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I Don't Know How to Word It (I Just Started to Deserve It)

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The thing is… Derek is literally only 1 inch taller than Stiles. Maybe 2 if you count his stupid, reverse-duck-tail hair. Stiles would know, he’s seen the guy’s mug-shot after all. But what Derek lacks in relative height difference, he more than makes up for with sheer presence that makes him seem all that much taller than his comparatively average 6 feet. Stiles would, however, like to maintain the fact that while Derek is 4 years his senior and thus a full-grown adult, he still has the rest of High School to grow an extra inch or two. At least he hopes so. Because maybe if he ever did grow taller than Derek, he wouldn’t always feel so damn small around the guy, especially when the werewolf keeps invading his personal space bubble.

Like now, for instance.

“-iles. Stiles! Are you even listening to me? Do you have any idea how much of an idiot you are right now? You could’ve been kill- would have been killed if we hadn’t been nearby. What are you even doing out here anyways?”

Stiles had been feeling rather sheepish since Derek first began his tirade, because really he knew—at least on some level of his usually ignored subconscious—that running out into the woods after a couple of newly-turned teenage werewolves and their also-relatively-new-to-the-position Alpha on the night of the full moon was probably not one of his greater ideas. But in all honesty, how was he supposed to know Jackson apparently liked the chase in more than a metaphorical sense? Thankfully Scott and Isaac had dragged the newest wolf away from this very embarrassing talk-down after Derek had tackled him mid-leap before he’d managed to do Stiles any permanent damage. But that last question—huffed out in annoyed exasperation between the deep, heavy breaths Derek had been taking since he had started his verbal rampage—was what really struck something deep within Stiles, and made it hit home exactly how epically terrible of an idea it had actually been.

He had been out here tonight because Scott had invited him. “Pack thing” he’d said. “Totally fine” he’d assured. “Fun” he’d promised. So Stiles had kind of assumed that meant Scott had gotten Derek’s approval for him to tag along. And he might’ve—just maybe—hoped that this meant that Derek might even consider him part of the pack as well; albeit a very minor part, but still.

Obviously not.

The rant he’d been working up in his defence died on his lips, as he looked quickly away from Derek and into the forest.

“You’re right. I’m sorry.” He mumbled. “I’ll just… head home. Won’t happen again.”

And it wouldn’t. Stiles glanced sideways at Derek once before turning and starting the trek back to his jeep, parked by the Hale house, and tried to ignore the tension leaving the Alpha’s shoulders at his words. He heard Derek take a step to fall in beside him at the same time he felt the all-encompassing heat all werewolves seem to give off pressing along his side.

“I’ll walk you back.” The Alpha offered, placing his hand at the small of the human’s back. Stiles waved him off and kept walking, not even bothering to look at the other man as he did so.

“I’ll be fine. You’ve got enough dumb teenagers to take care of already—y’know, ones with fangs and claws and underlying rage issuesheading the opposite way. Besides, it’s just up that hill. Tell the others I’ll see them Monday.” He replied, trying to sound as nonchalant as possible, which must’ve worked because the heat disappeared and he didn’t hear any footsteps but his own the rest of the way back to his jeep.

 

 

Stiles spent the next day sulking in his room. Or at least he tried to. He never was very good at wallowing; it always involved too much lying around doing nothing for him to ever really get on board. So he looked for distractions in anything he could. Which somehow resulted in him cleaning his room.

 Like hard-core cleaning too; he wound up busting out the vacuum, and bleach and wood polish and everything. And he washed all his laundry while he was at it, which might have evolved into him cleaning the entire house. The fact that he also managed to finish his English essay, as well as completing the lab he and Danny were supposed to only be starting the next week was an added bonus despite not even being able to remember half of what he’d written. Whatever, Danny could proof-read it Monday. That would be his contribution. Never say Stiles didn’t carry his own weight.

The Sherriff must have gotten in extra late Sunday night as Monday morning had Stiles waking up with only 15 minutes before the first school bell, in the same position he’d been in when he’d passed out on the couch watching TV the night before. Stiles scrambled off the couch and up the stairs, giving himself an experimental sniff along the way. Deeming himself to not be in desperate need of a shower he quickly changed into fresh clothes and raced out the door, throwing himself into his jeep and breaking more than a few speed limits until he finally squealed into the student parking lot just as the warning bell rang out. Heaving a sigh of relief and booking it to his first class he was able to keep his mind off the events from Friday until Chemistry- his first class with… well, everyone.

Stuttering to a halt at the sight of his best friend talking with Isaac, Stiles shook himself mentally and plopped into the seat beside his best friend. Scott started visibly and spun around to face him, which was a little weird. He hadn’t been able to startle his friend like that since before the bite.

“Dude! Where’d you go Friday? I had to get a ride home from Jackson.” Scott whined before he sniffed the air and frowned at him, “Are you ok? You smell weird.” Stiles pulled a scandalised face and clutched his hand to his heart dramatically.

“Well excuse me if I woke up too late to shower this morning for once, just announce it to the world why don’t you?” Scott didn’t even have the grace to look sheepish, and simply sniffed deeper as he leaned in closer to Stiles.

“No, it’s not that. You can barely even tell about that. I mean you smell,” Scott sneezed suddenly and rubbed at his nose while he glared at Stiles as if it were his fault. “You smell wrong. Chemical.” He clarified. Relaxing minutely, Stiles huffed out a laugh.

“Oh, that? Man it’s nothing. Just went through a heavy-duty cleaning spree this weekend. Lots of bleach.” He clarified, but Scott’s frown didn’t dissipate.

“You don’t even smell like you right now.” He complained, “Derek’s not going to like it.” Stiles snorted in a way that he hoped sounded less upset than it was.

“Please, what does how I smell have anything to do with Derek?”

“Oh honey, you really have no idea, do you?” Erica sighed as she flounced into the seat ahead of Stiles, beside Isaac, and into the conversation. She gave a tiny sniff herself and shot Stiles a meaningful look. Whatever meaning she might have intended was lost on him however. “I suggest you take a nice long shower before you see him next, or he’ll be in an even worse mood than usual.”

Stiles regarded them all with a mix of confusion and genuine concern for their sanity. Before he could comment on how it wasn’t like he’d be seeing Derek any time soon anyways, Harris walked in and lesson began, pulling everyone’s attention to the front.

 

 

The rest of the week passed in relative normality, though the werewolves were still leveling him looks he assumed he was supposed to understand the meaning behind whenever he got too close to them. Apparently the smell of bleach took more than a couple days—and showers—to wash out of human pores.

Whatever.

Friday afternoon, Stiles was looking forward to finally getting home and just crashing in front of the tv for the entire weekend, killing some brain-cells and Nazi zombies with Scott.

“Allison finally agreed to a date with me tonight.” Scott gushed, “I mean, it’s just a study date, but the date-part is basically implied. You understand, right?” Stiles regarded Scott’s puppy-dog eyes, made only more lethal since practically becoming one himself, and sighed.

“Yeah I get it. We can hang out tomorrow instead, it’s cool.” Scott’s face fell.

“Didn’t I tell you? Deaton’s flown out to Atlanta for some family thing this weekend, and he needs me to cover the clinic.” His explained before he visibly brightened. “If you wanted, you could come over and hang out while I work. Isaac’ll be there helping me out too. If it’s not too busy, it could be fun.” Stiles was skeptical.

“Nah, it’s fine buddy. Maybe some other time. Not like my couch is going anywhere.” He shrugged with forced nonchalance “Besides, I still got that chem assignment with Danny to finish. I’ll be fine.”

It was a blatant lie—he’d finished it all himself already the weekend before—but Scott nodded in understanding and waved as he jogged off to the bike racks. As he got in his jeep and drove home,

Stiles wondered whether he’d gotten better at lying, or if Scott just didn’t care enough anymore to hear the lie in his heartbeat

 

 

Hours later, after his dad had already left for the night shift, Stiles was ready to crawl out of his skin. The extra Adderall he’d popped was doing nothing to help and his muscles would spasm any time he was still for longer than a few seconds. Looking down at his phone for what felt like the millionth time in the past 10 minutes and finding it blank of anything but the time (shocker), he blew out a stuttered breath and bounced to his feet, pulled on his red hoodie and raced out the door. He ran without direction as fast as his legs would carry him. For a while, it was nice. It helped.

Then he stopped.

In the middle of the goddamn forest.

Damn it.

Hands on his knees, and struggling to get his breath and his bearings back, Stiles was just able to make out the lights from the road through the trees when he heard a yelp. One that sounded more than vaguely familiar; one he’d heard just the other week when Derek had tackled a wolfed-out Jackson mid-leap to protect him.

His breathing having evened out, Stiles crouched low to the ground and scurried over to where he’d heard the sound. He scanned the surrounding area from behind a fallen tree, waiting probably nowhere near long enough—he was sure Derek would say—before taking a good look at what was directly in front of him, just a few feet away.

It was a wolf. A Massive Black Hellbeast Wolf, capitals necessary, caught in a bear trap and whimpering barely loud enough for Stiles to hear even as close as he was. Something about the trap caught Stiles eye and he leaned forward slightly for a better view around the wolf. The sudden movement caught the wolf’s attention (and how it hadn’t noticed Stiles earlier he’d never know) and its eyes and teeth snapped towards him, hackles rising even as its injuries forced it to stay low to the ground.

Despite the very scary set of fangs on display to him right now, it was actually the eyes—blood red—that stopped Stiles in his tracks and caused him to suck in a startled gasp. His mind flashed back to a dug-up grave with a burlap sack and a string of flowers.

“Oh my god, Derek?” He whispered. The growling stopped but the hackles were still raised and the teeth didn’t look to be disappearing any time soon, so Stiles decided to do what he did best.

“Derek, it’s me, Stiles. You remember good ol’ Stiles, right? Oh God, is this why everyone said it was bad that I didn’t smell like me? Are you running on all-wolf brain right now? Do you only recognize scents? Because I’m totally a friend. Ally. Not pack, you basically said so yourself last week, but no hard feelings, dude, I get it. No wolf-powers, no pack. Totally fine. But you can still totally trust me though.

“I mean, I haven’t really hung around the pack much this week, the bleach stink drove them away, not like we haven’t been growing farther apart recently anyways, but that doesn’t matter now! What matters is that even if I don’t smell it, I’m totally a friend. Of the pack’s! Not you specifically, don’t worry. But yeah so I’m here to help? That ok?

“Actually I don’t care if that’s ok because it’s just me out here so I’m the only choice you’ve got right now, but I need to touch you Derek. Not like that! I mean, not like I’d mind the other way—have you seen you when you’re human?—I mean, what? Ignore that. Ignore I said anything about that. What I meant was I need to touch your leg, so I can free it from what looks to be a bear-trap that’s been sprinkled with some kind of wolfs bane since you don’t seem to be changing back and Scott said that you said that pain keeps you human, so yeah. I can help with that... Let me help? Please?”

The wolf—Derek—has its head cocked so far to the side it made Stiles think of a cartoon and it startled a relieved laugh out of him, which turned into a tentative smile when he reached for the trap and th- Derek! just watched him warily.

It wasn’t completely dark out yet and so Stiles had enough light to figure out that there was no way he was going to be able to pry the trap apart with just his hands. But there were a few very important looking screws holding it together that he was sure can be loosened with one of the many coins he had in his pocket left over from the vending machine at school that day. He got to work, babbling the whole time about absolutely nothing and everything he could think of to keep Derek’s mind off what he was doing, and slowly but steadily the trap started dismantling under his—for once—steady hands.

As soon as it was fully undone, Derek jerked out from between the metal teeth and made to stand, but collapsed as soon as he put weight on his injured leg. Stiles leapt to grab onto him and earned himself a warning growl before it petered into some kind of canine-equivalent purr as he rubbed his hands soothingly through the thick fur.

“I always knew you were just a big softy underneath that gruff, serial killer exterior.” Muttered Stiles as he helped Derek back to his feet and let the giant hunk of fur lean on him as he led them both back to the road.

Stiles tried not to get too worried when Derek didn’t even so much as lift his head at the comment. Sure Derek had been getting better about the snapping and wall-throwing (although to be fair, that had only really happened once—twice if you counted his steering wheel as a wall) but any comment about him being anything other than the Big Bad Alpha he was, and you were still likely to at least be on the receiving end of a death glare. Or in the betas’ cases, an extra hard shove out the door to work on wolfy exercises. Sometimes being a human had its perks.

Back at the Stilinski household, finally, Stiles grabbed as many extra blankets as he could carry and laid them out beside his bed while Derek leaned weakly against the wall and watched him. After heaving his furry guest onto the makeshift nest, Stiles pulled out the extremely-well-stocked first aid kit he’d been keeping under his bed since the whole werewolf business started, and set to work inspecting Derek’s leg. The first time he reached for it he got growled at and by that point Stiles was anything but impressed.

“C’mon dude, I know you don’t want to be here, but Deaton’s out of town and the clinic isn’t even open until tomorrow. And until I can at least clean this sucker out and make sure it’s not broken, you really shouldn’t be moving any more than you have to. Just let me try and wipe out the wolfs bane that’s matted in there at least? I’ll be gentle, promise.”

Derek just stared at him before flopping his head down onto his front paws in defeat, and when Stiles grasped his leg (very very gently) he didn’t even look back at what the human was doing. That didn’t stop the sourwolf from whining and almost kicking Stiles in the face every time he had to dig a little to clean out the wound. Luckily it wasn’t broken, or all the jarring would have only made it worse. Eventually though, Stiles got it bandaged nice and tight and, most importantly, clean.

As Stiles ran a critical eye over his handy work his stomach rumbled, loudly, reminding him that he hadn’t had anything to eat since his very disappointing cafeteria lunch.

“C’mon, big guy, let’s get something to eat… And get you outside for a bit since I don’t think you’re in any shape to aim for a toilet bowl right about now.”

 

 

Derek slept soundly on his nest of blankets the first night and when Stiles woke up the next morning he was honestly just surprised the Alpha hadn’t jumped out the window he’d left open. But then again, there was nowhere he could really go with his leg healing as slowly as it was, he supposed.

Still, the guy was limping well enough around the house (and sniffing everything in sight while he was at it) the next morning that Stiles didn’t think they’d need to bother going to the clinic after all. Derek still hadn’t changed back, which he found somewhat concerning, but the sourwolf seemed content to just follow Stiles around and curl up next to him on the couch, so he figured it wasn’t too pressing. If he couldn’t change back by noon tomorrow, he’d take him to see Scott at the clinic.

Stiles was so busy keeping up a running commentary as he and Derek marathoned Firefly in the living room downstairs that he didn’t even notice his dad walk in around the time they normally would have started dinner.

“Stiles.” Choking mid-sentence, Stiles shot Derek a betrayed look out of the corner of his eye—a little warning would have been appreciated—before turning towards his dad with the most innocent expression he could manage.

“Dad. How was work?” The Sheriff crossed his arms across his chest and raised an eyebrow.

“Not as interesting as it is coming home to my son conversing with a- is that a wolf?” Now he just looked concerned, as well as suspicious.

“Wolf? Pfft… Really Dad? Do you really think I’m dumb enough to let a wild animal into our house and then cuddle with it on the sofa?” Stiles deflected before freezing and turning to Derek, who was only watching Stiles’ dad warily. “Not that we’re cuddling! We’re bonding. Manly male bonding… between a man and his… friend’s… dog.”

“Care to elaborate on that, son?” Now the Sheriff just looked amused, and somewhat exasperated, which Stiles could deal with.

“It’s Derek’s! He’s out of town for the weekend and he asked me to watch his dog- his wolfdog. Cause he’s half wolf. Cool right? And I wouldn’t have volunteered only Derek doesn’t really know anyone here except me and Scott. And Isaac… and Erica and Boyd. And Jackson. But Scott and Isaac were working, Boyd’s place is too small with his little sisters running around, and Erica and Jackson’s parents are very anti-anything-non-human, so I was kind of a last resort. It’s just for another day, Dad. Honest. And he’s really well behaved and-” the Sheriff held up a hand and sighed.

“Alright. One more day. And you’re cleaning everything up afterwards.” He warned, before turning away and walking into the kitchen, where Stiles heard him open the fridge.

“Don’t eat the beef! That’s for Derek…’s dog. Derek’s dog… Spike. The ground beef is for Spike!” He shouted. He heard his dad sigh and close the fridge.

“I’m ordering pizza.”

“Veggie only!” prompted Stiles as he turned back to the tv. “And whole wheat crust!”

 

 

Late Sunday morning found Derek, not only still a wolf and still in the room, but also on Stiles’ bed. More specifically, on Stiles.

“Ugh! I hope your morning breath isn’t this bad as a human.” He moaned sleepily and tried to shove the wolf off his chest so he could relieve the pressure in his bladder that had woken him up. The strategically-placed paw pressing into his lower belly was not exactly helping.  

Finally extracting himself from the tangle of furry limbs, he shuffled into the bathroom, and back out when he was finished, with his eyes still half-closed before collapsing back on his bed beside Derek, ready to go back to sleep until noon.

“Stiles.” That was funny, Stiles’ dad kind of sounded like Derek when he was sleepy.

“Mm… whu?” he responded, face smushed into his pillow and eyes still closed.

“Stiles! Don’t. Move.” Oh shit, that was Derek. But if he was human, why the hell was he still on the bed and telling him not to…. Oh.

Stiles turned his head and opened his eyes to a faceful of thick fur that was standing on end in obvious distress. Stiles followed the line of raised fur to the wolf’s head, which was pointed towards, and snarling at, Derek—the real Derek, oh shit—who was crouched in front of the window he’d obviously just climbed through, wolfed out.

The two wolves, one animal and one… half? seemed locked in a stare-off in which there was little moving and much snarling and growling. Stiles brain took that second to fully catch up with what was about to go down in his bedroom.

“Ok! Everybody calm down!” he cried in as calm a voice as he could manage, and climbed to his knees on the mattress, waving his arms in front of him to break the mutual death glare between the other two occupants in the room.

It didn’t work.

“Stiles, why is there a wolf in your bed?” Demanded Derek, his eyes never leaving those of the wolf, whose hackles had gone down some, now that Stiles was awake and fully alert, but who also wasn’t breaking eye contact.

“Because I thought it was you! He got caught in a bear trap that’d been laced with wolfs bane so I thought it wasn’t letting him turn back into, well, you. So I brought him back here to recover since Deaton’s gone all weekend and other than the wolf-thing he was healing ok after I cleaned out the wound and-“ Derek’s growl cut him off.

“Why the hell would you assume it was me?” he demanded but didn’t wait for an answer. “And would you get away from that thing before it eats you.” Stiles settled back against his headboard, giving Derek his very best unimpressed look—he got it from his dad—and started slowly and deliberately petting Spike. It was as good a name as any at this point.

“Please. I am like a wolf-whisperer. As you can see. Besides, the only thing Spike seems to want to attack is you seeing as, to him at least, you’re invading our territory.” Derek turned his glare on Stiles, which only seemed to notch up the volume of the low growl Spike had kept up since Derek had come in.

“Spike? Really?” he questioned. He stood up to his full height as his face and hands went back to normal and his glare transformed into a dubious look.

“Hey! Spike is the name of a cool, funny, badass vampire created by the epicness that is Joss Whedon. You’re lucky I didn’t go with Angel. Cool enough guy, but I would never inflict that name upon anyone who wanted to be taken seriously at least once in their lifetime.” Both wolves seemed to relax during the tirade so Stiles sighed heavily, glad that at least some of the tension was leaving the room.

 “Anyways, Spike wouldn’t hurt a fly. He let me touch him while he was injured and let me keep him cooped up in here all weekend. He’s like the tamest wild carnivore ever.” He defended, rubbing Spike behind his ears affectionately causing the wolf to calmed down instantly and nudge into Stiles’ hand. Derek snorted and stuffed his own hands in the pockets of his leather jacket.

“Figures you would find what is likely the only wolf in California, practically adopt it as your own, and talk it into domestication.” Stiles glared at him and got off his bed. Spike followed him as he started downstairs, Derek not far behind.

“Oh ha, ha.” He retorted cleverly. “Come on, I need caffeine if we’re going to be continuing this conversation.”

Five minutes later, Stiles was seated at the table with Spike curled around his feet and Derek sitting across from him, sipping some much-needed coffee. It was almost domestic if you ignored the underlying tension Derek seemed to emit wherever he went.

 “So… what are you doing here today anyways?” he asked Derek, taking another sip from his mug, since the Alpha didn’t seem to want to start the conversation. Derek shrugged and looked away.

“You weren’t answering your phone.” Stiles blinked at him.

“Huh. Must’ve lost it in the woods Friday,” He shrugged indifferently. “I’ll look for it later.” Derek shot him an incredulous look.

“And you didn’t notice it was gone for two days?” he demanded. Stiles snorted.

“Well it’s not like I get texts from Scott or anyone else these days unless someone’s in mortal peril, and in this case you—or what I thought was you—were already with me, so I didn’t really have anyone to call and ask for help.” Stiles thought Derek’s face might have softened slightly. Or it could have just been the light. “Why were you calling me anyways? Has some new monster come to terrorize the town again?”

“I was calling to tell you about the pack meeting.” Answered Derek simply. Stiles raised an eyebrow.

“Ok. And?” he prompted when Derek didn’t continue.

“It’s tonight.”

“So?” Derek huffed out through his nose as if Stiles was the slow one.

“So you’re coming.” He gritted out. Stiles narrowed his eyes suspiciously.

“Why? It’s a pack meeting. I’m not pack.” He stated honestly. Derek looked momentarily apoplectic.  Stiles would really have to use small sentences more in the future; Derek’s face was just too amusing when he did.

“What?!” the alpha snapped. “Who told you that?” Stiles gaped openly. Spike perked up to attention at Derek’s tone but calmed down when Stiles started talking.

“Uh you did!” he flailed his arms in emphasis. “Remember? Last week? Scott said it was a pack thing and you basically told me to go home.”

“What? That’s not,” Derek sighed, obviously reining his temper in. “When I… snapped… at you last week, it was only because I was… worried. About you. When Scott invited you out, I assumed you’d be waiting, safely, at the house for the rest of us to come back after we’d run off Jackson’s extra energy and helped him gain some semblance of control. But you didn’t stay at the house and he almost hurt you because of it.”

Stiles looked at Derek with something akin to wonder. First, because that had to have been the most words he’d heard Derek string together since they met. And second, because, well, the whole thing was pretty sweet.

“Holy shit, you care about me!” Stiles crowed as he pointed triumphantly across the table. Derek just looked nonplussed.

“Of course I do, moron. You’re pack. You were pack even before Scott was.” He stated calmly, as if this was old news. Which, Stiles guessed, it kind of was for him. Obviously figuring the conversation was over, Derek got up to leave just as Stiles remembered something.

“But wait, is that why everyone said I should make sure not to smell like I cleaned an entire house—which I did, bee tee dub, cause I’m awesome like that—before I saw you again?” He asked. “Because I’m pack?” Derek’s unimpressed look was even more striking than his dad’s.

“No.” He said and walked to the front hall. Stiles tripped over Spike in his scramble to follow him.

“Wait! Then why?!” he shouted after the leather-clad shoulders. “Derek, why? What does it mean? Derek!” Derek ignored him as he let himself out the front door (miracle of miracles) and waved noncommittally over his shoulder.

“Bring Spike with you tonight. 8 o’clock.” He ordered, smirking, before he slid into his car and drove off in a squeal of tires. Stiles watched him go.

“I need to try ending discussions like that.” He mused aloud, looking down at Spike who was sitting patiently beside him on the sidewalk. “Maybe then I wouldn’t have to hear Allison’s name a million times in one day.”

 

 

Judging by the number of cars parked in front of the dilapidated Hale house, Stiles was the last to arrive to the pack meeting, even though he couldn’t have been more than 5 minutes late. Spike had kind of spooked in the jeep, and while he hadn’t tried to claw his way out or anything, he did whine really loud if Stiles went any faster than 25mph.

He walked in slowly, so Spike didn’t have to struggle to keep up with him and when he finally made it through the doorway to the main meeting area, he was met with over half a dozen incredulous stares. Erica was the first to break the verging-on-awkward silence with a snort.

“Please don’t tell me this means he is literally the ‘boy who runs with wolves’ now.” She cackled. Stiles looked to Derek in confusion as he settled himself against the wall with Spike leaning into his side.

“It’s what the Alpha pack called you.” He explained for Stiles before addressing the rest of the group. “This is Spike. He seems to have developed an… attachment… to Stiles since he freed him from a bear trap, which means he might be sticking around for a while.”

“Jealous?” Erica asked Derek, smirking. Derek ignored her. As did everyone else, so Stiles figured he would as well and instead focused on what Derek was saying.

“I sniffed the trap out and smelled the Alpha pack all over it. It was heavily laced with wolfs bane though so we have to consider the possibility that they might have humans either in their pack—which is unlikely—or as allies. That means no one here trusts anyone outside of the people in this room.”

Stiles looked around at the familiar faces—human and werewolf alike—surrounding him and took pointed notice of Peter’s lack of presence. He was broken from his reverie by something hitting him lightly in the chest. He looked down at his lap and saw it was his phone. He looked up and smiled gratefully at Derek, who had already turned away as if nothing had happened.

“So what do we do?” asked Boyd. Derek nodded at him in approval and started into his plan of ‘avoidance and safety first’ that Stiles only half-listened to in favor of petting Spike and staring off in the Alpha’s general direction.

“-Is that clear?” Derek looked around the group as everyone mumbled out their agreement and started standing up and dusting off, which Stiles took to mean the meeting had ended. Everyone filed out—in pairs—while Stiles hung back, after promising Scott and Isaac rides home and sending them to both out to wait for him by the jeep, so he could talk with Derek.

“So, my dad already thinks Spike is yours and I’m not allowed to keep him any longer. And I really don’t just want to abandon him with his leg still healing, which reminds me I should really take him to Deaton tomorrow, but I mean, I wouldn’t ask if I-“ Derek placed a halting hand on his shoulder, cutting Stiles of mid-rant.

“Stiles. I’ll watch Spike for you. Don’t worry about it.” Stiles let out a breath of relief.

“Thanks dude. That’d be great.” He held up the duffel bag he’d carried in. “Here’s the blankets he slept on the first night, so he at least has something that smells familiar. He likes hamburger meat over steak, and… what?” Stiles petered off at the look on Derek’s face. He could swear it was almost a… smile.

“You’re good for the pack.” Derek said simply and leaned across where they were both still holding the duffel between their chests to place a light, chaste kiss on Stiles’ unresponsive lips before pulling back with an actual smile. “Never forget that.”

Stiles was stunned speechless for what felt like forever but was probably only a few seconds before he sputtered back to the present.

“Wh-what was that?!” he stammered, blushing furiously. “You just- you can’t just- where did that even- that was completely out of nowhere!” he accused finally. Derek’s smile turned into a smirk.

“It really wasn’t.” Stiles closed his gaping mouth with a click. And looking back on it… maybe Derek was right.

“Well you- you caught me by surprise.” He said finally releasing his hold on the duffel and dusting non-existent lint off the front of his hoodie. He cleared his throat nervously, but soldiered on “Maybe you should try again. Give me a chance to reciprocate this time.” Derek dropped the duffel to the floor and wound his arms around Stiles, smiling softly.

“I can do that.”

They both pretended not to hear the loud honking from outside or the quiet whining at their feet.