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Courage Through Fear

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No one ever claimed Stiles had the best plans. Scott had worse plans, Derek usually had pretty bad plans; Allison, and of course Lydia, could usually be counted on to have decent plans. So that was why he was a bit hesitant about this late night, clandestine meeting between the Argents (the remaining ones) and 'Team Werewolf' (the remaining ones) as Stiles occasionally called them in his head: Derek, Scott, Isaac, Peter, Lydia, and Stiles.

The terms of this little truce, however, were probably going to be a bit of a sticking point.

Stiles did not, on general principle, disagree with what Allison and her family were trying to do. They were like Reform Hunters, 'we hunt those who hunt us' and all that. Stiles was not opposed to hunting those that hunted the people who were dear to him. Gerard though, Gerard was a crazy ass son of a bitch, so the idea of throwing in with that sort of Hunter didn't appeal. Even with their recent team-up against Jackson and Gerard, Stiles wasn't entirely sure which sort Mr. Argent was right now.

"A cessation of hostilities?" Scott asked frowning across the lacrosse field where Allison was standing with her father.

"With the Alpha Pack coming, we have more important things to worry about." Mr. Argent sounded like it killed him to admit that, and maybe it almost had. There was still some serious bitterness going on there.

"But what do you want with Stiles?" Scott asked.

That was finally enough to make Derek, who was standing in front of all of them, turn around and growl at him.

"It's actually not that uncommon," Lydia said, head cocked to the side. "Royal families used to exchange heirs as wards or guests of another family all the time. Royal hostages, really."

"But they just live across town!" Scott argued, holding his hand out towards the Argents like that was going to make any difference. "Does that mean Allison gets to train with us?"

One track mind: thy name is Scott. Stiles just hung his head and raked his fingers over his hair and tried to figure out how this had become his life. "Don't I get any say in this? Who says I want to learn anything from a family who's constantly trying to kill my friends, who broke my best friend's heart, and generally shoot first, shoot second, and never ask questions?!"

"More Argents are coming," Mr. Argent said from across the field, finally cutting through the worried chatter on Stiles's side of the field. "You can either have a pact in place with me, or you can take your chances when even more Hunters descend on your town and start putting bolts in anything that growls."

"Who's to say your family follows the pact?" Stiles asked, taking a step forward so he was almost abreast of Derek. "Huh? They haven't exactly been sticking to that little Code of theirs, have they? It was your family that turned this town into a powder keg six years ago, and your family that lit it up."

Stiles tried to ignore the way his words had caused the slightest tension in Derek's jaw. Bad choice of words, Stiles, bad choice. Too late to take it back now, and Mr. Argent seemed to have got the message, no matter how it was put.

Mr. Argent answered, through gritted teeth: "That's why Stiles trains with us, hunts with us, and enforces the Code with us. It keeps both sides honest."

No pressure. Somehow he didn't think his dad was going to be too pleased with the turn of events that had him out late at night killing werewolves with crossbows. God, his dad. "Hey, look, Stiles like-y the end of the ridiculous murder attempts, especially of me, but this is a lot to think about."

Everyone was looking at him now and it made him extremely uncomfortable, but most of all it was Scott, offering no judgement but a lot of hope, and Derek who was now mostly glowering at him.

"Hey," Stiles said, glowering right back at Derek. "Werewolves are people too. I'm the son of the Sheriff and they're going to have me running around chopping people in half." His dad was not going to be happy with him, not one bit. He barely let Stiles target practice with a gun, medieval crossbow wielding was probably not high on the list either. "Killing. People."

"You get used to it," Derek answered, as though that was comforting.

He saw 'used to it', he saw the way Mr. Argent went to killing with barely a second thought, he saw the way Derek went for killing Jackson or Lydia the moment something confused him, and Stiles never, ever wanted to be like that. "Fine, but you're helping me explain all this to my dad. I don't need him thinking I'm a crazy person."

Derek nodded, and then Stiles turned to Scott. Scott nodded as well. "Look, I think it's for the best," Scott said. "You'll get trained up, and we'll need help if this Alpha pack is as bad as Mr. Argent thinks. It's enough for them to want to talk terms, and they weren't even willing to do that with Jackson until the end."

Hey, what was one more crazy thing in Stiles's life? "Fine. I'll do it." He took a deep breath and turned back towards the Argents. "Fine! Let's do this."

"I accept the terms on behalf of my pack," Derek said, voice carrying across the field.

Scott said nothing, until Derek gave him a hard whack in the stomach. "I accept the terms on behalf of my pack."

"I accept the terms on behalf of my family and all Hunters bound in any way to my family," Mr. Argent answered, from across the field.

Stiles checked with Scott, and then turned towards Derek, who nodded him forward across the field. Stiles fidgeted, but he made his way to the middle of the field, Mr. Argent meeting him in the middle. "We hunt those that hunt us, Stiles."

"As long as everyone remembers that."

Mr. Argent drew out a knife from a sheath at his side, and Stiles had to fight down the urge to stagger back; after a moment, Mr. Argent made a shallow cut across the heel of his hand, letting a drop of blood start to pool in the cut before handing it over to Stiles.

"That is so unsanitary." But he took the knife, turned it so the unbloodied side of it was against his palm, cut a shallow cut in his own palm, and let a drop of blood fall. "So, we're... bound by our agreement? I Hunter, you keep off my friends, and together we take down any of the Alpha pack who we know are killers?"

"We start tomorrow."

The moment Stiles handed back the knife, Mr. Argent turned and left, taking Allison with him. Scott was at his back a few moments later, and then Derek, Peter, Isaac, and Lydia. "Well," Stiles turned towards them all. "That wasn't ominous. I hope you know I just mortgaged my life for everyone. You're welcome."

"Look on the bright side," Scott answered. "I'm sure they'll have even more books for you to absorb werewolf knowledge from."

Stiles had to nod at that. "Could be fun, in between the werewolf murder." He gave Derek a smack. "And you, you're coming over now. My dad has the night off and I think the last thing he's interested in is me missing dinner because I was on the lacrosse field making blood pacts with the guy whose dad beat the crap out of me."

Derek had that look he often did when dealing with Stiles, the one that Stiles had long ago decided meant that Derek thought that Stiles was a complete moron, but he was somehow humoring Stiles anyway. It was usually a prelude to some variation on: 'what the hell, Stiles' or 'Stiles, just shut up and do what I said', but in this case he was more just eyeing Stiles with a mix of wariness and acceptance in there. "Any reason you aren't taking your best friend to introduce your dad to the idea of werewolves?"

Stiles didn't answer until the two of them were packed away into Stiles' car while Scott took Isaac and Lydia in his car. "Because if my dad decides that werewolves are horribly dangerous and evil... well..."

"You're protecting Scott."

"He's my best friend!" Stiles shot back, in case that wasn't obvious. "I've been protecting him since before he was cool and could mostly protect himself."

He turned on the car, pulled away from the parking lot and started to head towards home; barely a minute passed before he was nervously tapping on the steering wheel and thinking about what, exactly, he'd done. His palm still stung with the shallow cut on it, and after two minutes he had the hand clutched hard against the gear shift to keep it from shaking. Stiles had no doubt that his heart was pounding and his hand would have been shaking worse if he weren't clinging to the gear shift so tightly.


"What?!" Stiles was all but yelling now, not proud of himself, but the weight of what he'd just promised to do was finally sinking in. "What could you possibly want to say to make me feel any worse about what I just did?" Because Derek's superpower was making Stiles feel like an idiotic kid in way over his head, making fun of him for his internet research, for worrying about silver bullets, for everything, but he had done a damn good job with Scott's transformation, no thanks to you, Mr. Sourwolf.

"Thank you."

Derek's tone wasn't even grudging, it was damn sincere. The car fell silent for several blocks.


"Argent wasn't going to back down, not after what happened to Kate and his wife. I barely have enough of a pack with Erica and Boyd gone, and... if we didn't find a way to come to a more lasting truce things were going to get even uglier." Derek wasn't looking at Stiles, instead looking out the window at the half moon, or just out of the car.

"You mean like how we could have solved everything going on with the Kanima in a week, two tops, if everyone hadn't been trying to kill everyone else? Yeah, that would have been great. The last two months would have been much less traumatic for all involved." Stiles continued to squeeze down on the gear shift. His hand hurt, he was leaving blood all over his car. In a half hour, maybe even sooner, he and his father would either be... better, or farther apart than ever. "So, you're following my lead on this. Don't go growling or snapping at him, because he will shoot you if he thinks I'm in danger."

"I'll be good," Derek promised, but of course he had to punctuate it by turning towards Stiles and grinning, showing teeth even if he wasn't showing teeth.

"Yup, pretty much exactly what I was afraid of." His dad and Derek were going to kill each other.

Stiles thought better of his plan several times before finally making it home and parking in the driveway just next to his father's patrol car. His hand hurt, he'd just sold his soul to the Argents, Derek was being weirder than usual, and this just suddenly seemed like a horrible idea now that he was thinking about it. He was going to have to kill people, even if he just hunted them down and Argent or one of the other Hunters did the deed he was officially going to be an accessory to murder. His dad would be so proud. Stiles knew he'd thought about it before; if he'd thought they could have gotten away with it - not in the legal sense, in the actually able to do it sense - he would have killed Jackson in a heartbeat. Jackson had been a danger to himself and others and they hadn't had any idea how to stop him.


Derek looked up from where he was wiping Stiles's blood off the gear shift.

"These Alphas, the ones in the Alpha Pack, they're bad guys, right?"

Derek didn't do him the disservice of answering with a simple yes. "Each one of them either murdered an Alpha for their status, or formed their own pack to become an Alpha and then murdered their Betas. There are no Betas in the Alpha Pack."

Accessory to murder. "Alright, time to face the music."


Stiles's home was the same as Derek remembered it from the other times he had been there. The Sheriff regularly took his work home, and there were little pockets of it that were visible even as they came in the door. Stiles seemed to have finally realized that his hand hurt, even though it was a shallow cut, and without asking he made his way to the bathroom and pulled out the small first aid kit from the hall closet just outside it. The kit was probably a necessary accessory to a home with a young boy, and even more necessary with the decision of after school hobby that Stiles had chosen for himself.


Stiles did as he was told. "Where's...?"

"He's upstairs changing," Derek answered, hearing the clank of a belt, the sound of a gun on a bedside table - left there only for the time it took to transfer into off-hours clothes. "Give me your hand."

Stiles laid his hand out across the kit and Derek gave the wound a sniff. He hadn't smelled anything when the pact had been made, but the wound continued to smell of nothing but blood and the lingering scent of steel from the knife. After that, he started with an alcohol swab, cleaning off the wound, but Stiles didn't even hiss. "Good work, lead with the: werewolves are not just creepy biters."

Derek snorted at that, and then went back to rooting around in the kit for some butterfly bandages. The wound probably didn't need that, but it was long even if it wasn't deep. "You're going to train with the pack, too, you and Lydia. The Alphas will be stronger and faster than me and the two of you need to know how to protect yourselves. There's no way I'm letting Argent take pot shots at Isaac or Scott; Peter he can take some pot shots at, but you'll be able to study how we move."

"You realize you'd be teaching me how to kill you."


"Just so we're... clear." Stiles looked down at his hand and flexed it. "And I'm going to have Mr. Argent teach me the right combination for wolfsbane bullets. There's no way I'm letting my dad... Dad!"

Derek hadn't even noticed the Sheriff come into the room, which was unusual for him; he'd been too focused on Stiles. That was happening more and more, and it was more and more dangerous as that lingered. He wondered how much of the conversation the Sheriff had heard, obviously not too much based on the confused look that he shot between Derek and Stiles and between where Derek was holding Stiles's hand.

A few heartbeats later, Stiles seemed to realize the scene they made and he pulled his hand away, taking the gauze from him and wrapping his own hand. "Dad, there's a, um, conversation that we need to have."

The Sheriff blinked, and then cocked his head just slightly to the side. "Wait, are you actually gay?"

"What? Wait! No!" Stiles shook his head, but Derek couldn't quite miss the way Stiles's pulse shot up before he calmed slightly. "That is not the conversation we are having right now! Sit."

Well... that was certainly interesting, and Derek couldn't quite help the snort he made in response.

"Oh shut up. This is all your fault."

"How is this--?" And then Derek realized where that impression must have come from in the Sheriff's mind and he smirked at that. "So that was from when we were--?" The question was entirely worth it for the way Stiles blushed and the Sheriff's eyebrows shot up. Of course, being a twenty-something potential felon probably put him even less in the Sheriff's good graces than being a werewolf should, so perhaps he should stop baiting Stiles with his attractiveness and potential gay innuendo. "But that is not the conversation we're having, right?"

"I am so going to-- I'll think of something!" Stiles took a deep breath, and he turned back towards his dad, and then put a conspicuous amount of distance between them on the couch. Derek missed the proximity immediately. "Dad, I realize this is going to sound a bit crazy, but just hear me out and give me a chance to prove it."

"Stiles, with you I'm starting to think that the crazy should be my first resort." The Sheriff took his own deep, steeling breath, and Derek took that moment to note the similarities between father and son. "But, alright, since we're not having a coming out, what am I here for?"

"This... it's about everything. Everything. The animal attacks, Laura Hale's murder, the attack on Lydia, Jackson's... Jackson-ness, the attack on the Sheriff's Office, all the crazy things that have been building up all these lies between us, that everything." Stiles stopped and took the moment to bite his lip, to tease the bottom lip between his teeth for a moment as he gauged his father's reaction.

Derek did the same. The Sheriff's eyes were mostly on Derek, clearly wondering why Derek - an obvious interloper - would have to be present for such a conversation. He knew that he must have been a focus for the Stilinski family lies, the lie about him killing people, the lie about Stiles not knowing him.

"So let's clear the air."

Stiles nodded. "So, here's the thing: werewolves."

"Stiles." The Sheriff's tone was distinctly not amused.

"I get it. 'Stiles, that's ridiculous', believe me, I know, but I have been getting up close and personal with every single bit of werewolf lore and a lot that's not in any online dictionary. It's all true, except for the silver bit. Silver, who knew?" Stiles began to babble. Derek was well and truly familiar with that babble; the Sheriff was obviously familiar as well judging by the bemused look on his face. "Werewolves: real, you get it from a bite, rapid healing, super senses, crazy aggression issues. There's more than that, lizard werewolves, magic, bite immunity, wolfsbane. I know more about mythical creatures than I ever thought possible and suddenly I really wish they had Archaic Latin classes at Beacon Hills High School."

When Stiles finally finished his ramble, the Sheriff leaned forward, hand rubbing over his face and then through his hair. "I know it's been hard for you lately, and... I get it, werewolves are probably a lot easier to deal with than not knowing what's going on, but..."

"Derek?" Stiles made a... particularly hilarious growly face towards Derek.

Derek took that as permission, although he did glance over at the Sheriff. No holster at his hip, but one at his ankle. Channeling the anger, the aggression, was easy enough. He grew up with the feeling of the shift, he could trigger it with barely a thought. He turned towards the Sheriff and growled, the teeth and claws came out, the red glow of his eyes would come a split second later. Derek snarled.

The Sheriff was a credit to his reflexes and he had his gun up and level at Derek's chest; probably not fast enough to save his life if he'd been intent, but pretty fast. Stiles was up, and although he didn't come between the gun and Derek, he did hold his hands out and had a few calming platitudes for his father, but the Sheriff didn't lower his gun until Derek's teeth retracted and his eyes went back to their human color.


"Yeah, there's a few in town now, and more on the way." Stiles went to wringing his hands after that, stopping after he realized he was just chafing the wound to his palm. "Look it's really, really complicated. Are you with me on werewolves?"

Not at the moment, it seemed, but it was obvious that the Sheriff was making a try at it, eyes going between Stiles and Derek with the look of a man trying to puzzle it all out, trying to put things together. "Lydia's a werewolf?"

Smart guy.

"No, Lydia's... immune, somehow. She got bitten, but she didn't turn."


"That's a yes, but with an asterisk."

"Stiles." The Sheriff's tone was warning, or perhaps wary, or perhaps they were the same thing when you were dealing with Stiles.

"Definitely not, but Derek's uncle offered."

That was news to Derek. "Peter offered to bite you? That son of a..."

"I said no," Stiles answered. "Not interested."

The half-lie registered without Derek even making conscious note of it. "Look, um, Sheriff?" Derek stood, and the gun came back up. "First, that's a nice thought, but if I wanted to kill you, or Stiles, you'd be dead and nothing in the house right now would stop me."

Stiles stood up and whacked Derek in the back of the head. "Way to be a non-threatening and welcoming presence. Sit."

Derek did, although mostly because he was far too willing to do as Stiles asked for reasons that Derek didn't much like to dwell on because they were a good way to make a wolf crazy.

"Like Derek said, bullets don't much work on a werewolf, not unless they're laced with wolfsbane. You and me? We're going to load our own, you can keep a wolfsbane clip or five. That will slow a wolf down if you get a body shot." Stiles was pacing now, and Derek had to fight the urge to grab him and get his ass in a seat because the action put Derek more on edge than he liked. "There's only a few werewolves in town right now, most of them are in Derek's pack and Derek is... light grey on the wolf scale. He doesn't turn people without their permission, and he only..." Stiles looked to be reconsidering his words. "He kills to protect others."

"Murder," the Sheriff said.

"Justified defense of others," Derek answered. To be fair, he doubted that a law man of any sort would really appreciate it. The argument wasn't exactly compelling to someone who was used to thinking of cops and judges and no executioners. "Sometimes a wolf goes crazy, starts hunting, starts... killing the people who murdered their family, starts ripping the livers out of the barely dead. There are some humans in town, Hunters. They have a saying for it: ‘we hunt those that hunt us’. It's their code." Not always their Code, and certainly some members - Kate, Gerard - had only too happily violated the ethics of a Hunter for their own personal feelings.

The Sheriff stood, Derek stayed as he was. A few gun shots wouldn't slow him down. The Sheriff bowed his head, the simple act made Derek warm, just slightly. He was - metaphorically - showing his neck; he couldn't have known exactly what that meant, but it meant a lot to Derek. "Why tell me all this now? Something's changed."

As much as he sometimes forgot, Stiles was a smart guy, and it had to have come from somewhere. "There is another pack coming to Beacon Hills," Derek answered. "They hunt for power and for sport. Argent, he's the head of the Hunters in town and he asked for a pact."

"And what, exactly, does this pact entail?"

"That would be me. I'm the pact." Stiles raised his hand. "Mr. Argent wants me to hunt with him, train with him, sort of a... royal werewolf hostage to keep Derek and his pack in line and then I go and make sure Argent and his family stay in line. There are even more Hunters out there, and they're less picky about hunting those that hunt them, so I'm the... werewolf truce keeper. No pressure, though, right?"

The Sheriff looked between them again. "You said Stiles wasn't a werewolf."

"Argent wouldn't have made the agreement with a werewolf," Derek answered. "He made a deal with Stiles and accepted it when we swore that Stiles spoke for our pack."

"You weren't kidding about the werewolf marriage." The Sheriff raked his own hand down his face, a perfect image of Stiles in his own way. "Alright. Derek." The Sheriff took a long breath and fixed his eyes on Derek. "Thanks for..." He snorted, shook his head. "It's not like I can thank you for dragging my son into all this. You look out for him."

Stiles opened his mouth, clearly about to protest.

"He's pack," Derek said before Stiles had the chance. "And your son has saved my life, more than once."

Derek knew the look on Stiles's face, it was the 'wait, me?' look where he somehow couldn't believe that he had actually contributed; Derek found it both very endearing and a bit sad that Stiles really thought that of himself.

"Well, thanks, I think," the Sheriff answered. "I think you should head out, son."

The Sheriff had just called him 'son'. Derek had no idea how to feel about that. "Stiles, come see me after you finish with Argent tomorrow."

Derek left, made his way back to the train depot and seriously considered getting a proper base of operations, especially since his pack was once again down to Peter and Isaac. Back before the fire, the Hales had been an actual part of the community, they may even have trusted the people around them; Derek had even been to the Sheriff's Department a few times and people had looked at him like he wasn't a felon. Derek didn't miss that, but Isaac deserved better. Peter didn't, but there were only so many choices Derek had.


For a young man of barely nearing seventeen, Stiles's life contained a lot of weirdness, and that was considering the fact that his life now had werewolves, kanimas, evil hunters, and undead murdering werewolves in it now. His dad actually pulling down one of the gun cases, undoing the lock, checking the magazine and chamber, and then handing the thing over to Stiles was not anywhere on Stiles's radar as something that might actually happen. The gun felt heavy in Stiles's hands, even though he had held it several times before.

"You know it's not actually legal for me to carry this, right?" Stiles asked, just checking, because sometimes his dad forgot that Stiles wasn't actually his dad's deputy in his haste to actually talk out a case.

"And surprisingly that's the most comforting thing you've said all evening." His dad put an arm around Stiles. "If I'm going to send you off to hunt werewolves, you're taking that."

The two of them stood next to each other and Stiles picked up a handful of clips, but didn't bother with the neatly boxed bullets. It wasn't like a simple lead slug would do much to slow down a werewolf, much less a pack full of Alphas.

"So... no silver bullets?" His dad asked.

"Derek made fun of me when I asked. It turns out that it's actually a mistranslation and misunderstanding from the original La Bête du Gévaudan story and the fact that the beast was hunt down by an Argent." Stiles had learned that little bit from his various research after making a fool of himself the first time.

"Weak to 'silver', then."

"Right, really what you want is wolfsbane bullets, regular wolfsbane will slow 'em down, nordic blue wolfsbane though is where the money is. If that gets into a werewolf's heart... he's toast." Stiles shivered as he remembered Derek under its influence, even more aggressive than usual, and with a distinct smell of death that lingered in Stiles's nose long after the actual event. "Werewolf primer number one: red eyes equals Alpha, they bite you, you turn." Stiles rooted around in his pocket and pulled out what appeared to be a simple prescription drug bottle, which he handed over to his dad. "Mountain ash pills, they're prophylactic; take one a day, everyday, and you get bit and instead of turning you vomit up black goo out of every orifice. Your call if that's more disturbing or less. Blue, yellow, brown, or other colored eyes equals Beta, they bite you you're just bit, no danger of turning into a werewolf. Werewolves are stronger in a pack, one alpha, three or more betas. Omegas don't have a pack; they're weak, but they'll do anything to survive."

His dad looked a bit lost, but he took a deep breath, popped one of the pills and looked down at Stiles. "So, this is all old hat for you?"

"I find more and more reasons to hide under the bed and never get out every day." If Stiles was being completely honest, most days he didn't know why he didn't do that, and then he looked over to his dad, and it was pretty hard to forget. "Promise me you'll be careful. I know you want to do what I did, get down into it, find out everything there is to know, but the Argents and Derek have been doing this a lot longer than either of us, and... yeah I sort of defer to them when it comes to this stuff, so... I'm the veteran here, dad."

"You keep me in the loop, Stiles, and... we mostly have a deal. Don't think I'm letting my sixteen year old son out hunting without me at his back, though."

So much for keeping his dad safe.

In spite of his dad's recent 'hooray, guns for Stiles' stance, Stiles left his gun at home when he went over to see Mr. Argent. For one, he would have had to take the gun into school and leave it in his locker, or leave it in his truck for the whole school day, both of which seemed like really poor ideas; for two, he figured bringing a gun into Mr. Argent's house, unloaded though it was, wasn't exactly a welcoming and trusting gesture. Summer was close, though, and while most of the students were itching to get out of town, or just get out of school, Stiles was itching to not feel so damn helpless.

Allison changed into all black, Mr. Argent was already in all black, and Stiles... Stiles was wearing jeans and a flannel shirt, apparently he'd missed the dress code memo, but never the less the three of them retired to the woods, far enough away from civilization that they wouldn't be disturbed.

Mr. Argent began his instruction while Allison set up targets.

"Weapon of choice at range for a werewolf is a crossbow." Mr. Argent handed one over, which Stiles took, fumbling it awkwardly from the weight. After Stiles actually had a hold on it, Mr. Argent began listing the various parts and pieces.

This was good, Stiles could do this. It reminded him of when his dad had taken him out and they had gone over gun handling and gun safety. His dad had been with the Sheriff's Department long before he'd actually been elected Sheriff and there had always been guns in the Stilinski house; as soon as Stiles was old enough to be upgraded from 'bad, don't touch' to 'this is how we safely touch' his dad had taught him the ropes. Apparently gun handling didn't much mean that Stiles was any good at shooting, as was proven as he made a few valiant, yet failed attempts to actually hit the target.

"I thought you were a decent lacrosse player, Stilinski," Mr. Argent said.

"Yeah more of a... yaknow... thrown weapons sort of guy?" He had made a pretty damn good throw at Peter Hale, ages ago, and apparently he was decent at making goals on the field. "How about guns, can we try guns?"

Mr. Argent looked like he was seriously reconsidering the whole thing, the pact, the team up, everything. "Guns are loud, and a werewolf's body can reject the bullet easily if it's not laced with wolfsbane." But he did hand over a handgun to Stiles, and Stiles gave the barrel an appreciative stroke - after checking that it wasn't loaded yet. "There are a few places on a wolf that a good hit will get you a kill: right in the eye, right between the eyes, through the jugular, and, of course, wolfsbane to the heart."

"Plain bullet to the heart won't work?" Stiles asked.

"No, it will slow one down, but not kill it."

Stiles set the gun down, pulled on ear protection and eye protection. Just because you didn't get it in the field didn't mean he wanted to damage his tender and youthful hearing. Mr. Argent and Allison followed suit. After a few moments, Mr. Argent began his instruction, apparently he thought Stiles needed 101.

"No, no. I've got this," Stiles assured him, before he slid the clip into the gun, flipped the safety, and unloaded the magazine - twelve shots - into the hilariously snarly wolf target that Allison had set up. Two in each eye, two between the eyes, two in the jugular region - both sides - and just for good measure, two the foot or so down and to the left where the heart should be.

When he lowered the weapon and tugged down his ear protection, he couldn't quite help the happy little fist pump.

"Go Stiles."

Mr. Argent was looking at him.

"What? My dad's the Sheriff. Safety first."

Allison was looking at him too.

"You're not the only family in Beacon Hills that has a crazy gun fetish. I'm not nationally ranked or anything, but I'm decent." Stiles was frankly a little offended. Yes, he had a great deal of teenaged angst over not being able to run as far or as fast, of not being able to contribute the way he wanted to, and it wasn't like he could run around town with a gun anyway, they were mostly looking for non-lethal solutions to the fundamental werewolves problem. The Alpha Pack was going to be different, even though Stiles didn't want it to be.

"Can you shoot a rifle?" Mr. Argent asked, looking grudgingly impressed.

"I like to think I can extrapolate?" Stiles really was more of a handguns sort of guy, they didn't keep rifles at home. His dad had never been much of a hunter and Stiles had never picked up shooting for fun, so there had never been much of a need. "But this doesn't solve the main problem, you can use a crossbow to take out a thigh or a knee easier than you can use a gun. A gun is a weapon of last resort."

Mr. Argent's impressed look disappeared. "Fighting werewolves is automatically a situation of last resort. If they're attacking, you're dead if you aren't willing to make the kill. I know you were introduced to this through Scott, I know he's your friend, but wolves are dangerous. They bite."

Stiles had to fight down the urge to argue, something that he didn't usually bother with. Peter was dangerous, yes, he knew that, he'd tried to turn Lydia, kill Lydia, and then basically mess with her head beyond all recognition, so Stiles didn't have warm feelings towards Peter. Derek was... well Derek wasn't great when he was pushed or running scared, but he wasn't a monster, Isaac wasn't a monster. "I'm willing to do what it takes, but you also can't just shoot a gun on a suburban street corner."

He knew he had a point, and obviously Mr. Argent thought so as well, because he opened up the back of the trunk and... flung a stick at Stiles. Which he caught after fumbling it for a moment. It was wooden, maybe a little under four feet, the shaft squared off in an octagon for a good grip. Without even thinking he gripped it like he would a lacrosse stick and then realized... that was entirely the point. "Mountain Ash?" Stiles asked. He recognized the color, sort of warm and medium brown.

"Rowan," Mr. Argent corrected, although really they were the same thing. "They used to make wands out of the stuff."

"So by 'wand' you mean 'stick to beat werewolves with'?"

That earned him a snort. "There are several martial art forms that use a wooden stick: bartitsu, kendo, and so on. I figured it would be a good place for you to start. The wood does have magical properties, and don't knock it, that was carved by my great aunt."

"Don't I know it on the magical properties." Stiles squeezed the stick again, rotating it in his hand to get a feel for the weight. "I cast like... Circle of Protection: Werewolf once before Derek made me break it." Of course, that had been so Derek could get in and save Scott from crazy-Mrs.-Argent, so Stiles should probably stop that line of conversation before it got out of hand.

"Wait. You?"

Stiles's head shot up, because in general that tone of voice meant that he was going to get a beating, or at least a yelling, from whatever person or persons thought that he knew something he shouldn't and really someday he was going to learn to keep his mouth shut. Probably not. "Me?"

"You cast a ward with mountain ash?"

"Yeah, you know? Click your heels together and wish really hard? I mean it was a bit weird because hello, magic. Maybe I should be more accepting of magic on account of the fact that my best friend's a werewolf and now I'm hanging out with people who hunt werewolves and then crazy Peter came back from the dead with some sort of wolfsbane punch full moon magic, so maybe not believing in magic is a bit like failing to believe in toast at this point, but in my defense this is all very new to me." Stiles finally took a breath.

Mr. Argent went to the tree and tore down the targets they'd been going to use. Or maybe since Stiles had proven he was pretty good with a gun they were going to bypass the shooting practice for today. "I have a book for you to read."

"I like books."

"You and Allison can run home."

"Wait, what?"

Mr. Argent put the rest of the guns and crossbows and things into the back of his van and closed the hood. "Meet you back at the house. You do know that an awful lot of hunting and tracking werewolves is running, right?"

Stiles did his best not to let Mr. Argent hear him whine, but he checked his shoelaces, and thankfully his backpack was in the back of the van, not on his back, so he took the stick and held it in his hands like a lacrosse stick. Mr. Argent stopped the car while Allison slung her bow across her back. Of course, then Mr. Argent rolled down the driver's side window, dropped his backpack on the leaf and dirt covered ground, and drove off.

"I think I hate your dad just a little bit."

"We're training, Stiles. Just because it's summer vacation doesn't mean we get a break."

"Normal kids have summer jobs." Stiles had never been normal, though, not even a little bit, so maybe it made sense that instead of working at the Sheriff's Department cataloging every bit of non-sensitive piece of evidence that existed he was running through the woods with a magic werewolf stick with his best friend's girlfriend... who hunts werewolves. No, still not even a little bit normal.


Derek spent his day torn between the rail depot and the old house, knowing that either one marked him as an easy target for the Alpha Pack. Not having a home, a pack house, was truly the mark of a desperate Alpha. Deaton had even called him a crappy Alpha, and Derek couldn't even disagree. Reconstructing the old house was probably his best bet, but the Alpha Pack would start causing trouble in a few weeks, maybe a month or two, not nearly enough time to bring the house up to anything resembling glory. The Rail Depot was also a better training ground, just a pretty crappy place to live.

"We need a house," Derek said, particularly grudging.

"Let's get one right in the middle of town, see how many moons it takes before the neighbors file a noise ordinance violation," Peter suggested. "I can't wait to see the Sheriff decide how to enforce that one. Maybe that weird little kid has an idea."

"Speaking of that 'weird little kid', he said you offered him the bite." Probably to torment Derek, because Peter had been together enough to hear Derek ramble on about Stiles and how that gawky little kid wasn't afraid of werewolves even though he should be, and wasn't afraid of Derek, would stand up to anyone, and - embarrassingly enough - smelled really damn good to Derek. A teenaged boy shouldn't smell that good.

"He would have made a better werewolf than Daddy Issues, Body Issues, and Social Issues. I wasn't kidding about you taking every teen with self-esteem issues. Can you imagine having all that raw energy and brainpower in a pack?" Peter shook his head and tsked at Derek. "Sadly it would probably be wasted on him; he's better off without the bite at this point. I never would have offered if I knew he had that much magic potential. I wonder if he'd be immune to the bite..."

Derek gritted his teeth, annoyed, yet again, that Peter seemed to know everything while Derek was left grasping at straws. He had the Bestiary, he apparently was able to orchestrate his resurrection from beyond the grave via Lydia, and Derek hadn't even known enough about a Kanima to recognize it on sight. Deaton had said he should put trust in people, but not Peter, and Derek had to agree with that. "It was just one warding spell."

"But where there's one..." Peter let the idea trail off, glancing up when Scott and Isaac came into hearing range. "Boys, welcome home! Tell Uncle Peter how school was today."

Isaac turned to Scott as soon as they came in. "I think he's getting even creepier."

"Hey, at least he's not talking about how hot your mom is."

Peter's newfound obsession with Scott's mother was more than a bit disturbing, even to Derek, but the four of them settled into an afternoon of training, even if Scott had to take a break in the middle to study, of all things. He knew that Scott would be heading to summer school to make up for several failed classes, which would cut into training time, and survivability, so it made it all the more important that Scott got his training in.

Derek smelled Stiles long before he got anywhere near the train station. That wasn't quite fair - it wasn't as though Stiles stunk - but he did have a distinct odor of sweaty teenaged boy, and Derek sort of liked to pretend that he didn't know exactly what Stiles smelled like, or made particular note of it at any given time. Denial worked for him most times. Peter caught his scent a few moments later, and gave Derek a feral grin; Derek wasn't going to take judgement from a wolf who pinballed between stalking a teenager and hitting on Scott's mom.

"No Allison?" Scott asked when Stiles came into the room, alone.

"Jeez, one track mind." Stiles shook his head and dropped two bags at his feet, one smelled of herbs - not least among them wolfsbane - and metal, the other smelled of leather and parchment. The stick slung over his shoulder was unmistakably mountain ash.

"Argent certainly has you loaded for bear." Derek could have lived without the wolfsbane, but it wasn't as dangerous to a wolf unprocessed, and Stiles had left it close enough to the door that the scent only barely lingered. "Did he give up on you already?"

"Hey, I will have you know I am awesome," Stiles answered, voice intentionally higher on the last. "I impressed him with some shooting, although my hand to hand, not so great, and apparently I have all these magic books. It's like I'm ready for Hogwarts, here. Expelliarmus!" Stiles, of course, slung the rowan wood stick down from his shoulders and pointed it towards Derek.

Derek just rolled his eyes, but he had to admit he hadn't thought that Stiles would actually impress Argent.

"You know," Peter said, standing up from where he'd been leaning against a pillar. "Magic isn't about flashy lights and incantations. It's more subtle than that."

"Says the guy who came back from the dead during the light of the Worm Moon after a crazy Bacchanalian poison orgy."

Peter shrugged, making one of his stupid 'you got me there' looks.

Stiles sighed and swung the stick around, getting nowhere near Derek with it, probably just feeling the weight of it. "Here's what I don't get: mountain ash ash, mountain ash squared, that can be used to stop an Alpha bite, ward off a werewolf or a kanima or a kanima master, probably some other supernatural creatures and all, but mountain ash, wand stick, what's that do? It's obviously not freaking anyone out." Stiles waved the stick around towards Derek and Isaac, punctuating his point.

"It's a focus," Peter answered. "And you've got to put your... thought behind it, without it the stick is just a stick."

"Sounds like this calls for a demonstration," Derek said, waving Peter over. "Peter, why don't you help?"

"You just want to watch him beat me with a stick."


But Peter did walk over towards Stiles, leaving enough space in the room for the two of them to move around a bit. Derek, Isaac, and Scott circled around to leave space between the impending spar and the wolfsbane and them. Suddenly Derek wished they had popcorn. He wasn't certain who was going to get the shit beaten out of them, but either way the day would be entertaining.

"As much as it pains me to hasten my own beating," Peter said, standing tall, chest thrust out. "What do you think you should be able to do?"

"Fly," Stiles answered. "Definitely fly."

"Think a little more realistic, Stiles. It's a twig."

"Well, Rowan is supposed to ward against witchcraft and vampires, takes on magical energies more easily than other woods, it's good for charms and talismans..." Stiles started to ramble, and Derek wondered if he'd just swallowed wikipedia, or some sort of magic message board. He was halfway into discussing the various properties of rowan berries when Peter waved a hand and silenced him.


"Sorry, I'm running low on Adderall." Stiles twisted the stick in his hands, wringing it. He then reached it out and touched one of the blunt ends to Peter's chest, giving him an experimental prod. "Does that hurt?"

"My sternum will never be the same," Peter answered, completely deadpan.

Stiles fidgeted again, grabbing the stick like he intended to check Peter, and then pushed it against Peter's chest in a weak body check. Peter snarled, teeth and eyes and claws all flashing and Stiles backpedaled as fast as his legs could carry him. Not the most illustrious response, but a survival one, and he did keep the stick between them, also a good survival instinct. Peter grabbed the hem of his shirt and pulled it up.

A red-black brand, probably the exact size and shape of one of the edges of the stick, was visible across Peter's chest, and it didn't fade, not quickly. The four of them gaped as Peter reached up and touched the burn, hissing as he did so.

"What did you do?" Scott asked, scrambling to Stiles' side and keeping a very respectful distance from the stick.

"I just sort of figured... like a vampire cross, you know..." He made a hissing sound. "I didn't think it would work!"

"Actually." Peter dropped his shirt and pressed a hand over the wound, wincing again. "You did think it would work. That's the whole point."

Stiles looked down at his hands, and then carefully pressed the stick to Scott's shoulder. Derek smirked when Scott stumbled away, pulling up his own shirt sleeve to reveal nothing. "That's just silly!" Stiles poked the stick against Scott's shoulder a few more times. "Is it magic or not? I can't have a situational magic wand stick that does or doesn't do magic based on who knows what. It works on Peter, it doesn't work on Scott."

Peter glanced over towards Derek, and Derek saw his uncle's eyes fill with a wicked sort of gleam. "Do you want to tell him, or should I?"

Derek frowned at them both. "Stiles. The stick isn't magic."

"Ha! I knew this was total bullshit."

"Ok, so it's a little magic." Derek held his thumb and forefinger an inch or so apart. "It's a highly sensitive magical conduit, an amplifier." Stiles looked over at Derek, mouth open and head shaking a little bit in his 'I don't get you' look. "Stiles, think. Most of the magic isn't coming from the stick."

Stiles nodded. He still wasn't getting it.

"Where do you think it's coming from?" Derek asked, voice very patient, as though he was dealing with a slow child. More aptly he was dealing with a Stiles.

Stiles started by pointing up, thought better of it, pointed down, and then shook his head. "It surrounds us and penetrates us? It binds the galaxy together?"


"Oh crap." Stiles looked down at his hands. "It's amplifying me?!"

Finally. Derek gave him a nod of 'yes, you fucking idiot' and Stiles dropped the rod and looked at his hands.

"Why did no one tell me I was a magic battery?"

"I take it back," Peter said. "Him being the smart one was mostly because I was judging him off of Scott."

All of the rage, all of the anger, all of the helplessness that Derek sometimes felt looking at Peter, the man who had killed his sister, and forced Derek into a position to accept his help without question, was suddenly just a little worth it to watch the way Stiles backhanded Peter across the face with the ash rod and left a gash there that took almost an hour to heal. Stiles passed the time by popping another Adderall and pouring over one of the books that Argent had given him.

The Hunter had obviously been able to tell; Stiles must have told him about the ward, and that would have been a bright beacon to someone like Argent. Stiles was so new to werewolves and to the supernatural that he had taken it for granted that anyone could cast a ward or breathe a little power into a plain piece of wood; maybe it had made sense to him that a werewolf couldn't cast a spell against werewolves, but beyond that he obviously hadn't put much critical thought into it. There was so much magic in Beacon Hills, it probably almost seemed normal.

Derek leaned up against one of the pillars while Scott and Stiles huddled over the book, Scott more out of moral support than him actually taking it in. "You alright?"

"Man, do you know how many twigs, berries, metals, ropes, crystals, runes, and symbols I have to learn?" Stiles flipped frantically over a page, and then another. "Each one has certain magical properties that amplify certain things and certain times and..." He scrubbed his hair with his fingers, flustered and... confused. "I mean some things like using Rowan against a werewolf is easy, werewolf repellant, one size fits all, but to actually get a complicated magical effect is like rubik's cube sudoku."

"I thought one was colors and the other was numbers?" Scott said.

"EXACTLY! I have so much summer homework it's not even funny." Stiles shut the book with a very loud thud before he shoved it back into one of his bags. "I have to go. Dad and I are loading bullets tomorrow so that he can have something to take with him if he runs into a werewolf, and so I can have something for when I run into a werewolf. Sorry, no training for Stiles today."

Stiles was all the way out of the building when Derek caught up to him. "Stiles."

"Hey, I said I'm not training today."

"I know, just..." Derek took a deep breath, he wasn't used to this nurturing, vaguely supportive thing that was the hallmark of an actually decent Alpha, and if anything Stiles was part of Scott's pack, not Derek's, but that didn't change the way he wanted to protect Stiles. "Don't get overwhelmed. Magic isn't something you learn in a day or a week. Focus on what you need to get through the week, through the summer."

"I don't think you understand how the Stilesbrain works."

"You're the guy who spent a month on the internet trying to swallow every shred of werewolf lore in order to help your best friend. I think I have a decent idea how it works." He just wished he understood it a bit more. "Little bites."

Stiles shoved both his bags into the back of his truck. "Is that a werewolf joke? Did you just make a werewolf joke?"

"Sure, it can be a werewolf joke." It hadn't been, but there was something warming about seeing the way Stiles's eyebrow and lip quirked at the very idea of Derek making any sort of joke - much less a werewolf one - so he could let Stiles think that.

Peter, of course, had to ruin it by coming up beside him barely a minute after Stiles had pulled away in his Jeep. "What is with you and viciously dangerous creatures? I'm beginning to think you have a masochistic streak."

It was so satisfying to stab his claws into Peter's chest and drag him back inside.


Stiles loaded bullets with his dad, he went to the firing range with his dad, he even did some jogging with his dad, and that actually made the crazy werewolf pact almost worth it, because there were no lies between them now, nothing big, just normal teen things, and it felt so damn good. He loved his dad, wanted him to be happy and healthy and not bitten by werewolves, wanted him to live to a ripe old age, and now, finally, they might be able to do exactly that. The time he didn't spend with his dad, he spent with the Argents shooting, running, stick fighting, and learning about magic. That didn't have the same joy as spending time with his dad did, but it was what he needed to survive and stop feeling so out of his depth. The rest of his time he spent with the pack.

Sometimes he spent the time there reading, going over the thousands of pages of books about herbalism and subtle magic and channeling his will through an ash wood lacrosse stick. The need to shove absolutely every bit of magic into his brain was paramount. MAGIC! How had his life suddenly acquired magic?! It needed to get in there, though; even as he trained to become more physically fit, his brain was stretched and shoved full of information.

He was getting slightly better at beating the crap out of Peter, it was just that Peter had started punching back, hard... but any day he could go home, see the concerned look in his dad's eyes and he could honestly say 'you should see the other guy', was decent. It helped that Derek patched him up a bit first; going to the hospital for the shallow scratches and bites Peter left on him would probably cause more than a few questions.

"I suck at this," he groaned, as Derek dabbed on neosporin or something like a pro.

"A little bit." Derek didn't have to sound so smug about it. "It probably doesn't help that Argent makes you run and fight and shoot all day before you come here. Humans do have limits." He continued to clean the wounds and dab them and then cover them neatly in a band aid while Peter continued to beat the crap out of the other wolves. "You're getting better at taking on packs, too."

"I need to learn how to take on an Alpha." It wasn't like that was a mystery; the pack was already circling, Stiles could hear them at night, trying to mess with his head. "I can't just rely on mountain ash, although that's great and all. I need to not get bit in the first place. I was thinking... armguard? You know to like shove in the mouth? Is that weird?"

"Your lacrosse gear isn't going to cut it."

"Believe me, I've seen wolves working the pads. That doesn't even work on a Beta, much less an Alpha." Maybe something metal... "Would you fight me? Full wolf Alpha."

Derek didn't answer, instead prodding his shoulder blade. "That's a bad idea, Stiles."

"Well yeah, I know you'd kick my non-wolf ass, but Peter can't Alpha out anymore, and it's not like we can send a memo to the Alpha Pack that they're only allowed to hunt Stiles in Beta form." Stiles turned around towards Derek and barred his teeth at him, although the effect was likely lost. "I need to know how to fight an Alpha."

Derek didn't say anything, and this time when Stiles checked he was looking over to where Peter and the others were fighting. Peter seemed to think they were amusing, Stiles and Derek anyway, Isaac and Scott were barely making headway against him like that, even with Peter's attention apparently divided. "In the city, you're more likely to see the Beta form; we're slower, but more nimble, and we can climb better in that form. Out in the woods where we can run free, that's where the Alpha form shines."

"Peter hunted down Scott and the rest of us in Alpha form all the time, even at school." Stiles remembered, oh how he remembered, and coming into school after that had been terrifying, always wondering if there was a wolf ready to rend the flesh off his little Stiles-y bones around the corner.

"He was intimidating you, and hiding his scent from me."

And yet, somehow, Derek agreed to chase Stiles and scare him out of his fucking mind for afternoon training the next day. Mr. Argent had even, after much cajoling on Stiles's part, agreed to leave them alone, because Stiles really didn't need a witness to his failure. They started at the Hale House, with Derek sniffing the air and declaring them safe for the moment. Stiles took the opportunity to munch on an apple.

"I've only taken Alpha form a few times," Derek said beside him, and then he ripped off his t-shirt and Stiles may have choked on the apple he was eating just a little bit. Derek ignored him, and folded the shirt neatly on the steps. "It's more animalistic, and it's harder to think straight. That's your advantage if your opponent is in wolf form."

"Shirts?" Stiles asked, feeling more than a little pathetic.

Derek snorted. "The sense of pack is stronger, but real, strategic thinking isn't as quick." Derek reached out and prodded Stiles in the forehead just between the eyes. "You've got to think fast, don't freeze up. Remember the limitations of the form. Now... I don't think my wolf form will be particularly keen on hurting you, but just... give me some time to get used to you like that."

"Wait? You're about to unleash your animalistic inner beast man and you're not even sure if he wants to make me a Stilesnack?!" Because Derek hadn't said anything about that being a possibility and now Stiles was vaguely terrified, because Stiles remembered Peter, Stiles still had nightmares about Peter, and Peter had been - and still was - both crazy and terrifying. "Is that a good idea?"

"This was your brilliant plan. Wait here."

Derek left him on the front porch, sitting next to Derek's discarded t-shirt, leaving Stiles with the image of topless Derek burned into his mind, and then less than a minute later, Derek returned, all... wolfy, and dragging along his pants by the teeth. How was this suddenly Stiles's life?

"So, um... wanna give me those? I'll even fold them."

The belt buckle made an impressive thunk when Derek dropped them, and true to his word, Stiles folded them and put them on top of the shirt.

"Commando wolf?"

Derek growled.

"Not my business."

Derek was, like Peter had been, a dark, inky grey that read black at night but actually had a bit of color to it in the daylight. He was still terrifying with impressive fangs and a jaw that was designed for tearing the hell out of boys who thought it was a brilliant idea to bait werewolves. After a few seconds of tense silence, Stiles held out his hand, palm flat, thumb tucked away. He was pretty sure that was how to approach a dog, either that or a horse, but no one had advice for approaching wolves because oh god what sort of idiot approached a wolf, hide you idiot!! Derek sniffed his hand, cool nose against his palm. A few seconds later, Derek licked his palm.

"YEEUUUGH!" Stiles yanked his hand away, and far too late thought better of it. Maybe that was offensive, maybe Stiles had just spit on Derek's wolfy greeting... That was probably a bad plan. "Sorry, sorry! You just surprised me."

But Derek didn't seem to mind, instead he just rested his muzzle on Stiles's thigh, and Stiles reached out and petted down the back of Derek's head. Alphas were way less scary this way, he was actually just like a very huge dog.

"Man, you know, you're actually vaguely friendly like this. We should hang out with you in wolf form more often, relax, chill out on the porch. 'Nothing to see here, Officer, just me and my wolf, hanging out with some petting'." Stiles knew he was more than a bit weird, but really, Derek was borderline cuddly like this, it was almost cute. Derek and cute in the same sentence was probably not great for Stiles's sanity, but his best friend was a wolf, and his best friend's occasional pack Alpha was a wolf who was just sort of chilling on Stiles's thigh. "This is you getting used to me, right?"

The wolf at his side let out a half-hearted snort, before he scrambled to his paws. Apparently they were done with that. Stiles got to his own feet and checked his staff - fine, in both hands - and then his gun - resting against his side in a holster. The clip he slid into it was filled with plain, boring bullets, no wolfsbane for far less chance of hurting Derek. A wolf at close range almost always meant you were fucked, unless he was toying with you, unless he wanted to bite you, and there was a whole host of reasons Stiles didn't want that.

They couldn't exactly practice shooting, though. Stiles was more than a bit worried he might actually hit something vital, and his dad had helped with moving targets some, but... well Stiles didn't want to field test that. He knew he could shoot in a pinch, at least he hoped he could, he really, really hoped.

"Alright!" Stiles pats the staff across his hand, thinking. "Maybe we should do this at night?" He glanced around, Derek had already melted into the surrounding forest and that wasn't ominous at all. "Um... so, little red Stiles hood meets big bad wolf?"

Stiles got dumped on his ass before he even realized what had happened. He groaned, his calves hurt. Derek hadn't slashed though, he could have, could have taken Stiles down and kept him down, but they were training, this was polite.

He didn't even see Derek the second time, either, landing flat on his ass and then a heavy paw landed on his chest and Derek growled in his face, red eyes burning into him.

"Alright, alright. Serious time, jeez."

Derek was gone in a flash.

Stiles knew his senses weren't as good as Derek's, but he could still hear the heavy breathing, a wolf circling around the edges. The third time, Stiles managed to land a hit before Derek planted him face-first in the leafy dirt with a snarl. It took six runs before Stiles managed to both keep his feet, and keep Derek off him, for it to actually turn into a close quarters fight, claws against stick, but Derek has two front claws and a jaw, even if he wasn’t using the last to good effect. He had no delusions of how dead he would be if Derek wanted him dead. It's a sobering thought.

By the twelfth run, Stiles wasn't even sure Derek knew this was just practice, just pretend; he had Stiles pinned to the ground, the rowan staff in Stiles's left hand was wedged between Derek's jaw and keeping his right claw off of Stiles. Derek's left hand was hooked under Stiles, digging in hard at Stiles's shoulder blade. He was bleeding, it hurt like hell, and Derek wasn't backing off, still snarling down at Stiles's face despite Stiles's panicked litany of 'Derek, Derek, DEREK!'

Before he could think better of it, he had his gun out and pressed to Derek's chest and he fired.

The gunshot was too loud in Stiles's ears, the recoil and the odd angle caused it to kick into Stiles's chest and blood splattered there right after. Stiles grabbed his staff in both hands and rolled Derek. He was still breathing.

Slowly, Derek shifted into his Beta form, too hairy and toothy, but far less terrifying than a snarling wolf. "Ow." A huge burst of red blood stayed on Derek's chest, right of his sternum. "My heart's on the left."

"I stand by my shot," Stiles answered. "I wanted to stop you, not kill you. Did you wolf out a little there?"

"No. Just getting you to focus."

"Mortal terror does that to a person." Stiles collapsed next to Derek, wincing at the jolt in his shoulder only to realize that Derek was, in fact, naked. "You're naked!" Because his brain-to-mouth filter wasn't operating after that much terror. "I thought you might eat me and you're naked."

Derek snorted. "I wasn't going to eat you." Derek didn't bother to protest the naked part, because he was naked.

Stiles wiped his hands off on his chest, smearing more blood on his shirt before sitting up. Yup, Derek was still naked. "So, performance review?"

Stiles was going to make a list, it was a list of things that you really weren't supposed to say while you were sitting next to a naked werewolf. He had the world's most inappropriate mouth at the moment. Derek obviously caught the humor in the moment and snorted, rolling over to reveal the most perfect expanse of back and ass known to man before heading back to the porch and pulling on his pants. It really was a shame.

"I think if push came to shove, you might manage to not die or get bitten by an Alpha." Derek didn't pull on his shirt, waiting for the wound to close and the blood to dry. "We'll have to keep training."

His dad - understandably - freaked out when Stiles got home. "Stiles, whose blood is that?"

"Derek's, he's training with me. I shot him."

His dad looked at him for a few moments, while Stiles scrubbed his hands in the laundry room sink.


"I'm trying to decide if I'm proud or disturbed."

Stiles couldn't really blame him. "Go with 'proud'. It means if I get attacked by an Alpha I'm far more likely to be able to take it down, and Derek's fine, by the way."

His dad came up behind him, hands pressing into Stiles's shoulders enough to cause him to wince.

"Watch the shoulder, Derek kinda..."

And his dad tugged on his shirt, enough to make it obvious that Stiles was bleeding through his t-shirt.

"I'm not sure I want to hug that kid or shoot him."

"Tell me about it."


"Oooh, feisty!"

Derek just rolled his eyes at Peter as he walked back into the Rail Depot. Yes, he was bleeding still, yes, Stiles was a surprisingly good shot, yes, Stiles was 'feisty', but that didn't mean anything. They were training, Stiles barely tolerated him outside of the training, and there wasn't anything for it beyond that. He also had to remind himself, constantly, that Stiles was not pack because of Derek, he was pack because of Scott. Everything that Stiles did, it was to protect Scott and to protect his father, nothing more. Spending the afternoon in Alpha form had his social graces frayed, far beyond the bounds of what even Derek would consider acceptable.

"How long are you going to keep yourself from having what you want, Derek? You could pay it forward, from one molested virginal teenager to another."

He grabbed Peter, flung him across the room and against one of the supports, growling low, trying to put away the wolf side to keep from ripping out his uncle's throat, again.

Not for the first time, Derek was regretting the fact that Peter had been able to put far too many pieces together after the fact. It was all too clear to Peter that Derek had already known who was responsible for the Hale House fire and there was no mystery left to it for him. Even recently, part of him had still loved Kate. The last year had burned out any remaining affection that might have lingered for Kate, but that didn't change the shame he still felt. Peter had put together the loosely tangled threads of affection that Derek had started to develop for Stiles, and took great pleasure in needling him about it constantly. "He's a kid. He can't know what he wants."

"So, biting self-esteem starved children? That's ok, but making time with that adorably befreckled..." Derek enjoyed the sound when he snapped and cracked Peter's jaw. That would shut him up for a few hours.

Peter wasn't wrong. That was the worst part of it. He found himself wishing that the Sheriff would come, run him out of town, threaten him and yell at him to stay the hell away from his son. Instead, Stiles showed up the next day with a colossal tub of chili and a watermelon.

"My dad was conflicted between shooting you and hugging you," Stiles explained as he dropped the watermelon into Derek's arms and forced his way into the train depot. "And then I explained, the harder you were on me the more likely I'd be to be able to not die, so he went with a food hug. It's a Stilinski thing, maybe just a Stilinski men thing: food. Have you thought about getting a house? I mean not that an abandoned train depot doesn't scream 'I like to live dangerously', but you could get a nice one with a nice basement, a little soundproofing... There's like twelve entrances to the Depot."

"I knew I liked him for a reason," Peter said, making himself at home with the chili. "You have good ideas, Stiles."

"We have a truce with the Argents, and that's pretty much good for the life of... me, and as crazy as Gerard is, and Allison's mom... and Allison there for a month or so, I think we can trust them. Besides, it's pretty hard to siege a house in the middle of town, you could, you know, call the Sheriff or something?" Stiles grinned.

Derek dragged him back out by the scruff of the neck. "Stiles..."

"No one says you can't train in the creepy Depot, but maybe somewhere with water and electricity would be good." Stiles rubbed his neck after that, stepping a few steps away from Derek. "It's like... look, the whole damn town knows about Kate and the fire, and it's pretty obvious you blame yourself, but if Mr. Argent is mostly ready to start to forgive your family for Kate and for Mrs. Argent, and you and Peter are mostly ready to start working with him and Allison in spite of the fire, then maybe you can work... with you."

Stupid kid. "And Peter and Lydia?"

"Peter is a creepy, creepy old man who makes me feel yicky right down in the spine. That is outside the boundaries of your crazy Hatfields and McCoys." Stiles waved his hand at Derek, like that would wipe out the whole question.

But Stiles, somehow, was part of his ridiculous pack, and that meant taking what Stiles said seriously, and that meant... "It's not that easy, Stiles."

"Don't you think I know that? If it was easy, I wouldn't still have nightmares about how I killed my mom and how I'm killing my dad, because I'm this bratty, impossible, hyper little kid. I didn't give my mom cancer, even if dad gets bitten it won't be my fault, but do you think that makes you feel any better?" Stiles 'pshed' at him, turning away and wiping his good forearm against his eyes for a second. "Duh, it sucks, but you... you make your dad eat salads that he hates, and you protect your best friend, and... you make blood pacts with people whose dads beat the crap out of you and sort of freak you out."

It just wasn't that easy, it wasn't, but Stiles was looking up at Derek and panting now, his face screwed up in thought, and obviously planning his next offensive.

"It also might help convince the Sheriff you're not a creepy kid kidnapper."

"That's redundant."

"I've already had to give up on explaining Peter."

Derek had given up on explaining Peter too. "Fine. We'll get a house."

"Sweet, enjoy the chili, I've got a ton of studying to do. Deaton and I are going over crazy magic herbs."

He wasn't certain what, exactly, had happened, but when he returned back inside the depot he found Peter, eating his way through a bowl of chili, sprinkled with cheese that had, apparently, also been delivered by Stiles. "I think I like the Sheriff. His chili has beer in it, that's a man's chili."

Derek rolled his eyes. "We're buying a house."

"Wow, usually a boy has to actually put out to get someone that whipped."

This was his own personal hell. Instead of breaking Peter's jaw again, he grabbed a bowl of chili, scarfed it down - it was really good - and they headed out to look at real estate and completely and totally ignored any reason he was actually thinking of following Stiles's recommendation. It wasn't about moving on, it wasn't about putting the past behind him, it was about the upcoming fight and the danger. Stiles wasn't wrong that the Rail Depot was a horrible defensive position in a fight.

Three weeks later, Stiles was about 50-50 on beating Derek in a one-on-one fight, and getting better at taking down the Betas using pack tactics; Derek was the dubiously proud owner of a four bedroom house with a basement that looked like something out of an S&M club (with laundry in the corner); the first signs of actual Alpha Pack agitation were brewing around the periphery of Beacon County in the form of dead and torn up animals; and no less a person than Chris Argent and Sheriff Stilinski had brought over housewarming food, and the Argent offering wasn't even tainted with wolfsbane.

By the end of the night, though, the housewarming party had turned into a strategic planning season: pack, Hunters, a lawman, and a vet all huddled around a table, plotting the trajectory the pack had taken, circling around the county, slowly converging on the city.

"It would help if we knew their intentions," Stilinski said, offering up several evidence photos from the latest 'animal attack' out in the preserve.

"The Alpha Pack comes for only a few reasons," Argent said. "They take note of new, interesting Alphas. They're either here to recruit Derek, or take a gander at one of his Betas to elevate to the rank of Alpha and recruit."

"Or they're here to kill me." Derek couldn't deny that possibility.

The newer werewolves, and even the newer hunters - Stiles and Allison included - frowned, confused.

"Alpha isn't just a rank. You can be an Alpha without a pack, and an Alpha killing another Alpha increases his or her power. Even Hunters know that taking down an Alpha isn't just about ending a threat, it's about power." Derek eyed Argent after he spoke, waiting for the Hunter to take over the explanation.

"Humans can't take advantage of the power the way a werewolf can, no real strength or speed or healing, but it's..." Argent spread his hand out in front of his own chest. "It's in you."

"Some sources actually hypothesized that it's a purified form of the original werewolf curse," Stiles interrupted, beginning one of his truly impressive rambles. "It might actually be the beginning of the myth - and/or legend - that a bit wolf can change back by defeating their own Alpha as well. There does seem to be some sort of metaphysical or magical transfer of power that occurs and..." Stiles coughed and backed away. "Long story short, it works on other Alphas too, dead Alpha equals more power for the Alpha who kills him."

"So, Derek, Derek's pack...?" Stilinski trailed off.

"Hunters in general are always fair game for the Alpha Pack," Argent answered. "They won't be the primary target, though. As soon as we get a bead on them, we start to hunt them down." He then swept his fingers over the edge of the woods.

"Now wait just a damn minute. I let my son get involved with you because of your 'Code'. You're not hunting down people with no--"

"Sheriff. I absolutely guarantee you, when we gun them down and ship their fur to Quantico or L.A. they'll come back with dozens of animal attacks across the country that have taken dozens of lives. Entry into the pack is dictated by making a cold blooded murder, strictly for power."

Stilinski glanced between Argent and Derek, looking to Derek for the final confirmation of what Argent had said. Derek nodded.

Derek could see the man deflate. "Alright. You keep me apprised. I want to know where you are so my deputies can be as far away from you as possible. I don't need someone who doesn't know any better getting caught in the crossfire."

Stiles handed his dad three clips for his gun, each of them had a piece of purple sticky tape on the side. "If you see a wolf with beady red eyes, and it so much as blinks at you, you use one of these."

"What if it's Derek?"

"I appreciate the concern, but I'll be keeping Beta form so that there are no accidents. Red eyes that don't greet you by name, those are fair game, too."

It felt like going to war. Derek hadn't been in a pack war since he was a baby, and then he hadn't been in one, he had just watched the aftermath at home. Their pack had been dozens strong back then, before everything had started to go wrong, now his pack was a generous three. Peter had ulterior motives, Scott didn't actually want to be a part of his pack, and Isaac was starting to warm to him, but one out of three did not make for a particularly strong Alpha.

The full moon was four days away now; he had no reason to think that that would be when the pack made their move, but there was a certain poetry to it. His pack was able to control themselves, the Alpha Pack got their power from tapping into that primal side a bit more.

Weirdly, he spent the day on the porch, pacing, learning every angle from every surrounding house. Peter spent the day nattering in his ear.

Stiles showed up in the late afternoon, smelling of the forest, silver, gunpowder, and rowan. He stayed far enough away that Derek could, for a moment, pretend that he had no intention of coming inside, no intention of actually seeking out Derek, and certainly no intention of actually talking.

"Maybe he doesn't want to die a virgin?" Peter suggested.

When this was all over, Derek was very likely going to kill Peter. He wasn't even certain if the Sheriff would mind.


Stiles took a deep breath, trying to psych himself up for this. It was impossible to deny the fact that even though it was sunny, warm, and beautiful out, there were rampaging monsters in the woods preparing to eat them all. Even the lure of a real summer vacation couldn't really shake him out of his slightly terrified funk. There was a very real possibility he was going to die; he had spent almost a half a year with the very real possibility of dying and now it might actually be upon him.

"Heeeey, Derek." Stiles took the last few steps up the house at a run. "You got a minute?"

Derek glanced over at Peter, and Peter was smirking broadly, and Derek nodded back out over the road, the two of them leaving Peter and the new Hale House behind. "What is it?"

Stiles glanced around as they walked, lacrosse stick hot against his back as he tried to find the words for everything going around in his head. Apparently his head settled for starting with: "So my dad's not a drunk." Which was a really horrible place to start. "I mean, after my mom died he sort of crawled into the bottle for a few weeks and people at the station sort of worked around him and everyone knew that was just his really crappy way of coping, but he was never an angry drunk... not even when maybe he should have been. He's more a very, very mopey drunk."

He was doing this all wrong.

"So I'm not asking for you to do feelings with my dad, just maybe make sure he stays focused." There, well done Stiles.

"Isn't that sort of your job?" Derek asked.

"What? No! This is a 'if I die and am eaten' heart-to-heart. Did you miss that part?" Maybe Stiles hadn't mentioned that part.

"Stiles." Derek's tone had that growly warning to it.

"Well, I can't have the conversation with my dad, he'll freak out over the idea that I'm basically planning for my death. I don't want to die, but I have to be realistic here. I'm squishy and sarcastic and don't have much by way of defenses." Stiles wrapped his arms around himself for a second, chilly in spite of the warm air. "I'd ask Scott, but... well, he'd be a wreck."

Derek stopped walking, and Stiles was almost four paces ahead of him before he realized and turned back around. Stiles wasn't sure why that would cause any particular weirdness with Derek; the two of them barely tolerated each other. Well, that wasn't precisely true, Stiles thought Derek was gorgeous and sexy, in a 'don't bring home to dad' sort of way. Stiles knew that, underneath that broody and terrifying exterior there was someone who actually gave a shit, but it was pretty easy to think the worst of Derek, and Stiles... Stiles figured that Derek didn't care much about him outside of making sure that Scott would work with him. Stiles was the diplomacy goo holding three different packs together, but he didn't think he was actually important to the Argents or Derek.

"If you die, I will personally hunt down the entire Alpha Pack, give your father an Alpha fur pelt, get drunk with him and talk about our feelings." Derek clenched his jaw and stormed past Stiles.

"Wait, what?" That sort of answer was supposed to be a joke. Derek didn't talk about feelings. He was threatening to kill people if Stiles died, and never mind that they were planning on killing the Alphas anyway, but that was dark. "I mean, thanks, but..."

"Stiles, what makes you think that only Scott and your father would miss you?"

"You wouldn't miss me! I'm annoying and rambly and you barely tolerate me on a good day!" Stiles had a good argument here, he knew that. Derek didn't tolerate him, he slammed Stiles's face into a steering wheel, he glowered, he loomed, he creeped. Stiles might have a reluctant fondness for the guy but it was a reluctant fondness, one based purely on aesthetics and the fact that Stiles never needed to lie to Derek - and couldn't.

Stiles caught up with Derek again, had a hand on Derek's jacket before he thought better of it and let go. "You are a part of my pack. I do not want to lose my pack."

Of course, 'pack', not 'Stiles', just the big overarching category of pack. "Right, because then Scott would--"

"You. I don't want to lose you."

It felt more momentous than it was probably meant to be, but to Stiles it was surprisingly refreshing. Derek had pretty much just admitted that he gave a shit about Stiles, which was news to Stiles. "I'd... you know, like you to not die either. I've put a lot of work into saving your life, helping you escape the police, that sort of thing. It would be a bit of a bummer to put in all that work and then you go and die anyway."

Derek arched an eyebrow at him.

"What?" And Stiles had to admit he... well he didn't know exactly what he was thinking in that moment. "I just... we have a life saving bond."

He wasn't supposed to say things like that, abortive attempts to explain his feelings for Lydia had never worked, and Derek was the nexus for all the bad things that were no doubt going to come from the Alpha Pack. If anything, Stiles felt like he needed to prepare for the possibility of this whole thing ending in a bloodbath, and Derek was... looking at him funny now, awkward and self-conscious in a way that people who looked like Derek Hale really shouldn't be. "Be careful. Peter would laugh at me forever if you got hurt."

That wasn't at all what Stiles might have expected Derek to say.

"And if it's that important to you, yes, I'll look after your dad." Derek was frowning now, he was usually frowning, but it was an even deeper frown, lost it thought, maybe.

"Really?! Because that's the sort of thing that sounded good in my head, but really I'm not sure what you would bond over at all." Stiles was pretty sure that a former murder suspect and the Sheriff wouldn't have the greatest number of things to bond over, maybe they could bond over the way that Stiles was a complete pain in the ass, but somehow they both sort of liked him anyway. "This would be so much easier if I had a girlfriend. I'd ask her."

Derek's head shot up, and looked over towards where Stiles was so thinking better of what he'd just said. "Did you just compare me to your non-existant girlfriend?"

"Um...? Maybe?" He completely and totally had. "You'd be my boyfriend, though. Oh, God, Stiles, who even says things like that? On what planet was that a good thing to say? But it's just..." Stiles struggled to put words out that would actually make his declaration sound less weird. "It's just that's sort of the thing you do, when you think you might be going off to die, you take the coward's way out and you confess your feelings, there's some kissing, maybe some 'I'd miss you if you died' sex... and I am just going to walk away now, alright. Just... away, forever. Alpha Pack doesn't need to eat me I will be wallowing in my own... pathetic..."

Derek was right there in his face now, personal space violated in a way only Derek seemed to master, and Stiles - who apparently had no sense of self-preservation - didn't back away, just sort of tilted his head up and then...

"Stiles, you are not going to die."

"Oh." Stiles looked at Derek for a moment before he gave into the urge to sling his arms around Derek and hug him.

And then Derek shoved him away. "Ow, Stiles."

"What did I do? It couldn't have been that bad?" He realized, far too late, that he'd flung his lacrosse stick - made of mountain ash - across Derek's back, which generally could be counted on to burn werewolf flesh. "Wow, way to go Stiles. So I could... put this down." He dropped the stick to the ground.

"Look, Stiles, just don’t die. I don’t think anyone wants that."

"Yeah... I’ll do my best!"

Two weeks later, Stiles really, really wished that he could have kept that promise.

Full moon hunting parties were necessarily a scattered affair, the Alpha Pack had spread itself thin, probably to divide them. Stiles, his dad, and three Argent Hunters had been patrolling down by the industrial district, and of course they had been selected. Derek only had three Betas, Argent only had one daughter, and they had a lot of ground to cover if they were going to keep the risk of civilian casualties low. It also increased the chance of them catching the pack in the act and his dad not having any problems with a kill.

Of course, all of that meant that they had zero werewolves to go against the Alpha that cornered them down there. Two of the Hunters was down before Stiles or his dad even knew anyone was there, and the remaining three of them circled tight, Stiles with his gun out... no delusions about where this was going. The Alpha kept to the shadows, far enough away that an easy, clean shot was out of the question, and Stiles only had a limited number of bullets and he couldn't waste them on pot shots.

The sound of claws scraping and of the hot breath in the distance reminded Stiles vaguely of Derek, but he pushed down the thought. This was not Derek, this was not a drill, the day would not end with Derek's muzzle planted on Stiles's knee as an apology for biting and clawing at him. Stiles's only consolation was that the wolf did not howl. There were no more wolves coming for backup.

When the sixth run came, the Alpha's claws cut through the last remaining Hunter, and Stiles - and his father - both managed to get a bead on it as it went past. They fired, almost in unison, and Stiles winced as he saw where they'd hit: left leg, the purple-blue swirl of wolfsbane magic sinking in. Stiles thought it might have tried to flee, but instead claws sunk hard into his side, Stiles could feel the prickle of five claws sunk lovingly into the region of his right kidney, the left curled tight against his throat. The wholly expected prickle of teeth against his shoulder came a moment later.


"You get the shot, you take it."

Stiles struggled against his fear, struggled against the urge to flail and possibly sink the teeth or claws at his throat in deeper. Dead or werewolf, it was going to happen. He didn't want either of those, he didn't want to be a wolf. He closed his eyes and turned his arm, twisting against the claws just enough to...

He fired, bullet hitting somewhere in the Alpha's thigh, and the Alpha - maybe instinctually - bit down.

"Dad..." Stiles swallowed, tongue fumbling around unfamiliar teeth. "Run."

"Hang in there, Stiles. Hang in there."

Stiles felt nothing but the pull of the moon, the allure of the hunt, the aching pain from ripped open side and shoulder... he felt nothing but the desire to hunt down the prey in front of him and the wolf inside of him.


Derek heard the howl of a distant Alpha halfway through tearing apart his own prey, Chris Argent watching with distaste. Derek dropped the dead wolf, ignoring even the hint of guilt as it shifted back into human form.

"One of yours?" Chris asked.

He shook his head. "Alpha, it's a call for submission." And it was from the industrial sector if Derek was hearing right. Stiles and the Sheriff. "Get your cleaners. I'll call."

Derek barely heard Chris shout after him: "You look like a fucking psychopath, Hale."

The change in his own power was palpable, it was something he could feel in his bones, even with Argent having assisted in the kill, Derek had made the killing blow and was a challenge to tamp down on the surge wildness inside, even his anger was not quite enough to keep him in full control. Derek ran; he ran over the tops of buildings, down through the streets, across the tracks and down the side streets that brought him close to where he knew the Stilinskis were patrolling. He sniffed the air: blood and Stiles.

He rounded another corner and saw the Sheriff on his knees, dead Hunters around him, Stiles sprawled on the ground, bleeding, a dead body he didn't recognize - wolf, Alpha - on the ground.

"I called 911, but--" The Sheriff hiccuped. His shirt was off, pressed against Stiles's shoulder, but another wound was bleeding freely from his chest. Derek ripped off his own shirt, pressed it there, tried to staunch the bleeding. "How the hell do you explain this?"

"Stiles keeps wolfsbane in his pack, the blue one, shove it down the Alpha's throat, up his ass, I don't care," Derek growled, his hands taking over for Stilinski as he scrambled with Stiles's pack. "That'll keep him in wolf form, get it to Deaton, crazy murder problem solved."

"Why isn't he healing?" The Sheriff did as he was told, pulled out the plant that made Derek's nose itch, shoved it down the Alpha's throat and didn't even gasp as it transformed back into its wolf form.

"Alphas have... well the best word for it might be venom, in their claws, on their teeth. It's what causes the transformation and it slows healing in werewolves. Was he bitten?"


"Pills?" Derek asked, because Gerard's failed transformation had been disgusting, but it had proven a way to prevent the turn.

"He changed..."

Derek didn't have time to ask what, exactly, that meant, although he was sure he knew. He hadn't smelled it on Stiles, though, usually a wolf could smell another wolf, but it might have been hidden under the blood and the other Alpha and Stiles’s natural scent. He didn't get a chance to ask, the paramedics were on the scene a few seconds later, making their attempts at closing the worst of the wounds, a second ambulance taking away the Hunter corpses, wrapping the Sheriff and Derek in blankets, washing away blood and looking for the wounds that neither of them carried.

The two of them rode in silence in the back of one of the ambulances with one of the Hunters. The hospital staff wouldn't let them anywhere near the surgery waiting room until they had showered, Derek almost finding the circumstance morbidly amusing as he washed the evidence of his own 'crime' down the drain, a shower stall away from the Sheriff. The surgery waiting room was almost empty at this hour, and the two of them ended up huddled together in a corner away from the nurses.

"He was bitten?" Derek asked, clarifying, because Stiles hadn't smelled like a wolf.

"Yeah... I really don't... know... I don't know how these things work." The Sheriff squeezed his hands together, balled in impotent fists.

"Tell me."

"Stiles shot him." Derek managed to feel proud of Stiles in that moment. "The Alpha bit him on the shoulder, pretty deep I think. Stiles screamed, and he... he started to change, hair, teeth, eyes, claws... his eyes went sort of amber."

Derek nodded. Stiles's eyes were a soft, light brown. "Getting bitten on the full moon is..." Derek considered lying. "It's bad. Your body doesn't have the same time to get used to the bite, to settle into the heightened senses and athleticism. You get thrown into the deep end of all rage and bloodlust."

"Thank you."

Derek frowned.

"For being honest. After that it... roared, and Stiles started to go after me, just... slowly walking, keeping himself between me and the Alpha, protecting it, I guess. Stiles said... a wolf needs an anchor to keep his mind during the moon, a person, an emotion, and so I just started talking to him: 'this isn't you, Stiles', 'I love you', 'I know you're in there and this isn't what you want'. I think... it must have gotten in there, somehow." That was where the Sheriff broke down, not some pathetic wracked sobbing that Derek could have almost understood, just that was as far as the Sheriff could push right now, and he covered his face in his hands, rubbing, possibly to keep the tears away.

Derek was not built for comfort; he hadn't held someone with an intent to comfort since before the fire. The closest he had come was giving into the abortive hug with Stiles after he'd said something ridiculous about being his boyfriend on the street, and that had been more guts than any true comfort on Derek's part. Still, he tried, he put his arm over the Sheriff's shoulder, and he leaned against Derek, just enough. "He's a tough son of a..." Derek coughed. "Nice lady?"

The Sheriff laughed, not a happy laugh, or a 'laugh to not cry' laugh, just something a little pained and maybe just appreciating a bit of the sick humor that made sense in these circumstances. "She was stubborn, too, you know. Stiles was probably taking a page from her book, he just turned back around and..." He curled his fingers into an impression of claws. "Rip."

"His eyes went red?"

"Like yours, yeah, but only for a second... he closed his eyes... and when he opened them they were just... brown. Stiles brown." The Sheriff shrugged. "And then he passed out and I called an ambulance."

Derek leaned back in the supremely uncomfortable surgery waiting chair.

"What does that mean?"

"I have no idea."

"Right now, I'd rather you lied."

Derek tried to find a lie, found the truth instead. "So there's a legend... that if you're bitten, and you kill the one that bit you, you return to human form." Derek had told Scott as much, months ago, but Derek had never really believed it was possible.

The Sheriff's mouth was curved down in a frown. "Too fantastical, son."

"You kill and Alpha, especially an Alpha Pack Alpha, you should become an Alpha. You don't get cured, but Stiles... Stiles didn't smell like a wolf, believe me, I'd know. It's a very distinctive change." Derek would know Stiles anywhere, and underneath the blood he'd been... Stiles. "He smelled like Stiles, no wolf. It should be impossible. You get bitten, you turn or you die; Lydia didn't turn or die. I'm done with saying what's impossible, especially when it comes to your son. When he wakes up, Argent will want to test him. If he's turned, if he's not full human, the pact between my pack and the Argents is void."

"So that's why you care?" Stilinski asked with a hint of bitterness.

"I care because Stiles doesn't want to be a werewolf." Derek wanted what Stiles did. "He's been offered the bite. Any time over the last few months, since I became Alpha, I would have bitten him in a heartbeat."

"But you didn't."

"I didn't."

The surgery stretched on for hours; the two of them gave their statements - animal attack; Scott came with his mother sometime about two hours in, dropping off clothes for the Sheriff and for Derek. A carefully packed bag of clothing for Stiles rested next to the Sheriff's foot. Not even the liters of coffee the Sheriff was pouring into himself could fight the left over fear and adrenaline and exhaustion though, and he ended up crashed against Derek's shoulder, snoring and mumbling. Derek stayed up, he didn't need the sleep and his own adrenaline wouldn't go down. It wasn't just about Argent and the pact, it wasn't even just about whether or not Stiles had turned, it was just... Stiles wasn't supposed to...

"Family of Stilinski?" Someone, the surgeon maybe, came in and sat across from Derek.

Derek had to jigger the Sheriff's neck several times before he snapped awake, realizing where he was and then sat up straight.

"Sheriff..." The surgeon glanced towards Derek and the Sheriff gave the go-ahead nod. "Your son's resting comfortably now, we're... mostly out of the woods as far as the acute trauma. The damage, the muscular tears, were extensive. You need to be prepared for physical therapy to get back range of motion in the leg, but especially the arm. I think there's a good chance he'll be able to recover the functionality there."

"He... um... he plays lacrosse?" The Sheriff said, voice questioning, and Derek knew that this wasn't about lacrosse at all, it was about the werewolf hunting.

"No promises, and I wouldn't want him out on the field so soon. No summer practice."

Derek listened through the continued explanations of Stiles's condition, and he was perfectly, completely happy to sit there while the Sheriff went to visit his still sleeping son, but when the Sheriff grabs you by the elbow and drags you, you have to go with him. Stiles had been cleaned off, thankfully, but the wounds at his shoulder and his side were still bleeding enough that the pads covering them had started to well up red. Derek couldn't resist the urge to give the air an experimental sniff.

"And?" The Sheriff asked.

"He's..." Derek shrugged, he could still smell the Alpha on Stiles, enough that Derek didn't quite trust his senses. "His wounds are clean but not healing as fast as they would, especially not after they'd been cleaned. He smells... like Stiles, but I don't want to say for certain that he's not and then have him be. If he's a werewolf, he's an Alpha, and not like one I've ever smelled." Derek didn't feel like explaining that he'd never been able to smell the wolf on Jackson when he'd been the Kanima. The idea that Stiles was becoming something else was still a possibility. Argent wasn't going to let it stay at that. "Sheriff, you should get some sleep. Let me drive you home. He's out of the woods, his heartbeat is strong; he'll still be here in the morning."

"You don't have to..."

"I promised." And Stiles would quite possibly kill him if he left his dad to drive home on his own right now.

The two of them drove back to Stiles's house in silence, and Derek watched, loomed really, as the Sheriff pulled off his shoes in the front doorway, carefully checking the windows before he grabbed a overly fluffy quilt and threw it at Derek. "You've been up all night, too."

He didn't even protest, just stripped off his jeans and curled up on the couch; he was asleep before his head hit the pillow. He would deal with... everything tomorrow.


Stiles woke up feeling beaten and sore, his entire side ached and his head was fuzzy. In general he did not at all feel like he thought a werewolf should feel; he heard the beeps of nearby electronics, the soft hiss of something else, and mumbled words from outside his room, but none of it focused, not even when he tried to pay attention to it. The smell of hospital and antiseptic curled against his nose, but he couldn't smell anything beyond that. He licked his lips, they were chapped. He then took a few moments to psych himself up and opened his eyes.

Hospital, no surprises there.

He attempted to look around, get a better feel for his surroundings. Derek was coiled in a chair by the door, Mr. Argent standing on the other side of it, his dad nowhere in sight. Stiles supposed he had a job, werewolf son or not. After a few seconds of continuing to wake up, he cleared his throat. Derek shot up in his chair in an instant, Mr. Argent fumbling as well as he stood upright. Stiles blinked, owlishly, and then Argent snapped four pictures of him in rapid succession.


Derek and Mr. Argent both ignored him, instead looking over the pictures they had just taken. "Fine. I still want to watch him during the moon, but... Stilinski's story tracks." Mr. Argent took a deep breath before he came over to Stiles and gave him a gentle, almost paternal squeeze on the shoulder, the one that wasn't aching. "Get better, we have more training as soon as the doctors clear you for it."

Stiles nodded, dumbly, and he watched Mr. Argent leave and Derek settle back into his chair. "You're not a werewolf."

He let out a breath, but... "That's impossible. I remember the shift, I remember feeling like something had crawled up inside me and howled. I'm pretty sure I howled." It was definitely impossible. Not even just the emotions, but he'd remembered the teeth, the claws, and the insatiable desire to rip his father's throat out.

"And then you killed your Alpha."

"But that doesn't mean anything!" Stiles protested, trying to run a hand over his face but finding his right stiff and his left stuck with an IV. Still, he felt the need to argue this point. "That's a legend. It's like poprocks and soda exploding your stomach, everyone 'knows' it does that, but everyone is wrong." Stiles struggled to sit up, and Derek came over to keep him down, hand pressed to his shoulder.

"Argent's tested you every way he knows how. I've tested you every way I know how. You're not a werewolf. We'll keep you locked up for your first moon, but it seems like that urban legend might hold a bit more truth than we realized." Derek dragged the chair he'd been sitting in closer. "What do you remember?"

"I remember being a wolf. I remember... ripping out the Alpha's throat." As if that wasn't enough to give him nightmares. He'd felt so out of control, subsumed by the wolf. It made him all the more impressed with how under wraps Derek kept himself, and even gave him a certain amount of sympathy for Scott's occasional lapses in control. "How did all this play for the police?"

"Officially? You killed a rampaging dog-wolf. The teeth casts were sent to L.A. and Quantico and came back as the 'killers' in a few dozen cases. Town gossip has it that you ripped a dog's throat out with your bare hands." Derek snorted.

Stiles tried to sit up again, but Derek put a hand on his forehead, pinning him down without really trying.

"Argent's probably sending doctors to check on you, and I should call your dad. Rest. We took down two out of five." When Stiles stopped struggling, Derek let him go. "Your dad was beside himself."

Of course he was, his father probably had been inconsolable. Stiles hated doing this to him; it was enough to make him tease around the idea of hanging up the wolfsbane bullets if he thought it would protect anyone. "How long was I out?"

"A little over a day. Your dad's working the night shift." Derek sat down again, pulling out his phone and punching in a text. "You've got some damage to your shoulder, your side, and your hip. The alpha tore you up pretty badly, but you're healing."

"I can feel it." Stiles groaned again, but any further attempts to move, or to talk and get more of the situation out of Derek were stymied by the arrival of a doctor.

"Stiles, I'm Dr. Moore. Good to have you back with us." And after that, Stiles was doing his best to focus in spite of the lack of Adderall running through his system, but even without it he could grab onto a few things that were freaking him out, like how 'miraculous' his pace of recovery was. Miraculous healing equaled werewolf, or Kanima, or something, but Derek didn't seem concerned. He wasn't going to be going anywhere any time soon.

His dad arrived less than an hour later - at least Stiles thought it was less than an hour - and he watched, confused, as the way his dad and Derek almost... well they acted like they knew each other. That wasn't weird, dad and Derek did know each other, but Derek actually put his hand on dad's shoulder and squeezed before he left the two of them alone in the hospital room.

"I'm pretty sure there's a lecture about never doing that again in my future."

But that wasn't it at all, dad stumbled up to Stiles's good side and wrapped his arms everywhere and the two of them clung to each other. "No, Stiles just..." His dad's fingers spread over the back of his skull, rubbing the no doubt gross and sweaty hair there. "I'm so glad you're alright."

"I'm not a werewolf, but I could be something else, dad. I'm not 'alright', not yet." If anything the lack of a diagnosis of 'werewolf' was creeping him out even more. If he wasn't a werewolf, what was he? Derek seemed happy to pronounce him non-wolf, and Argent seemed happy enough with it as well, but the fact was he lived in a world of werewolves and he'd gotten bitten by an Alpha; he wasn't going to be alright until he knew what was wrong with him.

"Stiles." His dad pulled away from the hung, hands resting on either side of his face. "You're here, you're alive, you're healing. I don't care what else you might be. You're my son."

Stiles blinked back a few tears. "Even if I'm a rampaging murder lizard?"

"Even then." Dad laughed, sitting down next to Stiles's hip. "Derek told me... defying your Alpha is... pretty much impossible, especially during the full moon, but you did. He had some choice words about you being stubborn and having no sense of self preservation."

Remembering the moon was hard, he'd been so out of his mind, so willing to kill, and he'd remembered the roar from his Alpha, the oppressive need to kill, to cement their pack, to make a joint kill of his father, but he also remembered his father babbling at him, telling him that that wasn't him... "I couldn't hurt you. Even as gone as I was, I couldn't." Stiles yawned. "You'd think... being out for a day..."

"Go back to sleep. I need to get back to work anyway." Dad kissed his forehead.

"They made you work, even with me in the hospital?"

"I made myself work. There's still three Alphas out there and it's not like I could spring for a protective detail on my son who got bitten by a wolf. Chris and Peter think that the other Alphas are running scared now, but Derek was worried one of them would try to hurt you while you were defenseless." Dad glanced over his shoulder to where Derek was standing, Stiles saw the back of his head through the room window, almost flanking the hospital door, standing like a particularly violent guard.

"Yeah, yeah, packs and pacts." There was nothing more between the two of them, Stiles still thought that Derek just... well there was never going to be anything there, especially when Stiles didn't want to be a werewolf. That was probably a deal breaker.

Dad planted a kiss on Stiles's temple. "No other reason he'd be here, right?"

"Right." Stiles frowned. "Huh?"

"Genius, my son's a genius."

Dad gave him a final hug and headed back out, stopping to share a few words with Derek before he left.

"You need anything?" Derek asked, settling back into the chair he'd been napping in. It couldn't have been comfortable.

"Morphine?" His body was one giant ache.

Derek then got him Mrs. McCall, who got him morphine, and that got him to sleep like a baby; he could worry about what unspeakable horror of the moon he'd turned into tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day. He was released from the hospital a little over a week later, mostly mobile and able to take care of himself. The doctors, once again, called it 'miraculous', said his shoulder - which had the most muscle and tissue damage - was healing faster than they ever would have suspected, and it freaked Stiles out. It freaked him out enough that he was willing to let his dad offload him on Derek, and spend the day at his house rather than at his own home.

Dad had work, after all, and the new Hale House had a bathroom with a shower on the first floor, unlike Stiles's, and they had a decent sized tv, and Derek had even gotten him his laptop, toiletries, and clothes, so he could deal with only being at home when his dad was home; he could also deal with the reasons that his dad didn't want Stiles passed out on the couch with no one else home. There was every possibility that an Alpha Pack wolf could use his incapacitation as a chance to murder him while he was defenseless. So he took his weary ass back to Derek's; he accepted the fact that Argent showing up with a rowan wood and silver handled cane was both a necessity to his defense, and a test of his wolfiness; he even could deal with Peter calling him an old man when he deposited himself heavily on the couch before being informed he stunk - again by Peter - and dragged himself to shower.

It was the first time he'd really been... alone. Derek had always been a room away or less in the hospital - was still probably only a room or two away - but the gauze and wraps were off, there was no one fussing with him to help him through the abortive scrub-down of a hospital bound invalid. It was also the first time he'd had a mirror, a real one, not a tiny vanity mirror over a hospital sink. Stiles didn't consider himself a vain guy - he'd be in pretty bad shape if he did, because he played lacrosse, and even if you didn't count Jackson or Scott, there was still Danny and, hell, even Greenberg looked better in a towel than Stiles, but... he was still a teenager, a teenager that hoped to get laid someday, so he couldn't help but... assess the damages.

He winced through pulling off his shirt. The actual bite marks and claw marks had scabbed, angry and dark red, and Stiles hadn't really thought about words like 'rending of flesh' before, but his shoulder and stomach were really feeling it right now. There was an unsubtle difference between a Beta bite and an Alpha wolf one. Each of the incisors had dug in deep, had torn muscle, and the edges of the scabs had started to turn a puckering, puffy white of scar tissue, the rest of the fangs had just scraped, deeper than a knee scuffed on the pavement - something he'd done more than once in his youth - that part had already mostly been replaced with scar tissue, white and weirdly pinched. He'd always been white and pasty, but it stood in sharp contrast to even his usual pale, freckled self.

The stomach and hip was both better and worse, long rows of stitches, not yet pulled out, ran down the five clawed open gashes, each one looking as though it might eventually only be the width of a pinky.

"Look what the wolf dragged in," he said, low, and then shook his head.

There were a few more incidental scrapes and scratches on the other shoulder, down his back when he turned to look, but it was hard to escape the fact that he looked like a fucking chew toy. Part of him would have liked to think someone would think he looked badass like that, but really he probably just looked... ravaged, and not in a good way. It probably said something messed up about Stiles's priorities that this was bothering him so much. Still, he made it into the shower, and he scrubbed, really scrubbed, and then he scrubbed everywhere again because there was this sort of iodine/alcohol/plastic tubing funk that had settled over him for the week and every time he sniffed himself and didn't just smell soap and clean he scrubbed again. He was determined to put the hospital behind him.

He was. He was fine.

There wouldn’t be red eyes freaking him out when he closed his eyes, there would be no nightmares about sprouting fangs and ripping his dad apart, nothing, really. He'd just worry about how he was never going to get laid, that was way less complicated and terrifying.


The thing that most people probably didn't realize about born werewolf packs, was that they had a fairly broad sense of the term 'pack'. The Hales had - before Peter and then Derek's turn at being an Alpha - been largely composed of aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces, and several extended relations, close friends, potential mates, and so forth. Derek taking Isaac, Boyd, and Erica under his wing had been unusual; in truth his mother probably would have rather he found a mate and done things the natural way, but there had been more pressing concerns at the time. All of that was Derek's excuse for why he had somehow mentally adopted Sheriff Stilinski as 'pack' not even two months after letting him in on the Hale family secret and a week after Stiles's injury.

Stiles hadn't really known that was what he was asking for, that much was obvious, but Stiles had asked Derek to take the Sheriff into his pack, mentally, and Derek had done so, and that made it all the more complicated when the Sheriff had brought him take out and ran clean clothes from his house and things while he had looked after Stiles. Derek didn't need as much sleep as a human, didn't need as much food either, but he had appreciated the gestures for what they were, even if the Sheriff didn't quite understand. The decision to incorporate their packs was feeling very mutual, so much so that the Sheriff didn't even think twice about asking Derek to look after the still-injured Stiles, and Derek had barely let him finish asking before saying yes.

"Think about it," Peter said, leaning up against the kitchen counter with his hip. "He's naked, three rooms over, right now."

Only the very unhygienic nature of the stabbing someone with the knife you used to cut poultry kept Derek from running Peter through with the knife. In the last weeks, Peter had become his own conscience, the ball and chain that kept him from being able to enjoy even the simple pleasure of Stiles being alive, because of the constant reminder that Derek had admitted, only once, only so quiet as to really be for himself, that he thought he might have feelings for Stiles. He felt something deep in his chest, always, that screamed for him to protect the stick-thin and pale, sarcastic little motormouth.

"I'm pretty sure you could go up to him, grunt, and throw him on a bed and have your way with him," Peter continued. "Have you seen the way he looks at you? Or are you just upset that some other Alpha marked him all over before you got your claws into him?"

Hygiene be damned, he grabbed a butcher's knife out of the block and forced it up into Peter's gut, hopefully hitting the liver and some intestines to make it especially painful; the idea made Derek feel better. Peter had gone upstairs to lick his wounds in peace and Derek had scrubbed the chicken guts and blood off of the two knives before Stiles limped his way into the kitchen and glared helplessly at the breakfast bar and high top stools.

Derek gave Stiles an arm up, and waited for Stiles to settle himself, cane set across the bar, leaned slightly forward, smelling of soap and shampoo and more health than he had in a week. "You smell better," Derek said without thinking.

"Yeah, I had to keep scrubbing because even I could smell the hospital funk, can't imagine what it was like for you."

He could have left it at that, he should have left it at that. "I just meant you smell... healthier. You still smelled a bit like the Alpha, but you smell like yourself now."

"Well thanks for the sniff of confidence." Stiles, of course, brought his arm up to his own nose and sniffed. "I still don't smell like werewolf, right? I mean, I guess I sound like a dick, thinking the worst thing in the world would be becoming one, but you've got to admit it hasn't made Scott's life easier, and what would I do if I had super-strength to go with my wit and brilliance. I'd probably become an evil overlord or something."

"No, Stiles, you still don't smell like a werewolf."

"You're sure?"

Derek stalked over to where Stiles was sitting, and Stiles didn't back away, didn't even flinch, not even when Derek grabbed a fistful of Stiles's shirt and dragged him a few inches forward and put his nose right to Stiles's throat and inhaled. "Yes, I'm sure." And then Derek pushed himself away. "Do you want something to drink?"

Stiles answered in a high-pitched squeak. "Juice?"

He deposited a modest sized tumbler full of orange juice in front of Stiles and then back to working on dinner.

"So, Alpha Pack?" Stiles asked, obviously groping around for a conversation topic now that he wasn't cooped up in the hospital where it was a lot less safe to spout off things like: 'so how about that werewolf turf war'.

"Nothing really to report," Derek answered back.

"Hey, don't cut me out just because I'm going to be benched for a while." Stiles was frowning when Derek looked over his shoulder. "I do have a brain, and I'm pretty sure I could still shoot a gun, you know, between my hobbling."

Derek had to turn around to hide his gritted teeth, but that didn't help, because a second later he was spitting out: "I have been at the hospital, with you, every day since the attacks, Stiles. We haven't been hunting without you. I'm not keeping anything from you. We've been more worried about them taking vengeance on you than making a move on the town or the territory." He regretted saying what he had almost instantly, more so when he turned around and saw the guilt in Stiles's eyes.

"I guess you'd have rather been hunting."

"I would have rather you hadn't gotten hurt," Derek answered, but that probably didn't help matters. "Look, there's... not much to report. Argent's been hitting the streets almost nightly, he's also been on the phone with some great aunt of his about you. Apparently they've been having a big Hunter powwow about you, what it means that you seem cured, and if you were really cured or if you'll spring up again during the full moon. I don't think he's doing it to get out of the pact, but he's worried about having another Kanima or something else on our hands while we're dealing with the Alpha Pack."

Stiles swallowed a mouthful of juice. "Maybe I didn't want to know."

"They're also discussing Lydia, but bite immunity is apparently rare but not impossible. Pretty much no one's heard of a real case of a wolf killing its Alpha and becoming human again." That had been a bit of a kick in the teeth, but Derek was starting to realize that he was only one man, barely in his early twenties, and Argent and his family had been collecting information for their bestiary for generations. They were going to know more than him.

"As long as they don't end up with 'burn the witch!'" Stiles yelled, waving his cane towards Derek. "They don't, right? Burn witches?"

Derek snorted. "They usually work with them, and fear them."

Stiles finished the rest of his juice, pushing it away, and Derek took it back to fill up again. "I guess it's a good thing I'm not a witch."

If Stiles still didn't think that, Derek didn't see it as his place to argue. Stiles had unknowingly broken the burial magic he'd placed over Laura's grave, he'd cast a perfect ward on his first try, and his facility with that damn staff was truly impressive. When Stiles was back on his feet, the two of them were going to have a conversation about how few people in the country, or the world, could do the sort of things that Stiles did without even thinking. If he truly put his mind to it, Derek wasn't certain they would ever see the end of the potential repercussions.

"What are you cooking, anyway?"

"Barbecue chicken, coleslaw, corn." And before Stiles could ask: "And yes, in spite of your father's protests there will be some skinless barbecue, but I refuse to force him to eat it, that's on you."

"He does have high cholesterol, you know?" Stiles asked. "Fighting against horrible artery clogging lipids is a major fight in the quest to keep me sane."

Which was why Derek allowed himself to be suckered into looking after the Sheriff, and why the Sheriff seemed to allow it both from Stiles and from Derek.

"You know," Stiles continued. "I could just set up in a coffee shop or something. I'm pretty sure that a pack of werewolves isn't going to descend on me in broad daylight while I'm sipping a coffee and eating a muffin."


Stiles whined and then put his head down on the breakfast bar. "How long are you and dad going to conspire to keep me under house arrest? I could have stuff to do. Maybe I need to go shopping for things because my dad's spent the last week at home alone and has probably been subsisting on beefaroni and ramen."

More like carryout and roast beef sandwiches, but Derek wasn't going to snitch. "If you need to go out, you're going with me."

Derek was not impressed when Stiles tried to wriggle his way out of that, but eventually he got Stiles to agree to come with him in his car and the two of them wheeled around the supermarket with Derek pushing the cart and Stiles trying not to hobble beside him. His efforts were largely in vain, because his hip was still healing and Derek tried to pretend to not hear the way Stiles breathed heavily as he walked down the aisles.

"I don't know how I feel about the fact that apparently you're shopping as though dad and I are going to be eating at your place. What if we don't want... delicious shrimp fajitas?"

Derek gave Stiles an unimpressed look before dumping the shrimp he'd just gotten from the fish case and nodding towards the citrus, watching as Stiles made his way over to the limes and started to prod them half-heartedly as Derek eyed cilantro.

"Well you shouldn't be stressing that much about your dad's food, much less your own, I have a house, it even has a stove and running water. It's even a little closer to the Sheriff's Department than yours." Derek grabbed a few sprigs and chucked them into the cart. "You eat, your dad eats, you don't have to cook, and your dad doesn't have to worry about you choking on your own tongue or being mauled."

"I will have you know I've only done the tongue thing the once... the mauled thing, too." Stiles picked up a few limes and then headed over to the onions and peppers. "Just so you know, this whole 'House Alpha' thing totally works for you. You could totally win over Scott's mom this way, at least then she'd know he's eating something vaguely healthy."

Derek shook his head, less amused than he should have been, but he had to admit that he didn't mind if Stiles did think him cooking was 'working for him'. "It's just... pack." Derek hadn't put the best effort into the first few months with his new pack, and his current pack barely rose to the definition of one. He remembered all of his years growing up, and losing Laura, and losing Peter, and regaining the twisted version of his uncle that had risen from the grave, the Alpha Pack coming for him, the attack on Stiles... there was something about it all that made Derek want to circle the wagons and recreate that early feeling of home that had been ripped away from him six years ago.

"Pack plus dad."

"Pack." Derek felt the need to reiterate, because apparently Stiles was completely ignoring anything but the most blatant of statements on the matter.

"Oh... well..." Stiles fumbled with his walking stick to bag the peppers. "Well, in that case, you should know dad and I have that thing where cilantro tastes like soap, so it's optional garnish only or leave it out of some of it." Stiles gestured at his tongue, as though Derek needed some reiteration of the point.

Derek tried to keep himself from getting lost in the domesticity of the moment, of Stiles looking dubiously at an avocado, leaning against his cane; he tried to ignore the pained way he rubbed at his hip, and had to remind himself, yet again, how fundamentally fragile humans could be... and then Stiles pelted him with an avocado, and the moment turned slightly silly, but it still twisted something deep in Derek's chest that he tried to ignore.


Stiles knew that by all objective measures, he was healing faster than any doctor expected, but that didn’t make him feel any better. By the third day after he’d left the hospital, he was easily up and around, walking with Derek, shopping, or just stretching. He still relied on the cane, but he knew things were healing. On the fourth day, it rained, and Stiles discovered that he now had old man joints, the sort that ached when a storm was coming, or it was here. He felt it in his hip and his shoulder and even when Derek tried to make him some tea, Stiles couldn't help but wince, trying to rub away the ache.

"Does it hurt?" Derek asked, surprising him.

"Uhh, yeah." Stiles pulled his knee up towards his chest as far as it would go. "Now I'm wondering if I'm gonna have... moon sense, or whatever, feel the moon in my bones!" Stiles wanted it to be a joke, but he couldn't deny that he'd stepped into the weird side of life months ago and he'd just started to get used to it when the bite happened and now he had a whole new layer of weird and he didn't even have any of the bite perks. He was still stick-thin and spindly and now his joints ached and he had a wide array of scars on him.

"That's a little like what it's like," Derek said. He sat down next to Stiles staring over at him. "Feeling the moon in your bones."

"I remember," Stiles whispered. He'd remembered every smell from that night, the asphalt, the blood, the itch of wolfsbane in his nose that he'd never felt in its presence before or since; he remembered things that had been some odd mix of smell-taste, moss and charred wood even though he was nowhere near the woods, gun oil, fear; but behind that he remembered the bloodlust, the desire to sink his teeth in and rip that had only grown brighter after he'd ripped out the Alpha's throat and gotten sprayed with his blood. "There are piece of it that are still a fog," Stiles admitted, just as quietly. "I don't know if I want to remember."

Derek reached out a hand, and Stiles had to fight down the involuntary urge to flinch. This was Derek, and although he'd thrown Stiles around more than once he'd also saved his life more than once. As far as people he felt it should trust, Derek had more than proven his right to be on the list.

"I sometimes wonder what it would be like not to feel the pull constantly," Derek said, and he pressed a hand on Stiles's shoulder and then his thumb next to the shoulder blade, rubbing against the ridge there, easing the ache just slightly. "You live your whole life with it. You find an anchor young or you... don't."

That wasn't a pregnant pause. Stiles sighed. "When Scott was just starting out, he lashed out at everyone, me, at the slightest provocation, but he found out he could suppress the change by finding Allison." It was sort of romantic. It was more than a little romantic. Stiles was a 'happily ever after, soulmates' sort of guy even if he gave Scott crap for his single-minded obsession.

"You weren't bad at the whole werewolf trainer bit. I think you would have been a natural."

"I'm not sure what to do with this vaguely complimentary Derek who's replaced the completely surly Derek I know. Is there such a thing as a shapeshifter wolf?" Stiles arched his back into the pressure against his shoulder, aching too much for him to be self-conscious about it.


"But that's what a shapeshifter wolf would say," Stiles answered, very reasonably. "Well... I'll know in two weeks. The Argents are calling in some sort of... arbiter." Stiles shivered and Derek's grip on his shoulder turned painful for a long moment before he relaxed into it. "His great-aunt or something. She's the matriarch and like ninety-five years old or something, but apparently they say she can sense the wolf, or whatever."

"You shouldn't go alone," Derek said, voice very firm. "They'll want to lock you up, chain you down..."

Stiles nodded. He knew. "Dad'll be there. One unspeakable horror of the night, one Sheriff, I figure our odds are good if they want to start something."

Derek didn't sound particularly comforted.

"Thanks." Stiles shrugged away Derek's hands and pulled away. "I draw the line at you massaging my hip though, because really that's the sort of thing that should be far more fun than it would be." His tea had gone cold, and a bit stale in his mouth when he sipped again. It was just one little thing to add to the day, to the aches, to the fear. The pain in his hip, his side, and his shoulder flared just enough that it was almost like the dull aching throb of his week in the hospital; it reminded him of the way that he'd been cut open while he'd been bitten. Stiles bowed his head and blinked back the beginning of tears. "When am I going to stop feeling so helpless?"

Derek had set his hand on his own knee - Stiles could see it out of the corner of his eye - and he watched Derek's fingers flex, squeezing hard into his thigh. "I don't know."

"I know that's why Erica agreed to join you." Erica, who was who knows where now, hopefully not dead but Stiles wasn't certain he believed in that sort of miracle any longer. "I felt so helpless, though. I still do. I don't know what happened to me."

"It was what you wanted, right?" Derek asked, and he let his fingers relax and Stiles saw where his claws had started to make a dent in the denim of his jeans. "You didn't want to be a werewolf, you didn't want to be an Alpha. You were so in control you broke the rules of a thousand years of magic."

Stiles didn't feel in control, his mind was buzzed even after taking the Adderall, his mind flickered between a thousand different ideas, he remembered the night he was bitten both perfectly and shrouded in fog. He hadn't had the nerve to try any magic, not even using his staff, since the accident, scared it would backfire or not work or nuke a whole city block, he didn't even know. "That just makes it more out of control! What am I now?"


He thought that Derek was berating him again, but instead it was just a statement. Stiles was himself. It was much less of a comfort than it should have been because fundamentally Stiles wasn't that interesting. "It's... funny, my mind keeps coming around to lacrosse, of all things. Am I going to be in shape enough to captain the lacrosse team? Am I going to be in good enough shape to play at all? There's a pack of werewolves trying to eat us and I'm worried about how my werewolf bite is going to affect my play. It's not like I was counting on that to go to college or something."

Stiles ran his fingers through his hair, realizing a few moments later that he was going to need to need to cut it again soon. It had been barely six months since his life had been turned upside down by his best friend turning into a fricking werewolf, and now he was discussing... his werewolf life angst with the werewolf he had a crush on. Werewolves, seriously. It wasn't something a teenager should have to deal with.

"After my mom..." Stiles swallowed down the word, cleared his throat, and then forced out the rest of the sentence: "died, my big worry, the one I let myself worry about, was who was going to cook." It wasn’t as though cooking was in any way the thing that his mother did the most of, certainly not hugs and kind words or the way she patiently helped him through actually focusing on his homework.

Derek said nothing, but when Stiles glanced over to him he gave a sharp nod. It wasn't like Stiles didn't know the feelings that went with losing a member of your family even if Derek had gotten hit much harder and a little longer ago than Stiles had. Stiles had to wonder how much he still might be feeling the loss of his sister, and the weirdo loss of his uncle, probably a lot. It probably hadn't helped to have two kids digging up her dead body.

Both of them were, perhaps predictably, morose as Stiles worked his way through his afternoon home physical therapy exercises and Derek prepared things for dinner.

His dad noticed pretty obviously. "Something on your mind, Stiles?"

The root of the answer, 'mom', wasn't going to do either of them any good, and it wasn't even that that was the true core of it anyway. Yes he was depressed by her death, there was always going to be this gaping part of him that would never heal because of her, but more than her physical presence, what he missed right now was how he just ached to feel like everything was going ot be alright. "Worried about the Argents."

"I will be there, and if any one of them thinks they are harming a single hair on your head, even if you're a... Kanima, or something more dangerous, they have another thing coming." Dad wrapped an arm over Stiles's shoulder and pulled him in for a hug. "Even when you're driving me crazy, I love you. There is no way I'm letting them punish you for anything that's not your fault."

That made Stiles feel... a little better, but the words still couldn't ease the worry that his dad did regret him sometimes, did second guess his ability to wrangle Stiles. "It's also... just the bite."

"I thought Derek said he didn't... 'smell anything' on you."

Facing the actual fears that were flitting around in his mind and saying them out loud to his father didn't give him any comfort, but he tried, because he was fairly certain that Scott would never understand 'I'm a pasty, scarred up, dweeb, no one will ever love me'. "The scars," he clarified, voice soft.

And somehow dad got it, right away, because he nodded, and went back to watching the road and Stiles watched the deep breath his dad took and then let out. "When your mother was... dying... she had these little blue tattoos to line up the radiation machine and she had this... puffed out port in her shoulder where they put in the chemo drugs and she was so, so thin and frail I could barely hold her hand, let alone hug her, and she still knew, every day, that I loved her. She knew that because she was smart, maybe not as smart as you, but she was damn smart."

Dad didn't look at him, instead clinging to the steering wheel a bit too tight, and Stiles had to fight the urge to look away or run away from the conversation. "I miss her."

"Me too." Dad nodded and Stiles tried not to cry. It was an admission that dad only seemed to make when he was halfway into a bottle and ready to climb farther in. Dad was that textbook case of a chatty drunk who tipped quickly into melancholy. "I've just-- finally gotten to that place where I don't wonder where she is when she's not next to me in the morning."

Stiles both got it and didn't, he understood exactly what it was like to miss mom, but maybe he didn't quite understand missing a partner. He could barely imagine losing Scott or Lydia, and in his own ways Stiles could start to put Derek or Isaac on that list and the constant ache that came from not knowing about Boyd and Erica was worse. "Right after the finals, before Gerard grabbed me, all I wanted to do was run and tell mom and then I remembered she's not there."

When they finally pulled into the driveway, thankfully safely given the way they'd been going on about their feelings all the way there, dad poured himself a finger of whiskey and Stiles got a soda and they popped down on the couch and watched a crappy movie together, an action flick, manly and rugged and not at all like either of them were feeling, but it was good, and there were no werewolves, and maybe things were a little bit better after that.


Derek tried not to be irritated by Stiles not coming over at all the next day because his dad had the day off and Stiles didn't need a 'babysitter', as he'd taken to calling Derek. That wasn't at all the way Derek wanted Stiles to see him, though; Derek had no idea what he would actually do if Stiles ever returned any of his affections or if the two of them made too many changes to the bizarre state of affairs, but that didn’t stop Derek from wishing. They saved each others lives, Derek mooned, and Stiles seemed oblivious. And, unfortunately, heightened senses did very little to solve the mystery of what, exactly, someone was feeling. Certainly the connection between an Alpha and his or her Betas could lead to a certain amount of empathy, but it was impossible not to spend time around teenagers and not notice they were balls of hormones. Stiles seemed to live in a constant mix of fear and arousal around Derek, and the two of them were not necessarily opposed to each other, but that didn't tell him if Stiles actually wanted something more than the generic, constant teenaged yearning to get off, preferably with someone else. And Derek was jaded enough not to trust himself with that; his own desires in that area had destroyed his life.

That wasn't what Derek wanted from Stiles. Even when he'd been a young man, eyes wide with ignorance and naivety, shocked at a beautiful woman's interest in him, he hadn't wanted that from Kate, either. He wouldn't have told her about his family otherwise. He wouldn't have told her stories about his werewolf relatives, outlining them, describing them, humanizing them for her so she wouldn't be afraid. Derek had wanted Kate to want to be pack.

Ever thinking of wanting that again terrified him.

The chances that Stiles would betray him the same way as Kate were slim - Derek so little family to lose, and a dark part in the back of his mind might have welcomed Peter's death if it weren't for the looming Alpha Pack. Still, Derek couldn't help but think there might be new ways that Stiles could shatter him that he wasn't even aware of.

"Derek just write a goddamn sonnet to your fair skinned, raven haired love and get over it."

"Stiles's hair is brown," Derek growled back before he realized what he was saying.

Peter might just earn himself a second throat slashing regardless of their status as kin. The urge to rip his uncle's teeth out was prominent, and growing stronger as he grinned over from where he was perched with his laptop across the room. "It's bad for morale. I know I find myself feeling in a state of flux, of chaos. You're a young, virile thing." Peter waved his hands in Derek's general direction, clearly thinking he had made his point. "Mates bring pack stability."

"I cook. I have a house with water and electricity. People eat here." That was three steps up from a month or so ago when they had been living out of the Rail Depot.

"I cannot help but notice that the cause of that pack stability is that little chocolate haired ball of... I'm not even sure what he's a ball of, but whatever it is there is a lot of it: hormones, jitters, brains, nerves, lip; Derek, the amount of lip on that kid..." Peter shook his head. "Your not-mate. You know that, right?"

Derek did. It wasn't unusual for a wolf family to have several humans in it, both born and married; a human could walk between packs and facilitate agreements far more politicly than an Alpha stepping into another territory. "He's more Scott's second than anything to me."

Peter, for once, didn't argue, but Derek doubted that was because he agreed with the assessment. Like it or not, Derek had accepted Stiles into his pack by having him forge an agreement with Argent on his behalf, and the most typical role for that human to have in a pack was mate. Stiles was obviously ignorant of the nuances, even if it was curled under Derek's skin and wouldn't get out. Stiles reminded him so much of some of his family, not that he resembled any one of them physically or in personality, but in the raw courage and curiosity he brought.

He went for a run, not pressing himself to go as fast as he could have, not around humans, but enough to make him sweat, enough to help shut his mind down a little bit. It wasn't enough to keep him from subconsciously tracking Stiles's scent, or maybe the danger of turning his mind off was that baser instincts pushed him more easily, so he found himself in front of the Stilinskis where Stiles was fighting, tooth and nail, with an old, battered lawn mower, ears covered, stripped down to airy board shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt. The back of his brain sat up and took notice; he might have growled.

Stiles stunk of gallons of sunscreen and sweat, but Derek still couldn't help but enjoy the scent.

Derek didn't realize he was staring until the lawnmower started to get away from Stiles and he had to let go, wincing and pressing his hand to his hip in what was likely a vain attempt to ease the ache here.

"You can't tell me your dad is making you mow the lawn."

Stiles's head shot up, and he pulled the ear mufflers off. "He's not making me. It's my job. I always do the lawn. I'm not going to let some stupid bite stop me from my chores."

Derek really was impressed with Stiles's stubbornness. "You should have at least..." He glanced around, found Stiles's cane propped up against the side of the house. Derek walked over and picked it up by the silver and brought it over to Stiles.

"Should have at least reminded myself I'm an invalid?" Stiles bit out, staring at where the mower had gone another foot before it had cut off. Stiles took the cane, though, when Derek offered, and he leaned against it, his hand going to the bite at his shoulder and rubbing.

It was a hell of a thing to look at. Derek was so unfamiliar with the real look of scars. Some of the human Hales got cut up or bitten from time to time, just people being people, and they scarred, but if a human took a bite it was always a small one, given from the Hale Alpha at the time, and it always healed... the remains of the gash at Stiles's shoulder was a painful reminder that Stiles was, in fact, human, but he ran with werewolves and he could be hurt. It was also a reminder that some other Alpha had possessed Stiles, if only for the minutes it took him to seal his fate by trying to turn Stiles against his father. It was a mark of Derek's failure several times over: he hadn't protected Stiles, Stiles had been claimed by someone else, and Stiles could be hurt.

His hand was drawn to it anyway.

Or it would have been if Stiles hadn't flinched and turned away, purposefully putting his good shoulder towards Derek even if it meant looking away from the lawnmower that sat lifeless in the middle of the barely-overgrown lawn. "It's..." 'not that bad', 'proof I failed you'.

"Pretty ugly, I know, thanks for that Mr. Perfect Skin."

Derek pulled away, not at all sure what to make of that. It must have shown in his face.

"It's not like I was beating them off with a cane before the attack." Stiles tapped the silver handle of the cane against Derek's chest, punctuating his statement. "I'm sure everyone will be lining up for a go at the scratching post."

"That's for a cat." Derek realized that was probably one of the dumbest things he could have said, but he tried to say something, anything. "Everyone around town knows you ripped out a wolf's throat, with your bare hands, Stiles. You're the star lacrosse player and you killed a wolf." He didn't feel the need to reiterate that it had been with his bare hands. "You should be beating them off with a stick."

Stiles looked skeptical. "It's a pretty bad scar."

Like that would have stopped anyone. It certainly wouldn't have stopped Derek even with the weight of feelings that damn scar had for him. "It's proof."

Stiles nudged him away with his cane, and Derek stepped back a few feet. Stiles turned and grabbed the lawnmower, starting it up again and creeping his way across the lawn. When Derek considered a full retreat, the front door to Stiles's house opened and the Sheriff waved him in.

"Before you ask, no, I don't like seeing my son take three hours to cut the grass because he's hobbling like an old man, but you try to convince a Stilinski to not do whatever he's put his mind to."

Derek snorted. "That's why he's so powerful, his mind."


He couldn't say no to that, and so he headed off after the Sheriff into the kitchen, enjoying the chill when Derek opened up the freezer to grab ice cubes for the both of them. "He's not himself."

"I wish I could say you were wrong," the Sheriff agreed. "He's got a lot on his mind: that Argent coming, school in another month and a half..." He trailed off and Derek looked over to him while he poured them both a glass. "And I really thought with Stiles being a guy and generally not giving a crap what anyone else thought of him, I'd avoid the..."

"The looks thing," Derek finished for him.

"You never had that trouble, I'm sure."

The Sheriff knew him from the time of the fire, but maybe the gawky pile of arms and legs that Derek had been back then had been blended together with Derek as he was now. "The first... the only girl who ever looked twice at me... was using me to get to my family."

"To become a werewolf?"

Derek wondered if the Sheriff was being intentionally obtuse or he was just being polite or if even as Sheriff after all these years he really couldn't quite imagine something quite as horrible as the truth. "To burn my family to death."

He'd never told Peter, although he had long since figured it out. This was the first time Derek had ever said those words to someone. He'd fallen in love with Kate Argent and he would have ached for it to have only cost him his life. Any chance that the Sheriff had been playing dumb fled as the pieces clicked. The fire, the means, the opportunity, the hate for the family. Stiles's father had discovered Kate's guilt months ago, but the motive, and the obvious means sliding into place made him gape.

Derek took a long gulp of lemonade and then he forced his knees to bend so he'd sit down and not escape.

Thankfully the Sheriff didn't talk to him, just sat down next to him and seemed to be chewing over his own issues, or Stiles's, or perhaps he was still pondering the new details that Derek had given them. It didn't matter.

"Ug, I stink!" Stiles came back into the kitchen, but slowly enough that the awkward and pregnant silence between the Sheriff and himself had almost been cleared.

"Yes," Derek answered. "You do."

"You'll just have to deal with my pungent smell," Stiles answered, and he collapsed into his chair while the Sheriff got him a lemonade. "Well, it took almost two hours, but it's done. Go, Stiles. Ug, I want a bath, because every inch of me aches, but baths are hot."

Stiles in a bathtub, naked. Derek hid his creeping blush behind a long gulp of lemonade.

"I can smell myself."

Stiles then got up and made his way towards the stairs while Derek tried to just look into his lemonade, wondering if it was possible to drown in it. That might be the best way to go. When he looked back over at the Sheriff, he was eyeing him, eyebrow arched in a way that said that Derek was absolutely not fooling anyone. Sitting down be damned, he stood, leaving his half-drunk lemonade on the table with a mumbled 'thanks, Sheriff' so he could leave before the sound in the back of his ears of running water and Stiles humming got any more pronounced.


Stiles liked to think he wasn't really subconsciously counting down the days until the full moon, not considering how many weeks or days or hours it was until moonrise and someone would pass judgement on him. Then, of course, the Argent matriarch had to go and come a full two days early, before the full moon. That, Stiles could have dealt with, but then Mr. Argent called him a full day early and invited him over to his house to meet the matriarch and Stiles began seriously reconsidering just moving.

His dad had insisted on coming, and an offhand grouse about it meant Scott and Derek were also planning to come, and Stiles wasn't certain how he felt being the de facto damsel in this situation, but he supposed their hearts were in the right place, so the four of them all headed over to the Argent's in the Sheriff's car.

Mr. Argent opened up the door as they pulled up, and didn't look the least bit surprised by the small army Stiles had brought with him. After a few glances, dad took up the front and Stiles ended up getting a hand from Scott to get inside. The weather or the upcoming moon or something was really causing his bones to just... ache.

Even if there had been a dozen little old ladies in the Argent house, Stiles would have been able to pick her out. He could just... tell; he knew she was in the sitting room without being told, and before she even turned around from her place by the fire, her own rowan wood cane by her knee, Stiles felt as though he knew her.

"You must be Stiles." She turned towards him and stood, waving off the help of two muscle head Hunters who flanked her chair. She was obviously old, maybe a hundred, and she had piercing deep blue eyes and neatly trimmed silver hair with just a little wave. "You feel it?"

"I don't know what it is," Stiles admitted, but he nodded anyway, because he did feel it, whatever 'it' was.

"Let's go for a walk."

Mr. Argent protested immediately: "Aunt Vivian..." But she put up a hand and eased herself the rest of the way up. Mr. Argent didn't argue any further.

She moved pretty well for her age; honestly she made Stiles feel a bit decrepit with how difficult it still was for him to get around, but she leaned on her own cane just a touch even if she seemed sure of her footing. "You can bring one of your young men with you, but we'll just be talking alone, you and I."

Derek stepped forward before Scott or dad could even consider reacting. The three of them glanced between each other before dad finally handed over his gun - his own, not his service piece - and gave Derek a particularly meaningful look. One of the Hunters joined him and without seeming to think much of anything about it. After that was sorted, Vivian headed out of the front door with Stiles following just after her. They were almost a block away from the house before she said anything, and when Stiles glanced back she saw that Derek and the Hunter were about a half block behind them.

"What I am about to say is for your ears only, Stiles."

"Derek can probably hear us. Scott, too, if he tried."

"Neither of them can," she assured him. "That is one of the benefits as being as old as I am with far more time practicing the little bits of magic that can dull a werewolf's senses. Don't worry, it only pertains to us and our conversation. My nephew tells me you were bitten." Her eyes followed down the line of his neck where just a tiny slice of scar where fang had cut him open was visible under his collar. "And then you killed the Alpha who bit you."


"And now you are no doubt wondering what you are, what happened, and how a funny little legend that everyone knows, and yet everyone also knows is false, has come true for you." She made a turn at the next block, and Stiles followed along beside her, glancing to the side for potential dangers.

"Sounds about right." His mind was buzzing, because Vivian seemed to know exactly what the hell was going on with him. "But I've got to ask: are you one of the crazy Hunters who just kill werewolves because they exist or only if they spill human blood?"

"Do you really think I would let your guardwolf stand a half block behind us with a gun if I was the sort to take offense at wolves in general?" Vivian smiled at him. "But good for you for being concerned about it, young man." She looped an arm through his and then patted it gently. "I hope you are ready to listen to an old lady ramble."

Stiles was just ready for some answers.

"I can tell a few things about you, Stiles. You want power, desperately, but you do not want it for yourself, and you do not want the power of a werewolf, the strength, the speed, the heightened senses, instead you want that power to protect, but not to form your own pack. You both want and don't want that power in equal measure." Vivian waited.

When she didn't continue, Stiles looked over at her and realized she was waiting for his confirmation. "It just doesn't seem like the right way to go. I don't think this whole magic training thing is going anywhere but that seems nice, normal... Scott's life got turned upside down when he got bitten. I don't want that." The only person Stiles knew whose life had arguably gotten better from the bite was Isaac. He had a family who cared for him now, more friends, and for the short time he'd been a wolf and his father had been alive he had a protection against the most obvious, physical damage. "Is that why the... bite didn't take?"

"Will can't stop the bite, magic and genetics can, but not pure will alone." Vivian patted his arm. "You were bitten, you were turned, and you remember the pure power coursing through your body. It's part of what makes you feel frail right now; you are simply normal again."

"You sound like you know." Stiles wasn't dumb, he could read between the lines.

"I do. I was seventeen at the time. My father and mother had hunted down an Alpha, captured it instead of killed. It had been ravaging its way across the countryside. I didn't know about werewolves, they had not told me yet, but the man-wolf in the cage lured me close and it was just a very small bite." Vivian showed Stiles the web of her hand between her thumb and forefinger, there was barely the memory of fang impressions. "I told my father, and he cried. I told my mother and she gave me a knife and she told me that there was an old fairy story that you could cure yourself by killing the one that bit you. I talked to my wolf for days, he said I was in his pack, we would hunt, I would help free him... and on the night of the full moon I unlocked his cage and stabbed him through the eye. I had a great uncle, several times removed, he visited me months later and told me what had happened. If you kill your Alpha and only, purely, completely want to be cured, you will be cured, but it is very rare that you can achieve that purity of thought."

"But I'm something else," Stiles said. "Peter says my scent has changed slightly even if it's still human. I can feel the moon coming in my bones. I'm not normal."

"Most who kill their Alpha become Alpha. They want that power, but you wanted to be cured more than you wanted that power, much more. In a few days, you will feel the power you have received instead for the first time. My great uncle described it as being able to feel a wolf's soul, I think of it far less poetically. You will be... heightened, but not in the same ways, your magic will intensify, your empathy with them will intensify, your strength, your speed, and your power will intensify. You will be like the wolf but not of them, and your mind will always be your own."

Stiles let it sink in, found he couldn't. "Why doesn't everyone do that?"

"You can't seek it, it finds you."

"Well that's not cryptic."

Vivian laughed. Someone who looked like her, like a little old lady, sort of made you think she might chuckle or titter, but it was a full bodied laugh and she seemed to enjoy it. "I like you, young man. We'll spend your first moon together, get your feet under you, get a feel for some of your magic, and then I will leave you to it. This day and age, I remember those months when my great uncle was traveling... I thought I was going mad."

Stiles wasn't entirely sure he wasn't. He was basically being told he was ridiculously special, but he supposed in a town full of werewolves, Kanima, a girl who couldn't be bitten... maybe a ex-werewolf wasn't that unusual. "So you want to chain me up?"

"Ha! We'll go for tea, something like that." Stiles decided he loved Vivian just a little bit. "I have two things for you, the first is of less consequence to you, and will upset my grand-nephew horribly." Vivian reached into her pocket and pulled out a fairly dull looking piece of jewelry, a dented up silver-grey ball held in place with a fine wire clasp that hooked into some of the dents. It was a bit smaller around than Stiles's thumbnail. The whole pendant was on a thin silver chord.


Vivian chuckled again. "That is the original musketball that was used to slay La Bête du Gévaudan."

"The werewolf that introduced the Argents to hunting," Stiles said, the piece suddenly taking on an entire new meaning, and making it far more... "This is an heirloom. I can't take it. I'm not an Argent."

"It isn't an heirloom for the current presiding matriarch or patriarch of the Hunters. That first Argent didn't just hunt the wolf out of revenge for killing his family."

Stiles suddenly understood. "He hunted him because he'd been bitten. So it is an heirloom... just not for the Argents."

"The other item is a set of books, records from that first Argent Hunter, his exploration of his own new awareness and his efforts to mediate between the wolves who would do harm and the wolves who would live in peace."

Stiles laughed, nervous. "No pressure."

"I think you'll be fine," Vivian assured him. "From what my grand-nephew tells me, you are very good at rolling with whatever life presents to you."

They spent hours talking, walking, even passed the point where Stiles could feel his knees and shoulders creaking and aching, but Stiles was stubborn enough not to let an old lady out walk him. Vivian talked about her life, her time growing up after the bite, hunting, making the fairest judgements she could, keeping the peace as best she could, and Stiles decided that maybe this wouldn't be horrible.

When he arrived back at Argent's, tugging the bullet necklace over his head and tucking it under his shirt, he saw Mr. Argent's eyes go wide. "You can't be serious. He's not even an Argent."

"That was exactly my argument!" Stiles answered. "But it's a thing. Don't worry. Man, does this make me like... Hunter royalty?"

Stiles didn't really want that, he sort of naturally shunned actual responsibility, but if that meant he could use it to keep Scott and Derek and his packs safe from Hunters, he supposed it wasn't all bad. It might even mean he could keep his dad, the Argents - the nice ones anyway - and the rest of the town safe as well. There were worse things.


Peter was laughing at him, long and hard, and Derek was fairly certain he was ready to rip his uncles throat out, again. It wasn't even murder, he was already dead. "I think you're just Hunter-sexual, have you considered that? The heir to the Hunter that is most famous for killing one of our kind. You're incredible."

It being the day before the full moon didn't help at all. His bloodlust was near it's peak, his desire to rip out his uncle's throat, his desire to grab Stiles and pin him down and... Derek needed to stop thinking about that. "It's ceremonial."

"So the fact that he killed the modern day equivalent to La Bête du Gévaudan doesn't get you all hot and bothered? The fact that he'd got the ball that was pulled out of the beast's skull, that you can still smell the wolfsbane it was forged with. Does it make you growl, Derek? Does it make the beast in your chest stand on on its hind legs and howl?" Peter walked up behind him where they were both standing in his kitchen, smoothing the lines of his jacket. "Does it upset you how much he's slipping away? How many pretty lady Hunters do you think they have, aged fifteen to twenty? Do you think they'll want to bite at those scars?"

Derek took great pleasure in ripping both of his uncle's shoulders out of joint and snapping both the wrists. The thrill didn't last long, though. The thing that was so viciously insidious about everything Peter said was that he was completely and totally correct. Stiles was slipping away from him, he was becoming more and more Hunter, and Derek knew that if anything was going to keep Stiles anywhere near him it was Scott, not anything he'd done.

The phone rang. Derek growled into it as he picked up.

"Hey, who's a grouchywolf today?" Stiles answered a second later. "Look, dad's heading to work, but he doesn't want me alone, and I don't really want to go to the Argents..."

"You can stay here."

"That's nice and all... but I'd have a plus one." Derek wondered if it had already started, if some cousin or another had already been sent in, the first young woman to be thrown at Stiles... "Yaknow Vivian, and since she's an Argent I figured I'd ask. Her Hunters will stay home, though. They give me the creeps, that many muscles and glowers just doesn't look natural... you know, except on you. Or something. Who even says that?"

Vivian Argent, the bane of his existence currently. "Fine."

"Okay, super enthusiastic. We'll be over in a bit."

Great. "Peter, get the hell out of here."

"Your boyfriend coming over?" He singsonged. People shouldn't be allowed to be that cheerful when they'd had their arms dislocated in several places. "Maybe I'll go to the hospital, spend time with Melissa."

Derek couldn't help but think Peter replacing his constant pestering of him with pestering of Scott would be a welcome relief. "Yes, go, get out of here."

"I'm pretty sure I read a romance novel like this. Sad, lonely, wounded werewolf and the compassionate nurse who loves him?"

"How's that getting her over the fact that you bit her son, bit Lydia, murdered your niece, and generally terrorized the town for two months working for you?" Because that was at least what he owed Scott.

"It's a work in progress. I am roguishly handsome though. I could be reformed by the love of a good woman." Peter gave him that grin and damn him if it didn't work a lot more often than it should have. He had moments where he was obviously and conspicuously disturbing, but Peter was always good at hiding the rougher edges that Derek always had on display. Sometimes Derek envied him for that.

Thankfully he was gone by the time Stiles arrived. "Sorry," Stiles said as he worked his way up the front step. "It's just Mr. Argent sort of stares at me now, and I have like ten books to go over, huge, epic tomes. It probably looks a little weird if you sit around talking about werewolves too loudly in the library."

Stiles and Vivian, rather than make use of the larger tables in the living room, decided to set up on the breakfast bar, Stiles pulled out a notebook and a book that Derek could only agree deserved to be called an epic tome. It was several inches thick, leather bound, and obviously very old.

"So is that... magic?" Derek asked, even though he assumed Vivian would keep Stiles from rambling on the topic of secret Hunter diaries and magic to a werewolf.

"Some of it." Stiles picked up another book, this one obviously modern, thinner book that had probably come from one of any number of chain or boutique book or stationery stores. "So you know how werewolves, especially Alphas, can do things like enforce their will on a Beta, help another Beta to heal or be stronger, lock a dead Alpha in his wolf form... that sort of thing?"

Derek did, and he nodded, but he glanced over to where Vivian seemed to be not at all concerned about Stiles's constant capacity to ramble off on any topic regardless of the appropriateness of the time or place or company.

"Most of it comes naturally to wolves, but improves with training. It won't come naturally to me, but I can train to... do things like that. Alpha Pack Alphas actually kill and train to amplify those abilities, the strength, the power and things." Stiles made one of his 'growling' faces, baring his teeth at Derek, completely heedless of what sort of challenge it was and how much it meant that Derek almost always backed down when Stiles did so. "Grr!"

Derek just snorted and turned back to the refrigerator, pulling out some strawberries and started to clean them. When he turned back around to check on Stiles, Vivian was looking at him, one perfect silver eyebrow arched. Derek just felt his cheeks and the back of his neck heat, because apparently everyone knew how Derek felt except for Stiles. At least Scott seemed completely clueless.

"Maybe we should have started with werewolf social behaviors," Vivian said.

Stiles looked up from where he'd been reading the book, eyes wide. "Huh?"

"Never you mind, dear."

Stiles seemed to take her at her word and went back to scanning across the words in the old Argent books, scribbling notes in his newer book. When Derek dropped a plate of de-stemmed, quartered strawberries near Stiles's left hand with some whipped cream, he started in on them without a second though.

Vivian snorted. "I'm going to make some tea, dear."

Stiles was so deep in his own head that he barely nodded, just picked up a strawberry, dunked it, and continued to read. Vivian did take down the kettle dangling over the sink, filled it with water, and left it on the cold stove. Derek had spent a long time without a family, but even he could read the tacit 'get over here, young man' that came with that look from a woman who was probably pushing a century in age. Derek considered ignoring it, but then realized that there was every possibility that if he didn't Vivian might not give him the dignity of a private conversation. Certainly Chris Argent wouldn't have given him any consideration on the topic.

"Chris tells me you used him to cement the pact the various Hunters and wolf packs in the area have against the Alpha Pack," Vivian offered as soon as they were in the living room. Derek nodded. "I suppose he didn't think much of it because he is Scott's dear friend, and Chris counted the two of you as acquaintances."

Derek supposed Argent had no reason to count them as anything more than that. Stiles's occasional antagonism with Derek, as well as Scott's antagonism towards him, was probably well noted by the Hunter, but he obviously was unaware of the additional history between the three of them. "Stiles has saved my life at least twice." It was so, so much more complicated than that, but Vivian had obviously figured that out by now.

He was getting a bit sick of feeling as though he needed to justify it, though. It was hard enough accepting he felt some sort of genuine emotion towards Stiles.

"Stiles will need a mentor."

"He already has Argent," Derek answered, arms crossed over his chest. He didn't need Stiles with even more of that influence, more Hunting, more coming over smelling like gunpowder and wolfsbane, knowing new ways to down a werewolf and nothing to protect a pack from any of the thousand other dangers that lurked for Scott, like Hunters.

"The new powers he will be coming into are not unlike your own, and it will have a certain amount of the lunacy that plagues most turned wolves. He needs a wolf for a mentor as well." Vivian gave him a smirk, the sort that said she thought his assumption was particularly funny. "Unless you'd like me to suggest your uncle."

Derek snarled at her. She waved off the threat.

"He'll also need a mentor for that magic. It's not something I can help him with; I have no experience, and I certainly don't expect to see him into his twenties or thirties. Deaton can only take him so far. He's likely one of the best and worst choices of someone to come into such a gift."

Derek felt the urge to ask, but also the need to keep his interest close to his chest, as much as everyone else seemed to spot it instantly. He was worried about Stiles, had been worried about what was coming tomorrow with the full moon, what it meant for his pack if Stiles no longer was 'human enough' to to serve as an agent for their existing pact.

"Wolf and mage magics don't go well with each other," Vivian continued. "He would have made a poor addition to a wolf pack as he was, Alpha or not. It would have been a waste of his talents."

"Peter said as much." Derek hated to admit it, but Peter probably would have been a better mentor than Derek, he had always been more interested in those sorts of details and at sixteen Derek hadn't much thought he would become an Alpha any time soon.

"And your uncle, although he has gone around several bends, is still intelligent on that matter." Vivian carefully walked to the other side of the room, looking at the few books that Derek had managed to add to the sitting room to make it feel a bit more like a home. "There are a few wizards who might be willing to start an email correspondence with young Mister Stilinski, but I think it might be better if he considered taking his college education in Cambridge."

"England?" Derek asked, not quite able to hide his distress.


That wasn't much better if Derek intended to keep his pack and territory strong. Scott's college aspirations were probably minimal, but Stiles deserved the chance to go to a better college, and Boston certainly had several. He sighed. "Because obviously sending a... whatever you two are into a different pack territory is completely friendly."

Vivian smiled at him again. "You talk about him as though he's always going to be an emissary of the pack you and Scott have started to cobble together between the two of you."

Of course he did, where Stiles couldn't hear, sometimes where he could, and Stiles never, ever seemed to understand what Derek meant, or maybe he did and was simply politely ignoring the implications. Derek just cocked his head at her, mouth hard. She obviously already knew what he was thinking, he didn't feel the need to put himself on any more display than he had.

"It's not as traumatic as the change to a wolf, or as visceral, but it is still a change. Those first few months, before my great uncle came and explained I was not going mad and had not become some bastard wolf, I thought I was going mad. Werewolves aren't the only people who find use for an emotional anchor."

Derek continued to frown at her. "That's why he has Scott and his father."

Whatever Stiles was going through, Derek was completely inappropriate material for anyone to rely on.

"I think you'll find it would help you too, Derek."

"What do you know?"

Vivian didn't take offense at all, just started back towards the kitchen. "I've been alive four times longer than you, young man. I think I've known an Alpha or two after the one that bit me." She sounded completely reasonable, of course.

When Derek returned to the kitchen a few minutes later, a slowly brewing cup of tea had landed next to the strawberries Stiles was picking through. Derek mostly just considered it lucky that Stiles hadn't thumbed through Vivian's antique book with berry juice stained fingers, but it meant that each of Stiles's fingers ended up in his mouth, distractedly licked and sucked clean, which was probably worse.


The moon tore him in a dozen different directions. Stiles wanted to howl, he wanted to run, he wanted to just curl up in a ball and sleep forever. He was over-stimulated and stretched thin, and it wasn't sexy at all; his mind was grabbing for some way to shift, to change and run with a pack, but when he reached out for it there was nothing there yet he could still feel the moon. As torn as he felt, as ripped in a dozen directions as his mind was, all that seemed to make it outside of his skin was the way his hands were clenched so tight on themselves that he was dragging blood from his palm.

"Stiles?" His dad pressed a warm hand to the back of his neck and squeezed. "You alright in there, buddy?"

He shook his head. Ever since he'd told his father about werewolves he'd been trying to be honest, and no, he wasn't all there right now. It was worse because he could feel the pull of the Alphas in the area, Derek easy to isolate from the others, but part of him wanted to run with the pack, or challenge another Alpha, even while he couldn't howl and could barely hobble.

"He's fighting between the conflicting drives of werewolf and man," Vivian explained, hand on Stiles's knee where it was bouncing up and down as Stiles jittered as if he hadn't popped an Adderall not an hour earlier. "But there's no wolf to reach for, even though the back of his mind feels there should be. He's lost most of the connection to that primal force, but it's there as a phantom limb."

Stiles could barely focus on Vivian's words, and his dad, he tried to... anchor himself, bring himself back down. He remembered the way Allison had helped Scott maintain his human form and mind even when they weren't dating, and although Stiles didn't have anyone like that in his life, if there was anyone who grounded him and gave him the focus he needed it was his dad, caring for his dad, worrying about his dad, his dad being there for him. It had worked a month earlier, when the alpha had tried to force him to hurt his dad, but it wasn't doing anything for him now, maybe because no one was trying to get him to murder his own father.

"How are you not...?" Stiles gritted his teeth, not even able to finish the question.

"I've had a few full moons in my time, young man." She patted his knee again. "Now it's just a bit of an ache in my bones."

Stiles was nothing but ache in his bones. "Can you feel them out there?" Vivian nodded. "I want to run with them." With Derek at least. They weren't out 'running' on in the traditional pack sense, they were out patrolling the streets for the remaining Alphas. The Argents were out, the Hunters that Vivian had brought with her were out, which meant chez Stilinski was defended only by one Sheriff and one old lady former werewolf and Stiles, but Stiles could also feel the Alphas weren't nearly so daring this moon. They'd burned past vengeance and were now plotting, or sulking. "They aren't going to come into town tonight."

He didn't notice quite when Derek started heading towards Stiles and his house, just felt the awareness of an Alpha coming closer, and it didn't help at all that Stiles felt connected to him, like pack. Stiles was sitting with his hands clenched on his pant legs as Vivian tried to talk him through finding a focus and his center, but Stiles had never been great at concentrating sometimes, even with Adderall.

When Derek came into the room, escorted by his dad, Stiles actually growled at him, low and hilariously human. Derek didn't growl back, just gave a pained look at him before nodding to dad and Vivian. "Let me take a shot?"

Vivian got up from her chair just a few inches from Stiles's knees, and dad left them both in the living room.

"Stiles?" Stiles looked up at him, and his face was strained, it felt twisted, contorted and wrong. "What are you trying to focus on?"

"Dad," Stiles admitted. "I'm always there for him, he's always there for me..."

Derek put his hands against Stiles's neck, wrapped there and leaving a steadying presence. His face was too close, but he was always too close. "A human anchor is a tricky thing. It works for Scott because he's a besotted idiot who can't manage to keep a negative emotion about Allison for longer than a second."

Stiles laughed. He couldn't help it. Derek was so not wrong, and even in the midst of feeling like he wanted to claw out of his skin he could laugh about that.

"I know you want to protect your father, but it has to be something more than that, the feelings underneath. A wolf wants to protect his pack just as much as a man does." Derek's voice ended low and strained, before he pushed on. "What's the feeling underneath it?"

'I--" Stiles took a deep breath. Underneath wanting to protect his father? There was so much there: home, family, comfort, warmth, belonging, love, it was hard to pick one thing, or even think of all of them at once. "Safe."


Everything. "Pride. Love."

A hard weight pressed against his chest and Stiles looked down to see Derek's balled up fist, against his sternum. "Hold that right here."

Stiles tried to, he fought to find the love underneath his need to protect his dad, the end of summer barbecues that couldn't be good for his cholesterol, the laughter, the sadness when they both curled up and missed mom together, the sadness at the lies and the joy that came from his dad finally knowing the truth, and all of that met in this tiny little ball in the center of his chest. He loved his dad, and that wasn't something anyone or anything could take away from him, not even death.

His heart-rate slowed, and the feeling of a wolf clawing to get out lessened. Stiles blinked, and inhaled deeply, getting a whiff of the sweat where Derek had been running and prowling through the streets. "What's yours?" Stiles asked, voice soft enough he barely recognized it.

"My family," Derek answered. "My mother and the anger I feel at her death."

Stiles's hand was out before he could stop it, cupping the back of Derek's neck, only noticing after he'd done it how close they were, and he'd have to let go before they could even break apart without Derek just shoving him away. "Can you... find someone else?" Stiles asked. He loved his mom and missed her terribly but... "I miss my mom, every time I think about her it hurts, but... sometimes it makes me happy." Derek using that old anger to ground him couldn't feel good.

Derek usually seemed to think Stiles was beyond idiotic, and he didn't really expect a response, but Derek whispered back. "If your anchor's dead, it can't hurt any more than it already does."

Stiles wasn't even surprised when three blinks later he felt a tear rolling down his cheek. He just cried at things like that, alright? It hurt somewhere right in the chest, right where Derek's fist was still pressed, and then Stiles's traitor finger - probably the fifth column of the whole traitorous hand - reached out and brushed against that ridiculously stubbled jaw of Derek's and then Derek's head shot up and he didn't look weirded out or even upset, just this sad, kicked puppy look followed by the tiniest widening of the eyes with the fainted bit of hope behind them. His whole body was a traitor right now, because without even meaning to he licked his lips.

His tongue was barely back in his mouth when Derek's mouth was on him, warm, soft, and chaste. Stiles barely had time to respond, to move his lips against Derek's to map a tiny fraction of Derek's lips with his own, before Derek pulled away, and not even Stiles's rough, insistent tug made Derek come back, but Derek brushed his own thumb against Stiles's jaw before he pulled away.

"It takes time," Derek said.

Stiles just blinked at him dumbly.

"To get that wrapped up in a person to use them as an anchor."

"Or be Scott," Stiles said, smiling. "He's just that big an idiot that he can fall in love over night or something."

"Yeah." Derek pulled away further and stood up. "Yeah, it... it takes time."

"Not really talking about anchors, are you?"

Derek shook his head, and even gave a rueful snort as he stepped even farther away, before sitting on the couch by Stiles, far enough away that the three cushioned sofa Stiles was gave them a full cushion between them. "How are you feeling?"

That was such a loaded question that Stiles didn't even know where to start. He was feeling kissed. Derek had just kissed him, he was pretty certain Derek had kissed him and he hadn't imagined that. Stiles pressed two knuckles to his lips and found that, yeah, they were still a little warm and his entire face felt flushed. He wanted to say he felt love, but right now that was really firmly centered on his dad and it was pretty weird that he was now thinking of his dad not a minute after kissing Derek but really his dad could have walked in at any minute so maybe thinking about his dad was just something smart that he should do; it was self-preservation, Derek-preservation. "Better," was what he finally settled on. "And... uh, other things, other things are sort of rattling around upstairs and they haven't found a place yet."

Stiles tapped the side of his head to punctuate.

"You kissed me!" Stiles hissed at him. "Do you have any idea how long I've...?" Stiles cut himself off, because it was super pathetic to admit how long it had been since he'd been having everything from raunchy sex dreams to... cuddle up with wolfy-Derek dreams to just dreams where Derek would tuck an arm around him and it would just be natural.

"I don't... want sex," Derek said.

Stiles's mouth went off before his brain, as usual. "That's super unfortunate. I'm a teenager and I-- oh you mean it was just a friend kiss?" Did straight guys friend-kiss each other on the lips? Stiles never kissed Scott like that.

"I--" Derek gritted his teeth. "I don't just want sex."

Oh, that made a little more sense. "Kinky sex?"

"Oh my god, Stiles."

"Excuse me for not reading your mind!"

Yet Derek somehow seemed ready to persist, despite Stiles's apparent inability to read Derek's mind. "I know you want sex with me," Derek said, and Stiles might have reached a level of mortification that he had previously not known. "I would have to have completely lost my sense of smell to not notice that." No, no there was another level of mortification on top of the last one. "It needs to be more than that."

More. Kisses more. Emotions more. Love more.

Stiles could so, so do that. He scooted over a half cushion and held out his hand. After eyeing him for a moment, Derek scooted over to join him, not quite plastered beside him but close enough that there was just room for their arms and hands to intertwine between them. Derek... was asking him to have emotions, was showing emotions, was... how the hell long had this been going on and Stiles hadn't noticed?

"Just so you know, I do eventually want to... you know."

Derek gave him a death glare, so Stiles leaned forward and pecked him on the mouth. Derek retaliated by nipping his bottom lip as he tried to seal the deal, and that really shouldn't have been hot but it was. They finally broke back apart when Stiles realized that he was supposed to be taming the wolf or something and he more and more felt like he might want to howl.

"How long have you wanted...?" Stiles asked, because Stiles really had no idea what he wanted to hear, but he still had to ask.

"Since I met you."

Stiles sort of had to shake his head a few times, clearing it, before he looked back over and stared. "Did you like... imprint or something."

"Stiles!" Derek held his hands up near Stiles's face, clenching and relaxing them the way he did when Stiles thought Derek was probably going to snap his neck. "It's... you just smell really good, alright? Werewolves don't imprint."

He smelled really good to Derek and he wanted to have morethansex with him. The frantic pull of the moon faded into a pleasant sort of hum after that. Things were... good, things were good, but Stiles's body suddenly seemed to realize that he was not a wolf built for running through the forest all night, he was a fairly normal human, and he'd been up fighting the urge to howl at the moon for almost six hours, and it was now way past midnight, and his body sort of started to collapse in on itself, mentally, so he leaned against Derek because even though he was all muscle his shoulder was sort of soft and then he closed his eyes and then he sort of fell asleep, wrung out and happy... and centered.


Derek liked to think that he was too old for his heart to legitimately flutter, but when Stiles leaned harder against him and started to snore it was hard to say his heart did anything but flutter. He'd done it. He'd told Stiles and Stiles had... Derek took a deep breath and then picked up his hand, running it along the base of Stiles's neck and feeling the soft, bristly hair there, and he didn't give into the urge to lean in and sniff. Stiles smelled like sweat and moon and himself.

He let himself have that minute, and his fingers ran down Stiles's shoulder and back up, before he finally found the strength to stand up and gently put Stiles down on the couch, leaving him to sprawl, face smashed against a pillow.

Stiles had given Derek so much, even if he didn't realize it at all. The pact, now only a month or so old, had finally given him the security to set up an actual house and give a home to his admittedly small pack. Once the threat of the Alphas passed, Derek knew he could focus even more on being a better Alpha and leading his own pack to better things.

"Take it easy," Derek said, and put a hand on his back just between his shoulders. "Your first moon takes a lot out of you."

Stiles didn't respond at all, except by snoring a bit and snuggling down into the couch. Derek just rolled his eyes and made his way into the kitchen where the Sheriff and Argent were sitting at the kitchen table and discussing... werewolf history and drinking tea that stung against Derek's nose, meaning he announced his presence by sneezing.

"Stiles alright?"

"Yeah." Derek rubbed his nose, trying to dispel the itching. "He's got his focus now. I think... it will last him a long time. The impression of the wolf that was left on Stiles needs to feel grounded. Wolves are mostly instinct, humans can plan and feel complex emotions; the key is to hold onto that."

Vivian took his explanation as a cue to leave, patting a hand on his shoulder as she went. Derek stood, feeling awkward since he suddenly felt stuck in the kitchen with the Sheriff even though he could have left. Instead he sat down in the seat Vivian had vacated, and when he looked up he saw nerves and tension in every line of the Sheriff's body. He could hear the way his heart was racing, and probably had been racing as Stiles tried to tough through his first moon and he couldn't even shift to get through it.

"He wants to protect you," Derek said. "It's in everything he does. He wants to protect everyone, but that's not... protecting your pack is in a wolf's nature, so he can't hold onto his humanity that way. He's got it now."

The Sheriff let out a long breath. "I know you and Scott aren't... monsters."

Derek looked down at his hands, felt them clench into fists against the word.

"But a monster did hurt my son, and I feel so helpless to protect him out there. Bullets barely hurt them." The Sheriff ran his hands over the table. "Kids grow up, they go to college or work... but Stiles is only sixteen. He's dealing with so much more than he should have to, and I feel like I'm not lightening his load the way a parent should."

It was so far beyond what Derek could even pretend to have an answer for. He was too busy thinking about the fact that Stiles apparently had any sort of romantic feeling for him and now his dad was worrying about protecting him and... "I'll protect him, when you can't. He's done me that favor enough times."

"I appreciate that, Derek."

"Stiles is going to sleep the rest of the night, probably." Derek stood up, trying to put some distance between himself and the situation. "I need to go check on the pack."

"Alpha Pack?" The Sheriff asked.

"Not this month. Argent's continuing with the patrols but it looks quiet."

Derek finally left; he hadn't brought his car, but the walk across town was good to relax him, even if he had to get a sense of the air every few blocks to make certain he wasn't being herded. Stiles had kissed him. Stiles had given him every indication that he might be interested in something more. It seemed like for the first time in months, since Laura had died, something might be going just a little right. He was actually approaching a good mood by the time he arrived home. He could smell Isaac, sacked out in his room, and Peter puttering around the kitchen again, looking smug as ever.

He sniffed the air. "How's your pet human?"

"He's good," Derek answered, all teeth. He wasn't going to let Peter get under his skin. He wasn't.

"Did he give you a good sniff? I can smell him on you." Peter stalked over towards him, and Derek wanted to shy away, but at the same time he knew he couldn't. Peter was scant inches from him, his face pressed close. "No I can smell him on you. Did you finally pounce, nephew? Did he roll over for you?"

Derek pushed him back. Derek wasn't going to rise to that bait, he wasn't. Stiles wasn't like that, and nothing Peter said was going to take away that warm feeling in chest.

"Well, you would pick to make a move when his resolve would be at its weakest."

He needed to stop underestimating his uncle. But he did finally go upstairs, ignoring the doubt that was starting to take root there. Stiles had been stretched thin, Derek knew that. The moon even had a faint effect on plain baseline humans. Stiles was some mix of wolf and man and mage now and who knew how the waxing and waning of the moon would affect him from then on. Centering Stiles left Derek adrift.

The urge to go back to Stiles's house was almost overwhelming, to apologize, to take it back, but Derek sayed strong.

In the morning only the fact that Peter would have gotten the door otherwise made him answer the door when the Sheriff dropped off Stiles. His concerns completely fled when Stiles looked over at him and smiled, shy and bashful. "Uhh... so Vivian sort of wanted to come over and do more crazy wolf training but I might have said I was tired and just wanted to relax and decompress even though that was sort of a lie so... do you want to...?"

Stiles glanced over his shoulder where Peter was looming, looking bemused, by the kitchen entrance.

"Not be here?" Stiles finished his onslaught of words.

There was absolutely nothing Derek would like better, and after he bared his teeth at Peter, he grabbed his jacket and joined Stiles out on the porch. "Drive or walk?"

Stiles just lifted his cane. "I should walk more, but..."

They drove into town and the tiny little main drag that represented most of the shopping opportunities in town. Stiles finally seemed to unwind, and his limp was getting less and less pronounced and his hip more obviously limber. "You're walking better."

"The moon helped," Stiles answered. "It feels weird to say, but the whole thing seems to have made me heal faster. Viv says it's normal, or as normal as you can get. I mean Lydia was up and walking in a few days, but she only really got bitten in the side..."

Derek watched Stiles look down at his leg, and the way his hand just subconsciously went to the scratches and the bite.

"But that's not any fun to talk about," Stiles continued. "You did... we kissed last night, right? That wasn't some weird moon hallucination?" Stiles didn't sound like he thought it was, but, Derek supposed this was his last chance to back away. Stiles didn't seem upset, if anything he seemed energized.

"Yes, Stiles."

"You sound way too grouchy for someone who got kissed last night," Stiles said, carrying on like he hadn't even been waiting for Derek's response. "Either that or I'm doing it horribly wrong, especially if you - for some reason completely unknown to me - actually wanted to kiss me."

Derek rolled his eyes. "Sort of regretting it now." But he wasn't, he didn't, and he put out his hand to hold onto Stiles's wrist. "I'm not going to pretend I'm any good at this."

"Come on, you're a little growly around the edges but you can't tell me people don't want a piece of that. I've seen you flirt." Stiles continued to ramble, hands flailing enough that Derek dropped his wrist for risk of getting whacked in the knees with the cane. "You have actual game, which you have never used on me, by the way. I'm not sure if I should be offended or something. Am I not worth your A game?"

Derek leaned in, close enough to bring his lips right up to Stiles's ear, leaving a hot puff of air when he opened his mouth. "Hey, Stiles?" Derek could purr. He rarely did, but he could make his voice make those low, growling purrs that did seem to drive women - and a subset of men - wild.

"Yeah!?" Stiles squeaked.

"What I want from you, you don't get by flirting."

Stiles sounded like he might be choking on his own spit, just for a second there, before he started to breathe again. "Okay, probably good, because... pretty sure I would never make it through a single class if you... maybe you could give me your C game? You should be illegal."

Derek backed up enough to give Stiles some space, and the two of them continued to walk down the street, finally dropping into one of the local coffee shops and then perching together at one of the tiny squares and their benches while Stiles massaged his shoulder.

"I mean you can't blame me for wondering," Stiles said. "Pretty sure I have nothing to offer here."

"You save my life pretty frequently."

"Not a romantic qualification." Stiles took a sip of coffee. "I mean is that like a werewolf mating thing? Lifesaving? No one told me. I'm not... attractive. Last night? First kiss ever, so you can't blame me if I'm a little confused why you think of me as anything but the dweeby guy holding the werewolf pack-pact together."

First kiss ever? Derek couldn't quite believe that, not that the kiss had been some grand display of form and experience but Stiles was... Stiles. Erica had been sweet on him, even Boyd had a fondness for him. "Sorry, I would have... tried harder on the kiss if I'd known."

"So not the point."

Stiles's mind truly was a mystery to Derek sometimes. "You challenge me."

"Pretty sure that's usually considered a con, not a pro." Stiles poked at his coffee again.

"We..." Derek glanced around. It wasn't as though they were in private where they could talk frankly about werewolves, but there was no way in hell he was letting Stiles anywhere near Peter right now either. "People like me usually date... humans. It's good to have a human who isn't afraid to stand up to the wolf, and you've proven nothing but willing to do so. It also just makes a lot of things easier. "

Stiles frowned at him, but hid it behind a sip of coffee. Derek could almost hear the wheels turning. "You mean like how Argent wouldn't make a pact with you, but he would with me?"

"Or if we needed to relocate, or move into another pack's territory? You can't send an Alpha, that's basically a declaration of war, so you send a more neutral party." Derek gestured to Stiles. "You know all about us, how to help, you can handle wolfsbane without risk of injury, there's lots of benefits to having a human in a pack, or as a..." Derek realized, perhaps after he should have, that using words like 'mate' around Stiles was probably not the best for selling the perspective. He was fairly certain that was considered weird by most polite company, especially since Stiles would likely make the obvious point: he was a boy, not a girl. "Partner?"

Even in his own ears the word sounded stupid. "Bitch?" Stiles asked, voice amused.

"Mate." He tried to keep the reverence out of his tone, but he probably failed.

"And I smell good? My life is so weird." Stiles didn't complain beyond that, though, instead tugging his knee up to his chest and trying to stretch. "You know, it's not that I don't like you, I do, I'm just having a hard time wrapping my head around this. There's also a bit of pinching myself, because I'm pretty sure you've featured in every fantasy from raunchy against the wall sex to curling up with you when you're a terrifyingly huge puppy, alright?"

Derek didn't even argue with the appellation, because the idea that Stiles would ever want to curl up with a wolf was... impossible. You could spend your entire life looking for someone who wouldn't run away when you tried to tell them you were a werewolf, and Derek had already spent years paying for the time he'd thought he might have found that last time; he was fairly certain that Stiles wasn't suddenly going to decide he was a threat if they'd made it through the last few months unscathed.

"I bet you'd be really warm during the winter. I could put cold feet on you and everything."

Derek snorted.

"It gets cold! I could use a wolf blanket, since you're always using me as a human throw pillow anyway." Stiles leaned his head on Derek's shoulder, and Derek wrapped an arm around his. "I smell good? Please tell me you find at least one aspect of my personality appealing."

Stiles didn't even get it. "Everything, even the babbling, although I could do with less of it when I'm in danger of dying."

"Pretty much when I need to babble the most. Man..." Stiles wrapped his arm through Derek's. "What are the chances we can go back to your place and make out without Peter staring at us?"


"That's what I was afraid of." Stiles didn't seem overly concerned, even though Derek thought he might have been. Instead he tipped his head back onto the bench, head tilted straight up, eyes closed, showing off a tempting and pale stretch of neck. "Ah well. I'll have you know this attempting to be responsible thing sucks."

"Pretty sure your dad's at work for hours..." Derek was apparently horrible at resisting temptation.


Dad was out when he and Derek got back to Stiles's, but the two of them collapsed on the couch and after a tense moment where Stiles wondered what the hell to say, he turned back to Derek. "I'm sure this will come as a huge surprise to you, but I usually research the hell out of anything that seems important. After Scott got bitten I spent almost two days researching wolves and werewolves off and on, so it's there's any really weird werewolf dating crap that Scott doesn't know about because he doesn't really get into the whole werewolf thing, I'd appreciate knowing now."

Derek gave one of his exasperated sighs, the one that he usually saved for Stiles, and then flung his arm around him. "It's mostly the same."

"It's the 'mostly' that worries me." Not that there was much that was going to be a deal breaker at this point. Stiles had a lot of sweat equity stored in Scott, Derek, and Isaac - he wanted them to succeed, to be their wolfly best - and really if getting chased through the woods by Derek playing Big Bad Alpha didn't freak Stiles out, they probably couldn't get much worse.

"Dating is... dating. It's the same as two humans dating." Derek took a deep breath. "Mates is deeper than that, but it's nothing formal the way a wedding or a marriage would be. You'll start to take on the scent of the pack."

"Like how everyone says that Allison smells like Scott?" Because at one point or another Erica, Derek, and Peter had all commented about it, and even if Stiles sniffed it was just not something he could smell. Not that he really wanted to, but he was curious.

"That's sex."

"Oh." Stiles felt like he probably should have known that. Well he knew that Scott and Allison had been having sex, see so many of his problems during the spring semester, but he supposed he'd figured if anyone had made that leap it would have been them. "I guess that makes sense."

"It's also a little different for born wolves versus bitten wolves. Scott won't have the same drive to find a mate."

"So he and Allison are just regular, plain old, stupid human in love?" Somehow that made it feel better than knowing maybe he was missing out on crazy soul mate whatever, but more and more their lives were a bit too Romeo and Juliet for Stiles's taste, give him a plain old romantic comedy any day... He glanced over at Derek... maybe with a bit of paranormal romance thrown in. "So does that mean I get to boss Scott around?"

"You mean you don't already do that?" Derek grinned though, and pulled Stiles towards him, and Stiles maybe just enjoyed the fact that he was sprawling on the most amazingly muscled cushion ever.

"It's not my fault that he needs pretty much constant monitoring. You need a lot of monitoring yourself, buddy, although apparently I can smell you now." Stiles leaned in and pressed his nose into Derek's chest. "At least I could last night."

Derek put a hand on the back of Stiles's neck and rubbed a circle there. "You could?"

"I could feel all the Alphas, Scott and the others, too." Stiles hadn't noted them as clearly, but he had felt them. "Part of it was probably the moon, but I think it might be something I could do all month if I trained it up. Werewolf boot camp? Seriously, there should be a correspondence course. I guess it wasn't 'smell' so much as 'sense' though, like 'use the Force, Stiles' or something. Is there a werewolf Force?"

"Uhh..." Derek tugged Stiles closer so the two of them could kiss, which Stiles totally enjoyed, because even though it wasn't fiery and growly the way he sort of expected Derek would have been, that made it better. Honestly, before last night, Stiles would have figured that raunchy hatesex was all he could get with Derek. So he definitely stared a bit dopily down at Derek after the kiss ended. "--wolf Force?"

"Huhwut?" Apparently Derek wasn't much on the 'gaze lovingly' part of kissing because he'd just gone on talking.

"I said my uncle used his connection as an alpha to Lydia, and his connection to me as an Alpha to resurrect himself on the Worm Moon and you're still doubting whether or not there's a werewolf Force?" Derek was smiling, but there was definitely a tension over him, so really Stiles knew he shouldn't push on this. "You're not paying attention to a word I said."

"You kissed me."

"If I'd known it could get you to shut up I might have tried it sooner."

"No, see that would have been bad. I'm pretty sure we would be dead if you'd kissed me before, because I do some of my best thinking when I'm under threat of death and I think you kissing me just sort of overrode that." Stiles was fairly certain the entire remainder of the Alpha Pack could beat down his door and he wouldn't be ready for a fight. "But... we don't seem to be in life-or-death danger so...?"

Derek snorted, but he dragged Stiles back down and kissed him again. Stiles could definitely do this, he could so do this. Derek's lips were surprisingly soft, and Stiles took full advantage of the fact that he actually knew it was coming this time to deepen their kiss, or at least open his mouth a bit and completely not complain when Derek took the initiative to slide his tongue between Stiles's lips. It took all of his - relatively minimal - willpower to not just slobber all over Derek, and instead match his pace and sort of accept the fact that Derek probably knew what the hell he was doing, which was a good assumption because Stiles felt awesome and more than a little aroused, but in his defense he was a teenaged boy and Derek was incredibly hot. A teenaged boy who didn't know exactly where to put his hands, so he definitely slid them along Derek's sides.

Stiles wasn't even going to deny he whined when Derek pulled his mouth away; he decided his concern was premature when Derek started to nuzzle and pepper kisses down Stiles's throat, at least before he teased down the collar of his shirt and bit.

It wasn't even hard, barely a nip, and no fangs, but Stiles yelped in response, and it was not a sexy yelp. The two of them sprang apart, fast, and Stiles found himself curled up on one end of the couch with a hand clutched protectively over his shoulder. Derek wasn't going to bite him, not The Bite, but Stiles... well apparently some part of him didn't know that, the part that had panic attacks just after his mom died, the part that still made his feet go towards the chair that was no longer in the sitting room to see her; there was something in there that screamed 'no biting', and another part that screamed that he didn't want Derek anywhere near his scars anyway. He was already fighting an uphill battle on the sexy front. His personality apparently had scored him some points but he was fairly certain his pasty, scarred up, neck and torso weren't going to win him any points.

"Stiles, I'm sorry. I didn't..." Derek reached out, flattening Stiles's hand against his shoulder and covering it with his own. "I shouldn't have done that."

"Werewolves and biting, raise your hand if you're surprised that's a thing." Stiles’s laugh was a little bitter, and he felt weak for it as much as he knew it was normal and natural. He'd run through more than enough counselors growing up after mom had died and after all the werewolf crap that he should have known it was fine, but that didn't make him feel any less mortified that a makeout had turned into a freakout. "Look... I... I trust you, you know?"

"Yeah." Derek pulled back enough so he could sit down next to Stiles, his hand still resting over where Stiles had left his own. "I do now."

"Guess that's not the sort of thing I can lie about. I know you're not going to bite me, like Bite me bite me, and I know you're not going to tear my throat out with your teeth, previous threats on my life notwithstanding." Stiles remembered that day like it was yesterday, dragging around Derek's werewolf ass while Scott was trying to get the hell out of the Argent's clutches with that wolfsbane bullet. He giggled. "Was that our first date?"

Derek laughed in response, short, and gone too soon, but he did laugh for a second.

Stiles went back to his ramble. "So can there be no biting the Stiles? Pretty sure my dad would notice a hickey anyway, and I'm not saying he would flip out, but caution is advised, both for my neck and about my dad." Especially since dad hadn't exactly believed the whole 'hey, I'm gay' thing, which was really unfortunate if he was going to have a boyfriend.

"No biting the Stiles," Derek answered. "Kissing only. Come on." He gave Stiles a tug, and then ended up on his back again, sprawled out on the couch.

"Oh that's not fair. Do they teach you that in sexy seduction school?" Stiles was hopeless, especially when Derek did that stupid smirk that apparently he had in his repertoire and Stiles was completely weak to.

It took some doing, but eventually they managed to find a comfortable position, Stiles kneeling over Derek, that might have left him more constrained than any part of him liked, but it did keep him from giving into the urge to just rub against Derek, and they got back to the work of kissing, mouth's tangled together, and Stiles was so, ridiculously and completely turned on that he didn't even notice Derek's hands under his shirt, fingers playing over his sides, one palm spread across the scar tissue at his waist. Stiles pulled back again, reached up and pulled Derek's hand away.

"Sorry, I just..." Look like a chew toy next to your perfectly carved sculpture.

Derek's hands went back, this time over his shirt, and the next time they had to break apart it was because Stiles sort of had to pee desperately, and then his dad came home and they had to make up some bullshit about wanting a change of scenery. And then he ended up in his room, trying to decide if he was pining or excited, smitten or just mildly enamored, and then he realized he was staring at his computer and doodling fluffy werewolves, so he should probably lean towards 'smitten, and then some', he just liked to think he was being slightly less of an idiot about it...

He convinced himself of that for the two hours and eleven minutes it took before Derek ended up at his window sill, tapping on the window pane.

"Some people come in the door, you know," Stiles said as he opened the door. The end of his sentence muffled against Derek's lips.

"Probably." Derek sighed. "Sorry, I just... needed..."

Stiles arched an eyebrow.

"Reminding myself you're real."

Well that was... "I thought I was going to be the horribly sappy and smitten one, and here you are at my window sill, pining. Did you miss me? Do I need to roll around on your bed or something?"

"Don't do that..." Derek whispered, his voice holding just a hint of desperation. "Peter..." Derek hung his head. Stiles could see him fighting the urge to say anything more. "Peter was teasing me about laying down on the couch."

"Where I sit?" Stiles realized. Stiles seriously had thought Scott had it bad, and if you had ever suggested that Derek was capable of anything but the most blunt of apathy Stiles would have laughed his ass off. "Turn around, and wait there. Alright?"

Derek just shrugged, and turned around, his hands holding onto the sill and keeping his balance with his back pressed against the window. Stiles turned away as well, even though it wasn't necessary with Derek's back turned, it just gave him... a sense of privacy. He considered going to the bathroom, just to give himself even more distance, but he knew he was going to have to face this eventually. Stiles tugged off the shirt he was wearing, he even took a deep breath and looked at himself, the set of scars raked over his stomach and the mess of puffy pink and white at his shoulder. After one long, assessing look that made him more than certain that he'd made the right choice to stay covered up today, Stiles folded the shirt neatly in half three times and put it on his dresser and shrugged into another shirt.

"You can't blame me if Peter catches you with that, though." Stiles took the folded shirt and set it on the window sill. "Because if you go all Edward Cullen on me, pretty sure my dad's gonna stake you."

Derek snorted.

"And see, I'm such a good boyfriend I'm going to let you pretend you have no idea what I mean. I'll see you tomorrow, no late night stalking. Unless it's for werewolf business." Stiles grabbed Derek's shirt around the collar and gave him one last kiss. Stiles really shouldn't have been surprised that Derek thought it was totally appropriate to just show up at his window. He was pretty sure he wasn't supposed to find it adorable.


Derek ended up having to hide the shirt from Peter, because he wasn't an idiot and he knew that Peter would rag him about it endlessly, but now it was worth it because... well, when he woke up that morning with a foggy memory and an aching question of whether last night had actually happened he slid a hand out and grabbed onto the shirt and clung for dear life.

He ran, he showered, and he started to fix breakfast before Peter made his way downstairs.

"How did your continued stalking of our dear Stiles go? It's getting a little bit pathetic."

Derek completely ignored him, because Stiles liked him, probably more than that, and there were going to be hiccups, that much was clear, but there was an underlying thread of certainty that Derek hadn't felt in ages. The added benefit that, when Stiles arrived, he brought the Sheriff with him and that caused Peter to flee was also more than welcome.

"Someone..." Stiles said as he collapsed at the breakfast bar. "Whose name starts with Sh- and ends with -eriff Stilinski, wouldn't let me cook him breakfast, or lunch, since apparently I'm considered a relapsing-remitting invalid now. You're just going to use it as an excuse to have donuts and curly fries, without me, even!"

The fact that Stiles somehow thought that Derek was the one to complain to about this warmed his heart. He was certain Scott would get the same rant when he got out from his summer classes, but it didn't matter. Derek gave the breakfast bar, next to Stiles, a pointed tap and the Sheriff sat down with a sigh. "You realize this means you don't get donuts either, right?" He asked Stiles.

"At this point I'd settle for food."

So Derek set a quarter of a melon and some yogurt with granola in front of both Stilinskis before pondering the contents of his refrigerator in terms of lunches. Stiles was unsurprisingly chatty, the Sheriff unsurprisingly a bit less so, so the two of them rambled at each other, occasionally including Derek in their arguments over the merits of Stiles's physical therapy and whether or not he was ready to retake the reins of taking care of his father. Really, Derek didn't mind the fact that he'd become the de facto feeder of the Stilinskis since Stiles's injury either.

"Derek, you really don't need to..." The Sheriff protested before shutting up when Derek put a neatly packed tupperware with a turkey meatloaf and mashed potato sandwich and another with a salad at his elbow. "Or that would be fine."

"Psh, dad, you buy every second or third run of groceries anyway. Dinner's anywhere from two to a dozen, so it's not like Derek's not used to it." Stiles, as usual, had his usual gift for making something both commonplace and appreciated. Stiles was always ready with the praise of Derek's meals.

And there was always the honest truth of the matter. "I like to. It's... been a while since there was a need." Laura had been gone only a few months now, but the lingering hole that the death of his entire family had left meant that he didn't mind the fact that he was basically running a halfway house for a fistful of wayward teenagers and a few adults, some of them vaguely welcome (Melissa McCall, Sheriff Stilinski) and some of them less so (Peter, Chris Argent, Vivian Argent), and that he found himself forced into everything from making dinner to afternoon snacks or lunches.

"I know, right? Cooking for one or two sucks."

Stiles truly was a picture of subtlety, but Derek couldn't even argue. "Feel free to have Stiles pay for more of my groceries, though, Sheriff." It made it easier than continuing to admit that he'd come from a home with a relatively large family, adults and children around all of the time, taking up space, making noise, and filling up space that Derek hadn't even known could be empty. "We're shopping today, last chance to voice your preference for dinner."

He clearly realized he was defeated, and put his hands up in the air. "I suppose it's too much to hope for a steak?"

Derek snorted as Stiles tried to wave him off. "Buffalo? Elk?"

Stiles cocked his head to the side. "I'm trying to decide if it's disturbing or not that you're offering up game animals that wolves traditionally take down."

Derek flashed a hint of teeth to both the Sheriff and Stiles; he knew how much Stiles worried about his dad's heart and his cholesterol, not entirely without merit, but the Sheriff was hardly on death's door, and he was fit for his age. Still, Derek had made something of a habit of humoring Stiles, and it probably would be better for their... relationship. "Sure. Low in cholesterol for Stiles, red meat for the Sheriff, and for both of you I won't even pretend that I ripped its throat out with my teeth. I know a specialty guy a county over, just need to get a freezer for the basement and order a butchered share."

"Son, if it means I get to eat a steak, that tastes like an actual cow, without Stiles looking at me like I am murdering a kitten, I will pay for the damn freezer myself." And with that, the Sheriff finished his last bite of yogurt and picked up the packed lunch before giving Stiles a pat and heading out. "Thanks for breakfast and lunch, Derek."

Stiles, of course, was looking betrayed.

"What? You're a genius, do the research. Elk's healthy and so is buffalo, and you'll do a lot better than trying to sell him on the idea that a veggie burger and carrot sticks are just as delicious." Derek leaned over the counter. "Trust me, I know how to feed a pack of wolves, I can feed a sheriff with some cholesterol issues."

Stiles tugged his phone out of his back pocket and started to type on it, one handed, as he continued to eat his way through breakfast. Derek circled the breakfast bar, coming to rest behind Stiles and pressed his nose behind Stiles's ear, nuzzling. He smelled wonderful, warm and sleepy and a bit tense, but just the same as always. When he peeked down he saw Stiles looking at the nutrition information and then making an over-elaborate harumf. "Fine. I don't know why I didn't--"

"Because it's not at the corner store." Derek wrapped his arms around Stiles. "And you didn't think to mail order a couple of pounds of ground chuck buffalo."

For some reason Stiles wasn't relaxing. It bothered Derek, he wanted Stiles to ease up on himself, let himself relax, let Derek help. "I guess I'm so used to caring for him... someone else doing it makes me..."

Jealous. Derek could smell it, but that wasn't his goal at all. He wanted Stiles to... "A month and a half ago, you asked me to take care of your dad if anything ever happened to you." It had been a gut punch then, the idea that Stiles would die or would be hurt, but now he had gotten hurt and was still going through the last legs of healing from injuries he'd gotten a month ago, and things seemed to be going fine. "Now you're my-- " Mate, Derek wanted Stiles to be his mate. "- my boyfriend, and you're saying that I can't look out for you and your dad? How else am I supposed to pay you back for the times you've saved my life?"

That worked, finally, he could feel Stiles's smile lighting up his whole face, and then then he wiggled around so he could turn around in the chair, now settled in with his back against the breakfast bar and his legs straddling Derek's. "Pretty sure you can make it up to me."

Stiles was damn adorable when he was trying to be seductive, and Derek was going to have to reward that as often as possible, so he leaned in and kissed him, hard, and ignored the way Stiles was unpracticed with trying to pull Derek in with his legs. He dove in closer, tilting his head to lock their mouths tighter, feeling the way Stiles was desperately trying not to whimper but Derek could feel the tiny vibrations in the back of his throat nonetheless.

"Oh that counter is just not going to be clean."

They jumped apart, more Derek shoved Stiles against the bar and stumbled back.

Peter. Peter stood in the doorway, smirking. "Well at least now you can keep the cane and no one will even ask why you're walking funny."

If Derek hadn't already been just a little bit in love with Stiles, the way he smacked the rowan wood of the cane against Peter's knees as they exited the kitchen would have sealed the deal. A brief conversation and the fact that Stiles didn't particularly want to be anywhere near Peter meant they packed a lunch, and a cooler, and actually headed out into the wilds of Beacon County to go to see about a cut or two of elk for dinner. Mostly it was an easy excuse for Derek to drive and Stiles to flip between pages of one of his many magic books and a conversation with Derek. Derek never quite understood how Stiles could both focus so intently and get his readings to sink in while also carry on a conversation.

"At this rate, I feel like I could deforest an entire mountain ash forest in order to get enough ash and wood," Stiles said, rambling, his left hand resting on the center console, his right flipping through the book. "And you have to ask the tree for permission to harvest wood anyway, so talk about a serious limiting factor."

Derek put his hand on Stiles's, the two of them still heading out of town on the highway. "They have witches for that."

"Do they take PayPal? Either that or I'm going to have to talk dad into writing a check or money order to Witches Lumber Inc or something. I need a magic powder starter kit." Stiles, of course, continued to ramble. "Deaton had piles of the stuff, but after the complete fail at the rave three months ago he's mostly out. You can apparently make wards out of ash, but it's sort of general, there's no 'bad werewolves only' wards that you can do easily. It would work on you just as much as one of the Alpha Pack Alphas."

"How would I come harass you at night, then?" Derek asked, but he threaded his fingers between Stiles's and then tugged his hand so he could kiss he.

"Promises, promises, Mr. Hale." Stiles snorted. "You haven't appeared unexpectedly in my room for ages. A guy might start to feel unwanted."

"I was there last night."


"At least wait until we get out of Beacon County so when a Deputy comes to see whether or not my car's abandoned it's not someone who reports to your father getting an eyeful." Which meant, of course, the second they were over the county line, Stiles did tilt his head to the side of the road and they ended up with Derek straddling Stiles on the passenger's seat. Stiles was, admittedly, a teenager, so it was only fair that they should have at least a few chances to spend the day like this, and Derek would hate for Stiles to miss out on the experience and Derek... Derek tried not to think about his own singular foray into teenaged sexuality.

They were not interrupted by a Deputy, but they had to stop when Stiles developed a crick in his neck and his stomach started to growl, and they broke for lunch.

It was blissfully normal, the two of them driving out farther from civilization and ordering a share of buffalo to be delivered later in the fall and some elk to ply the Sheriff with tonight and over the next few weeks; they even hit up a farmer's market. That much domesticity crammed together made Derek all too aware of how much he'd lost, but it didn't weigh quite as heavy on his chest when Stiles looped an arm through his and dragged him off to consider corn and squash and tomatoes.

Produce finally shoved in a cooler in the trunk of the car, they settled in back towards home.

"Thanks for... caring enough to help me look after my dad. I just... it's been just the two of us for so long that I forgot it would be nice to not have to worry about him every minute of every day." Stiles leaned in and pecked him on the cheek. "Of course now I've got to worry about your alpha ass."

"Not like you weren't already worried about it," Derek shot back.

"Hey, I'm extra invested now. If I want to not die a virgin, I'd better look after you."

Derek smirked at Stiles's bravado, because he pretty obviously wasn't ready for that right now, and Derek was man enough to admit he wasn't either, because he was just getting used to the idea that he could maybe have what he wanted from Stiles, all of it, and actually getting it right now would probably be too much to handle. This, right in this moment, was exactly what he could handle.


Stiles was pretty certain that Derek was abusing the fact that he was driving the Sheriff's son to flirt with the very upper edge of acceptable driving speeds. It could backfire, of course, it's not like you wanted an alleged serial killer driving around the Sheriff's son in his sexy black car, but Stiles was definitely enjoying the speed and the thrill of a fast drive and his fingers twined through Derek's. At least he had been, until a niggling sensation in the back of his mind made him let go of Derek's hand.

"Something's wrong."

Exactly what was still unclear, but a few moments later a pair of very loud pops and Derek grabbing the wheel with both hands to keep his car from going out of control told Stiles something was very, very wrong. He had his phone in hand the microsecond that they came to a stop.

"Alphas," Derek said, sort of unnecessarily in Stiles's franticly derived opinion.

Stiles punched a speed dial button on his phone. Scott was in school, dad was at work, there was only one person who he knew he might be able to reach at all hours.

"Stiles?" Chris Argent's voice came over the phone on the third ring, and by then the beady red eyes were quite prominent around the car.

"Alphas, route 19, three or four miles out of town, call my dad, hurry." He then hung up, not even bothering to keep a hold on the phone, dropping it in the footwell as he grabbed his bag.

"Stay in the car, Stiles," Derek growled before kicking open the driver's side door and circling around front, making a swift and painful transformation into his full wolf form.

"Oh hell no." Stiles tried his own door, and then nudged it open with his good foot before he ended up on the passenger's side of the car with a fist full of mountain ash and another hand with his cane in it. He wished he actually had, you know, a gun, preferably with wolfsbane bullets, but it seemed rude to bring a gun on your field trip with your boyfriend. "Alright you little bitches," Stiles bit out. "Who's first?"

Derek snarled behind him, body so close to Stiles's back that he could feel the heat coming off his fur.

"Oh shush, back to back, saving each other's asses, it's sort of our thing."

Derek threw his head back and Howled, the other alphas circling them, wary, but the answering howl, just a bit later, probably from Isaac or Scott, made the alphas converge on them, not willing to press their luck by waiting for Stiles and Derek to get reinforcements. Two went for Stiles and one for Derek, which really wasn't surprising, Stiles was, after all, the weaker link. One got a face full of mountain ash for its trouble while Stiles jammed his cane into the other one's mouth. He heard Derek, on two legs, back to Stiles, fighting the third alpha down, but Stiles couldn't waste his energy worrying. The alpha he'd werewolf-maced was currently down for the count, paws scrambling against eyes and snout to try to clear the wound, so Stiles pressed in against the other alpha, pushing him back, batting away claws and fangs the way he did with Derek, but with absolutely no room for error or play. This wasn't something that would end in a fluffy cuddle if Stiles didn't win.

Behind him, Derek howled, this time in pain, and Stiles risked enough of a glance to see his Alpha had clamped a jaw against Derek's shoulder and was tearing. Stiles stumbled backwards from his own opponent, bashing Derek's against the back of the neck, forcing its jaw back open and letting Derek stagger free. Stiles now had the full weight of Derek's attacker on him, and found himself pinned to the ground, the werewolf's fangs gnawing on his cane as claws dug into both of Stiles's shoulders.

Stiles didn't have long to try to embrace his impending shredding, until suddenly the claws in his shoulders squeezed tighter and then finally went slack, the mouth lost its grip on his cane, and Stiles's stomach was covered in sticky, warm blood and entrails. "Ug."

It took him far too long to find his strength again and heave the top half of the alpha off of him; Derek flung away the bottom half that he had ripped apart with his damn teeth. Muzzle covered in blood and guts, Derek howled. The one Stiles had hit in the face with mountain ash fled, stumbling away blindly, feet falling clumsily and staggering; the other one stood its ground, growling back at Derek and Stiles, fangs bared.

They were on each other a moment later, Derek and the Alpha slashing against each other's muzzles and bodies, Stiles clinging to his cane, looking for a moment he could strike. Whenever the Alpha tried to pin Derek, Stiles gave his best damn whack against its head or its back, allowing Derek the chance to roll it. They traded blows, they traded almost pinning each other, until Derek finally wrestled the Alpha to the ground and Stiles jammed his cane into the things mouth, pinning its head back even as it slashed at Stiles's leg, while Derek slashed open its throat.

Slowly, Stiles felt his breathing go back to normal, and the two Alpha wolves shifted back into their human forms, bodies covered in scratches and bite marks. Derek whimpered, but remained a wolf.

"Hey, buddy." Stiles reached out and slid his fingers through Derek's fur. "You look beat up pretty bad." Stiles could see wounds in Derek's shoulders and against his sides.

But Derek seemed to be ignoring that entirely, instead butting his snout against Stiles's stomach.

"Most of it's not mine. Thanks for that, disemboweling a wolf while it was on top of me rates probably top three on the traumatic Stiles's experiences." Whatever adrenalin that had been holding him up gave out, and Stiles's feet went out from under him; he half fell, half stumbled down onto the pavement, splayed out on his back. Derek was on him in a second, muzzle resting against his chest and whimpering.

Stiles giggled, apparently passing into the punch-drunk portion of the post-battle haze. "Hey. I'm fine. Hunters and dad should be here soon. Try to look non-threatening, alright?" He kept his cane upright, and his other hand through Derek's fur. "You know... this was a pretty horrible date. I mean, sure we did a little shopping, you bought me meat, but then I got my calf slashed and I'm covered in guts and you're injured as hell and I think I might throw up a little bit."

Derek snorted.

"We should try it again sometime, less blood. Way less--" Stiles took a deep breath, trying to fight off the wave of nausea and dizziness despite the fact that he was flat on his back on asphalt. "Less blood, too, alright?"

"Stiles!" A cruiser pulled up not ten feet from Stiles and his dad was out a second later. "STILES!"

"Oh, hey dad." Stiles looked up at him where he was looming and then he laughed again. "You're very tall."

"Derek get the hell off of him." Dad pushed Derek's muzzle off of him and yanked up Stiles's bloody shirt to reveal what Stiles had to assume was a unbroken, but scarred, expanse of stomach. "Are you hurt? Were you bitten?"

"Rrrr!" Stiles answered, barring his teeth at his dad, before his mind finally clicked on and he realized he wasn't being all that communicative. "No, just a scratch on my leg. Ms. Congeniality here ripped one in half while it was on top of me, that's where all the blood is from."

His dad finally relaxed, and then looked over to where Derek was hovering just at the edge of Stiles's field of vision. "Thank you, Derek."

Derek just padded back over and settled his muzzle back on Stiles's stomach.

"Why isn't he changing back?"

Stiles patted Derek on the head. "Well, he got roughed up pretty bad, and by alphas, the wolf form helps him heal faster, and he's naked under his fur."

They stayed like that for a little while, before the impressed whistle jolted Stiles out of his doze. Chris was standing a dozen feet away, surveying the damage. "Where's the third?"

Stiles waved his hand in a vague way towards where the last alpha had fled.

"You bit?" Chris asked.

Stiles shook his head, wishing he hadn't because that nausea was coming back in full force.

"John." Chris threw his dad the keys to his van. "I've got a tarp in the back, get Stiles and Derek back home and hosed off. We'll take care of the bodies and the tow for the Camaro." He then motioned the rest of the hunters into the woods in the direction the last alpha had fled.

Stiles ended up in the back of his dad's car, laying down, Derek laying on top of him, their spoils of the day in the trunk, and his dad, thankfully, didn't say anything while the two of them got home, Derek shifted back into human form when they got back to his house and dad hosed off Derek and Derek dragged him upstairs, where his dad finally helped him into the shower and cleaned him off.

"See?" He asked as his dad bandaged up the cut on his calf. "Barely a scratch. And look on the bright side: Derek is probably one of the baddest fuckers out there. Who'd be fool enough to mess with an alpha who took down most of the alpha pack single handed?"

"I had help." Derek came into the living room wearing jeans but his shirt off, the wounds in his side and back still healing. "You stupid little..." He fell to his knees, curling up beside Stiles and pressing a forehead to Stiles's shoulder, jostling the scratches there, but Stiles wrapped an arm around his shoulder, holding on. "If anything happened to you..."

"Hey, you know me, I'm disgustingly resilient." Stiles lowered his voice, not nearly soft enough for his dad to miss it. "I love you, too."

Dad coughed, turning his head away, and Derek took the offered opportunity to kiss Stiles, hard, and step away before it got embarrassing. "I... um... you know." He stepped back even farther. "Me too." And then he fled to the kitchen.

"Seriously? Me too?" His dad was looking back at Stiles's leg, silently - or not so silently - judging their epic, ridiculous love and affection, which was probably better than his dad confronting the actual fact that it was Derek and Stiles doing the declaring. "Was that the first time the two of you...?"

"Psh, please, we've saved each other's lives loads of times," Stiles answered, very deliberately misinterpreting the question.

"Stiles," his dad's tone was firm, but he sounded like he might be laughing a bit just under it.

"Yeah, alright, sorta messed that one up." He scrubbed his fingers over his hair, wishing he hadn't because now his shoulders were hurting like hell again. "I guess I just have started to notice that Derek has this tendency to sort of jump in front of danger for me, and while I could do without the self-sacrificial angle I sort of recognize that I'm not exactly in a position to complain because pot, meet kettle on that front; and yeah, I'd sort of do that for anyone, or at least Scott, and you of course, probably not any Argents though because if I died they would probably kill Derek. It's left me to recognize that I really only have Scott and Allison to compare to, and talk about not having the greatest role models. I guess if they were ready to get all... whatever after a few weeks of dating with the 'I love you's and the sex, who am I to judge, although I really could have lived without knowing how great a time he was having, but I was trying to be a supportive friend, and I guess the whole thing goes back to... I like him, he drives me crazy, and as much as I know objectively I'm young to be making life declarations and decisions we're sort of a really good fit." Stiles paused, taking a breath and continuing to gather up steam on his ramble. "And he takes your cholesterol very seriously, enough that we went to a farmer's market and went and got elk and ordered buffalo. You better like those elk burgers, Derek and I bled for them."

"I’m sure they'll be great." His dad squeezed Stiles's knee. "I know you're about to turn seventeen, Stiles, but do I need to remind you what is and is not legal for the state of California and what I really, really shouldn't know is going on between you two?"

"As your son, I really had hoped to mostly limit myself to misdemeanors..." Because even if his dad mostly knew what was what when it came to teenagers, and although there had pretty much never been any danger ever of Stiles getting laid, his dad had been pretty blunt about sex and teenagers without being that weird dad who was all into it. "Although I suppose technically I wouldn't be the felon. But don't worry, pretty sure Derek's got a felony in there somewhere, but not that one."

"Thanks for that, Stiles. It makes me feel so much better." Dad went back to dabbing the scratch on his calf clean. "I know that... losing your mom as young as you did was a blow, and it made you grow up too fast in a lot of ways. You had to take care of me just as much as yourself, and you weren't even in high school, yet. I'm not saying I am happy about you taking up with a boy who's that much older than you, but... you have it in you to be mature enough to make it work."

Stiles kicked his legs off his dad's lap and instead curled up so his body was plastered to his dad's side. "No capricious 'I love you's." Stiles didn't think it was capricious though. "He's always there for me, though. I do love him. I meant it. We didn't get off to a great start, and he's in need of some further housebreaking, but... yeah. I just wish--"

He couldn't say that, not to his dad.

"You wish?" His dad prompted.

"Stuff you talk to your bros about, not your dad, especially when your dad is this Sheriff."

Dad laughed. "You've been wriggling your way around that since you were in kindergarten."

"Well... hypothetically an 18 year old, because he would never engage in behavior that would make his partner guilty of a felony, ever, was just... still feeling a bit self-conscious about the whole..." Stiles swept an arm down his entire torso. He'd picked up so many scrapes and scars since Scott had been bitten that it was hard not to notice when Scott remained the chiseled image of perfection while Stiles more and more began to resemble a dog's squeaky toy while his boyfriend was also the image of perfection. "Say what you will about the insides counting, the outsides are kinda chewed up."

His dad just cocked an eyebrow at him before grabbing him in for a hug. "I'm pretty sure that anyone who's gone through the last month or two with you knows exactly what he or she is getting into on that front. Now, sit back and relax, I have a man dating my son who I need to threaten a bit."


"Shush, and relax, you've had a rough day and you don't have super werewolf healing so you're going to have to do your part and sit there for a bit, alright?" Dad didn't wait for his answer, and ruffled his still-wet hair and gave him a kiss on the forehead.

Stiles let himself drift off, just a little bit, because he had had a particularly rough day today.


Derek was trying to pretend that he hadn't been listening in on Stiles and his father's conversation, but it was hard going. The only thing that was really able to distract him from the conversation was what Stiles had said to him. 'I love you, too'. Derek hadn't said it, either before or after, and it was something he had greatly resisted saying to Stiles, or to anyone else, since the last time he'd said it. Derek didn't have a particularly good opinion of the words, hearing them had long since lost the capacity to make his heart beat faster...

Except from Stiles, apparently. Stiles meant it, even if Derek couldn't hear the steady, even beating of his heart, Derek would have known he meant it because Stiles wasn't the sort to hide his emotions behind some thick wall, everything he was feeling was on display in his soft brown eyes, or in the curve of his mouth. The pure honesty of everything he did and said was more than a little terrifying sometimes.


"Sir," Derek answered, finishing his glower down at the onion he was in the middle of chopping before he looked back up at the Sheriff.

"Not exactly how you were intending to break that news, I assume? But that's Stiles for you." The Sheriff poured himself a glass of water before he relaxed on the edge of the breakfast bar where Derek was working. His face wasn't exactly open, but then again he was a lot less expressive than his son.

Derek didn't really have a good answer for that, but he supposed he'd have to come up with something. "No matter which way you look at it, I really didn't think it would go over well. Argent already thinks we're predators, even if he's willing to put it aside for the larger threats. What's one more person to add to the list of things you think I prey on?"

"I can't say I'm thrilled, no." The Sheriff took another sip of water, leaning down farther on his elbows. "My wife and I met in grad school, we were both in our mid-twenties, and I can't say either of us would have been happy with the idea of Stiles thinking he'd found The One in high school. You're not finished growing at that age. Hell, even without this on the plate, I'm worried he's not even going to want to go as far as San Francisco to college."

It was all the things that Derek never really verbalized that often. He'd yelled at Scott before about how what he and Allison had wasn't love, it was just a stupid crush, and ultimately dating a Hunter wasn't going to work in the long run. Stiles was - as his uncle put it - 'the clever one', and he was wasted on Beacon Hills and wasted on Hale Pack, Derek knew that. "He's considering Harvard."


"Yeah." Derek started to dice the onion he'd been staring at. "There's this wizard out there that Stiles has been talking with and might take him as an apprentice."

The Sheriff chuckled, almost laughed. "I can't tell you how much it disturbs me that my son is wizard material. It's not like I can make him go, though."

Neither of them could. Stiles was, fundamentally, the sort of guy who would stick with something, someone, through thick and thin, and Derek knew that Stiles was going to have a hard time letting go of Scott, especially Scott, but even Allison and Chris, Isaac, and Lydia would be hard enough for Stiles. "Well, I have almost two years to prove that I can be an appropriate son substitute so that Stiles can leave you here and know that you'll be looked after."

They both knew that wasn't the only factor, but Derek couldn't deny when he could think of one, singular thing that would keep Stiles home it was the idea of his father facing werewolves and the supernatural alone, the idea of him eating double bacon cheeseburgers every night and day because no one was cooking something for him, and the idea of him not being hounded to keep from falling a touch too far into the bottle. Derek was a factor, they both knew that, but Derek also had two years to grow his pack to include people other than Peter who would stay close to home. In all likelihood there would be more and more omegas coming out of the woodwork to come under his leadership now that Derek had started to get the hang of running the pack, and he had protection from Hunters in the form of his alliance with Chris.

He scraped the board clean of the chopped onion, throwing it into the bowl of elk before he rinsed his hands. When he finally glanced over, the Sheriff had his head bowed. "Yeah, I guess you can stay."

Derek couldn't help but laugh. "It goes both ways, you know. You've got your wolfsbane bullets, bestiaries, diplomacy with the Argents..." He ticked off the many ways Stiles seemed to feel were completely necessary to protect Derek and the rest of the pack.

"Alright, alright, but these burgers better be flawless." The Sheriff dropped his glass in the dishwasher. "I've got to get back to work now. But Derek..."

He braced himself for something, anything, the Sheriff had said there was going to be threatening.

"Thank you for saving my son, again." And then the Sheriff grabbed him around the shoulders in a tight hug. Derek had to fight down the urge to lash out, and then he had to push himself to return it with an awkward pat on the Sheriff's back. "I'll be back in time for a late dinner."

Derek mostly succeeded at ignoring the Stilinski goodbyes, and returned to his burger making, eventually making an even dozen and leaving them to chill in the refrigerator. He spent far longer than was strictly necessary staring at them as they sat there. The damn things were his father's recipe, and Derek had made them on more occasions than he could count. There was a delicate balance in satisfying the human palate and the wolf palate, and Derek couldn't deny that he had a great fondness for anything he could sink his teeth into. He was certain that the Sheriff had been joking, but he also knew that if Stiles didn't feel he could leave his father, Scott, and Derek to the mercy of whatever dangers lurked around the corner. Forget Deaton saying he was a shitty alpha, if Stiles didn't think Derek could hold the pack together without him, Stiles would go to Beacon Hills community college and... well it wasn't that there was anything wrong with that, but Stiles needed to see more and experience more before he could decide what he wanted out of life.

By the time he left the kitchen, Stiles was holding court in the living room, with Allison and Scott and Isaac all fretting over him and his battle wounds while Stiles engaged in a dramatic retelling of their battle and Derek ripping an alpha in half with his teeth. Derek had his momentary flares of jealousy while Stiles curled up against Scott on one side with Allison on the other as they eased him through his chemistry homework from summer school. It was so normal. It made his chest ache, as did the not-at-all-discrete little glances that Stiles kept shooting his way, as if he was somehow able to know exactly what Derek was thinking and feeling, each little half-smile made him long to shoo Scott and Allison out so he could have Stiles to himself.

He worked out. He ran. He stopped by the store for more vinegar for some coleslaw and swiss cheese (less sodium) for the Sheriff. He showered. He got the grill going outside and he enlisted Isaac - returned from his summer job at the library - as a sous chef for neatly chopped fruit. Somehow, somewhere, over the course of the summer his life had become almost normal. He hadn't meant for that to happen when he'd come back to look for his sister. He and Laura had both left Beacon Hills behind after the fire, they'd taken the insurance money and run; Laura hadn't even been interested in making a new pack, and Derek had never really wanted to find another. He'd had so little family for so long that suddenly it was like he had too much, but it wasn't too much.

Everyone who'd come over - minus Stiles - had come and gone by the time the Sheriff got back. Derek had long since accepted the fact that he largely ran a teenaged flophouse, and he knew some of them would be back when it came time to actually sleep, but most of them were eager to get out for a run or just be teenagers. So it was with some trepidation, but a minimal audience, that Derek handed over an elk cheeseburger with vinegar coleslaw and fruit salad to the Sheriff before settling in with his knee resting against Stiles's as he waited for his judgement.

Derek shouldn't have cared, but he did. Just like wanting to please Stiles had slowly become ingrained in his subconscious, the desire to not disappoint the Sheriff was creeping in there as well. It didn't help that he had several former murder warrant to erase.

The Sheriff gave the burger a suspicious sniff, which brought a grin to Derek's face; the human sense of smell was pathetic compared to a werewolf's but Derek could appreciate the urge anyway. After it had apparently passed a cursory smell test, the Sheriff took an anxious bite, before chewing slowly, and finally swallowing, and then looking at the bite he'd taken out of the burger as though it had offended him. A second bite followed. Derek could hear the few seconds that Stiles stopped breathing as he waited as well.

"You sure this is good for me?"

Stiles pumped both his fists in the air, before he winced. "Ow."

A fond and exasperated sound exited Derek's lungs before he eased Stiles's arms back down. "Are you still feeling too manly for some antiseptic and pain killing ointment?"


Stiles probably thought that was an answer, and Derek supposed it sort of was, so he rolled his eyes and headed to raid the medicine cabinet for some ointment, gauze, and tape. When Derek came back, the Sheriff was nowhere to be found, although a quick glance and listen around the house told Derek he'd only gone as far as the kitchen. He made a quizzical grunt at Stiles who looked up from the couch.

"Dad said that just because he gets dead bodies at work doesn't mean he wants to see me scratched up." Stiles shrugged, and then obviously thought better of it as he hissed a moment later. "In case you haven't noticed, Stilinskis have a bit of a protective streak, and I think he's a little upset he didn't get to shoot one of the alphas even a little."

"He got the one, last month." Which was more than most humans, even Hunters, got in a lifetime. He gave Stiles a pat on the side. "Shirt off."

As usual, Stiles's face as it all. Even if Derek hadn't overheard more than one conversation on the topic, even if Stiles's hesitancy when they were together hadn't spoken volumes, Derek was adept enough at reading Stiles's face that he would have known.

"Stiles, I..." Derek was horrible with words. He couldn't explain himself and couldn't force out words when they mattered most, but he needed to say something right now. "I'm an alpha. No one would say I'm very good at it, but that means it's my job to protect my pack." He ran his fingers over Stiles's shoulder, where he knew the scarred patchwork from an alpha's fangs had ripped and torn. Stiles trembled under his hands and turned his head away, but he didn't move any more than that. "What I see when I look at you is someone I need to protect, but I also see someone who's saved himself, and me, more times than I can count. It's proof that we can be equals."

Stiles huffed. "You make it sound poetic." But he did pull off his shirt, back to Derek, and Derek ran his fingers along the scar that covered Stiles's shoulder. "My dad's totally two rooms over."

Derek wasn't having any of that, though, and he let his lips trail over the scars for a long moment before he actually set to work on the deep claw wounds in Stiles's shoulders. "Have you been... seeing things? From the wounds."

"Nothing major," Stiles answered. Derek could feel it was a lie, but not too big of one. Troubling, but probably not too troubling. "I feel like I'm... keeping it in check, for the most part. If I weren't I think I'd be having a few more eyefuls. I'm--" Stiles hissed as Derek dabbed more ointment onto the cut. "I'm a bit worried about tonight. I think I might dream."


Stiles was jittery under Derek's hands, all that nervous tension that Derek knew he carried with him finding a moment to actually release. Derek rarely saw Stiles like this, and he hated it, but at the same time he was glad Stiles felt safe enough to let go. "That'll go well: 'Hey, Dad, mind if I spend the night with Derek since I'm gonna have massive nightmares about tearing people limb from limb?' I can see it now."

"Just tell him it's either that or me sitting on the roof outside of your window all night."

That got him a laugh. "Think he'd go for it?"

"No." His boyfriend was an idiot sometimes, but that most of what Derek loved about him.


Stiles found his dad in the kitchen, looking out of the kitchen window out onto the little patio where Derek did most of his cooking. His back still ached, and his walking on his leg was still ginger, but he came to stand beside him and then nudged his shoulder. "How's the burger?"

"Really good," his dad admitted. "Not that I should be surprised, Derek's a good cook."


There didn't seem to be anything else to be said, not in that moment, and Stiles leaned against his dad just enough to help with the throbbing in his leg. He ached, he was tired, and they were going to go home soon and the creeping flashes of memory were going to bother him all night.

"Do you mind if I spend the night?"

"With Derek."

Well that was certainly a small part of the allure, it wasn't the main point. "Yeah, but... you see, werewolves have this thing with their claws where if they claw you near the spinal column it causes a freaky mental link that can lead to nightmares and visions. Mostly I'd like to be somewhere that if I wake up screaming and clawing at someone, I'm not going to be able to hurt them."

Dad looked down and then over to Stiles, before he finally set a hand on Stiles's back. "Is it bad that I wish you just wanted to spend the night with your boyfriend? Stiles..." His dad sounded so pained, so weary and so tired. "I don't want you to ever feel like you can't tell me these things, but I sort of miss the days when I was worried about you handling your mother's death instead of all of this. It's hard to see you go through all this, but it's even harder to know you went through it alone for so long."

Just a few months, but his dad wasn't wrong. "Thanks, but I wasn't alone, just having some difficulties properly articulating my level of anxiety on account of the werewolves in my life." Scott and Derek didn't quite get it. Scott remembered being weak and asthmatic, but he'd never been subject to the level of heart-pounding terror that Stiles had been introduced to in the last few months. "Hey, it's like... new moon in another week or so, you, me... a steakhouse with an actual cow steak. I should be limping less. We'll talk. We'll talk like we used to. It'll be a Stilinski man date."

All that tension finally started to unwind, and his dad laughed. "Alright. It's a date."

Stiles then took over the dishes, packing away the uncooked burgers and generally puttered about the kitchen, favoring his uninjured leg and feeling old and broken. Derek joined him in the kitchen a few minutes later.

"Your dad left."


"He left you here."

"Also yup."

"Your father just left you here after you basically said you were going to sleep in the same bed as me."

"Your grasp of the obvious astounds me."


"Derek." Stiles shoved the dishwasher closed and turned around. "He's not cool with it, but he's not cool with me running around fighting werewolves or learning magic or being a whatever the hell I am, a semi-werewolf or whatever, but unlike some other Stilinskis, like yours truly, he knows when he's in over his head and really he wants to be there for me but he doesn't want to see me wake up at night, freaking out. I mean, yes, this is also a blatant ploy to get you topless, but I'm a little too beaten up to find anything particularly sexy right now."

That was enough, apparently, and Derek wrapped an arm around Stiles's waist and helped him up to the second floor before depositing him on the turned down corner of Derek's bed. Stiles made it the rest of the way to the bathroom before making some cursory efforts to get ready for bed. When he returned to the bedroom, Derek was standing, back to Stiles, as he dumped his folded up t-shirt into the hamper, leaving one delectable and broad expanse of back for Stiles to look at. He'd convinced himself to shed his jeans, which left his legs and their blinding whiteness for all to see. His calf and shin were still covered with a bandage, but his legs had, for the most part, managed to escape the worst of the bites and scratches of the past months.

He could do this. He made his way over to the bed and sat, leaving Derek to take over the bathroom and he just... waited, eyes closed, trying not to panic. Closing his eyes didn't help, though, because behind his eyes all he could see were ripped throats and torn out guts, he could feel the warm gush of blood and who knew what else over him, barely a few hours old. The warm cocoon of blanket just made him remember the feeling, and he kicked down the blankets, curling up on himself in the bed, shivering and too hot all at once. When Derek returned he slid into the other side of the bed and reached out, tugging Stiles towards him.

"I could feel your heart racing in the other room."

"Just... remembering." Stiles didn't say what, Derek didn't pry, staying shoulder to shoulder with him. "You know, I think the last time we were like this we were both paralyzed from the neck down."

"Stiles." Derek somehow managed to pack a great deal of loving exasperation into his name. Stiles always liked that part. Derek put a hand on his chest. "Feel that?"

He nodded. "I know we're not there, but my head's trying to bounce between memories of ripping throats out and memories of my throat nearly being ripped out, so you'll pardon me if my head's a little confused, right now. None of this is any good for sleep."

A second later, he found himself wedged against Derek's chest as Derek ran a hand up and down his side, brushing up and down the scars there with barely a t-shirt between them. "I'm here. No big bad wolves."

"Can't tell if that's sarcasm or endearing or both."

"A little bit of both," Derek admitted, as his hand trailed back up to his stomach and scratched lightly, which did nothing but make Stiles laugh. He was ticklish, damn it.

"You know I'm not a wolf, right?" Stiles asked, giggling again and rolling over so that Derek was pinned and he was looking down at the delectable miles of skin that made up Derek's chest. "Does that work? Belly rubs? I know it does when you're a wolf." He scratched his nails lightly over Derek's stomach, but Derek just laughed as well, and Stiles leaned down to press his lips to Derek's abs and blow a raspberry there.

"No." Derek hauled him up. "No it doesn't, but I like you better laughing." Derek's hand dragged Stiles close and they kissed, kissing was way better than freaking out, and maybe he could work up the desire, because he scrambled on top of Derek, legs straddling his stomach as Derek let him set the pace and the depth of the kissing, giving as good as he got and making Stiles feel warm and tingly in a way that had nothing to do with the tacky feel of blood and guts.

Stiles moaned into the kiss, tongue fighting with Derek's for a few seconds before he broke away, but the playful drag of Derek's teeth against his bottom lip dragged him back in again as Derek stayed there, under him, a beautiful, comforting fantasy made flesh. "God this should be illegal."

"Sorta is," Derek answered.

When Stiles sat back on his haunches, Derek's hands followed, running above the waist of his boxers, fingers sliding there as Stiles felt the dull sensation of fingers running over the bumpy scars against his stomach. "I..."

Derek waited, and even though Derek was usually so closed off and hard to read, Stiles could tell he was making an effort to be open and honest and guileless about this. It was an unusual look for Derek to be so open, but Stiles couldn't miss the way he glanced down at where the tiniest sliver of skin must have been showing. Stiles could feel the chill. Dad was right, though, it wasn't like Derek didn't know what was there, although the full extent of his injuries was probably something Derek didn't know... he should have at least expected... Stiles screwed his eyes shut and lifted his arms.

For a long moment, nothing happened, but then he felt the warmth of Derek's body as he sat up, pulling the shirt up and over Stiles's head and throwing it who knows where before Stiles felt the bed bounce as Derek collapsed back down. He didn't touch; he must have been looking instead. Stiles didn't open his eyes as his brain went through a thousand scenarios, all of them horrible. Derek didn't like it, he hated it, he was waiting for Stiles to open his eyes before shooing him out or retreating into the safe territory of chaste - and firmly clothed - snuggling, he was too gawky, the muscles he did have were in the wrong place...

"Stiles, shut your damn brain off and come kiss me."

Or... um... that, that was fine. He opened his eyes and saw something a little bit like lust there. He'd seen bloodlust on Derek, from time to time, but he was fairly certain this wasn't a blood thing... I mean, maybe, if the hungry look in his eyes was for more literal eating than metaphorical... but then Derek just dragged him down, and they were kissing again, and Stiles was getting more and more turned on because maybe he'd gotten more than a little used to Derek when he was growly and roaring, and a few too many times of Derek pushing him up against the wall might have recalibrated his fantasy material - just a touch - and Stiles was so, so not complaining... "OW!"

He hadn't been complaining, but now there was a not at all metaphorical scratch on his back, like at least three or four claws, right on his back.

"Shit." Derek thumped his head back against his pillow.

"Did you just...?" Stiles turned, wincing as he did, because yes his back was now actually scratched by actual werewolf claws and there was probably some blood. "Did you just wolf out on me?"

"Yeah." Derek grabbed him by the waist and sat him down on the bed. "It's just..." He waved his hand and retreated to the bathroom. "If you have a focus, if you've spent years living with anger and hate, if something comes and riles you up the wrong way - or the right way - you..."

Stiles peered over towards to bathroom where Derek was looking a little long in the tooth, so to speak, and yeah, also tenting his boxers more than a bit, as he clung to the sink, splashing his face with water. Stiles had his own, innate and sort of distracted mind to work with as well, but after a minute or so of deep breathing, he'd calmed down, even if Derek hadn't. His mind automatically grabbed at the new information and tucked it away; Stiles knew that Derek's focus was his anger, and like he'd said, he'd lived with that for years. Stiles tried to decide if he was flattered that whatever he had Derek feeling was enough to break through that or not.

"So... uh..." Stiles looked down at his hands. "Lust greater than hate on the emotional rock, paper, scissors?"

"It's not lust, Stiles," Derek answered.

Stiles opened his mouth, shut it again, for once at a bit of a loss as to what to say. It didn't last long, though. "In my defense it's not like you've actually said it, which, to be fair, we can't all have the same epic amount of verbal diarrhea as I do, running off at the mouth and blurting out inappropriately timed emotional confessions. I like to think it's part of my charm, and at this point if you're just using me for my body you're seriously doing it wrong." Not that it was an honest complaint... ok, there was some complaining, because seriously his boyfriend was hot and he should get to have some of that, but he also knew that he was sort of not ready and Derek was obviously not ready and in danger of scratching his back bloody at this rate. "So I'll shut up now."

"No." Derek looked over to where Stiles was still sitting on the bed. "Just... talk."

"See, now you don't even realize what you've gotten yourself into." Stiles climbed out of bed, finally, and hobbled his way to the bathroom where he wrapped his arms around Derek from the back. "Because if there is one thing I am good for, it is rambling."


It took Derek almost ten minutes to really calm back down, and then he was forced to drag Stiles back to bed and clean and bandage the scratches he'd put down Stiles's back, feeling far too guilty about that. He knew how badly the ones he already had scratched into his body bothered him, and possibly adding to the collection left Derek feeling like more of an asshole than he usually did. "I'm sorry."

"Hey, Scott's tried to kill me at least twice, and I figure you weren't even going for the kill, just the Buckcherry song reenactment?" Stiles checked over his shoulder, where Derek was frowning, confused. "Rawr?" Stiles made a gesture of scratching, and then they both snorted. "Yeah, I think it just says something about me that I sort of expected that?"

"I should have better control than that." He should. He had never wolfed out like that, especially not during something as comparatively tame as some deeply involved kissing.

A born wolf had their whole lives to get their control, they grew up with the sway of the moon and if you didn't learn to tame it, young, then you didn't get let out of the house. Derek, like almost every born wolf, had found his anchor in his family and the pack, it was a particularly wolflike instinct, but one that still held enough humanity to keep him sane during the moon. After the fire, that love of family had turned into hate and anger, at himself and at the person responsible, and that had served him well for over six years. Now his control was wavering, at least when it came to Stiles.

"Why don't you?" Stiles asked. "I mean I assume you've..." Stiles threaded his fingers together in front of his chest, obviously pantomiming what he didn't want to say.

"Probably not as much as you think," Derek admitted. "But no, it's never been a problem before. It shouldn't be, that sort of hormonal urge is something you don't let control you, or you'd be a danger to anyone around you." He was concerned that it might be far more complicated than that, or maybe it was just very simple.

"I know Scott and Allison..." Stiles shrugged. Derek went back to work swabbing the cuts in his back clean. "Somehow Scott's anchored enough that he can be with her, probably because he loves her more than his brain most days." Derek heard the slight tremble in Stiles's tone, and Derek had a creeping idea of what it was for.

He kissed Stiles's shoulder, right in the center of his bite scar. "My focus and my anchor have always been my family and then later my anger. Anger and..." Derek tried to push out the word, failed, took another deep breath, tried again, failed. "Anger and what I feel for you are antithetical."

Stiles's pulse raced, just a touch faster, and Derek heard his breath quicken. "I don't know, I think there's a little anger. Just a tiny bit?"

"Frustration." Only some of it from Stiles's rambling mouth. "Mostly... mostly not." He put his lips against Stiles's back, soft on his spine. "Mostly love."

Stiles stopped breathing for a second. "Yeah, me too. You know... to the frustration." Stiles laughed for a second. "And the love. Lust, too. Let's be honest, I'm sixteen, there's gonna be lust."

Derek knew that, Stiles had said it earlier in the day, but the reiteration outside of a nervous babble was a comfort. "It's just hard to anchor yourself when..." He wasn't sure he could put it into words.

"Well, I mean, what's the solution there? You have to get a better focus? One that's not constant brooding if you are going to be happy sometimes due to the addition of yours truly and my wonderful expanses of scratched up pasty skin?" Stiles wriggled when Derek pressed the alcohol swab too tightly against his scratch. "I mean you helped me with that and focusing on my dad and my love for him, so just... not like I want you focused on Peter, because, no offense, your uncle is fucking crazy, but there has to be something better than that..."

"Stiles." Derek put his hands down on Stiles's shoulders. "It's not going to be my uncle."

"Your pack?" Stiles asked, voice squeaking now.



"Shut up." He dabbed some of the ointment on the scratches and then covered it with more gauze. "You should... probably be with me for the next moon. I'll need to be locked up, just in case."

"Hey, I'm a pro at this. You do not need to know what google thinks about my sexual preferences since I've been researching effective yet painless ways to chain people up for the evening." Stiles scooted away and then tried to lay down, before he realized that wasn't going to work and took a solid faceplant into a pillow. "yaow?"

Somehow Stiles managed to be both a genius and a hilarious idiot. Derek couldn't fault him, though. "Yes, Stiles. Try not to enjoy it too much." He planted a kiss at the base of Stiles's spine, and then scooted so he could lay beside him.

Derek slept poorly. There were too many terrifying implications of trying to trade his firmly held anchor for another one. Stiles was only sixteen and someone that Derek had barely known for half a year. Too many concerns jumbled around in his head and reminded him that he didn't know Stiles as well as he would have liked, but there was also part of him that knew he never really had much choice, especially since he was already in love with Stiles. Stiles's scent was less soothing than it should have been, because it came interspersed with whimpers and Stiles's fingers digging into Derek's side as he struggled with memories that weren't his own, and probably more than a few that were. He had to shush and soothe Stiles at least a dozen times as he woke, scratching and biting at Derek so hard he broke skin, and then he had to comfort that embarrassment and shame as the wounds Stiles dug into Derek's skin slowly healed.

Not even the fact that Derek would heal, and could heal quickly, was able to shake that, and Stiles looked like poorly rested crap the next morning, they both did, enough so that not even Peter's joking comments about staying up all night and aggressive sex couldn't even get a rise from either of them.

It took days for Stiles to finally fight the nightmares down, between talking with Vivian and taking with Derek and talking with his father, and things, finally, went back to normal. Unfortunately that meant Derek no longer had a good excuse to have Stiles over now that he could sleep through the night. Stiles's scent had long since permeated his bed and his bedroom, and Derek didn't sleep well any longer with Stiles's scent lingering and Stiles gone. Stiles finally had healed from the worst of his cuts and scrapes, and the threat of the pack had been put down, so the Sheriff also felt comfortable not dropping Stiles off in the morning for safekeeping.

And yet they still ended up together, Stiles pushing himself beyond the use of the cane, his body remembering how to run again and getting himself back in shape, hand to hand work with Chris, magic with Vivian and that wizard out at Harvard, studying for the SATs with Lydia in Derek's kitchen... no matter where he went, Stiles was never more than a few steps behind, and if Stiles ended up spending the night, kissing and holding him and murmuring 'I love you's, the Sheriff never made a comment.

It took less time than he would have thought for him to feel as though he and Stiles had wrapped themselves so tightly together they couldn't be unentwined. And even when Stiles came home - to Derek's house - smelling of three different kinds of perfume and Peter was more than ready to open his mouth and make a comment, Stiles just shot a look and a warning finger wag at Peter, and then turned to Derek and said: "Apparently captains of the lacrosse team who murder man-sized wolves with their bare hands get all the chicks, who knew. Makes me wish I still needed the cane, you know... beat them off with a stick."

Stiles made a whacking gesture and the ache in Derek's chest eased.

"Off season practice is less often, at least, but apparently running around through the woods and whacking werewolves with sticks is good for your reflexes, who knew?" And then he dragged Derek outside with him and tucked his arm through Derek's and they walked. "You know, I... sort of wanted to talk to you about something."

Derek wondered if this would be it, if Stiles hadn't wanted to beat off one of the girls with a stick. "Oh?"

"Apparently junior year is when you actually start worrying about college, so... how does it work? You and me? I've got this wizard who's basically promised me a scholarship at Harvard if I study... European myth and folklore, but I'm pretty sure I'll have to double major, because you don't get to put some fancy letters after your name if you get a doctorate in magic. And Harvard is like..." Stiles gestured. "Away. Is there a pack in Boston? Are you going to have enough pack? You've got like two years, right? And the Argent pact is good for the life of... me, even though it was originally about the Alpha Pack, so I'm wondering if I go what does that do to the pack and the pact and that sounds weird: 'pack pact'."

"Did you take your Adderall this morning?"

"Not so much." Stiles sighed. "I've been bouncing off the walls all day thinking about everything, and I mean everything."

"I'll make you a deal."

"Mmm?" Stiles looked over at him, brown eyes wide and curious.

"You study to get into Harvard, I find out if there's a pack in Boston that will need to have some diplomacy if I send some of my pack there, and I spend the next two years making sure I have a strong enough pack that you think you can leave me alone for a few months at a time without me burning Beacon Hills down or giving your dad a coronary. How does that sound?"

Stiles grinned. "I think I have the best deal here."

"You really do." Stiles obviously thought as much, but Derek never forgot exactly how much he loved and needed Stiles by his side now.

"We do have one more matter under consideration, especially if I'm going to need to keep turning down nubile young lacrosse groupies. It's the previously mentioned: 'Stiles does not want to die a virgin' issue."

Derek grabbed him by looping an arm around his neck and kissed him hard on the temple. "You just can't die before turning eighteen, or any time after that. Your father is a very nice man, and part of not giving him a coronary is not committing any felonies that your father knows about."

Stiles whined. "You killed like three werewolves, and your uncle."

"It's pretty hard to make a case for murder when my uncle is still living in my house and eating my food, and the werewolves were self defense, try again." Derek smirked.

Stiles had decided to fight dirty though, and he wrapped an arm around his back and ran a hand over his stomach. "I'm pretty sure there were a few attempted murders in there every once and a while, but I suppose you're right, what's a little attempted murder among friends?" Stiles sighed. "I am never getting laid."

"I love you." It was easier to say now, almost second nature, and Stiles always returned it.

"Yeah, yeah, that's what you're supposed to say to get into my pants, not to console me when I can't get into yours." Stiles stopped, dragging him down into a kiss right in the middle of the damn street. "I love you, too. I'm just saying, you, me, eighteenth birthday..."

Derek laughed and swooped back down for another kiss, pinning Stiles to him. "Don't want to spend it with your family?"

"You're my family now you stupid idiot. My dad's practically adopted you."

The easy, effortless way he said it made absolutely everything worthwhile. He had a family again, a weird and unconventional one, with a ridiculous mate, but he would never, ever complain.


"You're being deliberately obtuse!" But Stiles was laughing now. "Okay, okay, I will just have you know that dad better appreciate this because I completely and totally don't."

They were both smiling, though, and Derek knew that Stiles wanted him, probably far more than was prudent, but... Derek had his anchor, he had his focus that could keep him grounded and somehow always managed to be there for him, and Derek... Derek just hoped he could do the same for Stiles, always.


Spring break was a mixed blessing for a pack, especially one like Daniel's that encompassed a major metropolitan area that was filled to the brim with colleges. The werewolf population of the entire country was necessarily small, but that meant the pretexts of politeness and diplomacy were most necessary for them; one wrong move could start an all-out pack war, and that would bring Hunters, and Hunters were bad for everyone. So Daniel suffered through the endless days of 'here is my baby Beta, next year he might go to MIT or Harvard or Northeastern or one of the dozens of smaller schools that littered the Boston metropolitan area'. Early evenings were spent loitering at the Harbor, looking as inconspicuous as possible in the crush of tourists and shoppers and lazy teenagers.

A scent of gun oil and wolfsbane and magic floated through the crowd, and it was enough to get any wolf's hackles up. It put him on high alert. Everyone passing by got a quick glance, at least, and Daniel listened in on whatever snippet of conversation he could catch.

He heard a young man laugh, face buried in a map, close by another man, much older, maybe in his fifties. "Check it out, they have a Beacon Hill! I'll be right at home."

"That's nowhere near campus," the older man protested. "You and Lydia need something closer to school or you are just going to spend your entire time goofing off with Scott."

After that, Daniel dismissed the conversation as unimportant. The name, though, Beacon Hill, rattled around in Daniel's memory. There was, of course, a neighborhood in Boston with the name, but that wasn't what was nagging at the back of his mind. Beacon Hill... Beacon Hill... The answer presented when the two men, now close enough that the scent of wolfsbane and gun oil coalesced enough for Daniel to note they were coming from the two men.

"Hey." The young man said, standing close. "How's it going?"

Daniel snarled.

"Easy, son," the older one said, but he didn't lay a hand on him, just had the sort of settling voice that you trusted and the physical authority to carry it out. "We're just here to talk."

Daniel was almost embarrassed that he'd missed the scent of pack on the pair, but he blamed the fact that it was subtle, and they were human, not wolf. The younger one was the source of the magic scent, and beyond that was the lingering scent of Alpha. He gave the older human a shove, nothing rough, just enough to make the point that they were far too close to be considered anything but threatening. Not that it was a good idea to pick a fight with a human who stunk of the dozen smells the younger one did.

"I'm Stiles," the younger one said, finally getting a name. And he was young, not much older than eighteen, if that, with a few inches of dark brown hair and soft brown eyes. "We're just here to have a chat, talk terms, the same as all the other wolf pups."

"You're not a wolf," Daniel answered.

"No, but trust me, you'll like me better than my Alpha." Stiles tilted his head towards one of the many ubiquitous coffee shops near the Harbor. "He growls and then everyone gets off on the wrong foot, that's why he sends me. Coffee? My treat."

"And by that you mean my treat," the older one grumbled. "John Stilinski."

Stiles led the way, and he was either the ballsiest son of a bitch Daniel had ever met, or he had an innate trust to him, because there he was pink and pale and human, barely four feet from an Alpha he'd just riled up, back exposed. Of course, even when he thought about making a point in the form of claws digging into the skin of the boy's upper arms, he found himself unable to do it, and that, more than the wolfsbane and the stench of magic and Alpha, had Daniel on edge.

The older one got them coffee while Stiles picked an out of the way corner of the shop. After he settled into the booth and Stiles did the same, the young man pulled out a leatherbound notebook, small enough to fit in the back pocket of his jeans, and then he opened it up to the page the cloth bookmark had marked.

"So, I'll start: Stiles Stilinski, Hale Pack. My authority comes to me as the mate of the Alpha."

Daniel couldn't help the tug at his lips. He'd heard of Hale Pack; two or three years ago the entire pack had been living in New York City like a pair of wild dogs, just a sister and brother. He was shocked the whole pack hadn't died out by this point. "Daniel Mitchell, Mitchell Pack. My authority comes as the Alpha of my pack."

"Cool, now that we have that done with..." Stiles pulled a pen from his front pocket and actually ticked off a mark next to something he had written down. "Also, can we not use the M-word? It freaks my dad out a bit. 'Boyfriend' works much better. So... yadda yadda historical territorial ground, yadda yadda power of pack lands... and so on. Alright, brass tacks. We would like to have a small portion of our pack relocate to Boston and outlying suburbs for four years. Such relocation would entail the presence of: two Betas, one Magician, one Seer, and one Hunter."

"You've got to be fucking kidding me," Daniel cut him off.

John slid into the booth next to Stiles, dropping the ordered coffee in front of Daniel and then some sort of caramel and syrupy concoction for Stiles and a tea for himself. He didn't look particularly impressed, though.

"Do you honestly think I would voluntarily allow a Hunter into Boston? I'm sure you've noticed that they travel in packs." Daniel had no idea what pack would ever have a Hunter anywhere near it, much less send a mate to negotiate on one's behalf. "I might as well tell them to throw a fucking convention in the Prudential Center."

"Said Hunter would, at any point be visited by no more than two additional Hunters, unless voluntarily renegotiated by me or our pack Alpha. And you know, for me personally, the Hunter? I love her like a sister, she's got the sweet side and the vicious side and there's really nothing wrong with having a lady Hunter in the area. She's old enough now that she gets to keep the locals in line." Stiles leaned back in his chair, taking a long sip of the coffee and then sighing. "Go feminism."

Daniel rolled his eyes.

"You got a reason to be concerned about a Code following Hunter coming to town, Son?" John asked, and Daniel was an Alpha, he'd been an Alpha for almost ten years, but part of him still had to respect that tone, because it came with enough weight and authority that he felt his spine instinctively straighten and the natural urge to look the man square in the eyes.

"No, Sir." You didn't get to live in the civilized areas of a country if you didn't follow the sort of code that shouldn't draw you attention from the Hunters. "But I think most everyone knows that most Hunter don't play by the Code, even if they say they do."

"Hunters that live in my town play by my rules," John answered.

Stiles made a patting, sort of soothing gesture that seemed directed at John and not at him. It made Daniel wonder if the good cop, bad cop was intentional or just a natural side effect. "At this point, I'd stake my life on their integrity," Stiles promised, and Daniel listened to the steady heartbeat in his chest which drove the point home.

"Your Mate's life?" Daniel asked.

"I sort of have to if I'm going to be across the country for four years, don't I?" Stiles answered, but Daniel didn't miss the slight wince from the elder Stilinski at the word 'mate'.

"Which one does that make you, then? The Seer or the Magician?"

Stiles tugged down the neck of his t-shirt, revealing two items, a silver slug that might have been a bullet at some point, and a neatly carved rune set in rowan and hung on a necklace. The reason why Daniel couldn't even touch Stiles earlier became apparent.

"The Magician," Daniel answered his own question. "You'd best make your little diplomacy with the wizard at Harvard if you're going to play in his town, Mageling."

"He invited me."

Shit. Stiles's smirk said he knew exactly how rattled that should make Daniel. That crotchety old son of a bitch wouldn't invite just anyone. He might tolerate a student or two, but he would never invite one. "And the rest of your terms?" Daniel asked.

"Occasional visits from one or two Hunters, one or two Betas, one Alpha. Out of deference to your territory the five of them will rarely, if ever, be here all at once unless they are requested. Most of them will be coming to town tomorrow, however. We figured what better way to cement a pack alliance than with celebratory pizza. I was thinking BHOP."

Daniel barred his teeth, just slightly, but not enough to carry any real threat. If Stiles's Alpha was powerful enough to attract a mage as a mate, Daniel would be an idiot to antagonize him. Worse than that, Stiles obviously knew that he had Daniel over a barrel. It was one thing if Hale Pack had been a tiny little pair of wolves, but it had grown much stronger since Daniel had last heard word of them. As terms went, they were very generous. "Very well, Stiles Stilinski, on behalf of Mitchell Pack, I accept your terms."

"Sweet!" Stiles pumped his fist, for all the world a celebrating teenager rather than an ambassador of his pack. "Do you mind if I finish my coffee first before we do the hand slitty thing? I don't heal like you and I don't want to bleed all over my cup?"

He did eventually seal the alliance, in blood, out on the docks, and despite Stiles's protestations that he didn't heal quickly, it was hard not to notice that the smell of the fresh wound was almost completely gone the next afternoon when he brought the lions's share of his pack to lunch at the BHOP. Stiles had already staked out a huge swath of tables. The two Betas sat next to each other, both male with dark hair, and next to one of the Betas was a pretty girl with long dark hair. John and another older man sat a few seats away, heads bowed in soft conversation that Daniel only had to listen to for a moment to see they were discussing the girl - Allison - and her romance with the Beta - Scott. Stiles was two seats down from another pretty redheaded girl with wavy hair that went all the way down her shoulders and back. Although it wasn't marked as such, it was clear the seat to Stiles's left was intended for his Alpha. The redhead patted the seat between her and Stiles.

"You get to sit next to me, cutey."

Stiles snorted, but Daniel did go and take the seat between her and Stiles while the rest of his pack spread out between the available seats. Everyone had been slightly shuffled about, encouraging intermixing while also retaining a certain amount of familiarity. "Nice seating chart," he said to Stiles as he slipped into his sat.

"Thank you!" Apparently the redhead had been responsible, not Stiles. "Lydia. You must be Daniel."

The pleasantries continued and it wasn't long before the visiting Alpha - 'Derek' apparently, given Stiles's chatter from last night and during their few minutes of conversation - arrived. He was every inch the stereotypical Alpha, dark, handsome, with well-fitting jeans and a tight t-shirt that showed off long hours of working out, all topped off with a battered leather jacket. The dark, brooding image was completely ruined by the fondness in his eyes when he caught sight of Stiles, grinning frantically and waving as though he needed to attract his attention from the other group of a dozen werewolves that would be having lunch at a local pizzeria.

Derek seemed to find it as humorous as Daniel did, though, because he rolled his eyes and picked his way back to Stiles's side, before planting a firm kiss on his throat, just behind the ear. "Mitchell."

"Hale." Daniel wasn't an idiot enough to mention that surprising prominence of the Alpha compared to the last gossip he had heard. He'd done his own research the night before, frantically looking for more about the pack he'd slightly rashly allied with. There was probably no easy way to incorporate 'hey, want to tell me about that time you basically murdered the Alpha Pack' into a conversation.

Melody apparently had no idea how to be subtle, or to read the body language, or the blatant scent that proclaimed Stiles and Derek both off limits. "So, Hale." She leaned forward, every inch of her on display. "A little wolf told me you're responsible for decimating the Alpha Pack."

Derek's response was all teeth, and it might have looked polite, or at least awkward, to someone just looking, but Daniel was considering how he was supposed to reprimand his Beta for her idiocy when Lydia interrupted. "Actually, decimated isn't the right word at all. Colloquial usage has come forward where 'decimate' is used to suggest that ten percent is left remaining, rather than the original term, which only meant that ten percent were killed. There's no actual word that means what you're looking for, but between Derek and Stiles they had four dead Alphas, and one permanently lost an eye, it's more like the converse."

"Isn't it inverse?" Stiles asked.

"How about 'annihilate'?" Lydia offered back in return, glancing back over to Melody with a look that Daniel knew far too well from high school that roughly meant 'yes, you just got told'.

Hale and Stiles both seemed more amused by the banter than annoyed, thankfully. The last thing he needed was Hale deciding they were more trouble to deal with than to run through, and the easy, casual way that Lydia had confirmed every rumor Daniel had been able to dig up quickly meant that there was no way in hell he wanted to play rough with Hale pack. He made a point of noting that he should probably make certain that not one hair on Stiles's head was out of place whenever Derek came calling, because he was fairly certain that the Alpha would try to take it out of his hide otherwise.