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The Birthday Fic

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Stiles has been sleeping in the same bed with Derek since he was eighteen, giving him almost six years to learn Derek’s habits - and vise versa. Derek’s a cover hog, and not in a cute way, but in a way that makes Stiles want to kill him horribly in the night - and Stiles is a sprawler. Derek says a knee to the ribcage is definitely not a sign of affection, and that if Stiles can’t find a way to control himself he’s going to buy a very small couch and force Stiles to sleep on it until one of them dies. Stiles thinks Derek’s bluffing, and he’s mostly right. Despite all that, Stiles adores Derek’s bedhead, his heat, his sleepy grumblings against the back of his neck in the morning. He loves the way sleepy grumbles turn into filthy whispers on those rare Saturdays where Stiles doesn’t have class and Derek doesn’t have work. In bed they’ve become more familiar, more at ease, but no less eager for each other’s touch.

Still, there’s something to be said for birthday sex.

Derek has Stiles bent over at the waist, fucking steadily into him while Stiles gasps into the pillows and digs his fingers into Derek’s thighs. Derek likes it slow, steady, and Stiles revels in each stoke. Stiles hitches moaning breaths with every thrust, and his back curves as Derek pulls Stiles’ arms back and drags his cock inside him. Stiles can feel his orgasm roaring close as Derek sits upright, pulling him onto his lap and roughly twisting his hips into Stiles’ body. Stiles cries out as Derek’s cock reaches deep, his fingers gripping Derek’s behind his back. Their bodies grind together in harmony, reaching for that edge, that spark to push them over. Stiles chokes off a warning sound and Derek hooks his chin over his shoulder and watches as Stiles’ cock jerks and pulses come onto his thighs, untouched. Stiles whines and drops his head back. Derek barely restrains himself from drawing blood as he presses his teeth into Stiles’ neck and groans, coming and shaking and holding tight.

They breathe together. Derek licks delicately over the bite mark he left behind and rubs Stiles’ belly in soothing, slow strokes. A minute later, Stiles groans and lifts his head with a sated chuckle.

“That was pretty athletic for someone your age.”

Derek huffs out a laugh into Stiles’ neck. “I’m only thirty, Stiles.”

“Exactly,” Stiles says, pulling himself free and sliding off Derek’s lap to collapse into the pillows. “That twisting-thrusty thing you like so much is a younger man’s move. I’m just saying, it’s impressive you’re still able to-”

“I’m not the one who cries when I do that move,” Derek says as he shifts off the bed and heads to the bathroom, working a kink from his back with a shimmy.

“That was one time, Derek! And it was our anniversary! I was particularly emotional that day!” Stiles says, muffled by the pillow. Derek comes out, grinning lazily around a mouthful of toothpaste.

“That was a fun night,” he says, and manages to make the in-and-out strokes of the toothbrush look obscene. They lock eyes, remembering the night of their fifth anniversary that took place a couple months earlier. Stiles licks his lips and heaves himself out of the bed, padding naked over to Derek who pauses brushing his teeth to accept a kiss on the cheek.

“This morning was pretty awesome, too. Happy birthday, Derek,” Stiles says, slapping Derek on the ass and going into the bathroom to grab his own toothbrush from the cup by the sink.

***

Stiles is pulling on his socks when a whirling ball of energy bursts through the bedroom door. A small girl with wide brown eyes and wild curls flies into Stiles’ legs and wraps her arms around them.

“Uncle Stiles! I can’t find my princess slippers!” She shoots a baleful glance at him and sniffs pitifully. “I left them in the den last night, but now I can’t find them!” Stiles picks her up and sets her on his hip.

“Not your princess slippers!” He puts on a determined face. “You think we can hunt them down?” He calls out to Derek, “We’re going to get Heather her slippers and get breakfast started. Can you bring down her toy chest?” He hears a grunt of agreement from the bathroom and heads out the door and down the stairs with the girl. From the noises Derek’s making, he’s pretty sure Derek hears Heather ask, “What’s that on your neck? Did you get hurt?” and cuts himself shaving.

They reach the living room and Stiles sets her down, watching as she roots around under the ottoman.

“See? I left them here last night, right here! And they’ve disappeared!” She looks bewildered and upset, plopped dejectedly on the carpet in her pink kitten pajamas that she wears every moment she’s not being forced into “outside clothes.” Stiles grins and comes over to ruffle the girl’s hair.

“We’ll track down your slippers before breakfast, Jellybean, or my name isn’t Stiles Stilinski.”

“But Uncle Stiles, that isn’t your real name. Auntie Allison said so.” Stiles purses his lips and nods.

“Then we’ll need werewolf senses to get the job done. Put on your best Alpha face and get sniffing!” He twitches his nose at Heather and dives into the couch cushions, huffing and making a scene. Heather laughs loudly and dives in beside him with a howl.

Both Stiles and Heather are buried under a pile of blankets and cushions - “hunting” having taken an immediate detour into “making a huge mess” - when Derek comes up behind them and coughs. He’s holding a pair of fuzzy pink slippers with Ariel and Flounder on them.

“These what you’re looking for?” he says, and accepts the flurry of hyper five-year-old that flings itself into his arms.

“You found them!” She snatches the slippers from Derek’s hand and pulls them on with a hop and throws herself in front of a plastic castle that’s as tall as she is. She digs into the toy chest Derek brought and begins to meticulously lay out her dolls in rank from largest to smallest. Stiles puts his face in his hands.

“No real human has that much energy this early in the morning. She’s a robot. I want to collect on our bet now,” Stiles says through his laughter. Derek smiles.

“No one actually took that bet, Stiles. You claimed Heather was an android built to destroy and demanded twenty dollars from anyone who didn’t agree with you.” Derek pats Stiles on the back and goes into the kitchen.

“I was obviously right, and I demand to be rewarded,” Stiles says, following. Derek turns, leans back against the counter, and pulls Stiles close by the belt loops of his pants. He kisses him, deep and dirty, and wraps his hands around to grope Stiles’ ass a little. He breaks it off with a low chuckle as the doorbell rings.

“Better get that,” he whispers, resting their foreheads together before planting one final kiss on his mouth. Stiles visibly collects himself and points a silent, threatening finger at Derek.

“We’re going to discuss this later,” he says, and goes to answer the front door. Derek just smirks and turns to pull the pancake ingredients from the pantry.

At the door is Jackson, Lydia and Isaac, hands overflowing with gift bags and boxes that they shove into Stiles’ arms. Isaac leers down at his neck, poking at the conspicuous bruise. Stiles shudders and hunches up his shoulders, nearly sending the packages to the floor.

“Gah! Don’t do that!” he says with a glare at Isaac who escapes into the den, laughing to himself and picking up couch pillows. Stiles turns to Jackson and Lydia’s twin smirks and glares harder over the pile in his arms.

“You guys are early,” he says, juggling boxes and staggering into the kitchen. Jackson groans, following.

“Lydia made us wake up early and go to Pottery Barn for Derek’s gift. Pottery Barn. She literally woke us up by shouting, ‘Move it, boys! ‘Buy One Get One’ sales attract vicious housewives with no morals who will kill you dead and crawl over your cooling corpse to snag the last wicker breadbasket on the sale rack, so get moving!’”

“You remember that... verbatim?” Stiles asks, dumping the gifts next to the table.

“I may never forget it, Stilinski.” Lydia just flips her hair, pats the large box containing Derek’s birthday present and says smugly, “We got what we meant to get, and that’s all that matters.” She hugs Stiles, then crosses over to the kitchen island and leans over, smacking a kiss on Derek’s cheek. “Happy birthday, birthday boy.” Derek greets her, smiling and whisking batter, but begins to look wary as she starts digging in her purse. She makes a noise of triumph and whips out a gaudy and sparkly paper crown.

“The kids made it! Every birthday boy deserves a crown,” she cheers, and lunges for Derek to put it on him. He dodges cleanly and scowls down at her. She narrows her eyes back and there’s a silent moment while the two of them try and out-glare one another. Jackson and Stiles stand frozen, poised to run for their lives.

Lydia breaks the staring contest first, but an evil grin spreads over her face. They all have just enough time to look at each other in terror before she calls out, “Heather! Come here a minute!” Derek looks betrayed. Heather rushes in and Lydia hands her the crown. “Don’t you think your Uncle Derek should wear the birthday crown you made with Vanessa? Don’t you think it will look special?” Heather beams enthusiastically at him.

“Yeah! Put it on!” Heather says, thrusting it at him and bouncing up and down on her feet. Derek suppresses a sigh, puts down the mixing bowl, takes the crown from her, and places it ceremoniously on his head. The she cheers, darts in for a quick hug, and dashes back out into the den where Isaac is readying the plastic battlements for war. Derek makes eye contact with Lydia, whose face is pressed into Jackson’s arm while she tries not to laugh out loud.

“You’re the devil,” Derek says plainly, and goes back to mixing pancakes.

“You look sweet in purple glitter. You should consider a lifestyle change,” Lydia says with a smile. Stiles emits a weird snorting sound that makes Derek’s head whip around, but Stiles has his head bent to read the instructions on the Bisquick box and is humming the Odd Couple theme to himself, so Derek can’t do the death-by-glaring thing that he so desperately wants to. Instead, he pointedly turns his back, ignoring them all to spray the griddle with PAM. Lydia rolls her eyes fondly and heads to the kitchen table, which is piled high with dusty books and open laptops. She sits down at one end and pulls a thick tome toward her, flipping pages and frowning. Jackson hands her a cup of coffee and flicks a lock of her hair before sitting next to her, grabbing a laptop for himself.

Derek is scooping pancake batter onto the griddle with a measuring cup - Stiles behind him making sarcastic comments about how, especially with pancakes, size matters - when Isaac comes into the kitchen.

“I’m pretty sure the kids have seen Game of Thrones somehow,” he says with a theatrical grimace. “Heather just asked me if we had any hot oil, then tried to poke a plastic spear through Rex’s eye.” At Derek’s blank look, he clarifies, “Rex? The dinosaur from the Toy Story movies?” Derek’s poker face shows nothing. “Dude, don’t even try to pull that with me. We all watched them together our senior year, and I know you remember because you had to talk Scott out of the bathroom after the third one,” Isaac says as he leans in to hug Derek and slap him heartily on the back.

Derek’s eye twitches and he hugs Isaac back. “It was a bad idea to watch all three in one night,” he says darkly.

“By the way,” Isaac says, “Aren’t you taking the alpha thing a bit far?” He gestures toward Derek’s sparkly crown.

“Heather made me,” he says, snatching it off and pointing to Lydia. “It’s her fault.” Isaac nods with mock sympathy, then sidles over to Lydia and low fives her. They turn identical innocent expressions on Derek when he glares at them. He brandishes the spatula threateningly, but Isaac and Lydia’s backs are already turned while they giggle under their breath with Jackson. Derek glares some more, but without anyone to see it he lets it transform into a tiny grin. He flips the pancakes, considers their level of golden-brownness, and pronounces them done. “Who has a plate?” Everyone’s hands go up.

Isaac carries a plate out to Heather, then wanders back into the kitchen with one pancake dangling from his mouth.

“Whoops,” he mumbles, picking up the syrup bottle, “forgot this.” He drenches his own pancakes then absconds with it, heading back to the den with his plate and fork. Stiles raises an eyebrow.

“I did not raise that boy to steal. Especially maple syrup.” He gives a wide-eyed look to Derek. “Was I a bad mother?” he entreats pathetically. “Did he learn his bad habits from me?” Stiles pushes out his lower lip and Derek leans across the kitchen island to poke it back into his mouth with a finger.

“Yes.”

Isaac brings the syrup back and kisses Stiles on the cheek, saying, “Thank you, Mother,” before heading back out again. Stiles mutters under his breath about werewolf hearing, missing first crack at the syrup as Lydia leans acrobatically in her chair to snatch up the bottle.

“So,” Lydia starts innocently, “what now?” Stiles swallows a huge mouthful of pancakes and shrugs.

“Well, that’s umm...”

“Seriously, what’s the plan?” Lydia asks again, tapping her nails against the table.

“There has to be an answer in one of those books,” Derek says, nodding toward them. “Or somewhere online. The plan is to find it.” Stiles and Jackson roll their eyes while Lydia just looks exasperated.

“And?” she demands. “What are we going to do once we figure out how to even locate these brats? They still have a tremendous advantage over us, painful as it may be to admit.”

“I-” Derek starts, but the doorbell rings again. Jackson pushes himself out of his chair with another roll of his eyes.

“I’ll get it,” he says, and saunters out of the kitchen. Stiles, Lydia, and Derek look uncomfortably at each other and at the kitchen table, then stuff their faces with pancakes.

“I’m sure we’ll think of something,” Stiles says, only it’s through a mouthful of food so it sounds like, “Ig soo wem the kom smmick” which Lydia, much to her dismay, understands. Derek is less dismayed, because he always understands what Stiles is saying with his mouth full.

The noise coming from the den triples as another child joins Heather in besieging the castle, and Jackson leads Scott and Allison into the kitchen. There are cheers all around and Scott drops a small heap of gifts onto the pile and pulls out a chair for Allison. She grips her swollen belly and settles herself in, then gives one-armed hugs to everyone as they come to her, except for Lydia for whom she spins in the chair to full-body hug.

“How are you feeling,” Lydia asks, glancing skeptically at Allison’s stomach. There’s a reason why she prefers adoption. Allison’s only five months along, but she’s already looking pretty uncomfortable.

“I’m alright,” Allison says, smiling broadly at Lydia and squeezing Scott’s hand which had found its way into hers, like always. “I think this one’s going to be easier than Vanessa was.”

Lydia strokes Allison’s hair back and says, “As long as the baby is as beautiful as you are.”

“And as deadly with a bow,” Scott adds, looking adoringly at his wife. Allison squeezes Scott’s hand again and shoots a wary eye over the piles of books on the table.

“Any word from Danny?” she asks, glancing at Jackson.

“Nothing since October,” he says. “I’ve sent him a hundred e-mails and as many texts, but he hasn’t answered.” Jackson frowns down at the laptop he’d claimed for himself and clicks into his e-mail. Still nothing.

“Well, I’m sure he’s just busy,” Scott says brightly, ever optimistic. He accepts two plates of pancakes from Stiles, along with a fistbump and an unsubtle eyebrow wiggle at his wife’s belly. Scott beams at him and sits down, handing one plate to Allison and carelessly setting his own on an 18th century tome of wiccan lore.

“He said he’d be in Argentina, but that was weeks ago. He’s never been on assignment this long. He’s probably just sleeping his way through the southern hemisphere, but...” Jackson shrugs. Lydia touches the back of his hand and they share a look. Derek and Stiles join the group at the table, and they all sit silently, staring at each other while the children play war in the other room.

***

Stiles is setting everyone’s empty plates in the sink when the doorbell rings again.

“Hey, you came!” he says, opening the door and wiping his hands on a towel. John Stilinski and Melissa McCall are at the door - Melissa in her scrubs and John in his uniform - and both wearing expressions of determination and stubbornness. They’re holding gift bags with the hands that aren’t holding each other’s and Stiles grins wide at them, lunging forward and hugging them both in one swift move.

“Put your presents in the kitchen, we’ve got a stockpile going.” He leads them inside and points them in the direction of the gifts. “You guys hungry? We’ve got pancakes and orange juice and some wheat-bran oatmeal thing for you Dad, don’t even try and sneak by me with that syrup. I see you and I’m disappointed in you,” he says, snagging the bottle from John’s hand and replacing it with some fiber-enhanced orange juice. “Give us just a minute and it’ll be ready. Melissa, you’re looking beautiful as always. Would you care for some of Derek’s signature recipe pancakes?” She takes a moment to catch up with Stiles’ stream-of-consciousness rambling, and nods.

“Of course!” she says, dropping a gift onto the small mountain accumulating in the corner. “But only if they’re the special shaped ones you make for the kids. If I’m going to spend the calories, I want it to be worth it,” she winks at Derek. He just raises an eyebrow and heads back to the leftover pancake batter, setting aside the measuring cup and hunting through drawers to find something suitable for making shapes.

“So, Mom,” Scott starts, “have-” he’s stopped by the doorbell ringing again. They all look around, mentally tallying the people in the apartment. They’re all there, except for Erica and Boyd, and...

“Danny!” comes the disbelieving cry from the living room as Isaac answers the door. This brings everyone in the kitchen to their feet and they rush to the front door. They skid to a halt when they see who Danny has with him.

Peter Hale is standing in the hallway, grinning like a shark and tucking a large, extravagantly wrapped packaged under his arm.

“Hello, Derek,” he says. “Happy birthday.”

There’s an excruciating moment of silence while they all stand around the foyer, staring.

“Isn’t anyone going to let us in?” Peter asks, tilting his head with mock confusion. “I thought you said they were expecting us, Danny boy.” Danny just shrugs and shoulders his way into the apartment.

“They are.” He reaches out to hug Jackson, but is stopped by Derek’s hand on his chest.

“What. The hell. Is he doing here?” Derek growls, eyes flashing red. Danny raises his hand to touch lightly at Derek’s wrist.

“I found him in South America,” he starts. “I thought he could be useful.” Derek shifts his glare from Peter to Danny, flexing his fingers in Danny’s shirt.

“And what,” Derek says quietly, “would make you think that?”

“Let’s just say, you’re going to love what he got you for your birthday.” Derek considers this while the room holds its breath, the children playing obliviously in the background. Peter rocks up onto his toes and gives Derek a jaunty smile, unbothered by the vicious looks being sent his way by Derek’s pack. He holds his gift out in front of him and shakes it.

“Who wants to guess what’s inside?” he teases. Derek lets go of Danny’s shirt and steps back into the kitchen, never turning his back on his uncle.

“Stiles. Come here.” His tone is sharp, and Stiles doesn’t stop glaring at Peter as he follows. In the kitchen Derek is pacing back and forth, scowling at the ground with his fists clenched at his sides. Stiles approaches him slowly and lays a hand on his arm. Derek stops, and screws his eyes shut.

“He was dead,” he whispers, knowing everyone in the entryway can probably hear him anyway, “He was gone.” Stiles wraps his other hand around the back of Derek’s neck and pulls their foreheads together, a mirror of that morning’s gesture.

“It’ll be alright,” Stiles murmurs, carding his fingers through the hair at Derek’s nape. “I doubt he came all the way from South America to start trouble.” Derek huffs out a breath and shoots Stiles a look. “Okay, maybe he did. But Danny’s not that trusting, and if he says we need him, I’m willing to hear them out. We’ve got nothing so far and...” he trails off. Derek knows full well how out of their depth they are, how desperate. They breathe together for a moment as Derek weighs their desperation against his distrust, then he nods once and stands up straight.

“You’re right. We can’t afford to turn them away.”

“Very wise,” comes Peter’s voice from the kitchen doorway. The pack is standing apprehensively behind him, ready to pounce if Derek gives them a sign. “You and yours are in some deep trouble, dear nephew. It’s time to listen to your elders.” Peter’s tone is mocking, but the look in his eyes in strangely sincere. Derek says nothing, but steps from Stiles’ side and goes back to his place at the head of the table, sitting down and crossing his arms. The rest of the pack takes this as a sign to sit down as well, and they flood into the kitchen, taking their places and leaving a seat at Derek’s side for Peter.

“Ooh, a place next to the alpha,” Peter says as he sits down, placing his box in front of him. Derek snorts.

“Keep your enemies closer, right Peter?”

“Now that’s just not nice,” Peter says. “And after I came all this way to bring you your present!” He pianoes his fingers along the top of the box. They stare at one another for a moment, Derek angry, Peter cheerful, and it’s Stiles who breaks the tension.

“Oh, give me that!” he snaps, and reaches across to tear the paper from the box. Inside is a wooden crate with its lid nailed shut. Stiles is stymied for a second, wondering how to pry off the lid, then Peter wryly extends a claw and pops it off. Stiles shoots him a look that clearly reads unimpressed, but Peter just smiles back unaffected. Everyone cranes their necks to see into the crate.

A razor thin stone tablet lies nestled in tissue paper with a small canvas bag perched on top. The tablet is covered in faint markings, and every werewolf at the table rears back from the smell emanating from the bag.

“What the fuck is that?” Scott gasps, and Melissa smacks him on the back of the head without looking away from the crate.

“It’s a spell,” Danny says from his place next to Peter. “It’s what’s going to find Erica and Boyd.”

“And the bag?” Jackson asks, nose wrinkled.

“The bag’s what’s going to kill that pesky little witches’ coven,” Peter says with a wink, and the table erupts into chaos.

“Hey, woah! No one said anything about killing anyone!”

“Since when do we trust this guy, Derek, seriously!?”

“That thing smells like it’s going to kill us, not the coven!”

“How the fuck are we supposed to use a tiny bag of ass herbs to kill witches?!”

“Derek, I can’t let you do this! You know I can’t!”

Derek snatches up the lid to the crate and slams it back on the box.

“That’s enough!” he shouts. He jerks away from the table. “Peter. With me, now. Outside.” He stomps over to the sliding door that leads to the balcony and heaves it open. He waits for Peter to step out then turns to look furiously at his pack.

“Just so we’re clear, I’ll kill everyone in that coven if they don’t back down once we find them. And I’ll be very, very unhappy with anyone who tries to stand in my way.” He steps through onto the balcony and slides the glass door shut with a firm ‘click.’ The pack avoids each other’s eyes for a moment, then Jackson punches Danny in the shoulder.

“Ow! What the hell, dude?” Jackson just slumps into his chair.

“Glad you’re alive, asshole. Next time, bring Van Helsing with you. It’ll be less awkward.”

***

Derek leans against the railing, bracing his hands and casting a glance over the surrounding neighborhood, watching his neighbors walk their dogs, jog down the street, smoke on their stoops. Everything seems peaceful in the winter sun.

“What are you really doing here, Peter?” He asks, suddenly very tired. Peter pulls the lapels of his long leather coat closer around him and shrugs.

“Your boy Danny found me in Argentina. I couldn’t have been more surprised when he gatecrashed my takeover of the De Soto pack.” Derek’s eyes snap sideways to Peter, who smirks. “What can I say? I was bored.” Peter crosses his arms and ankles, resting his hip against the rail. “You’ve got a smart one there, nephew.”

“Stop calling me that,” Derek says in a low voice, gripping the iron in his hands. Peter gives another insouciant shrug.

“Regardless of what you think of me, Derek, we’re still family. Still pack. I felt compelled to come to your aide.”

“Bullshit,” Derek snarls. “It’s been eight years, but I still haven’t forgotten Laura.” Peter looks at his feet.


“Would you believe me if I said I hadn’t been myself?” Derek’s face is blank and unforgiving.

Peter clenches his jaw. “Alright then. Forget what happened then, think of what’s happening now. You’ve got two members of your pack who’ve been kidnapped by a coven of mad teenage witches who don’t know their wolfsbane from their assholes, but who still manage to outwit you without breaking a light sweat.” Peter pushes away from the railing and steps into Derek’s space. “Do you really think now is the time to draw lines in the sand about from whom you’ll accept help? I’ve got about ten years on you,” he says with a smile, “and I know what I’m doing. From what I understand, that’s still something you’re struggling with.” He lifts an eyebrow. “You need me, Derek.”

“I don’t-” Derek starts, but Peter cuts him off.

“You do. And you know you do. Your pack knows you do. Danny didn’t bring me here because I wove a tale of woe and convinced him to give me a chance at redemption. He brought me here because I can find your lost lambs before they make it to the slaughter.”

Derek grits his teeth against the thought of finding Erica and Boyd’s corpses on the forest floor. “Fine.” He uncurls his hands from the railing and visibly tries to relax as he turns toward Peter. “How is that tablet supposed to find them?”

Peter grins and steps away, pulling the door open to the kitchen. “That’s for me to know,” he sing-songs, and goes back inside. Derek takes a long moment to imagine throwing himself over the side of the balcony, then he shakes his head and follows.

***

The mood at the table is tense when Derek comes back. Stiles watches him bang around in the kitchen, pulling more pancakes together and ignoring them all. There are no shapes, but Melissa smiles at Derek anyway. John is grimacing into his ‘wheat-bran oatmeal thing’ that tastes like cardboard sprinkled with cat food and Stiles pretends not to notice him sneak bites off Melissa’s plate. Danny dives into his food with gusto, and Lydia raises a questioning eyebrow at his uncharacteristic lack of table manners. He raises his eyebrow back and pointedly pours more syrup over his pancakes. Peter sips at his orange juice and winks at anyone who makes even the briefest of eye contact. The silence is reaching thunderous levels when Allison speaks.

“This may be more awkward than our wedding was,” she observes. Scott snorts out a nervous laugh and Melissa drops her fork to cover her face, groaning.

“Oh, God,” she says. “I had almost blocked it out.”

“I still don’t understand how no one realized inviting the entire pack and Allison’s entire family would be weird,” Isaac says, and the room relaxes a bit as they laugh.

“In our defense,” Stiles says, “we had just gotten our asses handed to us by those werewolves from New York.” Derek drops a stack of dishes into the sink with a crash. Everyone jumps in the their seat except for Stiles, who knows what’s coming.

“They were NOT werewolves!” Derek says, viciously squirting soap into the sink and yanking the faucet into its hottest setting. “They were fucking illusionists with a book of lore and some face paint!” Stiles has heard this rant once a year since the summer they discovered circus folk were not to be trifled with. Especially circus folk with prescient magicians and an all-too-convincing bearded lady.

“I know, honey,” Stiles coos with false sympathy, getting up from the table to pat Derek’s back. Derek snarls at him, but being wrist-deep in soap suds ruins the effect somewhat.

“Well,” John says, laughing, “be that as it may, someone still should have realized our backyard couldn’t hold the Argents, the pack, and your entire graduating class.”

“God, the beer kegs!” Allison says, running a hand over her face. “There we were, trying to have a romantic wedding surrounded by family and friends, and your dumbass lacrosse team brings kegs! Six of them.” Scott bumps fists with Jackson, who had possibly orchestrated the entire thing. It’s been four years, and he still won’t admit to anything.

“Remember that girl with the tattoos?” Scott says to no one in particular. “Allison’s dad thought they were tribal markings for a Woodnymph cult, and he stalked her all night trying to get pictures of them. She pepper-sprayed him!” The table lets out peals of laughter while Allison shakes her head.

“Well, maybe if you hadn’t decided to get hammered and sing Lady Gaga karaoke with Stiles-”

“Hey!” Stiles interjects from Derek’s side. “Karaoke is a classic wedding tradition, and I was merely fulfilling my duties as best man to uphold that!”

“I needed damage control, Stiles, not poorly sung renditions of ‘Poker Face’, which, I might add, led to that Greenburg guy asking me if you and Scott had a ‘thing’ and were trying to let me down gently.”

“At your wedding?!”

“Exactly.” She turns to Scott. “So remind me again why letting Stiles be your best man was your greatest plan ever?”  

“...He helped me carry Boyd upstairs after your uncle doped him with ketamine and tried to draw his blood with a shrimp fork?” Allison winces.

“Uncle Allen has impulse control issues.”

“Uncle Allen has paranoid schizophrenia and uncomfortably easy access to highly controlled substances,” Stiles says as he sits back at the table, Derek in tow. Allison scoffs.

“At least my Uncle-” she stops herself, and everyone shifts an uncomfortable glance at Peter.

“Didn’t bring four bottles of champagne and a tasteful cutlery set with him to your wedding?” He drains the last of his orange juice and gives a tight grin. “Yes, I remember that night too. I gave a speech, if I recall.” Allison and Scott look away.

“Something about loyalty, wasn’t it?” John says casually, flipping a butter knife between his fingers. “Loyalty... and family?” Peter just looks at him, and leans back in his chair.

“That’s right, Sheriff,” he says. “Something like that.” They all look at one another uncomfortably, then down at the table. They jump when Peter abruptly claps his hands together. “So, anyway! Who wants to learn cuneiform?”

There’s a general shuffle while plates are collected, books are distributed, and laptops are booted up. Lydia shifts reluctantly over to a seat next to Peter, because if anyone’s going to pick up cuneiform in the next two days, it’s going to be her. Peter just smiles at her.

“Hello, lovely. How have you been?”

“Perfectly well, thank you,” she says, pushing the lid off the crate and lifting the tablet free. “Perfectly married to two perfectly capable werewolves who will rip your head off if you so much as breathe on me, and that’s after I’m finished with you, so just tell me what I need to know here, alright?” She thrusts the tablet at Peter. He laughs.

“Very well, dear...”

***

“Holy shit!” Lydia cries as she shoots out of her chair. The entire room whips their heads toward her, showing the first signs of excitement in hours. “It’s a triumvirate barter spell!” There’s an expectant silence. “Triumvirate? Power of three? Oh, my God you guys, it’s classic wiccan exchange magic!” Lydia is waving the tablet around like a flag and nodding at all of them, clearly expecting them to jump onto her train of thought. Stiles starts snapping his fingers and humming affirmatives, but she gets blank looks from the rest. She sighs. “Okay, then. For the cheap seats.” She tosses the tablet lightly onto the table and plants her hand on her hip. “This tablet describes a spell whose base language is in repeating patterns of three. It needs three spellcasters, three sacrifices, you see?” Stiles shoves Derek over and reaches over him with both arms to grab a massive book.

“Yes! I read something about that in this one!” He drops it on the table with a thunk and flips through the pages. “Trees... trials... triumvirate! Yeah, it says here ‘a triumvirate may invoke the power of three as three, and with three become thrice three.’” He leans back, disgusted. “Well, that’s just fucking cryptic and unhelpful. I officially hate witches. Hate. This is hate I’m feeling.” He slams shut the book and slumps back in his chair, crossing his arms.

“No, but you just said it!” Lydia says. “Three witches can triple their collective power using this spell.” She jabs her finger at the tablet. “‘Become thrice three’ means they become three times as powerful as they already are!”

“You mean, the coven that we’ve been unable to touch or track over the past couple weeks is about to become three times more capable of kicking our asses?” Isaac asks. Lydia nods.

“Yes, and that’s not the worst part. They only get the power if they make the proper trade.” She looks up and locks eyes with Derek. “It’s Erica and Boyd. Werewolves have an inherent triumvirate; are, according to this, ‘children of the moon and possessed of the cyclic triad - Alpha, Beta, Omega. If they have three witches slaughter three werewolves, they can cube the effects of their spell and increase their returns. If they kill Erica and Boyd, we’re totally screwed.” She shuts the book and sits back down.

“You said they needed three wolves,” Jackson says, wrapping an arm around Lydia’s shoulders. “Can they do it with two?” Lydia shakes her head.

“No. Odds are they’ve already got an Omega, or they’re waiting to spring a trap and kidnap another one of us.”

“Can you track them this way? Knowing what they want?” Danny asks. Lydia shakes her head again more vehemently.

“No! Didn’t you hear me? These kids have power, and have been bartering blood for it for months! They’ll think nothing of trading all of us if it means more mojo, and there is no way of knowing where they are or what they’ve got based on this goddamn tablet!” She picks it up and hurls it at the wall. The paper-thin stone shatters into a million pieces. “There’s just fucking magic and bullshit, and Erica and Boyd are out there with these psychotic assholes and we’re never getting them back!” She pushes away from the table and leaves the kitchen, heading up the stairs into the spare bedroom where the children are taking their nap. The door clicks quietly shut, and the rest of the pack take in the mess scattered on the floor.

“I’ll get the broom,” Isaac murmurs, and gets the small brush and pan set from the pantry. Allison gets up from the table and follows Lydia upstairs, patting Scott’s shoulder as she goes. The rest of them look at Peter.

“What?” he asks innocently. “I didn’t do anything.”

“What did you need Lydia for, if you could read the tablet.” Derek says. “Why put on the show when you could just tell us?”

“I think you just answered your own question there,” Peter replies. “Besides, I didn’t actually know what it said. I just had a hunch it might be useful to you.” Peter’s eyes go to Issac sweeping up the pieces of the tablet into the dustpan Jackson’s holding. “My, my. She still has that temper, doesn’t she.” Derek growls, but it’s Stiles who stands from the table and leans across into Peter’s face.

“Where did you get the tablet,” he asks, voice dark with menace. He cuts off Peter’s next words with a cutting motion of his hand. “And don’t give me any of that cute sassy werewolf bullshit. Tell me the truth.” Peter’s smirk fades into an easy smile.

“The pup’s got bite these days,” he says to Derek. To Stiles he adds, “I’ve always kept up with the news here in town. Just because I’ve been traveling doesn’t mean I don’t still care about my family legacy.” Derek snorts at this. “I heard about the kidnapping, and on the same day discovered a very persuadable psychic in Argentina. Really, a few hours with her and I was able to get all the information I needed.”

“You tortured her?” Scott asks incredulously.

“Please,” Peter scoffs. “We had dinner. I still possess a modicum of charm in my advancing years.” Melissa looks skeptical.

“A couple of drinks and some flattery, and this psychic just gave you the ancient tablet holding all the answers? This isn’t suspicious to anyone?” Peter grins at her and reaches out to pat her hand. John’s back straightens and his focus narrows on Peter’s jugular. Peter ignores him.

“Oh, I don’t think you’ve ever experienced the full effects of my charm, Melissa. But I’d be more than happy to remedy that,” Peter winks at her, which makes Scott and Stiles both slam their hands on the table and shoot up from their seats. John clenches a hand into a fist on the table. Peter backs down with a laugh while Melissa looks unimpressed.

“Alright,” he concedes, throwing up his hands. “The truth is, the psychic did give me the tablet, but all she told me was that it would ‘complete the puzzle of my usurper savior’ and that ‘the answer lies with the red moon’s wane,’ which, to be fair, was the most sense she made that night. Psychics are not fun drunks. I tried to order her a Bloody Mary and she laughed for ten minutes straight. I’m only half-sure why... Anyway, the next afternoon Danny Mahealani of Beacon Hills shows up at the De Soto villa with a video camera in one hand and a Molotov cocktail in the other, causing a very unpleasant scene and getting us both thrown out of the country with little more than the shirts on our backs.” Peter blows Danny a kiss. “I had little choice but to follow him back to the states and give this tablet to you. The fates practically demanded it.” He settles back in his chair with a grin.

“He’s telling the truth,” Danny says from his place at the end of the table. “I busted up his meeting with Luiz, and instead of killing me he followed me back to my hotel and asked a million questions about the pack. That was yesterday.”

“Fine. So he’s got some magic tablet with some shit about threes. What does that mean for us?” Jackson says. Isaac takes up after him, looking at the book next to Stiles, “What the hell does it matter what they get out of it if they kill Erica and Boyd?” He looks pleadingly at Derek. “If they sacrifice them, our pack will be... Heather couldn’t...” he stops and looks at his hands, one thumb rubbing rhythmically over his wedding ring. Derek takes a deep breath.

“That’s not going to happen,” he says. “This information, if it’s accurate, will lead us to the coven. They still need a third wolf because as of three weeks ago, when Erica and Boyd were first taken, there hadn’t been an Omega through Beacon Hills in four years. I’d have been able to tell. They’re still short one sacrifice and they’ve got until tomorrow night.” He pauses and looks around the table at his pack. “Who will they target next?”

“Not any one of us,” Lydia says confidently from the doorway and they all turn to look. Allison is standing behind her with a fierce expression. “They know they can’t touch us right now, we’re too united and on edge.” She strides into the kitchen and sits in between Isaac and Jackson, who don’t move to comfort her except to slide their feet discreetly next to hers underneath the table. She torques both her ankles and whacks them both with her heels.

“There’s got to be an Omega in town,” John says. “Derek, how far out would an Omega have to be for you to miss them?” Derek frowns.

“About thirty miles, but,” he pauses, “it’s been awhile since I’ve actively searched. I’ve been distracted.” Stiles puts his hand over Derek’s and squeezes.

“Can you check now?” Derek nods, and stands up to go back out onto the balcony.

When he’s gone, Stiles turns back to the rest of the table. “Alright, while Derek’s working on that, we need to figure out what this spell is actually capable of, who is capable of performing it, and what it is they need to pull it off besides our pack and some black candles. Lydia,” he raises an eyebrow at her, “since you pulverized the tablet in fit of sexy, justifiable pique, you’re responsible for recreating it so the rest of us rubes can google it.” She sniffs haughtily at him, but snatches a sheet of paper toward herself and takes a Sharpie pen from Jackson.

“Dad, can you check with the police station and see if anyone else has been reported missing within the last few weeks? And Melissa, if you could call the local hospitals and see if anyone’s been brought in with weird wounds? I know we did it last week, but we should check again.” He looks down at the laptop in front of him, then up at Allison. “I need you to get in touch with your family, and see if they’ve dealt with this kind of thing before. We’ve put it off until now, but the full moon’s tomorrow and we’re approaching Desperation Junction after speeding through Oh Shit Station. We need all the help we can get. Speaking of which,” he turns to Peter, “why don’t you write down everything you can remember about your conversation with that psychic. There might be something useful.”

“Yes, my captain,” Peter says with a jaunty salute. Stiles just quirks a grin.

“I like that. From now on, we’re calling me that.” There’s a muttering ‘oh yes of course whatever you say’ that spreads around the table, but Stiles chooses to ignore the tone. Finally, he turns to Isaac, Jackson, and Danny. “As soon as Lydia and Peter are finished, I’m going to need some legit Google Fu up in here. I’m talking Halo 3 levels of intensity.” The guys bump fists, nodding.

“And what about me?” Scott asks. Stiles sighs.

“You? I need you to call Deaton. A week ago he was still hunting that vampire alligator thing down in Florida, and I’m not convinced that’s not bullshit, so whatever it takes, get him on the phone.”

“It’s not bullshit,” Allison says with a shudder. The table turns to look at her closely, but she just rests her hands on her belly and refuses to look up. Scott rubs her back.

“That summer after we broke up? You were in Florida...” he prompts gently. Allison nods and turns her face into Scott’s neck.

“So much screaming,” she whispers, and Scott takes a deep breath to comfort her when she continues, “they make such terrible sounds when you cut off their heads, but of course you have to, I mean, trying to stake an alligator through the heart is an exercise in futility given the...scales.” She lifts her head and everyone’s looking at her wide-eyed. “I was having some issues after Mom died,” she says defensively. “Dad thought I needed an outlet.” Scott kisses her temple and pushes his chair closer to hers.

“Ooookay,” Stiles says, “Scott’s going to e-mail Deaton so as not to interrupt his vampire alligator killing and, hopefully, get some ideas as to how we’re supposed to stop this spell getting off the ground.”

“And you?” Danny asks.

“Me?” Stiles says. “I’m going to make lunch.” There’s a lot of grumbling about ‘pack mom privileges’ and ‘alpha’s pet’ and ‘dictator being spelled with a ‘k’’, but they all shut up when Stiles, a while later, serves warm chicken-and-dumplings and pumpkin pie.

As Stiles is adding the last dollop of whipped cream to Jackson’s piece, Derek comes through the balcony door. Before Stiles can hand him his plate, he says, “There’s an Omega at Beacon Hills Medical. And she’s injured.”

“What kind of injury?” Melissa asks.

“It’s something serious, that’s all I know. Her... signal is weak,” he says, shuffling his feet. Derek’s Alpha-inherited ability to sense other werewolves isn’t something he finds particularly comfortable given that most of the werewolves he senses are either obnoxiously having sex with one another or under the age of five. Derek says he’s both disturbed and put-off by this ability, so he shuts it down as often as he can.

“Alright,” Stiles says, briskly clapping and rubbing his hands together. “Sound’s like we’ll need a distraction once we get there so Derek can do his thing. I love a good distraction. Scott?” Stiles locks eyes with his best friend, partner in crime, and the one most likely to have something loud and chaotic stashed in the trunk of his car. Scott grins.

“I’ve got us covered.”

“Then let’s get this show on the road,” Stiles says with a nod, standing up from his chair and performing an intricate handshake with Scott. The pack follows, and the disgusted look Lydia levels at all of them as they stand and shove their pie into their mouths is pretty epic but, to be fair, so is the pie.

“Ugh, that’s not right,” she says, turning to grab her purse and make for the front door, stopping to kiss the children’s cheeks on her way out.

“Maybe not,” Scott says through a mouthful of pie, “but it’s worth it.”

“Aw, you say the sweetest things,” Stiles says. He grabs his keys off the breakfast bar and follows Lydia out, hugging the kids one by one before leaving with Derek on his heels. Allison shrugs her jacket over her belly, then stops in the den and watches the girls play.

“They can’t stay here alone,” she says. John clasps her on the shoulder.

“I’ll stay,” he says, easing himself down on the couch. “You don’t need this old man with you, and I’d like to spend a little time with the grandchildren while I have the chance.” He leans forward and hands Vanessa a tiny plastic sword for her knight, who is doing battle with a stuffed purple dragon. “You sure you don’t want to stay?” He looks pointedly down at her pregnant belly and adds,” I could use another set of hands. Your girl’s a feisty one.” Allison smiles and blinks away wetness from her eyes.

“That she is. But she’s going to need her Uncle Boyd and Aunt Erica if she wants to ever learn anything about literature, poetry, or raging militant feminism, so I’ve really got to go. I’ve got to help get them back for her, and for Heather...”

“And for the pack, I know,” John says with a soft smile. “Get going, it’ll be alright. Just be careful, and get the rest of our family home, okay?” Allison quirks a warm smile and leaves, kissing foreheads as she goes. The rest of the pack follows, and Peter even takes a second to ruffle everyone’s hair, winking at John on his way out.

Gathered in the parking lot, the pack argues over who’s car to take to the hospital.

“Alright,” Stiles starts, “I can already tell you. I’m driving.” He stands next to the driver’s side of his Jeep and crosses his arms. “Who’s with me?” A number of hands go up, and he looks pleased. “Glad to see you all know where the style is,” he says, petting the Jeep behind his back. Jackson rolls his eyes and rubs the hood of his own Corvette.

“Style? That car isn’t worthy of the name ‘junk,’ nevermind ‘style,’” Jackson says, sweeping his gaze over the Jeep and back to Stiles, raising his eyebrow. Stiles huffs out an indignant scoff and croons to his baby that ‘the bad man didn’t mean it’ and ‘I’ll make it up to you, I swear.’

“Okay, I can take four, so whoever doesn’t want to ride with either Stiles or Jackson can come with me.” Danny says, striding over to his rental and jangling the keys. Seven hands go up.

“Oh, come on!” Stiles says, pouting. “It won’t be that bad! I promise not to play my Pandora presets if we can just get on the road already!” He hops into his Jeep and leans against the steering wheel. Melissa climbs in the passenger seat and buckles in.

“Let’s go!” she yells out the window, and Scott, Allison, and Derek all jump and pile in after her. Scott stashes the small duffle bag he grabbed from his car in the back next to Allison’s bow, and raps his knuckles against the back of Stiles’ seat. Lydia, Jackson, Isaac, and Peter dive into Danny’s rental, and they take off toward Beacon Hills Medical.

***

At night, the hospital resembles nothing so much as a wretched and hungry behemoth, a tall glass-and-concrete box where people come to die. Stiles shivers in remembered distaste and parks the car.

“Okay, Derek, we’re here. Where’s this Omega?” He beats his thumbs against the steering wheel like drumsticks and rocks forward in his seat. Melissa reaches across and rests her hand against his, soothing Stiles’ nerves and calming his mind. They share eye contact for a brief moment before Danny’s car pulls up next to them and everyone starts jumping out.

“Do we have a game plan, or are we just rushing in like fools?” Lydia asks, tone weary and knowing.

“Rushing in like fools,” Stiles says, confirming the suspicion in Lydia’s tone. “We need to find and sequester this Omega,” he continues. “The coven can do fuck-all without their third werewolf, so our main goal here is to protect her at all costs. Does everyone have their kit?” He holds up a plastic box that looks like a first aid kit. Inside is a tranq pistol, some wolfsbane, a healing elixir, and a silver garrote wire. Each human member of the pack holds up their box, except Allison, who holds up her bow. “Every wolf have their game face on?” The wolves bare their sharp teeth, except for Peter who just grins wolfishly. Stiles glowers at him. “Scott, you have the-” Scott kicks his shin, “stuff we already talked about, okay good, let’s do this!” and marches forward into the Visitor’s Only entrance of the hospital.

“We’re here to see someone,” he declares to the nurse on duty. The nurse glares impassively at Stiles’ announcement.

“Most people are. Name?”

“Uh,” he stammers, at a loss. Melissa pipes in.

“Summers. We’re here to see Cassie Summers.” she says, pushing past everyone else and nodding at the nurse. “Hey, Jackie. Can you let us up?”

“Who are all these people?” Jackie asks.

“Family,” Melissa states plainly. Jackie looks skeptical, but she nods the pack through the metal detectors framing the doorway. Melissa smiles a ‘thank you’ at her and they all plow through the double doors. On the other side, Scott looks at his mom.

“She’s a patient on my floor,” Melissa says. “She’ll get us upstairs, but I’m going to need a bit more magic than ‘family’ to get us past the graveyard shifters.”

“Sounds like a great scary movie,” Stiles says, fidgeting with his knife. “Graveyard Shifters, gravediggers by day, flesh-eating zombies by night, prepared to take over the world with a single bite...” he looks up and sees everyone staring at him. “Um, another time perhaps.” He stills his hands at his sides.

“You’re almost twenty-five, for God’s sake,” Lydia says, tossing her hair. “Haven’t you learned to stay focused for more than two minutes?” Her tone is exasperated and fond in the same measure, and Stiles grins. He’s about to interject some smart remark, but Peter clears his throat.

 

“Excuse me, but don’t we have a purpose here?” Derek frowns at him, but closes his eyes. Stiles knows he’s concentrating on whatever it is inside him which seeks out his own kind. A moment later, he jerks his head up and strides toward the elevator.

“Fourth floor,” he says, pushing the UP button. There’s a brief second of dead silence before a tinny ‘ding’ signals the elevator’s arrival. Everyone piles in, gripping their kits close to them, making and dropping eye contact, preparing themselves for whatever awaits them on the fourth floor.

A soft chime sounds, the doors open, and the pack takes a collective, fortifying breath as they see the phalanx of nurses standing outside what can only be the Omega’s door. Their eyes are glassy, their postures stiff, and each one is carrying a taser wand.

“They’ve got to be under some kind of spell,” Scott whispers, leaning in closer to Derek’s back as Danny pops open his kit for his tranq gun. The other humans in the pack follow, and the wolves extend their claws.

“No shit, Sherlock,” Melissa says. Peter snorts out a laugh, and the nurses turn their dead eyes toward them at the sound.

“Go!” Derek shouts, hurtling out of the elevator and tackling a large MRI technician to the floor. Scott and Stiles rip open the duffle bag and pull out a handful each of flash grenades. The hospital corridor erupts in flashing pulses of bright light and deafening sound. Scott, Jackson, and Isaac spread out behind Derek, growling and gnashing their teeth. Lydia, Stiles, and Danny fan out and begin tranquilizing people from behind. Allison lifts her bow, pulling her hand back to her cheek, and lets a rubber-tipped arrow fly into someone’s stomach. She steps from the elevator, already drawing another arrow from her quiver. A whip-thin male orderly comes barreling toward her, clutching a scalpel in one hand. She grabs a knife from her boot and turns to brace herself, shielding her belly, but Peter dives into his side and smashes the orderly’s head into the floor. Allison spares a moment to nod gratefully before she’s drawn back to the chaos, shooting arrows into the melee.

For a while, there is nothing but noise and violence and blood. When the dust settles, there are bodies lining the corridors, breathing thickly and dripping blood from shallow wounds. To a man, they’re unconscious; the pack is checking over each other, fussing over injuries while Danny checks the pulses of those on the ground. Derek shrugs off Stiles attentions and stalks into the Omega’s room.

As it happens, the Omega actually is Cassie Summers, and she’s guarded by a single person - a short, slight, twitchy girl who meets Derek’s eyes once before looking away.

“You’re too late,” she says, clutching Cassie’s arm tight and worrying a stone in her other hand. “The moon of sacrifice approaches, and naught but the Triad will see its wane.”

“Do they teach you shit like that in witch school, or did you make it up on your own?” Stiles says, coming up behind Derek. He’s covered in blood spatter and gripping one of the nurse’s taser wands in his hand.

“You mock what you do not understand!” the girl shouts, and she whips the stone at the ground, a crack sounding in the air as it breaks open. “You will live only long enough to regret that mistake!” Smoke rises rapidly from the stone, filling the room and choking Derek and Stiles with its smell. Derek rushes forward to where the girl had been standing, but his hands meet air. A quick pawing over the bed reveals that Cassie is gone, too.

“Fuck!” Derek shouts, ripping the sheets from the hospital bed and throwing them to the floor. “Goddamn it!” He proceeds to tear apart the room, crashing his knees and elbows into the walls in fury. Stiles steps out quietly and turns toward the rest of the pack.

“Derek just needs a minute.”

“The Omega?” Jackson asks, working a kink out of his shoulder. He’d thrown a 280 pound orderly over his head and was paying for it.

“She was taken. By a witch,” Stiles says with a wince.

“She-” Melissa starts. “-that’s Cassie’s room. You’re saying she’s the Omega?! But... but she’s only ten!”

“I don’t know, I guess? But that doesn’t matter because some tiny Bellatrix wannabe just zapped her out of there with the Sorcerer’s Stone, and now we’re back to square one. Derek’s just,” Stiles flinches at another crash from Cassie’s room, “dealing with that.”

“Stiles, Cassie’s just a little girl!” Melissa is gripping Stiles by the arm and shaking him a little. “She can’t be a werewolf!” Stiles is stunned by Melissa’s vehemence. Her eyes are strained with incredulity and fear, and he can do little else but shake his head.

“I don’t know, Melissa. The witch took her. She seemed to think Cassie was the key to their ‘moon sacrifice.’ Maybe she’s a born wolf, like Derek, or the witch got it wrong, but either way we’re back to where we started.” He pulls her in and hugs her, but it’s no more than an instant before she pulls back again.

“What are we going to do?” she says, looking at all the people passed out and bloody on the hospital floor, listening to the patients in the other rooms shout and call for help. They must have been spelled into silence, or possibly Stiles had been too laser-focused to hear them scream in fright. He drops his taser to the floor and presses his hands to his eyes.

“I don’t know.”

***

They make it back to Stiles and Derek’s place. A pile of weapons accumulates in the kitchen next to Derek’s mountain of unopened birthday gifts. Showers are taken, late-night snacks are eaten, and the parents collect their children, heading upstairs to the guest rooms for the night. Peter sprawls out in an armchair in the den, propping his feet up and snuggling into his leather duster. John takes Heather, after kisses from her Uncles, and climbs onto the pull-out sofa with Melissa, curling around the little girl and falling into a fitful sleep.

Derek and Stiles strip and crawl into their bed, face-to-face and restless.

“You never got to open your presents,” Stiles says, brushing the tips of his fingers over Derek’s face. Derek shrugs and licks Stiles’ fingers.

“I never got my cake, either.”

“That is just unacceptable,” Stiles says. He presses in close, his chest bumping up against Derek’s. He tucks his knobby knee in between muscular ones and kisses delicately under Derek’s jaw. “You were awesome tonight,” he whispers, digging his fingers into Derek’s back and rolling his hips forward. “A ferocious and terrifying warrior. You scared the shit out of that witchy girl.” Derek bites Stiles’ shoulder harshly.

“She got away, Stiles, did you miss that? That was decidedly not awesome.”

“We’ll figure something out in the morning,” Stiles says reassuringly, petting Derek’s behind and shoving even closer into his space. “You know what she smells like now. You could track her.”

“If I can get close enough to her to track, Stiles! She’s-” Stiles cuts him off by grinding his body into Derek’s and licking obscenely into the hollow behind his ear.

“We’ll deal with it in the morning. There are still,” he glances at the alarm clock, “seven minutes left of your birthday, and we’re not going to spend them angsting over shit we can’t change, okay?” Derek looks skeptical, but Stiles shimmies against him and scoots down the bed, wrapping his arms around Derek’s waist and whispering into his hip, “Just let me...”

Derek lets him, and Stiles thinks that even if everything gets totally fucked tomorrow, they’ll still have this, they’ll still have each other.

***

The next morning is, impossibly, more chaotic than the one previous. Instead of just Derek, Stiles, and Heather, there are thirteen people clamoring for bathroom time and clean towels and Derek is genuinely reconsidering selling his old house because at least it has space even if it is a burnt-out husk when Stiles wraps his arms around him from behind at the stove, kisses his neck, and Derek remembers that his decision to start a new life with his insane, ridiculous, needy, adorable pack is for his sanity, despite all appearances to the contrary. He pokes the cinnamon buns in their pan, declares them done, and presents them to a teeming hoard of hungry, out-of-control monsters... and the werewolves.

A while later, once the moaning and groaning over sinfully and deliciously iced carbohydrates has ceased - mostly because Allison’s not really awake enough to keep going on about them -  the pack gathers in the den to talk. They pile over every available piece of furniture and snuggle into every warm body. The children gather in the center, laying on their stomachs and coloring, kicking their feet into the nearby adults.

“Alright. Well. Last night was not a success,” Stiles starts, leaning his weight into Derek’s side on the floor.

“It wasn’t a total failure,” Scott says from the couch, clearly trying to make everyone feel better. “We found out who the Omega is. And that the witch is afraid of Derek.” Allison squeezes the hand Scott has in her lap and turns toward Melissa.

“Is there something about Cassie we can use to find the coven? Something besides being a werewolf?”

“Her parents died in a car accident, and she was severely wounded,” Melissa begins. “Internal injuries, broken bones... I suppose now that I think about it she’s been healing remarkably quickly. I can’t imagine what the coven wants from her. She’s got no family, no insurance, and to be honest, the hospital was about to turf her to the state since she couldn’t pay any of her bills. Cassie is...”

“Alone,” Derek interrupts. “She fits the Omega profile - without a pack, she doesn’t have the full recuperative abilities of a Beta, so she’ll be vulnerable, easy to subdue.  She’s definitely the one the coven needs to complete their spell.”

“The spell they’re casting tonight,” Peter says. “It’s time. Tonight’s the full moon.”

“Thank you, Peter, we all know when the full moon is,” Stiles snaps. “What we don’t know is how to get anywhere near the coven so Derek can track Cassie, Erica, Boyd, or that f...reaking witch from last night!” Stiles says, shooting a glance at the kids.

“Well, not Derek...” Danny starts, and the pack turns as one to look at him, sitting on the ottoman and checking his iPhone. “I just mean, if he got close Derek could track by smell but... blood.” He looks up, takes in everyone’s startled expressions, and puts his phone away. “Blood magic isn’t based on proximity, it’s based on genetics. We could find Erica and Boyd through Heather.” Danny shrugs and looks abashed. “But I guess you all must have tried that already. Nevermind.” Lydia and Stiles look at each other.

“We thought about it,” Lydia says, hesitantly. “But...”

“Blood magic is dark, violent... painful. I just never wanted to use Heather to...” Stiles trails off. Danny shrugs again, sinking back into the wall and accepting Jackson’s reassuring pat to the ankle. Lydia and Stiles share another look and Derek frowns as Stiles exhales slowly, levering himself up and heading into the kitchen. He hears him kick aside a chair and reach into the pile of books still stacked on the kitchen table, yanking one free. Stiles returns to the den and slides back down to the floor, flipping through the book.

“We might not have a choice,” Stiles says, Derek leaning over his shoulder, perched on one knee and craning his neck to read the words spelling out some of the ugliest magic known to man. “Erica and Boyd are dead tonight if we don’t find them, and then Heather doesn’t have parents... We’re so screwed,” Stiles says. Everyone falls silent when a small hand touches his leg.

“Uncle Stiles,” Heather says, brown eyes wide and luminous as they peer up at him, “I want to help.” She blinks and pats her hands over Stiles’. “I miss them a lot, and it’s been a long time since Daddy told me a story, and I love your pancakes but Mommy makes them better and-” Heather breaks off to start crying, and Stiles scoops her up in his arms and croons soft reassurances to her while rocking back and forth. Derek slams shut the book and presses his hand to Heather’s back, supporting her.

“Shh, baby, it’s alright,” Derek says, shooting a look at everyone gathered around them. He jerks his chin up, and they back up a little, giving them space. “If you’re sure, we can try this.” Derek kisses her forehead as Stiles pulls away from burying his face in her neck. He looks her in the eye. “It might hurt a little. Well, it might hurt a lot... Heather, I’m so sorry.” A few tears run down Stiles’ face at this, and he cuddles Heather close again.

“You have to do it, son,” his dad says from his place on the couch. His eyes are compassionate, understanding.

“It’ll be alright,” Lydia says, wiping tear tracks from her face and gathering the book from Derek. “I’ll get set up in the kitchen. Allison?” Allison nods and pushes herself from the couch. She touches the top of Heather’s head as she goes. Derek watches Stiles sniff and pull himself together while he holds the little girl close.

“Okay then,” Stiles says, clearing his throat, “Danny, why don’t you go help Lydia and Allison set up the spell. Jackson, Isaac, you’ll probably be needed for ingredient gathering, if I know my black magic.” They all jump up and go into the kitchen, clearly grateful to be away from the crying. “Melissa, Dad, can you watch over Vanessa while we set up? The invasion of Castle Greyskull is only half completed, and that’s just not on.” Melissa and John nod and lead Vanessa toward the corner of the room where Heather’s toys are scattered around in classic Roman formation.

Scott, Derek, Stiles, and Peter look at Heather, who is curled in Stiles’ lap and fiddling with her princess slippers.

“Do you think they will come back?” Heather asks, turning her head up to look at her Uncle Derek, her Alpha, the one who makes everything okay.

“Of course they will,” Derek says, chucking her under the chin and kissing her forehead again. “With me, the pack, and your Uncle Stiles on the case, we can’t fail.” Stiles smiles at Derek through tears over Heather’s shoulder and knocks their knees together. Scott gets that sappy look on his face that means ‘everything is made of sunshine’ and Peter just looks intrigued.

“What do we need from the little poppet to make this magic happen?” Peter asks, resting his chin on his steepled fingers. “A bit of blood and some fairy dust?” The mood drops immediately, and Stiles glares viciously at Peter.

“Something a bit more significant than that,” he bites out, standing and passing Heather to Scott before stomping into the kitchen to help prepare for what’s to come. Heather burrows deep into Scott’s hold, shivering - just a little - when Derek hauls an unrepentant Peter from the den and delivers a vitriol-laden lecture about tact out in the hallway, listening all the while for Heather’s heartbeat.

“Don’t worry, sugar,” Derek hears Scott says softly. “Uncle Derek is just making sure Peter remembers his manners. Do you remember your manners?” Heather perks up.

“Yes, Uncle Scott! Please and thank you!” Scott laughs.

“Very good! Do you remember what we say when we get a piece of candy from the Special Treat Drawer?”

“Thank you very much!”

“Are you sure?” Scott asks with a lightly confused tone. “I thought it was, ‘Feed me, feed me, I’m a hungry wolf!’” Heather giggles.

“No, Uncle Scott! It’s ‘thank you very much!’ I promise!”

“Well, we’re just going to have to get a piece of candy from the drawer and test it, because I’m pretty sure it’s ‘feed me, feed me.’” Derek comes back into the room in time to see Scott tickle her while she laughs riotously and wriggle in his arms. Scott carries Heather into the kitchen, her laughter brightening the dour room, and digs out a piece of chocolate from a cabinet. The pack, clustered around the table and fretting over archaic Latin and obscure herbs, smiles fondly at their antics. Allison rests a hand on her stomach and leans into Lydia, who presses a kiss into her hair and catches Stiles’s eyes. He’s sharing a book with Isaac who is laughing with Danny, who turns to wink at Jackson who’s grinning at Allison and they’re all thrumming with love for one another, and in that moment Derek is struck by the knowledge that they’re going to pull this off.

“We’re going to pull this off,” Stiles says aloud, and Derek grins fiercely with the knowledge that Stiles saw it, too. The pack turns to look at him. “We’ve got the numbers, we’ve got the drive. All the coven wants is power. We’re Harrison Ford in The Fugitive. We’re Harrison Ford in Air Force One. We want our family back!” There’s a brief silence following this, then Peter pipes up from the doorway.

“I liked Patriot Games,” he says, sliding into the kitchen and past Derek with a smirk.

“The sequel was better,” Derek says, then feels embarrassed that he’d had an opinion at all. Stiles huffs a laugh and blows a kiss to Derek from across the room, then he sinks down into his seat next to Lydia.

“Alright, Yoda. Teach me what you know about blood magic.” Lydia gives him a playfully vicious look over the book she’s reading.

“Call me Yoda again and I remove your hand, Skywalker.”

“That you know Star Wars well enough to threaten me with it is so hot,” Stiles says with a sigh. Jackson and Isaac edge into Lydia’s personal space and glare at Stiles who just grins and starts taking notes, ignoring Scott and Heather across the room giggling and eating chocolate. Derek takes a deep breath, and joins them.

***

For all that it takes them the entire day to prepare, the ritual itself is simple. All they really need is some chanting, a few mildly exotic ingredients simmered into an elixir, and Heather’s blood. Not even all that much blood, just enough to fill a small stone basin etched in pagan runes.

“Really. It’s a very small bowl.”

“It’s still a bowl, Stiles! A bowl of blood!”

“No one ever said blood magic was easy, Hale, so quit being so mincing about it and get the hell over here,” Lydia cuts in, and points sharply at the empty chair next to their open books and unlit candles. It had taken them a few hours to memorize the spells, collect the ingredients from Deaton, and concoct a truly noxious potion that Heather would have to drink before “her blood was spilt by the righteous blade seeking knowledge and a true path.” Convincing the others to follow through was costing time they didn’t have.

“Derek, seriously, I know this looks hinky, but I swear we wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t necessary,” Stiles implores Derek over the shimmering contents of the jam-jar-slash-water-glass that held most of the day’s hard work. “I need you to hold her, keep her calm, and heal her when we’re done. It won’t take long, and it won’t even hurt all that much.”

“Bowl of blood, Stiles!” Derek shouts.

“For Christ’s sake!” Lydia shouts back. “Do you think we’d be doing this if we had a choice? Nightfall is in less than two hours and we’re fucking desperate! We’ve got to move on this!” She flips through a book on the table and stabs her finger into a passage. “‘That person seeking both the journey and the destination must first consume the way with which to see the path, and pledge the stuff of will. Then will one’s feet be set upon the course.’ That means Heather drinks the potion, gives the blood, and we see on this map where her parents are. And then we go get them. I realize this is difficult, for all of us, but it’s what we’ve got. And we need to finish it. Now.”

Derek looks between Stiles and Lydia for a beat, then shifts his eyes to the others. He gets encouraging nods and affirmative mumblings from everyone, and Stiles practically feels him cave in.

“Alright,” Derek says, sitting in the kitchen chair and clenching his fists in his lap. “Let’s do it.” Stiles leans over and kisses Derek briefly before calling Heather in from the living room.

“Is it time?” she asks, holding a stuffed knight and trying not to look scared.

“It is, Jellybean. But you know what? I’m going to be here the whole time,” Derek says, scooping her up into his lap. “Your Auntie Lydia and Uncle Stiles know how to find your Mom and Dad, but they need you to do a couple things first. You ready?” Heather nods, and Derek turns to Stiles. “Okay.”

Stiles closes his eyes for a moment, then turns to the stove to grab a bubbling saucepan. He delicately pours half the contents into the jam jar in front of Derek, mixing it with the moonstone liquid already inside. There is a flash of light, and the jar glows.

“She needs to drink it,” Lydia whispers. Derek lifts the glass and hands it to Heather. She grimaces, but takes it and starts swallowing, gulping and tilting the glass until it’s empty. She shivers violently once it’s drained and throws the glass across the table.

She heaves a disgusted sound, shuddering and shaking, and about ten seconds later her eyes widen so far everyone at the table can see the whites of her eyes as they roll back in her head.

“Heather!” Derek screams, pulling her close and grabbing ineffectually at her. “Heather!”
“She needs to give the blood now, Derek! Right now!” Stiles shouts over Heather’s gasps and Derek’s panic. The rest of the pack has pushed up out of their chairs and is pressed in, trying to make sure Heather’s alright without disrupting the spell. Derek shoots Stiles a frightened look, but takes the knife from the table and holds her arm over the stone basin. “Now, Derek,” Stiles says again.

Derek presses the blade into Heather’s forearm, drawing lightly across and pulling forth a well of blood. It slides down her arm and drips off the tips of her fingers, filling the basin one drop at a time; once the first drop hits the stone, Heather stops shaking and her eyes close.  Derek presses his ear against her chest, careful not to shift her from over the bowl.

“Her heart is racing,” he says, “but steady. She’ll be alright.” The pack breathes a sigh and sits back down. After a minute, Lydia and Stiles deem the basin full enough and draw it away. Melissa moves immediately to bandage the wound, but Stiles stops her.

“She’s not done yet,” Stiles says quietly, eyes downcast.

“You said it was just a drink and some blood,” Derek says.

“I know I did.” Stiles takes a breath. “I lied.”

Derek looks murderous, and he pulls Heather into his body protectively. “What else could there possibly be? This is enough.”

“Not quite,” Lydia says, and sets a heavy leather tome between her and Stiles. They look at each other, and drink half the bowl of blood each.

“What the-” Derek starts, but Lydia and Stiles ignore him and begin chanting. The ancient words fill the air, softly at first, Stiles’ low murmur mixed with Lydia’s soft whisper. Latin and magic entwine in the space between them, nearly visible, then their voices start to rise. The chanting gets louder, deeper, they lean forward and brace themselves on the table, sweating and heaving for breath as they cast their enchantment together. They jolt, reaching out to grasp each other’s hand and from nowhere, a violent breeze wreaks havoc on the room. Stiles and Lydia’s voices reach to shout over the gale, and Derek huddles around Heather while the rest of the pack takes cover from the debris where they can. Stiles’ eyes flash white, matching Lydia’s, before the wind stops abruptly, slamming the spellbook shut and leaving a deafening silence where there was only voluminous noise.

There is an instant where no one so much as breathes, before Heather lets out a piercing wail of pain.

Derek is so startled that he rears back, unseating Heather and barely catching her before she falls off his lap. She’s crying giant sobs of agony, curling around herself as if trying to hold the pain in one manageable place.

“What is it?” Allison cries. The pack is frozen, unable to move in closer for fear of hurting the little girl further.

“She’s seeing!” Lydia yells over Heather’s wailing. She shoves a stack of books out of the way and lays flat a map of Beacon Hills. “Let her go, Derek!” She gets a mutinous look in return. “Hand her a fucking crayon and back off. She’s trying to express what she’s just been given, and it’s hurting her. Let her go!”

Derek lets go of the screaming, wounded girl with a pained gasp. He takes deep breaths that do little to calm him and Stiles can see that he wants to snatch her back into his arms. He gives a firm shake of his head, and Derek levels a vicious glare in return.

Heather climbs onto the table, tears subsiding in favor of gulping breaths, and grabs a highlighter from Isaac’s spot. She looks at the map, not seeing through her own eyes at all, and scrawls a messy line from one end to the other. At least, that’s what it looks like. She collapses on the table, exhausted or asleep or unconscious, and it’s not until Melissa gathers her up and bundles her away into the den with the other children that everyone can see that the highlighter line stops in the woods.

In the backyard of Derek’s motherfucking house.

“Oh, no they didn’t,” Peter says.

There’s a mad scramble for weapons and jackets as Derek shoves up from the table and roars through the kitchen like a whirlwind. His expression reminds Stiles of the earliest days of their acquaintance, a look he hasn’t seen on Derek’s face in years. Stiles races to his side and catches his arm.

“You need to calm down, Derek. We’re going into this blind and I need you to stay focused on the rescue.” He gets a blank nothing in return, but he can feel Derek’s rage pulsing through him. “I’m serious! Those kids have been abusing magic for weeks, and they’re taking shortcuts like crazy. Their magic is unstable and unpredictable, but it’s powerful.”

“They’re teenagers. Their only defenses so far has been staying hidden and taking hostages. Now that we know where they are, we can take them by surprise. We can kill them.”

“That’s not how it works, Derek!” Stiles shouts. The rest of the pack pauses what they’re doing. “With regular barter magic you sacrifice a chicken, you level up. Plus fifty witchy points and some fancy boots to match. They’ve been sacrificing cattle, and since last week? People.”

“I know all this, Stiles,” Derek says, trembling with restrained energy.

“Taking the power from three werewolves on the full moon is,” Lydia cuts in, hesitating, “ambitious, especially for such reckless, moronic amateurs. They’re likely to kill themselves before they even accomplish anything, but they’ll kill Erica and Boyd in the attempt.”

“We just need to be careful,” Stiles finishes. “Steamrolling into the woods to exact our revenge isn’t going to get Heather’s parents back, especially if you cause the pack to lose control of their wolves tonight because their alpha’s gone all rogue.”

Derek takes a deep breath, visibly calming himself down, and looks back over his shoulder to the rest of the pack.

“Erica and Boyd are coming home if it takes burning that house down all over again,” is all he says before he leaves the apartment, the front door swinging on its hinges in his wake.

“Well,” Isaac says with a rueful smirk, “he seemed perfectly in control to me.” Stiles and Lydia punch him in either arm and they follow Derek. The pack piles out after them. Melissa stays behind this time to watch after the kids, but she readies the bathroom and the bedrooms for triage knowing without a doubt that someone will come back bleeding.

In the parking lot, everyone piles into Danny’s rental and the Jeep. John shakes his own keys.

“I’ll follow in the cruiser. Just in case.” Stiles nods in agreement and claps his father on the shoulder before pulling him into a hug. “Good luck, son.”

“You too, Dad.” There’s another exchange of manly pats on the back, then they’re off. It’s less than an hour until sundown and they’ve got a ways to drive.

***

The full moon is just beginning to outshine the faded sunlight when they screech to a halt beside the road, about two miles from Derek’s old house. Everyone spills out into the road as quietly as they can, which isn’t very. Stiles, still in his driver’s seat, catches Lydia’s eyes as she nods sharply at the glow of a perimeter spell she notices in the depths of the woods. He nods back and kills his engine.

He hops out of the Jeep, awkward and tangled in his seatbelt. It isn’t that he’s nervous, it’s just that the thigh holster for his knife that he’s been trying to fasten one-handed for the past six miles is digging into his balls.

“For fuck’s sake! How does this thing even...” he trails off when Derek comes around the front of the Jeep, pushes Stiles into its side, and cinches the straps of the holster in two quick, efficient motions. “Great. I have to go into battle with a hard on. This is my life.” Derek kisses Stiles once, brief and hard, before going to the trunk to help Allison assemble her kit.

“I didn’t see that,” John says, walking toward them. The police cruiser is parked a few yards away behind some trees. Stiles doesn’t blush. It’s been six years, and his dad ‘hasn’t seen’ worse. Instead, Stiles straightens and accepts the gun John hands him. It’s his backup service pistol, only to be used in emergencies.

“Thanks,” Stiles says, checking the clip and tucking it into the thigh holster next to his hunter’s knife. Lydia reaches into the footwell of Danny’s rental and draws out a large canvas bag.

“They’ll have barricaded themselves in tonight so nothing interrupts them,” Lydia says, slamming the car door shut and reaching into the bag to pull out a small pot. “But now that we know exactly where they are - and that Derek has a previous claim to the territory - we can cut through it.” She dips her fingers into the pot and steps forward to draw a sigil on Stiles’ forehead. He returns the favor and they go around painting the same symbol on everyone. “This will trick the spell into believing you’re an animal. It will mask your appearance, but talking will destroy the illusion, so keep it shut.”

“You got that, people?” Stiles finishes, “Don’t say anything. Don’t swear when you trip over a root, don’t laugh when Jackson inevitably walks into a tree, and don’t sneeze. Sneezing is a dead giveaway, okay?” Stiles dodges the punch Jackson aims at his arm and walks over to the back of the Jeep. “Scott was genius enough to bring the wireless radio earwig things he uses to cheat at paintball, so everyone take one and put it in your ear and once we get inside the locus of the spell we’ll be able to talk to each other again.” He takes one for himself and his father, and tosses one to Derek with a wink.

“Talk softly,” Scott chimes in, handing a set to Danny. “For some of us, normal volume hurts like a bitch.” This time it’s Allison who whacks Scott upside the head for swearing. He grins at her and rubs the spot. “Sorry, honey.” Lydia takes earbuds for herself, Jackson, and Isaac, adjusts the tiny microphones and presses them into their ears with a kiss.

It’s been weeks since the coven has been terrorizing Beacon Hills from behind a veil of magic, and almost as long since the pack’s had Erica’s ferociousness and Boyd’s strength at their side. Each one is more than ready to kick ass, to bring their family home.

Allison’s got her bow and quiver of arrows, each tipped in some mysterious concoction that Lydia swore up and down wasn’t harmful to the baby, yet stored in lead jars anyway. Lydia herself is armed with a Peacemaker Stun Baton and brass knuckles. Scott, Jackson, and Isaac all refuse to carry weapons other than their teeth and claws, although back at the house Scott had asked if he could bring his old lacrosse stick, just to see Allison laugh and his mother roll her eyes. Danny’s got a wicked little fish boning knife that he picked up in a tourist shop in Hawaii. The handle’s got a picture of Elvis on it, but the blade is sharp and deadly.

Like the other wolves, Derek isn’t packing anything but himself, but he presses a field first aid kit into Stiles' hands and waits impatiently while Stiles adjusts its weight across his back. Peter grins and snaps his teeth. John’s got his gun, his handcuffs, and his badge.

They’re ready.

***

“Thirty-five minutes,” Derek says. Darkness has fallen, and there is a growing sense of excitement emanating from the forest as the full moon takes hold. “We go in as a unit. Stay silent, walk fast, and keep control of your wolves,” he says, glancing sternly at the Betas. “Once Lydia and Stiles give the signal, we’ll be able to communicate, but we’re going to run this simple and easy. Keep your eyes open at all times, watch each other’s backs, and maintain our objective. We’re here for Erica and Boyd, and to rescue that little girl.”

“Of course, if an opportunity for vengeance happens to fall into our laps, I wouldn’t say no,” Peter says. His fangs glisten in his wicked grin.

“Oh, be quiet,” Stiles huffs. “Let’s get moving.”

The pack arranges itself like a flock of birds. A solid and unshakable “V” pours into the forest in perfect sync. Derek is in the lead, with Scott and Peter on either side. Unfolding behind them are Isaac and Jackson, then Lydia and Stiles. Allison takes up position in the center and watches the treetops. Danny and John trail behind, walking backwards and covering their rear. Lydia and Stiles shiver as they pass through the perimeter spell, but the sigils do their job and once inside the barrier the pack picks up the pace.

At a near jog, it still takes nearly thirty minutes to walk the distance to Derek’s house in the dark and in silence. Scott almost exclaims when he bangs his knee into a half-crumbled well on the edge of Derek’s property, but he catches himself in time. When they get close enough that the moonlight filters through the thinned trees, Lydia whispers an all clear into her mic. Derek crouches down and creeps forward to the treeline surrounding his old house. His eyes glow red with fury at the scene unfolding on his front lawn. He has to snag the back of Isaac’s shirt before he rushes past him to intervene.

“Isaac, stop,” he hisses. “Not yet.” His eyes glitter with the promise of violence, however, and Isaac sits back on his heels, appeased.

“What was I saying about vengeance?” Peter hums into his mic. Stiles shoots him a glare, but when he turns back to Derek he makes a face that says ‘I-can’t-believe-I-might-agree-with-this-guy.’ Derek just presses his lips together and turns back to the view.

In front of his old porch, which is so dilapidated as to be unrecognizable as such, Erica, Boyd, and Cassie have been staked out in the grass, chained to the ground on their knees with their hands fastened behind their backs. Erica and Cassie have hair covering their faces, but Boyd’s bloody and bruised skin tells the story. The gleam of the silver chains holding him down by the neck explains why the injuries look so old, and why he looks so tired. Derek exhausts every ounce of self-restraint refraining from copying Isaac’s example and charging forward.

Surrounding the wolves are three people in long robes, arms raised to the sky and chanting in sloppy-pronounced Latin. Lydia and Stiles look at each other in disgust.

“Seriously? Fucking robes?” Stiles says incredulously. “Our pack is being outsmarted by these cliched Hogwarts rejects?”

“Please. I can get over the robes, but that Latin? Hasn’t this asshole even heard of the fourth declension?”

“Can we stay focused? I doubt there’s much time left,” Allison says, pulling an arrow from her quiver. “Boys... and Peter, spread out. I want a detailed analysis of the perimeter in three minutes. Go.” They go. Derek shoots a sidelong glance at Allison who just shrugs. Deferring to her years of experience as a hunter and soldier in her family’s army, he just raises an eyebrow and turns back to the house. “John,” Allison says, “I’ll stay here and cover the front of the house. You go check around back and make sure they don’t have an escape route.” John nods tightly and goes to leave, but Stiles stops him. “I’ll go too. I can quiet our footsteps, and I’ll be able to recognize booby traps. We’ll be right back.” Derek doesn’t say anything, but he squeezes Stiles’ arm and lets them go.

Allison, Derek, and Lydia crouch in the shadows and wait to hear back from the perimeter scouts. Lydia’s beginning to look worried by whatever it is the witches are chanting when Jackson’s voice comes through with a faint crackle.

“House loo--s empt--. We’ve got ---ree people out-- the house, all wearing robes and ---eriously, are tho-- wands? Holy --- they’re using wa---” Jackson’s voice fades into static, but Peter’s picks up the thread of conversation.

“W--ds and rob-- are confirmed. One ---all girl w--- ---dly dyed hair is ---anting something. I think ---s Aramai---” Peter stops. “No, it’s ---initely Aramaic.”

“Godda--it, Scott,” Stiles says over the radio. “You had to go to fuc---g Radio Sha---.”

“Forge-- the radios!” Danny hisses. “So---ings happening!”

There’s a low grumbling shivering up from the very earth following his words, and with a sudden bark of noise, a tree cracks down the middle just inches from Isaac’s position. He barely stifles a cry and manages to jerk out of the way. From within the raw center of the tree comes a light, a wild luminescent streak that scorches the ground in its path as it shoots like a bullet into the clearing. The shortest witch catches the light in her palm and reflects it, sending it careening into the others. The witches settle the glow between them and the wolves at their feet, creating a six-pointed star that thrums with power.

“Shit,” says Stiles over the radio, clear as a bell.

“Everyone get back to the front of the house. Now.” Derek’s entire body is tensed with the urge to spring forward and disrupt whatever magic is pouring through the bodies of the Betas and causing them to sweat and shake like junkies. Lydia grips Derek’s arm like a vise and hisses into her microphone.

“This is so not good. They’re way more advanced than I thought they’d be.” She turns to Stiles as he and the others make it back to the group and crouch down with them. “How can they be pulling off this high level black magic? They’re children!”

“I have no idea,” Stiles says, eyes wide. “All my research says they shouldn’t be able to steal from the earth like that. What they did with the tree... it’s not possible.”

“I hate to be that person,” Peter interrupts, “but it was possible, it happened, and now it looks like we’re going to have just enough time to scrape your little friends off the dirt before these children kill us all.”

“Excuse me, but we can’t just go in there half-cocked and teeth bared! This isn’t like the hospital, Peter, they’re in the midst of some serious shit over there!” Stiles says under his breath as forcefully as he can. “One wrong move and everyone dies anyway!”

“What if we cast a cloaking spell, combined with a sound dampener? We could sneak up on them!”

“Can’t you guys just, I dunno, hit them with something? Like a... hitting spell?”

“Oh, for God’s sake, Scott, this isn’t actually Hogwarts and we’re not in the third grade. No, we can’t ‘hit them with a hitting spell.’”

“Hey, he was just trying to help. Erica and Boyd don’t have much time, and we-”

“Yes, thanks for that. I hadn’t actually recognized that the glowing ring of death surrounding them was a bad thing!”

“Guys, maybe we should just calm down a little and make a plan...”

“Maybe you should-”

Derek snaps his fingers once, loud. The pack hushes immediately and turns toward the Alpha. Thankfully, the witches seem to be ignoring everything outside their circle.

“That is enough. We’re going to attack. Right now. Get your weapons together and count to three, because I’m not putting up with this shit anymore.” They look at each other, then at to Derek, then at their weapons. Derek gives them another moment, then extends his claws.

“One. Two...,” and he’s gone, flying past the tree line on all fours, barreling toward the coven with eyes red and powerful enough to challenge the shimmering magic filling the night air.

“Goddamnit, what happened to three?!” Jackson yelps, scrambling to dash out after him. Isaac and Scott follow with Peter at their heels. The five wolves charge into the clearing, but are knocked back by a wall of magic that hits them with the force of a truck. The shortest witch, a small girl of sixteen with a mousy complexion and eyes like granite, laughs in their faces.

“You’ll have to do better than that!” she shouts, and turns a hand to fire another burst of magic. “You’ve been at us for weeks, but you can’t touch the power we’ve got. You can’t defeat the coven we’ve built! We’re filled with the light of Manon, and you’ll never extinguish us!”

“Oh, my God. She’s monologuing,” Stiles says as he steps in between the witch and the wolves alongside Lydia. “She’s practically a cartoon villain who is legit monologuing her way through this. I swear, if she’s got an escape pod somewhere or a shark tank, I’m done.” From within the star of white light, Erica and Boyd look up. Lydia meets their eyes with a reassuring smile and she links hands with Stiles.

“I don’t know, Stilinski. I’d hate to concede defeat to someone who talks more than you do.” The witch’s eyes narrow hatefully, and the other two shift their stances to join her against them. The white light flowing smoothly among them begins to flicker.

“For that, you’ll pay,” a second witch intones, gathering some of the flowing power into his fists to fire it at Stiles and Lydia. They plant their feet and deflect the spell, sending a bit of their own power back from their joined hands and knocking the witch out of the circle and onto his back. The six-pointed star that connected them together dissolves. The light shatters into pieces and pours back into the ground, causing a tremble that sends everyone staggering. The coven leader shrieks a few choice phrases at the ground, pointing her wand and trying to corral the other two, clearly attempting to salvage her lost power. When she fails, she lifts her eyes, turned black with magic, and casts a spell in spiteful Latin that surrounds the pack with fifty copies of herself.

Stiles and Lydia laugh at the illusion until one of the copies slashes at Lydia’s face with a knife. The thin trickle of blood from the wound sends the entire pack into a frenzy. The wolves dive forward again, and with no wall between them and the enemy they begin tearing into the copies of the coven leader. The copies fight back, but under the full moon the wolves have the advantage. Blood and bone turn to vapor when they hit the ground as Derek viciously rips the throats out of the copies, hunting for real flesh.

From the side of the clearing, John and Danny rush forward to free Erica, Boyd, and Cassie from their chains. John’s handcuff key frees their hands, but it’s Danny’s knife that releases the collars. The third witch, brawny and wild, swings her fist into Danny’s face, knocking him to the ground. She tries to reattach Cassie’s collar, but John fires a warning shot at her feet. Her eyes turn black and she raises a hand high into the air with purpose. John can feel the hair on the back of his neck start to rise as power builds, but Allison fires an arrow into the witch’s hand in the instant before she casts her spell.

Allison grins and fades back into the trees, circling around to find a new vantage point.

Erica and Boyd rub their necks, shake out their arms, and stretch their backs. Under the full moon, the shallow cuts and bruises are healed in moments and their faces shift with barely restrained rage. Erica roars and bounds into the chaos surrounding the lead witch, Boyd at her heels. They rip into the doppelgangers with their teeth, howling with vengeful glee. Derek’s inattention earns him a knife to the thigh as he watches them in awe.

John hustles Cassie and a concussed Danny away from the screaming witch clutching the arrow in her hand. Jackson runs up to them and pats Danny down then, satisfied he’ll be alright, turns toward the witch with a snarl. She throws her other hand out, whipping a ball of energy at Jackson’s head and running for the woods as he ducks. She doesn’t get far. Cassie darts forward and snaps her fangs into the witch’s ankle, severing the tendon and making her scream. Jackson tackles the witch to the ground and binds her with a gag and the same set of silver cuffs that held Erica.

The male witch - skinny and pockmarked - dodges around the leader’s doubles and runs off into the forest. With one compatriot gone and the other wounded and captured, the leader’s avatars start to fade away. Lydia sends a satisfying brass-knuckled punch into the face of what turns out to be the real witch. She goes sprawling, robe twisted around her legs. She tries to cast another spell, but Stiles slaps a hand over her mouth and says two words, sealing it shut.

“Really, we could have done that from the beginning,” Isaac pants out. He’s taken a rough beating, but he’s smiling at Boyd and Erica over everyone’s shoulders. They smile back, mouths dripping blood, and Derek limps over to hug them both. The knife wound’s going to hurt like hell for a few hours, but his pack is safe, the enemy’s on the ground, and Stiles is saying something inappropriate about body doubling spells and the bedroom as he handcuffs the lead witch and guides her down next to the other one.

The pack gathers in front of the Hale house, checking each other for wounds and hugging Erica and Boyd carefully. They’re all fawning a bit over Cassie, petting her hair, fussing over her bruises, and wiping blood from her face when Scott frowns.

“Where’s Allison?”

“She was patrolling the tree line with her bow,” John says. “I’m sure she’s --” he’s cut off by the sounds of a struggle. They’re all poised to attack when the male witch steps into the clearing holding Allison tightly by the throat.

“I’m offering a trade!” he shouts unnecessarily. It’s not a very large clearing, and Derek can see him trembling with nerves. “The pregnant chick for my friends!” Allison rolls her eyes at being referred to as ‘the pregnant chick’, but Scott is looking less than amused.

“You will let my wife go this instant, or I will rip out your spine and mount it as a trophy,” he growls with uncharacteristic menace. The witch hesitates, gulping audibly, but he gathers himself and nods to the other two witches, shaking Allison by the throat as he does so.

“The girl for my friends. That’s the deal, take it or I’ll kill the bitch!”

“Oh, you’re going to regret that,” Stiles says, shaking his head.

“Whatever. She’s super pregnant and he’s too scared I’ll hurt her,” he says with a dismissive nod to Scott.

“That’s really not what I mean, dude.” Then Allison, who’d been communicating with Lydia via blinking for the entire conversation, whips a knife from her boot, jams it in the witch’s kneecap, then catches the taser Lydia tosses over and puts him on the ground.

“Told you,” Stiles says to no one as Scott rushes over and hugs Allison breathless.

Right about then, the ground begins to tremble, shingles falling from the roof of the Hale house. The earth fissures open, small cracks forming from which angry white light bleeds through.

“Oh. My. God.” Stiles and Lydia say together.

“What? What is it?” Derek asks.

“Their spell,” he says. “Serious backfire.”

“This is bad. This is so very bad,” Lydia says, staring into the seeping fissures. She loses her footing on the shifting soil, but Jackson and Isaac hold her steady.

“What do we do!?” Scott asks. Stiles looks at Lydia. She grimaces and pulls herself out of her husbands’ arms, stepping forward to join Stiles again.

“We can try and redirect it, or absorb it, but there’s a lot of power here and, well... I’m not sure what we’ll be able to do with it,” Lydia says. There’s a crack, the ground heaves, and a massive rift opens underneath the Hale house. The center of the foundation crumbles into the crevasse, pulling the rest of the house down with it. When the dust settles, there are two walls on either side of the rift that are still standing, and the rest is absolutely gone.

“Holy shit,” Stiles gasps. Derek just stares, and tries to keep his feet under him. The light is glowing brighter, and the earth is roiling like an ocean current, and Stiles and Lydia step away from the others and face each other, joining hands and closing their eyes. Derek steps forward to draw them back, but Stiles throws out a forestalling hand and he stops. His gut clenches with fear as Stiles and Lydia’s bodies are surrounded by the sparking magic seeping up from the ground.

A heavy sense of anticipation settles over the forest as they draw the power into themselves. The ground stops shifting and splitting open, and the white light from underneath gathers around Stiles and Lydia, neat and careful. They start to sway with the force of magic, but between the two of them they have it handled. That is, until the second witch wrenches herself free of John’s grasp and shouts something in Greek that knocks them both off their feet. The light breaks free of it’s orderly pattern and goes wild, sweeping itself into a frenzy of wind and fury.

“I’ve lost my hold!” Stiles shouts over the roar of magic. He’s gripping Lydia’s hands tight, trying to keep them from being forced apart.

“Me too! Guys, run!” she shouts to the pack. Her hair is whipping around her face, and she locks eyes with Stiles. They grin maniacally at each other, because even in the face of death, there’s something unreal about what they’ve accomplished together. They startle when hands lift them to their feet.

“You’re not doing this alone,” Derek says into Stiles’ ear, wrapping an arm around his waist. John is on other side, gripping Stiles’ shoulder tight. Jackson and Isaac bracket Lydia, pressing their noses into her hair and holding hands with each other. The wind roars and the white light swells to overtake them.

Derek cracks an eye open when death isn’t immediately following. After a tense moment, the light dims just enough that they can see outside the circle of Stiles and Lydia’s arms. The rest of the pack is standing at the tree line, holding each other and protecting Cassie from flying debris, but Peter...

Peter is reciting something to the rhythmic cadence of complicated spellwork, one hand extended out toward them. Derek looks to Stiles, then to Lydia, confused.

“Is this part of your spell?” he asks. Stiles shakes his head, and when Peter pulls the mysterious sachet of herbs from his pocket, his eyes widen.

“Wha... what are you doing?!” Stiles says. Peter just grins and tossed the herbs into the air. They drift along the currents of power, drawing close to the white light’s center and pulling it away from Stiles and Lydia. “Peter, stop! Don’t do this-- you can’t!”

“Actually... I can.” And with that, Peter slices his palm with a knife, and the entire swirling mass of magical energy siphons away from Stiles and Lydia and crashes into Peter’s body with the force of a hurricane, doubling him over.

Derek has enough time to realize the full implication of Peter holding that much power and grip Stiles’ hand tight before the light fades and Peter rises. His eyes burn red, brighter than any alpha’s, and his fangs drop as he laughs.

Derek steps forward and extends his claws.

“Oh, dear. Don’t be afraid, nephew. I don’t want to fight you. I just want... want...” Peter shakes his head violently. “Want to... want...” His eyes widen and he throws his head back, screaming as all that power, all that energy, bursts through his body like an explosion. White light streaks into the sky, dissipating into ether with a crackle, and when the flash-blindness clears from his eyes, there’s nothing but ash where Peter stood.

***

His dad takes the witches into custody, bound in iron cuffs and gagged with magic. Stiles rides shotgun in the cruiser, spellbook open on his lap, searching for a more permanent way of stripping the witches of their power. The trip to the station is made in silence, but every now and then they look across the car at one another and smile.

Derek takes the Jeep, along with Cassie, Erica, Boyd, and Danny. She stays huddled up in the backseat with Erica and Boyd, shivering and sniffing back tears, and they can’t seem to move their arms from around her shoulders. As vulnerable and hurt as she looks now, though, based on the amount of damage the little girl did to her captor and the sheer bloody-mindedness it’s taken for her to stay conscious through the pain she’s in, Derek supposes he’s got a little alpha on his hands. He sighs and glances at the three of them in the rearview mirror, meeting Boyd’s eyes and accepting the nod of thanks. He mentally reviews the number of beds in his house and figures one more set of pink sheets in the wash can’t do too much more damage to his whites. Assuming, of course, she likes pink. Derek frowns at the road and makes a silent wish that Stiles doesn’t spend all their grocery money spoiling the soon-to-be newest member of their pack. Stiles isn’t one for restraint when it comes to Toys-R-Us.

The rest of the pack follows in Danny’s car. Lydia, Jackson, and Isaac cuddle and make-out in the backseat while Allison heckles Scott’s driving and plays with his hair. They swing through McDonald’s on their way back, picking up bags and bags of greasy food - the best for post-battle munchies - and meet up with the Stilinskis as they pull in.

Inside the apartment, chaos reigns. Erica and Boyd have stripped off every piece of clothing they can that’s covered in dirt or blood, and are sitting on the living room floor with Heather squeezed between them, Cassie perched on the couch behind them, holding Erica’s hand. Heather’s crying and clinging fiercely to Boyd’s neck, and won’t unclench her fist from Erica’s hair. They’re crying too, and that sets off Vanessa, which sets off Allison, Scott and Isaac. Melissa takes one look at the mess that’s erupted in the twenty seconds that everyone’s been home and takes charge.

“Alright, people! Showers, right now!” She claps her hands and ushers Scott and Allison into the hall leading to the bathroom. “You two are filthy. Get clean and come right back. Food’s getting cold and these guys need a minute.” They go. “Everyone else, wash your hands and start eating.” She shoos everyone but Erica, Boyd, and the kids into the kitchen and watches closely to make sure everyone washes their hands. “Don’t sit down on anything unless your pants are clean and you can promise you won’t fall asleep on the books.” No one seems to fit that criteria, so they just stand around the kitchen island cramming fries in their mouths and guzzling soda. Scott and Allison come back, and Melissa sends Lydia, Isaac, and Jackson in next.

“I don’t care that there are three of you. Don’t use all the hot water,” Derek says, biting into his third hamburger. Isaac winks, Jackson smirks, and Lydia ignores him altogether. Stiles pats Derek on the back, then grimaces at the dried blood that flaked off onto his hand.

“We’re next,” he says, wiping his hand on a dish towel. Melissa swoops in with some anti-bacterial gel and pours some into his palm. Scott laughs and steals a hug from her, water dripping from his hair and getting her wet.

“Ugh, Scott! I know you’re a werewolf, but don’t act like a dog!”

“No, wait!” Stiles shouts, throwing a hand out to stop Scott, but it’s already happening. Scott shakes his head wildly, sprinkling water over everyone and making his mother shriek with outrage. He beams at her through his messy hair and laughs, catching her up in another hug. A reluctant grin spreads over her face, and she hugs him back.

“Scott’s always been a puppy,” Stiles says. He wipes water droplets off his face with a paper napkin. “The mistake is challenging him to prove it.”

Lydia, Jackson, and Isaac come into the kitchen dressed in pajamas and walking close. Jackson and Isaac fall upon the remaining food while Lydia picks up a yogurt parfait and unwraps the little plastic spoon from the cellophane.

“We sent Erica and Boyd to the shower,” Lydia says, pointedly turning her back on her husbands ravenous appetites. “Cassie said she’d take the kids in next.”

“Speaking of which... we’re keeping her, right?” Stiles asks Derek.

“She’s not a lost pet, Stiles.”

“She bit that witch’s leg off!” he exclaims. “She rocks!”

“The state’s not just going to allow the pack to adopt a kid because you think she, quote, ‘rocks,’” Derek says, knocking back the last of his soda and wiping his mouth. “There are rules, and I don’t think child services is going to think too highly of a group of people with more than seventy violent incidents on their records between them as legal guardians.”

“Actually, your records aren’t all that bad,” John says, rubbing the back of his neck. “I might have... neglected to report some of your more colorful exploits over the years.”

“What?” Stiles looks disbelieving at his father. “You mean all this time I could have been crossing international borders without fear of imprisonment!? Dad! Derek and I spent our fifth anniversary in Seattle because I was too afraid of Mexican jail to take him to Cabo! How could you mislead me like this?!” John laughs and shrugs a shoulder.

“You said you liked Seattle,” Derek says, pouting.

“You were getting just a bit too comfortable in those skinny jeans, is all I’m saying. The scarf look was not your friend, and watching every Starbucks barista in the state hit on you was not my favorite thing ever, okay?” Stiles picks at some dried blood on his wrist. “I just think you could adopt us a baby werewolf to make it up to me, that’s all...” Stiles peers up at Derek through his lashes, and ducks the swat he gets in return.

“We’re going to Burning Man this anniversary, and I’m not hearing any complaints about your skin or the desert or the hippies. We’ll camp out, I’ll wear linen pants, and you’ll deal with it.” Derek keeps a straight face, but Stiles can see the laughter building up behind his eyes. “And as for Cassie, I’d be more than happy to welcome her into the pack, but I just don’t see why they’d let us take her in, considering.”

“Child Protective Services usually takes recommendations from hospital staff about suitable homes,” Melissa says, “and I’m sure if Cassie tells them she wants to stay with you, they’ll have take that into consideration.”

“I do,” comes a voice from the doorway. Cassie’s standing there with Erica and Boyd, wet hair braided down her back and wrapped in a fleece blanket. Heather’s holding her hand and looking up at her like she’s one of her superheroes come to life, Vanessa tethered to the other side of her blanket like an especially cute barnacle. “I’ve never met people like me before, besides my mom and dad. Erica says you can teach me stuff,” she says, lifting her chin high. Derek looks at her, takes in her slight frame and proud bearing, then walks over to crouch down in front of her.

“I can teach you lots of stuff,” he says, smiling and offering his hand. She takes it and he squeezes it, reaching up with his other hand to cup her face. “We would all be very happy if you stayed.” Cassie blushes and nods, and Derek gives her a delicate hug, very aware that he’s still covered in gore from the fight. Cheers go up around the room, and everyone comes forward to introduce themselves to Cassie. Heather innocently offers up tips to manipulating each adult in turn - Scott vehemently denies that he can be swayed with the words “Uncle Scott, you’re my favorite” - while Danny takes his turn in the shower. John follows, and soon it’s Stiles and Derek’s turn. They leave everyone in a pile on the living room floor in front of the flat screen, watching Finding Nemo with pillows and cushions pulled from every corner of the house surrounding them.

Allison’s got her special round pillow she tucks behind her sore back, Lydia’s got her hypoallergenic travel pillow even though it will be exchanged for Jackson’s chest in about ten minutes, and Isaac and Scott are trying to sort their long legs into a cradle so Vanessa has a place to lie down. Cassie is curled up between Erica and Boyd, with her head in Heather’s lap, enthralled with the movie. John and Melissa make quiet noises about going home, but Scott pulls his mom down into the pile and hands her a blanket, encouraging her to rest against the wall next to him. John joins her, and soon they’re both asleep, slumped together and snoring lightly. Danny’s using Jackson’s leg as a pillow and is playing with the ends of Lydia’s hair, chatting softly about his travels and his Spanish boyfriend, and about how Jackson’s grumpy face is the funniest thing to wake up to in the morning next to Isaac’s wild bed head.

Stiles stands in the shower with Derek as they rinse themselves of blood and dirt, running their hands over each other’s skin to press into bruises and gauge the pain levels. Testing for anything that’s wrong, and reassuring themselves that nothing is.

Under the spray, Stiles presses his body as close as he can to Derek’s. He wraps his arms around him tight, stroking down his back, over the curve of his spine, and rests them at the top of Derek’s ass. He trails a finger into the space between and presses against Derek’s hole. Derek groans and Stiles braces himself to catch Derek’s weight when his knees buckle. Derek’s always been vulnerable to shower sex, especially when he wants to bottom. He says it’s something about the slide of Stiles’ skin over his, about how every scent is washed away but theirs, every sound is drowned out but the raw grunts Stiles makes when pounding into him from behind. Derek loves it, and seeing as how it’s one of Stiles’ favorites, too, he’s happy to indulge him.

Stiles sucks a bruise into Derek’s neck before pushing him away, turning him around and guiding his hands up to the shower caddy. The flimsy metal won’t hold him up for long, but it’s better than nothing. Stiles kneels and spreads Derek’s cheeks wide. He slides his tongue lightly along Derek’s hole once, twice, before sliding two fingers in alongside his agile tongue. Derek stifles a howl in his arm and reaches one hand down to tug his cock in rhythm with Stiles’ strokes.

As soon as Stiles deems Derek sufficiently stretched and ready, he stands and guides his cock into Derek’s body. He takes a second to brace himself against Derek’s back, gathering his reserves of strength to pull back and tease delicately at Derek’s hole before thrusting back in. He sets a steady pace of long, deep thrusts, pressing his lips to Derek’s tattoo and gripping Derek’s hips tight. He’s relentless, and Derek goes crazy for it. Stiles huffs out a breath at the clench of Derek’s body around his cock, picking up speed and sliding his hands up to pinch Derek’s nipples between his fingers. He digs his nails in a bit, and opens his mouth to bite carefully at nape of Derek’s neck, making him come.

Derek wails into the skin of his wrist and shoves back onto Stiles’ cock, clenching hard and triggering Stiles’ orgasm. The sound of their panting echos against the tile walls, and it takes them a good minute to collect themselves enough to move. Stiles pulls out and kisses Derek’s back, shoulder, chest, and lips as he turns and reaches around him for the shampoo bottle. Stiles grins and washes Derek’s hair.

After shampoo, soap, Derek’s fussy little apricot face scrub, they lean against each other and breathe.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m not hurt, if that’s what you mean.” Derek’s response is low and whispered.

“I mean, are you okay about Peter?” When he’s met with silence, Stiles pokes him in the side. “Derek, come on. Talk to me.”

“I’m... confused,” is Derek’s answer. Stiles hums a question. “Peter couldn’t have known that the spell would backfire like that, so what was that herb thing even for, originally? And when he saw it was all going haywire... did he save us?”

“I don’t know. That magic was out of control. Lydia and I couldn’t stop it. If Peter hadn’t taken it into himself, we would have died.”

“I know,” Derek says, hugging Stiles tight and kissing him. “I know. But... your father said he gagged the witch who knocked you down and ruined your concentration. How did she get free enough to cast anything? I think Peter might have let her loose, hoping to disrupt you.”

“Possibly. What was he saying at the end, though... ‘I don’t want to fight you’? Maybe he thought he was helping us...”

“Or he wanted all that power for himself, and that’s why he came back in the first place.”

“It’s not like he got Erica and Boyd kidnapped, Derek.” There’s a pause while they both consider that, yeah. He might have. “Okay, but he did save our lives. Let’s just... remember it that way.”

“Yeah.”

They stay there for a while longer, but the water is ice cold in minutes. They dry themselves off, change into sweatpants and t-shirts, and join the rest of the pack on the floor to catch the last of the movie. Stiles snuggles up to Allison, laying his pillow down beside her and placing a hand on her belly. Derek lays his head on Stiles’ thigh and tucks his feet under Boyd’s knees, and they sleep.

***

It occurs to Derek the next morning that he needs a bigger house. Or he needs to stop letting the entire pack sleep over on the floor because they’ve only got one bathroom and it’s been nearly and hour and Derek’s gotta piss, goddamnit!

When it’s - finally - his turn, he decides to take an unreasonably long time in there, just to be spiteful. All the warm and fluffy feeling he had last night for his pack have evaporated in the wake of crying children, grumpy werewolves, and sassy Lydia. He splashes some water on his face and exits the bathroom, feeling not at all guilty about his mini hissy fit that hopefully no one will notice.

Derek will never admit that he jumps when they yell “Surprise!”

In the kitchen, Stiles has made bacon and eggs for everyone using both of their commercial-grade griddles. Streamers have been hung haphazardly all over the room and the heavy leather-bound books and laptops from their research have been replaced by the mountainous stack of birthday gifts Derek never got to open. He ducks his shaking head and chuckles as everyone swarms forward to hug him.

“How did you guys even... I was only gone for five minutes,” Derek asks, suspicious. He glances around at everyone, then at Stiles’ guilty face. “You! You made them hog the bathroom all morning so I would...what...”

“Exact your petty and time-consuming revenge by staying in there long enough to give us time to work a bit of magic? Literally? Maybe.” Stiles laughs at the look on Derek’s face before accepting his kiss. “Happy Re-Birthday!” He turns to the rest of the pack with a broad smile.

“He never got his cake,” Stiles announces with a flourish. “So I declare this day the day of Derek’s most glorious birth, and thus deserving of cream cheese frosting and sprinkles!” He lifts something from the counter behind him and turns to present a heavily decorated chocolate cake with “30” scrawled in candles over the top. God only knows how Stiles kept the scent of that monstrosity from him for so long, but Derek suspects it has something to do with the “magic” he worked.

“Stiles. It’s 9 am.” He crosses his arms over his chest and raises an eyebrow at him. “There is such as thing as irresponsible leadership, and cake for breakfast falls into that category.” Groans and whines erupt from around the room. Heather leans across the island in her kitten jammies, giving him the puppy eyes. Vanessa and Cassie turn their baleful looks on him as well, along with Jackson, Lydia, Isaac, Scott, Boyd, Erica, and oh goddamn it, everyone in his messed up pack wants to demolish this cake, so who is he to argue? “And obviously that is something we’re ignoring for today. Who needs a fork?” As one they lunge forward, some bypassing the fork entirely.

The pack is happy and at home. They’re singing the happy birthday song through mouthfuls of cake and Derek’s pretending to be pissed, but he couldn’t be happier.