And it's enough.
He met selkies once before, in North Carolina, when he was eighteen, with Laura. He'd heard of them before then, of course, had seen drawings in books in the library his parents had kept, but had never been all that interested. They weren't all that interested in werewolves either, had just said hello, then slipped away again into the waves.
Now though, now he's got selkies in his river, and he wishes he'd been more studious, wishes he'd been more like his sister. Peter has some of their history on his computer, but selkies weren't exactly a priority. They're not dangerous.
Or at least they weren't.
Derek just doesn't get what they're doing, why they're dragging men into the water, drowning them. They're not sirens or mermaids, they're just selkies. Killing isn't in their nature, for the most part, or at least that's what Peter's information says. But they keep doing it, and Derek can't let it go on. Argent is sniffing around now, and he knows it's not Derek, but he knows it's not a human either, and well, there's something about it that makes Derek want to keep Argent away. They're not werewolves, he doesn't care.
But they're not human. And it's his land. It just feels like it's not Argent's business. It's his.
“Wow, okay, selkies.” Stiles doesn't even sound surprised, from his desk chair, just tired. “Okay, quick rundown, what doesn't exist?”
“Just Google.” Derek orders, because he doesn't even know, and he doesn't like looking stupid in front of Stiles. Derek isn't dumb, has never been called that, but he's just not good at this thing Stiles does, where he looks up stuff and somehow meshes it together and sorts through the bullshit and makes a whole folder that saves their asses. Derek was always kind of just below average at school, better at sports and movement and not sitting still, and it had always stung more than it would have, because Laura was so smart, and just a year ahead of him, so he was always in the same school as her.
Stiles doesn't really remind him of Laura, even though they kind of share that whole good at school thing. Laura was focused and direct, whereas he suspects Stiles is good at school because he has an insatiable need to know everything and can't stop himself from staying up until three in the morning doing supplementary reading that Derek wouldn't have touched unless he was bribed. Laura wanted to know because she wanted to be good at things, wanted to be the best, and in that way, the immune redhead that hangs around Stiles sometimes reminds him more of her. Stiles wants to know just because he wants to know.
He's not sure why he thinks of Laura sometimes in Stiles' room. Maybe he just wants to know what she would have thought of him. He thinks she probably would have liked him. She always liked the outsiders, people who didn't quite fit in. Laura probably would have offered him the bite. He wonders if Stiles would have taken it, how it would feel to be on somewhat equal footing with him as betas, under Laura's leadership.
He wonders if Stiles would take it if he offered. If he would be Derek's beta. Stiles would be a great bitten werewolf. He would love every second of running around the woods, would beg to Derek to tell him everything, teach him every single thing he knew. He wonders if Stiles would manage a full wolf. Not every bitten can. But Stiles would, he bets. His wolf form would have a brown coat, like his hair, probably. Brown eyes. Would probably look more like an East Coast Red Wolf than what Derek and Laura looked like. What Derek looks like. Would be the kind of wolf that would want to roll in the leaves, chase rabbits and quail. He'd love to learn to stalk and hunt and track. Would love to run.
It would be different, to run with Stiles.
“So why are they doing this?” Stiles asks, and Derek shrugs. He wonders if he asked now, what Stiles would say. If he would say yes. If he would show his throat to Derek. No, not his throat, because Derek knows, in his darkest thoughts, he doesn't want Stiles to be his beta. He would want Stiles to stand beside him on equal ground. He knows that.
“I don't know.” He answers. “It's not right though. Selkies don't kill like this.”
“Yeah, that's what the Internet says.” Stiles concedes, rubbing his eyes, and Derek wants to say, if you said yes, you wouldn't get tired so easily. He doesn't know enough about ADHD to know if the bite would see it as something to cure, or if it would co-exist with it. He knows it can take away bipolar disorder, read it once, but maybe ADHD is different. He doesn't know. Laura would have. “Do you think maybe we've got another Jackson thing on our hands, and someone else is controlling them?”
He hadn't thought of that, and that's part of the reason he wants to offer, wants to bite Stiles, not on his side, but somewhere else, somewhere not a show of submission, like his arm, maybe his wrist. He wants Stiles to keep him steady, to make him think, to be how he is now before the world snatches him away and tries to mold him into what they find acceptable. “Maybe. Selkies are pretty easy to manipulate. They're kind of minor leagues, in this world.”
Stiles smirks. “So what, they're the San Jose Giants to your Angels?”
Derek smiles. “Yeah. Something like that.”
The selkie they catch has big brown eyes and she's impossibly young and naked and terrified, and Derek feels like an asshole for standing over her with his fangs out and his eyes red while she sobs at him. Stiles is holding her pelt still from where she stashed it behind the rocks, and she's just crying, and fuck, she looks like his cousin Sarah, Sarah with her big eyes and dark hair who had liked Japanese comics to the point of embarrassing.
Derek shrugs off his Henley, and hands it to her, leaving him in just his undershirt. It's long enough on her small body, selkies are always so small, that it comes to mid thigh and gives her some modesty. Stiles wants to offer his hoodie, Derek can tell, that's just the kind of person he is, but it's freezing, and Derek and the selkie can handle it better than him.
“Her feet.” Stiles says, so without a word, Derek picks her up. To him, she weighs nothing. She's probably around fifteen, but she's the size of a child. Just a child. God, he feels like an asshole. She's shaking in his arms, and he wants to say sorry, but isn't sure he should, or even how. “Come on, we'll take her to the Jeep. I already texted the others, they're headed back that way. I'll tell Erica to start it, get it warm.”
“You have the keys.” Derek points out, but Stiles smirks.
“I taught Erica how to hotwire it.” And Derek wants to ask, but doesn't, because it's not the right time, not when he's carrying a crying kid in his arms, and whoever thinks just bathing is enough has clearly never been close to a seal. The selkie stinks, but he's not sure Stiles can smell her as well. To Derek, she's like seawater left out for days in the sunshine, old fish, and general body odor. No matter what anyone thinks, and he's heard some weird things, it's not attractive, not even to a werewolf. It's bothering him pretty bad by the time they reach the Jeep, and he's relieved to put her down into the warmth, though judging from the way Erica politely says nothing, and Isaac and Boyd wrinkle their noses, they can smell her too.
“Where's Scott?” He asks, and Isaac sighs.
“Allison showed up with Argent. Scott is keeping them away.” Derek rolls his eyes, resists the urge to say what he would usually say, something cutting, because Stiles is here, and he doesn't want to make more of an ass of himself tonight than he already has in front of him. “Argent thinks we have mermaids though.”
“Mermaids.” Boyd says, shaking his head. “Mermaids eat people.” He says it more like he can't believe this is his life, so Derek knocks him in the head, and Boyd smiles, reassured. Derek is starting to remember this, physical contact and how happy it used to make him, especially when it was his grandmother, the Alpha before Laura. “So what do we do with her?” He hitches his chin at the selkie in Stiles' backseat, her bare legs hanging out the door. She still looks young, like a child. She is a child though, he thinks.
Derek shrugs. He was sort of depending on Stiles for this part. But it's Erica who steps forward, pets the girl's hair, and she just kind of melts into Erica and begins to sob the whole story out, about her colony and how they were captured by a witch, how he had turned one of theirs while she was underwater, her human body drowning before they could get her to the surface. She sobs and sobs, and begs Derek not to kill her, she's sorry, she's sorry, they just didn't want to die.
And before Derek can say anything, he's startled, or rather, not as much as he should be, when Stiles touches him, a hand on his forearm. He leans close, and he smells like the woods and sweat and laundry detergent, but underneath those things, he smells like Stiles, and it's a good smell. Not all humans smell good, or very interesting. Stiles smells interesting though. Sometimes it takes a lot more self-control than it should to not bury his face in Stiles' shoulder and breathe deep. Sometimes he wants to ask if he can. He wonders what Stiles' answer would be.
“She's just a kid.” He says, like Derek needs to be reminded. “How hard would it be to break the hold the witch has?”
Derek shrugs. “I need to ask Peter.” He hates having to say that in front of Stiles, having to show he doesn't have the answers. He doesn't want Stiles to think he's an idiot. He wishes he'd read more when the library was still intact, wishes he'd listened better when Laura had talked about this stuff. “Do you have anything she can wear in the Jeep?”
“What's wrong, cold?” He pokes Derek, finger against his bare bicep, teasing, and Derek can't help but tease back, grab Stiles' hand in his, and they're of a height, but Derek is bigger, wider in the shoulder with larger hands. His envelopes Stiles' easily, and he thinks about that, thinks about how they would fit across Stiles' hips, or on the nape of his neck.
“Do I feel cold?” Werewolves run hot, he knows, when compared to humans. It took him years to figure that out, why people always thought he had a fever.
Stiles is smiling, laughing, and if they were alone, if they were alone, Derek might finally bridge the gap, lean over and kiss Stiles, pull him up against his body, let Stiles feel how warm he really is. Warm Stiles up, because he's shivering a little, when he thinks no one is looking.
“Ew.” Erica says. “Hey, nobody wants to see Mommy and Daddy flirting, okay?” And Derek could kill her, he could, but Stiles laughs, pulls away, and they get back to business.
Her name is Marie. She's fourteen.
Derek really feels like an asshole.
It turns out that breaking the hold on the colony is really fucking hard. Deaton needs Stiles for hours on end, and if Derek is there too, it's because the pack needs to know how this stuff works. Derek has been bitten in the ass by his own ignorance too often now, and he needs to remedy that. He can swallow his pride enough to admit that all the lazy, selfish shit he pulled as a kid has screwed him over monumentally as an adult, that he should have listened when his mom said he needed to learn, when his dad said that he couldn't always depend on someone coming to save him.
Because now it's Derek that people depend on, it's Derek people turn to, and he doesn't know what his mom and dad knew, what his grandmother knew, what Laura knew, because he was a stupid kid who thought he was always going to be a beta, would always have someone to take care of him and give him orders.
Derek isn't there because he feels better if he knows where Stiles is. He isn't. Or if he is, it's not the main reason.
“Hey, Sourwolf, come here, look at this,” and he kind of doesn't hate that Stiles is comfortable enough to call Derek something as stupid as 'Sourwolf'. It's not often, but it's enough times that Derek knows he means him. So he comes over, leans over Stiles shoulder, and he's a little too close, and he hears the way Stiles' heartbeat speeds up just a tad, just enough to let Derek know his proximity isn't unwelcome. He likes that. “So look,” his voice is steady, but there's a smile fighting at the corners of his mouth, and Derek wonders what would happen if he kissed him now, wonders what Stiles would do. He would kiss back, probably. Derek is almost positive that that's what's going on here, that Stiles looks at Derek the way he looks at Stiles. “Selkies are controlled by their pelts, right?” He's still talking. Always talking. He probably talks in bed. He'd be the kind of wolf who always paces, makes small noises, happy whines and excited barks, would probably be extremely tactile, would nudge Derek with his head, roll with him in games, would be everything he ever wanted in a companion.
“Right.” He answers, and doesn't back away, but he does look away from Stiles' mouth. “You have the pelt, you have them.”
“Okay, so what if this guy was playing a long game? If he just got hairs from all the colony, do you think it would be enough? To control them like he is?” And Derek wishes he had an answer, wishes he could look smart, could say for sure one way or the other. But he doesn't, so he shrugs.
“Maybe, if his magic was strong enough.” He thinks he's right, can vaguely remember seeing something like that written once. “I don't know though. This wasn't really my area.” He hates to admit it, so much, doesn't want Stiles to look at him and see a high-school drop-out with a GED and no plans for anything higher. Derek almost thinks he's lucky he can live off his inheritance, because he's just not very good at being a human. He's good at being a wolf, is a great wolf, but that wouldn't have paid the bills.
Except with how he got that inheritance. He doesn't like to think about that.
“Yeah, you're more of a show, not tell, kind of guy.” Stiles says, but he doesn't seem like that bothers him. Instead, he says, “That's alright, I'm a great teller.” And Derek thinks, yeah, that could work, I'll be the muscle, you be the brain, we could work like that. And he doesn't mean as humans, and he kind of feels guilty for that, because Stiles has never indicated he wants the bite, so Derek needs to stop thinking of him in those terms, needs to stop thinking of saying to him, if you choose me, you'll never be a beta. He has no right to say those things. He doesn't, even if Stiles smells great right now, in Deaton's clinic, smells like soap and coffee and adrenaline. There's that underlying scent that's just Stiles, and it smells so good, it does, so now he gives in, because they're all alone. He buries his face in Stiles' neck, breathes in, and he feels Stiles shudder, smells arousal, a musky smell that tempts Derek so much. “Derek,”
And he can't say no, so he picks Stiles up by his waist, puts him on the table, and steps between his legs, and god. God. Kissing Stiles feels like everything he's been wanting, as he pulls Derek in tighter, and a leg hooks around his waist, and Stiles says, “Damn it, you asshole, took you long enough,” when Derek moves down to his neck, inhales again, and he's already half-hard, despite how new this is. His body wants, right now, and it doesn't understand why it can't just have, when Stiles is so clearly on board. “Derek,” and it's a whine, it's his name, and it's a whine, and it's pleading, and Derek does not have that much self-control. He really doesn't.
Except then the door opens, and it's, “Oh my fucking God, really? Here?” And it's Erica talking, but Boyd is beside her, and quickly turning around and walking away, because Boyd is Boyd, and Derek doesn't think he has any sort of problem with it, just he would rather not see anyone making out. Isaac is looking at his feet. He smells like fear and panic, but Derek didn't need to scent that to know they might have just traumatized him. “Why the fuck would you ask us to come up here if you're just going to screw Stiles on the exam table? No one wants to see that. No one.” Erica really has a mouth on her. Sometimes, Derek regrets picking her. “And you're not even going to have the courtesy to get off him when we're standing here, oh my god.” So now Derek lets go, and Stiles is turning an odd shade of red, but he smells like arousal still, underneath embarrassment. “Jesus, Derek, do you have some kind of kink about being watched?” She drawls, and Stiles laughs dryly, hops off the table.
“I might know how the witch is controlling the pod.” He says, and Derek can't help how he runs his knuckles down Stiles' spine, can't help but be pleased at how he sort of shudders.
And Erica says, “Derek. Please. I just ate.” And Stiles laughs again, and Boyd apparently judges the situation as safe, because he comes back in, but he still gives Derek a look, like Derek is an asshole for subjecting him to that sight. Boyd is a private person, he's learned, and much as he tries to open up, Boyd can't shake the part of himself that says that sex and affection are private. He rarely even holds Erica's hand, but Derek doesn't think that's a bad trait to have. He thinks someone who can keep themselves under control deserves more credit than Boyd gets. Boyd deserves his position as his second, balances Derek out a little, listens better.
He wonders if that will change if Stiles ever says yes.
They have sex that night, even though Derek doesn't really think of it as sex. He's not ready to say what he thinks of it as, and neither is Stiles, so they don't give it a name. It's just something that happens, and it's not in the Hale house, and it's not in Stiles' room. For the first time, Derek wishes he had just bitten the bullet and rented an apartment, or something, because he kind of hates that all he has to offer is the warehouse they're currently squatting in. He knows that's not the human part of him, that it's the wolfish traits that worry about that kind of thing. That part wants to show Stiles he's a real Alpha, that he's a worthy choice, that Stiles is with someone strong. Wolves value strength in a way humans don't, and it's never bothered Derek before, living how he does, because he kind of likes it in a way, likes drifting from den to den despite it being so haphazard. But when he's bringing Stiles somewhere, he wishes it was somewhere better than his makeshift bedroom in one of the old offices of the place. Not a mattress with a mess of sheets and blankets and pillows, but a proper bed, in a real house like where he lived as a kid.
Stiles doesn't seem to mind anyway.
Derek comes between his thighs, and he's happy, happy Stiles trusts him enough to do something like this with him, in the half dark, the candles in the room lit for Stiles' benefit, not Derek's. Derek can see just fine in the dark, but he didn't want Stiles blind. It's almost romantic, but mostly it feels feral, and he hopes Stiles doesn't mind that Derek isn't really a man. He's male, but he's not a man, not really. He's only half of each, and he knows that's too much sometimes, knows he's asking a lot.
Stiles wraps his arms around Derek's shoulders though, keens Derek's name into the empty room, begs Derek not to stop, and it's more than he ever hoped for.
They have sex four times that night, and the dawn brings the fifth time, Derek not able to stop, not able to believe he can have this.
Stiles sleeps in his arms that whole day, and he can't let go. He can't.
Scott shows up at the warehouse within a day after Stiles goes home, and he does go home, eventually, Derek only pushes him up against the Jeep and kisses him for a little while. He goes home and Scott shows up within a few hours, while Derek is talking to his pack about the plan Stiles came up with, and Erica is only making a few jokes about the smell and Stiles, just a few. Derek is shoving her in the head and telling her to mind her own business, but he's smiling, and that's when Scott comes in, full of self-righteous fury.
“So what, you couldn't get me, so you're going to fuck Stiles until he agrees?” And Derek is smart enough to know that that's exactly what Scott has been filling Stiles' head with since Stiles left Derek, that Stiles is probably sitting in his room and doubting Derek, doubting what they did, and god, he could kill Scott.
But before Derek can say a word, it's Erica who says, “What, are you blind, McCall?” She's laughing at Scott, and Derek won't deny he loves her a little, loves her like he once loved Laura. “Stiles was practically offering himself up on a platter.” And that actually sounds like something Laura would have said, and Laura would have laughed too. Maybe that's why he picked Erica, because she reminded him of her.
“Yeah, only because he thinks Derek is actually interested in him.” And he can't believe Scott actually thinks that little of him. He really fucked up with this kid, didn't he? “What are you after?” He smells like a threat, like fear, and just a little sadness. This isn't about Derek at all, this is about Stiles, and Scott being worried for him, wanting to protect his friend from what he sees as a threat.
Derek doesn't know how to say what Scott needs to know, doesn't know how to say that when he had Stiles under him, all he thought was a word Scott doesn't understand, might never really understand. Derek was brought up to believe that word was sacred, that it should only be given to the one who deserved it, because wolves and humans don't really follow the 'til death do us part' thing, but werewolves can choose to. There's so much magic twisted in Derek's being, and if he so chooses, he can let it go, can let it wrap around the one he wants, bind them together forever. He's never met anyone he wanted like that, had never even given it much thought, not until he smelled Stiles, not until he pushed Stiles behind him, until he held Derek up for two hours, not even because he liked Derek, but because it was the right thing to do. He'd never thought he would, but then, he'd never met anyone as determined to do the right thing as Stiles. Never met anyone who enjoyed reading the 'suggested reading material', or who made binders, neatly labeled, on the supernatural. There's a whole binder for Alphas, and it's labeled 'Sourwolf', and it makes something warm and happy curl in Derek's chest every time he sees it.
“Him.” Is what he can say, because that's true. It's so true it hurts, and he knows his betas, even Isaac, who likes Scott a lot more than Erica and Boyd do, will not let Scott challenge him like this. Their still-new instincts will kick in, will make them want to protect him, protect Stiles, and he doesn't even want to see Scott get his ass handed to him right now. And isn't that weird, to realize Scott probably can't take on his betas anymore, that they're good enough to put him down if need be. He really can't take on Boyd anymore. Derek knew before he bit Boyd, knew Boyd would be a damn good wolf. He doesn't know how he knew it, has to assume it's just an Alpha trick, but he'd smelled Boyd and known that if he bit Boyd, he'd be Derek's second. He'd be able to wipe the floor with Erica and Isaac, and he can, he really can, despite Erica being faster and Isaac being a bit more vicious. “I just want him.”
Not as a beta, he can acknowledge that much. Not like Boyd, Erica, and Isaac. He wants Stiles by his side, in his bed. Their bed. He wants Stiles there to tell him no, tell him when he's rushing into something, hold him back and remind him to think. He wants Stiles researching to his heart's content, he wants to remind Stiles to come to bed, that he has to sleep sometime. He wants Stiles in the kitchen with Erica, helping her cook for the pack, and the pack will only get bigger, he knows. More omegas will come to him, and he'll turn more people. He'll rebuild the Hale pack, until they stand strong again.
And he wants to do it with Stiles. He can say that in his head at least, can say he wants Stiles in a way Scott might never understand. “You're not a wolf. You don't get it.” He doesn't even really mean it as an insult, despite how insulted he feels by how Scott treats the bite. Scott doesn't want to be a werewolf though, will never love it the way Derek and his pack does, the way he thinks Stiles might. He thinks Stiles would love being like this, would love all this new ability and knowledge. But the way Scott rejects it will stop him from ever being a real wolf. He'll never achieve the four-legged form Derek loves, that his pack aspires to. He'll never be like them. Until he accepts his life, he'll never be more than an omega, straddling some strange line Derek doesn't understand that stops him from being a truly weak omega, but he'll never be more. He'll never be a true Alpha, or even a beta. Derek can't understand him at all, and he can't help but feel like Scott is spitting in his face half the time. Derek is both a man and a wolf, and he loves being what he is, and he just doesn't get Scott. “It has nothing to do with you.” That's what he says aloud, because Scott is just a man, and until he stops doing that, he'll never understand Derek, and he'll never understand what Stiles means to Derek.
“I don't believe you.”
And Derek says, “I don't care.” And means it.
He comes through Stiles' window, and he hates how Stiles is so stiff and unwelcoming, so he wraps him up in his arms, says, “Scott doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about,” and then he says, “I love you,” and maybe it's too soon to say things like that, but he does, he does. It's just that simple.
And Stiles relaxes in his embrace, and they make love, and Derek can say it, can say that's what they're doing.
And that's more shocking than anything else.
The selkies drag Stiles under, drag him down, and Derek thinks no, no, they can't take him, they can't, but he's got the witch under his claws, and he can't let him up, or he'll kill the whole pod, and Stiles would hate him for sacrificing the pod, the children, for him. He would never forgive Derek. And Derek doesn't care, wants to rip out his throat and save Stiles, but the selkies will die, the children will die.
And Stiles will never forgive him.
So he demands, “Free them, and you live,”
And just like that, the control lifts, and the selkies surface, Stiles surfaces, and he's coughing, he's coughing hard, and he reeks of water and fear and exhaustion, and Derek wraps him up in his arms before Scott can get there, says, “I love you,” over and over, while he kisses his hairline, behind his ear, his neck, then his mouth, and Stiles kisses back.
He says, “I'm okay, Derek, I'm okay, Marie pulled me up, she fought it, I'm okay, I swear, it's okay,” because Stiles gets him, he gets Derek and that he can't ever lose anyone ever again, he especially can't lose Stiles, and it's that word, that sacred word he still can't say, that magic that's already binding them tight together, it's all of that. “I love you, Derek, I love you,” and he's never said it. He's never said it, but it sounds so good on his lips, and Derek wants, more than anything, to offer. To make Stiles one of them.
But he can't. He knows what Stiles will see it as, that he'll just feel pressure, not what Derek wants him to feel, and that's devotion, love, sacrifice, everything that Derek has to offer.
So he lets him go, and the witch says, “You said I'd live if I freed them,”
And Derek says, “I didn't say for how long.”
He has Stiles in his arms, and Stiles says, “So what's out there?”
And Derek says, “Everything you can think of.” Because that's what he knows.
Stiles asks, “Am I your mate?” Only Stiles could say it and sound so casual, so at ease.
“I want you to be.” Because he can't really be, when he's human. That's not how the magic works. “Unless you're a wolf, it won't take.” He pulls Stiles in tight. “It doesn't matter. I love you. That's what's important.”
But Stiles just hums restlessly for a second, then asks, “If I ask you to do it, will you?”
Derek can't believe it, isn't sure it isn't a test, so he says, “Only if you want it.”
“Derek,” he says, “I want it. As long as it's you. As long as you're my Alpha.” And Derek can't lie, he says,
“I don't want you to be my beta,” and Stiles stiffens, he smells like sadness, like hurt, and Derek knows he needs to elaborate, but he doesn't know how, so he says, “How do wolf packs work, Stiles?”
Stiles says, “An Alpha pair,” and he sounds shocked and scared and disbelieving, but he's looking at Derek with those eyes of his, and Derek can't help himself. He curls in tighter, buries his face in the crux of Stiles' shoulder and neck. “Derek, what would I be?”
“Mine.” He answers.
And Stiles pulls his shirt up, to bare his belly, and Derek knows what he's saying, knows what he's offering, but he pushes the shirt down, takes Stiles' right arm in hand and asks,
Stiles, exhales hard, asks, “Would you be mine?”
And Derek says, “Yes,”
And it's enough.
He bites down.
He has brown eyes and a brown coat with a white belly and big ears, and he keeps up with Derek like no one else ever could. Runs faster even, but he's got less endurance, and they even out.
They howl together, and they transform together, become men again, and Stiles says, “That was so cool,” and they make love in the forest, the leaves sticking to their naked skin and the moon overhead, and Stiles laughs.