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Stiles is fuming when he gets back to Derek's old house.

He knows Scott is following him because he's taking care to make noise, to not spook Stiles which irks him even more. Stiles knuckles mud out of his eyes as he stomps towards the house in search of a hose because he's going to have to rinse off before he gets into his jeep and leaves.

He really hates that he can't just storm off in peace.

"I'm not pissed at you," Stiles throws over his shoulder when Scott's footsteps get closer, quicker. He figures that's what Scott is chasing him for, because Scott can't bear the thought of anyone being mad at him. Stiles tried the silent treatment on Scott once and Scott gave him the puppy eyes and wobbly, uneven jaw until he talked.

"Well, I'm pissed at you," Scott completely surprises him by saying. Stiles spins on him, his feet sliding for a second because he's coated in mud and Scott reaches out and steadies him before he can fall on his ass again.

"What? Why?" Stiles demands.

Some of the mud is drying and flaking off, creating itchy patches. Stiles decides Scott's problem with him can wait and resumes his search for the hose that he knows Derek uses for a regular werewolf rinse before rejoining decent society. He finds it, picks it up and shoves the spray nozzle into Scott's hands. Scott, obviously unable to ignore Stiles' plight despite his supposed anger, obliges and gives Stiles a thorough spraying, maybe being a little too vehement with the water to the face.

He's lucky it's a warm night.

"You know not to run," Scott says, tossing the hose aside.

"I didn't know he was there."

"That's the point, as soon as you did, you should have stopped," Scott argues.

"It's pretty hard to reign in the flight instinct when you're already running," Stiles says, throwing his arms up. "Something came at me out of the trees. I wasn't exactly going to stick around and wait for it to catch up."

"You can't outrun any of us, despite how much practice you get," Scott says and yes, he's being annoyingly reasonable. Stiles has had it drilled into him, over and over, that if he triggers any of the wolves' prey drives then he needs to stop immediately, drop to the ground, show submission. They'll recognize his scent if they can stop chasing him long enough to do it.

It's just really hard to ignore your own body that's screaming at you to take off as fast as possible when something with glowing eyes and sharp teeth is barreling towards you.

"Derek could have tackled Isaac. He didn't have to push me down face first into a bog," Stiles huffs, indicating the fact that despite the impromptu shower, he's still liberally coated in muck.

"Isaac was fixated. Derek would have had to hurt him to stop him. Getting him to stop on his own was the only way."

"This is a very different tune for you, singing the praises of Derek," Stiles spits, just suddenly very tired. He's had a rough night. Dealing with the humiliation of being unceremoniously manhandled into submission takes a lot out of a guy.

"Maybe we should spend some time, one on one," Scott says and Stiles starts to grin despite himself, mood already lifting at the prospect of maybe getting some quality Scott-Stiles time since he's lost most of it to pack business and Allison, but Scott chokes off the burgeoning better mood by adding, "Y'know, instead of you coming along to training."

"You want me to just sit at home twiddling my thumbs while you guys gambol around the woods?" Stiles asks, incredulous. If he loses pack-time, then Stiles isn't really sure just how much of his best friend is left to him. He knows Scott tries to devote any time he's not studying or on the field to Allison and their very fragile reconciliation which is why Stiles had started coming along to the training sessions in the first place.

The fact that he'd started to get a kick out of them and the others hadn't seemed to mind his presence didn't hurt. Even Derek had stopped giving him a scowl as a default expression and had started looking tentatively less pissed off with him with his continued interest.

"I don't know why you bother anyway, you're just my plus one," Scott says, shrugging and Stiles just blinks at him for a moment, gut-punched. Scott doesn't know how to be cruel, unintentionally or otherwise, so Stiles is starting to suspect that this is an errand rather than an opinion.

"Fine," Stiles manages to get out, hopefully without sounding as hurt as he feels. "But if I'm getting tossed out of pack business, that means all pack business. No trying to use me when it's convenient for you guys."

Scott's now looking a little puzzled. "I wasn't tossing you out. That's not-"

"Yeah, I know you weren't," Stiles snaps, makes a beeline for his jeep and ignores Scott calling after him. He needs to go home, lick his wounds and wonder what the hell he's going to do for a social life without the pack in it. Not having to run for his life every third day is a steep price to pay for the overabundance of quality alone time he's suddenly facing.

As he wheels the jeep around to point back towards the ragged excuse for a road leading up to the old Hale house, Stiles spots Derek slinking out of the trees to interrogate Scott about his success now Stiles is safely on his way.

*

A man approaches him when Stiles drops onto the bench at lacrosse practice the next day as he sets his helmet down beside him. The man's carrying a clipboard and is the same kind of handsome that Derek is, where it almost circles around to being off putting. He's got swept back dark blonde hair, blue eyes and sharp features.

"You're one of my players?" he asks, looking down at his clipboard. Stiles tries not to stare at his long, elegant fingers as they trace down what Stiles supposes is the team roster. He's got just the edges of what must be a fairly large and intricate tattoo peeking out of his shirt collar and Stiles has pretty much had a thing for that ever since he saw George Clooney in From Dusk Till Dawn.

"You're the local sex offender?" Stiles counters, raising an eyebrow.

The guy huffs, an amused sound. "Coach Finstock broke his leg in three places playing tennis," he says and when Stiles just blinks at him, he adds, "Yeah, I don't know how that happens either."

"So you're what? A substitute lacrosse coach?" Stiles asks, suspicious.

"Actually, I'm a substitute Economics teacher, but apparently in this school that equates to the same thing."

"You know lacrosse?"

"Barely. Always struck me as a weird sport," he confides and Stiles can't help but smile back, thinks he might finally have a teacher that doesn't hate him on sight. He's a good student, good enough that the others could cut him some slack and overlook the behavioral problems and his propensity to turn up at crime scenes. "You want to start tomorrow night?"

"Start what?" Stiles asks, confused.

The substitute, who hasn't supplied a name yet, gestures towards the field.

"Oh, ah, no," Stiles says, laughs shakily. "I'm not first line. I'm..." Stiles pats the bench he's planted himself on.

"Who says?"

"Genetics?" Stiles tries and the teacher outright laughs this time.

"You're starting. Someone else can warm the bench." The substitute runs a finger down his list. "Maybe this Jackson person?" he says and Stiles tries to contain his glee at the very prospect of running around the field while Jackson sits on the sidelines and fumes.

"Thanks Mr...?"

"Cooper," he supplies, pats Stiles on the shoulder and then bops him lightly on the head with the clipboard, still looking amused before he moves off to a cluster of other players. Stiles pulls his helmet on backwards so he can scream into the padding for a moment without anyone knowing, then he collects himself and flips it around the right way, joins the others for drills and tries not to vibrate off the ground with happiness.

*

Stiles is glad he took Deaton's advice and implemented a very manual security measure for his room, which means he wakes up to a boot in the sternum instead of Derek silently looming over him at two in the morning. The boot in the sternum isn't really that great, but Derek's hilariously startled expression and the fact that he lands on his ass when Stiles flails from underneath him makes it almost worth it.

"What the hell?" Derek demands from the floor.

"I think I'm supposed to ask you that," Stiles wheezes, gingerly checking his chest to make sure his ribs are still intact and not crushed into bone paste.

Derek picks himself up, only to drop unceremoniously onto Stiles' desk chair. He slumps down, glowering. "You reorganized your room."

"I didn't realize that I needed werewolf planning permission for that," Stiles grumbles, sitting up and fussing with his sheets. It was stuffy in his room so he's only wearing boxers and feels strangely vulnerable. "If you must know, I was guarding against surprise nocturnal visitations. Ta-da, very effective."

"You were expecting a break in?" Derek demands, looking weirdly on edge.

"Yeah, by you, you giant dork. You've done it before."

"One time and that was during the day."

Stiles flails his hands at Derek, as if to say that his very presence negates any argument he can make about Stiles' preparedness for the eventuality. Derek rolls his eyes and acknowledges silently that he may have a point, if no further forthcoming protests are any indication. Stiles thinks their non-verbal communication is really coming along.

"What was so pressing?" Stiles asks, rubs at his chest again. "Literally as it turns out."

"You weren't at tonight's meeting," Derek grunts. Stiles was expecting some research emergency that required his Google-fu but instead Derek spins lazily on the chair, lacing his hands behind his head and looking at Stiles expectantly.

"I wasn't welcome," Stiles says and Derek frowns.

"What gave you that idea?"

"The whole thing with Isaac and then Scott after."

Derek's frown gets so deep the corners of his mouth look like they'll roll right off his chin. "What about Scott after?"

"He told me it was too dangerous, that I was just his plus one anyway," Stiles says, swallowing against the stubborn hurt lump that forms in his throat at remembering that particular conversation. Stiles knows deep down that Scott only wants to protect him, worries about his safety, but Stiles can't help feeling rejected.

"You're not... it is dangerous." Derek looks puzzled, like Stiles not attending the meeting just because he'd been told not to throws his whole world view out of order.

"I'm not completely socially inept. I can tell when I'm not wanted somewhere and it's really shitty that you got Scott to do your dirty work anyway," Stiles says, but he's lost Derek's attention. Derek instead has plucked Stiles' practice jersey off the back of his chair and has it pressed to his face. "No, that's not super creepy at all," Stiles says dryly.

"What is this?" Derek demands, suddenly sounding angry.

"My lacrosse shirt and I'm assuming, the smell of sweaty teenage boy?"

"No, this," Derek says, jerking upright and then shoving the jersey under Stiles' own nose. He bats Derek away, scowling.

"I don't know what you're getting at. I've got an adorable yet human nose." Except... Derek is shoving the jersey's shoulder at Stiles and he can just about guarantee what Derek is going to say next.

"It's another wolf Stiles. Another werewolf touched you."

"I don't-"

"Don't even finish that sentence if you're going to lie to me," Derek practically growls. He looks incensed, ready to rip something limb from limb and Stiles is really hoping it's not him because he's quite attached to his limbs. Stiles tucks his legs up against his chest and wraps his arms around them to remove temptation. "You know who I'm talking about."

"I... yeah, probably," Stiles admits, because new teacher plus new werewolf smell doesn't take a genius to work out. He knew it was too much to ask for a teacher to take a shine to him off their own bat. Stiles drops his chin to his knee glumly. "Am I wolf-nip or something?"

Derek blanches. "What?" he manages in a strangled-sounding voice.

"Y'know, Peter liked me in his own uniquely bizarre and completely unsettling way and now this guy? He offered to put me on first string."

"Your lacrosse coach?" Derek asks, looking puzzled.

"Our substitute Lacrosse coach. Finstock broke his leg."

"He'll be at your school tomorrow, then?" Derek presses, and Stiles tangles his fingers together, frustrated.

"He could be like you, right? Not good, exactly but not homicidal? Please tell me there's a chance?"

Derek's glower subsides. "There are werewolves that live perfectly normal lives without all the drama, yes," he admits. "My family before the fire..."

"I just... I've been sitting on that bench for two years. I blew my first chance at starting." The because of you remains unsaid but Stiles knows Derek still hears it by the way he winces. "Can you maybe hold off on the big showdown until I play one game my dad can watch and not see me cooling my heels the entire time?"

Derek's expression tightens, giving nothing away. He's still holding Stiles' jersey in a clenched fist. "Maybe," he hedges. "It’s just his scent isn't... it's not... there's something off."

"You're just making that up. You love drama and you look for problems," Stiles huffs. Derek rolls his eyes again and Stiles is suddenly just sick of the sight of him, sick of everything. "Can't you keep an eye on him without the theatrics until after tomorrow?"

Derek hesitates, but then he deflates. He tosses the jersey towards Stiles' overflowing hamper, then wipes his hand off on his jeans like he can wipe the offensive scent off his palm. "Fine," he grits out between his teeth.

"I swear, the moment he looks even the slightest bit shifty, he's all yours. Just... maybe he's here to fill in for a sick teacher and that's it."

"I doubt it," Derek grumbles.

*

Derek can be stealthy when he wants to be, so Stiles knows that he's doing it on purpose when he hulks around the sidelines of the game the next night, glaring at Coach Cooper and making a big show about how he can be restrained. Erica who usually hates going to games, is sitting in the bleachers pointedly wedged between Allison and Lydia which means Derek's made his whole pack be present.

Stiles decides not to care. He ignores the way Scott keeps trying to get his attention, how Isaac and Boyd go out of their way to be jovial, Isaac a little more desperate about it because he obviously thinks Stiles' anger with the pack has something to do with him losing control. Stiles fights the urge to reassure Isaac because his ability to dig himself into a guilty pit of despair would only be surpassed by Derek on a good day.

He's decided to separate himself from the pack at least for tonight, then maybe see about the bygones later.

Cooper sends Stiles out into the fray with another hearty slap on the shoulder and Stiles catches a flash of red out of the corner of his eyes, Derek being a flamboyant asshole per usual. Stiles centers himself, rips his gaze away from Derek and instead concentrates on the field, his opponents, his dad sitting with Scott's mom beside him, cheering for all he's worth.

Stiles doesn't get the Mighty Ducks ending to his night like he was hoping for. The other team is good and they beat Beacon Hills, despite their supernatural advantages, but it isn't by much and he gets more than a few respectful nods from his opposition as they leave the field.

Cooper gives him raised eyebrows, spreads his hands and shrugs. A what can you do gesture that Stiles agrees with wholeheartedly. He'd rather be playing a loser than sitting on the bench watching his team win. He knows that's probably selfish, but he figures he deserves a little selfish time. He's been doing nothing but putting other people first lately and it’s now officially Stiles time.

"Good game, really proud," Cooper offers to them all as they trail off the field, a little less enthusiastically than they ran on. "You'll get 'em next time."

"Did that come from your big book of sports clichés?" Stiles asks and his teammates chuckle around him.

"Sports Clichés for Dummies, actually," Cooper rejoinders with a wry grin and Stiles offers a touche smirk.

He doesn't even realize he's paused in front of Cooper till he feels someone at his back, hot breath on his nape. "Derek," he sighs, not even having to look to know he’s right. Stiles sees Isaac, Boyd and Scott have clumped together a few feet away, Erica joining them.

"What's your business here?" Derek growls over Stiles' shoulder and Stiles feels gooseflesh break out up his arms and across his back at Derek's proximity. He's practically leaning over Stiles, which is impressive considering Stiles is now taller due to an unexpected growth spurt at seventeen. Stiles fights the urge to hunch down, fold himself into the curve of Derek's body and instead pushes away, Derek looking surprised for a second before he reigns the expression in.

"What's with the heavy neck-breathing, geez," Stiles protests He knows it's probably not a good idea to sass Derek in front of another werewolf, one he's trying to appear all Alpha-tough in front of, but he's been told in no uncertain terms that he's not pack. He knows he's being a brat but it makes him feel just the tiniest bit better.

"Are you someone's parent?" Cooper asks and Derek just blinks at him.

"Do I look old enough to be someone's parent?"

"You might moisturise?"

"Don't be cute, just state your business," Derek grits through his teeth and Stiles is really glad he's not standing between the two werewolves anymore because he's fairly sure Derek is about to throw down.

"I'm substituting" Cooper says, looking bored with the exchange. Stiles wishes he could learn how to do that because it seems to be aggravating Derek more than anything Stiles has ever done.

"That's your cover. What's your real reason?" Derek demands, advancing and Stiles sees the others bristle, prepared for a fight.

"I'm looking for a pack," Cooper says and when a growl starts up deep in Derek's chest, Cooper holds a hand up. "Relax Hale, not yours."

"You know who I am?" Derek asks, dropping the growl and looking unsettled instead.

"I do research if I'm going into another pack's territory. I can't always control where the school system sends me and I was being careful to stay out of your woods. I thought the school would be neutral territory."

"It's not," Derek says and Cooper shrugs.

"So I see." Cooper eyes the hovering wolves at Derek's back. "Filling your pack with teenagers is certainly... bold. I suppose you're young, you're bound to make mistakes."

Derek does move forward then, but Stiles slides in front of him, holding his hands up. "Hey, now, how about we all take a deep, calming breath."

"I'd rather take a deep, calming chunk out of this asshole," Derek snarls between teeth which are rapidly elongating, but he doesn't push Stiles out of the way. He even lets Stiles put a hand on his chest and push him back a few feet, Stiles suspects it’s because that puts him further away from Cooper too.

"Hale, you'd better learn some manners. I might be a lone Alpha, but when you have an established pack come into your territory, this posturing won't cut it."

"Are you seriously trying to lecture me?" Derek growls and Stiles drops his hands to Derek's biceps, grips tightly to remind Derek that he's still there.

"I'm trying to give you some advice," Cooper says, then his gaze flicks to Stiles. "Good game tonight, Stilinski." With that, he nods and moves off, showing his back without a thought possibly as a final fuck you to Derek because it's an indication that he doesn't find Derek threatening in the least.

"I like him," Erica pipes up, smirking.

*

Stiles' phone rings at two in the morning, and that's never good news. He's expecting it to be some kind of wolf emergency, possibly Derek being the hot head he is going after Cooper on his own but instead it's Elizabeth from dispatch sounding careful and wavery.

Stiles barely hears what she says, other than your father and hospital. He blindly steps into jeans, pulls on a hoodie over his bare chest and sneakers without socks. He takes the steps down to the ground level of the house three at a time and can't remember if he locks the front door after him.

Stiles will later wonder how he made it to the hospital in one piece because he certainly doesn't remember the drive, doesn't even remember breathing until he's standing at a viewing window watching his dad complain good-naturedly to a nurse who looks to be finishing up wrapping his ribs.

"What the hell?" Stiles demands, pushing through the door and flailing a hand at his dad's midsection. His dad has cracked a few ribs before and Stiles certainly doesn't want to revisit the bitch-fest that few weeks had been.

"Relax, kid, nothing's broken," his dad says, reaching out a hand with only a small wince to catch Stiles by the nape and tug him closer. Stiles goes, careful to hug without applying any pressure to any area that's bandaged.

"What happened?"

"Damn giant dog," the Sheriff huffs and Stiles feels his whole body go cold.

"What?"

"Yeah, must have been a mix of a couple of different horse-sized breeds. I didn't even see it coming. I'll have to call animal control in the morning and see if they can track it down."

"Did..." Stiles swallows against a suddenly dry throat. "Did you get bitten?"

"It's fine, really," his dad says again, smiling in a mild way. "I've already gotten enough needles to make me feel like a pincushion and it wasn't deep enough to need stitches. Only just broke the skin."

Stiles feels his lungs and throat close up, is suddenly leaning over his knees with white noise in his head and his dad's hands on his shoulders, trying to lever him back up. His dad's voice is just a litany of hey, kid, Stiles, c'mon, trying to bring him back from that black place of panic and Stiles finally manages a tiny sip of breath, enough that that dark spots recede from his vision.

"Sorry, just... ran up here and must've been more winded that I realized," Stiles croaks out when he can force a little more air in. His dad doesn't look convinced, only takes his hands away when Stiles is fully upright and prying off his grip. "I gotta... make a call."

"Okay. Don't go too far," his dad says, eyes still worried and Stiles offers him a jaunty wave that drops as soon as he's edged back out of the room, digging desperately for his phone in his jeans. He curses when he realizes that he'd dropped it at home after he'd hung up on Elizabeth, unthinking.

He rushes to the nurse's station. Beryl, an older woman with kind eyes and hair streaked with grey who always sneaks him and Scott the uneaten desserts when they're waiting on Melissa, smiles to see Stiles approach. "Hey hon, you okay?" she asks, smile dimming when Stiles gets closer and she gets a look at his expression.

"Can I use your phone?" Stiles gets out and something in his voice must warn her that he's on a shaky edge of control because she passes it right up without question. Stiles picks up the handset and tucks it under his chin, dials the number from memory and squeezes his eyes shut when the ringing seems to go on forever.

"'lo?"

"Derek?" Stiles says, swallows thickly. "Derek... my dad... can you come?"

*

Stiles is sitting outside the emergency department with his head balanced on his knees when he's hauled roughly to his feet. Stiles flails for a second before the searching hands and rough grumbling register as Derek and then Stiles goes limp, putting up with whatever physical reassurance Derek needs to give himself before he'll listen to actual words.

"Where are you hurt?" Derek demands, gripping Stiles by the shoulders and obviously resisting the urge to shake him because he's wary of undiscovered injury.

"I'm not," Stiles says, bats Derek's hands away when he resumes patting Stiles down for himself. "Derek, I'm not, okay? I'm-" Stiles nearly says fine but he can't quite manage it because he's currently worlds away from fine.

"Why are you here?"

"I told you that."

"No, you mumbled something then hung up on me. I had to track you here."

"Like a bloodhound?" Stiles asks, blinking and Derek looks hilariously aggravated.

"More like someone who rang the number back you called me from and asked."

"Oh, that's not quite as cool," Stiles says and Derek's grip on him tightens. "Ow, ease up. I'm not a stress ball."

"Stiles."

"Okay, it's my dad. He said it was a giant dog, but how likely is that with the ol' Stilinski luck? He's worried about stitches, Jesus, it's the last thing-"

"Stiles!"

"He was bitten Derek. My dad, he was... can you check? Can you check? Do you know when-?"

"Stiles, slow down. Your dad was bitten?"

"He says by a giant dog. There's a new Alpha in town and my dad happens to get chomped on by an over sized dog at the same time?"

Derek's looking at him, his expression tight. "I can check but Stiles, I don't think your dad would let me to get close enough. Is Scott here?"

"I haven't called him yet," Stiles admits, then chews on his lower lip. Scott should have been his first call, would have been and Stiles doesn’t know when that changed. Stiles doesn't know why his first instinct was to seek out Derek and he doesn't really want to look at that too closely right now. Derek looks tentatively pleased for a second, but that's impossible because Derek is neither ever tentative or pleased so Stiles figures it's the near-panic making him hallucinate.

Derek ducks away from him, has his phone out and is calling Scott. Stiles lets himself slide back to the ground because standing seems like too much hard work. Derek hangs up and crosses back to Stiles, but instead of manhandling him upright again, he just slides down next to Stiles, nudges their knees together. "He's on his way. Five, maybe ten minutes."

"Thanks."

"You know, he might not turn."

"Yeah, he could die. I don't really need to be reminded of what's behind curtain number two," Stiles grates.

"That's not-"

"Turn or die, that's what you've always said, right? That's what you know."

Derek looks at him for a moment. Stiles stares at his knees, but he can feel the weight of Derek's gaze on the side of his face. "What happened with Lydia showed me that I know shit."

"You think there's going to be two mystically immune people in Beacon Hills?" Stiles asks, incredulous.

"It just might not take. There's something off about your teacher that I can't explain. We don't know everything."

"My dad could become a kanima," Stiles says. "He's not really the happiest of souls."

"Stiles, that isn't going to happen. Jackson became a kanima because he felt completely bereft, alone. Your dad doesn't feel that way. He has you." Derek's silent for a moment before he sighs. "Despite what your movies might have told you, an accidental, unwanted bite doesn't happen that often. Most people that get bitten are courting it, want it to happen. There might be something that can be done, before his first moon, maybe. We can ask Deaton."

"I might be overreacting. He might've been bitten by a poodle and is trying to save face in front of the guys," Stiles says, because if Derek is grasping at straws, then maybe he can too.

"Did it look like a poodle bite?"

"I didn't get him to show me," Stiles says.

"You didn't look? Why not?"

"You didn't feel compelled to look at the blackened corpses-" Stiles shuts his mouth so hard and so fast that he bites painfully into the tip of his tongue. Derek is not looking at him anymore, is staring straight ahead into the hospital car park. "Wow, that was a monumentally crappy thing to almost say."

"It's alright."

"No, don't give me a pass because I'm stressing about my dad. Just, maybe when this is all over and we know he's fine you can yell at me about being an insensitive prick."

Derek's frozen look thaws a little and the corners of his mouth turn up. "Sure."

Scott chooses that moment to burst out of the trees lining the hospital car park and skid to a stop, trying to look casual about appearing out of nowhere.

*

Derek's hand bearing down on his shoulder makes Stiles realize that he's jigging in place while Scott is in with his dad. Stiles is lucky he and Scott have a history of morbid curiosity so it won't seem weird when Scott asks to see the bite and his dad is likely to humor him without getting suspicious. Derek thinks Scott will probably be able to tell by the smell anyway, but a look at the bite will confirm it.

"Look, I know your worst nightmare is for you to be bitten but-"

Stiles holds up a hand, because he really can't listen to the bites-are-all-right speech that Derek has given Scott dozens of times. "Dude, don't."

"Look-" Derek tries again, oddly persistent.

"Derek, man, my worst nightmare is not me getting bitten, it's him. It's always been him."

"Why would it be so bad?" Derek demands, and Stiles knows that when it comes to this subject, Derek can be stubbornly tunnel-visioned.

"Because, if there's even the slightest, most miniscule chance that he can hurt someone someday, that he could hurt me, he won't risk it." When Derek just frowns at him, Stiles flings out his hands, frustrated that he has to spell it out. "My dad won't deal with this like Scott, all denial and dating the local hunter. He's more likely to to follow the crazy Mama Argent school of coping."

"He wouldn’t do that."

Stiles just stares at Derek until Derek drops his gaze.

*

Derek and Scott trail Stiles back out of the hospital, Derek silent and Scott pale-faced and shocky. Scott had confirmed what Stiles had most feared just by stepping out of the room, he didn't even need to say it. Stiles is gripping his dad's cruiser keys because he'd promised to bring the car around.

He needs to pull himself together and then try and come up with a plan.

Scott's making this low, almost painful whine as he stays at Stiles' heels and it's wearing on Stiles' last nerve. He turns around and kicks Scott in the shin, because he needs to lash out at something. "Ow, hey!" Scott protests, looking wounded.

"Just shut up, I need to think."

"Stiles-"

"No, Derek, when I want your input, I'll ask for it," Stiles snaps, turning on him but Derek doesn't look surprised in the least by Stiles' outburst, just stares back at him, mild as ever. "God, does anything ever actually affect you?" Stiles adds, meanly.

"Quite a lot, actually."

Scott's looking between the two of them, a worried dent in his brow. "Hey, guys-"

"Are you sure, because you're pretty good at acting like an automaton."

"I wish you'd focus your anger in the right direction."

"I've always had trouble with focus. The weak human needs to be medicated to stop vibrating long enough to sit a test, remember?"

"We have to find that other Alpha," Derek points out but Stiles can't really stand logic right now, he just needs to yell at someone.

"Yeah, we need to find the guy you challenged already."

"What are you saying?"

"I'm saying that this is your fault! If you hadn't felt compelled to whip it out and piss all over everything, including me might I add, then Cooper might have been happy to do his job and leave. You got him spoiling for a fight. You got my dad bitten."

Stiles has lost Derek's attention, which makes him see red and he takes a swing at Derek's face, wanting to jolt it out of impassivity just the once, but Derek catches his fist easily, his gaze not leaving Scott. "Why didn't any of the others smell wolf? You were all at practice with Stiles, right?"

Stiles tries to yank his hand away, but Derek holds him, actually raises his own arm so Stiles is pretty much dangling ineffectually. "I don't know," Scott says, rubbing at the bridge of his nose and looking uncomfortable. "We aren't born to it like you, we might have just missed it. There's three werewolves on the lacrosse team now, scents get muddied."

"He's an Alpha. You should have smelled it."

Stiles stops kicking at Derek, his curiosity lancing his anger. "He didn't smell like you," Scott says, shrugging.

"Even when we knew he didn't... it's weird. It's like that time you left Allison's jacket out in the woods. I was following the scent, but somewhere deep down I knew it wasn't her. All the elements were right but there was that vital something missing."

"This is fascinating, but I really want to get my dad's cruiser and take him home now, then maybe find Deaton," Stiles says. His shoulder is starting to hurt and Derek jumps a little, like he forgot his was holding Stiles like a rag doll. He drops Stiles abruptly and Stiles stumbles a little before he gets his balance. "Yeah, thanks for that," he huffs, straightening his jacket.

"You go see Deaton, we'll see if we can track this Cooper down."

"No."

"No?" Derek's eyes narrow. "What do you mean no?"

"I mean, I don't want you anywhere near this guy. I'm going to go see Deaton, but I'm pretty sure he's going to tell me what we already know, that my dad's only chance is to kill the Alpha that bit him. I can't risk you ruining that."

"I wouldn't," Derek grates.

"Oh yeah?" Stiles looks pointedly at Scott who grimaces and gives Derek a he's got a point flail of the hands.

"I'm just going to make sure he doesn't skip town."

"Get the betas to sit on him, literally if need be," Stiles says. "You don't get within fifty feet of him, I mean it."

"They won't be strong enough-"

"The four of them will be fine. Get Allison... actually, Scott, give me your phone." Stiles makes grabby hands at Scott who digs into his pocket and then tosses the phone over.

"Stiles-"

"It's not that I don't trust you in general," Stiles says as he finds Allison in Scott's address book and hits call. "Just not about this... hey, Allison? No, it's Stiles. I need your help."

*

"Stop poking it," Stiles says as he sets scrambled eggs in front of his dad. His dad has his shirt hiked up around his armpits and is fussing with the edges of the bandage. His dad drops his shirt and looks ridiculously pleased when Stiles sets three strips of bacon on top of his eggs.

"That doesn't look like turkey bacon," he says.

"That's because it's the real kind. Don't get used to it. Special injury-only bacon, one time offer."

Stiles' dad gives him a mock salute and a grin before he digs in, probably relishing the change up from egg-white omelet. There's a knock at the door and Stiles leaves his dad to it, making ridiculous happy noises into his breakfast.

That only makes his heart hurt a little.

Stiles is surprised to open the door and find Derek. Instead of the cold hello he's intending to say, Stiles blurts, "I don't blame you, not really."

"You should. You were right," Derek says.

"God no, please don't add me to your guilt mountain. That thing is scary tall already."

"I don't have a guilt mountain," Derek says, rolls his eyes when Stiles raises an eyebrow at him. "It's more of a guilt bluff."

"What are you doing here?"

"I didn't think you'd want to tell your dad all this by yourself. Plus, it's kind of hard for you to prove."

"You think I should tell him?"

"You don’t?"

"I... didn't really want to unless it became necessary," Stiles says. "If Deaton can't-"

"Stiles, your dad's got a pretty even baseline but I have seen him get mad. He might not necessarily make it all the way to the full moon before he discovers what's going on for himself. He's the kind of guy that'll want to be prepared."

"I know you're right. I just kind of wanted to be in denial about it a little longer," Stiles sighs.

"We'll look out for him, whatever happens."

"Oh, so he gets an automatic pack pass just because of this?" Stiles says, frowns because now is not the time to be impotently hurt.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing," Stiles says. "Just me being a selfish teenager. I just... with how you got Scott to make sure I knew I wasn't pack."

"I what?" Derek says, looking genuinely surprised. "Stiles, I didn't do that. I would never do that. You're pack, of course you're pack."

"Scott told me I shouldn't come to the training sessions, that I was just his plus one. I figured it was coming from you."

"It didn't," Derek says. "Scott gets... we all get so worried when you get hurt and you get hurt a lot."

"Yeah, fine. The weak human speech, I’ve heard it all before."

"What I meant was, I don't even know why you would want to be pack, when you aren't... when you don't have to be."

"You think that I or any of the others only hang out with you because they have to? I thought I was the only one having a pity party."

"Shut up," Derek grunts, but it's more exasperated than anything else, like Derek hates when his vulnerable underbelly shows.

"My dad's not my only family," Stiles says, his gaze locking with Derek's and their stare-off only interrupted by his father pointedly clearing his throat.

"Hale," his dad says, nodding stiffly.

"Sheriff," Derek returns the most awkward greeting in existence and Stiles throws up his hands between them.

"Would you both stop looking like you're about to draw swords?"

"Look, I know you're old enough to make your own decisions, but there are some I really question," his dad says boldly.

"Sir, I have something to tell you. It's important," Derek interrupts and his dad flicks a narrow eyed glance Derek's way.

"Did you come to confess something? That would make my year quite frankly."

"Dad."

"It's just that my gut rarely lies, and it's been telling me there's something up with you and I just can't put my finger on it."

"Dad!"

"Look, at this point I'll take anything. Overdue parking tickets, jaywalking, lay it on me."

"Dad!" Stiles opines.

"Can I come in?" Derek asks.

*

Stiles has only seen his father sit stiffly on the couch, unmoving and with his hands cupped around his knees the same way once. He hadn't known at the time, but his mother had called from her doctor to tell his dad about the creeping illness that was hollowing her out from the inside, had said to him that she wasn't ready to tell him to his face, that she had to be a coward about this one thing.

Stiles had found his dad in the living room, sitting exactly the same way, staring at the wall after that phone call and his dad hadn't moved for two hours, not until his mom had walked through the front door and they'd both sat Stiles down to explain what was about to happen.

"Dad?"

"Are you... is there any way to be really sure?" his dad asks.

"I'm sure," Derek says.

"Right. Okay. You'll have to forgive me but this might take a little while to process."

"Of course," Derek says, moving to raise to his feet but the Sheriff puts his hand out, grabs Stiles' collar roughly and hauls him almost into his chest, Stiles forced to awkwardly hover off the coffee table he was seated on.

"Are you okay? Is this... are you?" His dad sounds terrified and Stiles swallows reflexively.

"No, I'm good dad, honestly. Still a squishy human, I swear," he says quickly when his dad tightens his grip. His dad finally releases him and Stiles drops his butt back onto the coffee table, Derek hovering and not looking like he might be as ready to leave as he was a few seconds ago.

"But your friends? All your friends?"

"Not Allison or Lydia."

"Scott?"

"Yeah. That was totally an accident. It wasn't Derek."

"Was it because of Derek?" his dad demands, gaze flicking up and Stiles shuffles so he's between them even though it might not be the wisest thing he's ever done.

"No, it was because of Kate Argent," he says and he can feel Derek's heavy gaze on the back of his head. "That's a whole lotta story for another time though, when we fix this."

"You can fix this?" His dad's asking Derek and Derek looks unhelpfully furtive.

"There's one strong possibility but you probably won't like it. There might be other options, we're checking with a resource."

"That all sounds very..." his dad makes a helpless gesture with his hands before they settle on his knees again. "Look, about twenty minutes ago, I would have laughed in the face of anyone that suggested I would ask this, but can Stiles stay with you? He'll be safe with you, right?"

"Of course-"

"Dad, no way, you can forget it," Stiles snaps.

"You don't get a say," his dad says, still only looking at Derek.

"I don't get a say in leaving you alone to do something stupid?" When his dad's eyes skip guiltily away, Stiles knows he's right. "Look, I'm all about the compromise. I’ll stay here and one of the others-"

"I'll stay too," Derek interrupts and Stiles cranes around so he can stare at him.

"Dude, you don't have to do that. Either Scott or Isaac-"

"Are watching Cooper. Apparently I can't go anywhere near him on pain of an arrow in the ass so the only thing left for me to do is to keep the Stilinskis out of trouble."

*

"I didn't know veterinarians made house calls," the Sheriff says drily when Deaton walks into their living room about an hour later.

"Dad," Stiles says, "Behave."

"It's obviously never too early for bad jokes when a Stilinski is involved," Deaton says, smile as mild and reassuring as ever. Stiles isn't sure why he ever thought anyone that zen was normal.

"What'd you find out?" Derek demands, before Deaton even has a chance to sit.

"Would you like some coffee Doctor D?" Stiles asks pointedly and Deaton offers Stiles a grateful nod.

"Strong and in the biggest cup you have," Deaton says and Stiles goes to make it, listening to the gentle murmur of voices from the living room in the kitchen. Deaton starts with pleasantries but neither his dad nor Derek are patient enough for that so Deaton sighs and waits just long enough to get his coffee in hand before he says, "I haven't been able to find anything concrete."

"You've find something though?" his dad asks hopefully, hands clenching into fists.

"Look, not about reversing the bite specifically, but I did manage to track down some information about Cooper."

"What?" Derek growls.

Deaton gives him an unreadable look and then sets his cup down. "Apparently he killed the Alpha that made him to get his power."

Stiles feels his hopes melt away like ice under the sun. That had been their last, best hope, what Derek had told them originally about bitten wolves returning to their original state if they killed the Alpha that had turned them before a full moon.

"Is that... does that mean something?" his dad asks, unaware that his only out just vanished.

"So it's not true then," Derek says slowly, and he looks almost relieved about it. Stiles is livid for about a second, before he remembers Scott and that Derek had stolen Scott's own chance. If killing the Alpha had done nothing to return Scott to humanity but instead would have lumped an unprepared wolf with Alpha power?

Stiles can see why Derek's first reaction would be relief.

"It is true," Deaton says, surprising Stiles and obviously by his expression, Derek as well.

"Does someone want to explain just what you're all on about? I feel like I'm being talked around," his dad interjects, starting to look a little pissed off and more worryingly, a little gold-eyed.

"Dad, chill out, okay?" Stiles says, leaning over to squeeze his dad's knee and he closes his eyes for a moment, breathes deep and then opens his eyes again and they're back to their normal color.

"See, this is why you don't turn a bunch of teenagers," Deaton says to Derek who grumbles under his breath.

"Lycanthropy is a strange mix of magic and biology. There's no rules set in stone because they shift like sand. What's true for one werewolf is not necessarily true for the next, but like any species, there are a few things that remain constant to ensure perpetuation."

"That's a whole lotta pretty words for not telling me much."

"Sheriff, I'm getting to it. A werewolf's greatest drive is to have a pack, be part of a pack. They're strongest when they are, advantaged. Now imagine this drive to create a pack warring with a fear that anyone you turn into a wolf will try and kill you to take control, take your power."

"Doesn't sound like a very good deal," his dad says and Deaton nods.

"It's not, which is why it doesn't work that way. If you kill the Alpha that made you, you don't get their power. You revert to being a human."

"Wait, you just said this guy Cooper killed his own Alpha, the one that made him?"

"Yes, which is why I think Cooper did something to ensure that he wouldn't revert, that he would instead inherit the Alpha power, but it's not natural and I don't think it's sitting right."

"None of this is natural," his dad grunts and Stiles feels Derek bristle beside him. Stiles takes his hand from his dad's knee and knuckles Derek's shoulder. He's asking for Derek to be a little understanding, that his dad has just had a bad shock and his sum total of knowledge about wolves comes from bad Hollywood horror movies.

"You might not have to even kill Cooper. You might be able to break whatever he's done to hold onto his power. Return the balance."

"That's good, right?" Stiles pipes up, because while he'd been mostly resigned to having to watch his dad rip out a werewolf's throat, he hadn't been exactly relishing the idea. He feels a little better about the possibility though knowing Cooper already killed someone and wasn't just a lonely Alpha trying to start a pack.

"We have to find out what he did before we can figure out how to reverse it. I've got a few ideas but I'll need some help."

Stiles retrieves his phone, finds Lydia's number and dials. "Research twins, activate! Form of... um, research twins!" Stiles chirps gamely when Lydia answers.

"You're a giant dork," she says, which is Lydia speak for being on her way.

*

Deaton brings them an armload of books to get started and Lydia appears shortly after. Her bored expression vanishes and is replaced by a steely kind of resolve when Stiles explains what's happened. She squeezes Stiles briefly and then surprises his dad with a kiss on the cheek. "Never fear, I'm here," she says, stretching out her hands and arms like she's about to start playing the piano.

"Who's the dork again?" Stiles says and gets a smack to the forehead for his trouble.

They've spread out on the floor of the living room, Stiles' dad retreating to his study and Derek to... somewhere else that is still around because every now and again Stiles feels the creeping sensation of being watched. Stiles is making his slow and painful way through a book that promised to be in English when he first picked it up, but that hadn't helped him understand it.

Lydia is paging quickly through a book that is decidedly not looking unconcerned about it.

Stiles tosses the book he’s working on aside and reaches for another, makes a satisfied sound when he finds this one has pictures. It's a book of protection and power symbols and Stiles flips through it, not at all sure what he's looking for.

"I don't like what this book is doing to my hands. I'm totally wasting my manicure," Lydia says, holding up one perfect finger with an equally perfect painted nail at the end of it.

"I know. It's murder on my cuticles," Stiles agrees, holding out his own stumpy, bitten down nails under Lydia's nose and she makes a disgusted sound and swats his hand aside. Because he's not really paying attention, something catches the corner of his eye and Stiles brings his focus back to the book.

The symbol he's looking at might not have registered as familiar if he’d been looking at it straight-on. Only because he'd caught just the edge of it, he sees something. "What? I know that face, what did you find?" Lydia demands, bringing a leg around so she can push her toes into his leg.

"I'm not really..." Stiles frowns at the text that's accompanying the symbol that's caught his attention. "I don't think it can be... this can't be right."

"Just tell me," Lydia presses, tossing her own book aside and propping her chin on her hands.

"It's called a Mardurn Mark. It's a protective symbol, a way for a werewolf to lock his power into his body."

"That sounds perfect."

"It's just... it's meant for a werewolf that's already an Alpha, to stop witches siphoning their power off."

"You're far too literal," Lydia says and when Stiles only offers her a blank look, she adds, "Sometimes a bowl is just a bowl."

"That's supposed to mean something?"

"Say you've got this bowl in the kitchen and you proclaim that it's your egg bowl, that you will do nothing but use it for scrambling eggs."

"I have an egg bowl."

"You would, weirdo." When Stiles gives her a get on with it wave of his hands, Lydia does. "Just because you've called it your egg bowl, doesn't mean it won't hold water or candy or anything else just as effectively."

"So you're saying that this symbol would hold an Alpha's power in, no matter the circumstances or the wearer."

"Exactly." Lydia makes a face. "How could we check he has it though."

Stiles is way ahead of her, lowering a page from his notebook over the etching of the symbol in the book, adjusting it until he can see only the edges past the paper. "Oh yeah, I'm pretty sure he has it."

"How do you know that?"

"I've seen it."

*

Isaac knocks on the door to report in on Cooper's movements and he looks so tentative when it's Stiles that answers the door, that Stiles rolls his eyes and reaches out his arms. Isaac hesitates for a second like he always does, before he steps into the hug, dropping his head onto Stiles' shoulder and breathing deep.

Derek appears behind him but Isaac takes his time pulling away. Stiles always lets him be the one to break hugs, because he's the only one who ever knows how much of a hug he needs. He used to take affection quickly, like a thief in the night, but now he takes his time about it. Isaac takes the phrase hug-it-out to extremes but it's not the weirdest thing about pack life and he gives excellent hug so Stiles isn't complaining.

Derek doesn't look impressed however and he finally seems to get tired of waiting, grips the back of Isaac's collar and jerks him out of Stiles' arms. "Teenage werewolves," he grumbles and Isaac and Stiles smirk at each other.

"Cooper's still at his motel. Scott and Boyd are watching him. Erica's going to spell them in a little while."

"Good. Did you see Allison?" Derek asks and Stiles punches him in the arm.

"She's there. You better believe she's there buddy," Stiles warns.

"Yeah, she got bored a little while ago and shot Scott in the face with a nerf arrow. I don't know how she gets the range on those things she does," Isaac says, a note of admiration in his voice. "Any news this end?"

"We think we know how Cooper did it," Stiles says and Derek shuffles Isaac aside so he can advance on Stiles.

"How?"

"That's not really the issue," Stiles says and Derek scowls at him.

"I decide what the issue is."

"No, you don't. This is not Alpha jurisdiction, this is Stiles jurisdiction."

"Because?"

"Because it's my dad," Stiles says and Derek grimaces and steps back.

"Fine, alright, what's the issue then?"

"You kill the Alpha that turned you, boom, instant human again. Except, Cooper isn't really an Alpha so we're not sure what that will mean."

Derek shakes his head. "It's the best way, to kill Cooper while he's still an Alpha. For your dad to do it."

"Which, in a perfect world, yay good plan, but it's not a perfect world and we have no idea how powerful Cooper is. If it came down to it, Cooper's jaws around someone's throat, one of the betas or even mine, would you really be able to resist killing him?" Before Derek can argue about not going, Stiles waves his hands. "Yes, I thought of leaving you out of the fight but really, we have to assume you're the only one that's a match for him. We'd pretty much need you to pin him and tag my dad in."

"We could try wolfsbane?" Isaac proposes.

"Yeah, maybe. It's just that... we might be dealing with a human with Alpha powers and not really a wolf. That might be why he smelled weird to Derek."

"So wolfsbane wouldn't do anything."

"If we show our hand too early, if he runs, that's it. We need a plan that will work, first time."

*

Stiles can't sleep so he's pawing through the open fridge when he hears a noise from the hallway. He looks up and sees his dad pass by, glassy eyed and mumbling, on his way to the front door. Stiles darts over to him, gets in his way. "Hey there, where do you think you're going."

"I have... stuff... I need to do..." his dad says, sounding completely out of it and Stiles winces. He knows what this is, Scott told him about the nights when Peter was still kicking around as Alpha when he would wake up in his bed with dirt all over his feet and no memory of having left the house.

His dad's being called by his Alpha.

"Dad, hey, no. You're not-" Stiles starts to say and his dad backhands him. It's a swift motion, he didn't even see it coming and he's been getting pretty good at judging these things lately which says bad things about his life choices. Stiles is knocked to the floor, his whole cheek feeling like it's on fire. Before he can scramble to his feet again, his dad's at the front door.

"Dad-!" Stiles calls, but when his dad pulls the door open, Derek is on the other side.

Derek slaps his dad. It's probably more noisy than painful but Stiles sees his dad hesitate and then seem to shake himself. "What...?"

"You were getting called by your Alpha. They do it when you're sleeping so you're more susceptible. You should... Stiles!" Derek sees him past his dad's shoulder, sprawled and cradling his face. He sees his dad turn, the horror on his face when he looks at his hand and there’s a smear of blood on his knuckles. Stiles touches fingers under his nose and they come away wet.

"Oh my god, Stiles! Did I do that?" he demands, looking appalled.

"It's okay, I've had worse," Stiles says, going for jovial but it's absolutely the worst thing to say. He expects his dad to grab him, check his face but instead he hesitates and then steps out of Derek's path into the house, gestures for Derek to do it.

He obviously doesn't trust himself to so much as touch Stiles now.

"Are you okay?" Derek demands, reaching out and Stiles waves him off.

"I'm good, don't worry. Where were you?" He knows it's unfair, that Derek wasn't far but his face hurts and his dad looks awful.

"I was walking the perimeter," he says, and really, who just comes out with stuff like that? Derek is absolutely ridiculous. "I thought maybe Cooper might try to come here."

"Erica and Isaac are at his place. They'll call if they..." Stiles notices that Derek is now not looking at him. "Wait, wait. Did you go to Cooper's?" he demands.

"I just wanted to check on him myself."

"What about Allison?"

"Scott was... distracting her," Derek says and he looks contrite but Stiles is extremely pissed off and he has good reason this time.

"You were supposed to be watching out for us!"

"I was."

"From across town?" Stiles waves a hand at his face. "How'd that work out?"

"Stiles-" his dad starts to say and Stiles see red.

"Don't you dare defend him, don't you do it. I've had to hear the Derek-is-the-bad-guy speech eighteen times, yes dad I counted, so I really don't want to listen to you change your mind about that right now."

"He's not though, right? That's what you kept telling me," his dad says.

"Unbelievable!" Stiles roars, throws up his hands and shoulders past Derek out the door.

"Just where do you think you're going?" Derek demands.

"I'm going to Lydia's. She took all the books. I'm going to enjoy thinking about you two stuck in a house alone together and how awkward that will be."

*

"It's three in the morning," Lydia says when she answers her door.

"You were awake," Stiles points out and she shrugs and pushes her door open further for him.

"So I found something that might help," Lydia says as she bounces onto her bed and Stiles lowers himself onto a floor cushion. She had touched his reddening cheek, made a small distressed noise then fetched him a cold pack but hadn't asked him about it which Stiles appreciates.

"Lay it on me," Stiles says, tugging his sleeve over his hand so he doesn't freeze his fingers off holding the cold pack on his face.

"You can steal someone's protection."

"Are you serious?"

"You have to be touching them to do it which is inconvenient but yeah, you can."

"That's great but... we're not sure if just stripping Cooper of his power will make my dad revert."

"Stiles, I've been talking to Deaton and reading a lot of this stuff. What Cooper has done is so far out of left field that your dad killing him when he's still Alpha in this way... we're not sure what it'll do but all indications are that it'll err on the side of unpleasant."

Stiles chews on his lip for a second. "It might-"

"This is the safest option. If your dad accidentally takes in this Alpha power, this skewed Alpha power, he might end up insane like Peter did."

"He won't... if he stays a werewolf he'll-"

"You have to convince him that it will be okay, that he can still have a life, that he won't hurt you." Lydia's eyes flick briefly to Stiles' cheek and away again. Stiles knows if this doesn't work, if his dad does remain a werewolf, then he won't be able to convince his dad of anything.

"So," Stiles says, dry washes his face with his hands. "Do we really want to give Derek this extra boost? He's already pretty insufferable as it is."

*

"You suck."

"I know." Allison looks appropriately apologetic, which probably works on Scott but Stiles isn't Scott. He punches her in the shoulder. "Ow, hey!"

"Stiles!" Scott says, surprised.

"You suck too," Stiles points out and Scott makes a face, like he's aware and accepting of that.

"Would you two just talk to each other? You're both making me crazy," Allison says, tapping both their shoulders and then stepping back.

"Dude, look-"

"Yeah, I-"

"I didn't-"

"No, I know-"

"So we're-?"

"Yeah, we are."

They hug and Allison rolls her eyes. "Oh my god, really?"

"When you've known someone since you were three, you don't need anything as mundane as full sentences," Stiles says haughtily and Scott chuckles, nudging into his shoulder. "So, this is the evil lair, is it?" Stiles waggles his fingers on evil lair, mostly to indicate how disappointed he is. Cooper's staying at the run down Beacon Hills Motor Inn. It’s kind of a creepy place, but in a perfectly boring fashion.

"So, Isaac tells me-" Stiles starts, but Scott puts a hand over his mouth and juts his chin in the direction of the third door on the second floor of the split-level motel. It creaks open and Cooper comes out, shouldering a satchel and not looking sinister at all.

They're hunkered in a clump of trees on the other side of the road from the motel's parking lot so they should be out of scent and sound range, but Stiles still feels gooseflesh break out across his skin when Cooper seems to pause, incline his head a little and then smile to himself.

"Dude, I think he knows we're here," Stiles says, or tries to but it's muffled because Scott is still holding a hand over his mouth. He licks Scott's palm and Scott makes a satisfyingly disgusted grunt and releases Stiles' head.

Allison glances at Stiles and then back at Cooper, who seems completely unconcerned as he jogs down the steps to the gravel of the parking lot and then slings his satchel into the trunk of a decrepit looking yellow Toyota.

Hands grab Stiles around the waist from behind and Stiles bites down on a shriek, spinning around the smack Erica. "Oh my god, don't do that," he wheezes. Isaac appears behind her and he's grinning.

"You guys go on to school. Isaac and I have got it," Erica says.

"You have school too, and we know Cooper does," Stiles points out and Erica makes a face at him.

"Spoilsport."

"C'mon, everybody," Allison says, urging them all up when the Toyota peels out of the parking lot and disappears down the road. "He'll get suspicious if any of the wolves are absent."

"But I have a French quiz," Erica whines.

*

"Stilinski!"

Stiles freezes, head still buried in his locker. The bell went only a few minutes ago, the hallway emptying rapidly. Stiles had a free so he was grabbing the notes he needed to do his History paper before he headed to the library. He drags his head out from behind his locker door slowly and of course Cooper is standing on the other side, leaning against the row with his hands tucked into his pockets. "Um, hi."

"How's the Sheriff?" he asks, looking nothing but politely interested.

Stiles is about to say good, thanks and then scurry like he's never scurried before, but he can't. He just can't. "Oh my god, really? You're just going to come up to me in the middle of the day in school and ask me that?"

Cooper's eyebrows lift and he's smiling, amused. Stiles is starting to get the feeling that this is a cat and mouse scenario and he's most definitely the mouse. "That looks like it hurts," Cooper says, waving a hand at the bruising on Stiles' cheek bone. Stiles had been hoping to escape his dad's hit without a shiner but it wasn't to be and before he left that morning, his dad had spotted him and had made an awful pained noise before retreating into his study and locking the door.

"Fuck you," Stiles grits. He knows he's basically taking his life in his hands right now, that bad guys don't always wait for the dead of night or a deserted area to attack. He could die right here in the school hallway while everyone else is in class, being bored and not having their lives ruined by werewolves.

"Now Stiles, that's not very nice," Cooper tutts and reaches out a hand to grip Stiles' chin. Stiles tries to wrench out of his hold, but Cooper's fingers tighten until Stiles lets out a squeak and is pretty sure he's going to be wearing another bruise. "You should be more respectful to your future Alpha."

"You're crazy," Stiles says, appalled.

Cooper's grip finally loosens and then he's scrubbing fingers through Stiles' hair. "I wondered, you know, why you didn't take the bite when all your friends are wolves. It’s your dad, right?"

"It's not that simple."

"I think it is," Cooper says. "I think it's exactly that simple. You don't have any extended family, you and your dad are all each other have. If you become a wolf, he loses you too, plain and simple. I saw it and Hale didn't, or he would've done what I did."

"No he wouldn't, Derek would never do that."

"Oh, I think you’d be surprised just what lengths Hale would go to for you."

"You don't know what you're talking about."

"I'm giving you a gift Stiles. You'll see that eventually."

A door opens further down the hall and Stiles jerks his gaze sideways, sees Scott leaning out of a classroom. He's frowning and when Stiles looks back, Cooper's gone.

"You okay?" Scott calls as Stiles hears Mrs Billings yelling from inside for Scott to get his ass back in his seat.

"Fine," Stiles says, waving Scott off and Scott still looks unsure for a second before he ducks back inside.

Stiles slumps against the lockers, breathing hard.

*

Stiles tries to make it from his jeep, to his door, to his room without encountering Derek when he gets home but Derek catches him on the stairs. Stiles is pushed back and down so he's lying awkwardly on the carpeted steps as Derek jams his nose against Stiles' face.

"Um, dude? I'm not sure my dad would understand if he saw this."

"He touched you, again," Derek growls, sounding murderous.

"There was just some mild threatening, I swear."

"I'm going to rip his head off," Derek promises, the words said into Stiles' skin and he knows Derek can probably hear the way his heart spikes, hopes he thinks it's the threat and not anything else that's making his pulse race.

"You can do whatever you like after we implement our brilliant plan," Stiles says and when Derek pulls back a fraction to stare into Stiles' face, he adds, "I swear. Hollow his head out and use it for a candy dish for all I care. Just, after."

"You've got a plan?"

"Do you want to back off so it doesn't look to my dad like you're dry humping me in the middle of the house? That won’t be good for his calm." Derek pulls a face but he levers back onto his heels, enough so Stiles can wiggle a step under his butt. He’s barely settled when Derek wedges himself back in, beside him this time so they're just as close, but it would look less amorous to an outsider.

“Cooper’s pulling a Lost Boys,” Stiles says and when Derek gives him a blank look, Stiles sighs. “Of course, why would you watch a vampire movie even though it’s a cult classic of the eighties.”

“Just make a point.”

“So, this whole movie, you think that a younger and punkier Kiefer Sutherland is this head vampire, after Jason Patric to join his little vampire family. Now I’m saying this out loud, this movie has some scary parallels to our lives.”

“Stiles!”

“Right, fine, geez. Anyway, so it’s not until the last five minutes that you find out that Kiefer Sutherland wasn’t the head vampire at all, it was this creepy video store owner that was dating Jason Patric’s mom and he was doing that to bring Jason Patric and his little brother into the vampire fold.”

“You’ve lost me.”

“Dude, I’m Jason Patric and my dad is Dianne Wiest!” Derek is pretty much just glaring at him and Stiles rolls his eyes. “Okay, you obviously have to see the movie to actually understand what I’m talking about. Basically, Cooper bit my dad so I would take it, would take the bite.”

Stiles doesn’t know what happens exactly, one moment he and Derek are sitting side by side on the steps leading up to his room and the next he’s in his room, pinned to the floor with Derek holding him down, eyes blazing red. Stiles wheezes in indignation, pretty sure that Derek just slung him over a shoulder and carried him caveman style. What’s really bugging him is the totally inappropriate reaction his body’s having to all of this, way too enthusiastic for the indignity.

“Derek,” Stiles says levelly, hating the way his voice tremors. Derek’s breathing hard, obviously trying to get himself under control but then things get worse because Stiles’ dad is there, lifting Derek off him and roaring.

Derek gets pitched into the wall opposite and while his dad isn’t totally wolfed out, he’s on his way there, already the shadow of the dodgy wolf sideburns appearing. “Dad, no!” Stiles yells, because he knows who will come off worse in this scenario. His dad had surprise on his side for a moment but Derek is much stronger, more experienced.

Derek’s up and roaring back, baring fangs and flashing the blood-tinged Alpha eyes but his dad isn’t backing down, has instead stepped over Stiles and is crouched in front of him protectively. When Derek finally focuses on what his dad is doing, his whole body loses its tension, his fangs recede and he rises from his own crouch. “Sheriff,” he says, husky-voiced.

“Dad!” Stiles tries again, grips his dad’s ankle and squeezes even though it might not be the best time to call attention to himself. His dad looks down at him and then the gold in his eyes winks out and he’s hunkering down, patting over Stiles with a concerned furrow between his brows.

“God, sorry, are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” Stiles says, takes the opportunity to wrap his arms around his dad’s neck and squeeze. His dad hugs him back fiercely, a little too tight to be comfortable maybe but Stiles doesn’t want to let go because his dad has been afraid to come near him and Stiles never realized how used to physical displays of affection he’d gotten because of the wolves, how he’d slowly gotten his dad used to them too until it was all easy pats and hugs and neither of them being embarrassed about it. “You were just protecting me.”

“What happened?” his dad demands, flicking distrustful eyes at Derek.

“I... lost it for a second,” Derek says. “I’m sorry Stiles I... just the thought of...”

“The thought of what?” his dad demands, helping Stiles to his feet.

“Cooper wants Stiles for his pack,” Derek says, a shiver passing over his skin like he’s fighting off the urge to maybe grab Stiles up again.

“It’s because I’m yo-” Stiles swallows hard, corrects, “Because I’m part of your pack though, right? He’s trying to cock a leg over your property.” Stiles grimaces at his own metaphor, no matter how apt. He’s become an unwitting pawn in a werewolf pissing contest.

“It’s not just that,” Derek says, looking extremely uncomfortable. “It’s because-”

“Oh my god, he can smell it, right?” Stiles groans, mortified. “He can smell how pathetic I am.”

Derek blinks, looking confused. “What?”

Scott appears in Stiles’ doorway, saving Stiles from the most horrifying conversation of his life. He knows he’s been attracted to Derek for a while now, and he’s pretty sure every werewolf in the Beacon Hills town limits, including Derek himself, knows too and is just being cool about not mentioning it. Stiles is extremely grateful, considering they feel compelled to tease him about everything else under the sun.

He just wasn’t exactly looking forward to explaining it to his dad.

“Everything okay?” Scott asks, obviously having noticed the tension in the air.

“What’s happened?” Derek demands.

“Lydia’s finished. She sent me,” Scott says.

“Finished what?” Derek asks.

*

“It’s inelegant, but it’ll work,” Lydia says, tossing a small bottle of blue powder over.

“Are you sure about this?” Derek asks, directing the question at Stiles. His dad is back at their house despite his protests and being guarded by Isaac and Erica, who had grumbled mightily about being left out of the fight. Boyd and Scott are with Derek, on hand to help take Cooper down long enough for Derek to get a hand on him.

“If you’ve got a better way, I’d love to hear it,” Lydia says primly.

“It’ll work,” Stiles says. “His protection will transfer to you and not only will we be stripping him of his power, but you’ll get it. Win-win.”

“What do I do?” Derek asks, palming the small bottle and still looking a little dubious.

“Break the bottle between your hands, press the the powder to his tattoo,” Lydia says. “Just, be careful. With what it took to make this stuff, you’d better believe this is a one-shot deal.”

“What I don’t get is why Cooper hasn’t disappeared yet,” Boyd says as Derek tucks the bottle carefully into his jacket pocket.

“He doesn’t know that we know, right?” Stiles says, shrugging.

“It’s hard to let go when there’s... fixation,” Derek adds, dropping his gaze.

Stiles remembers the whole thing with Isaac before this mess even started. How he’d sat on the lacrosse bench the day after his impromptu mud bath and the resulting conversation with Scott, stewing about being rejected. Cooper must have thought he was the easiest, most irresistible target in the world, smelling of another pack and frustrated loneliness all at the same time. He remembers how Derek picked Isaac, Erica and Boyd, what his selection criteria had been.

Boyd and Scott are giving Derek a funny look before they all turn to Stiles, expectant. “Right,” Stiles says gamely. “Time for my Oscar winning performance.”

*

Cooper doesn’t look surprised to see Stiles at his door, but he does look suspicious. Stiles hopes being out of scent-range doesn’t mean they’ll be too far away to stop it if Cooper decides to just cut his losses and maybe Stiles’ throat.

“Stilinski,” Cooper says, crossing his arms and leaning a shoulder against the motel room door frame. He’s wearing a loose-fitting t-shirt and Stiles can see more of the tattoo edging out of the collar and one sleeve, is reassured that it looks exactly like it’s supposed to.

“Hi,” Stiles says. “Just thought I’d drop by and see if that offer of yours was still on the table.”

“I haven’t offered you anything yet,” Cooper says and Stiles blinks for a second, thrown. Then Cooper grins at him, shark-like. “I much prefer that you ask... no, scratch that, beg me for it and I’m not sure you’re desperate enough yet.”

“My dad will... he’s going to do something really stupid because he thinks he’s going to eventually hurt me. I need a reason for him not to, a compelling reason.”

“Yeah, come back when I can believe you,” Cooper says and starts to swing the door shut. Right before he does, Stiles sees something in his face change and he’s not fast enough to lunge out of the way when Cooper snaps out a hand and grabs him by the collar, yanking him inside and slamming him against the door. “You think I’m stupid?” he roars and Stiles winces as claws puncture his shoulder.

“I’m just here-”

“You’re telling the truth, which is a nice touch,” Cooper growls, eyes narrowing, the red of a low-banked fire seeping into them. “You really are worried about your father ending his life.”

“He will if you don’t-”

“That’s not why you’re here, and considering I can smell some fast-approaching wolves, I think you can drop the act.”

“Dammit,” Stiles huffs. “Look-”

In movies, the good guys always get a precious few minutes to talk their way out of sticky situations, mostly because the bad guys are too busy gloating about their brilliance to just get on with things. Stiles has learned that life isn’t like the movies and instead of Cooper indulging in some inappropriately timed monologuing, he leans in and bites down on the join where Stiles’ neck meets his shoulder..

It’s unlike anything Stiles has ever felt before and he screams.

*

There’s the sound of roaring and fighting when Stiles drags his way out of the fog. Somehow he’s made it outside because he’s lying face-down on the gravel of the parking lot. He rolls over slowly, checking for broken bones or anything else that’s mushier than it should be and other than a dull burning where Cooper bit him and a stinging in his cheek he must have gotten from hitting the deck, he thinks he’s okay.

Except, Cooper bit him.

Stiles sits up slowly and immediately regrets it, his head swimming and the ground feeling like it’s roiling underneath him. Stiles fights the urge to throw up, then casts a bleary glance around. He spots Boyd sitting slumped over near one of the motel’s dumpsters and Scott sprawled a few feet away with Allison crouched by him, bow held steady, a frown of concentration on her face.

Stiles follows the direction of her gaze and can see why she’s not firing. Derek and Cooper are locked together, wrestling, snarling, biting. They’re a blur of fury, too fast and too locked together for Allison to get a clear shot.

Derek’s lost his jacket.

After scanning the parking lot, Stiles spots it lying in a crumpled heap a few feet away from him. Stiles tries to get his legs under him but they aren’t receiving messages from his brain right now so instead he pushes awkwardly to hands and knees, tries to ignore the burn of dragging bare palms across the gritty surface of the parking lot and inches his way to the jacket, just praying the bottle of powder isn’t broken.

As Stiles gets close enough to reach out and tug the jacket towards him, Derek and Cooper roll closer and he can hear that Cooper saved his taunting for Derek.

“He’s going to be mine now,” Cooper snarls into Derek’s face. “You were too weak to reach out and take what you wanted. You’re pathetic!”

Derek makes this sound of pure rage that brings gooseflesh out on Stiles’ skin. That sound turns Stiles’ blood to ice water because he knows what it means.

Derek is going to kill Cooper.

Stiles gathers every last shred of strength and will in his body, digs into Derek’s jacket to retrieve the bottle and then surges to his feet. Something in his body feels like it just tears free but Stiles ignores it because Derek is going to kill Cooper and Stiles has to stop him.

“Derek!” Stiles screams, can’t believe how wounded he sounds. Derek roars again as he manages to pin Cooper beneath him, and then he’s leaning over, jaws aiming for Cooper’s throat. Right before he connects though, he just... stops. Stiles can’t imagine the force of will that takes, and then Derek is holding out a hand at Stiles, actually snaps his fingers, impatient.

Stiles slaps the bottle into Derek’s waiting palm and he quickly breaks it between his hands, smacks them down on Cooper’s bared and bloodied chest, on the edge of the tattoo that curls over his collar bone. Cooper’s eyes widen and then his whole body bows upwards, a horrible ragged moan escaping from deep within him.

Stiles watches as Cooper’s tattoo becomes liquid that races across his body, spills over Derek’s hands and then races up Derek’s own arms. Stiles topples backwards as Cooper finally slumps, still making a bruised kind of mewling and then he’s being gathered up, Derek’s ashen face above him. “Stiles! Hey, stay with me!”

Stiles would love to stick around but it appears like unconsciousness has his number and he can’t do anything but accept the call.

*

“Ow.”

“I’m being as gentle as I can be.”

“I’m not inclined to believe you,” Stiles grumbles.

“Yeah, well, I shouldn’t be doing this at all. You don’t deserve it after giving me a heart attack,” Derek says, leaning over Stiles’ palm in the small bathroom, tweezers poised. Stiles has what feels like a few million bits of gravel embedded in his hands and while gentle rubbing with the fluffiest washer he could find had dislodged most of them, there were some stubborn bits that had worked their way too deeply into his cuts to be coaxed out that way.

Derek is actually being careful, surprisingly enough. “Is dad really okay?” Stiles asks, probably for the fiftieth time but Derek doesn’t begrudge him an answer, doesn’t lose patience with his need for reassurance.

“He still smells a little weird, but definitely human,” he says.

“And me?”

Derek hesitates, then says, “You always smell weird.”

“Har, har,” Stiles grumbles.

“You’re human Stiles,” Derek says. “At least, as close as you ever get. I still think there’s some alien DNA mixed in there somehow.” Derek sets the tweezers aside. “Let me check your shoulder.”

“Have you got some kind of medical degree I don’t know about?” Stiles asks, only offers a token grumble when Derek manhandles him out of his shirt. Derek palms the warm skin over where Cooper had bitten him. There’s the raised pink of the bite, but it looks days old instead of hours and the skin is no longer broken. Stiles is not about to question the oddness of werewolf healing magic and wonder why the bite started to heal and his scraped up palms didn't. He knows which one he'd prefer to be left with.

“You think it’ll scar?” Stiles asks.

“I don’t know. I hope not,” Derek says, frowning at the mark like he can make it disappear just by his disapproval of its existence alone.

“It’s kinda badass though,” Stiles says and Derek grunts and leans in, nosing over the place.

“I don’t like it,” he says into Stiles’ skin and Stiles swallows.

Derek pulls back then and it’s fortunate he does.

“You okay kiddo?” Stiles looks up to see his dad hovering in the doorway. He can’t explain how reassuring it is to see his dad in uniform, like it automatically resets everything to normal.

“Practically good as new,” Stiles says as Derek makes short work of wrapping his hands in the bandages from the well stocked first aid kit his dad has always insisted on keeping ever since Stiles grew a foot and an inability to walk in a straight line without falling on his face when he was fifteen. “You going to work?”

“Don’t see why not. I’m fine, right?” He looks at Derek who nods. “Okay then, don’t stay up too late and you might want to order pizza soon before your friends downstairs start gnawing on the furniture.”

Stiles grins as his dad leans into the bathroom to drop a kiss on his forehead before he heads out.

“He’s pretty cool,” Derek says as he finishes with Stiles’ hands.

“Yep, the best,” Stiles agrees. He’d been thinking that maybe his dad wouldn’t tolerate having the other wolves around once his he’d lost his own furry tendencies, but he’d just shrugged when the pack had set up camp in their living room after everything went down and then very prudently hid his stash of Oreos. “So, pizza?” Stiles asks, standing.

Derek tucks a hand into the waistband of Stiles’ jeans and tugs him back down before he can escape the close space. Their knees knock together and Stiles gives Derek a puzzled look. “Are you okay?”

“I want you to understand something, why Cooper went after you,” Derek says. Stiles blinks at him before he sits back a little, wary.

“Dude, I know why,” he says. “It was because I-”

“It wasn’t you,” Derek says. He looks a little uncomfortable, but also resolute. “I mean, it was you but it wasn’t... it’s hard to explain.”

“Try me,” Stiles prods. There’s the sound of something breaking downstairs and Stiles winces. “Better make it quick.”

“He could smell my attraction, to you,” Derek says, all in a rush like the words are hard to push past his teeth.

“Um,” Stiles says, which is not his most eloquent response ever, but it’s all he can come up with before there is a louder smash from below them and then Scott yelling about whatever had happened not being his fault. “Okay, hold that thought,” Stiles says.

Before he can retreat, Derek grabs his forearm and tugs him back down again, basically right onto Derek’s lips which, yes, okay, that’s... Stiles’ thoughts kind of skip a little and when they restart, Derek is pushing him gently away and grinning in a soft way that Stiles has never seen before.

“I wanted a better thought to hold,” Derek says, looking impossibly smug and infuriatingly adorable.

Stiles trips downstairs when he works out how to walk again only to see Scott blinking and desperately trying to shove feathers back into one of the couch cushions. The others are sitting around the table in the kitchen, looking far too innocent.

“I hate you all,” Stiles announces but then has to laugh helplessly when Scott coughs and feathers come out of his nose.