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Joker

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Stiles and Derek don’t trust each other, but that doesn't mean he doesn't need Derek. Because Stiles doesn't know enough. And while Derek doesn't know everything, being raised as a wolf means he knows more than Stiles. Also, there’s the physical instinct—the need for the pack to be close. It won’t happen with Scott, but Derek shows up every night in Stiles’s window without fail. Yeah, he might complain that Stiles needs to wash his sheets after jacking off and the bastard might steal Stiles’s razor—but every night he’s there.

It's just that sometimes, when they're close like they are now, Stiles wonders if Derek is seducing him. He wonders if the fingers rubbing calming circles into his thigh and the warm, salty breath against his neck are maneuvers to earn his trust. He wonders about Derek's plans, if, once he has Stiles fooled, Derek will rip his throat out.

The thoughts might seem paranoid, except that's exactly what Stiles did to Peter. Yes, Derek had wanted Peter dead, but he’d never thought Stiles would be the one to do it.

Neither had Stiles.

- - -

Stiles is not an ideal alpha. He's too young. Still skinny. Even when he shifts to full alpha form, he has a lanky look with elfish, pointy ears and long-claw canines. Scott had told him, "You look more like the predator that slices you from behind, you know? Not like one that charges head on."

At the time, Stiles had shrugged. "Almost all wolves wait for their prey to spook and run. Easier to get at their throats that way."

Before, back when their friendship was real, Scott would have laughed and told him to stop sounding like a creepy nature show narrator. But this time, Scott doesn't. He rubs the back of his neck, laughing nervously as he says, “It’s weird how you know all that stuff now.”

Stiles can smell the fear. It's something Stiles has to accept: Scott doesn't trust him anymore. And Stiles’s wolf could care less about earning that trust back. Immediately after Stiles had done the act—after he'd sliced the knife through Peter's neck—even as the image of Peter’s red-eyed shock was still causing Stiles to shake—Scott had pretty much gone ape shit.

"That was mine! That was mine! It was supposed to be me! I was supposed to—I’m supposed to be human." He charged Stiles.

Without a second thought, Stiles backhanded him across the glade. And then he stomped a foot in the center of his chest, pinning Scott so that he had to listen. "It didn't work, you moron. Didn't you notice that? Peter changed me too, and I killed him, and I'm very much still a wolf. It did not work."

Scott had tried to glare at him, but after a moment, he'd turned away, not baring his neck, but ducking his eyes. Stiles could feel that his wolf wanted more—he wanted Scott belly up with his Adam's apple pert and ripe like a nut to be cracked, but no, Stiles took a breath and walked back toward Peter's body.

Scott's grumbling words were easily heard: "But you wanted it."

- - -

The first time Peter offered to bite him, Stiles was certain it was just another way to get control over Scott. The second time, when Stiles had a hollow point bullet ripped through his stomach, he hadn't really cared whositwantedwhatsits. Yet, he still remembers the way Peter said, "Say yes, Stiles. Say, yes."

The pain was intense. He was pretty sure the tubes that connected his dinner to his digestion were mashed into a gory Bolognese with his liver. It was only with a great deal of concentration that Stiles managed to say, "Supposed to be human. M'dad."

"Humans die," Peter said, and he'd wiped both sweat and blood off Stiles's brow.

"Don't want that either."

"Say yes."

Looking around, there was blood everywhere. Stiles was feeling weaker and weaker. Humans had only so many pints of good ole fashioned hemoglobin, and it looked like his tank was close to running on empty. "Oh, fine," he groaned.

Peter bit down into his wrist. Given the pain in Stiles's middle, the bite was almost like a kiss, a pleasant bit of flirting comically at odds with the macabre crime scene.

Stiles said, "Why thank you."

Licking the red off his teeth, Peter replied, "You're very welcome."

-

- Present -

There is a vampire loose in Beacon Hills. And he’s stalking—of all people—Erica Reyes.

Which is so mean.

Because Erica is shaky to begin with, and also, there’s the thing where she has a crush on Stiles. He’d never noticed before, not until after he became a wolf, but then with his enhanced nasal receptors, he could distinguish what that particular scent meant. Also, Erica spent a lot of time looking at him. Stiles knows she’s noticed more than she should, like how he and Scott only talk at lunch. Or how Jackson flinches when Stiles passes him in the hall. But mostly, Stiles knows, Erica sees how he isn't afraid anymore. At least, not of high school. Stiles has other demons to fear.

Tonight, it’s the damn vampire. "Hey, ho, Edward, back off there.” Stiles steps out of the shadows, getting an even better look of the fangy jerk-off that is infringing on his territory. Stiles’s wolf is pissed. And wouldn't you know? Vampires do have sparkly eyes. Unfortunately, for Erica though, they’re seriously lacking in RPatz-style jaw lines.

The vampire, who has Erica pinned up against a wood fence three houses down from her home, wheels around with a hiss.

“Stiles,” Erica chokes out, and crap, she’s already gotten chomped on. There’s a red stream leaking from the top of her collarbone.

Stiles grabs the sides of his head, groaning. “Really? Just, really? You have all of Beacon Hills to pick prey from, and you go after the epileptic girl who wears leave-me-the-fuck-alone sweatshirts and looks like she needs a month of sleep. Man, you’re an asshole. Just a weenie little sparkly dickhead.”

Edward the vampire must be really sick of Twilight references, because he goes berserk and bull charges Stiles. The vampire is not like a snail or anything. By paranormal standards, he’s like… JV, but compared to Stiles—well, it’s pretty much a quick sidestep, a good yank on the back of his shirt collar, and Stiles has him in hand.

“Not cool, dude,” Stiles says as he pins him up against the fence.

The vampire spits on him.

Ew. The saliva is thick like blood taffy. Stiles hears Erica coming, and like, he’s expecting her to have a rage moment, to maybe give the vampire a shiner or an arm bruise, but Erica has something different in mind. There’s a squeak from the vampire as Erica stabs the stake-end of a “Grow, Damn It!” gardening sign between the vampire’s ribs. Then, for realz, just like in the movies, Edward the vampire crumples and turns to powder in Stiles hands. It’s all very dusty, like someone tossed glitter in the air, so Stiles can't stop sneezing. He's rubbing his nose when he turns to Erica and says, “That felt very feminist.”

Erica gives him a watery smile, before her eyes bulge, and she starts to have a seizure.

- - -

Stiles rushes Erica home, helps her mom get her upstairs to her bedroom, and then accepts tea and cookies—because Stiles can’t say no to fresh chocolate chip cookies—and then goes out the front door. Only to go right back around to Erica’s window.

He’s sitting on the roof, watching her thrash in sleep. He needs information, research. Like, which rule applies here? Is it the Twilight one-bite-and-you’re-a-bloodsucker rule or the True Blood biting-is-HBO-foreplay rule? He’s just found a helpful page when he catches the familiar scent on the breeze. “Hi, Derek,” Stiles says, not looking up from his phone.

“You took on a vampire alone.”

“Just one. I think he was new. Not to mention—he was eating her,” Stiles points to the window. “On our territory. Not awesome.”

“You should have called me.”

“Next time I will. It was all very impromptu—also, kind of fun.”

Derek huffs, because truth be told, he’s partially pissed because he would have found it fun too. He’s not that mad, though, because he seats himself right next to Stiles, so close that their thighs are touching from knee to hip.

Stiles almost wants to lie his head on Derek’s shoulder, but for now, this is close enough. “What do you think of her?” Stiles asks.

“She knows too much,” Derek growls, because he always assumes the worst.

“She’s not going to become a vamp.” Stiles holds up his phone with evidence. “The vampire bite will already have healed.”

“I know. But we have a bigger problem. She knows about the vampire—and she saw you. She knows about us.”

If Stiles were being cold and scheming, he’d say She’s an epileptic. No one will believe her, because first, it’s crazy talk and second, they’ll assume she hit her head and saw tweeting birds. But no, he’s been thinking about it ever since he saw the way she staked Mr. Edward Sparkle-Stalker, so he says, “Yeah, I need to talk to her.”

Derek tenses. “Stiles,” he growls, because he’s Derek and unlike Scott, he understands these wolf-things as second nature.

“We need more in the pack.” Stiles doesn't look up from the phone.

“Females feel the change twice a month. They’re extra work.”

“I know.”

“Why her? Why not Lydia?”

“Lydia, really?” That crush ended months ago. Stiles’s wolf hates Lydia, but Derek is just staring so Stiles pinches him, which accomplishes nothing except to cause Derek’s eyebrows make the deepest v known to man. Derek is being stupid. Stiles’s reasons for considering Erica are good ones. “First, she staked that vampire herself. Second, she’s suspected something for a while but never said a word. Third, seizures suck. Fourth, my wolf…” Stiles pauses. “...likes her—not in that way. But it just feels like she’ll make good pack.”

“I’m not helping you with her,” Derek says, and before Stiles can argue with him, Derek is leaping from the roof.

Erica wakes up an hour later. The way her eyes seem to hone on him in the darkness is enough to make Stiles wonder if her vampire bite had any lingering effects. No need to be weird, though. Stiles slides right up to her window pane and knocks with a smile. Erica opens the window with nothing short of eagerness. Her skin is still warm with sweat, and the circles under her eyes look ten times worse than they were at school this morning, but her smile is just so big, so hopeful. It’s almost enough to make Stiles rethink this. If she liked him before, now…

“You okay?” he asks.

“You saved me,” she breathes.

“Sort of. He got a bite in.” Stiles can still see the mark.

“You're not like him—you’re a werewolf?” She looks at him with a frown on her face.

“Got it in one.” Stiles grins.

Erica wraps her arms around herself. With the oversize sweatshirt, it makes her look like a crumpled paper bag. “You were really fast. Faster than he was.”

“Because I am Batman.”

Erica snorts, but no, she totally doesn't disagree either. Sitting down on the corner of her bed, she asks, “So are you here to warn me not to tell anyone? Because I won’t. I won’t.”

“I know.”

Stiles knows she’s going to say yes.

Twenty minutes later, even after he’s explained about how the bite might not take and how the hunters might come after them and how the full moon will make her loony in the fairy tale sense, he can smell that she desperately wants it. Still, when she says the word, there’s the other problem: where to bite. He’s not going to bite where the vampire bit. That’d be weird. And he’s not going to bite her wrist, like Peter did. “Um, where do you want it?” Stiles asks, because he decides that asking is the only polite way to do this.

Erica blushes, but yeah, she pulls her hair back and points at the back of her neck.

Stiles thinks he might be blushing too, but also, as he steadies her with one hand on her jaw and the other on her shoulder, he decides that it’s better if she doesn’t see his face when he does this. The red eyes and insta-beard tend to induce anxiety. The bite is fast, but Erica whimpers, shivering in his arms. “I’m sorry,” Stiles says, and it’s instinct but he starts licking at the wound. He’s done it to Peter—and Derek—but Erica is not reacting like Peter and Derek.

As she pulls him closer, her body is so much softer, and he’s completely not oblivious to the curves that are soft against his chest. She grabs his jaw, trying to bring their mouths together, and Stiles lets her for a single second, because the last thing he wants right now is for Erica to feel rejected, but there are things called boundaries and complications and soul-sucking guilt. If Stiles has learned how to wrap those feelings into boxes, then Erica can too. Stiles grabs her hands, stopping her.

At first, she looks mortified, but Stiles insists, “No, no no. It’s okay. Just, the bite is kind of a big deal. You need to lie down. I’ll sit with you until you fall asleep.”

She lies down. At first she’s rigid, but Stiles talks. He talks and he talks, all the while rubbing her back until her breathing changes and she goes to sleep. This is good, Stiles thinks. Being around Erica who doesn't know about everything else—it feels good. Stiles feels more like himself. His wolf is even happy. Plus, packs need to be close. He and Erica just need to establish some boundaries, and it’ll all be good.

Stiles heads home.

Derek is there, waiting in Stiles’s bed. He flat out growls when Stiles comes into the room. Then he promptly marches to the bathroom, gets a wash cloth under hot water, and proceeds to scrub Stiles down. Not good.

“You’re the beta. You're not supposed to react like this. She’s going to be part of our—”

Derek wipes the rag across Stiles’s mouth with zeal.

Well, fine.

Derek finally crawls in next to Stiles in his too-small bed, and then, with a full thump that shakes the mattress, Derek turns so that his back is against Stiles’s back.

It’s Stiles job to fix this. Emotionally, Derek will always be a beta. “If it hadn't been me—if it had been you—you would have noticed her. You would have considered changing her.”

As always when they discuss this, Stiles smells the resentment and the guilt—the knotted ball of emotions that’s always there—but this time, there’s something else in the mix. Derek flips around and he pulls Stiles against him, holding him tight, and once again rubbing his hands down on his sides, soothing him in the same way that Stiles soothed Erica an hour before.

Stiles wishes he could trust it.

Chapter Text

- Past -

The thing was Stiles liked Peter. A lot.

Peter’s regular humor made the pack fun. And let’s be clear, Stiles had an awesome dad, but the pack became an instant second family. Peter leased an apartment in town, a total bachelor pad with a black leather couch, a flat screen that was almost as big, and maroon shag rugs. The walls were covered in funny posters from the Simpsons and Avengers or whatever else Stiles could convince Peter that was awesome.

There was also the way that Peter handled Derek. Sometimes there was dragging involved, but Peter would force his nephew onto the couch, saying to Stiles, “You take left. I’ll take right. Broody butt needs snuggles.”

Stiles and Peter had to alternate shifts in dragging Derek down from the old house.

Because Derek kept going back.

The familial acts, the normalcy—it almost made it easy to forget everything else Peter had done: like killing his niece—and his nurse.

But lies or not, Peter was much tamer these days. Yeah, he would do things like date Scott’s mom just to fuck with Scott—but then the second Stiles said it was going too far—that Scott’s mom wasn't a pawn—Peter ended the relationship.

That wasn't to say that Stiles didn't notice the possessiveness. If Derek voluntarily joined them on the couch, Peter would always drag Stiles next to him. He’d say, “fuzzy” as he rubbed the top of Stiles’s head and dropped his head on Stiles’s shoulder. He was even more likely to do it if Scott came over.

It would have been creepy except Peter never pressured him.

There had been one time, when they’d been lying on the couch together (Derek was up at the old Hale house or haunting something somewhere), that Peter’s hand slid down Stiles’s thigh, and he whispered, “Can I?”

But when Stiles had choked out “I can’t,” the hand had been gone in the next instant.

Peter had whispered, “I just wanted you to know.”

“A bit of an age difference?” Stiles joked, even though he knew Peter could smell his complete and utter freak out.

Peter had poked him, enough to bruise a human—but from werewolf to werewolf, it was affection. “You’re right. Despite my fabulous looks, you’re too good for me, and I’m such a dirty old man.”

“Super old. Super dirty.” Stiles leaned back against him, releasing a breath.

Peter snorted. “With that kind of lip, I should spank you.”

Stiles jerked away, flushing.

Peter laughed until he was hoarse.

But he was true to his word. He didn’t try to touch Stiles again.

Not until Stiles asked.

-

- Present -

The next morning, when Stiles is getting ready for school, Derek grabs him.

Derek has a tendency to do that. It’s like since he can’t throw Stiles up against doors anymore, he has to make do by metaphorically biting Stiles’s tail—except that in human form, this translates to grabbing Stiles by the hips and not letting go.

“Yehhh-esss?” Stiles waits.

“I have someone in mind. Someone you should turn.”

Stiles pushes Derek’s hands off so he can turn around to face him. “Who? And more importantly, why?”

“Isaac Lahey. I see him at the cemetery—working late at night. He’s sixteen and digging graves after midnight.”

“Oh, you’ve been visiting at night—that’s why I—” Stiles cuts himself off.

They used to meet the daytime. It used to be their thing. Stiles’s mom was on the southwest side, a simple stone surrounded by daisies in the summer, while the Hale plot was at the top of the hill, framed by crab apple trees.

Stiles hadn’t realized Derek still went. Nor had he realized that Derek was leaving during the night. What’s odd is that the sound of the window opening and closing hasn’t woken Stiles up. You’d think his wolf would know better.

But they don’t talk about those meetings at the cemetery. They never do. “Isaac’s… nice. He doesn’t say much.” But then Stiles grins. “No wonder you like him.”

Derek walks to Stiles’s bed and flops back, reaching for Stiles’s pillow. “His dad beats the shit out of him. After the mom died in that accident, he developed a drinking problem. He’s not a nice drunk.” Derek’s canines have lengthened and he’s gritting his molars.

Stiles wonders how long this idea has been in Derek’s head, how long he’s been watching Isaac and wondering if he’d take the bite. Because he knows its Stiles’s weak spot: a kid without a mom. A kid whose dad used to smile more. Stiles would never have said no, so it must have been Isaac that Derek’s been waiting on.

“I’ll talk to him at lunch today,” Stiles promises.

“And Erica.”

“And Erica,” Stiles agrees. “If we bring in Isaac, will you attempt to be welcoming?”

“I can try. Depends on her,” Derek says.

It’s as good of an answer as Stiles will get.

- - -

Erica shows up to class looking like she researched every single last one of Stiles’s kinks and one-upped them. First off, she’s wearing horn-rimmed glasses, which is hilarious, because she’s never needed glasses, and now that the bite has taken, she barely needs fucking binoculars. Second, there’s the Incredible Hulk t-shirt she’s wearing that’s crazy tight (and showing off boobs that rival Lydia’s). Yeah, then there are the leather mini skirt and the beat-up boots, but mostly, more than anything, there’s the way she walks down the hallway with “bitch, please” confidence.

“You look great,” Stiles says, but tries to keep the enthusiasm clamped down, because boundaries.

Erica bites her bottom lip and smiles. “I feel great. I threw away all of my medicine.”

Which is so awesome. Stiles’s wolf is lolling on its back with smug happiness. “We should talk—at lunch.” And he glances from side to side.

Because people are staring. And yeah, well, the entire chess team pretty is on the verge of coming in their pants. Down the hall, Lydia walks past in a daze, like she tends to these days. At her side, though, is Danny who looks like he really wants to ask Erica where she found her inner diva (but doesn’t know how, since he’s never talked to her before).

“Lunch,” she says, and she steps in close, running her nose along his shoulder and fucking scenting him.

“Lunch,” Stiles barks, grabbing her waist and attempting to hold her at a distance, because wow, the public scenting--not okay.

But Erica is grinning, like she knows she’s being a naughty puppy and wants to be scolded. “Right. Got it.” And then she turns and pretty much does a runway walk down the hall.

Okay, Stiles admits, this could be a problem.

- - -

Stiles pointedly hunts down Isaac before going to the lunch room. The trail is thin and there’s a trace of nicotine attached, so Stiles isn’t all that surprised when he finds him smoking under the bleachers by the track.

“Hey,” Stiles says, because Would you like to be a werewolf now? seems needlessly forward.

Isaac frowns over at him, before holding up his cigarette and saying, “Sorry, it’s my last one.”

“I don’t smoke—much.” Stiles frowns, he’s pretty sure that didn’t sound remotely hard-edged or cool.

Isaac doesn’t seem to notice though, but then with the way his back is hunched and his knees are tight to his chest, Isaac looks like he’s concentrating as hard as he can on being anywhere but here.

“So I hear you work late at night—in the cemetery.”

Isaac startles. “Sometimes.”

“Yeah, my friend saw you there.”

“Did he?” Isaac is starting to look freaked out. “Because I didn’t see him.”

“You wouldn’t have. He goes there to visit his family’s plot. It’s on the top of the hill, but it’s shaded by the apple trees. My mom’s grave is there too.”

Devoid of emotion, Isaac says, “Yeah, she’s near mine.” Isaac takes another puff.

“So you go there—and work late—is that because of your dad?”

He’s expecting a reaction, and he gets one. Isaac hauls himself to his feet, turning to glare at Stiles. “What the fuck, Stilinski?”

“I know he hurts you. He gets drunk and beats you like you’re his personal punching bag.”

Isaac’s hands ball into fists. “And what are you going to do? Tell your ‘much better’ father about it so mine can get arrested and I can end up with no one?”

“That’s an option,” Stiles says.

His wolf is ready for it, positively salivating for it, when Isaac throws the punch.

Stiles lets it connect. He can feel the bones in Isaac’s hand cracking. He reads the shock across Isaac’s face as he realizes that Stiles hasn’t so much as flinched.

The one punch is sufficient. Stiles has to take control now. No matter that his human side hates it, the wolf is pleased as a pickle when he grabs Isaac’s shoulder and as gently as possible, forces him to his knees. “What if I told you that I could make it so that your father could never hurt you—ever again?”

But Isaac is shaking. He’s not listening.

Stiles has to grab his jaw. “What if I could save you? What if he could never hurt you again?”

This times Isaac gets it. “What?”

Stiles plucks the cigarette from Isaac’s finger. As the butt flames with his inhale, Stiles lets his eyes flash red. He lets his canines lengthen. He shows Isaac how he is very much not cute, little human Stiles anymore. He’s a goddamn alpha. And no one can touch him.

When he repeats it again, he speaks the words in a low growl. “I said: what if I could make it so that you were stronger than he was? What if I could make you never hurt, if I could make it so you never feared him, not ever again?”

Isaac doesn’t freak out and ask if Stiles is a demon. He’s trembling, yeah, but the fear that Stiles smelled before is quickly being replaced by a new scent: hope.

Isaac says, “Tell me what I have to do.”

Stiles tells him everything.

At the end, Isaac bares his neck.

- - -

Stiles asks Derek to come and pick Isaac up, because really, Derek needs non-haunting things to do. Then he looks at his phone and realizes that there’s not much left of the lunch period. There’s a prickling sensation in the back of his mind—one that says that one of his wolves is irritated so he hightails it back to the cafeteria, where he finds Erica locked in a death stare with Scott.

“Stiles!” they both say, except Scott’s is all accusation whereas Erica’s is all smitten kitten purr.

“You changed her?” Scott hisses.

Stiles slides in next to Erica, who scoots as close as possible to him at the same time that she slides a plate of pepperoni pizza toward him.

“You got me lunch?” he asks.

“You were late, and I was worried,” she says, pouting.

Stiles smiles at her and then takes a bite of delicious pizza. His wolf is feeling positively snuggly. And it takes most of Stiles’s self-control not to laugh at Scott. Because the wolf has new puppies, and the omega, who has no pack, is jealous.

“So you two figured each other out.” Stiles waves his hand back and forth between them.

“I just can’t believe you’d—” Scott cuts himself off, fixing his gaze on the winter formal pictures.

“Oh, he has just not shut up,” Erica complains. “Argents this. Bestial homicide that. How about not pissing myself in school assemblies, asshole? How about no longer being afraid I’m going to pass out on a street curve and brain myself? How about no longer feeling like a freak?”

“We’re still a little freakish. I think that’s Scott’s point,” Stiles says, but he’s totally enjoying the way that Erica’s tirade has caused Scott to sink down in his chair by a few inches.”

“But it’s a much sexier kind of freak,” Erica says, looking up at him from beneath her lashes.

Stiles’s wolf is fucking giddy but boundaries, man. Turning to Scott, he says, “So Erica got stalked by a vampire yesterday. And then she staked it.” Stiles imitates the action. “The after effects were very Big Lebowski. Vampire ash is like sand from the beach—it gets into every cranny you don’t want it to.”

Against him, Erica stills. She leans in close to him, sniffing.

“Seriously, a vampire?” Scott asks.

“No joke, he had sparkly eyes. I think they had hypnotic powers.”

“What did he smell like?” And by Scott’s voice, there’s something else.

“Like thick—iron-heavy blood—why?”

“I was at the grocery store last week and I smelled something… well, like you said, like heavy blood, but I couldn’t find the source. In the end, I decided the butcher was using weird meat.”

“Huh,” Stiles says, but then Erica’s nose is like closing in again—so Stiles has to push her back by six-inches.

“Who do you smell like?” She looks so grumpy.

“Derek,” Scott grumbles, but of course both Erica and Stiles hear it.

Erica looks like she’s about to ask, when Lydia—of all people—slides in next to Scott. Her gaze is dead focused on Stiles.

“Hi,” Lydia says.

“Hello.”

Lydia stares at him, like that's not incredibly awkward or anything. His wolf wants her to fuck off, but the human part of Stiles doesn’t miss the dark circles under her eyes or the way that her strawberry blond hair is frizzy in a very un-Lydia-like way.

“Was there something you wanted to ask me?” Stiles asks as gently as possible.

Erica slides a tight grip around his waist, and if looks could kill, Lydia would be six feet under by now.

But Lydia doesn’t even notice Erica. What she does is pull a note out of her pocket and hand it to Stiles. “Please read,” she says, and then with a swish of her skirt, she books it out of the cafeteria.

Fucking. Weird.

But Stiles doesn’t get to think about it much, because the bell rings. He has to shovel the rest of the pizza into his mouth and head to History.

- - -

Lydia’s note says:

Can we meet to talk? Text me.

And then it lists her number and… that’s it.

Okay. Stiles frowns. If that isn’t as weird as fuck, he doesn’t know what is.

He texts her right away, though.

Sure, when?

Six months ago, this would have been a monumentous event, Lydia Martin giving him the time of day. He probably would have photographed, laminated, and framed the note before having a fantasy driven wank over it. But now, he snorts, crumples the paper into a ball, and chucks it across the room into the garbage can.

Sitting in the desk next to him, Danny says, “Nice shot.”

Stiles smiles, because yes, Stiles got mad skillz these days.

Which is awesome.

…if he could ignore all the bad stuff.

- - -

Scott follows him and Erica to the pack meeting, because apparently, it’s that time of the month. Derek no longer lives in Peter’s old apartment (a pipe had “incidentally” burst in the unit, causing the landlord to move Derek) but it’s in the same building, just on the top floor facing west.

When they walk in, Isaac is sitting on the couch holding a plate of reheated meatballs. There’s a bandage on his shoulder. His expression is shy when he sees Stiles, though it darkens as Scott and Erica follow in behind him.

Stiles flops down next to Isaac on the couch. “Where’s Derek?”

“Taking out the garbage,” Isaac says at the same time that Scott grabs at the side of his head, yelling “Him too?”

“Mmmm-hmmm,” Stiles hums because his wolf is just fucking stoked at having so many of his wolves (it’s even willing to count Scott) in his den.

But then, well, it all goes to shit.

Because Derek comes in and says, “We have a problem.” And Stiles doesn’t miss how he’s glaring at Erica.

In fact, Erica is about to take the spot on the couch next to Stiles, when Derek shoves her out of the way and takes the spot instead.

Stiles is going to have to add manners to tonight’s discussion agenda.

“This is Derek, isn’t it?” Erica says, glaring at Derek.

Derek glares back. The two of them are staring in a way that does not look like it will end in friendly butt sniffing.

Stiles smacks Derek’s bicep (because he can). “What’s the problem?”

Very deliberately, Derek turns away from Erica to look at Stiles. “There is a coven of vampires in the back parking lot. At least four. They’re sitting in a red 1998 Hummer with a cracked bumper. They know we’re here.”

Chapter Text

- Past -

Stiles made a habit of going to the cemetery once a month on a Wednesday. He stuck with Wednesdays because his mom had always claimed they were the best day—that “hump day” slander be damned. After placing the daisies (sometimes foraged, sometimes bought) on her stone, he would sit down and update her on everything that had happened that month. Religiously speaking, he didn't believe she was an angel standing over his shoulder or that her mystical presence would rise up and answer his prayers if he came here—but it was as close as he could get to her.

It had to be good enough.

Also, Stiles didn’t keep a diary or see a therapist. He had a lot going on and not that many people to talk to. After all, his dad was insanely busy trying to stop the bad guys. Then Scott had lost his head up his butt ever since Allison walked past his locker. So coming to the cemetery was Stiles’s time to decompress, to process his shit. Privately, with his mom.

That was, until about eight months ago—right after he was bitten. He had been sitting cross-legged, munching on some venison jerky and talking right at the stone.

“So I know it’s a good thing that I’m not, like dead and joining you and leaving dad behind—because you told me to watch over him—and I am. He tried to order biscuits and gravy over the weekend and I redirected him to a sausage omelet plus fruit. Go me, right?”

The wind picked up and Stiles decided that was a sign of approval.

“Anyway, I’m a werewolf. A werewolf. How weird is that? Definitely not what you’d have expected for me. Like, other parents get to put 'Parent of a Beacon Hills Honor Student' on their bumpers but poor dad has to settle for claw marks on his dash. Not fair, you know?

Stiles voice dropped lower. “Also, it’s also freaky now that I can like smell your newer neighbors decomposing. And I really wish it smelled gross and bad, but I have this inner wolf-guy now and he has a disgusting lack of discrimination when it comes to his palate. Not that people smell like food now—but they don’t not smell like food either. It’s troubling.

“Oh my God, now you’re probably worried I’m like becoming a cannibal. I’m not. I’m just saying that if I wolfed out, my wolf would happily take down Bambi—and because of my wolf’s evil influence, not only would I not feel bad about it—but I’d be like “oh, and his little white spots are extra delicious” as I ripped through his cute fawn flesh. And you know how much I loved that movie, so it’s like really—”

Stiles paused because he heard a laugh.

A familiar sounding laugh.

The wind was blowing downhill—not uphill.

Stiles was up the hilltop in two seconds. As he’d suspected, Derek was there, sitting with his back up against a crab apple tree, and yeah, Stiles was all ready to be furious—to have a good rant—because who knew how long Derek had been listening in on Stiles’s ramblings? But then Stiles hesitated. Because there was the misty look in Derek’s eyes, and well, the fact that he was sitting next to a grave marked Laura Hale.

It's why his voice came out more indignant than angry. “You were spying on me.”

“I wasn’t,” Derek said. “I was trying to ignore you, but I heard the words ‘werewolf’—and ‘Bambi.’ Hard to ignore.”

“And just how long have you've been accidentally hearing words like ‘werewolf’ and ‘Bambi’?” Meanwhile, Stiles was racking his brain, trying to recall what choice things he’d said about Derek over the past few months.

“I've only been here twice when you were here too. Once was when I didn't even know you.”

Which means the second was definitely after he knew Stiles.

Stiles crossed his arms and growled at Derek, because this was a violation of all kinds of principles involving respect and freedom.

“I should have told you the second I realized you were here. But my mind wasn't on it.” Derek’s gaze rolls away, not landing on any of the surrounding stones in particular, but more like floating over the tops before stopping at the gilded door of what seems to be the Hale family crypt.

“Yeah, you should have.”

“It’s nice that you come and talk to your mom.”

Stiles couldn't read his expression. “Are you making fun of me?”

Shock painted Derek’s face. “I would never make fun of you for that.”

Stiles nodded before walking over to sit by him. It felt easier than sitting face to face. “Do you talk to them?”

“No.”

“Maybe you should?”

Stiles got an arched eyebrow in response.

“Oh my God. You are so useless. Fine. I’ll help you.” He turned to face Laura’s stone. “So, hello, Laura. I’m here with your brother. This will probably not surprise you, but he remains the ink-made-flesh manifestation of a tragic sonnet.” At his side, he heard Derek snort. “Or wait, maybe a sad pastoral—because of the whole wolf thing—but really, he’s a bit of a dumbass—”

He dodged Derek’s swipe.

“Hey—I’m talking to your sister!”

“My sister would already have hit you by now.”

Stiles raised his chin high. “You’re just jealous of my emotional openness.”

“And by that you mean your ability to talk to inanimate objects?”

Stiles scoffed. “There’s no way your sister is as grumpy as you.”

Derek rolled his eyes, but he said, “I am not grumpy. Stop saying that. But yes, she was more social. She was a natural leader.”

Hearing Derek’s tone when he talked about his sister, it made Stiles feel both sad and affectionate at the same time. “You didn’t have a funeral for her—but she had lots of friends?”

“In New York—but they couldn’t have made it. They weren’t the types to have spare cash for a plane ticket. Also, there was the whole thing with Peter…” Derek looked away.

He was trying to end the conversation—but no, no, no Stiles wanted to know more. “What? Were you guys hanging out with starving artists?”

Another eye roll. “No. Laura was a bouncer and then did some freelance work. I was a student until the last year. I did freelance work too.”

“And by freelance work, you mean she was stunt double?”

“No, but she would have been good at that—she did…” Stiles could barely make out the word. “…modeling.”

“You guys modeled? Of course you did. You have like zero-body-fat hotness genes. Where are the pictures...? Wait! Were they, like, naked pics?”

Derek’s mouth formed a line. “Not. Porn.”

“I’m going to find them. Maybe, they’re not porn, but I bet there are some wet t-shirts or underwear involved otherwise you wouldn’t be so damn cagey.” Stiles already had his phone out and was a’googling.

Derek tried to swipe it, but Stiles was a werewolf now, which meant that though he was smaller, he was just as fast as Derek.

There was a chase, one that involved climbing a pine tree, but Stiles got caught when his branch snapped (apparently wolves were seriously lacking in panther skills) and he tumbled through the sap and branches, landing inelegantly at Derek’s feet. So he had to promise not to tell anyone, but then in exchange he got to prod Derek about New York.

Which was awesome.

Because Stiles found out about how the wolf packs’ amnesty worked, about the pixie infestation in Times Square, about how much Derek hated hipsters and everything Williamsburg, and how Derek had majored in Mechanical Engineering—which wow, that had just not been on Stiles’s radar.

He and Derek only stopped talking (or more like Stiles stopped asking questions) when the light was almost gone, and Stiles looked at his phone, and shit—he was going to be late for dinner.

Looking back on it months later, Stiles realized that day was when the first seeds were planted. That’s when he began to love Derek. Not in the weird, physical sense. Yes, he knew Derek was hot—but equally, he knew just as well how untouchable Derek was. As if someone that gorgeous would consider Stiles. No, Stiles started to love Derek in that deep way. In the way he used to love Scott. Or how he still loves his dad.

He was too innocent back then, too naïve, to know how dangerous such an affection could be.

- Present -

Looking out the back window of Derek’s apartment, Stiles has a solid laugh. Because he knows Derek, and if there are two things on the planet that Derek really, really hates—it’s hipsters and vampires. And lo and behold, sitting out in their Hummer and attempting to ironize irony, is a coven of hipster vampires in skinny jeans.

The front one—probably the leader—is rail thin with a shaved head and a neon blue “Art Sucks” t-shirt. (Stiles doesn’t miss that the message is done in a very artsy font.) There’s a tiny black-haired chick with braces—which Stiles actually thinks is really funny—because who expects a vampire with braces? He can’t see the two guys in the back as well, but he really really wants to, so he can make fun of them.

“I should go out and ask them if fanging pigeons has become a faux paux since three weeks ago. I want to see what they say.” Stiles waves out the window.

The vampires do not wave back but instead project existential angst at him like laser beams.

“How about not?” Derek snaps.

“You don’t, like, know them?” Stiles asks, because Derek even looks more growly than usual, and Stiles's wolf is starting to get concerned.

Derek shakes his head and fixes his gaze once again on Erica. “But we know who does.”

“I’ve never seen them before in my life,” Erica says, hands on her hips.

“But the vampire from yesterday—you arranged that,” Derek accuses.

Erica’s whole face blanches. “I didn’t know he was a vampire.”

Oh dear. “I’m going to infer, though,” Stiles rubs at his eyes, “that there was a chat room or something cyber-ish that lead to Mr. Edward following you home, the end result being yesterday evening’s staking?”

Erica’s hands are balled into fists. “He told me he was a paranormal expert! Not that he was a fucking vampire!”

“Well, that was very rude of him. No wonder why you staked him.” Stiles says this mostly to Derek, who still looks like he wants to cheese-grate Erica’s face for funsies.

“We have to face them,” Derek says.

“Yes, as a pack. I know. It’s going to be awesome. Just wait. I’ll ask them about pigeons.”

Derek glares at him as if to say Stiles is the worst alpha on the planet.

Stiles’s wolf raises its hackles, but Stile’s human side is used to that look from Derek. He doesn’t have to care. He can be himself—he can—because these last two days, with the vampire woes, it’s the most fun he’s had since—

Stiles cuts that thought off, instead saying, “Oh come on, hipster vampires in Beacon Hills. How can I not harass them?”

With a huff, Derek walks past him to the door.

- - -

All of the vampires are wearing hats or holding umbrellas. Most noticeably, the vampire leader fits a metal bowl-thing on his head. Kind of like Magneto from X-Men, except that Pale Face is nowhere near as hot as Michael Fassbender, so Stiles opts not to give him the title. He does avoid the Twilight jokes this time, though.

“So, you vampires. We werewolves—why are you in our territory? It’s angry-making.” Stiles grins.

Magneto Wanna-Be flares his nostrils. “You killed one of our coven members yesterday. Our coven seeks vengeance. Blood has been needlessly spilled.”

All of the wolves brace themselves. Stiles is ready for anything: hypnotic eyes, fang attacks, super speed, anything.

But there’s none of that. All of the vampires just sniff (in unison) again.

“Your dude attacked and bit a human on my territory. And it was the who human staked him. Self-defense is a universal exception to the whole murder-vengeance-retribution thingy.” Technically, this is all very true. Except for the part where Erica has slinked into Scott’s shadow so as to avoid notice.

“With your help,” Braces-Girl spits. And unlike Magneto Wanna-be, she looks super angry. “We found your smell amidst his lingering essence.”

By “lingering essence,” Stiles is pretty sure she means Edward’s ashes. “Duh, I was coming to warn him to get the fuck out of my territory.”

The vampires exchange glances. For a second, Stiles wonders if they’re telepathic or something because the coven leader turns back to Stiles and says, “We do not believe you.”

“So?”

“So vengeance.” The metal hat glints less than menacingly in the glow of sunset.

Once again, the vampires just stand there.

“Are you waiting for nightfall or something?” Stiles asks.

The lead vampire simply looks at him with practiced boredom.

“Uh, dude, for your ‘vengeance.’” Stiles makes scary fingers as he says the word “vengeance.”

It’s the orthodontic vampire who answers him. “If you think we’d resort to violence, you are so a century ago.” She tosses her hair and says, “We are better than that. We shall rock our retribution, and you shall rue the day.”

With a collective heel-spin, the coven gets back in the Hummer.

As their driving away, Stiles sighs. “I never did ask them about the pigeons.”

True to form, Derek tries to deck him, but Stiles dodges with a laugh.

- - -

That night, Derek orders Chinese food for all them. Besides a continued discussion of what hipster vampire vengeance might be, Stiles attempts to give Isaac and Erica a further orientation on what it means to be a werewolf. Scott constantly tries to correct him—which earns him slaps from Derek, but Derek also keeps adding in little “additions” that are all directed at Erica—like how scenting your alpha is not okay or how revealing wolf secrets on the internet is never acceptable.

Whatever, Stiles’s wolf is really happy, especially at the end of the evening, when they all curl up on the couch and watch X-Men First Class together—because seeing Metal Head gave Stiles a hankering to see the real McCoy.

Even Scott behaves, acting more like old Scott, and less like Allison-ever-after Scott.

Afterwards, Stiles brings home leftovers for his dad, does his homework, and slides into bed.

When Derek pushes up his window an hour later, Stiles scoots over and lifts the sheets like he always does. As Derek settles in next to him, Stiles definitely does not focus on the way that he holds him tighter than usual. Stiles can ignore that. But what he can’t ignore is when Derek draws Stiles’s face into his neck. He’s not scenting Stiles. It’s more like he wants Stiles to scent him.

Stiles doesn’t really know what to do with that.

He never knows what to do with Derek when they’re like this. And he can’t ask.

Not after everything.

What he ends up doing is nuzzling his nose roughly against Derek—almost like a neck noogie—before saying, “Go to sleep. Vampire vengeance tomorrow.”

Derek grunts, but he relaxes his hold on Stiles.

They go to sleep.

- - -

The next day, there are three new students enrolled in Beacon Hills high school.

Each smells like iron-heavy blood.

Chapter Text

- Past -

Stiles’s freak out happened on a Saturday morning. It was late March, but not so cold that he couldn't leave his window cracked. He woke up feeling rather snuggly, especially with how perfectly warm he felt beneath the covers compared to the crisp temperature in his room. There was also the fact that his morning wood was as prominent as ever, and Stiles rolled onto his side so he could lazily take care of it.

After a few hazy strokes, Stiles realized he had to decide what—or more importantly who—to focus on. Which was stressful. Since becoming a wolf, Stiles's fantasy fodder was in a state of transition. It used to be all about Lydia. In Stiles’s best fantasies, she was normally at her bossiest, pinning him down with her thighs—and yes, they’d be perfect, slightly muscular and curved on the outsides but softer and more feminine as they narrowed up to her pussy, and she’d say dirty shit like that, like twat, pussy, cunt. Of course, she did nothing to help Stiles’s pleasure. She just took. She’d crawl up him, until she was sitting on his face—fucking squashing him—she’d use all of him: his nose, tongue, chin, anything she wanted until she finally let go, leaving him a soggy, dripping mess of mistreatment.

Right. So that used to work.

And even now, thinking about it still got him hard. But like, since becoming a damn werewolf, said fantasies were less appealing. Mostly, because his wolf was so seriously done with Lydia. It would rudely interrupt his thoughts with images of him wolfing out—and Lydia screaming—and Stiles accidentally scratching her. Bad stuff. Or worse, it would imagine her on top of him but she wouldn’t smell like she should.

Such a buzz kill.

For the last few weeks, Stiles had been imagining a wolf-Lydia fusion. One where he couldn’t hurt her. One in which her eyes glowed too. His wolf was vaguely interested. But this morning, with the cool air feathering across his face, Stiles started thinking about the previous evening—of all times.

He’d been out in the woods with Derek and Peter. They’d gone hiking, pretty far up in the mountains. After catching the trail, Stiles wolfed out and chased some coyotes. Deciding to play the “mature” alpha, Peter rolled his eyes and said he was building a campfire, but Derek followed along after him. Stiles ended up chasing the coyotes to the other side of the mountain—at which point he realized he’d scared the crap out of them. So to make amends, he went and hunted a deer for their dinner.

Except Derek was the one who caught the deer. Well, Stiles had spooked it, and Derek had been the one to chase it down. The deer had gotten a solid kick in though, ripping his shirt. Also, after the whole biting-its-throat-out thing, Derek had been a sodden mess.

“This is completely your fault,” Derek said, even as he lugged the deer over his shoulder.

“I am sorry about your shirt,” Stiles said, but he wasn’t very sorry. He was out in the open air, he had just gone hunting, and not to mention, he’d caused a rival pack to retreat. Both human- and wolf-Stiles were experiencing a seriously rocking day.

With regard to his shirt, Derek heard the lie and rolled his eyes—and then he’d thrown the deer at Stiles.

Which was rude. (Stiles got a hoof in the cheek.)

But then Derek ripped off his shirt.

Human Stiles was practically immune to Derek taking off his shirt. Because back when he was human, Derek seemed to be permanently near-naked, but since Stiles had become a wolf—and Peter had appeared—Derek’s abs had largely been shielded from view. But now, Derek’s abs and biceps and broad shoulders were all present. They were glistening with the sweat from their hunt, and in the cold mountain air, Derek’s nipples were looking very pert.

It took Stiles a minute to process all of this, because Stiles’s wolf… it really, really liked Derek without a shirt. And it was very aware that Derek had caught a deer for him. Also, unlike Stiles’s more self-aware human side, his wolf seemed to think Derek was totally up for grabs.

Except he wasn’t.

Stiles jerked his gaze away, focusing on the coyote trail once again.

He didn’t miss the way that Derek’s eyes widened or that his heartbeat picked up a notch or two, but that could mean any number of things. Stiles wasn’t going to be stupid about it.

Neither of them said anything, though until they were back at camp, where Peter was in the process of burning all their dinner.

This morning, though, as Stiles worked himself, his wolf seemed determined to take control. Because one moment there was generic sex haze and in the next moment, his mind was overwhelmed by the hot scent of the hunt. His own sweat took on the sourness of prey, while behind him there was the sudden hard press of muscle—teeth prickling at his neck—and yes, oh yes—the biting scent of the predator. It would have been fucking terrifying except that Stiles liked it. He kind of wanted to be dinner.

He wasn’t even fucking his hand anymore. Instead, his hips were ground down into the mattress as he imagined his shirt being ripped upward and a tongue suddenly at the base of his spine. The wet pressure—no matter that it was warm—tickled, enough that Stiles tried to jerk away. But no, the hands held him in place, and the tongue traveled upward, flicking up each bump of his vertebrae, dangerously sharp teeth dragging in the aftermath. When the mouth got to his neck, it didn’t just lick. No, it latched on, sucking hard and painfully, except that Stiles was moaning—his hands were clawed out—ripping to his sheets, but he couldn’t care—God—he couldn’t care. He wanted—his wolf wanted—they wanted—

When the teeth sank in, pushing Stiles forward and down into the dirt—his mattress—he came. It was long and hard and one body-shaking throb after the next until Stiles finally stopped shuddering.

His room was filled with cotton foam and feathers. Apparently, he’d shredded his pillow. Also, his mattress had claw marks and there was the puddle of spunk in the middle. It took him a minute—even as he looked down at his hands and licked at the extended canines in his own mouth—to realize that he was in full beta form, completely wolfed out.

That wouldn’t have freaked him out. He could have handled that.

Except that when he pulled off his boxers to go clean himself up—he saw—something was wrong with his dick. It was…

Stiles felt the bump, the expansion of the skin. Though the veins protruded and the skin looked markedly thinner, it didn’t hurt. It was pretty damn sensitive, though. Enough to epically freak out the human side of Stiles. Of course, Stiles’s wolf was not remotely concerned.

But then again, Stiles’s wolf was an asshole.

He took a breath. Then another. He thought of very non-sexy things. Like Scott’s cheese-smelling Lacrosse socks. His dad’s infuriating addiction to those fake yellow custard doughnuts. Dead baby bunnies.

When he looked down again, the swelling was gone.

His dick was normal again.

So. This was a beta thing. A wolf thing. He’d just never noticed it before since he’d never jerked himself when he’d been wolfed out. Nothing scary. Apparently, he was just missing some facts.

He was not going to ask Peter about this. Because even though Peter kept his hands to himself when he was around Stiles, there were still too many loaded jokes and lingering stares for Stiles to be asking him embarrassing questions regarding genitalia. Also, there was the possibility that Peter might start asking Stiles questions—that he might assume—

No. Just no. Stiles needed to find Derek.

- - -

Predictably, Derek was a’haunting. The Hale house ruins were as cold and creepy as ever . Following Derek’s smell in through the front door, Stiles found him in his usual spot: in the charred remains of his family room with his back pressed up against the stone fireplace. As always, Derek’s eyes were closed

“Hey.” Stiles stomped his foot, causing a floorboard to precariously splinter.

“Stiles.” Derek didn’t move.

“I need your help.”

The anxiety in Stiles’s voice must have been evident because Derek’s eyes snapped open and his nose was sniffing while his eyes searched Stiles as if scanning for hidden injuries.

“I’m fine—I just have a werewolf question. One I’m a bit embarrassed to ask.”

“You couldn’t find the answer on the internet?” Derek asked, but the edge of his mouth was twitching.

Stiles walked over and slid down the fireplace stones so that he was sitting next to Derek. This time, they weren’t touching like they normally would be on the couch at Peter’s. Even Stiles’s wolf seemed okay with the space.

“It’s just this morning, I was doing my morning business…”

But Derek was frowning at him.

“Oh God, you’re going to make me say it. Fine this morning I was masturbating when um, I wolfed out a bit—nothing super weird about that—and if I think about it, we’re two nights from the full moon, so not too weird, but anyway, afterwards, I looked down and there was a thingy on my—you know?”

Derek raised a thick eyebrow at him. He looked ready to laugh. “What do I know?”

“You are not this cruel.”

“Maybe, I am.” Derek was biting his bottom lip.

Stiles was so done with this. “What I mean is that I looked down at my fucking penis, and it looked swollen, and for a second, I thought my foreskin had grown back—which would have been weird enough, but then I realized that no, in addition to claws, fangs, and yellow eyes—being a werewolf also means that my dick grows a bulb.”

Derek was now staring at him open-mouthed.

“And now I’m really embarrassed.” Stiles focused his gaze pointedly on his hands, because yes, this was real life and he’d actually said all that.

He only looked back at Derek when he said, “You should never be embarrassed around pack. Around me. Especially when it’s something about being a wolf.”

Stiles rolled his eyes.

“Can you wolf out now?” Derek asked.

Derek’s eyes were aimed down, definitely at Stiles’s lap, and all Stiles could do was gape at him.

“I can’t help you if you won’t cooperate.”

“And by cooperate, you mean show you my special parts.”

Derek shook his head, annoyed, and then because he was a total jerk, he jabbed a claw into Stiles’s forearm.

“You asshole!” Stiles growled, but then, he couldn’t exactly focus on being mad at Derek, since his method has worked pretty damn well. Stiles’s wolf was very present.

And what was more interesting was that Derek was wolfing out too. When he turned to look at Stiles, his eyes were glowing cerulean.

“You should show me,” he said.

“Say what?” Stiles rolled his pinkie in his ear.

“I think you have a knot, but I need to see.”

“That’s…”

“Don’t be weird about it. I’m trying to help.”

Stiles was sure that Derek meant that statement to sound very off-hand, but it came out growly with too much of a rolling purr on the word ‘help’.

Still, Stiles did as he said, he undid his belt buckles, then his fly. Lifting his hips, he shoved his jeans down. There would be no removal of boxers. No. Definitely not. But he undid the button and pulled himself out.

“It’s a knot,” Derek said. And yeah, he was staring right at it.

Under his gaze, Stiles was only getting harder. It took all of his self-control for his voice not to crack as he said, “You have one, too, right? This isn’t a freaky Stiles thing?”

Gaze still fixed on Stiles’s dick, Derek said, “It’s normal for alphas. With betas, it happens occasionally. It happens when their wolf—” Derek’s eyes were suddenly back to Stiles. “—when their wolf wants another wolf.”

They were staring at each other. Derek’s expression was doing weird things. Stiles couldn’t tell if he was angry or suspicious or upset or what.

But then Derek asked, “It isn’t Peter, is it?”

Stiles exhaled a breath he didn’t know he was holding. “Um, no—not Peter. I like Peter fine. He’s our much older alpha, but um, I’m—this never happened before. I mean I don’t know who I was thinking of—just like, a wolf? I used to have a dumb crush on Lydia. You knew about that. But that’s been dying a slow death. Intellectually, I still know she’s kind of perfect looking, but if we’re talking instincts, my wolf would crap on her if it could, and it’s more like my wolf wanted someone strong and I didn’t have a person in my head just a force behind me—and um—”

Derek’s eyes popped wide open.

“—and um—” That was when Stiles bit his tongue hard enough to bleed—because holy fuck, he’d just admitted that he wanted someone behind him which meant lots of things.

Gay-ish, dominationy things.

If he was being dishonest, he could say the imagined force behind him was Lydia with a strap-on. If he was being honest, it meant many things not straight. Not that Stiles was all that narrow. But there was like “I’m not against liking a dude” and then imagining one sticking his junk into your digestive system—and liking it.

A bit different.

“It’s okay,” Derek said, and then, like he was trying to be reassuring, he ran his down Stiles’s thigh.

Except Stiles’s dick was still very much out—with the knot present—and Stiles’s breath shook, so that Derek tensed, and for a split second, a very tiny split second, Derek’s hand changed directions. It started to move back up Stiles’s thigh, toward his...

Outside the house, there was the unmistakable sound a branch cracking. Not a twig snapping. But more like, a tree decided to split itself in two.

Except that both Derek and Stiles knew who was outside, because the wind picked up—and they could smell him.

Derek’s hand was wrenched off Stiles.

Stiles yanked his jeans back up.

It wasn’t surprising when Peter sauntered in a minute later, the smile plastered on his face like he had just been out for a stroll.

Stiles and Derek didn’t look at each other.

- Present -

Stiles is having a very strange day. First, there is the fact that braces girl and the “twins” (that’s how Stiles is referring to the two small teen male vampires because despite attempting to dress differently, they somehow look very much the same) are walking down the hallways and attending classes and looking as mindlessly bored as all the other Beacon Hills high school students.

They don’t speak unless spoken to.

And they sit together at lunch in their little hipster triangle.

Stiles isn’t really sure what the plan is.

Second, there is the fact that Lydia keeps turning and looking at him. Stiles keeps looking over his shoulder to be sure it’s him—but yeah, all three times. Definitely him. She hasn’t texted him back, though. Nor has she actually spoken to him. It’d be almost scary except that he’s a damn alpha werewolf and unless she morphs into a non-corporeal specter (which would be so typical), he’s more dangerous to her than she could ever be to him.

Third, there’s the way that Erica won’t stop pouting at him. Yeah, he pats her on the head and tells her, “Not to worry. You never know what you’re going to find in the great realm of social media,” but somehow that makes her look even more huffy.

At least Isaac seems happy. He eats all of his lunch, and then goes and gets three bags of Doritos from the snack machine. Eats all of them too.

But forth, there’s Danny. He catches Stiles as they’re leaving Chemistry.

“What’s up with the new kids, huh?” Danny says.

“Hipsters.” Stiles glares in the general direction of the hallway. He knows the vampish bastards can hear him.

“Yeah, weirdly pale ones. It’s unfortunate. We have two new guys, and neither of them is remotely hot. Hey, are you going to play Lacrosse next year?”

Stiles quit Lacrosse this fall. It’s not that he was even that worried about his own self-control, but he figured Beacon Hills didn’t need another super athlete, and well, stealing Scott’s thunder wasn’t going over so well.

“Probably not, maybe track.”

“You’ve been running?” Danny asks, before grinning and saying, “Yeah, it looks like you’ve been running.” And um, there’s a certain way Danny’s gaze sweeps up and down Stiles that gives his dumb-self the first clue to what is really going on here.

“A bit.” Stiles is blushing. He’s totally blushing.

Danny smiles before leaning back onto one of the desks. “Look—we haven’t talked much this year, and I may have been weird in the past because I thought your questions weren’t serious—like how you asked me whether or not you were attractive to gay men—but now I kind of think they were.”

Danny shifts his weight, and before Stiles can say anything, he says, “So, I’ll stop being dumb and actually ask… Do you want to hang out after school? Get coffee or something? Basically, I mean do something that doesn’t just involve chatting over thermodynamics in class? Something fun?”

Weirdly, this is the most normal thing that has happened to Stiles in months. Not that this has ever happened to him before. But like, theoretically, normal non-werewolf people, they find other nice, normal people that they like, and they do things with them. Like drink coffee. Or see movies. Or go to actual restaurants and eat food.

“If you don’t want…” Danny to starts to hedge.

“I do!” Stiles pipes. “I’m just… surprised. But yeah, we can go hang out. I just have to let some people know, but we can hang out.” His pack be damned. Stiles is totally allowed to set his own schedule. And go on dates. And kiss boys.

Plus, Danny is smart and nice and normal. No matter that his wolf is huffing, Stiles totally needs this right now.

Danny nods. “I noticed Isaac and Erica sat next to you today. Erica’s looking a lot better these days.”

Stiles snorts before realizing he needs to be careful. Erica could totally be listening in right now. “She looks great, yeah. I think she’s feeling better. Healthier. More confident.”

He really hopes he doesn’t sound either paranoid or constipated. Neither tends to be an attractive look on him.

But Danny grins like he’s heard the exact words he wanted, before taking a step closer to Stiles. His hand grazes Stiles’s arm in a way that’s blatantly flirtatious. “Well, to answer your question from earlier in the school year—I don’t think your just attractive to gay guys, Stiles. I think your attractive to everyone.”

With a parting smile, Danny walks down the hall.

Stiles's stomach does a flip.

- - -

Okay, so the hipster vampire invasion seems mostly to be some sort of silent art protest—that is, until braces-chick tries to take Lydia’s seat in their pre-Calc class. Also, it just so happens to be the one class in which Lydia sits directly next to Stiles.

“That is my seat,” Lydia says, and her tone is not butter-and-honey manipulation like it would normally be. Lydia sounds pissed.

Vamp chick turns slowly. “I’m a new student enrolled at Beacon Hills High School. You can’t possibly care that much about the physical location of your math studies that you’d raise a verbal protest that could ruin our early relationship.”

Lydia’s whole face screws up. “I beg to differ. Move. That seat is mine.”

Vamp chick rolls her eyes and says “mortals” very low under her breath.

Stiles hears her very clearly. “Perhaps, but you’re infringing upon her territory.” He glares at vamp girl.

Vamp girl glares back. “It’s a public high school.”

But with a braces-enhanced smile at Lydia, vamp girl stands and walks to the back of the class.

Lydia sits herself primly at the desk. Then she turns to Stiles, “She should know better than to get in the way, shouldn’t she?”

She looks at Stiles with the happiest smile ever before pulling out her graphing calculator, text book, and metallic red pencils and neatly arranging them on her desk.

“Lydia,” Stiles asks, because he is well and truly freaked out. “Are you okay?”

“Probably. I hope we’re doing sinusoid problems today. They’re actually challenging. Otherwise, this class is so booorrrrring,” she groans as she rolls a pencil from one side of the desk to the other.

This does nothing to convince Stiles that Lydia is not about to start batting her arms like wings and singing “cuckoo.”

But for the rest of the class she seems passably normal. Therefore, Stiles decides he’ll ask Danny about it. It can be a conversation starter: what the fuck is going on with Lydia.

- - -

Alas, Stiles can’t just go anywhere. Before he’s even out of seventh period, he has a text from Derek.

Coming over after?

He replies:

Meeting a friend from school. Maybe later.

And because he’s a nosy bastard…

Who?

Stiles ignores that text.

What’s harder to ignore is how Isaac, Erica, and Scott surround him in the parking lot.

Scott wants to play video games.

Erica wants to fight the vampires.

Isaac seems like he would like to be included.

It would be lovely, except that he has plans.

“You two,” Stiles points at Erica and Isaac, “go over to Derek’s and ask him to teach you about anchors.” Then Stiles turns to Scott, who is dumb enough to look smug right now. “And speaking of anchors, why aren’t you bothering Allison?”

Scott crosses his arms. “She’s busy.”

“Well, so am I. Go with them. Talk about nautical studies or wrestle or something.”

“Wait. Where are you going?” Scott looks perplexed.

Because Stiles having a social life is so shocking. “I’m meeting Danny. Go.”

“For Chemistry?” Scott asks.

Stiles rolls his eyes. “Yes, the interpersonal kind.” And across the parking lot, he does indeed spy Danny, who seemingly has just spied Stiles. He waves.

“Crap.” Scott bites his fist. “Derek doesn’t know about this, does he?”

“Why the fuck would—?” Stiles cuts himself off. “I’m leaving. Be gone with thee.” He says it in enough of an alpha voice that they actually don’t follow him when he marches in the other direction.

- - -

They go to this really cute café two towns over that Danny claims has the best coffee. After taking a sip of his cappuccino, Stiles really doesn’t think the coffee is super terrific or anything. But what he definitely does notice is that each booth in the café is partially obscured by a curtain. It’s not like complete privacy or anything, but is definitely an unusual mix of casual and intimate.

Like right now, if Stiles wanted to smear milk foam over his top lip—and Danny were to lick it off—it’s highly unlikely that anyone would see.

Not that he’s going to do that.

But theoretically, it’s an option.

Stiles is open to options.

“So it took me awhile to figure out that you weren’t dating that guy,” Danny says.

Stiles is confused. He says so.

Danny laughs. “Your not-cousin. Derek Hale? I see you guys together sometimes around town. He’s older, but like that makes a difference, right?”

Stiles drinks his coffee too fast and burns his tongue. Luckily, he has healing powers. “Oh, yeah, we’re not—” He flaps his hand to signify general not-ness.

“He’s pretty hot.”

Stiles just stops himself from making a loud “hah” sound, because he’s the loser who has Derek’s perfect abs a foot from him every night, even if that’s as close as they’ll ever be: arms-length.

Which he shouldn’t regret. It’s safer this way.

Like Danny, Danny is safe.

“He’s an ass,” Stiles says, because that part is totally true.

“And you’re not hung up on Lydia anymore so—”

Lydia! “Yeah, not so much. But crap, she’s been weird lately right? She bitched out that vam—very pale new chick out today in Pre-Calc. There was no social grace involved. I thought Lydia was going to hit her.”

Danny is frowning. “You know, you’re right. She has been weird. I think it’s because of Jackson. They broke up for the fifth time this semester. Why, she hasn’t been flirting with you, has she?”

Stiles snorts. “That’d be funny.”

“Well, she better not be.”

“Uh, okay?” Stiles shrugs.

“Because I told her I wanted to ask you out, and she’d be a very bad friend if she was flirting with you. I’ve wanted to ask you out for a while now.”

And just like that, Danny has successfully brought them back to the real topic of conversation. Stiles thinks it must be nice to have real social skills like that. Or to date someone with real social skills. Wow, Stiles could even bring Danny home to meet his dad. And if they had sex, Danny couldn’t get arrested! Grounded, yes. Arrested, no.

“I didn’t have a clue.”

“Yeah, I figured out pretty quick that I’d have to be direct,” Danny says.

And like if that isn’t the smoothest line ever, Stiles doesn’t know what is, because his hand moves up Stiles’s leg in sync, and holy crap, those are Danny’s fingers two inches from his crotch.

Danny’s watching him, keeping a measure of his expression, but whatever Stiles’s face is showing it must bear good tidings, because Danny leans in and gently presses his lips to Stiles.

It is a really fucking sweet kiss. It’s gentle but with enough press and tug that’s it’s not boring, and when Danny pulls back from him, he looks so damn proud of himself. And this is nice, it’s nice to be with someone who is excited about him, who is his age and is polite. It’s nice to not feel like your heart is being ripped out. Or like you’re bringing down sky. It’s nice to kiss someone and feel safe.

He pulls Danny’s face to his, and he kisses him back but harder. A little more desperate. A whole lot less sweet. This time the kiss lasts a solid minute at least. When his mouth opens up and their tongues slide together, Danny tastes like caffeine and coconut, and when Stiles scents him, running his nose down his neck, he smells like aftershave and pheromones, and it’s good. It’s really good. Beneath the table their ankles are crisscrossed and Danny’s knee is arched up, like he wants to get closer than the booth allows.

It’s only when Stiles’s elbow slides out and knocks his coffee cup off the table that they break apart.

“Holy shit,” Danny says, and he’s staring at Stiles like he’s never seen him before.

Which could be a bad thing, except that he’s still staring at Stiles’s mouth. Also, there’s the prominent bulge visible in his jeans.

Stiles is about to kiss him again when Danny puts a hand on his chest and says, “Um, not that this place is horrible or anything, but you want to go to a place a little less heteronormative?”

This causes Stiles to glance over Danny’s shoulder.

He can see the outline of their waitress’s back as she wipes off a (clean-looking) table. Her cheeks are looking a little flush.

“Sounds good,” he says.

- - -

An alpha werewolf + a gay bar + dancing is not a good idea, and yeah, it’s not like he can get drunk, but with the cherry rum taste on Danny’s tongue plus the crazy friction from their jeans—Stiles is probably getting a bit too into it, especially for a first date.

He knows this.

Just like he knows he has issues. Issues are what happen when you learn to use sex as a weapon and you rip through trust like its cheap cheesecloth.

Hell, even Danny has probably figured out that Stiles has issues. Not that he seems to care. Because despite everything, this is not an area where Stiles lacks confidence. He’s good at this. He knows he’s driving Danny crazy. He even knows that Danny’s ex-boyfriend is sitting at the bar, and he’s going fucking nuts with jealousy—although Stiles isn’t sure if it’s over Stiles or Danny. Probably both.

But the lights are swirling rainbow bright. The music is wonderfully stupid girl-pop. It’s so loud that he and Danny couldn’t have a civilized conversation if they wanted to. It’s very public. Yeah, lots of eyes are watching them, and Stiles almost doesn’t mind putting on a performance. Because it feels good to be a bit of a moron.

If he makes a fool of himself, so what?

And then there’s the fact that he’s pretty sure he’s not making a fool out of himself.

Because Danny hands are tight on his ass. He’s trying to keep Stiles close, even as Stiles is still pretending that he’s sort of dancing—breaking away to swirl in a circle or to yell out bad lyrics when the fancy catches him.

In fact, he’s just done that—broken from the latest kiss—and started to spin—when yeah, he smacks right into Derek.

Derek’s eyes are way too obviously flickering blue, and yeah, he looks like he wants to murder Stiles.

Well, crap.

Chapter Text

- Past -

So it began with Derek seeing his dogshank, so to speak, and well, it didn’t end there. Stiles was having thoughts. Not that said thoughts were that out there.

Like, even Scott could admit that Derek was “Yeah, a weirdly good looking dude, Stiles. And could you please never make me answer that question again?”

But Stiles needed clarity so he asked Scott a few more.

Because he was a dumbass, Scott made some excuse about “writing a note to Allison” and escaped.

This was totally not a two-way friendship.

There were the other usual signs. Stiles wanted to see Derek all the time. His monthly trips to the cemetery became near-daily. If Peter complained about Derek being up at the Hale house again, Stiles volunteered at the drop of the hat to go drag him back down. And like, if Stiles was just meeting Derek to talk that would be one thing, but half the time he brought dinner too—because when did Derek eat? Stiles never saw him eat.

Stiles suspected he was downing deer on the sly—which could not be medically advisable (think of the parasites!), even for a werewolf.

So he brought Derek leftover meatballs.

And chicken salad.

There might have also been one night where Stiles showed up with a casserole.

But—okay, if it was completely one-sided, Stiles would have backed off, but no, Derek started doing stuff for him too. He walked Stiles through his pre-calc homework in a way that was clear, concise—and yeah, listening to Derek make Ferris wheel analogies as he put the bitch slap to Stiles’s most annoying trig problem—it was all kinds of sexy. Then, the other big thing, when the alternator on his jeep went kaput, Derek showed him how to replace not just it but the timing belt and the water pump, too. And yeah, when Stiles accidentally dropped the trunk lid on his fingers—Derek only swore (a lot). He didn’t threaten to rip Stiles’s head off or anything like he would have a few months ago.

Also, Derek talked about his family when he was with Stiles. He’d get this little annoyed smile when he’d talk about how he and Laura used to fight for control of the grill, or how his dad once tried to get a dog… which apparently didn’t end all that well. He even talked about how it used to be a running joke in the family about how Peter was constantly getting dumped by were-women.

So, to summarize: thoughts. Lots of Derek-this. Derek-that.

Thoughts.

When Stiles was alone, it was never Lydia any more. It was always Derek. And yeah, Stiles had gone there. Yesterday. He’d lubed up his pointer finger and after staring at it for a moment he’d decided to try a poke. But sitting and leaning back while trying to hike his knees up was really awkward, so he’d ended up on his side, circling for a long moment before he’d taken a breath and started to push it inside.

A little uncomfortable.

And he was a little doubtful that his fingers were long enough to reach his prostate.

He needed to do more research.

When he tried to sync the two movements, pulling on his dick and pushing with his finger at the same time, it had been a little extra difficult. Maybe he was too tense to be trying this right now—or maybe he simply needed more lube, but then he realized…

Stiles focused on his wolf. He imagined the woods. The scent of a hunter on the breeze. There was a distant crunch of leaves. A hiss of breath.

He ran north.

In a valley swamped with heavy shrubs, he thought he’d lost him. He thought he could hide in the thick loamy smell that covered everything, but then he rounded a tree—and ran right into him.

His teeth were smacked up against the bark. He tasted sap. When his pants were yanked down, there was a satisfied growl behind him, and when the finger pushed in—this time it was exactly what Stiles wanted. He almost could have come from that feeling, but then he wanted more. The hunter—Derek—wanted more, so he knocked Stiles’s legs wider, and when he pushed inside, it burned. It stretched. It was too much.

Stiles loved it.

More importantly, he was in love with Derek.

Which was why he was so completely fucked.

---

Peter had stopped killing people. Allison and her dad were off the hit list, because Stiles had helped Scott negotiate a détente of sorts—as long as they followed the code, and Peter didn’t rip anyone else into shreds. Plus, with Stiles, Derek, and Peter all working together, the Argents weren’t really too keen on the idea of taking on an organized pack.

Still, it was an uneasy truce. And it ended when a guy by the name of Alan Gianni came after Stiles.

For once, Stiles didn’t actually provoke anyone. Gianni was a fairly successful plumber until his drinking problem lead to him losing his license. The final straw was when his wife sent him divorce papers. His drinking spiraled out of control, and Stiles’s dad had been called more than a few times to enforce the restraining order that the ex-Mrs. Gianni had placed on him.

Stiles was at the movie theater when it happened—he was waiting for Scott, who was late, late, and more late. It was 12:01 a.m.—and they were supposed to see a 11:50 p.m. showing, so Stiles has the tickets in hand and he was sitting on the shaded bench in the corner of the parking lot with his headphones in, listening to something angry and trying really really hard to believe that his best friend hadn’t stood him up for their damn movie night.

It was late and cold, like twenty degrees Fahrenheit tops, and so Stiles was the only one around. That’s why it was extra weird when a man sat down next to him on the bench. The dude smelled he had knocked back a few, and when he lit up a cigarette, Stiles’s first thought was Who is this asshole?

Because there was another bench in sight, a whole thirty feet away. Plus, even though the nicotine was unlikely to threaten the pretty pink shade of his lungs, as a werewolf, Stiles found the tar and tobacco scents even more repugnant. But like, this dude was puffing away and it was a public place, so whatever. Stiles stood and started to walk toward the theater entrance.

If Scott wasn't here in one minute, Stiles was going in without him.

Stiles was two steps away when the man stood. “You’re the Sheriff’s kid, aren't you?”

Stiles stopped and turned back. “Maybe. Who are you?”

“Does the Beacon Hills sheriff know his perfect little boy is out past curfew?”

The man stood up, and the street lamp illuminated his face. That’s when Stiles recognized him. It was Allan Gianni, and he smelled like really shitty vodka, just like he always did.

“Look, man, I don’t want any trouble. I’m just meeting my friend for a movie.”

“Aw, is he pretty?”

Seriously? Stiles rolled his eyes and started walking away.

Stiles heard it when Gianni charged him from behind.

It was easy to dodge him. Gianni was a goddamn drunk and Stiles was a freaking werewolf.

Gianni tripped on his own feet, snarling on all fours as he glared at Stiles. And then, because the bastard was crazy, he pulled out a knife.

Stiles was suddenly supremely grateful that he was a werewolf because this meant he wasn't going to die, but the knife meant that this situation was completely out of fucking hand.

In fact Gianni was about to charge again when a shape blurred into view.

Peter had the knife out of Gianni’s hand and an arm around the guy’s shoulder in the next second.

“Allan, selling Cutco these days, are you? I like watching the rope trick. And I haven’t seen you since high school!” Peter slapped the man’s bicep.

Stiles thought it was a good thing Gianni was drunk, because he swore he could see a glint of red still fading from Peter’s eyes.

“Peter Hale?” Gianni was staring at Peter like he was a ghost.

“No, the other Peter Hale.” Peter laughed, before his expression sobered. “I was unconscious for a few years—after the fire.”

“You’re—you’re not burned.” It would seem that Peter had successfully distracted him from stabbing Stiles.

“Not in places you can see,” Peter agreed, and Stiles didn't miss the undertone. “But hey, let’s not mess with the local youth—why don’t I buy you a beer? Or an expensive whiskey? I heard you've had hard times? Well, me too. Come on. Let’s leave the whippersnappers to their movie-watching.”

Normally, Stiles would have been annoyed. Whippersnapper, his ass. But right now, he was too focused on the facts that first, Peter had been lying, and second, there was a particular scent melting off Peter. It was hitting Stiles in waves—and it was raw fury.

Stiles was about to protest, because oh, God—Peter was going to kill Gianni.

But then Peter did something he’d never done to Stiles before: he used his alpha voice on him. “Go inside, watch your movie,” he commanded, and then in a much softer voice, he added, “I’ll join you in a minute.”

Stiles feet were already moving. His wolf was fully at the reigns, and his human side only got to have its panic attack when he was seated in the dark of the theater, and some straw-man villain was threatening the pristine hero.

The movie was almost over when Peter slid into the seat next to him. Almost like it was the couch in his apartment, Peter lifted up the arm rest between them so he could sit closer to Stiles.

Peter reeked of blood and terror.

“You killed him,” Stiles whispered, because he knew it without a doubt.

“He threatened you,” Peter said, and then he’d slid his hand around Stiles’s cheek and pulled him close enough so that he could kiss his temple. "But you're safe now."

“He used to be your friend.”

“The old me” was all Peter said.

Later, when he justified it to Derek and Scott, Peter said more: that Gianni was cracking, that he’d been drinking with hunters, that he’d been stalking Stiles's father.

Stiles knew that those weren't lies. But he also knew that even if those extra excuses weren't there, Peter would have done the same thing all over again.

He threatened you, Peter had said, and from his heart beat, the dead set of his eyes—Stiles knew that all of the other reasons were secondary.

Peter would do it again.

The next day, Stiles wasn't surprised when Derek asked Stiles to meet at the old warehouse. They went down the steps to an old wartime bunker. The reason was obvious: the place had soundproofing.

Derek had gotten right to it. “Peter’s not well, Stiles.”

“I know.”

“This is a drop in the bucket. He’s going to do something worse.”

“I know.”

“If we don’t stop him, no one else will.”

Stiles closed his eyes. “I know.”

“He doesn't trust me.”

Stiles felt his stomach twist. Derek’s face was a pre-written apology.

“But…” Stiles took a breath. “He trusts me.”

“Not just trust. Stiles, he loves you.”

“And?”

Derek stared at him. “You know what I’m asking.”

Stiles didn't answer, because he did—he knew.

“You want me to seduce him.”

“You’re sixteen,” Derek snapped. “It shouldn't go beyond kissing.”

Which Stiles thought was horribly naïve.

“I don’t want to kill him,” Derek said. “He’s my uncle, my last family. I don’t ask this lightly. This is going to ruin our pact with the Argents. It’s going to get you and me killed. If there was another way…”

“You’ll be the alpha?” Stiles asked, scraping his toe in the dust.

“It’ll be just you and me. Are you okay with that?”

Stiles didn’t want to read too much into Derek’s tone. This wasn't about them. Not right now. He took a shivering breath. “Okay” was not really the best descriptor of Stiles’s current emotional state. He was not okay with any of this, but that didn’t mean he could sit back and do nothing either. Having Derek be the alpha… that would be good.

Finally, he nodded. His head felt so heavy. “I’ll do my best.”

- - -

– Present –

When the lights flash red or purple, Derek looks kind of terrifying—but when the lights flip green or yellow, he just looks irritated, confused.

Stiles is so beyond caring.

“No. No. No.” He pops a finger in the front of Derek’s chest. “You don’t get to show up here and ruin my perfectly normal date.”

“I need to talk to you,” Derek growls.

“No, you want to run my life,” Stiles snaps, and he doesn't miss the shock on Derek’s expression. But screw him. Fuck him. Derek can go shit on himself.

Stiles flips back around to Danny, but Danny has backed up by five feet at least.

Well, Stiles hasn't totally forgotten. Derek can be a bit intimidating.

He closes his eyes and forces a breath. He’s going to have to deal with this.

“Give me one minute,” he yells/speaks to Danny, and after popping a kiss on his nose, Stiles heads for the door. He doesn't need to look back to hear Derek’s footsteps pounding along after him.

In the alley behind the club, there is some dirty business going on in dark corners—so Stiles walks around the garbage bin and down a set of stairs so that he’s standing in front of a locked door. Behind the door, Stiles can smell stale coffee and printer ink. He leans his forehead against it, waiting for Derek to speak.

Derek doesn't speak. No, what he does is grab Stiles by the hips—like he does when he’s trying to hold Stiles steady. The old biting-the-tail trick.

Stiles is about to protest when Derek releases his grip, sliding his hands upward before he wraps his arms around Stiles.

It is a hug.

Stiles doesn't know what to do with that. A hug?

“Why are you here?” Stiles says at last, because this hug-thing is truly confusing.

“Why do you think?” Derek’s chin is settled over Stiles’s shoulder.

“Answering a question with a question does not answer my question.”

Derek is silent for a long-ass pause, before pulling back. “You shouldn't have gone out with him. He’s human.”

“And my age.”

Stiles can feel Derek’s flinch.

“You are not going out with him again,” Derek says.

“Not your call.” Stiles tries to turn around.

But Derek's hands are locked on his hips. “Stop. Just—answer this: these past few weeks, what the fuck do you think we've been doing?”

“That is a vague statement.” And Stiles is too much of a coward to read into it.

“Since after Peter?” Derek pushes.

“Ohhhhh,” Stiles mocks, because he can’t help the bitterness in his voice. “You mean since you told me that I should never have been alpha?”

“You shouldn't have been.” Because Derek can’t lie even to make Stiles feel the teeniest bit better.

“No, that wasn't the deal, was it? You were supposed to be the big bad alpha. I was supposed to be the diligent little beta. But that's not what happened. I did what I had to and we both have to make peace with it. You don’t like me being stronger than you? Get over it.”

“Strength has nothing—”

But Stiles whips around, shoving Derek away.

Derek takes one step back but holds his ground. “You’re not happy as the alpha. That was what I meant. You won’t even—” Derek cuts himself off and looks away.

“I won’t what?”

“You’re afraid to lead. You won’t command anyone. Scott would submit to you—but you won't make him to choose. He has no pack without you—Allison does not count, and yet you let him run amok, so that he adds no strength to this pack. You chose Erica because she’s easy. You don’t need to worry about her submitting because she’d suck your dick if you even hinted—”

“Fuck you.”

“Why do you think I suggested Isaac? Because he’ll never threaten you. You’ll never have to worry about—”

But Stiles is fucking done, or more importantly, his wolf is fucking done.

So for a blink, Derek is in Stiles’s face—spouting shit—and in the next second, Stiles shifts and tosses Derek backwards, all two hundred pounds of him flying as easy as a pillow sack.

Derek lands with hard smack against the stairs—and if he weren't a wolf, the stiff, cracking sound would be horrible—but Derek fucking is a werewolf, and that is the problem. Stiles is seething as he leaps over him, pinning Derek’s hands and growling through this teeth.

The growl is an order: submit.

Without saying a word, Derek looks Stiles in the eyes. His eyes glow blue but they’re not defiant, and Stiles can’t help the sharpness of his exhale as he watches Derek stretch out his neck, bare his Adam’s apple, and relax despite Stiles’s pressure.

They stay like that for a long minute, with Stiles’s breaths coming out like half-growls and Derek doing nothing except watching him.

As Stiles heart beat calms down, Derek even shifts back to human form—making him look twice as vulnerable. His skin is so pale against his coal-colored hair, and even with the sharp line of his jaw, the skin underneath both looks dangerously thin and smells exotically sweet.

Wolves are so simple. If Stiles wanted to, he could kill Derek right now. Derek is allowing him that right. Derek is his.

His pack, Stiles reminds himself.

With his wolf finally soothed, Stiles draws away, backing down the steps before turning around and pressing his hands into the wall once more. Because Derek is not completely wrong—Stiles is crappy at being an alpha—it’s not in him to want to push anyone around. It makes him think of bullies—like Jackson. And right now, having done that to Derek, he kind of hates himself.

Behind him Derek says, “You didn't have to do that. Not with me. All you had to do was ask.”

“Liar,” Stiles says, even though he’s heard no lie.

“Stiles,” Derek growls at the insult.

“Just… go. Okay? I have had too much for one night.” Stiles looks at his hand against the wall. The claws are completely gone now. Back to full human form.

But Derek is back to not listening, because he leaps down the steps and grabs Stiles by the hips again.

“Weren't we just here five minutes ago? Because I thought we’d gotten past the part where you think you’re allowed to control my movements.”

“We only finished half of that conversation.” And then like he’d done the night before, Derek draws his nose along Stiles’s collar bone and rubs it up the side of his neck. It would almost count as nuzzling except that Derek's lips are brushing along, too.

“Stop that,” Stiles says, but there is negative-nil force in voice, because part of him really wants this. His wolf wants Derek plastered to him. But the other part of him—the scarred human bits—that part is terrified.

“I was saying that crawling into your bed every night isn't something I would do for any alpha…”

“Well, considering the last alpha was your mentally damaged uncle, that’s not a—”

“Would you shut up and listen?”

Stiles thinks about saying something petulant—because he wants to. Derek’s breath is distressingly hot on his neck. Stiles is hard—rock-fucking hard—and he cannot stop shaking.

But instead Stiles says, “I don’t trust you. I can’t. Not after—what you s-said.”

“I already... I need you to forgive me.”

“No, you didn't apologize. You just—” But Stiles’s throat is too thick to continue.

“I hated seeing you with him. Hated it.”

“Could have fooled me,” Stiles snaps.

Against his back, Derek groans. “I’m fucking this up. You don’t get it. God—you—”

And that’s when he pulls on Stiles’s hips so that Stiles has to turn around and face him, and that’s bad—looking at Derek is never a good idea, especially right now with the way his eyes are begging, so that Stiles doesn’t even remember what they’re arguing about anywhere. All he knows is that everything is ruined, and it wasn’t supposed be.

Stiles’s head is bent back against the bricks, but Derek leans in close.

Close enough to kiss.

“I need you to trust me,” Derek says.

“I can’t.” Stiles closes his eyes.

“No, you do—you’re just…”

And because Stiles’s eyes are closed, he feels Derek move before he sees it. But the unmistakable touch on his dick causes his eyes to fly open, and oh fucking hell, Derek has dropped to his knees. His thumb is tracing the shape of Stiles’s dick.

And then seeing that he has Stiles’s unbroken attention, Derek leans forward and licks up the ridge in Stiles’s jeans.

“Why did you? What are you doing?” Stiles stutters out.

Derek answers by licking another trails upwards, and on the trail back down, he just trails his nose, scenting Stiles all the way down to his balls.

Derek is starting to pull on his zipper when Stiles hears the gasp.

At the top of the stairs is Danny.

Stiles thinks he says, “fuck.”

Danny turns heel and leaves.

Derek yanks down on Stiles’s zipper, but Stiles shoves him away. “So that was what that was about! You heard him. You knew he was coming, and you—I don’t even get it. I just” —Stiles pulls his own hair— “just don’t get it. Is this a pack thing? Post everything-goes-to-shit, you need to keep me close? You're worried that your family legacy is going to get ruined by the Stiles-ness so you need to guide the dumb teenager by his dick?”

“It’s not a pack thing.” Derek steps toward Stiles.

But Stiles holds him back. “I need to go talk to him. I need to apologize. God, he probably thinks that I…” lied to him, Stiles finishes in his head, but he doesn't say that.

Instead, he pushes past Derek and marches to the top of the steps.

When he turns back around, Derek has his arms wrapped around himself, like he would when they were in the cemetery that first month or so.

It hurts seeing Derek like that, but Stiles can’t give in. “Don’t come to my room tonight.”

When Derek stiffens, Stiles says, “We’ll talk later—but I need some space, a lot of fucking space right now.”

“Don’t touch him again,” Derek says.

With a glare, Stiles leaves.

Chapter Text

– Past –

“You’re staring.” Peter was frowning at Stiles over his laptop.

The man was not wrong. Stiles had been in a state of dazed staring all day. That morning, he’d wiped the fog off the mirror and fretted over the blackheads on the undersides of his nostrils and the way his cheeks were mottled pink from the steam. Uncertain of himself, he’d thought, this is not a face that would launch a thousand ships. Then he’d wrote, “U R Pretty” in the mirror, and well, that made him laugh, so it sort of worked.

When he’d gotten to Peter’s apartment, the freak out got worse. No matter that Peter was interested, there was no simply no way that Stiles was going to be able to pull this off without (a) making a total fool of himself or (b) tipping Peter off to something being amiss. So instead, he’d been doing nothing but… staring, apparently, which was equally dumb, because Peter was looking at him now, highly amused. How obvious was he being?

As transparent as saran wrap, apparently.

“Nothing. I was just thinking.” Or more like he’d been examining Peter: the cut of his sharp jaw, the intense blue eyes that all of the Hales seemed to have, and well, his shoulders, torso, all of that. Muscles and manly stuff. It had only just occurred to Stiles that he’d never seen Peter shirtless. He wondered if that had to do with the fire—if Peter still felt the need to hide his skin, even if it was completely healed now.

“About what?” And because Peter had an even better sense of smell than Stiles, he noticed the pheromones. “Is it about Lydia?” Peter pressed.

“No.” Stiles rolled his eyes.

“If you wanted, I’d give her to you.”

Stiles’s breath caught. “Uh, what? I mean—no. NO.”

Peter laughed. “Just kidding. She’s interesting, though. Smart girl. Beautiful. She’d make a cunning wolf.”

“I’m not really into her anymore. I mean, I just noticed yesterday that she hasn't been at school for the past few days. A few months ago—that never would have happened. I would have been counting the days. But I guess, the whole never-noticing-me thing got old.”

“Interesting.” Peter was rubbing his chin, but then he shrugged. “Well, if you don’t care, I don’t either.” He closed the laptop lid with a smack. “So who’s the new lucky lady?”

“The English language. I’m definitely doing my Comp homework right now. We’re reading Hamlet.”

Peter grimaced. “Not my favorite.”

“Well, duh. There’s an evil uncle, and it ends with everyone poisoned by wine or sword. Only the clowns and the foreign king survive.”

“It’s always the clowns that survive.” Peter flopped down next to Stiles’s on the couch. “Do you really think of me that way, the evil uncle?” His lips were pouting; his eyes feigned mournfulness.

Stiles snorted. “You like thinking of yourself as slightly evil.”

“There’s a difference between behaving badly and being evil—but I suppose I’m so blackened that you’d prefer me to lump solely into the one category. I know you think I shouldn’t have killed that man.”

Stiles didn't answer him.

“Stiiiii-les,” Peter sang his name with almost a whistle. With Peter being only a foot from him, the high tone made it impossible not to look over, to meet Peter’s gaze. “That’s right. I won’t ever let anyone hurt you. It’s that simple. You’re my pack. Better yet, you’re my favorite. Derek is boring. Scott is a joke.”

“I know,” Stiles answered—too quickly.

Peter huffed. “You say that, but I’m not sure that you do. Now, let’s go back to the previous question. You were staring at me before. Why?”

Stiles rolled his head back into the couch, looking up at the ceiling, but Peter’s hand cupped his neck, turning his face so that they were facing each other again.

“My, my, where is my usual chatty Stiles?”

“Thinking about Hamlet.”

Peter heard the lie, and for the second time ever, he used his alpha voice on Stiles. “Why were you staring?”

The words spilled off his tongue. “Iwaswonderingwhy—you—why you never take off your shirt. I was wondering if it was because of the fire. Derek used to refuse to wear a shirt until…” Stiles was feeling light headed. “…you became our alpha.” With a gasp, Stiles made himself breathe.

Peter watched him for a minute, but then his mouth twisted. Removing his hand from Stiles’s cheek, his fingers pushed at the bottom button on his shirt. Undoing the buttons one by one, Peter’s eyes never even blinked—they stayed locked on Stiles’s.

When the buttons were done, he shrugged off his shirt. And yeah, even if he wasn’t as built as Derek, there was no body fat on the man.

Stiles had to look away. He knew his cheeks were flaming.

Thankfully, Peter didn’t call him on it. Instead, he pointed at the left side of his torso. “The worst of the burning was on my right side. Here.” His finger drew a line from his hip bone to his arm pit. “The scars were spotty across my stomach. They put a great deal of padding under me so that I could mostly lie on left side and back.”

“Your skin is completely healed now.” Stiles’s voice came out softer than he meant it to.

“My skin is, yes,” Peter agreed.

Stiles didn’t know what to say to that. Because this wasn’t really going like it should be. Getting closer to Peter wasn’t supposed to make him…

“Okay.” Peter clapped his hands together. “Your turn!” He was grinning.

“My turn?” Stiles frowned.

“Don’t play dumb. Shirt off.”

And now Stiles’s cheeks felt hot like little werewolf ovens. “I didn’t ask you to take yours off.”

“Your eyes were big and begging. Now, fair is fair. I’m not going to make you.” But Peter crossed his arms, so that, yeah, Stiles had a clear view of his flexing shoulder muscles as Peter twitched his finger in a “up and off” motion.

“I’m skinny,” Stiles muttered, but yeah, whatever, he pulled his black t-shirt over his head.

He didn’t get ogled. There wasn’t even a creepy comment. Nope, Peter simple grabbed him, pulling him against him like he normally would for a pack cuddle on the couch—with the caveat that they were normally not skin-to-skin when they did this. The fingers on his sides felt hot slotted between his ribs.

“You’re not skinny,” Peter insisted. “Not like you used to be. You’ve got these little muscles…” And his thumb traced a curve across the planes of Stiles’s stomach.

Stiles blinked down at himself. “I think that happened a few weeks ago. I looked down, and abs were there. A four-pack sneaked up on me—and then the rest of it shaped out.”

“I like them,” Peter said, and um, Stiles could feel how much Peter liked him.

“Yes. A bit inevitable at the moment. Erections do happen.” Peter yawned. “Do you want me to move?”

“You don’t have to,” Stiles said, but his voice quavered. He couldn’t help it. Peter’s scent was thick in the air. It smelled of sylvan musk and something exotic but sweet, like cardamom or gingersnap, but more than anything, the tang in the air was pointed, powerful. And Stiles’s wolf couldn’t help but respond to the fact that his alpha was more or less posting a billboard announcing his interest in Stiles.

Peter shifted his position, but it was to draw Stiles closer against him. “You’re nervous but also…” Inhaling Stiles’s scent, Peter groaned.

“But…?” Stiles asked even if he was uncertain of wanting the answer.

Peter’s next words came out snappish. “But. Stiles. If you want me to keep my paws to myself, you’re pressing up against the deadline.” And so as to punctuate, he less than subtly pressed his hard-on into Stiles’s backside.

“I—” Saying the word meant he had to open his mouth, and when Stiles opened his mouth, there was oxygen—and Stiles had sort of not breathed for the past sixty seconds, so he sucked in air like he’d been drowning. It made his whole body tremble, and then with Peter wrapped around him, he couldn’t stop shaking.

The last time, Peter had backed off, but this time he didn’t. He pushed Stiles off of him, enough that he could slide out, throw a leg over, and crawl on top of him.

“You don’t seem to be leaving,” Peter said, and lips were so close to Stiles’s chin that he could feel his nerves prickle at the breath across his skin.

When Stiles didn’t answer, Peter said, “But I’m not entirely convinced you want to stay either. You’re scared. I don’t want that. I need you to calm down.”

Peter was nuzzling his neck, and yeah, Stiles was still shaking, even though he knew Peter wasn’t going to push him. That even now, he’d back off if he asked. But still, this was insane, and not at all what Stiles thought it would be like—what the fuck was he doing?

He blurted, “I’ve never k-kissed. Anyone. Not really. There was this painful and awkward spin the bottle in which I had to kiss this girl Mindy freshman year, and then once I had to lick Scott as part of a truth-or-dare bet—which, yuck—but I’ve never, um, you know…”

Stiles trailed off because Peter was grinning at him, like his garbled words were sexy French instead of utter blather.

“It’s okay,” Peter said, and Stiles hated himself for how soft Peter’s eyes were. “I’m going to teach you.” Peter brushed a soft, swift kiss to his bottom lip. “I’m going to teach you everything.”

“Okay,” Stiles breathed. The spot where Peter had kissed was still tingling.

“Part your lips ever so slightly for me,” Peter began.

- - -

So the “kissing” lasted for one whole day.

It would be nice to say that Stiles’s wolf “wanted to respect his alpha” or some bullshit, but really, it was more like, how can you make out with a hot someone for an hour and not want to crawl into his lap? And once you’re in his lap and the effect of his teeth on your ear is going straight to your dick, how can you not want to rock your hips into his? Then with your brain ready to explode, how can you not crave the friction? And once you’ve come in your pants, how can you not return the favor?

After all, Stiles was raised with a sense of fair play.

The first time, after Stiles had made a mess of his track shorts, Peter brought back a wet washcloth, perfectly room temperature. He’d handed it to Stiles.

“Not going to offer to help?” Stiles joked, because nerves aside, he was feeling happily light-headed at the moment.

“I’m not even going to try and sneak a peak,” Peter teased back. He flopped onto the bed behind Stiles.

Stiles snorted, but when Peter leaned forward, wrapping his arms around him, he leaned back into it. It was so weird. A week ago, doing this with Peter would have been impossible to imagine. It would have freaked him out. But now… Stiles was aware of how easy it was to just accept this. Because feeling wanted like this—being adored—it was addictive. “I don’t even know why you like me,” Stiles murmured.

Behind him, Peter paused, before leaning down to press his nose into the corner of Stiles’s neck. “You make me feel more like myself. Your laugh makes me happy.”

It almost made it easy to forget what Stiles was really supposed to be doing, because part of him just wanted to melt into Peter—he was pretty sure that part of him thought it might be just easy as pie to fall in love.

And if not for Derek, Stiles thought he probably would have.

The only way Stiles knew how to respond was to draw Peter in for a kiss. A kiss wouldn’t hurt.

But then Stiles didn’t miss that the edges of Peter’s mouth were curled as he kissed Stiles back. He was smiling.

And Stiles didn’t want the smiling to stop. Not really. So he twisted in his lap, getting closer, until Peter’s taste was hot in his mouth and sharp fingernails were grabbing at his ass.

“You’re hard again,” Peter said, and as if slightly crazed by his own statement, he smothered his face in the crook of Stiles’s neck.

“Not yet seventeen,” Stiles agreed, and peeling Peter’s hand off his backside, he brought it down into his track shorts, sliding it over his dick.

“If you insist,” Peter sighed as if put upon, and then seeing Stiles’s impatient scowl, he laughed, grabbed him in a tight fist, and bit down on his neck.

- - -

It was only on Friday when Scott shoved it in his face, that Stiles realized he hadn’t seen Derek all week.

Because Scott said, “You smell like Peter.”

“He’s my alpha.”

“Not that kind of smell.” Scott’s nostrils were flared in horror.

Well, he could go fuck himself. “I’m not discussing this with you.”

Scott’s expression was torn. It somehow looked both simultaneously hurt and relieved. “It’s not about the fact that he’s a guy—or like really old—although, Stiles, he was dating my mom for a week. It’s more about the whole he’s fucking crazy thing. Like how he changed me against my will. Like how he has murdered a bunch of people, including Derek’s sister.”

“Not going to discuss it.”

“And what about Derek?” Scott asked.

“What about Derek?” Stiles repeated back, but the sarcasm didn’t really make it in there like it was supposed to.

“I thought you had a thing going with Derek.”

“No…”

“Don’t be like that. Because—even without the twenty questions a week ago—you sure smelled like you did.”

This time Stiles didn’t argue because a new thought had entered into his head: if Scott had detected Stiles’s feelings—had Peter?

- - -

Stiles was vaguely sure that sex was addictive. Like how, at the moment, his hips were pinned into Peter’s mattress, and Peter’s mouth was sucking slowly and steadily up and down his shaft. It made Stiles certain that sex had to be even more addictive for werewolves than normal humans—because Stiles really, really, really had planned on drawing a line in the sand. That afternoon at school he’d told himself, “We’re not going beyond hand jobs.”

Which… at the moment was just funny, because it had to be past dinner time now—and this wasn’t the first time Peter had gone down on him. The first time had been an hour ago, and after he’d come all over his stomach, Peter had asked, “Can I clean up the mess I made?”

And well, he’d used his tongue and he hadn’t just “cleaned up his mess,” he’d more or less rubbed his saliva into every cranny on Stiles’s body until Stiles was not only stiff but pretty much destroyed and begging. So, yeah, his resolve had collapsed like the Maginot line with the onslaught of the German blitzkrieg, and really, who says no to blow jobs?

So that’d been the first one. Afterwards, with Peter guiding him, Stiles had returned the favor.

But now this was the second, and apparently Peter had been holding out on the first—or he was just feeling appreciative—because Stiles felt like his brain was being vacuumed out through his dick. And mother of God, he was babbling such things aloud, but like, Peter didn’t even laugh like he sometimes did. He was a man focused on the task.

Though, um, yeah, Stiles didn’t miss when Peter’s hand snaked around and brushed… at his hole.

When Stiles froze, Peter popped off him to say, “Just a finger. Unless you want me to stop?”

Under no circumstances did Stiles want anything to stop right now, so instead of nailing down boundaries, he’d arched his hips and bent backwards.

And then it was just insane, because Peter’s finger went in slow but then almost immediately hunted down his prostate. Between the pressure tight on his cock and the hot push inside, Stiles was writhing in minutes, and when he finally came, it was the hardest he’d ever come—because it didn’t just shoot down and out—it obliterated every nerve in his body.

“Well, fuuuuuhck,” Stiles breathed, and he attempted to sit up, only to have his arms not function—so that he flopped back like a lasagna noodle.

It was only then that he heard the shifting sound in the living room. Another body.

“Oh, fine, you can go. We’re not rushing,” Peter said aloud. He was not speaking to Stiles. But with a smile, Peter did lean down to kiss him.

Stiles did not kiss Peter back. He was both too horrified and too shocked, because… that was Derek who slammed the door on the way out of the apartment.

When he scented the air, Stiles could distinguish the oil-smell from his jacket. Derek had heard… God, he’d probably smelled everything.

Stiles had been too distracted to notice.

“I’d meant for us to have dinner together, but I think someone got testy.” Peter shrugged and grabbed his robe off the hook.

- - -

It was the next day, in the cemetery, that Derek and Stiles finally talked.

Except it wasn’t a talk.

Instead, Derek shoved Stiles up against the concrete side of his family crypt and half-screamed at him. “What the fuck are you doing? What the fuck, Stiles!?!”

Stiles stared at him, saying nothing, because quite simply he didn’t think he could answer that. At this point, he didn’t have a clue.

“You’re sixteen—Stiles—sixteen. This was not what I—” And Derek’s hand clenched over his temples as he stepped back.

And that’s kind of when Stiles lost it. “What did you expect? That I would be that fucking cold? That someone would pour their heart out to me, and I would not respond to them?”

“You didn’t before,” Derek snarled.

Whatever that meant. “Fuck you. You’re the one that asked me to do this.”

In the next second, Derek was on him, hips caging his up against concrete wall. Derek’s teeth were bared; his eyes flamed a wild blue. He looked ready to rip out Stiles’s throat.

“What are—?” Stiles was about to fight back. Derek was scaring the shit out of him. More than Peter ever had.

Except that when Derek’s teeth latched onto his throat, the bite didn’t hurt. No, it was more of a nip, and then Derek’s hips were moving, rhythmically grinding into Stiles, finding an angle—and well, and fuck. This was just not—

But he still wanted.

Stupid, darkly beautiful Derek.

This was so dangerous. So stupid.

Derek was licking at his neck. Better yet, he was sucking on it, but Stiles wanted more. He wanted Derek. All of him, so he pushed up on his chin, trying to bring their mouths together. Trying for a simple kiss.

But Derek snapped Stiles’s chin back, hard enough that the smack against the concrete was still stinging as Derek stalked away.

Stiles didn’t miss the final barb, though.

“I was right,” Derek said. “You’d fuck anything.”

Afterwards, Stiles scuttled down by his mom’s tombstone and had a good, sobbing cry.

He’d never felt more alone.

- - -

For Stiles, it changed absolutely nothing when Kate Argent came to town.

He merely went from fucked to more fucked.

-

– Present –

With so much room in his bed, Stiles sleeps for crap. Not to mention, Derek’s smell is infused into his pillow and sheets. He could change the sheets—but he doesn’t. Consequently, the next day at school, his mood is abysmal, and it’s partially because he has to apologize to Danny. He tried catching him the night before, but he was already in his car and driving away before Stiles could stop him.

But when Stiles stops him outside of Chemistry, Danny holds up his hands. “I don’t even want to hear it, because he had his tongue on your dick, and there was nothing on your face that said you thought that was a bad idea.”

Stiles cringes, because passing them on the other side of the hall is lady vamp, and even though Danny’s voice is soft, she’s totally catching every word.

“Nothing I said to you was a lie—just things are so messed up right now—I—”

“Then we have nothing to talk about.” Danny cuts him off. “You have drama. Fine. Well, I don’t want it. I have enough with the rest of my life.”

Stiles gapes, because it’s amazing to hear that someone else actually gets to live their life that way. No drama. Stiles can’t even begin to imagine what that looks like.

His expression must be sort of miserable, though, because Danny wipes his brow and says, “Look—if a few months from now, you’ve got your shit sorted and you want to go out again—we’ll talk, but obviously that’s not the case right now.”

“Not so much… And I’m s—”

“Don’t. I don’t need to hear it,” Danny says, and then he walk away.

Why, oh, why is Stiles’s life so fucked?

At lunch, he really doesn’t feel like playing normal human in the cafeteria, so he heads outside for some air. When the breeze picks up, though, he becomes concerned. Along the gym, the smell becomes clear: he catches a whiff of Isaac, cigarettes, and vampires.

He finds Isaac, out by the bleachers, smoking with the twins.

As soon as Stiles comes into view, the matching vampires smash out their cigarettes in a one-two duet of hiss-hiss, and then they book it in the other direction.

Isaac waves absently as they leave.

Stiles sits down next to him. “They weren’t giving you any trouble, were they?”

“No.” Isaac shakes his head. “We were just talking. Did you know they’re immortal? Zack is eighty-seven and Frank is, like thirty, but they’re locked in as teenagers.”

Like Twilight, Stiles thinks, but he doesn’t say that. Plus, Isaac looks so serious. “I didn’t know that. Um, did they give you any big clue as to what their nefarious plan is?”

“I asked them yesterday. I ran into them out here after school. They said that their coven leader wanted to ‘set an example’.” Isaac frowns. “I think they’re sad. They were asking me about my dad—about why I became a werewolf.”

“Uh, yeah, how are things going with the dad?”

“I haven’t told him yet that I’ve—but he tried to—well, I blocked him last night. I think I scared him.”

Stiles freezes. Of course, this was going to happen—and Stiles should have been there. As his alpha, Isaac is his responsibility, but instead of owning that, Stiles was out having a fuck-the-world date and being utterly selfish. “You didn’t start to turn, did you?”

“I couldn’t see myself—so my eyes could have? But no, it’s what I was talking to Zack and Frank about, like I want to be beyond that. Better. I want to… It might sound stupid, but he’s my dad, and I want to fix him. After my mom, well, you know how it can be, he went nuts, and if I can—and maybe I can’t—but I want to do something. Before, he could only make me nuts too. Now, I’m strong, so…” Isaac shrugs.

“It’s not wrong to want to fix someone,” Stiles says.

“But…?” Isaac waits.

“But sometimes people really are broken, even if you don’t want them to be.”

Isaac takes in a long inhale, nodding with closed eyes. “I don’t want to stop caring. It’s like right now, talking to those vamps, they’ve pretended to stop caring, but I don’t think it’s what they want. Not really.”

“Don’t trust them,” Stiles warns, but he’s smiling. “That might be their plan! Actually, they’re going to trick you into thinking they could actually have meaning, and then you’ll get all your hopes up, only to have them come to a crash as they tell you with deadpan mockery that babies are dumb.

Isaac snorts. “They gave me some good music recs, actually. Indie bands that will probably go big. I downloaded them last night.”

“Oooh, let’s hear them,” Stiles says, and he steals Isaac’s phone to hit play. “Before they become big and we have to say they’re ‘lame.’”

“Stiles,” Isaac protests, but he doesn’t reach to get his phone back. He leans back in the afternoon sunshine, looking kind of relaxed.

Stiles isn’t sure he’s ever seen Isaac look that way.

- - -

What he doesn’t expect in his Pre-Calc class is for Vampire Orthodontia Princess to get chatty with him. The girl/creature sits on his desk. Her Costa Rican coffee bean wristbands are inscribed with the phrase: “fair trade should be colorful.” Unfortunately, it’s not the intersection of ethical import-export practices and street fashion that she wants to talk about. Nope, she wants to talk about Lydia.

“The redhead smells.” Vamp girl pinches her nostrils. “Fucking nasty.”

“Um…” Stiles glances at the doorway where Lydia is talking to their teacher. “I have a pretty good nose, and she doesn’t smell bad to me.”

“Her essence. You couldn’t pay me to bite her.”

“I hadn’t planned on forking over any cash.”

“Something is wrong with her.”

“I take it you mean beyond the usual obsessive perfectionism, possible narcissism, and snake-tongued competitiveness that comes from being a popular high school girl?”

“Yes. Her essence reeks.”

But then Lydia starts heading over their way so vamp girl gets up with a loud sigh. “The air is kinder in the back of the room,” she says before making a sneezy sound and heading back.

As Lydia slides into the desk next to Stiles, she looks cross. “Stiles,” she snaps.

“Lydia,” he repeats back, and oh, crap, she’s probably going to give him hell about Danny.

“Why were you talking to her? She was sitting on your desk.”

Or not. “Which means she wasn’t sitting on your desk,” Stiles points out helpfully.

Lydia’s nose wrinkles in a rather pretty way. “She’s wearing gardening boots with that skirt and those lace leg warmers.”

Stiles really doesn’t want to talk about clothing. “Have you talked to Danny?”

Lydia pauses. “He said things didn’t go so well last night.”

“Oh, you knew…” Stiles looks away.

“I know you’re not going out with him again. It’s for the best.” She pats his shoulder like she might want to comfort him, and then before Stiles can react, the bell is ringing for class to start. Lydia flips her hair and bends forward so that her face is shielded.

When Stiles glances behind him, vamp girl is squeezing her nostrils shut.

- - -

After school, Stiles rounds up both Erica and Isaac, and somehow this means Scott tags along, too. They go to the Bacon, Hello! Diner because Erica wants fried pickles. When Scott starts to protest, she jabs his hip so that he shuts up, and well, Stiles does not know what is going on there.

But it’s nice. They order fried things, eat through their allowances, and occasionally talk about wolfish topics in sneaky voices but mostly talk about nothing in particular.

Stiles doesn’t miss how no one asks about Danny—or Derek.

The one time Erica starts to complain about Derek’s anchor lecture, Scott cuts her off with a glare.

Well, huh, Stiles thinks, but he really doesn’t want to talk about Derek or Danny or whatever either—so he lets it go.

- - -

That night, once his father’s asleep, he doesn’t wait for Derek to come to him. In fact, Stiles was the one who asked for space, and since he’s trying to be a better alpha, he takes the initiative and goes to Derek’s apartment. Like a normal person, he knocks and everything. Then he waits.

When the door swings open, Derek is wearing sweatpants and a tank. Like always, he looks gorgeous, but somehow, in the apartment’s standard, yellow light, there’s none of the scary tension from the night before. Looking as weary as Stiles, Derek waves him in.

Stiles sits down on the couch, but Derek doesn’t join him, instead heading into the kitchen. There’s the sound of the fridge opening—the sweet-sour smell of lactose—then cacao, and Stiles is ready for it when Derek comes back with a gallon of whole milk in one hand and a bag of cookies in the other. Setting them on the table, Derek says, “Help yourself.”

Stiles can’t think of anything to say, so he takes a cookie.

“You smell like pack,” Derek says, but there’s no resentment in his voice as he sits down next to Stiles.

Since Derek was literally raised by wolves, he pops the top off the milk and chugs it straight, because glasses are for whiny kitties or something.

Stiles thinks about saying this, but joking and teasing and pretending like everything is normal when it’s not is sort of the opposite reason of why he’s here.

“I’m not going out with Danny anymore. I’m going to focus on the pack—I should be focusing on the pack. I’d be an asshole not to. They’re like brand new, like puppies! So yeah, I was a jerk to just run off last night. A bad, sucky alpha, so I won’t do that again.”

Derek sets down the milk jug and stares at him like Stiles just finished a speach in tongues.

“Okay.” Derek’s voice is definitely baited.

“Okay, what?” Stiles leans back.

Derek’s eyebrows bunch up, and he looks… not pissed, per se, but definitely not all that happy. “You really keep missing the point.”

Because Derek is being huber-Dereky and not actually telling him anything, Stiles has to clarify. “Whooosh. Yes, you keep saying that. I’m missing the point. But you have yet to mention which point.”

“Last night, I got down on my knees and licked your cock. I thought that was pretty clear.”

Stiles jerks his face away. “That was because of Danny.”

“You didn’t hear Danny coming. Neither did I. It wasn’t about Danny at all.”

Stiles can’t speak. He can only stare. Derek is saying he wants him. Stiles.

Derek wants him.

And God, Stiles wants Derek. At this point, it’s not even a desperate sort of feeling anymore. No, Stiles has buried it under layers of rock and soil like a stash of bones he never expected to come back to—even if the smell is always there. Always around. An aching memory. A distraction on the breeze.

But then there are all the reasons he buried those bones.

Weakness doesn’t serve an alpha. And this could be revenge. Sometimes, on Derek, Stiles can smell the hate. And Stiles understands that. Because he ruined everything.

Or maybe (positive thoughts!) it’s just lust. Maybe, Derek is simply attracted to him, and this past month of sleepovers has caused him to fixate on giving Stiles a good old fashioned humping.

Either way, when Derek presses his forehead against Stiles’s, Stiles more or less surrenders. Hands cup his face, creating a little room between their faces, so that it’s shadowed and secretive. Stiles doesn’t know what to do with his own hands. Part of him thinks they should stay free—just in case.

The kiss, when it arrives, is not the bite and smash Stiles expects. No, Derek kisses him carefully, not like he’s a goddamn alpha to be feared, but more like he’s breakable, like he’s still 100% fragile human. It’s sweet. It’s so damn sweet, and that’s also what makes it so terrifying.

Stiles has to up the ante.

Derek has just slid his tongue into his mouth. Together they taste like milk and cookies and a soft, slow winter night, but Stiles just.. he can’t. That’s why Stiles opens wider, drawing Derek in. And when he has Derek’s tongue, he sucks down hard on it before breaking with a gasp. Pushing Derek back on the couch, he bites at his bottom lip at the same time that he throws a leg over.

“Stiles,” Derek breathes, and Stiles almost think he looks worried.

That is, until Stiles says, “I’ve wanted you forever. Since day one.” And then he pulls off his shirt and kisses Derek again.

If he’s really dumb, he’ll acknowledge that Derek is smiling, that he’s made Derek happy with his pathetic little confession.

But he can’t do that—so he bites the smile off Derek’s lips, sucking as much on the stubble on his chin as anywhere else, and then, yes, his neck. He has spent forever smelling Derek, but now he can taste, yes… Stiles can taste the salt. He can taste the want. The heady stink of pheromones. And all because of Stiles.

He wants the rest of Derek, too, so he says, “Shirt off.”

Except the shirt doesn’t come off. “Not yet,” Derek says, prying Stiles’s hands off the hem.

“But I want it off,” Stiles complains.

Derek is not complying, though. “Patience.”

Stiles unleashes a very pouty growl. “Do you not understand ADHD?”

But Derek half-smiles, and once again, he cups the sides of Stiles’s face, except that this time, there’s no shadow to hide anything. There’s only Derek's fingers drawing slow strokes across his cheekbones. When Stiles meets Derek’s eyes, they’re intense, dark, but they’re also… searching.

Stiles doesn’t exactly like having his soul spelunked, so he grinds his hips into Derek’s, aiming for friction.

Affected, Derek’s eyes flutter but he doesn’t stop looking at Stiles. “I don’t understand,” he says.

“I don’t either. Like, mostly, I don’t understand why you’re stopping me?” And Stiles grinds down again, but Derek is not cooperating, which is super amazingly annoying, because Stiles really, really needs them to go faster before he combusts into a thousand suns.

Derek buries his nose in Stiles’s neck. “But you smell…” He nips beneath Stiles’s jaw. “You smell like you’re afraid of me—and I don’t fucking know why.”

Stiles wants to scream. “Why are you bringing this up now?”

“Because I don’t understand.”

“You don’t know why?”

“I thought it was because I hadn’t told you—or because I was older.”

Stiles laughs. It comes out hoarse and a bit maniacal, but he can’t help it. “Maybe, oh, I don’t know—” His tone is a snarl. “It’s because I used to have a stupid, insane crush on you—to the point that when you asked me to betray someone I cared about—I was like ‘okay’. Right, and then when I did what you told me to, you made me feel like a total worthless slut—”

Derek’s face pales. “I never thought it was go as far as it did—and Kate—”

Right—crazy Kate—who seduced you when you were underage too—giving you the great idea that I could be used as a tool just as easily—that I could be as cold as she was.” Because that’s what you were really saying that day.

“I’ve never thought that. I didn’t expect you to—”

“What? Put out? Or care?” Stiles pushes, trying to stand and walk away, but Derek grabs him.

Stiles wants to punch him.

But Derek is shaking his head. “I was stupid, then I was jealous, and then I was more stupid. But mostly, I was furious with myself for putting you in that situation. I didn’t think.”

Stiles is still angry, but he’s also—so, so, tired of this. “Just let me go.”

“I can’t.” Derek’s voice sounds like cracked glass, but he’s also not loosening his grip on Stiles.

“I don’t want to have to force myself free,” Stiles says, because he doesn’t.

Derek’s eyes flash blue, and the next thing Stiles knows he’s being twisted down and to the left—smashed into the couch cushions and for a second, he thinks: this is it, time to fight.

But instead the kiss is furious and frustrated. It’s as much teeth as it is tongue, and Derek’s claws come out, pricking into Stiles’s palms. Derek’s weight is mashing him down like he wants to cement Stiles to the fabric beneath them.

When he breaks apart from Stiles, it’s to say, “I wanted you—since the beginning. Probably since the day you sang my sister happy birthday in the cemetery. Spending time with you became the best part of my day. But you couldn’t see it. I couldn’t let you. Because Peter knew.”

Stiles is shaking his head. He’s thinking of what Peter said about Lydia—and about how he hadn’t touched Stiles. But then with everything else…

But Derek continues, “And if I had touched you, it would have meant instant death. That’s why I was stupid—I thought that if Peter was gone, I’d be alpha. I’d have you—and it would be better. Everything would be better again—but I fucked up. I fucked up so completely. And I’m sorry.”

The last apology almost comes out as a howl. That’s when Stiles looks up and see that Derek is crying. His eyes are blue blaze and beneath them are curved shining lines.

“Stiles,” Derek whispers his name.

When Stiles doesn't speak, Derek presses a kiss to his lips, gentle but firm.

Stiles closes his eyes.

“I love you,” Derek says.

And that’s when Stiles loses it. He’s trembling and then he’s shaking and then it’s not Derek but it’s Peter red-eyed above him. He’s gazing at Stiles with total trust as stretches out and bares his neck, saying the exact same words: I love you.

Stiles doesn't even realize that he’s saying off-off-off-off-off until Derek is sitting back on the couch, and Stiles finally wraps his arms over his knees and just tries to remember to breathe.

“Stiles.” And now Derek is the one who looks terrified.

Stiles didn't know he could still have panic attacks—but then he realizes what’s happening: he’s shifting without meaning to. But since he doesn't want to shift, he keeps forcing himself back, and it’s cutting off his nasal passages. It’s only when he buries his face in a pillow that he starts to get some semblance of control back.

He’s probably going to have to buy Derek a new pillow. He’s scoured claw marks on both sides.

Derek says his name again.

Stiles still can’t face him so he focuses on the pillow. It’s red tartan with a teddy bear in the center. Stiles thinks it probably belonged to Derek’s younger sister.

“I wish I could still love you,” Stiles says, because it’s the most honest statement he can come up with. “You deserve it.”

He doesn't look back as he books it for the door.

Chapter Text

- Past -

“Oh my God. This is, like, a date. A real date,” Stiles muttered as he and Peter walked into the steak house. It was the night after the full moon, and they had driven for over an hour to a small town on the ocean. It had seemed more like an excuse for another “nature walk” (and by that, Stiles meant no walking and lots of sexing). But um, no. This was an actual restaurant. With food. Steak, even. Which was serious date food! Stiles was actually impressed.

“I told you. Three times.” Peter arched a brow at Stiles’s jeans and flannel.

“Hey, my shirt’s got a… collar—and steak houses are rustic. Kind of. Ah! Look! That’s a moose on that wall. If a moose is in the house, flannel is okay.”

Peter snorted but went to the desk so that they could get their reservation.

Watching him, Stiles felt another wave of guilt, because he was certain that Peter had noticed his not-so-happy mood these last couple of days. This was definitely an attempt to cheer him up—also to possibly get more sex. Hah.

But Stiles was in a weird place with that. On the one hand, Derek’s words had shamed him, yeah, pretty much made him feel like utter crap, but then he’d been like what-the-hell? Because if he wanted to do… whatever… then he damn well could. He wasn’t scared. He wasn’t shy. Most of the time, he was horny and eager. So fuck Derek.

And yeah, part of him almost wanted to strip naked and tell Peter to do it just to spite Derek and his uncle-betraying and utterly jerkish ways, except that when Stiles wasn't angry—when he was just sad—he could admit that Derek in the cemetery the other night wasn’t normal Derek. Because before all this, when it had been just the two of them, Derek could be so impossibly sweet. Gentle. Careful. Just like Peter could be (just without the whole occasional homicidal rampage). But then these days, that Derek seemed to belong to another space-time dimension. Of course, that could also be because Peter demanded most of Stiles’s time.

It was so confusing.

But then Peter was back, grabbing the tip of Stiles’s collar and scoffing at it like it was a personal insult. It was easy to smile back at him—because Peter adored him.

Leading them to their table, the hostess was probably mid-twenties but she was smiling at Peter with way too much appreciation. “You and your son enjoy your meal,” she said, setting down their menus.

Stiles smothered hysterical laughter into a cloth napkin.

Peter frowned. A lot.

As soon as she was gone, Stiles whispered, “Everyone is going to think that, aren’t they?”

“Or that I’m your sugar daddy,” Peter said, trying to smile, but he still look perturbed.

“Nah—you’re not remotely sweet enough. Bad metaphor.”

“Would you prefer another? I’m the old, bad wolf—and you’re the sweet boy in a hoodie.”

Stiles groaned. “Yes, but I pull back the hoodie, and I have glowing eyes and some serious dental abnormalities, what with the fangy canines and all. Also, instead of saying ‘what big eyes you have’, I look down and say ‘oh what a nice, fat d—”

This, naturally, was when their waitress showed up.

“—drinks, I mean.” Stiles forced his gaze down on the menu. “Tea—I’ll have an iced tea. With lemon?”

- - -

So some hang-ups, but all in all, it was a real date. And it was fun. Peter made fun of every weird yuppie in the restaurant. (Also, he didn’t mention Derek once.) Stiles ordered prime rib and made noises over the meat. Peter complained about his not being properly rare, though it was still bleating its last dying lows on his plate. Stiles’s iced tea got refilled twenty times—he was thirsty—so pre-dessert, he had to half-dash to the men’s room.

He was stepping out the door when a woman poked him in the arm. “I think you dropped this.”

She was holding out a silver ring. The metal was tarnished with a Celtic-looking pattern. But ignoring the jewelry, Stiles couldn’t help but notice the woman. There were lace-up boots. Rough-looking, thigh-high, lace-up boots. They showed off thighs that were all muscle. Not to mention the soft dark hair that came down to her ass. Um, yeah, she was crazy hot.

“Not mine, I think?” Stiles rubbed the back of his neck.

“Aw, I should leave you alone, but you’re blushing, and I can’t help myself.” She laughed, and Stiles could smell a tinge of wine on her. Also, something else, a prickling acid smell—a spike in pheromones.

“I need to get back to…” Stiles awkwardly pointed toward the dining room.

“I should just ask. Was that Peter Hale you were with? I wasn’t sure. I knew him back in the day, but then there was the…” She trailed off, biting her lip.

Stiles suddenly really did not want to be here. “Oh, nice of you to ask. Yeah—well, I’d better get back—molten chocolate cake is coming.” He ducked beneath her arm to get past her.

Out in the dining room, Peter had a fistful of large domination bills laid on the table. Way more than was necessary—no matter how much carnage Stiles had shoveled down his throat. Stiles was about to ask what was going on when Peter grabbed his elbow, hauling him out the nearest exit.

Even after the car doors slammed shut, Peter’s eyes were red. He was shaking as he cracked all the windows, listening and scenting while his eyes scanned the whole parking lot.

“So, that woman—she is a hunter. That’s why you’re flipping?”

“Yes,” Peter growled.

“The car isn’t about to explode, is it?” Stiles asked. Because yeah, that would suck.

“No, but—” They both heard the distant trigger a beat before the back window shattered.

Peter’s command of “stay here” was still lingering in the air as Stiles heard the cracking of bones from Peter’s shift. When Stiles raised his head, the driver side door was slamming shut, and two more bullets made impact with the car.

Because staying in the car and letting himself get Swiss-cheesed while Peter went Super Pac-Man on the hunters was just so Stiles’s idea of an awesome evening.

He got his “wolfsbane pack,” as he called it, out of the dash. Then he waited. As the first scream (followed by a lot of gunshots) pierced the night, Stiles threw himself out the window. A few shards of glass pricked his arm, but the much bigger problem was the hailstorm of wolfsbane bullets as he raced down the row of cars. Thankfully, he made it to the tree line bullet-free.

By the soft creaking of boards, Peter was southwest on the other side of the restaurant. Stiles thought he must be moving along the pier. At least two hunters were over there. Possibly one on the roof. If Stiles could come from the other side, they could route the hunters—and then they could call it a night.

There would be no chocolate cake, but Stiles could handle the disappointment.

Taking a breath, Stiles shifted, before charging toward the north side of the restaurant. A few bullets rained down from overhead—yep, definitely a guy on the roof—and then Stiles found the stairs. On the eight step, he almost stepped on a trap. But the patch of leaves was too suspicious for this time of winter.

On the roof top, the hunter was waiting for him. Stiles had to take cover behind a wide steam pipe as the barrage came at him. The wolfsbane bullets stretched the metal, and even if they didn’t pierce through, the smell in the air made Stiles’s eyes sting.

He did a sneaky thing. He released a strangled cry like he’d been hit.

Down on the pier, he heard Peter pause, startled. Maybe, Stiles’s cry had been a touch too realistic.

But the hunter was coming toward him. Stiles could hear her breathing. It was a woman. Probably the hot chick from inside the restaurant.

“Where’s the pretty puppy?” she called, and yep, definitely her. Her voice was all nasty coo. “Somebody forgot to put a leash on you, clearly.”

She was supposed to take the bait and come around the pipe—but instead, Stiles heard the spitting sound of chemicals being shaken, and then—fuck, bad, fuck, bad—a cloud of wolfsbane was rolling at him with the wind.

Stiles had no choice: he leaped from the roof.

He landed in the open grass behind the restaurant. A bullet bit into his thigh.

That should have been it for Stiles. And no, his life wasn’t flashing before his eyes or anything, but everything slowed down. He watched with the clear awareness of pain as the hunter on the roof reloaded and aimed for his face.

Except that when she fired, the bullet didn’t hit him.

Peter.

Sodden with blood, Peter was there, groaning from the shot and saying, “I told you to stay in the car.”

He was running, carrying Stiles even as more shots rang out—this time from all different directions.

It was only when they crested the hilltop that they had some cover. Peter was kicking up sand and blood as he half-slid down the hill and cracked the lock on a boat house. Once inside, he dropped Stiles in a heap. And Stiles expected a biting reprimand to accompany the gesture, but that’s when Stiles saw…

Peter’s back was riddled with bullet holes. From wolfsbane bullets.

“Fuck, no,” Stiles gasped, and wow, his thigh hurt. It really was throbbing like a bitch, but Peter had—Peter had risked his life for him—and—

“Go,” Peter said, pointing toward the boats, and then yeah, he passed out.

After limping over to bar the door, Stiles yanked his wolfsbane pack out of his pocket. Deaton had given it to him weeks ago—just in case, and now was definitely that case. Despite being surrounded by boats, there was no way they were just going to motor or swim out of here. That was, not without Peter bleeding to death first.

Methodically, Stiles used the lighter to burn through the samples. The first three were duds—but on the fourth, the smoke finally had an effect and the wounds on Peter’s back shivered, so Stiles got out a wad of that stuff and burned it, smoking the leaves over the punctures until the bullets were shimmying out and landing with dull thuds before rolling across the boards and splashing into the water.

The last bullet had just popped when Stiles heard the movement outside.

“I’d say I’d huff and puff and blow—but that seems more like your line, so how about this: come out and I won’t flay you,” the female hunter commanded.

Peter wasn’t going to wake up for a few minutes. His body had to heal. So Stiles used the time to drop him a motorboat.

The hunters were after Peter. But Stiles wasn’t going to let them have him. Snapping the moorings, Stiles cranked the engine, giving the boat a heaving push out into the dark ocean.

Peter was going to wake up in ten minutes and want to kill Stiles.

Hopefully, Stiles already wouldn’t be dead.

When Kate Argent and her cronies shot through the door, Stiles was sitting cross-legged on the ground, clutching the wound in his thigh and holding a white piece of sail.

“I surrender,” he said.

- - -

He shouldn’t have surrendered. What followed, Stiles made a point of not remembering. There was pain in all forms: electricity, knives, even teeth. Mostly, he remembered a woman laughing, making obscene jokes about sixteen-year-old boys. She kept mentioning Derek.

At some point there was Allison—Allison, who smiled at her aunt, laughing along with such bloodlust that for a second, she even fooled Stiles. It was only when her aunt went to grease the battery clamps that they were finally alone. That was when Allison’s whole face collapsed and she wiped the blood off his chin and mouthed, “I told Scott. We’re going to save you.”

It wasn’t Scott that came.

Scott was locked in a circle of mountain ash in the woods.

It was Peter who came, and he knew exactly who, what, and where, and Kate Argent was laughing with her hand on the whip when Peter broke her wrist and smashed her to the ground. Stiles was so relieved to see Peter—so happy to have the silver chains unlatched from his wrists—so freaking breathless as he got the blood licked off his lips—that he had no idea, not really, about what was going to happen to Kate Argent.

Because every torture that she inflicted upon Stiles, Peter repeated on her. But she couldn’t heal. She was crazy and insane—but she was human. She wasn’t going to heal. And it even got worse when she seemed to go beyond the pain, and her laughs were insane as she taunted Peter, calling, “Did the baby wolves howl as they burned?” And saying, “Then again, I knew you weren’t a much of a family man—you did gut your niece at the first opportunity.”

When Peter brought out the gasoline, she started in about Derek again. Although, this time, Stiles was clear minded enough to understand what she was saying. “You think I did it alone?” She spit blood and teeth, grinning back and forth between Peter and Stiles. “Who needs recon when you can just fuck a teenager? For a hand on their pretty cocks, they’ll do anything.”

The human part of Stiles wanted to stop Peter from lighting the match. (His wolf didn’t.) But he was too weak to stop anything, anyway. All he could do was close his eyes and pinch his nostrils when the laughter turned to screaming.

As Peter carried him out of basement, Stiles felt sick with terror. The stink of gasoline wouldn’t leave his nostrils. Overhead, the moon was near-full, and it made Stiles shiver.

Peter, though, was dead calm. As he drove, every turn was precise. He even kept his speed two miles under the limit.

It was only when they were in Peter’s apartment that the cracks began to show. And then Peter wasn’t calm at all.

Stiles was slammed back into the bedroom door, the wood groaning as Peter grabbed his wrist. His cuff was yanked down, and then Peter bit down—biting in the same place as he did the first time.

From his alpha, the bite was going to take days to heal.

“What are you d—?” Stiles was cut off as Peter kicked open the door and then Stiles was stumbling back until his hamstrings hit the mattress.

Peter advanced on him, utterly seething. “I woke up from a slap of sea water hitting my face. I woke up in the middle of the damn ocean. I woke up and you weren’t there. Stiles, I woke up thinking you were dead. I woke up with a completely healed back and the knowledge that if you weren’t with me—they had you. And the reason that they had you is because you’d chosen to save me.”

“But they were after you.” Stiles wanted to cower. As it was, he sat back on the bed. “I couldn't let them have you.”

Peter growled, deep and low, and it made Stiles shiver even more.

“I’m…” Peter’s hands balled into fists, but then he took a breath. When he opened his eyes, Stiles thought they looked wet. He didn't get to look long, though, because Peter closed the space between them, pushing apart Stiles knees so he could fit between them. “Next time. Don’t do that. I’d rather have died, Stiles.”

“But we’re both safe.” Stiles cupped Peter’s cheeks, brushing slow strokes with his thumbs.

“For a long time, I thought you—” Peter started, but then he cut himself off to kiss Stiles.

Stiles wasn’t ready for it, so there was a catch of teeth. Twin pricks were stinging along Stiles’s bottom lip. Before Stiles could complain, Peter’s tongue was lapping over the red dots. He was pushing back on Stiles’s shoulders, forcing him down with his weight.

There was no reason for the show of force, but Stiles let him. He was not sure if this wasn't just Peter’s way of dealing. Because that total calm before—that wasn’t normal. Now, with trembling and domination crap, it seemed more real. Still, even though Stiles’s skin was healed, the pressure felt far too rough. Especially considering his evening…

But then Peter yanked at Stiles’s belt buckle.

“Slow down,” Stiles snapped, because God, this was not okay. It was really not okay.

Peter stilled, but with the tension in his jaw, it didn’t look like he wanted to. No, looking Stiles in the eyes, Peter’s hands kept moving. They neatly plucked his button out and undid the zipper.

There was something so ferocious in Peter’s expression, so possessive. Stiles wasn’t really surprised when he said, “You’re mine. Her smell is all over you. But you’re mine.”

But she’s dead, Stiles thought. You burned her like a witch. “I can take a shower,” Stiles said in a small voice, and then he glanced toward the bathroom. “Actually, a shower sounds amazing right now.”

“Not yet.” Peter grabbed Stiles by his front pockets and pulled.

“You’re being scary,” Stiles said, because it had never been truer.

“I know.” Peter bent forward, huffing his breath over Stiles’s boxers. There was no erection. This wasn’t hot. “Which is why I need to show you. You need to know. You need to be on my side.”

“I’m your pack,” Stiles breathed.

“This isn’t—I’m sorry—There’s a better way.” This time when Peter kissed him, it was softer. There was still a sense of urgency, but the frenzy was replaced by something different.

Determination, Stiles decided as Peter slid onto the mattress next to him. Peter’s shirt came off in a single yank, then he was wrapping his arms around Stiles, holding him from behind and breathing into his neck. It was not relaxing, not with the way that Peter was nosing at his Adam’s apple, but it was intimate. Safer.

“You are…” Peter licked a stripe across Stiles’s jaw. “… so beautiful. Especially like this. Your eyes. I don’t deserve you.”

There was no flutter in Peter’s heart beat. He meant every last word.

Stiles closed his eyes. “You have me.” The whole endearments mixed with aggression—it was too much right now.

“Do I?” Peter asked, and his hand slid down, reaching into Stiles’s boxers. His dick was harder than before, and as Peter stroked him, Stiles felt himself stiffening. He could feel it when Peter grinned against his face and said, “That’s better.”

“You are such a perv,” Stiles muttered.

“You like it,” Peter replied, and then he was off the bed again. Stiles’s boxers were yanked down to his ankles and then Peter’s face was there, nosing at the wet, pink tip before drawing him in.

And then—shit—the first suck knocked all the tension out of his spine. Stiles fell back on his elbows, and then for a minute it was familiar: Peter’s cheeks hollowing in and out. The way spit got into his hairs, rubbed on his thigh—everywhere. Even later, when Peter added in one finger—then two—that was all in the range of normal.

The third finger, though, that was new. More importantly, it was deliberate. A third finger didn’t remotely help with the whole hitting-Stiles’s-prostate goal—no, what it did was stretch Stiles open.

“Peter,” he complained.

Peter’s mouth came off his dick. Kisses climbed up his chest, and then Peter’s lips were beseechingly sweet against Stiles’s throat. “I want you,” Peter said.

Stiles tried to dodge it. “You have me.”

(He failed.)

“I want to fuck you,” Peter said, and then he demonstrated oh how very much by grinding his sizable hard on into Stiles. “I need to know you're mine. Not his.”

Just, oh fuck. “Wait. His? Who is His?”

“Don’t play dumb, Stiles. I’ve seen how he watches you. I can smell his reactions. You really haven’t noticed?”

“You seriously cannot be talking about Derek right now.” Because Peter’s fingers were still shifting inside Stiles’s ass. His dick was still wet from Peter’s spit. There was still Peter’s blood on his clothes. Talking about Derek was so not okay.

But Peter continued. “I came upon you two in the cemetery once. You were just talking, but it was how you were talking. Derek looked like his old self, like the nephew I knew before he spilled my family secrets to Kate Argent.”

Stiles replayed that last line.

He had to force himself to breathe.

But Peter was still talking, even as he was adding a stinging, fourth finger. “I doubted you. I had you in my bed, your laughter against my neck, but I didn’t have all of you, I realized. Because we never did that, spilled all our secrets together. I thought if I made you choose…” Peter trailed off, and then he leaned back enough to look Stiles in the eyes. “But then I was awoken by the rocking of the sea. You weren’t there on my creaky life raft. But instead of despair, I felt something else. Hope, maybe. Because I realized for the first time that I might not be deluding myself. I thought to myself… Stiles might love me.”

“I—” Stiles’s own words choked in his throat. Peter’s eyes were such a pale blue, almost transparent. Their unmarred depths were terrifyingly beautiful.

“Stiles?” Peter’s voice was desperation.

“I do love you.” And to his own shock, his heart’s rhythm stayed dead even.

If he was lying, he was lying to himself, too.

Peter kissed him with joy—total black joy, because then he was half-shifted. His eyes were red, and he was half-growling, “I’m going to give you everything. I’m going to show you all of it. You’re going to know.” And Stiles was smashed backward, neck bared, and legs spread as Peter grabbed him to push inside. The blunt pressure was uncomfortable—but manageable. That part Stiles could handle. It was just sex.

The real invasion was the sink of long, curved claws into the back of his spine. And then, like Peter said he would, he showed Stiles everything:

Peter’s memories came over Stiles’s in a wave and rumble of the depths. Some were bright spots from the past, memories of before the fire. But they didn’t seem to stick; they came and rushed over Stiles, tinkling in the air like wind chimes before fading in the stillness and then burning in the flames. Then there was Laura Hale. The argument about revenge. Laura said they needed to move on. They were at the old house, smelling smoke and seeing black and grey when everything should have been in color. She’d hugged him. They’d cried, and then Peter had taken a blade and cut her in two.

He was still burning. It wasn’t fair for her to say he wasn’t.

His nurse had loved him. She asked him for the bite. When he’d refused, she’d threatened to expose him. Peter sometimes felt bad about what followed.

And then there was Stiles, The memories weren’t so bad around Stiles. Peter found himself laughing, and sometimes it wasn’t at anyone’s expense. It was just Stiles being Stiles.

It could have stayed that way, a natural attraction, but then Stiles had become a wolf, and he was always around. Peter found himself staring at the black lashes and watching the movement of the soft lips more than he even heard the words that Stiles was speaking.

Except Stiles was young and flippant.

Lydia’s face flashed, lips red with the full moon reflecting in her eyes.

But then it was back to Derek. Derek watching Stiles. Derek saying over and over and over again about how young Stiles was.

Oh, and then the moment on the couch. Stiles smelling like willing prey. Peter finally had him. Peter had the scent of Stiles’s slick in his hand, and Derek was in his face, screaming. He called Peter all sorts of names.

Although, now Peter knew why.

Because hypocrites screamed the loudest.

Derek had betrayed him. He’d betrayed the whole family. To Kate Argent.

What Stiles saw next in Peter’s mind wasn’t a memory: it was Derek, dead. His throat severed by an alpha’s claw.

When the claws came out of his neck, Stiles was sobbing. Tears were sliding down his cheeks and Peter was licking each one away, shushing him, saying, “I know it’s terrible, but it’s okay. It’s okay. We have each other. There are no lies now.”

Stiles was vaguely aware of the sting in his ass and the feeling of Peter softening inside of him, but mostly he clutched Peter tight against him, kissing his temple.

“I love you,” Peter whispered.

“I know,” Stiles said, and then he’d wiped his eyes.

- - -

He’d cried again when he’d mixed the poison. It was thick, sticky talcum which, though odorless, had a lavender shine. As he stirred, his tears had fallen in one after the next.

The blade he chose was a switch knife. He’d sealed it in saran wrap then rushed to the Hale house.

Scott was there, because Stiles had called him. When Stiles ran up, Scott had a red slash across his chest and he was pointing at the woods, but the pointing was unnecessary because Stiles could hear the fighting—the snarls, the growls.

There was no time.

When he came upon them, they were both torn up. Peter was dripping blood from the back of his head and claw marks were raked across his chest—but Peter was healing. He was an alpha. But as a beta, Derek was not healing. His stomach was ripped open. A flap of skin was hanging off his shoulder like a ruffle, and it seemed the only reason that Derek wasn’t already dead was because Peter was taking his time. He was toying with his nephew.

“No—no. Don’t!” Stiles screamed running into the clearing.

Shifting to beta form, Peter had turned to him, rolled his eyes, and said, “Fine, I’ll make it fast.”

Stiles had thrown himself between them, shouting. “Spare him. God, please—don’t do this. He was sixteen. I’m sixteen. I’m a fucking moron most of the time.”

With a sigh, Peter walked over to him. “I want to give you everything. I do, but this…” Peter had leaned down to press a kiss to Stiles’s temple. Over his shoulder, Stiles’s eyes met Derek’s.

“You can’t kill your own nephew,” Stiles begged.

Against him, Peter shook with black laughter. “Oh, but I can. And you know why.”

Stiles did know why. He knew exactly why.

And that’s when he knew he would do it.

Which is why he said “I love you,” and kissed Peter like it was their last—because it was—and then the knife was out of his pocket and slicing through skin and tendons and throat and promises and threats and everything still unspoken.

He pushed on the blade until nothing was left but the red fading from Peter’s eyes.

Until the shocked blue pupils went blind with death.

Then, to make matters worse, Stiles’s whole body heated up, like he was burning. When he looked down, fur covered his entire arms, and his claws were longer than they’d ever been.

- - -

That night when Derek showed up in his bedroom, Stiles expected an argument, but all Derek did was curl up next to him.

“Pack is important,” he said, and then, stretched against Stiles, Derek went right to sleep.

Stiles didn't sleep. Not that night.

Later, though, he did.

-

– Present –

At school, Stiles takes comfort in surrounding himself with pack. Isaac keeps blowing bubbles in his chocolate milk. Erica is talking to Scott about going to ComicCon last summer. (Across the cafeteria, Allison is shooting death looks, which it’s amazing that Scott hasn’t noticed. But then again, Erica’s got Scott on the subject of Mila Jonovich—and not for the last time, Stiles thinks Erica is pretty savvy.) Stiles has taken to badgering all of them about full moon protocol. They’re going to meet at the “werehouse.”

Because that’s what it should be called.

“Derek said we’d need to put a head cage on me.” Erica is glaring at Stiles.

Stiles scoffs. “Unless you find an anchor by seventh period—probably.”

“You’ll be there tonight, right?” Isaac asks.

“Duh.”

“He helped me through my first full moon,” Scott adds.

“Scott tried to eat me.”

Vamp girl says, “I bet back then you were delectable.” And yeah, she’s standing behind Stiles, so creepily quiet that he actually didn’t hear her approach until two steps ago. He thinks he might already be adjusting to the heavy iron smell in the halls.

“I totally would have been,” Stiles says, before crossing his arms. “What’s up? Do you bring me a message from your leader?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh.”

“What’s up?”

She (almost) smiles. “We have decided on your amends. This town shall yield up a new one of our kind.”

“Uh….” Stiles ponders this. “You’re not going to force anyone, right?”

“It is a gift.”

Stiles was not going to think about how she was quoting Derek. “For a gift, you guys don’t seem too happy.”

“Happiness is a chemical state.”

“If only,” Stiles mutters, but regardless, he shrugs. “Yeah, that’s fine. Just make sure you explain it well. Consent is important.”

Scott nods furiously.

“You’re not objecting?”

“If it makes you all leave…” Stiles shrugs.

Vamp girl walks away with apparent exasperation.

Stiles feels like he’s won something.

- - -

By the end of the day, Stiles thinks he might have a handle on the Derek situation. Like, the nightly snuggling needs to stop. Because puppy piles are nice, but what he and Derek do... It's not a puppy pile. It's intimacy without communication. Or something. Stiles is sure there's a psychological term for that. But whatever. Stiles needs emotional distance. They’ve been so tightly bound for the past month that Stiles doesn’t think he’s been all that rational. He hasn’t really processed stuff.

Maybe, this is one of those take-it-slow things. But if Derek cares, like he says he does, then he’ll be fine with that.

Wow, they could even date. Derek would be forced to ask him what his favorite color is, and Stiles will hold the information hostage while doing inappropriate things to a French fry with his tongue.

Stiles considers texting him this, What’s my favorite color? but then, no, he should talk to him in person.

He tore apart Derek’s teddy pillow last night. Texting in no way makes up for that. Also... the freaking out.

So, right, he’s all prepared to go talk to Derek when Lydia finds him after school.

“There’s something wrong with my car,” she says.

“And you think I can help you?” It comes out sharper than Stiles means it to. He’s anxious to get going.

“I saw you changing your own oil last week.”

Derek had taught him how.

“Yeah, but…”

“Just take a look?”

“Fine.” Stiles throws his hands up.

Lydia’s engine looks totally pristine when Stiles pops the hood. He checks the oil, and he’s not sure, but no parts or plugs seem missing.

When he looks over, Lydia is hunched at an odd angle. Her cleavage is, um, there. But mostly, she’s pouting. “Climb in the passenger seat. I’ll show you.”

Stiles rolls his eyes but he does as he’s told.

In the car, Lydia starts the engine, and it turns on… like normal.

“Um.” Her hands fly to her mouth.

“So I guess you're fine. Right, so I—”

He’s reaching for the door knob when Lydia burst into tears.

Um, and it sucks when anybody cries (unless it’s for happy reasons) but girl-crying totally sucks extra. And this isn’t an ordinary cry, Lydia’s got her nose squashed against the steering wheel, and her tears are soaking tendrils of hair before looping down onto her knees. She’s saying things. Things like, “Fuck Jackson.” Things like, “Danny won’t even talk to me.” Things like, “I don’t even remember last class.”

Stiles pets her.

What he doesn’t expect is for her to lean into his touch, like it’s a craving.

“At least I have you, Stiles,” Lydia says.

Stiles squints at her. No matter the puffy red cheeks, he’s a tinge annoyed. “Um, yes, you can always demand my time and attempt to walk all over me. It’s awesome.”

Lydia laughs, but it’s a post-cry, bittersweet kind of laugh. “You okay?” she asks, even as she reaches in her purse to pull out some stinky lip gloss tin. “Most days, you look like you could cry too.” She’s wiping off her eyes in the mirror flap.

Lydia Martin has always been too damn observant for her own good.

“I’m okay.” Stiles shrugs.

“You’re not, but thank you,” Lydia says. “Thank you for listening.”

And Stiles is feeling all so very fuzzy until there are suddenly lips—soft, pink girl lips wet against his own—and um, with Derek and badness Stiles isn’t interested in that way, but as the numbing taste starts to slide into his mouth—around his tongue—and down—he’s not interested for a whole other reason.

“What the fuhhhs…?” he tries to say, but his lips aren’t really working.

He tries to move his hand, but um, floppy. Dead weight.

“He did say I might have to cry.” Lydia wipes off her tears. She reaches into her bag and then there’s a vial of something black and pungent being uncorked.

The car, the school parking lot—it all fades away.

- - -

When he wakes up again, he smells dead bodies. But there’s one scent in particular that causes him to freeze.

Lydia is standing in the light of the full moon, and she’s swaying with glowing eyes. That’s when Stiles’s sees what she’s doing.

On the other slab next to her is Peter. The wolfsbane flower and its roots are being unwound from his wrists and ankles.

Stiles tries to say something. He tries to scream. But Lydia listens with all the care of programmed robot.

Then the full moon splits through the vent overhead. In the distance he hears a howl, but up close, what he hears is the sound of a body charging to life. He hears the sound of bones cracking—ligaments mending—and then, the first breath.

Stiles closes his eyes.

But then there’s a finger tapping at his lips.

In the moonlight, Peter is crouched over him. He’s smiling, and it’s completely cruel.

“Stiles,” Peter says, “I don’t think I love you anymore.”

Chapter Text

– Flash –

Stiles vaguely was aware that Peter’s punch landed square on his temple. But he wasn’t in the freezing crypt anymore. Instead of his own blood spilling down his chin, he was smelling coffee.

Hot and aromatic, like chocolate that you could lick from the air.

It had been another random Wednesday meeting at the Beacon Hills cemetery, but this time, extra cold. Stiles had muttered under his breath about frozen-balls weather requiring hot beverages, and instead of being a mope-head, Derek had surprised him by saying, “I’ll buy.”

In the wood-paneled coffee shop, Derek was looking both in and out of place. The warmth of the place suited him with its dark brown mugs and honey oak tables. Plus, he wasn’t wearing his black leather jacket but a thick, flannel lumberjacky coat. If you took away the whole stepped-out-of-a-Ralph-Lauren-ad aspect, Derek looked normal—even relaxed. Though, he did keep his coffee tight to his chin.

“She gave you extra whipped cream,” Stiles complained.

“I asked nicely.”

And oh yes, he did. The poor barista was still sucking down a heavy-on-the-ice Christmas mint frappuccino, trying to prevent herself from internally combusting, apparently.

“That was your male-model smile, wasn’t it? Because let me tell you, she wanted to do more with that cream than just put it on your frappuccino.” To illustrate this, Stiles super suggestively flicked his tongue in his whip cream.

Derek’s eyes widened, and Stiles watched as his whole body tensed. The drink went back to his lips, a shield. His gaze was pointedly focused on the cinnamon shaker on the table.

“Oh, hey, you are not a snowman. You cannot freeze on me that fast. So what? The barista thinks you’re hot. Everyone thinks you’re hot. You used to model. You got paid money for your hotness. I found the pictures.”

“Did not.” But Derek’s shoulders dropped a bit as he frowned.

“Okay, maybe not yours, but I did find Laura’s pictures—and holy shit, your sister was—”

Stiles dodged Derek’s swipe.

“Hey! Watch my drink.”

“Watch your mouth.”

“Maybe,” Stiles said, and he licked at the foam on the top of his drink again. “Seriously, though, why do I never get that smile?” When Derek quirked a brow at him, Stiles clarified, “Your molten snowman smile.”

Derek leaned back in his chair. Stiles watched as he took a long draught of coffee, tipping it at an angle to avoid the fluff of cream. It was still mad steaming, so it had to be scalding, but Derek drank without so much as a wince. Stiles wondered if it was an aftereffect of growing up as a werewolf, the burn healed fast enough that the sting was worth the hot flavor. Still, when Derek set the drink down, his expression was thoughtful. “It’s…” He started to say, before pausing.

“You burn your tongue?”

Derek glared, before saying, “It’s being fake. I’m not fake with you.”

“So I get no smiles.” Stiles flicked some of the foam off his drink and towards Derek. A bit landed on Derek’s cheek.

Stiles was ready to be decked for that, but no. Instead, Derek squinted at him. There was a little irritated huff, and then Derek’s finger was scraping the white off his cheek. He sucked it in through his lips with a soft squish of pressure, and then with Stiles looking at him (embarrassingly with an open mouth and saucer-sized eyes), Derek smiled.

It was… There were white teeth and ripples of dimples and laugh lines and oh, eyes that were green a minute ago but shadowed and squeezed as they were now were just blue blue—fucking blue. And they were staring at Stiles with affection and sweetness and flirtatious amusement.

Stiles was in so much trouble.

Also, he wasn’t breathing.

“Oh,” he said. It popped right out.

Derek laughed. A real damn laugh. And then he took some of the excessive whipped cream from his coffee and tomahawked it at Stiles’s ear.

-

– Present –

“Wake up.” A sting against his cheek. “Wake up,” Peter is snapping.

Stiles makes a sound, a stuttered growl, but it’s futile in the most pathetic sense.

“Lydia how much did you give him?” Peter calls.

“5.7 ounces,” Lydia chimes.

“A bit much, but not so much that you aren’t hearing and understanding every word I say. So. Now. Where to begin?” Peter cracks his neck from right to left. “Ah, indeed—the last time we interacted, we were acting out the fall of Rome, weren’t we? It’s too bad I didn’t get out an ‘Et tu, Stiles?’ because that would have been apt. And you used a poisoned knife, how very Hamlet.” Peter’s fingers walk down his chest.

Stiles freezes when they stop at the top of his jeans.

“Oh, is my little backstabbing alpha afraid?” Peter jeers, and then he yanks down on the zipper. “What do you think I’m going to do to you, Stiles? What could possibly make up for what you did to me?”

When Stiles closes his eyes, Peter slaps his face.

“Look. At. Me.”

Stiles stares. Peter’s eyes are bloodshot, and his skin is ashen, but his neck is completely healed. There’s only a pale white line remaining from the poisoned blade, and even that is fading with the light of the moon. His movements aren’t as certain as they were before—Stiles thinks he must be weakened. Still, Peter is so very alive, and there’s a small part of Stiles that’s almost glad—that almost misses him. Stiles isn’t sure if the yearning is coming from his wolf or his human, but it makes the guilt worse. It makes the terror worse.

Peter’s hand come to cup his cheeks, lifting Stiles’s head off the rock floor. “Oh, you. Such a weak spot. Even now, part of me wants to kiss that gorgeous, soft mouth, but then—” The cruel smile comes back. “The rest of me really wants to fuck your ass with a broom. So—” He lets Stiles head fall to the ground with a painful crack. “I think it’s probably best if I stick to my original plan.”

Stiles head is still stinging but the benefit of the pain is that he feels the tiniest bit more alert.

“You know I really shouldn’t have been surprised. All those tears over Derek. Oh—and that other little tidbit.”

Stiles stiffens when Peter’s hand slides down his pants. The hand is freezing, and if Stiles was soft before—he’s shrunk down to a marshmallow now. Still, it’s obvious what Peter’s looking for.

“Somebody’s got a knnnnot,” Peter sing-songs, and his fingers roughly squeeze the shape. “And you’re an alpha now, so that’s no big surprise, but how interesting, this is first time I’ve seen it. That should have been a sign. It should have been a howl at the moon announcing that while I might have had your human sentimentality, your wolf’s nose was pressed to a different trail.”

Stiles does his best to glare at Peter.

“So, has he fucked you yet? Or wait, you’re the alpha. Stiles, were you a taker? Did you make him submit? Did you spread him wide and mount him?”

Stiles is still glaring, but Peter is looking down at him contemplatively. “Oh, I seeeeee,” he says after a moment. “No whiff of guilt so no fucking, but you do smell like him. Not in a recent sort of way, but like you’re infused with his scent. Have you been puppy piling? Aw, have you been sad? Did sticking a knife in my throat cause you to lose sleep?”

Stiles flinches.

Peter smiles. “Anyway…” He shoves Stiles back in his pants and brushes the dust off his knees. “I heard you’ve been busy while I’ve been gone. Two new recruits in the pack. Erica and…” He cast his head toward Lydia.

“And Isaac,” Lydia confirms, looking so pleased to be helpful.

“Right. And what do you know? It’s the full moon, and their alpha is not present. So it’s just Derek—and possibly Scott—trying to keep two out-of-control werewolves from razing the town. And one of them is a female beta—who can handle more pain than even either of them. When you think about how that is probably playing out right now, it’s just funny.”

Stiles lets out a near-growl of protest (his throat is still numb), but Peter ignores him, reaching into his back pocket. He pulls out Stiles’s phone.

“I have been reading your messages. Werehouse in an hour?” Peter reads aloud in a Scott voice.

Stiles, it’s getting late. I ordered pizza.” Generic girl voice—Erica.

Stiles—is this about last night?” Derek voice.

Then in his own voice, Peter asks, “What did happen last night?”

Derek voice. “Are you out with Danny again?

Scandalized Peter voice. “Not Danny!” Then Peter’s forehead wrinkles. “God, they whine a lot. Oh wait, here’s from an hour ago…”

Erica is already starting to shift.” Whiny Scott voice. “We can’t hold her and Isaac, too—where are you? Get your ass over here. I don’t care what your drama is. Isaac just bit Derek.

Lowering the phone, Peter stage-whispers, “I don’t think they’re doing so well without you.”

Stiles tries to raise his middle finger. It doesn’t really work, but Peter notices.

“No. You’re not the one who gets to be angry,” Peter says, and Stiles knows it’s coming, but can’t stop it when Peter picks up a loose stone and slams it down above Stiles’s ear.

The pain blooms in his eyes, a blood rose that grows full until the petals blacken, then curl, and with each gust of wind, shed off in twos and threes. In the end, all that remains is a shriveled stem.

-

- Flash -

They were curled up in Stiles’s bed. It was a week after… after everything. And Stiles had a death wish most days, but tonight it was worse than usual. That’s why he said: “You never talk about Kate.”

Derek didn’t answer him.

“She’s dead now,” Stiles said, because he wanted to see Derek’s face. Because he didn’t really know if Derek was happy or sad or what about that. About Kate. If he still felt guilty.

Like Stiles did.

Derek turned slowly to face him. “I’m aware.”

“You were, um, young when…” Stiles trailed off.

“She was younger than Peter. 29,” Derek said, and one of his hands pushed up on the sheet so it could grab onto Stiles’s thigh. “But I—” Derek buried his nose in the pillow. The next bit came out muffled. “I learned my lesson.” He lifted up to look Stiles in the eyes. “Men always think with their dicks. But they—we shouldn’t. We should be careful. You should be careful.”

Stiles shivered, and he wasn’t sure if it was from the maybe-threat or the fact that Derek’s hand was tight on his upper quad. He slid his own hand down to cover Derek’s. “You always do that,” he said, his eyes locked on where their hands were touching.

Derek put his face back down in the pillow. “I shouldn’t. But I need an anchor.”

-

– Present –

There are hands on his stomach. He can feel his arms and ankles are bound—with silver, ow—to the wall. As Stiles looks down, his shirt is yanked up, and Lydia is rubbing her tin of not-lip-gloss on his stomach, then on his wrists. He’s glad he’s barely conscious when she tugs down his jeans to rub the ointment onto his thighs. Even if he’s hardening, he could give a shit. His head is healing—he can feel the slow itching sensation, but he feels no need to be fully conscious. Especially when he looks down again. Lydia’s eyes are moon-glazed. She keeps smiling at Stiles like he’s the butt of the bad joke.

“What did you do to her?” And he’s a bit shocked when his words are actually audible.

“He speaks!” Peter says, hopping over to him.

“Does he need to?” Another voice asks, and that’s when Stiles smells the heavy iron smell.

The heaviest of the iron smells.

Unfortunately, the coven leader is no longer wearing his metal-hat thingy. No, this time he’s wearing an unhealthy amount of hair gel with two horn-like shapes formed at the top of his head. It’s weirdly fitting with the dark décor of wherever they are. Candles line the halls.

“Oh no, he’s Loki today,” Stiles grumbles, because he really does think it’s selfish for vamp-man to be stealing the nicknames of all of Stiles’s favorite villains.

“Samuel has been very helpful,” Peter says, walking up behind him. Stiles totally doesn’t miss, though, how he wrinkles his nose at one of the fake horn-thingies.

Because Peter totally got the Avenger ref.

Because Stiles got him into the Avengers.

And that makes him want to cry and punch things.

“I did say I’d have my revenge,” Loki-Sam says (and Stiles has to think of him that way because his being called Samuel is so normal and not ugly-vampire that it actually is legitimately ironic). “Your essence reeked of new death, new power—and then of course, there was the simple matter of following the string…” Loki-Sam looks over at Lydia.

She beams back. “I was very helpful.”

Oh, my God what do they have Lydia smoking?

“Lydia and I had an encounter several months ago.” Peter walks over and runs his hands through her girls. “I was feeling generous, so very generous, and you had been mad at me, thinking I was crazy for going after Alan at the movie theater. I wanted to make it up to you, and I thought having a pretty girl wolf in the pack wouldn’t be so bad. But the funniest thing happened, when I bit her, she didn’t change.”

“It hurt.” Lydia is pouting.

Stiles grits his teeth. “You did it without asking.” Because Lydia would never have said yes. Not to Peter. Not like that.

Peter shrugs. “Well, then you didn’t want her anymore. You wanted me—so I thought ‘oh well,’ but then I came upon this fascinating lore which detailed how certain souls have an excess of spirit. Very useful if one wishes to create a link between the living and the dead…”

“Very useful,” Lydia repeats, nodding.

“Is she going to be okay? You didn’t…?” Stiles can’t look away from Lydia’s glassy gaze.

“Samuel’s going to take her. Once the link is cut, and then she’ll be peachy—and very immortal.”

“She’s going to be perfect,” Samoki (best nick name yet) growls. “Her essence screams magnificence. It’s why I am here. As soon as the chord is severed, she’ll be mine.”

Stiles is about to protest Lydia getting forced into a life of hipsterdom when Peter launches himself across the room, clamping his hand over Stiles’s mouth. “Enough. Shut up.”

“We’re almost ready. I’ll take Lydia upstairs,” Samoki says.

Their footfalls are at the top of the stairs when Peter finally lets go of Stiles’s mouth.

And then they’re just staring at each other.

“Where are we?” Stiles asks because he has to speak. He can’t stand having Peter stand there—looking at him like that—not for another second.

“Ellington’s Funeral Home.”

“Ah, right between the cemetery and the highway. Great location,” Stiles says conversationally.

The corner of Peter’s mouth turns up. “It suits my needs at the moment.”

“Right. And definitely, Sam needs his coffins. Is this where they’re holing up while in town? If so, they’re spoiled for choice, eh?”

Peter laughs. He laughs and then he scoffs, walking forward so that his hips lean into Stiles’s. “You’re not supposed to do that.”

“What?”

“Make me remember,” Peter whispers, and then he grabs the sides of Stiles’s face to kiss him.

What’s horrifying is how familiar it is. Because Peter has always kissed dirty. Even his sweet kisses always had a nip at the end. And now, if someone were to walk in, they would see the open mouthed swipes of tongue, and then, when Stiles pulls back—because just no—Peter doesn’t let up. He licks broad stripes up Stiles’s cheek, down his neck.

And then lastly, he yanks up Stiles’s wrist and bites it. Hard.

It doesn’t hurt like it used to.

Then again, Stiles is an alpha now.

“Not fair,” Peter groans, and he’s still licking the blood off his teeth.

“What?” Stiles asks, because his head is swimming again. But that bite—that bite is a good thing—it’s activating his healing process. Even if he can’t move them, Stiles can feel his fingers again.

“I should just kill you,” Peter says, running his hand through Stiles’s hair. “That would be easier, because having you alive… I kiss you, and it’s just like before: I’m not burning anymore.”

Peter’s expression is so soft, soft enough that Stiles thinks he’s about to be kissed again.

Instead, Peter yanks on his hair. “But do you know what hurts more than burning, Stiles? Do you know what hurts even more than dying multiple times? Even more than having a knife slice through your airway? Even more than healing cell by cell from seven years in hell?”

Stiles can’t breathe.

Peter rasps in his ear. “I’ll tell you: it’s having your heart ripped out.”

A shudder rips through his body.

“And now it’s your turn.”

“No—what are you—what are you planning?” Stiles demands.

He expects to hear a Derek rant. But no, it’s worse.

“Just a little tit for tat. I missed you, Stiles, so very much.” Peter nods. “But do you know who else is missing you?” Peter pulls out Stiles’s phone, scrolling through more texts. “Haven’t been talking much with daddy lately these days, have you? Longer even. Not since you’ve become a wolf.”

If Stiles wasn’t paralyzed, he would go for Peter’s neck right now. Because after Stiles was changed into a wolf, it was Peter who insisted that the Sheriff not find out. It meant excuses. It meant hiding that he was barely friends with Scott anymore. He’d purposely gotten in fights with his dad just to push him away.

It was supposed to be for the best.

And it’s also why there are barely any texts from his dad on his phone—just staying late at Scott’s or meatballs are on the top shelf in the oven.

After he became an alpha, it seemed even more unfair to drag his dad into his mess.

“Leave my father out of this! Kill me. Just—I’d do anything. Leave him alone.” Stiles is certain his eyes are red. He can see his claws lengthening. And yet, he can’t do anything.

He can’t move. He can’t even speak.

His growl comes out broken.

Peter only laughs. “Actually, I texted the good sheriff on our way over. I think you’ll find—” But then Peter pauses, ears tuned to the south—and both he and Stiles can hear the familiar roll of the patrol car’s tires up the distant hill.

His dad is two minutes away.

Stiles can do nothing as Peter lifts chest to the night and howls. An alpha's call to pack.

The response is distant—it’s miles away. It’s downtown at the ‘werehouse’—but Stiles’s ears are perfectly tuned for it: the answering of howls.

One and two and three. Isaac, Erica—and even Scott.

They’re responding to the call of an alpha. Because it's their first full moon, and Stiles isn't there. Their alpha isn't there.

“Everybody’s coming! Stiles, it’s a party—wait, no. Those new recruits of yours. I think they’ll be hungry. And your weak little human father is coming. So it’s a feast!” Peter exclaims, and then, he picks up a rifle. He clicks off the safety and fires a test shot.

The bullet explodes in a cloud of drywall. Wolfsbane stings the air.

Coming down the stairs, Lydia sneezes.

- - -

As the pack closes in, he can almost taste their bloodlust. It’s even affecting him, singing through his veins, making him shake.

Then, of course, there’s his father. Stiles can hear it when the wheels crunch on the gravel. Being a non-hypocritical cop, his dad pulls the patrol car perfectly into the parking space. And being a damn good cop, the Sheriff’s sixth sense kicks in. The soft, steady beat of his heart kicks up a notch. He’s on the front porch of the funeral home when he clicks off the safety on his gun.

“Stiles?” he calls. He knocks on the front door.

The door swings open.

Stiles tries to yell. Because the wolves are closing in—God—he needs to stop this.

But Peter’s hand clamps over his mouth.

Stiles tries to bite it—Peter holds up the tin threateningly.

At the front door, Stiles hears Lydia. “Sheriff Stilinski, are you looking for Stiles?”

“Lydia Martin?” He can hear the confusion in his dad’s voice.

“MmmmHmmmm,” Lydia says. “He’s this way.”

The wolves are at the cemetery. They’re moving fast. Forty-five seconds. There are other noises too. A car—a motorbike—is Derek trying to catch them?

But then it doesn’t matter. When Lydia throws open the door, Stiles is left staring at his father as his father stares back.

“Stiles,” his dad hisses, shock whiting his face.

And then just as quickly—his father hones in on Peter. That he’s the bastard holding the key.

The shot rings off.

His dad’s bullet hits in the thigh. “Ow,” Peter complains.

All three of them watch as Peter glares at his dad before leaning down to dig out the bullet with his fingers. Then, because he’s going full theater—Peter spits on his hand and wipes at the already healing skin. “Well, that’s better,” he says, and then he rolls back his shoulders, popping his spine.

The Sheriff raises his gun to shoot him again.

But Peter shifts—and then his dad is across the room, pinned up against the wall—and shit, Stiles can hear his heart—it’s going too fast.

“Let him go!” Stiles screams. “Let him go right now. I said you can kill me. You can fucking torture me—just leave me dad out of this.”

When he turns to look at his dad, his dad is no longer focused on Peter. No, he’s looking at Stiles.

Stiles looks down at his hands. His claws aren’t fully extended, but they’re out. His wolf wants to rip Peter’s head from his body. And his eyes have to be burning red.

“That’s right, Sheriff,” Peter says, slightly loosening his grip. “Your son is a werewolf. A rather poorly behaved one, to be honest.”

“Why are you in chains?” his dad asks him, pointedly ignoring Peter. His father’s face is tense, and yes, there’s shock there, but more than anything, he looks sad. Like he wants to run toward Stiles and cry.

It makes Stiles want to cry too, but he can’t. He has to be strong.

“Dad, shoot me,” Stiles says. “Pick a non-major organ and shoot!”

Peter wheels around with a snarl.

Outside, there’s a sudden chorus of howls.

Stiles doesn’t know what it says about their father-son relationship that his dad does exactly what he says: he fires right above Stiles’s left kneecap.

And then there’s pain and howling—he thinks some of the noise is coming from him.

Samoki barges into the room. He’s yanking Lydia backwards.

At the end of the hall, the front door crunches like it’s been splintered open by a battering ram.

As fast as Stiles is healing, Peter has the tin of ointment out. He’s coming at Stiles with lazy steps.

There’s another gunshot. Right at Peter’s hand.

The ointment goes flying.

Stiles loves his father. His dad is a total badass. With great aim. Now, Stiles just needs to not let him die. He jerks at the chains. With the pain, sensation is returning to his body. He’s healing, but not fast enough to break his bonds in this state. His arms can move…The silver is too strong, stinging on his wrists. But Stiles doesn’t have to stay in a human shape.

He shifts.

It’s a mess. His hind legs still aren’t working. He crumbles to the floor.

But then he’s crawling.

Toward his dad.

He must look terrifying, he’s sure, like a rabid dog half dead but still lugging its zombie weight, still ready to bite and infect, but that doesn’t stop him. He needs to put himself between his dad and the pack. The instinct is primary.

Must protect.

At the same second Erica bursts into the room, Peter fires a shot—at Stiles. His stomach is on fire, but with this shot—the burning gets worse. Much worse. Wolfsbane bullets, he remembers.

Oh, thank you, Peter.

Scott flies in next. There’s blood on his ripped sleeves, and with almost a practiced air, he dives for Erica, and Erica dodges out of his grip. She laughs—a wolfy bark, like she’s having the time of her life.

Then there’s Isaac—and Derek.

Derek has a scratch down his cheek. He looks exhausted, but he also looks like he’s healing. Still, when Derek meets his eyes—there’s a stab of relief—but it’s over just as quick.

Because Samoki lunges right for Derek—and apparently the vampire that Stiles pinned (and Erica staked) was a slow one, because the hipster Loki look-alike moves like an arrow, slamming Derek back through a doorway and into a row of stacked chairs.

Stiles is bleeding on the floor when Isaac approaches. His eyes are locked on Stiles’s dad. Sniffing, Isaac licks his lips.

He growls at Isaac—a growl that demands submission—but there’s no strength in his voice. Too much blood loss. Also, there’s Peter—fucking Peter who growls back, encouraging Isaac. He sounds so much stronger, so much more dangerous than Stiles.

Stiles lunges for Isaac, but it’s a dumb move, because he stumbles almost immediately—and then Isaac is running around him—his canines are extended. His tongue is red. Eyes inhuman.

The sheriff fires off another shot.

Stiles shouts, “Dad!”

What he doesn’t expect is for the two white shapes to blur into the room.

The twins. They box Isaac in—caging him.

Isaac is snarling. He’s snapping from right to left, but the Zach and Frank are shaking their heads.

“You don’t want to kill. You don’t want to hurt your own dad—let alone Stiles’s.” Zach slaps Isaac’s jaws away.

“Find your anchor!” Frank preaches, yanking Isaac backward.

“This is not meaningful,” Zach protests indignantly as Isaac whines, stretching toward Stiles’s dad.

Isaac manages to rip free, but instead of going for the sheriff—his wolf thinks better of it—he leaps for the window. Glass shatters.

The twins leap after him.

On the other side of the room, Erica is trying to wrestle Scott into a highly inappropriate position.

That would be profoundly disturbing except that oh, firstly, Stiles is bleeding out of his stomach, secondly, on the other side of the room, Samoki has managed to subdue Derek—getting the wolfsbane gun to the back of his neck—and lastly, Stiles’s dad is clutching his chest like he’s two beats from a heart attack.

Stiles is trying to move toward him when Peter kicks him.

The kick sends him tumbling out of the hall and into the main assembly room. Then, before he can regain his footing, Peter hauls him upright, throwing him back into the podium.

“So—” Peter snarls “—that did not go how I planned. But… let’s never say I’m not adaptive. Samuel,” Peter calls. “Bring in Derek. Oh, and Sheriff, if you would be so kind to come in—it will stop me momentarily from shooting your son’s face off.”

Stiles’s dad comes in with slow steps. “Leave the gun,” Peter commands.

His father throws the gun on the pew. Peter pockets it.

From the opposite archway, Samoki walks Derek into the room with the gun pressed into his back.

“Nephew.” Peter smiles at Derek.

“You’re dead,” Derek snaps.

“Or not.” Peter rolls his eyes, before turning to Stiles. “I’m feeling benevolent. So, choose.”

Stiles’s stomach is pushing into his fingers. “You are many things, but benevolent is not one of them. And choose what?”

“I’m letting one of them live. So, choose. Derek or your dad?”

Stiles’s stomach heaves and God he thinks there’s more blood gushing out of the wound in his belly. “You’re insane,” he whispers.

“Thus your predicament,” Peter agrees, before his mouth tightens. “And I did say you were going to get your heart ripped out. Honestly, I’m hoping you’d choose your dad. But then again, he isn't looking so good…” Peter frowns pointedly at Stiles’s dad, who is looking obscenely pale and sweaty perched as he is against the pew.

“You can’t make him choose that,” Derek says, pressing back against Samoki’s gun. “Stiles deserves a family.”

“Oh, like you deserve a family?” Peter snarls.

“No—” And Derek’s eyes flit to Stiles’s “—Stiles does, but I don’t.”

Samoki’s finger is on the trigger.

The gun is braced against Derek's neck.

So that when Derek yanks on Samoki’s hand—the gun goes off.

Stiles is screaming. Derek is falling to the floor; blood is coming out in a gush. And the smell of wolfsbane is thick. The bullet hit an artery.

Samoki now has the gun aimed at Stiles but Stiles is ignoring the press of the cold cylinder as he scrambles to put pressure on the wound on Derek’s neck.

Peter is laughing in the background. Down the hall, there are the sounds of Scott and Erica fighting. Stiles can smell the sweat and anxiety dripping off his dad. But then there’s another smell.

Lydia.

She’s glides into the room in a white robe, prancing like she’s walking in zero gravity, but instead of smiling her creepy, weirdly ethereal smile—she whips a stake out of her sleeve and slams it into Samoki.

The vampire's face is suspended in shock for one long moment before going poof in a cloud of ash.

“That’s right. I found the holy water in the funeral home’s Catholic bins, you—fucking—asshole,” and Lydia won’t stop kicking at the empty, ashy skinny jeans on the floor.

“Get the fuck down, Lydia!” Stiles shouts, because he has Samoki’s gun. He fires a shot at Peter.

Peter dodges just in time. A miss.

A pool of blood is forming beneath Derek. Stiles aims like he’s going to shoot again, but it’s a fake, instead he opens the gun—a bullet falls to the floor. He smashes it with a groan of metal.

Then he’s grabbing for one of the tall candles and pushing the powder from the bullet up next to Derek’s neck. There’s a sparking as the flame hits the powder. The smoke turns green—and then, yes, fuck, yes, the bleeding is stopping.

He’s about to grab another bullet—his stomach is a damn mess—when he hears his father’s yell.

Peter has his dad by the throat. “Put the gun down, Stiles. Or bye bye, daddy.”

Slowly, with his eyes locked on his dad’s—his dad looks so scared, so pale—Stiles lowers the gun. “Just let him go. He’s—” And Stiles says this for his dad alone. “—a really good dad.”

“How fucking touching,” Peter snaps, and then he shoves his dad, sending him flying toward the wall of plants.

Stiles lunges, wanting to check on him, wanting to make sure he’s okay, but then Peter is on him. On a different day—one in which his wolfsbane-poisoned guts weren’t spilling out—he’d be stronger than Peter. But right now, with the blood loss and the pain, Peter pushes him down to the floor with ease.

“Oh, my Stiles,” Peter growls—even as he shifts to beta form. “You were a good time while it lasted.”

“I regret everything.”

“I love you.” Peter grins, and that’s when he does the full alpha shift.

Stiles is ready for it: the claws sliding across his neck.

But the cut never comes.

Instead, Peter is off of him—or at least his head is. The weight of his torso is still heavy across Stiles’s wounded abdomen.

Standing above Stiles, wielding a silver sword from God knows where, is Derek.

This time, when they look at each other, it’s with matching flame-colored eyes.

Chapter Text

– Present –

Stiles shoves Peter’s body off of him because first, it’s freaky and upsetting; two, it’s gushing out blood and fluids all over him. He’s scooting back, trying to sit up when the searing pain in his middle becomes too much.

“Your stomach,” Derek says.

Stiles looks down and nearly faints. It reeks of necrotic decay, and there are black-green spots amid the white and red soup. His shirt fabric is burned into the mess, but then there’s the crunch of metal. Another bullet crushed. A halo of light causes him to blink while the putrid smoke makes his nose run. There’s a sizzling sensation in his stomach. But argh—yes, a good sizzle. Then a knife of pain, because Derek has surgically curled a claw into the red mess. The bullet bursts out with a pop of suction.

Stiles takes a breath. Then another. Hands slide under him, carrying him across the room. Stiles is still seeing white hoops. Blue dots in the center. Derek is speaking to someone as he lowers Stiles down. “Just hold him. The healing process has started. He’ll be fine in a minute.”

He’s laid against a firm chest. Warm hands secure his shoulders. The smell that envelopes him is his father’s: oil and saltpeter from the gun, the blue bottle of fabric softener that sits on their dryer, and the somewhat sour smell from his cholesterol medication. His dad is wiping at his forehead. Stiles isn't sure if he’s wiping off blood or sweat, but he does know that his dad’s heart is steadier now. He’s also holding Stiles really tightly. Stiles leans into him like a needy little boy—seriously not giving a fuck—because he doesn't remember the last time he father held him or even hugged him. “Don’t do that to me again,” his dad says.

“Nope. No doing anything bad. I’m going to be an upstanding citizen, a responsible teenager, an angel.”

That gets him a derisive (but tender) chuckle from his dad.

“Love you,” Stiles says, and even though the pain is making him hazy, he puts as much meaning, as much oomph into it as he can.

Down the hall, he can hear Derek carrying his uncle’s body. He also hears a sweeping sound—and a humming. Lydia is sweeping up ashes, dry wall, and bullets.

He can feel his dad’s nod above him. “Love you too. And once this is over, we need to talk.”

“s’what ‘bout?” Stiles slurs.

“Where to start, kid? Putting aside the werewolves and vampires, when did you start being into men—or should I say, dating Derek Hale?”

“I’m not…” Stiles starts to say, before frowning. He tries to blink his eyes open all the way. It’s harder than it should be. His eyelashes are tangled, sticky from blood. But the pain is less in his stomach.

The lines in his dad’s brow are thick, and he’s squinting at Stiles with an I-see-right-through-this glare.

“Well, not yet.” Stiles’s voice comes out pouty.

His dad snorts, before sighing. “What he said—about family—and what he did…”

“Yeah?” Down the back hallway, Stiles hears the sound of a furnace beating heated. Then the sound of a body being shoved onto a metal plate. What do you know? It turns out the funeral home is a convenient place to dispose of dead bodies.

But his dad is talking, a welcome distraction. “It’s obvious that he cares about you—and has some serious issues, so just have him come over tomorrow night, if not for dinner—if that’s too much—then he can stay for the game. That okay?”

Stiles’s brain is too fuzzy to think about how awkward that will be—but then maybe it will be a good awkward? “I’ll ask.”

“And tonight you’re going to tell me everything. About how your…” He waves at Stiles jaw line. “…facial hair situation got out of control and your eyes started changing color.”

“Okay.” And for the first time in a long time, it is, because his dad holds him closer. They’re safe. Lydia is safe. His pack is safe. Derek is safe.

On the other side of the room, Derek comes in. Their eyes meet. Derek smiles at him, not some big, blinding smile. But an exhausted, hopeful curve.

Stiles loves it.

- - -

When he’s healed enough, he has to make a decision about whether or not to pry Erica off of Scott. They’re in the back storage closet, and when Stiles pokes his head in, Scott doesn't look to be having the worst time ever. In fact, as he slams Erica up against the wall and keeps going… Nope, Scott doesn't seem to be having the worst time at all.

Out in the main room, Lydia and his dad are having an in-depth discussion about how to explain what happened in the funeral home in a police report. Lydia has some pretty good ideas.

Stiles's dad looks honestly disturbed by how good.

He finds Derek in the back, next to the massive oven used for cremation. It takes a second for Stiles to really process that Peter is in there. Peter is burning for the last time. Peter is gone.

Despite the dry heat in the room, he shivers.

Derek steps behind him, wrapping his arms around Stiles. He’s shivering too. His hand also has a firm grip on Stiles’s hip. Firmer and stronger.

Now, if Stiles wanted to get away, he’s not sure he could.

“I can come over tonight?” Derek asks. His stubble prickles along Stiles’s cheek.

Stiles arches his head up, leans back into it. He’s very aware he’s baring his neck. His wolf is so relieved. It just wants to surrender.

But Derek doesn’t bite or even kiss him. His grip on Stiles tightens as he says, “I’ll wait til your dad’s asleep.”

- - -

That night they only sleep. Derek pulls Stiles close and breathes into his neck with gasps reminiscent of drowning man. Stiles presses them close. His hands run up and down Derek’s back, kneading at the muscles until the tension starts to fade.

He’s not surprised when Derek strips off Stiles’s shirt. He ruches up his own, pressing their skin together, so that their scents combine. Stiles showered, but it seems the mere memory of Peter is driving Derek’s instincts to erase—to write over with his own ink.

Stiles doesn’t speak. It’s not because he’s afraid.

More like, he doesn’t know where to begin.

- - -

In the morning, when he wakes up, Derek is gone and it’s because his dad is pounding on his door frame.

“I went and got you that overpriced acid-reflux concoction you like,” his dad says, and Stiles shoots to full attention, because his dad brought him a triple-shot latte, and he loves him. He loves him. He loves—and mostly, yeah, he loves the steaming hot deliciousness. But before Stiles can swipe it, his dad holds it out of reach, saying, “Now, we’re going to talk.”

They, um, talk.

Feeling a bit like circus freak, Stiles sets down his fork and knife at the breakfast table so he can shift for his dad.

For a minute his dad just stares. His heart rate goes up before the erratic beat subsides. Then the lines are relaxing from his brow, and his dad pokes at his enlarged biceps and tells Stiles he expects him to contribute to more housework.

Something about needing a new roof.

Once he shifts back, he reassures his dad about all the horror show stuff: that since he has near-perfect control, he doesn’t kill people. They talk about Peter, but Stiles doesn’t tell his dad about all of that. Just that Peter was behind those murders several months ago. He’s the one who bit Scott, Lydia, and him. Peter was a person who suffered a lot. He’s someone Stiles once liked who went bad and never got better. Stiles tells his dad where Allan Gianni’s body is.

As for the other part… about Peter, he’ll delay that confession. Maybe for years.

Maybe for never.

When Stiles checks his phone again, he sees that Isaac texted during the night.

I’m okay. I didn’t hurt anyone. With Frank and Zach. Tho I think I might have killed a squirrel.

F&Z okay with squirrel death and also with coven leader dead. They say he was a meaningless tyrant. Say Winny is at peace too. See you at school.

- - -

At school, Lydia is positively shining, but what’s super weird is that braces-vamp (apparently named “Winny”) is sitting next to her in the lunch room. Only lady vamp is without the braces. The skinny jeans are still there, but Stiles thinks he detects a hint of perfume over the cafeteria odors. Also, she’s wearing lipstick, blood red.

When Stiles catches her eye, Winny smiles, before settling in closer to Lydia.

Well, huh.

Apparently, Lydia doesn’t smell so bad anymore.

Stiles suspects Lydia of having nefarious plans. She’s probably going to become a vampire crime lord and take over the world. Just, the fashion will be less hipster and more high art.

Meanwhile, as to what is going on between Allison and Scott and Erica—Stiles is staying the hell out of it.

Currently Allison’s crossbow is still in her bag even though her eyes are shooting daggers across the cafeteria at Erica. What’s more telling is that Scott doesn’t even seem to notice that Erica has her arm twisted in his.

Also, Erica isn’t wearing a nerd-shirt anymore. Today it’s one of her old, baggy sweatshirts—just with leggings that show off her never-ending legs. She looks more comfortable with herself. Happy.

Stiles tells her this.

“I think the full moon is good for my skin.”

At the mention of the full moon, Scott rubs the back of his neck.

Then they talk about last night—but in easy terms. Like how Lydia got Derek the sword out of the Celtic bin and how Stiles’s dad had to report that a bunch of Goth teenagers decided to have a party in the funeral home. They make fun of Samuel’s Loki horns. And how Lydia kept sneezing afterwards.

No one mentions Peter.

- - -

After school, Stiles goes and buys tulips. Then he’s off to Derek’s.

The door is open. When he comes inside, Derek is in his bedroom, lazily draped on top his duvet with four limbs going in opposite directions. He’s wearing foamy-grey sweats and a black t-shirt. His eyes look green-hazel in the golden light of the afternoon.

“You seriously need to get a job,” Stiles says, setting the tulips on the dresser.

Derek is looking at the blossoms. “You got purple. Laura’s favorite. You brought me flowers.”

“This place is too gray. I think she would have been offended.”

“She liked black, too, but yeah…” Derek stare is intense as he sits up. “I like them. And I’ve spent the whole day—year—thinking about you. So come the fuck here.”

For a second, Stiles is terribly shy. Alpha or not, Stiles just doesn’t look like someone who would be wanted by Derek-fucking-Hale. But then, Derek looks nervous—no, smells nervous—as Stiles sits down on the edge of the mattress, toeing off his shoes before crawling toward him.

When he’s close enough, Derek grabs his waist, pulling him against him, so tight that Stiles that it’s like uncomfortable, like being pressed against guitar strings. Stiles can feel Derek’s teeth and tongue wet against his left shoulder. He can feel uneven ripple of his abdomen against Stiles’s back. Stiles can even feel Derek’s cock, pressed between his cheeks and… hard.

Rock-fucking-hard.

“I’m here,” Stiles says, because Derek’s breathing is rough, and god, Stiles can’t handle the silence. Not only is he so turned on that it hurts but there’s some definite disassociation going on. Because Derek is here. He’s not going to hurt him. He trust Stiles. He wants Stiles.

And Stiles wants him.

“Most of the time I hate myself for wanting this. You.”

And nnnnghhpht…. Stiles’s eyes roll back in his head as Derek starts kissing-licking-kissing his shoulder.

“No hate,” Stiles breathes—or tries to—his throat is tight. He has to swallow before he can fill his lungs.

This time Derek laughs darkly against his neck, but there’s a hysterical edge at the end. “I’m sorry. We’re such a mess. It’s my fault.”

No matter the super squeeze on his hips, Stiles turns around so that he can look Derek in the eyes. “What’s with the blaming? No blaming.”

Derek’s eyes are glued to the ceiling. “I haven’t done this—been this close—with anyone. Not since I was a dumbass teenager. Not since her. Not since I lost them.”

Stiles’s wolf likes the confession—Derek is his. But the human part is just… uncomprehending. “Because of her.” Kate-fucking-Argent.

Derek doesn’t answer him.

“It’s not your fault. Trusting someone… that’s not a bad thing. It should be a good thing. There was no way you could have known she was evil.”

“If I’d paid more attention—”

“No… no… no,” Stiles groans. “You were sixteen and horny and naive.”

“You’re sixteen,” Derek says, and oh, lord, does he look to be in serious man-pain as he says it.

“Seventeen in a three weeks, actually. And I expect an awesome birthday present. Besides, you’re like twenty-three going on an extra-moody thirteen. So whatever. You’re not some big bad monster who’s going to manipulate me.”

“We’re both alphas now,” Derek says, and in fact, he does look slightly less in pain.

Stiles grins. “Exactly, but I can still probably beat you up.”

Derek snorts, burying his face in Stiles neck. “To be determined.”

“So you say,” Stiles scoffs—and then he tries to tackle Derek.

Ready for the assault, Derek twists his arm back around, and yeah, he’s definitely stronger than he was as a beta. Stiles isn’t pushing full-force, but unlike in the past, Derek’s bicep isn’t remotely trembling.

Stiles tries to bite him.

Derek snaps back, a determined smile on his face, as he slams Stiles down, being arched above him while pinning his hands into the mattress.

Stiles really, really likes it. Both human and wolf. And that’s unbelievably nice.

It’s also why he bares his neck again.

Unlike the previous time, Derek doesn’t ignore it. He’s staring, focused on the skin like he never has before. He licks his lips.

And Stiles just has to tell him. He can’t even help it when his mouth starts moving. “I always used to imagine it this way. I used to imagine you on top of me—I used to imagine your knot—I used to—you used to hunt me—and I’d drop to my knees—and it’s not like I’m interested in a sub-dom thingy? Maybe? Like, I like mixing it up, but part of it is just you—and your perfect gorgeousness—and I should—”

Derek leans down to lick his neck.

Stiles gasps but then Derek is looking at him. Eyes neither blue nor red. And so this time, Stiles is the one who pulls Derek forward by his chin to initiate the kiss.

Derek tastes of salt and pumpkin spice, and Stiles wonders if he was the only one who got an over-priced coffee this morning. But then he can’t think at all, because Derek is pushing him back down into the mattress, cupping the sides of his face—and yes, that was growl—as Stiles is backed up into the headboard.

Derek’s hands are searching his sides. They find his pockets and yank down, which doesn’t work so well since Stiles is still zipped and buttoned, but he’s eager to help. His fingers attack the fastenings, and Derek only has a loosely-knotted string—so that’s easy to push down. Then Stiles is staring at the length of of Derek's cock, bare and bobbing and shadowed-red in the lingering evening light.

Stiles only has just gotten his jeans down when Derek grabs him, rolling them to the center of the bed. He pins Stiles with his weight and then he’s biting hard right into the center of Stiles’s neck while grinding into him. And Stiles’s wolf just revels in it, wanting to loll back and give whatever Derek wants.

But there’s also weight and pinning and pressure—and one second he’s into it—and then his mouth gets covered and so in the next second he’s remembering Peter—and well, it’s not good: human-Stiles kind of spazzes.

There’s flapping hands and shoving, and an off-off-off.

And then Derek is definitely off of him. Derek is off and that’s worse. Because if there was lurking guilt before—it’s just exploded into open-mouthed, soft-dicked shame. Derek isn’t even speaking. His eyes are wide. Mouth gaped in horror.

No. This was not—

Stiles tries to kiss it better, but Derek wheels his legs off the side of the bed, plunging his head between his knees. There’s a growl, a moan of pain that isn’t physical, and Stiles is saying Derek’s name over and over again.

But Derek isn’t looking up.

So Stiles licks his ear.

Derek flinches, but Stiles would rather have him be annoyed than… whatever this is.

Next, he licks Derek’s hands. The pulse points on his wrists. Then, he squeezes his tongue to lick at his temple. He’s making a go for Derek’s armpit when he’s smacked away like an annoying puppy.

Which, um, no.

“Hey, I freaked. I just, you know…?”

“Trust me. I know.” Derek does not look up.

Stiles huffs. He thinks about biting Derek, about being silly to snap them both out of it, but no… Distractions aren’t going to cut it here. Stiles was perfectly happy. He was enjoying it. And then he wasn’t.

But then he realizes what he needs to do.

“Let me in,” Stiles insists, pulling on the hands clamped over Derek’s face.

Derek does. He lets Stiles push him back, lets Stiles press a soft peck onto his mouth, lets Stiles bury his nose into his neck and breathe him in.

Still, Derek stiffens when Stiles shifts.

It’s only to Stiles’s beta form, so his words are perfectly audible when Stiles says, “Now you too.”

Derek blinks once and then his eyes are red. Stiles runs a finger along his bottom lip as the canines descend. Then carefully, like he’s trying not to startle a horse, Stiles drags his fingers from Derek’s shoulder to the soft bump at the top of his spine. He traces the circle with his claw.

Derek sucks in a breath.

“I want you to do it to me at the same time. You say ‘you know’, but that’s crap. We can show each other. At the same time. I don’t know how it will be. But I want to.”

Derek only stares at him.

Stiles backtracks. “You don’t have to. I just thought—”

“You won’t like what you see.”

“Maybe you won’t like what you see,” Stiles bites back.

Derek sighs before scooting back so that he’s cross-legged across from Stiles. He pulls the duvet to cover himself, and then he leans toward Stiles, only stopping when their foreheads are touching.

“So at the same time?” Stiles asks again.

Derek kisses his cheek.

That’s a yes.

Stiles waits until he feels the prickle of Derek’s claws at the back of his own neck before he pushes into Derek’s skin.

Outwardly, he hears Derek’s startled growl. He’s aware of a distant tingling orbiting his own spine. But those sensations are like distant clouds, because where Stiles is standing it’s all black below and blue above, like someone turned the sky upside-down. It’s so different from the last time Stiles did this. Peter’s mind felt thick—oily—like the light had to slide through a filter, but with Derek, it’s like bursting out from the water of a pond into the open air.

The world flips, and he’s falling. Below him are tall buildings, each individual—some spiraling upwards like iron wrought staircases while others are big cubes of glass. The closer he gets, the more they soften into the faces of people. Stiles recognizes Laura. He’s sees Derek’s mom and dad and younger sister from a picture Derek once showed him.

Oh, and Peter.

But it’s a different Peter. He’s familiar yet not. He’s cracking (bad) jokes. When his smile lights the windows, it’s vulnerable.

A memory flashes: Derek, sixteen, asking about girls. Peter is telling Derek that he’s the worse person to give advice on women. Derek doesn’t miss how Peter’s eyes float over to his Uncle Steven—his mom’s brother. He’s been Peter’s best friend since childhood. Steven married his dad’s sister—so he and Derek’s aunt have a new baby. Peter’s the godfather.

Flash. The woman at the hospital telling Derek and Laura that Peter had run into the burning house. It was already too late, but he’d run in.

Flash. Derek is sitting at his uncle’s bedside. He’s telling him everything. His uncle doesn’t move.

Flash. Peter’s smile afterward. It isn’t the same.

When he jabs his claws into Derek’s neck, it’s without permission.

His uncle used to ask if it was okay to eat the last cookie. Something is burnt.

But Peter is his uncle.

Flash. Peter looking at Stiles. It’s how he looked at Steven, but somehow there’s an aggression that was never there before.

Derek isn’t okay with it. Maybe, its’ because he looks at Stiles that way, too.

It’s not something he expected. It’s just that everything else was broken. Derek might be a mess of cracked pistons and rusted gears, but Stiles is grease and duct tape and smiles, and when the light catches on his face one day in the cemetery—when he’s looking down at the grass and talking about his mom—Derek is overwhelmed by the dark contrast of his eyelashes to the red flush in his cheeks.

Derek is shocked by how much he wants to kiss him.

Flash. His home is a pit. It’s the knife he keeps falling back on, like he might find something amid the pain and ashes. But then Stiles is there. Full color. Not a dream, like the rest of this place. He’s so young and embarrassed—and Derek is stupid and greedy so he asks and Stiles shows him: his knot, red and swollen, the crystal dot of semen at the tip.

Flash. Not a memory. A fantasy. Stiles in the woods. He’s holding onto the tree branch over head, swinging back and forth. Derek is watching his hips. His expression goes feral, then he’s grabbing them mid-swing. He’s licking, biting down the top hem, and then he’s behind, and Stiles is still holding onto the branch as Derek fucks into him.

The whole world heats. Stiles knows that sweat is trickling down his neck. He hears Derek’s hoarse breaths against his neck. He wonders what he’s getting from Stiles.

But then there’s another flash. Stiles and Derek rocking in a boat. Another fantasy. Stiles in the locker room—Derek between his legs. Then another. He’s smashed into a wall, the moon is laughing overhead, and to the rhythm of a heavy base, Stiles is howling.

It’s insane. He thinks he might be externally rubbing into Derek. Regardless, Stiles is shaking. Inside and out, Stiles is shaking.

But then it all halts.

Because Peter still has Allan Gianni’s blood on his teeth, and he’s laughing. He’s laughing like a school boy playing tag. Overhead the clouds cover the stars, and Peter is kicking the body, laughing like he’s siphoning all of the darkness into his hysteria.

Derek asks, “Why?”

“He went after Stiles—who I left in the movie theater. Ah, fuck, I need to explain this to him. He’s going to not like it. You’re going to bury my old pal while I do that.”

“Stiles could have handled himself. You didn’t need to—”

And then Peter is there, breathing down his neck. “Nephew, you are not the alpha. I am the alpha. And I say what Stiles can handle. Is there a reason you think you know better? Is there?”

Derek takes a step back.

But Peter steps with him. “You think I don’t smell it? You think I don’t catch the lingering traces of longing, no matter how you’re careful to shower or hideaway in the old house? Because I catch them. I know what you want. But no, Derek. No. No. And no. Not yours.”

“I didn’t—” he starts.

Peter grabs his chin, jerks Derek’s face to Gianni’s body. “Because if you so dare, that is the least of what I will do to you.”

And then, he’d kicked Gianni’s body once again before walking away. “Too bad. I bet I missed the previews, but I’m sure the rest of the movie will be fun,” he calls back, laughs again, and continues down the hill.

That was the night Derek realized that Peter had killed Laura.

That he could have done it. With ease.

And that fury was what drove him to ask Stiles…

Flash. In the apartment, he can smell them. Hear them. The sounds of a finger sliding into that warm skin, the hot panting, the suction from his uncle’s mouth.

He wants to scream—howl.

He ends up somewhere deep in the woods. And that’s when he lets it out. The wail he makes sends the birds bursting from the elms.

And he never thinks about it. About her. About her legs open for his mouth. About how he told her anything she wanted as she rode him in the back of father’s car. He’s repainted all of those memories with the powdery film that comes of hindsight and grief. Yet he’d wanted her. Couldn’t imagine why she wanted him. And he doesn’t know why he expected Stiles to be different.

He had though. In his head, Stiles is always better than he is.

And that’s where he went wrong. He loves to pretend there’s order. It’s why he studied engineering. He likes it when everything fits into a system. When it works. He doesn’t know how or why he thought Stiles was the solution to everything.

Because when Stiles broke—it was because Derek flung the throttle.

Flash. Stiles’s face. His eyes are red. Sometimes, when he shifts in the night, strung out in a nightmare, Derek’s not sure if the red is from the wolf—or from crying.

Derek shouldn’t stare. He shouldn’t want.

He should leave.

He doesn’t.

After that, Derek’s memories come rapid fire: Stiles ripping apart Derek’s pillow. Peter telling Stiles to choose. Derek raising the sword.

The undercurrent is strong and constant: Derek hates himself—he loves Stiles.

And then the sky is flipping bottom-up yet again. Above him, the buildings all look like tombstones but when he looks down, there’s nothing but stars and the black. Then he’s being kissed, and Derek is saying, “You love me,” and he sounds shocked by it.

Stiles thinks he’s agreeing. His lips are moving. But words are just potpourri at the moment, because he needs to show Derek. He’s not magical. He can’t fix everything with words, but he can do his best.

“Your brain is like an arcade game,” Derek is murmuring into his ear. “With comic book heroes and your mom singing.”

“You’re batman,” Stiles agrees. “Super sexy batman. And I’m…” He bites at the top of Derek’s chest. Then he licks under Derek’s neck. The stubble scratches.

Stiles wants more.

There’s lube in the nightstand. Stiles grabs it. He flings himself back on the bed. He spreads his legs and squeezes the tube and rubs the fucking ass-cold stuff in there.

When Derek just stares, Stiles grabs his hand and puts it where he wants it.

“You can go slow if you want,” Stiles says, because they have time.

“I—” Derek draws his hand back. “You should do me.”

Stiles pauses. He takes a breath. “I will—but now—I know you want it. I know you think about me—and you know that I—”

“Because I’m fucking sick, Stiles, because I’m obsessed and—”

Stiles clamps a hand over his mouth. “No, you’re not. Because bad things happened to you, and so what if you want a little extra control? I’m fine with it. More than fine. You saw that in ‘Arcade Stiles.’” Stiles grins and almost feels bad for putting Derek through the claw-in-the-neck mental tour, because Derek’s mind is organized if tragic like a Greek play, whereas Stiles’s is a zany pigsty. “So, like I said, stop it. Give in to what you want, because I love you. Because we can do this, and nothing bad is going to happen. Because I’m not the solution to everything, but this is something I can fix. I’m not going to hurt you. You’re not going to hurt me. Not like that. So trust me.”

Derek takes a breath. “Slow.”

And then, well, if Stiles is erratic and messy and insane, Derek is deliberate and methodical, because he does exactly as he says and painstakingly destroys all functioning nerve cells in Stiles’s body for the next half an hour. It reaches the point where he’s so hard it’s painful. When he tries to stroke himself, Derek bats his hand away—before taking pity on him and licking down a long stripe.

Stiles comes instantly.

Derek almost looks pissed, until he says, “Game over.” And fucking laughs.

Stiles scowls at him, but it’s not with any force, because there’s jizz all over his stomach. And well, his wolf goes nuts when Derek rubs his face in the mess and then asks Stiles to lick it off.

Stiles licks it off, and because Derek is the evilest person on the planet, he starts over from where he began—and Stiles is shouting death threats by the end.

Derek finally pushes inside.

Stiles wants to look. Has to look. He even pushes Derek up, so he can peer down between them and see where Derek is three-quarters slid into him.

“Oh,” he gasps, and then he doesn’t miss that Derek’s hands are firm on his hips, that Derek is shaking. “It’s perfect. You’re perfect. You in me—it looks—it feels—so—fucking—perfect.”

Then, well, Derek is moving. Stiles is babbling as his prostate is singing. It’s not frantic. Yeah, there’s no ‘hunt’ aspect. It may not be something out of either of their fantasies—because Derek is being careful, so perfectly tame in how he kisses the back of Stiles neck—in how he’s keeping Stiles face-to-face, but it’s good. It’s good because when they’re not kissing, they’re looking into each other’s eyes. Even as the position changes, even as Derek stuffs a pillow under his ass and hikes his knees over his shoulders—they keep each other’s gaze.

Stiles comes first, bright-eyed and he thinks he might have just told Derek he was in love with his dick—because Derek is laughing and then he looks ready to cry—but no, that’s just the orgasm hitting—and then oh, wow, the knot is expanding, and the last time this happened to him, Stiles remembered it hurting.

(And he’s not thinking about that.)

Except this time, it doesn’t, Stiles breathes and Derek kisses him, and oh my god, there is spunk everywhere.

Stiles announces this.

Derek laughs again.

And then because he’s an asshole, he traces Stiles belly button before saying, “If you’re an arcade game, this time, I think I won.”

Stiles smacks him.

-

– Future –

They’re both trying to study at the same time. Stiles has his Macedonian War Culture essay outlined, while Derek is working on whatever Systems blah blah blah that is incredibly boring and required for his Masters Degree. Because apparently, Masters Degrees are kind of a thing with engineers.

Stiles’s dad is kind of less than okay with his son being a freshman living off-campus with his older boyfriend, but then Stiles had pointed out that when Derek was around, his grades were better and horrible supernatural things were less likely to happen. (Stiles thought this had to do with the fact that they were badass alphas and just that fucking scary.)

Also, his dad likes Derek.

When Derek’s around, his dad gets to talk about sports and eat more red meat.

Stiles pretends to resent this.

(He really thinks it’s fucking adorable. Also, Derek cooks a mean steak.)

Otherwise, things have been up and down. The Scott-Allison-Erica drama is still ongoing. Stiles either thinks Scott needs to get over his insecurities and pick—or Allison should seriously just dump him. Erica won’t dump him because Erica seems to enjoy pissing off Allison as much as she enjoys fucking Scott.

Derek and he argue about it a lot. Derek thinks they need to be fucking spanked. Stiles thinks they need to grow up.

Isaac is happy. He and the vamp twins are studying philosophy. Stiles encourages this, while Derek keeps asking him how the fuck he thinks he’ll find a job.

Neither Stiles nor Derek is worried about Lydia. She’s a vampire now at MIT, and they’re pretty sure she’s building an army out of the short, glasses-wearing, nerd brigade that worships her body as much as it does her proofs. She’s pretty damn content.

Otherwise, Stiles and Derek have their own business to worry about.

They’ve done hunter-prey in the woods thing. Stiles climbed a tree, and once again, because werewolves are not cats, cracked a branch and fell hard onto his bottom.

Derek had kissed the bruise until it faded; then he’d pushed Stiles down into the pine needles and fucked him.

Weirdly, sex in a bed upset Stiles sometimes.

Whereas Derek won’t let Stiles touch him in a car. Though, he totally went nuts on Stiles the one time they went to a gay club. Yeah, they were in an alley, so the view was obscured, but other people were in the alley too—and they were watching.

(Stiles is planning on repeating that experience.)

But mostly, at night, when they're curled up together, Stiles is finally completely relaxed. Now, when Derek’s angry, when the self-loathing seeps through, Stiles kisses him—just stupidly loves on him with bad logic and even sillier praise—until it’s past.

And then Derek will snuggle tight against him. He’ll grab Stiles’s hip and time his breathing to their heart beats. When he’s calm enough, Stiles will lean back into the pillows. With his neck bared, he’ll say, “I trust you. It’s okay.”

Derek will say, “You shouldn’t.”

“But I do.”

And then Derek will bite down. Sometimes it’s soft and quiet so that they meander into sleep. Other times, it harsh and frantic. Sometimes, Derek begs Stiles to fuck him rough, on all fours. But when Stiles pushes in, it's face to face, and he makes them go slowly.

-

Years pass. Two or three? It’s a normal morning when Stiles wakes up and realizes he isn't afraid anymore. He hasn't been for a while. There are no more secrets from the people he cares about. If he gets paranoid, it’s because he can't remember the deadline for his next paper.

At his side, Derek’s cheek is mashed in a spot of sunlight. He must be dreaming because there’s a smile on his face even as a slight growl is humming through his teeth.

Stiles snorts.

He isn't afraid. And he knows exactly why.