Stiles Stilinski is in deep, deep shit.
He sits across from his school principal, hands folded in his lap as demurely as he can manage, and tries not to look as guilty as he is and as scared as he feels.
“I just want to know what you were thinking, Mr. Stilinski,” Mr. Yukimura mumbles, rubbing at his temples with exasperation.
Well, that’s simple enough, really. He was thinking that he liked sports, and lacrosse rarely pulled much of a crowd to notice he was an omega, and it was senior year, possibly his last chance to have any real control over his own life, and Coach and the guys were willing to go along with it, so why shouldn’t he get to play?
Of course omegas aren’t allowed on sports teams. Just like they’re not allowed to take AP courses, or attend college, or join any clubs that are politically motivated. Anything that might turn them away from their natural role as childrearers and helpmeets to Alphas.
A helpmeet. As if.
Scott had been totally enthusiastic about the idea at the beginning of the year, which probably should have been Stiles’s first clue that the whole thing was doomed. Together they’d created a false persona for Stiles with the last name “Bilinski,” because, well, creativity was for other men. The school was large enough that they figured they might get away with it. Most of the guys knew, of course, but they felt sorry enough for Stiles— and impressed enough at his skill level— that they didn’t turn him in. And Coach…honestly, Stiles isn’t a hundred percent sure what Coach Finstock’s deal is, but he figured Coach was being willfully ignorant about Stiles’s biological status.
He’d gotten four whole games under his belt before someone turned him in to Principal Yukimura.
Thanks so much for that, anonymous asshole. Nothing like being totally and utterly screwed to start off a Wednesday.
“I was trying to run off excess energy,” he tries.
“Excess energy,” Mr. Yukimura repeats without inflection.
“Yeah. You know I have ADHD. It makes me twitchy sometimes. At my last couple meetings with Omega Social Services they said I needed to find some ways to keep it under control. Learn how to be more, you know, docile.” He tries not to spit the word. “Lacrosse was my way of doing that.”
Mr. Yukimura clearly doesn’t buy it, but he’s a decent guy, and he just looks grateful that Stiles is giving him an out. “I think you know that was a pretty misguided plan. But— if you can tell me that you’ve learned your lesson— I don’t see any reason to report this to OSS.”
Stiles exhales. “I have totally learned my lesson, sir.”
“Good.” Mr. Yukimura grimaces. “And, ah, if you need a way to keep the twitchiness under control…I understand that OSS encourages yoga for omegas. They give classes every Saturday down at the Y, if you’d like to enroll.”
Right. Because the downward-facing dog or whatever the fuck is so much more therapeutic than slamming a ball into a net.
“Good advice, sir.” Stiles drums his fingers against his seat. “Can I ask? Who turned me in?”
Mr. Yukimura frowns. “I don’t think you need to know that, do you? Frankly, they did you a favor by reporting it to me before anyone outside the school found out.” His voice becomes gentle again. “Stiles, do you know what would have happened if OSS found out about this?”
Of course Stiles knows.
He’d be forced into intense behavioral therapy, with his heat-control meds adjusted to correct whatever chemical imbalance inside of him made him so unforgivably willful. His transgression would go on his permanent record, a warning to any potential mates. Or, if OSS decided what he had done was especially serious, he’d be taken away to where all the bad omegas go— some sort of prison camp, where omegas are watched and punished and trained until they can be mated against their will to an alpha looking for something to break. Stiles had always thought the camps were some sort of urban legend, until a senior omega was taken last year. She’d returned four months later, mated and no longer allowed to attend school.
Her crime? Writing an open letter to the newspaper about why omegas should be allowed to vote. The horror.
“Yeah,” Stiles says, staring down at the floor. “I know.”
“All right, then.” Mr. Yukimura shuffles some papers on his desk, dismissing Stiles. “Let’s keep this between ourselves, okay? And, of course, you’re still welcome to cheer on the team from the stands. I know they have a big game coming up this weekend.”
“Rivalry match against East Orange,” Stiles says dully. Coach has been working himself up into a lather about it all season. The returning players on the team had said his pump-up speech was going to be out-of-this-world. If they won, he’d already promised them free curly fries and ice cream in celebration. “It would have been great.”
“It was Daehler,” Stiles says an hour later as he walks home with Scott. “I knew he recognized me when he came to take pictures for the yearbook.”
Scott looks insanely depressed as he watches Stiles lug home all of his lacrosse gear, never to be worn again. “But why would he do that?”
“I don’t know. Because he’s a dick?”
“He is a dick,” Scott agrees gravely. “Man, Stiles. You were getting so good, too!”
“I was getting decent. But yeah. It sucks. I— ”
At that moment a man passing bumps into Stiles, hitting his shoulder and nearly sending him flying. He glares at Stiles, eyes flashing in annoyance and breath coming out in a snarl.
“Sorry,” Stiles mutters, dropping his gaze to the ground. Derek Hale. The last werewolf in Beacon Hills and the town outcast because of it. Werewolves had kept hidden for years, until they started being hunted to extinction and had to come out of hiding in the hopes of getting some sort of protection. That plan had backfired— werewolves had to be specially registered with the government, with restrictions on who and when they could mate. And the hunters didn’t stop trying to eradicate them. Years earlier Derek’s family had been killed when hunters burned down their home. No arrests had been made; most people just seemed disappointed Derek hadn’t died with everyone else.
Derek growls before stomping on his way. Stiles watches everyone on the sidewalk give him a wide berth, as if he might be contagious.
“Jeez,” Scott mutters. “Speaking of dicks.”
“Seriously.” Stiles hoists the bag Derek had jostled higher on his shoulder and shakes his head to clear it as they approach Stiles’s house. “Well, anyway, we’ll have to think of some way to get Daehler back. Itching powder in his jock strap or something. Nah, that’s too juvenile. Give me a day to figure it out.”
“I have total faith in you, evil mastermind.” Scott walks into Stiles’s house with him without even asking. Usually unmated omegas aren’t allowed to be unsupervised with alphas, but Stiles’s father and Scott’s mom had filed paperwork with OSS back when the boys were kids agreeing that Scott and Stiles would never mate, so their relationship would always be platonic. “Want to play Battleflash and get your mind off it?”
“Yeah. Let me go hide this stuff.” Stiles runs his lacrosse gear upstairs, stuffing it under the bed before returning to Scott. They play the video game for about a half hour, Stiles imagining Daehler’s face every time he shoots. He and Scott are shit at teamwork, though, and they end up both going out in a bloodbath. “Saw that coming,” Scott says. “Another round?”
Stiles shakes his head, tossing his controller onto the couch. “I don’t want to push my luck. At my last checkup with OSS I was reminded that games encouraging inappropriate aggression are strictly prohibited, and with the way today’s going I’d rather not get busted. More importantly, I think Dad will actually be home for dinner tonight, so I should get cooking. Thanks, though.”
“Okay. See you tomorrow.”
Stiles waves Scott out the door and then peers through the blinds of the living room window until he’s sure Scott is out of sight. Once he’s in the clear he scribbles a quick note in case his dad really does make it home early and pushes open the back door that leads into the woods.
He’s not sure exactly when he first started going into the woods to unwind after shitty days. Sometime in middle school, definitely, when the weight of being an omega had first started to bear down on him. There was something so soothing about land society hadn’t touched, as though, just for a moment, he’d slipped away from a suffocating grasp and found freedom. He’d dream of just staying out there forever, maybe stumbling across the camps of legend, where runaway omegas lived free. They probably don’t exist, but sometimes omegas just disappear and never return. Stiles likes to imagine they find their way to a better place.
He walks a path that is now familiar, deeply inhaling fresh air. He already feels better.
Then he hears a growl.
He tenses, stopping short. The hairs on the back of his neck stand up and he doesn’t even have time to turn before he’s being tackled. A huge black wolf bares its teeth at him, paws pinning him into the earth. Stiles squeaks.
The wolf relaxes and trembles, as though it’s shaking itself out. The paws on his chest become hands; the bared teeth a half-smirk. Derek Hale blinks down at him. “You kept me waiting,” he says.
“Did not.” Stiles struggles to sit up with a hundred and seventy pounds of alpha still on top of him. He fishes into his pocket for the note Derek had dropped into his bag when he’d slammed into Stiles on the street. “Your note just said ‘meet me,’ Mr. Cryptic. And good job on that, by the way. You totally bruised me.”
“I did?” Derek looks guilty. “Sorry. I just wanted it to look natural.”
“Well, mission accomplished. In the future, you can put notes in my mailbox. My dad is never home to check before me.”
“I was going to, but I saw you walking, and I just figured…” Derek shrugs. “I didn’t mean to hurt you, though. Do you need me to take the pain?” His hand cups Stiles’s shoulder, and Stiles can feel the warmth even through his shirt.
“Nah, it doesn’t hurt anymore.” Stiles wriggles and Derek rolls off of him. “And, seriously, you didn’t have to remind me to meet you today. I wouldn’t have missed today for the world.” His hand finds Derek’s on the ground and he squeezes it. “Happy anniversary,” he says.
One year. One whole year since he’d first met Derek out here. He remembers that first time with perfect clarity. He’d been having an especially lousy day and had wandered farther than he usually did out in the woods until he’d found a clearing that was pretty nice. There was no burbling brook or patch of wildflowers or anything, but the sun came through the trees at just right angle to make the entire place seem sort of peaceful and magical. He’d closed his eyes to breathe it all in when he suddenly heard a branch snap behind him. He turned to see Derek Hale, looking so furious Stiles jumped backwards.
“These are my woods,” Hale said
Stiles only knew the basics about Derek Hale— he was an alpha, an orphan, and a werewolf, and while he still lived in the burned-down wreck of his old home on the outskirts of town he sure as hell didn’t own the entire woods. And he was glaring at Stiles with dismissive disgust, another alpha who thought Stiles was something to step on, and Stiles just— snapped.
“Fuck you,” he said. “I’m here now.”
He wasn’t sure exactly what he expected. To die, probably, or at the very least end up crawling home. Instead Hale’s shoulders had slumped. “Okay,” he said, already turning. “Sorry.”
Just like that. It was the fastest Stiles had ever seen someone give up, and he instantly felt guilty. “Dude,” he called, stopping Hale in his tracks. “There’s enough space for the both of us, you know.” Hale looked over his shoulder. “No,” he said. His voice was sort of gravelly, as if he didn’t use it very often. “You were here first.”
“I’m not doing anything important. I just wanted to chill here for a little while. I’ve never seen this place before, but it’s nice. Spending a few hours in places like this kind of…keeps me calm, I guess.” He was talking too much, now that the first rush of angry adrenaline was gone. Usually that annoyed people, but Hale just cocked his head, as if he’d never seen anyone like Stiles before.
“That’s why I come here too,” he said after a moment.
Stiles nodded and slid down to sit against a tree. “I don’t mind company,” he said. He wasn’t even sure why he was saying it. The whole point of going out to the woods was to be alone, not to make friends with scary loner mutants. No matter how outrageously attractive they were…
“But you’re— you know I’m an alpha, right?”
Stiles blushed. He was masculine, for an omega, and sometimes people didn’t realize his gender just from talking to him, but Hale was obviously perceptive. “I’m not scared of alphas, dude.” He paused, anticipating Hale’s next question while he struggled to get it out. “I’m not scared of werewolves, either.”
Derek considered him for another moment. Maybe he was afraid of leaving Stiles out here alone, in case he was attacked by a wild animal or something and Derek got blamed for it. Maybe he was just afraid to surrender his territory in case he never got it back. For whatever reason, he said, “Okay,” and slid down to sit against a tree of his own.
Derek hadn’t talked much that first day. Stiles had— he’d been so nervous he hadn’t been able to shut up. The whole situation had put him in mind of holding out scraps to a cowering dog, just waiting for it to scamper away. Except for Scott and his dad, Stiles didn’t usually talk to alphas. He wasn’t used to being heard like this, and even though Derek barely responded, Stiles knew he was listening. It felt sort of nice, filling him with a different kind of peace than he normally found in the woods.
When the sun went down Stiles grabbed his bag and said, “See you tomorrow,” without even thinking about it. Hale hadn’t responded, just watched as Stiles walked away.
But he was there the next day. And the next, and the next. And somewhere along the way, he started talking back.
Now here they are, one year later. Stiles would never have expected that the most important relationship in his life would begin with a fuck you and a genuine expectation of death, but, well, life is full of fun little surprises.
“Happy anniversary,” Derek repeats, keeping his hand for a second before letting it go. “Good news. I got off work Saturday. I’ll finally be able to watch you play.”
Stiles deflates. “About that. I’m off the team. Someone turned me in.”
“I don’t know for sure.”
“Find out,” Derek says, voice a dangerous growl that makes Stiles’s stomach flip. “They should be taught a lesson.”
“Aww. You going to beat them up for me?”
Stiles grins at the simple certainty of the answer. “But that might ruin your image as the town’s most upstanding citizen.”
“It would be worth it.” Derek stretches out his arm and Stiles takes the hint, scooching closer to the werewolf until he can rest his head against Derek’s shoulder. “God, Stiles,” Derek says. “I’m sorry.”
“I know.” And this is one of the reasons Stiles loves being with Derek. Because Derek gets it. He knows what it is to be taught you don’t deserve things the rest of the world gets free. He feels the same constant irritation, as though injustice is a grain of sand against the soul that never quite goes away.
When society insists you are something that you’re not, being really understood by someone— being seen— becomes more important than anything else.
Derek sees Stiles.
Stiles sees Derek.
And they both like what they see; like it more than society would ever allow. There’s a reason omegas aren’t allowed unsupervised fraternization with alphas and betas— their wants and emotions aren’t supposed to factor into the mating process. In fact, if OSS finds out that an omega had a prior romantic relationship, they forbid a mating with that person. Relationships built on such things as love and respect mess with the family structure.
That idea had always been force-fed down Stiles’s throat, to the point that he couldn’t even imagine falling in love with an alpha. It just hadn’t seemed real to him. It had been such an incredible concept that he hadn’t even understood his feelings for Derek when they’d first crept in.
It wasn’t until the end of junior year, when the omegas had been given a talk on what would happen once that they were seniors, that things changed. Stiles had sat there with everyone else, listening to the guidance counselors explain that upon graduation first alphas, then betas, could seek a mating contract with each omega, so during the school year they might have their heat meds adjusted or have extra meetings with the OSS or have their class schedules modified based on deficiencies in their profile— all to make sure they were perfect and ready for alphas! As they talked, and he imagined being mated to some stranger, he’d felt his chest grow tighter and tighter. He wanted to scream, and when he was finally let out he ran all the way home and into the woods without stopping.
Derek hadn’t been there yet. They never had a set schedule for when they would meet; they just showed up every few afternoons. Stiles had paced the clearing, getting more and more upset. When Derek finally appeared and said his name Stiles found he couldn’t speak at all. He just gasped for air, hands against his face as the pressure inside his skull threatened to make him explode.
“Stiles!” Derek tried to take his hands. “What is it? Are you hurt?” His hands pressed over Stiles’s sides, chest, cheeks; searching for what he could fix. His hands were frantic, but gentle, and Stiles leaned into them, thinking, in a year, no one will ever touch me like this again.
“I’m scared,” he’d said, each word like a knife against his throat. “God, Derek, I’m so scared.”
Of losing this, he thought. “Of being mated. I only have a year left. And then I’m done. I don’t get to have a life anymore. I don’t get to have—“ you— “any freedom. I can’t control who gets me. But whoever it is will own me, and Derek, I’m scared.” The last words broke out of him in a wail and Derek just grabbed him, tucking Stiles’ head into his chest, rocking him like it was something he’d done a thousand times before.
He’d waited until Stiles was marginally calmer, enough to breathe and listen. Then he’d started to talk. He told Stiles that his sister, Cora, had survived the fire with him. She’d been an omega. She’d always thought, since she was a werewolf, she wouldn’t be wanted by any alpha and could just go on living with Derek. But the day after graduation OSS workers came for her, explaining that they had a special fertility drug that would ensure she only had human children. They’d found her a mate, not the best prospect in the world by any means, but she should consider herself lucky that anyone was willing to take her. And her alpha was going to treat her with a firm hand to make up for her deficiency; there would be no shifting; no visits with her brother; no time to spend in the woods she loved so much.
She’d gone on the run that night, hoping to find those fabled camps somewhere deep in the mountains. Derek hadn’t seen her since.
Stiles shook as he heard the story. The same thing would happen to him. Some matings turned out fine; his parents had fallen madly in love, and his dad had treated his mom with all the respect in the world. But whoever he got, it wouldn’t be Derek. It was as though he finally understood that, and it made him want to just hold on to the werewolf for as long as he could.
“I won’t let that happen again,” Derek said softly, one hand against the back of Stiles’s head, as though he was clinging to Stiles just as much as Stiles was clinging to him. “I won’t watch OSS take away someone I care about. I won’t. Stiles…”
Stiles stared up at him. From this close he could see the exact color of Derek’s eyes, and the bow of his lips. He suddenly imagined waking up in the same bed as Derek. Sharing more than just conversation with him. Feeling this safe, this free, every day for the rest of his life.
He would never be sure if he was the one who kissed Derek first, or if Derek kissed him. Either way, someone started it, and the other kissed back. And after that, there was no going back.
What they had done was far more dangerous than joining a lacrosse team or playing a violent video game. If anyone found out, Stiles would face the worst punishment OSS had to offer. But Derek vowed that would never happen; that they would keep meeting in secret, telling nobody in the world, until the day came that Derek could seek a mating contract and they could make things legal.
It isn’t a guarantee, of course. Nothing is ever a guarantee. But Stiles has to think positively, because if, in a year, he’s mated to anyone other than Derek, he’s not sure how he’s going to go on.
“Did OSS find out?” Derek asks now. He’s absentmindedly playing with Stiles’s hair; he does that now that it’s grown out a little.
“No. My principal said he’d keep it a secret.”
“Good.” Stiles doesn’t say anything and Derek sighs. “Stiles. He did you a favor.”
“I know, I know. But if OSS found out, it might make things easier for us next year, you know?”
“Or it might end with you mated to someone fifty years old, or in one of their prison camps.” Derek puts his arm around Stiles and hitches him a little closer, as if just saying it puts a shiver down his spine. “I’m going to take care of it,” he promises. “I’ll get a mating contract, I promise. You don’t need to take unnecessary risks.”
“Okay, worrywolf.” Stiles doesn’t want to have this argument again. It was his idea, months ago, to act up a little and get a few blotches on his record. As a werewolf, Derek doesn’t have social stature like most alphas. OSS could very well decide that letting him have Stiles would be a waste of a perfectly good omega. So, knock himself down a few pegs; make himself just a few shades undesirable, and voilà. To the werewolf goes the spoils.
It might be the stupidest idea in the history of stupid ideas. Or it might be genius. Most of Stiles’s ideas walk that line, honestly.
“I’m just bummed you won’t get to see me play now,” he says to change the subject. “I mean, I was the lynchpin of that team. I brought a natural talent to the game like no high school has ever seen before. Coach Finstock promised to name his firstborn child after me, I was so good.”
“Really?” Derek says dryly. “Because the last time we spoke, you still only had one goal to your name, and it was in the wrong net.”
“Well, you have to downplay your abilities off the field. Lacrosse can get pretty serious. For all I know, you’re a spy from East Orange sent to smoke me out as the team superstar and break both my legs.”
Derek snorts. “Shit, you caught me. And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for my meddling omega.”
“Aww, a Scooby-Doo reference! That’s practically a dog joke! It really takes the pressure off of me; I always try to get one or two in every time we meet— ”
Derek growls and pins him again, kissing him to get him to be quiet, which has been his tactic ever since Stiles explained that groaning, shut up, Stiles, was not a very polite way to end a conversation. The kissing goes on for a while, until the air around them feels hazed with heat and hormones and Derek pulls away reluctantly. “Gotta stop,” he says roughly.
Stiles whines and tries to get Derek’s hand back to the races, but the alpha isn’t having it. “You know we can’t,” he says, rolling away to catch his breath.
Stiles knows. What they do is dangerous enough; actually having sex would be pushing it to unacceptable levels of risk. “Our first full day as a mated couple better just be an endless sexathon, you tease,” he says.
Derek smirks. “Our first full week as a mated couple is going to be an endless sexathon.”
“Now that’s the enthusiasm I like to see.” Stiles curls up against Derek again, and the werewolf makes a warning noise. “What? I’m cold. It’s practically below freezing already.”
“Is not,” the werewolf mutters, but he puts his arm around Stiles anyway. “I hate winter,” he says as they both squint into the gray sky.
“What?! Winter has snow and Santa, you scrooge.”
Derek snorts. “Try running on snow with naked paws and then get back to me about how great it is. And Santa is a lie. I didn’t just ruin Christmas for you, did I?”
“Nah, my dad did that when I was six. Haven’t I ever told you how I found out Santa was fake?” Derek shakes his head and Stiles grins without any humor. “Strap yourself in. This is a story.”
“Oh, god,” Derek groans, rolling on his side so he can give Stiles his full attention.
“Yeah, this is pretty bad.” Stiles takes a breath. “So, you know my mom got sick when I was five. She’d gotten pregnant again, and went in for her first ultrasound, and bam. Uterine cancer. The doctors said it could be treated, but she would need a full hysterectomy, which meant a termination of the current pregnancy and no hope of any future one.”
Derek grimaces, clearly knowing where this is going. “Okay.”
“My parents were okay with that…the doctors made it clear if treatment didn’t start immediately she wouldn’t make it. But OSS stepped in and said no. No abortion. Maybe, after the pregnancy was over, they could talk about a hysterectomy, but destroying an omega like that was an absolute last resort. It was so stupid, because exactly what you’d think would happen did— she lost the baby a couple months in, and the OSS still refused to let her have a hysterectomy, so she was just getting these pointless treatments and fading away, knowing she was going to die.”
Derek looks a little sick. “How does Santa factor into this?”
“Well, around December my dad finally told me that Mom was going to die, and dying is something that happens to all of us eventually, and it means you go to sleep forever and can’t be with your family any more. So I was trying to come to terms with that little bombshell, and the day I was writing out my letter to Santa I freaked out and asked my dad, you know, what if Santa died? Who would bring presents? And my dad told me that Santa couldn’t die; he was immortal. Which, to me, meant there was a loophole in the whole everybody dies eventually thing I’d just been taught.
“I figured, if Santa could live forever, he probably had some way to make sure my mom would, too. And after watching Mom swallow seven different pills every day, I decided he had a special medicine that did it. So when I went to sit on Santa’s lap in the mall that year, I asked my dad for privacy, and then I told this poor dude that I wanted some of his special live-forever pills for my mom. This was so above Mall Santa’s paygrade that he just kind of stammered for a minute, and I remember giving him this big wink, like, no worries dude, our little secret. And I skipped home thinking I’d just hatched the world’s greatest plan to save my mom.”
“Goddamn,” Derek mutters. “I take it you were disappointed Christmas morning?”
“Try hysterical. I ripped through all the presents, then started screaming at my dad that he had to take me back to the mall; I needed to see Santa; he’d forgotten my most important gift. My dad finally calmed me down enough to get the whole story out of me. He tried to save it at first, by explaining that Santa was special, and that’s why he was the only one who lived forever, but I was not having that explanation. Eventually it got to the point where my dad was like, well, better just rip this Band-Aid off and he told me Santa wasn’t real. He was sorry he’d lied to me; it was just supposed to be a fun way to make Christmas magical for kids, but Santa wasn’t real and nobody lived forever and there was no magic pill out there that could keep Mom with us. So as you can imagine that was the worst day of my life, up to that point.”
“Well,” Derek says after a long moment of silence. “I think you win most traumatic Santa reveal in history.”
Stiles laughs. “Yours wasn’t quite so bad, huh? Do werewolves even have Santa? Or do you have, like, Magic Werewolf Jim?”
Derek swats him. “Of course we had Santa. I figured it out when I was eight, but all my little siblings still believed, and my older sister Laura was being such a jerk about it— whenever one of the little kids would say anything about Santa she would just huff, like, oh, children. I didn’t want to be like that so I figured I’d keep up with willful ignorance for as long as possible.”
“A respectable plan.”
“Thanks. I probably would have lied to myself for years if my mom didn’t finally decide it was time for me to grow up. We had this tradition where the day after Christmas we’d get donuts from Main Street Bakery, and my mom asked me to go with her when I was nine, and on the way back she asked if I had any questions for her about Santa. I kind of mumbled that I knew he wasn’t real, and that was that. But when we get home I looked at all the kids still running around excited, and I kind of felt like— well, I’ve peaked. Like the good stuff was all done with and it was just a slow slog towards death from here on out.”
“Oh, my god. My poor little nine-year-old Derek having a midlife crisis.” Stiles hides his face in Derek’s shoulder, feeling bad for laughing at the tragic note in Derek’s voice. “When we have kids, let’s never lie to them about Santa, okay? I don’t want some myth taking all the credit for my amazing Christmas gifts.”
“Okay. As long as they always believe in Magic Werewolf Jim.”
“Deal.” Stiles looks sideways at Derek. “What do you do now for Christmas?”
“Really? Nothing at all?”
Derek shakes his head. “It would just be depressing if I tried.” He gives Stiles a small smile. “Next year. Next year I’ll have Christmas again.”
But there’s no guarantee, is there? And if things don’t work out for them— no happy Christmas for Derek, or Stiles, ever again. “This year,” Stiles says firmly. “We’re going to celebrate Christmas together.”
“Yeah? You want to explain to your dad why a werewolf is joining him for Christmas dinner?”
“We’ll meet out here, like we always do. Just gifts, maybe some eggnog in a thermos, Joy to the World— nothing fancy, just a little Christmas spirit.”
“You just want presents.”
“Excuse you, alpha. I am the present king. Don’t even bother getting me anything, because what I get for you is going to blow everything else out of the water.”
Derek’s eyes glitter at the challenge. “You’re on.”
“How about Christmas Eve?”
“That’s a full moon night.”
“I like you wolfy.” Derek is always a little bit feral when the full moon is approaching, but Stiles doesn’t mind. It just means he’s extra cuddly, or likes to shift and lay his head in Stiles’s lap to be petted. It’s a weird type of intimacy, but Stiles is glad Derek trusts him with it.
“Okay, then,” Derek says. “Christmas Eve it is.”
What to buy for the werewolf who has nothing?
Stiles really does consider himself a master at Christmas presents, but Derek is tricky. He’s the opposite of materialistic, has no preferences on television or music that Stiles can tease out of him, and would be almost certain to kill a houseplant or fish within a week.
He has plenty of free time to devote himself to figuring it out. Without lacrosse his afternoons are yawning, empty pits of boredom. Scott offers to quit the team out of solidarity, but Stiles won’t let him do that. The homework for the omega classes he’s forced to take is ridiculously easy, or just plain offensive— find a recipe that would appeal to your alpha when he’s feeling sick! Match the cleaning product to the surface on which it can be used!
Such bullshit. At least Scott still lets Stiles do his homework for his upper-level classes. God knows he never would have passed biology without Stiles.
He swears his coursework gets dumber by the day, so it’s a huge relief when the last day of classes come. His omega classes don’t have any midterms, since omegas don’t technically get grades, just reports on their progress sent to OSS. It’s just lousy holiday party after lousy holiday party, only broken up by his visit to the nurse for his heat and birth control pills.
Omegas can’t be trusted to remember their pills every day on their own, so the school nurse is in charge of doling them out during the school week. Stiles sits through a lecture he’s heard a thousand times before about the importance of taking his pills over the break, accepting the note he’s supposed to give to his dad to make sure Stiles doesn’t fuck it up. Stiles’s father is always more than willing to give Stiles his independence, perfectly content with leaving Stiles home alone without a babysitter and trusting him to take his pills without reminder, but Stiles knows better than to tell the nurse that.
“These are all the pills you’ll need for the next two weeks,” the nurse practically coos at him as she hands him an orange bottle. “That means you should take the very last pill in the bottle the day before school starts back up. If you don’t take them correctly and have more than one pill left on that day, you have to report to OSS immediately so they can make sure your heat schedule is re-regulated, all right?”
“Gotcha,” Stiles says, dropping the pills in his bag.
“Now, this is a new prescription for you, so don’t be alarmed if you feel a little funky after starting.” The nurse gives him a cheerful smile. “Apparently your profile is generating a lot of interest with qualified alphas, so OSS wants to make sure you’re ready to go by graduation!”
Stiles freezes. “What do you mean?”
“Well, alphas like to know what the eligible crop of omegas are like before bidding opens, so your profile was made available for review in September. If you keep up the good work, it looks like you’ll have more than one bid for a contract, so OSS can pick the very best for you! But don’t go telling anybody that; you wouldn’t want to make the other omegas jealous.”
Qualified alphas. Stiles’s mind races for the rest of the day as he tries to picture them, strangers wanting to mate him just based on a picture and some statistics. It could be anybody in Beacon Hills.
Anybody except Derek.
Thinking about it, coupled with his new prescription, makes him feel sick by the time he gets home. He’s not meeting Derek again until Christmas Eve so there’s nothing to do except sit with his fears. When his dad gets home and they eat dinner Stiles barely hears a word he says.
“Hey,” his dad says finally, putting down his fork. “What’s wrong, Stiles?”
Stiles shakes his head.
“Stiles.” His dad puts on his sheriff-voice. “Did something happen at school?”
There’s no point in lying; his dad will get it out of him eventually. “Alphas have been looking at my profile,” Stiles says. “Apparently there are a few who want me.”
John winces. “Oh.”
“Dad, I…I only have a few more months.” Stiles’s throat feels closed-up. “I don’t want to be mated to somebody I don’t know. I don’t want to disappear. Practically every day you go out on domestic disturbance calls, but you can’t do anything when omegas are being abused. That could be me in just a few months.”
John gets up out of his seat and takes a knee beside Stiles. “Listen to me,” he says seriously. “If you were ever in a situation like that, I’d get you out. I don’t care what I’d have to do. Nobody will ever hurt you on my watch, kid. Okay?”
Stiles nods, but if he gets an abusive alpha, there’s not much John can do. Once Stiles is mated, his dad has no more right to him. And interfering with another family unit is a serious crime. Trying to rescue an omega from an abusive home never turns out well for anyone.
“Stiles,” his dad says carefully. “You know you can tell me anything, right?”
Stiles stares at his father. John’s gaze is steady and knowing, and Stiles has a feeling that he hasn’t been hiding his secrets from his father quite as well as he thought.
“I know,” he says. He can’t tell his dad about Derek. Not only because he’d promised Derek, but because, if things don’t work out, he doesn’t want his dad to know how close he’d come to happiness.
His dad sits there with him for a while before suggesting he open a Christmas gift early, as though he’s a kid again and can be soothed by presents. It’s an X-box game, one that’s definitely not OSS-approved, and Stiles and his dad end up playing it for two hours before Stiles finally feels better.
He’s so lucky. He knows he is. He just hopes he can stay that way.
When he wakes up on Christmas Eve day, he feels…off. Sort of itchy and distracted. His dad is working the whole day so he can be home Christmas, and Stiles wanders the house, needing contact.
It’s such a relief when he finally heads out to the woods and he practically runs the path, only to stop short when he gets to the clearing.
There are lights and wreaths up in the trees and a little sapling has been given the full Charlie Brown-Christmas treatment. Derek stands in the middle, hands in his pockets. “Merry Christmas,” he says.
“Merry Christmas,” Stiles repeats. He puts down the bag of Main Street donuts and thermos of eggnog he’s brought so he can practically jump into Derek’s arms. Derek makes a sound of surprise, nosing into Stiles’s neck. “Whoa,” he says.
Stiles closes his eyes, inhaling Derek’s scent. He feels an unsettled sense of urgency. “My profile,” he says. “With OSS. Have you seen it?”
Derek hesitates. “Yeah.”
“What does it say?”
“It’s got a picture. A good one. And some stats. It talks about you being the Sherriff’s kid, and your health history. It’s…it’s not you. I didn’t like reviewing it, because it was obvious that it was put together by strangers. It says nothing that’s really important.”
“Did OSS say anything when you asked to see it?”
Derek looks pained. “Stiles…”
Derek sighs. “They told me not to waste my time looking at something I would never get,” he admits quietly.
Stiles feels like everything is breaking apart inside of him. “Oh, my God, Derek. Oh my God.”
“I’m doing everything I can, Stiles. I’m moving up at work, renovating the house…I asked my doctor about pills to suppress my wolf, or at least ensure that I wouldn’t pass it on to my kids. I— I’m trying to be good enough for them. For you. And I’ve been saving up money to bribe OSS officials when it’s time to put in my bid in case none of that works.”
“You should bite me,” Stiles says desperately. “If I was a werewolf, nobody else would want me.”
“Jesus, Stiles, no. You could die. I won’t do that to you. And if I was accused of biting someone— well, if the hunters didn’t get me, the police would.” Derek puts his hands on his shoulders. “Stiles, I promise you, I’m going to spend the next six months doing everything in my power to get a contract. But right now— all I want is to enjoy what we have, in case we do lose it.”
Stiles closes his eyes and nods. “You’re right,” he says. He takes a breath. Derek’s scent seems…different. The itching Stiles has been feeling all day changes, as though he’s finally found the source and now just wants to dig his fingers in and scratch.
He kisses Derek, winding his arms around Derek’s neck. Derek makes an appreciative sound, kissing him back until Stiles is warmed all the way to his toes. “Okay,” Derek mumbles after a while, trying to pull away. “That’s— that’s probably…”
Stiles shakes his head, keeping himself pressed to Derek. He kisses the underside of Derek’s neck, baring his own because he knows Derek likes to nuzzle in there on full moon days. “Stiles,” Derek warns. “This is getting…”
“I know. I don’t want to stop, Derek.” Stiles is gasping for air. He pulls his shirt over his head and Derek groans.
“Come on,” he protests weakly. “I’m trying to think straight here, and your scent is making it—”
Stiles stops what he’s doing, even though every cell in his body screams at him to keep going. “I want this,” he says. “Derek, in six months, I’m probably going to belong to somebody. And that means I don’t get to make my own choices anymore. But right now, I only belong to myself, and I get to make my own choices, and I choose this; I choose you.” He forces himself to take a few steps back, so Derek can decide without the influence of Stiles’s scent. “Soon I won’t have the luxury of saying yes or no. So right now, with you, I’m saying yes. What do you say?”
Derek closes his eyes. He sucks in a deep lungful of air. When he opens his eyes again, they’re a flaming, lusty red. “Yes,” he says hoarsely.
The ground is cold, nearly frozen, but Derek lays him down on it gently. Stiles’s hands go to the tiny buttons at the neck of Derek’s Henley, but the werewolf stops him with a little grin. “You don’t have to do that,” he says before just pulling the shirt over his head and tossing it aside.
Oh. Oh. Stiles’s pants suddenly feel way too tight and he does his best to shimmy out of them. Derek helps him while kissing down his neck. “Knees,” he mutters, and Stiles struggles to rise so his ass is in the air. Derek gets his underwear off. “Fuck, baby,” he whispers. “You’re wet.”
Stiles nods. His heat control pills let him produce slick; they just block his fertile cycle. “Since I’m on my pills there won’t be much, so you’re going to have to be careful.” He wishes he brought lube or something; the last thing he needs is to explain an anal fissure to OSS.
“No, there’s…there’s a lot— shit, Stiles.” Derek sounds punch-drunk and Stiles moans when he feels Derek’s tongue. It’s like he’s opening up, every cell in his body rearranging to make room for Derek. He braces his elbows against the ground and pushes his hips back in a silent plea for more.
And Derek gives it to him. After he’s eaten Stiles out he braces one arm around his waist and uses his other hand to finger Stiles open. He gets two in and then hesitates. “This should be enough,” he says roughly. “We shouldn’t knot— that’s too dangerous—”
But Stiles’s body is way too invested in the proceedings to settle for anything less than a proper, full-fledged knotting. “I’m on my pills,” he practically begs. “Nothing bad will happen. Knot me, Derek, please.”
Derek hesitates for about a millisecond, before groaning, “Fuck!” one more time and adding a third finger.
And it’s so good, it’s the best thing Stiles has ever felt. When Derek’s hand finds and strokes his cock, giving him the pleasure he’s always been taught is not his to have during a knotting, he thinks he sees stars. Derek takes his fingers away and Stiles just keeps driving his hips back, searching, until Derek thrusts inside of him.
It shouldn’t feel this good with his heat control pills essentially rendering him sexless, but he’s sure as fuck not complaining. He comes around Derek’s hand just as the knot forms and they collapse together on the ground, tied together for at least twenty minutes. Derek buries his nose in Stiles’s neck. “Stiles,” he mumbles.
Stiles grips his hand. “I love you,” he says.
Derek huffs a laugh. “I was just about to say that.”
“I know. I wanted to beat you to it. I’m competitive like that.” Stiles closes his eyes, brain slowly catching up to what they just did.
He doesn’t regret it. Not at all. But he understands better than ever why it is forbidden. An omega who has been loved can never settle for a lifetime of being obedient. He feels worthy of choice; love; life. He feels like a person, not just a womb. It feels dizzying. It feels amazing.
“This isn’t a goodbye,” Derek says. “I’m going to get that contract. We’re going to stay together, Stiles. I promise.”
And today a promise is good enough. Today, it’s everything. So Stiles just nods, sinking into Derek’s embrace, while Christmas lights beam down on them both.