, at least then he would have someone to hide behind. He noticed just how rigid Derek’s shoulders were as he loomed next to Stiles’ locker.

Derek was suddenly alert and active, looking up once he caught Stiles’ scent. His eyes flickered a brief red before returning to their normal green. He shifted the weight of his bag on his shoulder as Stiles drew closer.

“Hey,” Stiles sheepishly greeted him, not bothering to turn his attention towards his locker in fear that his hands would fumble from their trembling when attempting his combination.

“I was really worried about you, Stiles,” Derek curtly replied, not bothering to answer Stiles’ greeting. “I thought you were really hurt. My mom ended up calling your mom because she wouldn’t let me just come over and see you.”

Stiles turned his head away from Derek, his jealousy hoping that Derek’s worrying took away from his alone time with Paige. “I broke my phone on Thursday,” he mumbled.

“When you fell?” Derek asked, the concern back in his voice.

Stiles nodded. When you fell. The lie didn’t register, because his phone was doomed to break the moment he fell for Derek—it was only a matter of time.

“Does your head hurt?” Derek asked, his eyes looking at Stiles’ head.

“No,” Stiles replied. “I’m fine now.”

“Good, good,” Derek’s voice slowly died off. He took a deep breath, his eyes scanning the hallway. “I didn’t … I didn’t get to talk to you about everything that happened last week.”

Clearly the world had no mercy left in it for Stiles.

“I think it’s pretty self explanatory, dude,” Stiles answered, his small laugh hiding his self pity. “Congrats. Paige is … she’s really great.”

Derek hesitated, watching Stiles carefully. He finally nodded. “Thanks. I, uh, I wanted to make sure you two got along. You’re one of the most important people in my life, Stiles, and I want my girlfriend to get along with you.”

Stiles felt sick as he solemnly nodded in agreement. Derek was happy. Stiles could do this if it made Derek happy. He could—he would, (even when it turned out he really couldn’t).

~*~

Stiles started working on his homework at lunch to try and ignore having to witness Paige hugging Derek’s arm. He stopped going to lacrosse practices on Wednesdays, offering a sad smile to his father whenever he asked if Derek was coming over. He didn’t remind anyone about his birthday, because he wanted it to blow over without a deal.

Clearly, Stiles forgot who his friends were.

Stiles was greeted by a giant ‘Happy Birthday’ banner hung above his locker. There were plenty of birthday cards shoved in his locker, all wishing him a fantastic day. He wished the fluttering would stop happening to him when he saw the standard blue envelope that Derek always used on his birthday. His fingers were frozen, trembling as he tore the envelope open to get to the card. He couldn’t hold back his sob when he opened the card, his hopes that Derek was somehow still his Derek were completely shattered when he saw the beautiful penmanship of Paige’s name signed next to Derek’s. There was no long, informal letter addressed to Stiles—filled with comedy and thoughtfulness—like in previous years, but in its place was a short, friendly note scribbled on the inside.

Stiles let the cards all drop from his hands and into the bottom of his locker. He quickly slammed it shut, locking it all away from his sight. He hiked his bag up higher on his shoulder, ducking his head and offering a curt departure to Allison, Lydia, and Kira as they came running down the hall towards him—all of them suddenly losing their smiles of excitement once they realized something was wrong with Stiles.

~*~

“So, have you gotten any … letters?” Scott asked a week later.

“No,” Stiles lied, not bothering to look up from his text.

“I’m sure you’ll get some,” Scott offered in reassurance.

“Yeah,” Stiles answered. He didn’t want any more letters—he wanted a certain Alpha sitting at the table on the other side of the library to ask him. More than that, he just wanted his best friend back.

~*~

Stiles dodged his friends’ questions of concern for him whenever they surfaced. He blocked Derek and Paige from his mind, always bearing through whenever Derek would suddenly go on a ramble about Paige.

Until the day Stiles broke.

Stiles was late to lunch. He was never late to lunch. He prided himself in being the first person to the lunch table as his friends crowded around him. He was annoyed with Harris for keeping him, giving him a forewarning lecture that just because Stiles’ biology suddenly hit a landmark didn’t mean he could ditch class whenever he wanted.

Stiles entered the lunchroom, tired and just in need of sitting down and having quality R&R time with his friends. Only, when Stiles headed towards the table they always sat at, he came to a frightening realization. There were no seats left. Instead, he found the one person he couldn’t bear to see sitting in his seat, sitting in his seat.

Paige, who Derek had been lamenting about earlier—her perfect hair and her perfect smile and her perfect eyes and her perfect moles and her perfect sense of humor—was sitting in Stiles’ regular seat. It wasn’t uncommon for Paige to be sitting at the table with them, but she had always sat on Derek’s left, and Stiles on Derek’s right. It was a perfected method of seat arrangement. They never once deviated. Except today.

Stiles quietly walked over in complete silence, lingering behind Derek as his eyes bore holes into the back of Paige’s head.

Lydia was the first to catch sight of Stiles, making his presence known as she announced, “Stiles, I saved you a seat.” She revealed the seat that she had piled her coat and designer bag on, forcing Scott to move into it, revealing a seat smack dab in between a Beta and Alpha who Stiles saw as family. It was a good invitation, one that Stiles’ wolf almost wanted to take, hoping that they would wrap around him and shield him from the shit storm that was his life.

“I always sit there,” Stiles blurted out, his wolf feeling cornered and in need of defending its territory.

Paige looked behind her to see Stiles, her smile faltered as she looked from Stiles to Derek. “Um,” she was honestly confused. “We could shift?” She offered, uncertain what Stiles wanted.

“I always sit there,” Stiles repeated, as if her suggestion wasn’t good enough.

“Stiles, they aren’t assigned seats,” Isaac stated, arching his eyebrow at Scott for some clue as to what was happening.

“But I always sit on this side,” Stiles answered.

Realization clicked on Lydia’s face before being covered up. “You’re right. Why don’t we all just shift.”

“Stiles, it’s just a seat,” Derek suddenly stated, causing the entire table to freeze their actions of moving.

“It’s not just a seat, Derek,” Stiles snapped back.

“What the hell does that mean?” Derek demanded, his wolf bristling at the way Stiles’ tone sounded accusatory.

“Fuck you,” Stiles suddenly answered, his voice low and angry as he turned to storm out of the lunchroom. He forced himself to head towards his locker, determined to get the things he needed before just leaving. He didn’t care if Harris just gave him a lecture about blowing off classes—he hit his tipping point.

Stiles was almost scared when a hand snatched his arm, gripping tight enough to force him to turn around and face the owner. He came face to face with a pissed off Derek.

“What the hell is your problem?” Derek demanded an answer once more.

“Leave me alone,” Stiles icily replied as he moved to head back towards his locker, pulling his arm out of Derek’s hold. “It was my seat, Derek.”

“This isn’t about a seat, Stiles, and you know it!” Derek suddenly argued as he followed him. “You’ve been acting weird for a while!”

“You’re right,” Stiles stated in an equally furious tone, his words hurt and full of accusation. “It’s about my best friend treating me like shit!”

“You’re the one that has been ignoring me! Disappearing the second I come around,” Derek defended himself, their words turning heated.

“Maybe because it’s not just you coming around!” Stiles whipped around to face Derek. He was screaming at himself not to say anything, not to let it all go, but the words were already forming, rushing out before he could stop it. “Maybe it’s because my best friend has replaced me with someone else!”

“My relationship with Paige is nothing like my relationship with you!” Derek’s voice roared back, the words heavy and feeling like a punch to Stiles’ gut as Derek’s eyes flared a dangerous crimson.

Derek had never flashed his eyes at Stiles in anger. But this wasn’t Derek flashing his eyes at Stiles—it was an enraged Alpha flashing his eyes at a challenging Omega. Stiles had never before felt scared of Derek, but his Omega defense instincts kicked in immediately. His brain received fractured words of instincts from his wolf, telling him that he angered an Alpha, and could very well die. He released the whimper from his wolf, his eyes shining a dull orange through his welling tears as he stared at Derek in fear.

Derek immediately knew he messed up. He panicked when he saw the way Stiles’ eyes glowed their placating orange nature, a begging plea for Derek to forgive him. His wolf responded to the whimper that escaped Stiles’ throat, making him realize that in his anger, he lost control and his eyes flashed red.

“Stiles—” Derek started, he made a move to hold Stiles’ hand—to beg him to forgive him, to explain that it was a mistake. He pulled his hand back in an abortive move when Stiles flinched—flinched—back from him.

Stiles wrapped his arms around himself, casting his eyes downward as he backed far out of Derek’s range. He felt as if Derek had slapped him, his tears filling his eyes despite his best efforts to stop them.

“I thought you said I was important,” Stiles weakly stated as he stared at the old, scuffed tile of the hallway.

“You are, Stiles, but Paige … Paige is my mate-match,” Derek weakly stated.

Stiles’ entire world started to fall apart, his heart slowly cracking as the weight of Derek’s words sunk in. The tears actually started to flow, small and slow at first—as if he wasn’t the one crying—before they came faster, staining his cheeks as his shoulders trembled.

“I’m sorry … Alpha Hale,” Stiles couldn’t stop the watery sob that sharply escaped his throat from addressing Derek appropriately. “I didn’t mean to insult you or— or your mate.” He made a quick move to get past Derek, heading for the parking lot as fast as he could, entirely forgetting about his locker. He let out a wounded noise when Derek grabbed his arm, pulling him back.

“Stiles, wait,” Derek’s voice was urgent, filled to the brink with concern and regret.

“Please let me go!” Stiles begged in sharply rushed words, his harsh sobs sounded frightened as they raked through his body. He didn’t dare to look up at Derek. He thought the pain in his chest was bad with Derek’s hands on him, but it was nothing compared to the agony that speared through his body when Derek let him go. He ran as fast as he could, ignore the yells and protests of the people he bumped into, thinking that he could outrun the pain.

~*~

Stiles’ mother didn’t bother to ask as she held Stiles’ trembling body, allowing him to hug her as he cried into her lap. She ran her fingers through his hair as she tried to calm him, not understanding what was happening. She let Stiles shut himself away from the world and school, desperately searching for a way to help her son.

It was when Stiles refused to eat anything for the next day that the Sheriff called Deaton. Stiles pretended he couldn’t hear the doctor talking to his parents after examining him. He pretended that he wasn’t as pathetic a cliché as he sounded.

“He’s experiencing what most medical textbooks nickname mate rejection,” Deaton explained.

“What does that mean?” Mrs. Stilinski asked, concern pouring off of her in waves.

“Physically, he’s fine. His body is trying to whither and die because his wolf is telling him that he has no reason to live with this rejection,” Deaton cautiously stated.

“Did someone … is he mate bonded?” The Sheriff’s voice was heavy, a dark tone hanging over it. The threat lingered heavily in the house as he prepared to hurt whoever harmed Stiles.

It made Stiles’ wolf whine.

“No,” Deaton explained. “Omega and Alpha pairs are hard to explain. There are so few Omegas that many people do not experience an Omega’s proposition bond.” He paused, carefully thinking of a way to explain it to Stiles’ parents. “When an Omega begins to come of age, they start to single out a person they believe would be a suitable mate. They start to form a proposition bond with this potential mate. However … it’s different between Alphas and Omegas.

“When an Omega gives a proposition bond to an Alpha, they become almost dependent on that Alpha’s attention. They start to need it, almost like oxygen.” Deaton paused again. “Whoever Stiles gave his proposition bond to mistakenly accepted it, before then suddenly rejected it. I don’t believe they knew what they were doing, and accidentally mistook Stiles’ affections as fondness rather than romantic.”

“Oh, God,” Mrs. Stilinski suddenly gasped in understanding. “Derek.”

Stiles released another whimper, wishing he couldn’t hear any more of it.

“Talia’s son?” Deaton asked. “Oh dear,” he sighed, hesitating on breaking the news. “I’ve been talking with Talia, and apparently he’s courting Paige McLaughlin. I’m sorry, but he told his mother that she’s his mate-match … They intend to make it official once they both graduate.”

“What do we do?” The Sheriff asked, completely lost in the next course of action.

“The best thing to do would be to get Stiles to forget about it,” Deaton explained. “Get him to move on … I heard he’s causing an uproar by not responding to any of his letters.”

Mrs. Stilinski made a slightly uncomfortable noise. “Most of those letters are from wealthy and well established suitors, but many are much older. They’re Alphas looking to establish themselves as sophisticated—better than the rest by obtaining an Omega.”

“I’m not saying to have Stiles date all these Alphas,” Deaton stated. “I merely suggest that he start reading their letters—consider giving one a chance.”

It took two more days, Stiles eating the bare minimum to at least keep his parents happy, before he finally emerged from his room to pick up piling up letters. He poked at them, looking at the different designs and types of penmanship. He took the bulky box his parents had been depositing them in and returned to his room. He set them on the edge of his bed, crawling to sit in the middle, staring at the box once he settled. He took a deep breath, closing his eyes as he finally pushed himself to accept that he had to let go of Derek as he blindly reached for the first letter.

~*~

Derek wasn’t surprised when Scott and Lydia demanded to know what he did to make Stiles run. He didn’t answer them, retreating to his next class, determined to go and see him after school. He wasn’t surprised when the Stilinskis turned him away at their front door.

“I’m sorry, honey,” Mrs. Stilinski stated. “He’s not doing well.”

“He’s not … he’s not hurt, is he?” Derek asked, afraid that he may have physically hurt Stiles when he grabbed him.

“He’s just exhausted. He’s been sleeping for the past hour,” Mrs. Stilinski answered with a soft smile. “I’ll call and give your mom an update later, okay?”

Derek reluctantly accepted Mrs. Stilinski’s statement, trudging back to his car and heading home. He ignored his sisters when they asked him what was wrong, noticing his behavior as strange that night. He knew he looked like a wounded animal, confused and hurt without a way to fix it.

The next day, Stiles’ absence from school haunted his every waking moment, being overly aware of just how much parting from Stiles on bad turns hurt him. That night, Derek leapt to his feet when he heard the doorbell ring after dinner. He dashed from the kitchen, answering it in hopes that perhaps it was one of the Stilinskis when he caught the faint scent of Stiles. He frowned when he saw that it was Deaton.

“Good evening, Derek,” Deaton greeted him with his standard smile.

“Evening, doctor,” Derek sadly answered.

“I’m here to speak with your mother,” Deaton explained, looking by Derek to catch sight of Talia coming towards the door.

Derek knew there was something wrong when his mother excused him, bringing Deaton to the soundproof office Talia used for official county business. He knew he was at the center of it when Talia turned her attention towards him once Deaton left.

“I have to talk with you, sweetheart,” Talia started, turning to head back into the office.

Derek felt as if he was walking towards his doom, his feet scuffing against the floor as he followed after his mother. He spent more time than necessary when closing the door, hoping to delay the inevitable discussion they were about to have.

“You never told me what happened in school yesterday,” Talia started once Derek turned to face her. She sat on the lip of her desk, her arms loosely placed against the wooden top as she propped herself up. There was nothing threatening about her stance, something calming about how welcoming and open she appeared.

“Is that why Deaton’s here?”

“Partly,” Talia answered. “You want to tell me what happened?”

Derek released a deep sigh, looking down at his hands as he played with the hem of his shirt. “Stiles and I got in a fight.”

“About?” Talia asked, her voice calm and collected.

“He’s been acting different—ever since I started dating Paige. And then he freaked out at lunch when we were sitting differently,” Derek confessed.

“We?” Talia curiously asked.

“The whole table,” Derek answered. “He was late, and we were all just sitting—in not particular order. Scott and Lydia saved him a seat next to them. He just snapped at Paige and told her that she was in his seat. Which is ridiculous because there aren’t assigned seats during lunch.”

Talia took a moment, the silence sounding deafening. “Where does Stiles normally sit?”

Derek looked up at his mother. “I don’t—” he stopped himself, sudden understanding dawning on him. “He always sits next to me,” he weakly admitted.

Talia nodded, moving her arms to cross them over her chest. “Deaton came over to let me know about Stiles.”

“Is he okay?” Derek quickly asked.

“He will be, if he starts eating,” Talia cautiously said.

“He’s not eating?” Derek inquired.

“His wolf is hurt,” Talia started. “Deaton suggested that the Stilinskis urge Stiles to entertain some of the offers he’s been given from other Alphas.”

“Offers?” Derek questioned.

“Stiles is one of the only unmated Omegas left in the United States, who just came of age,” Talia answered. “Claudia said that he has a pile of letters, but that he’s been ignoring them.” She caught the twinge of jealousy from Derek as it sharply split through the room. “He’s an Omega, Derek. He needs to recover from his proposition bond being rejected. He needs an Alpha to take care of him.”

Derek turned to look away from his mother. He frowned, a sharp pull at his heart. “I can’t do anything?”

“You’ve done enough, Derek,” Talia sternly stated. “I don’t know what was said or done, but you’re courting Paige.”

Derek looked up at his mother.

“Aren’t you?”

“I am,” Derek weakly admitted.

“Then let Stiles heal and find his own Alpha to accept for courting,” Talia answered. “You can’t court two people, Derek.”

“I’m not— That’s not what Stiles and I are,” Derek answered.

“Then tell me why Stiles’ wolf is distraught with rejection from you,” Talia challenged.

Derek opened his mouth to argue, his brain thinking about their fight the other day. “That— No, he never said anything. I’m his best friend.”

Talia watched as Derek struggled with coming to terms with her words. “And sometimes, sweetheart, people fall in love with what they know—with what is familiar. Sometimes they fall in love with their best friend.”

“He never … he never said anything,” Derek vocalized his shock.

“He didn’t even realize that he made a proposition bond between you two,” Talia explained. “It often forms naturally, and is reciprocated through favoring gestures of intimacy. You and Stiles have always been close, which was why you didn’t realize that you accepted it.”

Derek collapsed into the chair in front of his mother’s desk, his whole body heavy with an unbearable weight crushing his shoulders. “What do I do?”

“You have two options, but neither are simple nor do they leave everyone unharmed,” Talia started. “You continue to court Paige, allowing Stiles to move beyond this and discover a mate of his own,” she paused, watching Derek struggle with the information. “Or, you break your courtship with Paige and seek Stiles out, reestablishing your bond, but this time as one of courtship and intended mating.”

Derek looked completely wrecked, sitting up onto to drop his head into his hands. “She’s my mate,” he weakly stated. “Every now and again, I can smell the faint lingering of her scent and I can’t breathe. When I catch a whiff of that smell I … I can’t think.”

“Then continue to court her,” Talia offered.

“But Stiles—”

“Is not your match,” Talia finished, kneeling in front of Derek, taking his hands in hers. Her action prompted Derek to look at her. “If you really are experiencing these small bouts of registering her scent as matching yours, then your choice has been made for you. You are not obligated to be with Stiles instead of her, Derek, no matter how guilty you feel about accidentally accepting Stiles’ proposition bond.”

“He’s my best friend,” Derek argued, his voice weak and hurt.

“And she’s your wolf’s match—your mate,” Talia reasoned. “I love Stiles, like a son, but forcing yourself to be with him will do neither of you any good.”

Derek deflated, weakly accepting his mother’s reasoning. He didn’t tell her how he felt as if his heart was missing from his chest. He felt like throwing up when he thought about never being as close to Stiles as before. He felt irrationally angry when he thought of Stiles being with someone else. He blamed the proposition bond, trying to forget it as he headed upstairs to bed.

~*~

It had been more than a week before Stiles returned to school, not having much contact with anyone. He had read through a majority of the letters and picked out one in particular. He was an Alpha named Andrew who lived in Beacon City.

Andrew had written with an apology for acting like the others, explaining that he remembered Stiles from his senior year in high school. Stiles was a freshman, new to high school, and Andrew had backed away out of concern for his age. He stated that he only wanted a chance to get to know Stiles, and perhaps they could continue from there.

Stiles had written him back, explaining that he was willing to give it a try, offering his phone number in hopes of hearing from him. He was surprised to have received a call Sunday night.

Andrew’s voice was comforting, low and gentle as he broke the ice between them. His laugh was soft and calming, laced with a playful tone. It calmed Stiles, but also made his heart hurt.

It made Stiles think of Derek. It made him think about the way Derek’s smile lit his face up; the way Derek would speak softly to Stiles whenever he was hurt or too upset to calm down; the way Derek took care of Stiles.

Stiles had agreed to meet with Andrew after school, in the parking lot—making their first meeting public and easing all of Stiles’ worries. He was grateful for the way Lydia and Scott hung around his locker that morning, one of them walking him to his classes. He feared chemistry, cursing the way the schedule rotated every day and placed it last.

Lydia gently touched Stiles’ arm, stopping him from entering Harris’ classroom. She gave him a reassuring smile, Stiles wolf immediately easing at the sight of an Alpha’s smile directed at him. “I’ll be down the hall, if you need me.”

“I know,” Stiles answered, offering her a sad smile in return. He walked into the classroom with unfamiliar confidence, willing to accept that he was about to meet his potential future mate in an hour. He avoided looking at Derek and Paige, happy that he didn’t have to see them during lunch as he stayed in the classroom to help Magistra Grant and Lydia with grading the freshmen’s Latin vocabulary quizzes.

Stiles could feel a pair of eyes on him as he ran through the steps of the lab with Greenberg. He tried to ignore the way his face reddened from the attention, knowing that almost anyone could notice. He didn’t mean to run out of the room the minute the bell rang, leaving Greenberg to clean up the lab by himself, but he needed to get out of the room—away from the eyes that seemed to love watching him.

Stiles released a sigh of relief as he walked out of the school and into the parking lot. He made his way through the crowd, determined to get to his Jeep before anything happened.

“Stiles?” A slightly familiar voice called his name, surprising him.

Stiles turned to look at the owner of the voice, catching sight of a young looking man with short brunette hair and kind hazel eyes. “Andrew?” He questioned, hesitantly pointing his body towards him.

“Yeah. That’s me,” Andrew gently laughed as he closed the gap between them. “I got here a bit early. You seemed pretty determined to leave, though. Everything okay?”

Stiles took a moment to take in Andrew’s appearance. He was wearing a pair of faded, designer-like jeans, complimented by the casual button-up shirt adorning his shoulders. He looked kind, a gentleness radiating off of him as Stiles barely registered that he was an Alpha.

Stiles took a small step forward, slowly coming closer to Andrew. “I just needed to get out of there,” he answered, his stomach fluttering as he thought about what the other students must be thinking as they walked by them.

“We can arrange to meet some other time,” Andrew offered, noticing Stiles’ hesitant nature.

“No,” Stiles quickly said. “No, right now it good.” He offered him a small, hopeful smile.

~*~

Andrew was amazing. Stiles’ parents loved him, his friends loved him, random strangers loved him.

Stiles did not love him. He couldn’t find a reason why, but every time Andrew put his arm around him, or held his hand, Stiles couldn’t stop the sickening feeling in his stomach that he was doing something wrong. He often felt guilty whenever he pulled away from Andrew when their lips brushed for too long. He apologized, only to have Andrew reassure him that it was fine.

Stiles felt guilty, because every time he closed his eyes, Andrew would turn into Derek. He felt pathetic for betraying Andrew like that. He was certain Andrew knew about it all—only for Andrew to horrifically confirm it.

Stiles was on winter break when everything came crashing down.

They were at the movie theater, Andrew’s arm gently draped across Stiles’ back as his hand rested against his ribs. They were standing in line for the popcorn as Stiles animatedly talked about the novel the book was based on, before he suddenly froze.

Andrew looked down at Stiles before looking at where his eyes were locked into staring. He caught sight of a small group of two girls and a guy—they all had dark hair and green speckled eyed.

The tallest girl, bordering on woman, looked concerned, her sight shifting between them and the guy standing next to them. The shorter girl looked pissed off, her arm moving to link with the guy’s. The guy, on the other hand, looked down right murderous.

The taller girl broke the awkward silence by waving at Stiles and Andrew. “Hey, Stiles,” she slowly greeted, moving to block the path between them and the guy. She turned her attention towards Andrew. “You must be Andrew,” she stated, giving him a smile. “My mom told me.” She offered her hand to shake.

“Oh, hi,” Andrew warmly greeted her by shaking her hand, briefly looking at Stiles. “But I unfortunately don’t know who you are.”

“Oh, sorry,” Stiles finally spoke, taking his eyes away from the other guy. “Andrew, this is Laura Hale, and these are her siblings—Cora and Derek.” His heartbeat sped up as he spoke his name.

“Wait, you’re Talia Hale’s kids?” Andrew asked, his amazement evident in his tone.

“That’s us,” Laura stated as she pushed her hands into her pockets. “What are you seeing tonight? Derek wouldn’t stop whining and wallowing, so we brought him to see the new—”

“Laura,” Derek’s voice was low, gruff and dangerous voice as he glared daggers at her. “We should get going,” he practically demanded.

Laura rolled her eyes, turning her attention back to Stiles. “Sorry. See you around, Stiles. It was nice to meet you, Andrew.”

“You, too,” Andrew softly answered, clearly catching on to the awkwardness that just transpired.

Stiles was silent, waiting to get the popcorn as he thought about what to say to Andrew.

It was Andrew who broke the silence after they stood off to the side. “Did he break your heart?”

Stiles looked up in surprise at Andrew, his mind forgetting about the bag of popcorn in his hands. He looked down out of guilt, not willing to meet Andrew’s eyes. “He was my best friend.”

Andrew nodded. “And you fell in love with him,” he stated in understanding.

“I was going to tell him when I turned seventeen,” Stiles admitted. “He had no idea, and he’s now courting Paige.”

Andrew remained silent before releasing a heavy sigh. “He challenged me,” he suddenly stated, catching Stiles’ attention. “He flashed his eyes at me before he made Laura cut things short.”

“Why would he—”

“I don’t think he realized he did it,” Andrew explained. “He’s probably not very good at control.”

“Derek has great control,” Stiles corrected him.

Andrew carefully looked at Stiles before adding, “He has terrible control when it comes to you, then.”

Stiles sadly looked down at the popcorn, suddenly no longer hungry.

“Let’s forget about it for tonight, okay?” Andrew asked, a small offer to take the tension away.

Stiles nodded in agreement.

~*~

Derek’s wolf was pacing, extremely agitated as he sat on the floor in the basement, the chains tightly clasped around his wrists. His wolf howled, his control slipping as he struggled with not wolfing out like when he was a child. It had been almost eight years since his mother had to confine him in the basement. The chains rattled as he lashed from side to side every now and again, his need to see Stiles escalating.

Stiles was the only thing on his mind, haunting his every thought. He missed Stiles’ voice—his laugh. He missed the way Stiles would fall asleep on the couch, leaning into his side as his head rested on his shoulder. He missed the way Stiles used to look at him. He missed the way Stiles fit under his arm. He missed the way his room, his clothes—his everything—used to carry Stiles’ scent.

It wasn’t until Derek started to date Paige when he realized just how much of his scent was mixed with Stiles’ own. Stiles’ scent had changed in the past weeks. It was no longer overwhelmed by the mahogany and pine scent Derek once thought belonged to Stiles, before foolishly realizing that it was his own scent overpowering Stiles’—claiming and protecting him as Derek’s own.

Stiles smelt of fresh water with a crackle of a spark, like a fire on the beach during one of the last nights of summer. It was the smell Derek once thought was just part of his own scent, often times lingering on Stiles because of the time they spent together.

But the scent wasn’t his—it was Stiles’.

But with the mahogany and pine smell—his own boring scent—gone from Stiles, there was the smell Derek thought had belonged to Paige. The sweet smell of honeyed sugar that lingered over him like a cloud. It was the smell of his mate-match. It had started around the beginning of the year, when Paige had walked into Derek’s life; but to be more precise, it had started when Stiles approached his mating age.

When the moon reached its peak, Derek’s wolf roared loudly—the sound hurt and forlorn as it tore from his throat. He had been so blind, so stupid to not listen to his wolf’s instincts when he started to feel anxious and upset the minute Stiles' presence started to fade from his life. He was stupid to think that the amber eyes he dreamed about belonged to anyone else but Stiles. That the skin he fantasized about marking as his own—leaving lover’s bites along the beauty marks that adorned skin just as pale as the moon’s light—could possibly be anyone’s but Stiles’.

The more Derek thought about it, the more he realized how similar Paige was to Stiles. They were almost a mirror, yet completely opposite. Everything Derek adored about Paige could be said about Stiles. But Stiles … there was so much more to Stiles. Derek couldn’t accept not having Stiles in his life—to be near him, to be surrounded by him, to be consumed by him.

Derek had strained the metal chains to their breaking point, surprising both his mother and Deaton the next morning with how close he was to being free. He was grateful his mother sent him on errands, needing to get outside the house. He was perusing the aisles of the grocery store when he caught the sugary scent of honey pulling him close.

The smell was faint—a dash of delighted cinnamon mixing with it—but only grew stronger the longer Derek lingered in the aisle. That was when he noticed the way Stiles’ scent smelt different, a second smell overpowering it—similar to how Derek’s once did. It was a heavy scent of spice, completely foul to Derek’s nostrils. It was a scent Derek had smelt before and didn’t like because of its implication that Stiles belonged to someone.

“Derek?”

Derek turned around to find Stiles standing a few feet from him, a small basket’s handles nestled in the bent crook of his arm as he watched Derek.

“Um, hi,” Stiles added, almost wincing at how stupid it sounded, to not have talked to Derek for months and then suddenly greet him in the grocery store like all was normal. He ducked his head, his normally animated body completely calm for once as his eyes dashed here and there, searching for nothing in particular.

“Hey,” Derek weakly answered.

“How have you been?” Stiles suddenly asked, looking up at Derek with concern in his eyes.

Derek stared at Stiles, carefully evaluating how to reply. He turned his gaze to observe the aisle behind Stiles, waiting to see Andrew appear. When he was confident that they had a few moments alone, he looked back at Stiles. “I should be asking you that,” he offered.

“I’m not the one who had a bad night,” Stiles gestured towards the faint cuff marks still evident on Derek’s wrists.

Derek pulled his sleeves down to cover them, completely forgetting just how long the wolfsbane burns could linger.

“Are you okay?” Stiles asked.

“Physically or mentally?” Derek asked in turn, slightly smiling when Stiles released a small, amused laugh. “It doesn’t hurt,” he finally answered, lifting his arm in reference. “I had a hard time controlling my wolf. It’s been happening since the start of the school year, actually. And I … Stiles, I wanted to say sorry for flashing my eyes at you. I never should have let my control slip that much.”

“It’s fine,” Stiles gently answered.

“No, it’s not,” Derek replied. “I could have hurt you, and I … I couldn’t live with that.”

Stiles looked down at the items in his basket, knowing that they would have to talk about what happened eventually. “I shouldn’t have reacted how I did,” he started, his fingers nervously picking at one another. “But I’m stubborn for an Omega,” he offered a weak laugh as he paraphrased what Derek always used to say about him. “It wasn’t my place to say something about you and Paige. I was challenging you, which is stupid, right? I was suffering from— from effects of …” His cheeks heated up.

“I didn’t know,” Derek suddenly blurted out.

Stiles looked up at Derek in confusion. “Didn’t know what?” He cautiously asked.

“I didn’t know how you felt,” Derek explained, his heart beating faster as he watched Stiles.

“How I … felt,” Stiles softly echoed, suddenly caving in on himself when he realized that Derek knew; he knew everything. “I’m sorry,” he quickly apologized, his eyes downcast out of shame. “I didn’t realize what I was doing—I didn’t even know I could make a— a proposition bond.” His blushed deepened as his body started to fidget with the desire to run away from the embarrassment.

“I would have accepted it,” Derek stated.

“It was stupid of me to not tell you how I felt before my birthday, but you seemed happy that—” Stiles stopped his rambling, realizing what Derek said. He looked up in surprise. “What?” His voice was small and unsure.

It was Derek’s turn to duck his head, his body thrumming with the urge to run. “I would have accepted it—if I knew,” he awkwardly answered. “I know I’m not in a place to tell you that—not anymore, at least—but I thought you should know it. And that I’d rather have you in my life some instead of not at all.” He started to panic the longer it took Stiles to answer, thinking that maybe he shouldn’t have opened up old wounds. He looked up to find Stiles staring off to the side, his features twisted with hurt as angry tears showed in his eyes.

“You know,” Stiles softly started. “I took you for a lot of things, Derek, but I never thought you were cruel.” He started to turn, fully intending to leave Derek in the aisle alone.

Derek reached out to grab Stiles’ arm, halting him as his own basket dropped to the ground making a loud clattering noise against the tile. “I’m not!” He quickly stated, moving to stand in front of Stiles. “I’m telling the truth.”

“Then maybe you should have thought about it before I found another Alpha,” Stiles answered, not bothering to look at Derek as he shoved by him. It was a low remark, Stiles knew that, but he didn’t want to go back to running in circles with Derek, not after everything that happened. It hurt him enough to break intentions with Andrew, feeling guilty for wasting his time, without Derek’s remarks that he would have accepted him. It almost made Stiles laugh in bitterness, thinking that if he had vocalized what he felt, all of this could have been avoided.

~*~

Stiles didn’t feel like going to school, but his parents made him. They told him that it was pointless to hide away in his room. He checked the calendar several times, counting how many days were left until Derek’s graduation. He told himself that Derek would go off to college with the intend of coming back to visit Paige until she graduated, and it meant that Stiles would only have to suffer few sightings of them together. He could manage that. The one good thing about a new semester meant new classes—no more chemistry.

Stiles was pulling his bag out of the passenger side of his Jeep, hoping that none of his friends would ask him how his vacation went. “Oh, you know,” he mumbled to himself. “I had a super sweet, loving Alpha interested in me, and all I could picture was my asshole of an ex-best friend. So, I broke it off, only to have ex-best friend throw in my face that he would have accepted me if I had just told him,” he bitterly slammed the door to his Jeep, turning to march up the steps. He released a frightened squeak, flailing backwards when he came face to face with Paige. “Paige,” he gasped in surprise, looking around for Derek. “Hey, um, hi, what are you doing out here?”

“It’s the school parking lot, Stiles,” Paige sweetly stated, a soft smile pulling at her lips.

“Right, right,” Stiles nodded, looking at his Jeep before looking back at Paige. “You heard that, huh?” He finally asked.

“Yeah,” Paige nodded in affirmation.

“Look,” Stiles sighed. “I’m not going to be a problem for you and Derek. I’m just stressed more so than usual. But you don’t have to—”

“Stiles,” Paige interrupted him. “It’s okay,” she stated.

Stiles looked up at her in surprise. “It … is?”

Paige nodded as a sad smile replaced her former amused one. “Derek and I … were no longer courting each other.”

“What?” Stiles asked in bewilderment.

“Right when break started, actually,” Paige explained.

“Are you … okay?” Stiles inquired.

Paige gave Stiles a soft smile, nodding her head. “I am, thank you.” She paused as she collected her words. “You would have figured it out for yourself, I wanted to let you know that, since Derek won’t tell you.”

“Why wouldn’t he tell me?” Stiles asked.

“Because you’re with Andrew,” Paige answered. “I don’t … I don’t want to meddle, but you both need to talk. I think all of this could have been avoided with good communication skills.”

“All of this?” Stiles echoed.

“Stiles,” Paige sighed, fixing him with a look that told him he was in for a shocking turn of events. “Has anyone ever told you what your scent is?”

“Uh,” Stiles released as a sound of confusion. “No?” He couldn’t recall anyone ever telling him what his scent was.

“For a long time, you and Derek smelled the same,” Paige started. “It wasn’t until after Derek and I started to date that I realized that you both had the same scent because you were together for so long.”

Stiles sheepishly rubbed the back of his neck. “Scents tend to linger,” was all he could mumble back.

“Derek asked me once what you smelled like,” Paige admitted. “When I told him you smelt like the ocean, he just frowned. He eventually asked Lydia—he thought that if another Alpha told him that they smelt something similar to what he smelled, it was normal.”

Stiles reluctantly looked up at Paige. “What did Lydia say?”

“She said the same thing as me,” Paige answered.

“Paige, it’s not that I don’t appreciate this,” Stiles started, looking around to see if anyone was witnessing their awkward encounter. “But what does this have to do with you and Derek breaking up?”

“What does Derek smell like to you?” Paige asked, ignoring Stiles’ question.

“Like an Alpha,” Stiles strategically replied.

Paige rolled her eyes. “You know what I meant.”

“Um, like … like a,” Stiles groaned, not wanting to admit it. “Like a log cabin, okay? I know that does not sound romantic or appealing, but he smells like mahogany and pine—like comfort and relaxation. But there’s a sweet note to it, too. Something sugary,” he groaned, wanting to hide his head in shame. “Like cinnamon and sugar.”

Paige faintly smiled in response. “Like sugary honey?” She knowingly asked.

“Like—” Stiles stared at her. “How did you know that?”

“Oh, Stiles,” Paige sweetly cooed his name, taking his hand in her own.

~*~

Derek was running around the track, focusing on the music blaring through his headphones as he tried to ignore the impending school day. He wasn’t sure if he had any classes with Stiles—a small part of him hoping he did. He was focusing on the track beneath his feet when he caught their scent.

The scent was a combination of two people—two Omegas. Derek didn’t have to know it was Paige’s humbled scent of cedar, accented by the smell of the resin and horsehair of her cello bow, mixing with Stiles’ own overpowering scent that caused him to trip. He lost his balance, tripping over his feet and gracelessly crashing into the rough material of the track.

The smell of sugared honey overwhelmed him as a pair of hands rushed to help him stand. The scent had spiked in fear when Derek tumbled to the ground, Stiles evidently worried for his safety. It warmed Derek’s heart to think that he still cared.

Derek pulled his headphones out of his ears as he let Stiles help him stand. He reluctantly pulled out of Stiles’ grasp, offering a curt ‘thank you’ before he stood back from the two Omegas.

“Are you okay?” Stiles asked in concern.

“Yeah,” Derek answered.

“Good,” Stiles stated, suddenly punching Derek’s shoulder hard enough that they both winced.

“What the hell was that for?” Derek demanded, holding his shoulder as he watched Stiles nurse his knuckles.

“You! Being an idiot!” Stiles yelled, forgetting that Paige was there.

“Me?” Derek incredulously asked. “You’re the one that didn’t say anything!”

“Neither did you!”

“Maybe I didn’t want you thinking I was, oh, I don’t know, Stiles, what is it that you always say about Alphas? Thinking with my knot!” Derek snapped.

Stiles’ mouth widened before preemptively closing, knowing that Derek had a point and arguing was futile. “I meant other Alphas, not you, and you know it,” he finally defended himself.

“How else was I supposed to take that than insulting my wolf’s instincts?” Derek asked in response.

“Boys!” Paige yelled to interrupt them. She offered a sheepish smile when they both turned to look at her with accusatory stares. “I think you two should talk it out,” she stated, slowly backing away from them in order to give them room. “Yell, growl, whatever it is you two need to figure this out.”

Stiles remained silent as he watched Paige leave, overly aware of Derek standing less than a few feet from him. He turned to Derek once Paige was far enough away, crossing his arms over his chest. “You didn’t tell me you broke your courtship with Paige,” he started.

“You heard that?” Derek answered, looking down at his hands as he brushed the dirt from them.

“No, I just walked over here with Paige for no reason,” Stiles sarcastically answered.

Derek turned his head to look at Stiles, giving him an annoyed look. “What do you want, Stiles? Do you want to gloat? Congratulations, you win. I’m miserable.” He moved to march by Stiles, heading towards the school.

“I didn’t say that,” Stiles called as he followed after him. “If you weren’t emotionally constipated, you’d be able to see that I’m trying to right this.”

“What is there to right?” Derek called back, not turning to look at him as he continued to walk. “I messed up, and now you have an Alpha—”

“If you stopped for two seconds, you’d hear me say that I broke my courtship with Andrew!” Stiles yelled in frustration. He wasn’t prepared for Derek to stop mid-stride, colliding into his solid back, hands clasping at Derek’s shirt to keep himself from falling.

Derek was standing still, aware of the way Stiles’ hands pulled his tank top from his skin, the early morning wind chilly as it breezed through the taut material. He took a few breaths before taking in a deep breath through his nose, inhaling Stiles’ scent. The once strong Alpha scent—the exotic scent of spices—was nowhere to be found.

Stiles was surprised when Derek suddenly turned around to face him, the action forcing his hands to loosen from Derek’s shirt. They were only inches apart now, the close proximity making Stiles realize just how much he had missed Derek. His body embraced the warmth radiating from Derek’s, making him almost subconsciously lean into him.

“The reason I was so miserable when you first asked Paige out wasn’t because of my proposition bond being rejected,” Stiles softly explained. “I was becoming territorial because my …” He took a deep breath, closing his eyes before he finally uttered the truth. “I was hostile towards Paige because she was taking you from me. My wolf didn’t like that someone was stealing my mate-match,” his words were barely audible, softly slipping from his lips as he opened his eyes to look at Derek.

Derek stared at Stiles, completely shocked into a lack of words.

“Apparently,” Stiles started, unable to stand the silence. “I smell like sugary honey to you, and to me, you smell like that plus a dash of cinnamon—”

“—cinnamon,” Derek stated at the same time as Stiles.

Stiles hopefully looked up at Derek, nodding in agreement.

“We spent so much time apart, I could smell it mixing with yours the moment you walked into the grocery store,” Derek explained. He turned to look away from Stiles, trying to think of what the next appropriate action was as Stiles’ scent continued to gnaw at his brain, telling him to claim and mate. “What now?”

“You mean what now that we both know we’re idiots?” Stiles asked.

Derek released an amused huff, nodding as he ducked his head, resting his hands on his hips as his fingers itched to reach out and touch Stiles.

“You could ask to court me,” Stiles quietly offered, his eyes lit up with a slightly playful glint.

You could ask to court me,” Derek replied.

“That’s not how this works,” Stiles argued, his playfulness surfacing as he moved to shove Derek. The minute his palms were flat against Derek’s chest, his eyes glowed orange from the contact pulling at something deep in his own chest.

Derek swiftly reacted, hands moving to hold Stiles’ hips as he drew him in close. His own eyes glowed red when Stiles’ fingernails dug through his shirt and straight into his chest.

They both leaned in with urgency and want, pressing their lips together. Stiles moved his hands up Derek’s body, sliding his fingers into Derek’s hair as he held him close. Derek clutched Stiles close, reveling in the feel of having Stiles against him, completely pliant as they explored each other’s mouth.

“Derek,” Stiles moaned, pulling back some when he felt Derek’s hardening cock against his own. “Derek, we should go slow.”

Derek nodded in agreement, moving to kiss Stiles once more.

Stiles ignored his own suggestion, opening his mouth to Derek as they continued to kiss.

“Slow could work,” Derek stated between kisses, his voice sounding husky as he showered attention on Stiles.

“School,” Stiles stated, moving his head to the side when Derek started to pepper his skin in kisses. “Ungh—fuck,” his groan ended in a moan when Derek bit down on the hollow of his shoulder and neck.

“We have at least ten minutes,” Derek argued, his hand moving to support Stiles head, his fingertips softly massaging his scalp.

“Oh, God,” Stiles whimpered when Derek sucked a hickey just under his jaw. “You’re gonna—you’re going to mark me up.” He released a soft chuckle when he heard a whine of desire escape Derek’s throat. “You’re giving me beard burn,” he commented.

“Going to give you much more than that,” Derek’s comment was muffled against Stiles’ skin, but it still sent an electrified wave through both of them. It was a promise that they were going to have so much more than a dirty make-out session out on the track field, and it made both of them whimper with happiness.

They continued to make out, bodies writhing against each other in a cheap attempt to get off, until they were both startled by the bell signaling homeroom. Stiles practically squawked as he shoved Derek away from him, his face a shade pinker than his throat was thanks to Derek’s handiwork, his cock painfully hard in his jeans as he attempted to rearrange its confinement.

“This is your fault,” Stiles answered as Derek released a small growl of annoyance from his chest. He held back his laughter when he saw just how crazed Derek’s hair looked, completely messed up from Stiles running his hands through it. He decided against telling Derek, in hopes that he’d at least spend homeroom with everyone knowing that someone made Derek Hale look utterly debauched.

“At least you’re in jeans and not sweats,” Derek grumbled, fixing himself.

“Don’t you have to shower?” Stiles asked when Derek took his hand and started walking them towards the school.

“Don’t have time,” Derek mumbled.

Stiles knowingly smiled. “You want to smell like me for the rest of the day,” he teased.

Derek didn’t respond, merely threading his fingers with Stiles’ as they entered the school. He ignored the few fellow students that quizzically looked their way as he headed towards Stiles’ homeroom first. “What classes do you have?”

“No,” Stiles shook his head, pushing his hand against Derek’s chest. He loved how Derek let him easily push him against the lockers next to the classroom door. “It’ll be like a surprise,” he explained, smiling when Derek gave him a look of annoyance. “Think of it as … payback.”

Derek’s features soured, his nose wrinkling at the implication.

“Don’t do that,” Stiles softly stated, placing a kiss on the tip of Derek’s nose, not caring if anyone saw. He leaned forward, his lips barely grazing Derek’s ear as he whispered, “I just want the satisfaction of knowing that I’ll be on your mind all day.” He pulled back, smiling at Derek’s look of wonderment, his fingers playing with the small strands of hair at the back of Derek’s neck.

“You’ve always been on my mind,” Derek seriously answered.

That was how Stiles’ homeroom teacher, Mrs. Anderson, found them making out against the lockers, both of them receiving a warning for excessive PDA and tardiness. Stiles snorted when Derek glowered at Mrs. Anderson’s back, still annoyed that she had separated him from Stiles.

“This is your fault,” Derek huffed, prepared to spend what time was left in his own homeroom.

“Get used to it. You’re going to be experiencing a lot of this, Derek Hale,” Stiles gestured towards himself when Derek turned to look at him.

“Is that a promise?” Derek countered.

~*~

Stiles’ 18th Birthday

“Oh God,” Stiles cried out, not caring that the bed was slamming into the wall and creating a considerable amount of noise as it announced to the world that Stiles Stilinski was (finally) officially mating with Derek Hale. He dug his nails into Derek’s scalp, holding on for purchase against the snap of Derek’s hips. “Derek,” he keened as he turned his head to look at him, his lips searching out Derek’s for a kiss.

“Stiles,” Derek practically groaned, his hips faltering in their movement as he drew closer to his climax.

“Knot me. Please Derek, knot me,” Stiles begged, closing his eyes as they glowed. His wolf was altering between whimpering and howling from the pleasure. “Please, Derek, oh God, I can’t—Derek, I need—I need—” He released a indignant moan, his voice pitching high as Derek continued to piston into him, hitting his prostate just right.

“What do you need, baby?” Derek asked, wrapping his arm securely around Stiles’ waist to steady them both, his rhythm not failing.

Stiles released a pleased whine as he let his head fall back to rest on Derek’s shoulder. He loved it when Derek called him ‘baby,’ the word sending shivers straight to his cock. “I need you.”

“You have me,” Derek answered, burying his face in the crook of Stiles’ neck, his lips caressing the still freshly marred skin there. He opened his mouth to rest his teeth against the indents; his eyes glowed red as his wolf reveled in the way the indents were a perfect match for his fangs. An endless mantra of mine and mate and Stiles took over his thoughts.

The moment Derek’s fangs grazed the mate mark, Stiles immediately came, biting out a curse as his vision nearly whited out. His moan was loud and unabashed as a smile pulled at his lips. He released small whines of encouragement until he felt the final swell of Derek’s knot, locking Derek’s hips flushed against the curve of Stiles’ ass.

“Holy shit,” Stiles finally panted, his body feeling weak and pliant as he slumped forward, arms bracing against the pillows. He moved his hips forward to rest his entire body against the bed, wincing when he accidentally pulled Derek’s knot, muttering an apology.

Derek moved to tuck himself behind Stiles, laying them both on their sides. He gently mouthed at Stiles’ shoulder blade, his one hand flat against Stiles’ stomach as his other arm served as a pillow. “Are you okay?” He asked, his voice hoarse from previous activities.

“I don’t think I’ll be able to feel my legs tomorrow,” Stiles sleepily mumbled.

“Besides that?” Derek asked with an amused tone as he reached his hand down to knead the muscle of Stiles’ thigh.

Stiles released a pleased moan, snuggling his back into Derek’s chest. “Nope. Perfect,” he contently sighed.

“You’re perfect,” Derek quipped back.

“Hmm,” Stiles hummed in agreement. “Derek Hale thinks I’m perfect.”

Derek chuckled, propping his body up enough to look over Stiles’ shoulder. He waited for Stiles to turn his head in order to look at him. He smiled down at him, moving to place a kiss against his lips. “You’re worth the wait.”

“You too,” Stiles grinned like a mad man, slipping his hand into Derek’s. “Although, waiting was the dumbest thing we’ve ever done,” he yawned in argument. “I could have been appreciating your knot for months now if we didn’t wait. Promise me we won’t wait for all the major events in our lives.”

“Well, you have the rest of our lives with my knot,” Derek started, resting back into the bed. “It’s yours to have your way with.”

“You’re such a romantic,” Stiles sarcastically commented.

“You know me,” Derek commented. “Which reminds me,” he vocalized his thoughts, leaning his upper torso back over the side of the bed, ignoring Stiles’ small whine about being cold. “Here,” he stated, moving back into his spot in order to give Stiles a blue card envelope, pulling the blanket up to cover both of them.

Stiles smiled as he rotated the card in his hands, inspecting it. “You liked me before your senior year,” he stated in triumph, remembering all the cards he received from Derek previous to their courtship.

“I liked you in fourth grade,” Derek yawned, burying his face in Stiles hair in order to inhale his scent. His wolf purred in satisfaction upon knowing that their scents were forever going to be mixed as one.

“Oh my God,” Stiles stated in remembrance. “That’s right! You scared the hell out of Theo and the others.”

“Don’t say another Alpha’s name while my knot is in you,” Derek quickly stated, his wolf growling.

“Aw, don’t worry, babe,” Stiles playfully cooed. “You’re the only knot for me.”

“Sometimes I question why I courted you,” Derek answered with a sigh.

Stiles released a half-hearted snort. “Because you love me,” he answered, lifting Derek’s hand to his mouth, his lips grazing over his knuckles.

“And you love me,” Derek echoed, placing a kiss against Stiles’ shoulder.

“Worth the wait,” Stiles murmured as he fell asleep in Derek’s arms.