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Stiles Stilinski and the Societas Draconistrarum

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“And the funny thing about it is that the Alpha pack is probably hanging out in the warehouse district,” Stiles says, looking intently at the symbols Deaton is drawing in the weird blue dust.

Deaton looks up with a frown. “Why is that funny?”

“Oh, c’mon,” Stiles says, grinning. “Were-house?”

“You’ve been Googling werewolf jokes again, I see,” Deaton says. He doesn’t sound happy about it.

Stiles shrugs. Behind him, a cat mewls pitifully and he turns to look at it. “What’s wrong with her?”

Deaton looks up from the runes. “Matilda has hip dysplasia. Scott’s been taking her pain, but there’s no real cure.”

Matilda looks back at them with pain-filled eyes and Stiles feels something in his gut turn over. “Why don’t you heal her with magic?”

“Have you been listening to anything I’ve been teaching you?” Deaton asks, sounding exasperated.

Stiles sighs. He’s heard the lecture. It just doesn’t make sense. “If magic is so dangerous, why are you teaching me, again?”

“The things I’m teaching you are benign. White magic,” Deaton explains.

“And healing is, what, Dark magic?” Stiles asks with a disbelieving scoff. “That makes no sense.”

“Magic requires sacrifice. The magic I’ve taught you so far only asks for your belief. Bigger things require bigger sacrifices,” Deaton says.

“Like ritual slaying of humans kind of sacrifices?” Stiles asks jokingly. Only Deaton isn’t laughing.

“Sometimes, in extreme cases. Life essence sacrifice isn’t necessary if you have inherent magic to put into your spell, but you don’t have that.”

Stiles has so many questions, so much to learn, but before he can put his curiosity into words, he’s interrupted by someone clearing her throat.

Stiles jumps and even Deaton looks startled. Stiles’s first thought is that their visitor is a werewolf, because she’s stealthy. Maybe she’s even one of the Alpha pack. Stiles knows Deaton has taken precautions against violence in his clinic, but if Stiles has learned anything it’s to prepare for the worst.

“Jen?” Deaton says cautiously.

The maybe-werewolf woman acknowledges him with a nod, but her sharp eyes are on Stiles. “Your new apprentice is young.”

“But wiry. Tough. Stringy. Not good to eat,” Stiles says because Jen indeed looks like she’s sizing him up for dinnertime.

Jen smiles, but it’s not wolfy like Stiles is used to. Actually, now that he’s really looking at her, she seems a little too pale and there’s a light sheen of sweat on her forehead like she’s sick. She has dark circles under her eyes, too, and while she’s probably around his dad’s age, her eyes look much older.

“Sorry,” she says. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“I don’t scare easily. I was just concerned,” Stiles says blithely. Deaton hasn’t said anything yet and he isn’t reacting to Jen like she’s a threat, so it’s easy to feign relaxation he doesn’t actually feel.

“Right,” Jen says, and Stiles gets the idea she’s laughing at him.

“What brings you to Beacon Hills?” Deaton asks.

Jen looks at Stiles and frowns. “Maybe we should speak in private.”

Stiles sighs. “I need to get home to make dinner for Dad anyway,” he says, wondering if he can sneak back in to eavesdrop on the conversation.

Deaton gives him a knowing — disapproving — look. “Go home, Stiles. Practice your runes on paper and I’ll see you soon.”

“See you around, Stiles,” Jen says, and Stiles gets the idea she’s not just saying it to be friendly.

Stiles grabs his bag and walks to the door. Something makes him turn around to look at Jen once more before he leaves, and the sight of her back takes his breath. She’s wearing a halter top that bares a beautiful dragon tattoo. It’s black and red and it seems to ripple under her skin as she looks at him over her shoulder. It looks almost alive. Stiles stumbles, his feet just as uncooperative as usual.

Jen laughs. Even Deaton looks amused.

“Nice, um, tattoo,” Stiles mutters, blushing hotly at his clumsiness. Then he beats a hasty retreat.

Stiles tries the were-house joke again at the next pack meeting, but no one appreciates his humor. It’s sad, really. The Alpha pack threat is looming like a big scary looming thing, and Stiles hates the way Derek’s wolves are tense and snappish. Especially Boyd and Erica, the only ones who’ve had direct contact with the Alphas.

“No one goes anywhere without someone else from the pack,” Derek is saying.

Scott rolls his eyes. “The buddy system? Really?” He’s been shooting down every single idea and pronouncement Derek has come up with for a week now, since he said he’d join Derek’s pack. Stiles is a little worried that the magical wolf pack bonding thing isn’t going to take as long as Scott fights Derek at every turn.

“Dude!” Stiles whispers loudly, elbowing Scott in the ribs. That used to work really well, but now all it accomplishes is giving Stiles a sore elbow. Stiles rubs it ruefully and looks at Derek. “I think it’s a good idea. We don’t know what the Alpha pack is up to, and we don’t want to be sitting ducks.”

Derek, jerk that he is, doesn’t bother thanking Stiles for his support. He nods in Stiles’s direction but looks like it hurts him to do so. “I don’t think we need a formal system, just don’t be stupid enough to go anywhere alone. Got it?” He looks at his pack like the force of his glare will cow them all into submission. Maybe it will.

It’s interesting the way the wolves lower their eyes in deference to Derek. It’s also interesting the way it makes Derek look less like he’s going to kill something. He doesn’t look pleased, or smug, or ‘muahahaha I make you all bow to my will!’ at all. He looks relieved as he looks from one to the other. Then he looks at Scott and growls because of course Scott isn’t doing the submission thing, he’s just frowning at Derek.

What, Scott?” Derek bites out.

Scott looks like he wants to argue, but the truth — the truth everyone can see — is that Derek has the right idea if they want to stay safe. “Nothing,” Scott finally says, so petulant and pouty that Stiles wants to put him in time out for his own good.

Derek looks up at the ceiling like he’s about to pray for patience and strength. Then he looks at Stiles.

Stiles isn’t a wolf and he doesn’t do submission. Well, maybe in some secret sexual fantasies he does, but in this actual real life situation he just smiles and nods at Derek to show his understanding.

Derek nods back, then claps his hands together loud enough that everyone jumps and looks wary. “Training time,” he says. Scott grumbles and Erica looks happy and Isaac makes a face and Boyd smiles because Erica is smiling and Jackson, who’s been uncharacteristically quiet for the whole meeting, breaks his silence with a joyful whoop.

Stiles moves out of the line of fire, not wanting to get brained with a flying werewolf, and takes Modern Systems of Runic Magic and some paper out of his bag. He’s hopeless at physical self-defense but he’s got a plan to make a kick-ass talisman. Unfortunately, after his last talk with Deaton, he’s realized he needs to make some kind of sacrifice for it to work, because try as he might, he just doesn’t have enough innate magic to craft the talisman on his own.

Which sucks, really. Deaton says he has creativity and innovation enough to do great things, but he’s only got a spark of magic and his belief, not an actual fiery well he can draw from. Deaton thinks it’s just as well, because that kind of potential can lead to Bad Things. Personally, Stiles thinks he’s strong and moral enough not to let it corrupt him.

“Drawing runes?” Peter asks, sneaking up on Stiles while he’s thinking like the creepy creeper he is.

Stiles doesn’t jump or squeak. He doesn’t. He looks at Peter warily and nods. “Shouldn’t you be helping Derek train the pack?”

Peter looks over at where Derek’s blocking a strike from Boyd before throwing him into a wall. “Derek has refused my help.”

It makes Stiles want to bang his head on something. Sure, he hates Peter and thinks he’s bugfuck insane, but if Derek doesn’t let him have a role in the pack beyond Crazy Uncle We Lock in the Attic (there’s no actual locking up but the thought is sure to have crossed Derek’s mind), Peter will leave, defect, and probably betray them horribly along the way.

“Sit down, you’re making me even more nervous than usual,” Stiles mutters, pointing at the other chair. “Do you know anything about branch runes?”

Peter looks surprised and pleased to be asked, and Stiles wonders if he’s doing the right thing here. Peter bends over the table, looking at the page Stiles is turned to, and starts talking about healing runes. They both, after awhile, come to the conclusion that they’d be safer in the forest, where they could carve runes in the boughs of the trees.

Unfortunately, the last time Peter checked, there were hunters still camped out at the Hale house. Stiles says, “I wish there was some way to make them leave. Maybe we can talk to Allison’s father and get him to do it for us?”

Stiles has forgotten for a moment that anything Argent makes Peter unreasonably ragey.

“Or maybe we can eviscerate them all and-”

“Peter!” Derek says sharply from across the open space of the station. Apparently he’s been listening to Stiles and Peter talking. He’s glaring murderously at them both, and Stiles puts his hands up in surrender.

“I didn’t say it, don’t look at me like that,” he says.

Derek stalks over to where they’re sitting at the makeshift table. Stiles wishes he could stop staring at Derek, but there was something in the way he moved, like a predator about to pounce on prey, that was captivating. No, not captivating at all, what is he thinking? It’s scary and creepy and absolutely does not make Stiles feel hot all over.

Out of the corner of his eye, Stiles sees Peter giving him an amused smirk. Shit, he could smell it on him, couldn’t he? Stupid werewolf noses.

“The house is safer than the station?” Derek asks Stiles.

Peter says, “It could be,” right when Stiles blurts out, “That would mean fixing it up so it’s not a giant, incurable case of lockjaw just waiting to happen.”

“Werewolves don’t get lockjaw,” Derek says. He’s totally being a smartass.

“Whatever,” Stiles says. “Look, I’ll make you a deal. If you get the house up to code and actually liveable, Peter and I will do our magic thing and make it the safest werewolf den in the known universe.”

Peter and Derek are both staring at Stiles like he’s the one who’s lost his mind. Not to be intimidated (okay, a little bit, but he’s not going to let it show), Stiles holds his ground and stares right back.

“How are you going to get the hunters out of there?” Derek finally asks.

Stiles pauses, thinking of the problem, weighing the pros and cons of getting Chris Argent involved. Then it hits him and he smiles.

“I think we’ve been thinking too hard. We’ve overlooked the obvious solution,” Stiles says smugly. “It’s still your land, right? So … why not get the local authorities to scare them off? They’re trespassing, squatting, on private property.”

Peter smiles at Stiles like he’s a dog who’s just learned a new trick. It makes Stiles uneasy, because would that make Peter the owner, or the dog trainer? Whatever, Stiles doesn’t want his treats.

Derek nods when Stiles turns his attention away from creepy Peter, and says, “It won’t get them out of town, but they wouldn’t leave with the Alpha pack here, anyway.”

It’s a little disappointing that Derek doesn’t acknowledge how awesomely brilliant Stiles is. Of course, that would probably cause Derek to break something deep inside his dark, brooding soul. That’s fine, Stiles is confident enough not to need validation. Even if it would be nice.

Two days later and Stiles is humming that old Rockwell song under his breath, because the little hairs on the back of his neck haven’t gone down since he got home from the pack meeting.

It’s weird, like something is just there and he can see it out of the corner of his eye, but when he turns there’s no one and nothing there.

After school he texts Derek, u following me around?

He gets an answer almost immediately. no Then, is someone following you?

Stiles gets home and locks the doors and windows, wishing he had some mountain ash. He texts Derek, maybe

where are you? Derek sends.

home, Stiles sends, and then it dawns on him that he’s not supposed to be alone. He hadn’t even thought he’d be vulnerable at home. dad at work

go somewhere public until I can send someone to you

Right. Stiles sprints to his Jeep, heart hammering in his chest. His tires squeal as he drives off, and he viciously hopes it hurts the ears of whatever stalker is watching him.

Somewhere public. His first thought is the grocery store, so that’s where he heads. Once he’s there, he gets a cart and starts filling it with delicious yet nutritious and heart-healthy foods. Lots of veggies and fruits. Lean meats. Fish.

He’s reading the nutritional information on the side of a box of Cheerios when he gets the creepy stalked feeling again. He looks up quickly to see Jen the tattooed woman walking toward him.

“Hello, Stiles,” Jen says, and she looks even more ill than she had at Deaton’s.

“Uh. Jen, right? Are you okay?” Stiles asks. Her face reminds him sorely of his own mother’s before she died.

Jen smiles and it’s a familiar and heartbreaking look. “I’m fine.” It’s a brave front, like his mom used to put up.

“This is going to sound weird, but have you been following me?” Stiles asks. He figures it’s a rude question if she hasn’t, but if she has it’d be nice to know so he can stop worrying that it’s the Alpha pack.

“I have,” Jen says. Simple as that. What is with all the creepiness in his life lately?

“Are you going to tell me why?” Stiles asks. He leans in closer. “What are you?”

She looks amused. “Yes. And I’m human.”

Stiles waits. And waits. “Well?”

“I didn’t say I’d tell you now,” Jen says. Then she winks and walks away. Stiles is left looking at her back. She’s wearing a tank top with a racer back today and her tattoo is peeking out. It looks more faded than it had at Deaton’s, and it doesn’t appear to move like it did before. Maybe last time was a fluke or a trick of the light.

His phone buzzes. where are you? Derek.

Oh, right. it’s not the alphas, Stiles sends. I think I’m safe

where are you? Derek asks again, and Stiles can practically hear the frustrated growl.

store but I dont need a babysitter Stiles huffs and puts his phone away before pushing his cart to the checkout. The line is long so he takes his phone out again and plays a game to pass the time.

He’s putting the groceries in his Jeep when Jackson pulls up beside him. He looks about as thrilled to be there as Stiles is to see him.

“You? Seriously?” Stiles groans.

Derek must hate him.

School is boring compared to what Stiles deals with out of school. The only thing that really makes it interesting is the fact that he has more friends now. Even Lydia talks to him.

“I think I want to start going to your little meetings,” Lydia says at lunch. She seems to say it to everyone, but it’s Stiles who answers.

“Okay? Sure, why not,” he says, but then the rest of the pack looks like he just said something spectacularly stupid.

“She’s not pack,” Erica hisses. No one else corrects her on her reasoning.

Stiles blinks. His brain is good at making quick connections, but the conclusion he comes to is so ridiculous that he needs to ask, “And I am?”

No one says ‘Duh’, but it’s implied by the looks on the faces of everyone at the table. Even Lydia seems to be on board the ‘Stiles is pack’ train.

He doesn’t want to garner any more of those looks, so he doesn’t point out the obvious: ‘But I’m human.’ Because apparently it doesn’t matter. He’s a human in a pack of werewolves. He’s a human in a pack of werewolves. There’s a tight bubble of hysterical laughter that wants to break free of his chest, but Stiles is going to just breathe right through it and try not to wonder just what is his life.

“How do I go about applying for membership in your little club?” Lydia says.

Stiles asks, “But why would you even want to?” He realizes how it sounds immediately, so he looks around the table and whispers, “No offense or anything.”

Lydia stares at him. There was a time — okay, no more than a month ago — when Stiles would be jumping for joy to have Lydia’s focus on him. Now that he’s been witness to the epic lovefest that is Lydia and Jackson, though, it kinda seems wrong. Like rooting for your parents to get divorced so you can get two sets of holiday presents. Not that Lydia and Jackson are anything like his parents, and not that he’d ever hoped his parents would split up, so, okay, it’s not a perfect analogy? But it’s similar. Maybe.

“I know something big is coming,” Lydia says slowly. “I want protection.” She looks at Jackson with a smile and says, “More protection than just my boyfriend, as awesome as he is.”

Scott nods, like he has any say, and looks ready to welcome her to the pack. As if it’s that easy. Erica sneers. Stiles wonders if it’s a jealousy thing, like she’s afraid she’ll lose her token girl place in the pack. Then he mentally slaps himself because that’s probably sexist to assume. Isaac is poking his mystery meat, staying out of it completely. Boyd puts his arm around Erica and says, “You’re going to have to do better than that.” Stiles silently agrees.

But Lydia is brilliant. An absolute genius. He can see the way her eyes shine that she’s going to figure out some way to be so useful to the pack that they’ll be begging to let her in.

“I will,” Lydia says confidently, and gets up from the table with her tray. “Just wait.”

As she walks away, Stiles wonders to himself if she remembers that Peter’s in the pack, too, and she’d have to deal with him on a regular basis. Somehow, he doesn’t think she’s thought of that.

It’s totally ridiculous the shit that happens to Stiles due to the whole ‘wrong place/wrong time’ thing.

He’s walking out to his Jeep after school after waving goodbye to Scott, minding his own business, when Jen walks up. Okay, no big deal. She looks like she has the bubonic plague, even more so than usual, but she’s not exactly a threat unless she’s contagious.

Actually, it reminds Stiles of the time Derek showed up with wolfsbane poisoning and proceeded to turn Stiles’s whole life upside down. She looks that bad. Worse.

“You look like you need a doctor,” Stiles tells her.

“They can’t help me,” Jen says. “But you can.”

Stiles starts shaking his head. “Whoa, no, I can’t even heal an arthritic cat. Get in the Jeep and I’ll take you to the hospital. They can at least give you something for the pain.” Because she is in pain, he can tell. She looks so much like his mom did at the end that he’s having serious grief flashbacks.

Jen reaches out and takes his hand. He feels something tingle up his arm and he jerks away as quick as he can. “Wait a minute! What the fuck is that?”

“Please, Stiles,” she gasps, looking like she might keel over right then. She reaches out to him again, and then-

They come out of nowhere. There must be some magic involved, or they’re just that quick. There’s four of them and they surround Stiles and Jen, eyes glowing. Werewolves, ones Stiles has never seen before. They must be from the Alpha pack.

“Grab her,” one of them says.

“What about the kid?” another one asks.

The first one, who looks like a rodeo reject — seriously, he’s wearing a Stetson, a western style shirt, jeans, and pointy toed cowboy boots — leans in and sniffs Stiles. “He smells of wolves. Take him, too.”

Just. Fucking. Great.

He wakes up — because he’s been knocked unconscious, of course he has — in a damp, moldy-smelling place. It’s dark and cold, like someone left the air conditioner on high and never thought to turn it back to a reasonable temperature. He feels the floor with his hand and it comes up muddy.

“Stiles?” Jen’s voice comes to him out of the darkness.

“Yeah,” he says, and winces at the way his head throbs. “Where the hell are we?”

“It’s a cave,” she says. Her voice is weak and threaded with pain. “I can get you out, but you have to take my hand.”

“So you can do that weird tingly thing? Um, no.” Stiles huffs and sits up, then wraps his arms around his knees. He’s cold. He wishes he could see.

“I’m sorry,” Jen says, and she really does sound contrite. She coughs, hacks, really. It sounds painful. She takes a few audible deep breaths. “I should explain. I just don’t have a lot of time...”

“What do you mean?” Stiles asks, his voice climbing higher. “Don’t you dare die right now!”

“I can’t help it,” she says. “We’re fading. It’s time.”

“Okay. Okay,” Stiles says. He scoots toward her voice. He would never leave someone to die alone. “What do you mean by we?”

She’s quiet until he bumps against her. “You have so much potential,” she says. “Adelinde will learn to love you.”

“Who? What?” Stiles asks, because Jen is making no sense.

She takes his hand. It starts to tingle. “My dragon.”

“Okay, okay. You are making no sense at all,” Stiles says. He starts to panic as the tingling sensation crawls up his arm to his shoulder.

“You have such a good heart, Stiles,” Jen whispers, then coughs again. The tingle is at Stiles’s back, warm pricks now.

“Your tattoo...” Stiles knows it’s important to this somehow.

“You’ll be able to protect the people you love,” she says. “The magic-” She breaks off and starts to shake just as Stiles feels red-hot needles pierce the skin of his back.

He feels helpless against the pain, helpless facing Jen’s impending death. Because this is what’s happening: Jen is giving Stiles something huge, and she’s dying in order to do it. Or because she’s doing it.

“Oh god. Jen! Hold on!” Stiles is gripping her hand and he can’t see her but he can feel her shake more violently. It reminds him of Erica’s seizures. He’s so focused on Jen that he doesn’t realize his own pain is subsiding.

And then she’s still, and for a split second he’s so grateful that she’s passed out, only that’s not what’s happened and he knows it and fuck, he’s crying. He didn’t even know her but she’s gone and she gave him something magical — he’s not sure what, exactly, not yet — and she died because of it.

His back is sore and wet with something that can only be blood, because there’s no way to sweat in this cave; it’s too cold for that. So he’s crying in the dark, bloody and probably concussed now that he thinks about it, and he’s got to get out of there before the Alphas come back and kill him. Because it’s clear, now, that the thing the Alphas were after had nothing to do with Stiles. Jen had been their target and Stiles had just been in the wrong place.

Maybe this thing, this dragon tattoo thing (because he’d stake actual money on there being one on his back now) was what the Alpha pack was after when they’d been taken. And now Stiles has the tattoo, so it’s only reasonable that they’ll be after him. He’s not sure if that means he’s more valuable to them alive or dead.

He’s not sticking around to find out.

“I have to leave you,” Stiles whispers to Jen. He knows it doesn’t matter, that she’s gone, but it still feels wrong to leave her behind.

He stands up and feels around for the wall. It’s wet and cold and smooth. He takes a few steps, then realizes he has no idea where to go.

You need light.

Stiles nods, because yes, he needs light, and apparently now he’s hearing voices. Or rather, a resigned, female voice.

He ignores his mental breakdown and checks his pockets, not expecting to find anything. They’ve taken his phone, of course. He backtracks and pats down Jen’s body. Nothing.

He almost physically feels the mental nudge. Magic. Right, magic. In theory, he could create a small ball of light with a simple spell, except, wait, that would require something like a scary blood sacrifice.

Unless you have magic now. Yep, he’s hearing something that isn’t there and it’s freaking him out pretty badly.

“Okay, stop,” Stiles orders his brain. “You are not allowed to have a panic-induced schizophrenic episode right now. I don’t even think schizophrenia works that way. We have to get out of this cave and get to Dr. Deaton as soon as possible, and this whole hearing voices thing doesn’t factor into that plan. At all.”

That’s definitely an irritated huff he hears before the voice says, I’m Adelinde. Jennifer mentioned me? I’m — I was her dragon symbiote.

He actually slaps himself in the forehead. Symbiote. He’s got a motherfucking parasite in his brain. Okay, Deaton will know how to fix this, and if not him, then Derek, or Peter, or hell even Lydia. Someone.

How endearing, Adelinde says, her voice absolutely dripping with sarcasm. I’ve never been called a parasite before.

“Stop reading my thoughts! And stop talking so I can think!” He wishes he could pace but it’s too dark and what he can feel tells him there isn’t much space, either. His head is throbbing where he’s been knocked out and his shirt is starting to stick to his back uncomfortably.

What had Adelinde said? He has magic now?

“Well?” he snaps. “Do I or not?”

You told me not to read your thoughts. Also, to shut up. She sounds impossibly smug and irritating and Stiles decides then and there that he hates her stupid dragon face. Believe me, the feeling is mutual. Why Jennifer chose you I have no idea.

Deep, cleansing breaths. “Okay. Look, I’m sorry,” he says, and hopes he’s sincere enough to be believable. “But I’m guessing if I die, you die?”

Close enough. I have a vested interest in your survival, at least for now.

“Great! That’s really good. For me,” Stiles adds. “So, can you help me get out of here at all?”

Are you going to listen to me this time?

Stiles is nodding before she’s through. “Yes. Absolutely. Just tell me what to do.”

I cannot assist directly yet, because Jennifer was ill for so long that it made me weak. But I can share my magic with you.

“How much magic are we talking, here?” Stiles asks, calculating the sacrifice he has to give to make light. He can draw a rune in the mud, call forth candlelight without a candle, if Adelinde has the required magic.

She laughs. Enough. She’s definitely keeping something from him, but Stiles doesn’t know what it is. Maybe she’s just super powerful, or maybe-

“You’re a dragon. You’re made of magic. Right?”

There’s a pause and Stiles thinks she’s not going to answer. Then she says grudgingly, You’re not wrong.

Which means... Fuck. It means Stiles might now have an almost endless well to draw from? The thought makes him breathless and so, so scared.

Don’t get ahead of yourself, little human boy. You can only use what I deem fit to give you. Right now, that’s enough to light the way out of this cave.

Stiles gets down then, wincing at the squelching sound his knees make in the mud. He’s going to take the longest shower ever when he gets home. If he gets home. He can’t see, is the thing, and runes need to be damned near perfect in order to work. He’s working from memory here, dragging his finger through the mud and focusing on belief and the spark (which is now much more than a spark).

“Is it right?” Stiles asks.

You’re not entirely incompetent, Adelinde says.

Stiles rolls his eyes and cups his hands, still focused. And then a trickle of something goes through him from his chest to his arms and into his hands, like turning on a faucet, and suddenly there is actual light in his hands.

It’s so bright after the blackness of the cave that he has to squint. “Wow.” Once he gets used to the light, he sees Jen’s body, her hand still outstretched, her eyes wide and unseeing. Stiles keeps one hand cupping the light, then goes and closes Jen’s eyelids, because that’s a thing you do, right? He wishes he had something to cover her with, but he’s not even wearing a hoodie.

Adelinde is silent, but her grief is sharp.

There’s only one way out of the small chamber he’s in, and Stiles follows a muddy, winding trail toward a possible exit. “Okay, so, what do we do when we come across a guard? Because I’m pretty sure we’re guarded here. It would be stupid to just throw us in a cave where we can find our way out, right?” Although it’s possible that the werewolves who kidnapped them thought the darkness would be a good enough deterrent.

If I was stronger, I’d come out and kill them, Adelinde says, and Stiles doesn’t know for sure what she means by ‘come out’ but he has a pretty good idea that it would be both badass and gory.

There’s a light up ahead and Stiles closes his palm on his own light, snuffing it out with his will. He thinks his questions hard because now he’s worried about being heard with preternatural werewolf ears. I need to sneak by without him seeing, hearing, or smelling me, he sends to Adelinde, hoping she’ll hear him this way.

Of course I hear you. I’m sharing your mind, I hear every thought you have, Adelinde says. Her tone of voice makes Stiles feel stupid, even when she says, But that’s a good idea. Better than attracting more attention by killing them. Why does she sound so unpleasantly surprised by Stiles’s ability to come up with a decent plan?

Stiles takes a few soft steps back so that he’s in the shadows. He knows that if a werewolf comes within hearing distance, they’ll be able to pick up on how loudly his heart is hammering. He tries to calm himself, takes deep (but quiet) breaths. He thinks, I don’t know a spell that will do what we want, though.

There isn’t one that will do all that. We’ll have to devise one of our own.

Stiles’s mouth drops open and he thinks, What? How? What? Because it’s one thing to inscribe runes and make mountain ash last a little longer than seems possible and maybe he can make that kickass talisman now, but something like this is complicated and next to impossible. I don’t even know. I mean. How? He’s still learning magic and he’s pretty sure that without knowing the subject by heart — to the point where he can recite magical theory in his sleep — he won’t be able to do something as complex as making up his own spell.

Stop panicking. You may be a baby wizard but I am a dragon. I breathe magic. All you need to do is listen to my instructions and provide the concentration and belief. I’ll do the rest.

Right. Okay then.

It takes Adelinde some time to devise the spell, but when she is finished she pronounces it a perfect camouflage and gets to teaching it to Stiles. It’s different from what he’s used to in that it doesn’t use runes or powdered plants or even candles, which Deaton has promised to teach him, starting next week. This spell relies almost entirely on a sacrifice of magic and Stiles’s belief. It shouldn’t work. Even Stiles, a ‘baby wizard’, knows that much. But Adelinde assures him she knows what she’s doing, and really, she’s a dragon. Who in their right mind would argue with a dragon?

Stiles closes his eyes, concentrates on the well of magic he feels in his gut, and believes.

He follows the muddy footprints he sees on the floor of the tunnels and makes his way into the light. Up ahead he sees two werewolves arguing.

“We should kill the kid to send a message to Hale,” one of them says. “He’s only going to get in the way.”

The other werewolf is the cowboy from the parking lot. He says, “Fine. Go check on the woman and bring the kid here.”

Stiles knows he doesn’t have much time now. He steps to the side quickly so his would-be murderer doesn’t walk right into him. His heart is beating rapidly and he wants to get out of there as soon as possible.

He spies his phone lying on a table in the center of the dimly lit chamber. He grabs it, making sure the cowboy doesn’t see it disappear. Adelinde mutters about ‘unimportant belongings’ and ‘unnecessary risk’ but Stiles knows that if he tries to explain to his dad why he needs yet another phone he’ll be grounded for weeks.

It’s not much farther to get out of the caves. It’s dark outside and he has no clue where he is, but he’s free and alive and not even a little bit tortured. He leans against a tree and sighs with relief.

No time for that. They’ll be noticing you’re gone any moment now, so we’ve got to get moving, Adelinde says.

“Which way is home, then?” Stiles asks waspishly. “It’s dark and all I can see are trees.” He feels tired now, like using magic has really taken something out of him. It shouldn’t have, it’s not his magic, but apparently being a conduit for someone else’s magic is draining. Who knew?

Focus on your Alpha and I’ll get you to him, Adelinde says.

“Derek? Why can’t I focus on my dad, or Scott?” Stiles asks. He doesn’t usually whine, but he doesn’t think he’s ever been this tired without staying up for days.

Because he’s your Alpha.

“I’m human, you know. I don’t have a mystical pack bond,” Stiles points out.

Adelinde is silent for a moment. Then she says, Even with your own limited magic, you should have been able to tap into the existing bond and graft yourself in.

“Why would I want to do that?” Stiles asks.

For your protection, Adelinde snaps. For situations just like these!

Stiles scrubs at his face. He’s so tired. He can’t wait to get home, take a shower, and get into bed. That’s his life’s ambition now. Then he remembers he has GPS and an app for this.

You’re miles from civilization, Addie says, almost gently. You can barely walk.

“Ugh, you’re so annoying,” Stiles mutters, sending Derek a text and his coordinates. kidnapped by alphas but I escaped. can’t make it home.

The return text from Derek is almost immediate. I’ll find you.

Stiles sighs in relief and rests his head back against the tree.

He wakes to find himself being held bridal style in Derek’s arms, his cheek smashed against his Alpha’s shoulder. “So embar’ssing,” Stiles slurs.

Derek’s voice is as tight as his hold. “You smell like blood and death. And other wolves.”

“Issat all?” Stiles asks. He keeps his eyes closed. He must be dead weight in Derek’s arms; he’s feeling completely, bonelessly tired. Derek huffs and Stiles knows he’s relieved. He doesn’t need a mystical bond to read Derek, just some experience in dealing with him.

“Something else, something I can’t place,” Derek says. He sounds like he’s mostly talking to himself. “You have a lot of explaining to do, Stiles.”

“Am I Lucy now?” Stiles wonders out loud.

“You get in enough trouble,” Derek says with a snort.

Stiles giggles tiredly against Derek’s neck. “You got the reference and you made a joke.”

Even I got the reference, Adelinde says. I Love Lucy isn’t exactly obscure.

“Shut up, Addie,” Stiles mumbles. “Was talking to Derek.”

Derek stops. Stiles cracks open an eye to see that he’s looking down at him, his face doing that careful blankness that he’s so good at. “Stiles. Who are you talking to?”

Don’t call me Addie, Adelinde tells him snappishly. Which makes him want to call her nothing else.

Stiles lifts a hand to his temple. “Dragon in my head.”

“Explain,” Derek grits out.

Sighing, Stiles wiggles in Derek’s arms so that he’ll be let down onto his feet. Derek holds him for a moment, seeming reluctant to let go, but then he does and Stiles is standing, though a little wobbly. He holds Derek’s arm to keep his balance, and keeps holding on even after he’s feeling steady. He doesn’t think about it, though, not the way the muscle feels under his gripping fingers or how the bond is stronger while they’re touching. No. No thinking or examining.

“Addie is a dragon. Apparently she’s in my head now? And I can do complex magic because of it. She talks to me and helped me out of the cave and past the Alphas. There was a woman named Jen, and she’s the one who was following me, and apparently she chose me to host her dragon, and then she died, and … yeah. That’s about it?”

Oh, for the love of the gods, Stilinski. That is the worst explanation of a Host and symbiote I’ve ever heard.

Derek is scowling. “You’re possessed.”

Stiles thinks about it for a moment. “Well, sorta?”

I beg your pardon! Adelinde says in an affronted voice. I am neither a parasite nor a demon. Go speak with Alan Deaton and he’ll explain it to you both. And stop calling me Addie!

“Sorry,” Stiles mumbles to her, then looks at Derek. “She says we should talk to Deaton. I guess because you won’t believe it from her. Or me.”

It’s weird, but he’s getting used to the thought of sharing his body with the dragon. The magic incentive is a big factor, he knows. Maybe the only one. He tries to think he’s better than a power-hungry wizard wannabe, but...

“You need a shower,” Derek says. “You’re covered in mud and blood and you stink.”

Stiles nods absently. Is it so bad that he wants to use Addie’s magic to protect himself? Protect the pack? “Dad should still be working,” he says. “Take me home?”

When Derek scoops him up in his arms again and heads for Stiles’s house, Stiles tamps down on the feeling of protection it gives him. It was bad enough to have the odd fantasy about Derek, or the occasional dream that left him aching and somehow empty. He’s not going to think about Derek’s strong arms or broad shoulders or … chest. He can’t think of just one proper adjective for Derek’s chest yet. It’s muscled and hard but comfortable at the same time. Perfect.

He’s too tired to get an erection, he tells himself sternly. His dick isn’t listening; it gives an interested twitch. Great. Hopefully he’s too full of other scents for Derek to smell it on him. For the first time in his life, he’s grateful to be covered in blood. And mud. And Derek said he smells
of other wolves, too.

He’s thinking unsexy thoughts when Addie cuts in to laugh at him. He mutters a, “Fuck you,” in her direction. Then another wave of tiredness hits him and he closes his eyes. He’s safe. He can sleep.

He wakes up spluttering in the shower. He’s fully clothed and Derek is holding him under the spray.

“What the actual fuck?” Stiles says, shocked.

Derek doesn’t look contrite at all. “Your shirt is stuck to you.” He angles Stiles so that the water comes down directly on his back. It’s a little too hot but it seems to be doing the trick. Stiles tries not to think about how much experience Derek has with bloody clothes sticking to him because it gives him faint twinges of horror.

“Arms up,” Derek says, and Stiles obeys long enough for Derek to rid him of his shirt. But then Derek goes still and too quiet.

“What?” Stiles asks. He can’t wait for this to be over so he can faceplant in bed.

“Your tattoo is- It’s-”

“Gorgeous?” Stiles asks with a grin. He can’t see it over his shoulder, but from Derek’s reaction he’s sure it’s a sight to behold. Hopefully it covers up the fact that the rest of his appearance is just ordinary, if a little muddy.

“It’s obviously magical in origin, since it’s actually moving across your skin. It looks like it’s breathing.”



Thank you, Stiles.

“It looks like she’s moving. It’s Addie,” Stiles corrects. “Look. Can you get out so I can shower in privacy? I promise to scrub all the bad scents off with my cinnamon sugar cookie shower gel, okay?”

“Alright. But as soon as you’re out, I’m taking you to Deaton,” Derek says.

“What?” Stiles asks. “No! No, as soon as I get out of the shower I’m crashing. I can’t even explain how fucking tired I am.”

“We need to figure out how to deal with this, Stiles,” Derek says slowly, as if explaining to a two year old. Or Scott.

“So use your phone. Hell, make Deaton do a house call. I’m sleeping, dude,” Stiles says. “Well, as soon as you get out of my bathroom and let me do this washing thing.”

Derek goes reluctantly and closes the door behind himself. Stiles just knows he’s on the other side in case there’s an accident, like if Stiles falls asleep in the shower.

“I can tell you confidently that Stiles isn’t possessed,” Deaton says. Stiles relaxes, because that thought was still in the back of his mind after everything and it was hard to beat back even with his own experiences of the past day.

“Tell me what’s going on with him,” Derek says. He doesn’t growl, but his voice is pitched low and serious. “The voice? The tattoo?”

Stiles usually hates it when people talk about him like he’s not even in the same room. It’s one of the hazards of being young, he thinks. He’s gotten used to it over the years (parents, teachers, doctors, etc. talking about him over his head) and it sucks. Today, though, he’s perfectly content to let Deaton and Derek talk while he keeps his eyes shut. He’s still tired. He’d be sleeping if the two other men weren’t so intense.

“Stiles’s dragon is a real creature, purely magical but also flesh and bone when she manifests outside the Host body,” Deaton says. “I knew Adelinde’s previous Host, Jen, for a number of years. She was a member of a secret society; their life’s work is to keep the existence of dragons going.”

“Stiles is keeping the dragon alive,” Derek says. Not a question, but Stiles is sure he’s guessing. It’s a good guess.


“And what does Stiles get out of this? Does he even have a choice, now? Can he get rid of it?”

Tell your Alpha I do not appreciate being called an ‘it’. Addie is so annoyed that Stiles is having trouble not being annoyed with Derek, as well.

“Don’t call her ‘it’,” Stiles mumbles without opening his eyes.

Deaton goes on like he hasn’t spoken. “There are gifts the dragon can give the Host, usually magical in nature. But the Host does what he or she does in order to give the dragon life. It’s supposed to be a purely selfless act.”

Derek is silent. Stiles is confused. What, no snorting over the idea that Stiles could be selfless? Not that Stiles is selfish. He does things for other people all the time. He just never thought Derek had noticed. Hmm, he probably hasn’t noticed, he’s just being quiet for other reasons. Like maybe he’s waiting for Deaton to answer the rest of his questions.

“Stiles had a choice. The transfer wouldn’t have worked if he hadn’t been receptive, at least a little bit,” Deaton says.

“I don’t like this,” Derek says. “Something’s off. What is this secret society going to do once they find out someone not in their order is Hosting a dragon?”

“I don’t know. As far as I know, this has never happened before,” Deaton says.

“Great. So we should be on the lookout, then,” Derek says.

“Think they wear black monk robes with rope belts and hoods over their faces?” Stiles murmurs.

“Why is he so tired?” Derek asks. If Stiles didn’t know better, he’d swear Derek sounds concerned. There is a light touch to Stiles’s forehead that is gone as soon as he feels it.

“He’s not used to channeling magic. Not that much magic. I don’t know what kind of spell he performed but he must have held it for a few minutes,” Deaton says.

“Total cam’flage spell,” Stiles says. “Ten minutes.”

Deaton sucks in a breath. “That would do it.”

Stiles opens his eyes because he wants to glare at them. He really needs to be sleeping and they’re keeping him awake. Deaton is looking at Derek. Derek is looking at Stiles until Stiles looks back. Then Derek’s eyes are elsewhere, like he’s more interested in the decor of the bedroom than anything else.

“We should go before the Sheriff gets home,” Deaton says.


When they’re on the stairs, Stiles hears Derek ask again, “But how does Stiles get rid of the dragon if he doesn’t want … her?”

Stiles wants to hear the answer, but they’re too far away and he’s drifting off to sleep.

“So,” Lydia says before class begins. She’s sitting close to Stiles, which normally would have him jumping for joy but today just strikes him as odd. “I’ve helped the pack before, translating for you. I know it wasn’t much, but I can definitely do more of that kind of thing.”

Stiles thinks of the books in his bag that have nothing whatsoever to do with school and nods. “How many languages do you know?”

“Lots. Which ones should I be brushing up on?” Lydia asks sweetly.

Are you sure you can trust this one? Addie asks.

Ignoring the dragon, Stiles smiles and pulls a thin volume full of Grecian charms from his bag. “The dead ones, mostly.” He puts the book on her desk and she eyes it interestedly.

“What do you want me to do with this, just translate it?” She carefully turns the pages, eyes narrowing in as she reads.

Stiles shakes his head. “I need a tutor of sorts. I mean, I already have one, but he says he doesn’t really know the fundamentals of how things actually work. And I have a … friend who knows a lot, but she’s never needed to grasp the theory behind it all.” Addie had been unrepentant about that, saying Stiles has to learn it himself if he wants it that bad.

“You’re being vague,” Lydia says. “Call it what it is, Stiles. We’re talking about magic.”

“Keep it down,” Stiles whispers. No one seems to be listening except for Isaac at the back of the class.

Lydia rolls her eyes but she lowers her voice. “So tell me what you want me to do.”

“These charms are some of the simplest forms of magic I can find,” Stiles explains. “Help me figure out why and how they work, so when I move on to bigger things, I can apply the same principles I learned with the charms to the big spells.”

“Do you think I could learn to do magic, too?” Lydia asks, a calculating look on her face as her fingertips trace over the ancient words on the page.

“I’m not sure. I think there’s a lot of factors to it, you know? If just anyone could do it, we’d be knee-deep in wizards.”

Lydia scoffs. “I’m not just anyone.”

It’s hard not to grin at that attitude. “Keep the book for now, and let me know when you’ve got some theories.”

There’s nothing harmful in the book, Deaton had assured Stiles, so even if Lydia figures out how to work some magic and has some innate power, there’s not a lot that could happen.

Class starts, and Stiles tries to focus on that rather than the recent upheaval in his life. He hasn’t told anyone yet, but he’s sure Derek told the pack at least part of what’s going on. Isaac knows something; he’s got to. He seems to be watching Stiles carefully for … something. Stiles isn’t sure what, exactly.

Stiles is getting sick of the feeling of people following him around. He knows it’s just the pack looking out for him under Derek’s orders, but that doesn’t make him feel any better.

The good news of the week, though, is that the hunters are gone from the Hale house and Derek has called in some contractors to start working on making the place habitable.

It’s loud there, though. Even to Stiles, who went by to check on what little progress had been made since the contractors started. And the house actually looks worse now than when they started, because they’ve had to knock down a lot of the structure that was ruined from the fire and exposure over the years.

So Stiles understands that Derek doesn’t want to be around while the work is done, and why. Derek is standing outside, back toward the house, looking into the forest when Stiles walks up. There’s no way to sneak up on the werewolf, so he doesn’t even try (even though it might be funny sometime).

You could try the camouflage spell again, Addie says, and Stiles picks up a bit of emotion from her. She’s trying, in her own way, to get along with him. To give him a chance. It makes him smile.

“It’s looking good so far,” Stiles says when he’s close to Derek. “They work fast. What’d you do, Alpha-roar them into submission?” It’s a joke, but he’s genuinely curious.

“I’m paying them double the usual rate,” Derek says, and Stiles whistles. A job this big will cost a fortune, and here Derek is, paying extra. Stiles has already worked out that Derek must be loaded with insurance money, but him actually using it, considering where it came from, could be some kind of emotional progress. Not that Stiles is going to mention that.

“Peter and I are going to figure out the runes today, get ready to ward the property,” Stiles says.

Derek looks at him, eyebrows bunched together. “How can you trust him?”

“I don’t,” Stiles says. “Not completely — I think he’s unstable. But I really do believe he wants to be a part of your pack. I think he misses belonging to something.”

Derek’s face goes thoughtful and a little sad.

“So I think we can trust him to try to protect us as long as we give him a place in the pack,” Stiles explains.

“That’s what you’ve been doing,” Derek murmurs. “I should have thought-”

“Dude, you’ve got enough to think about,” Stiles says.

Derek lets out a sigh. He looks tired. “I’m supposed to take care of the pack, keep everyone together.”

“You are. You have,” Stiles says. “Look, everyone knows you’re new to this, nobody expects you to be perfect at being the Alpha.”

“Except for Scott,” Derek says wryly.

Stiles laughs. “No, not even Scott. Scott’s just an asshole since Allison dumped him. He blames you and I don’t even know why.”

Derek shrugs. “The buck stops here.”

“Ugh, please don’t turn into a martyr for the cause or I’m going to have to kick your ass,” Stiles says.

“I’d like to see you try,” Derek growls, but he sounds almost playful with it.

Stiles grins at him. “Give me a little more time to get used to Addie’s magic and I’ll take you up on it.”

In his head, Addie chuckles and says, Soon.

At the reminder of the dragon, Derek goes stiff again. “How do you know it’s safe?”

“Addie’s been telling me stuff about the whole dragon and Host relationship. Did you know that it’s been going on for thousands of years? It’s usually a peaceful arrangement. Addie’s had lots of Hosts and it’s all gone fine,” Stiles says.

“You only know what she’s been telling you. Has she told you yet how to get rid of her?” Derek asks.

Stiles bites his lip. “Yeah, about that...”

“You can’t, can you? You can’t get her out of your head.” Derek sounds angry but resigned.

“It’s not as bad as it sounds,” Stiles protests. “There is a way, but … I don’t want it. I’m getting used to Addie, and the magic. I don’t think you understand. I can actually do something to protect the pack now.”

“You did things before,” Derek points out. “You’ve already proven yourself to me. You don’t need magic for that.”

It’s weird how Derek gets in his head, worms his way in worse than the dragon. “Maybe I need to prove it to myself,” Stiles finally says after a long, silent moment.

Derek looks at him, really looks, intense and focused just on Stiles. Then he nods, like he understands, and touches Stiles on the shoulder. It’s not a hard clap, it’s more gentle than that, and Stiles doesn’t know what to do other than hold his breath and let his heart jump into his throat.

Then Derek is walking away, back to the house. “Station at six,” he calls over his shoulder, as if Stiles would forget the pack meeting.

At the meeting Derek explains, haltingly and with mighty frowns, that Stiles is now sharing his body with a dragon.

Everyone looks at Stiles. They gape, not quite believing. They stare, as if they can tell from the outside. Then they erupt into questions that Stiles really doesn’t have all the answers to.

Finally Derek growls at them all and tells them to shut it. “Be nosy on your own time. This is a pack meeting, and that means we have other things to think about.”

“Like the Alpha pack. I got a good look at a few of them,” Stiles says.

Derek nods for him to describe the other wolves, and Stiles does so as well as he can remember. He ends with Cowboy, because he’s more funny than scary in retrospect (although Stiles is sure he wouldn’t think so if he encountered him again one-on-one).

When Stiles is done, Derek tells them to stay away from the part of the forest where he found Stiles, near the cave, since that’s the only place he knows the other pack might be. Then he tells them about the Hale house’s reconstruction.

At first no one says anything outright, then Jackson says, “Thank god. This place gives me the creeps,” and everyone is nodding and smiling tentatively.

Peter isn’t as far back on the edge of the room as usual. He’s still several feet away from Derek, but Stiles notices he’s closer. Pack dynamics and Hale dynamics in particular are not Stiles’s specialty, but he’s learning, and this looks promising. Stiles still doesn’t trust Peter, not with his own life, but he’s starting to think the older man — werewolf — only wants to be a part of the pack. Maybe he’ll be good for them after all.

“Okay, training time,” Derek says after he goes over the buddy system again (unnecessarily, Stiles thinks, since they’ve been over it several times already). “Start without me while I talk to Stiles and Peter.”

Stiles glances over at Peter to catch his surprised look. As far as Stiles knows, Derek never talks to Peter except to, well, yell and blame him for everything that's shitty in his life. Now, Derek's motioning him over to sit with Stiles and is leaning over the table looking at a design Stiles has been working on.

“This is for a talisman,” Derek murmurs. “What will it do?”

Before Stiles can answer, Peter says, “It looks like a simple protection spell, but it’s twisted a little. What does it mean?”

“It’s protection against a werewolf’s fangs and claws specifically,” Stiles says. “I wanted to make it a protection against werewolves completely, like, all damage? But as far as I can tell there’s no way to do that.”

“How soon can you make it?” Derek asks.

Stiles shrugs. “I was planning on making it now. I just finished up the design, and with Addie I can make it with no problem.”

Derek nods. “Good. Do it.”

Stiles takes out the piece of wood and says, “Crataegus monogyna. Common hawthorn. I had to send for a piece this size, but I think it’s worth it.” He doesn’t mention the other pieces he’s gotten, the ones for the house when it's finished and habitable.

“You could have used oak,” Peter points out with a slight frown.

“Hawthorn’s better,” Stiles murmurs, and Addie agrees. “Okay, hold on, let me do this.” Derek and Peter lean back and prepare.

Like before, Stiles feels the magic inside him, feels it rush out and then shape the wood into the right bends and whorls. It’s carving without a knife, and it’s wonderful. Stiles puts all his thoughts of protection and care into the talisman, and when it’s finished, the wood gleams in his hand.

He looks up and notices that the station has gone quiet and everyone is looking his way. Stiles grins nervously and reaches into his bag for the leather tie he’s kept for this occasion. He loops the tie through the talisman and then holds it out to Derek. “Here.”

“What do you want me to do with it?” Derek asks, not taking it.

“Uh, wear it?” Stiles says, because it’s pretty obvious.

“But it’s for you,” Derek says.

“No, I made it for you. You’re the Alpha, you need to be protected. If we lose you, we fall apart,” Stiles says.

Peter nods. “He’s right. You should put it on.”

Derek seems reluctant as he ties the talisman around his neck, but Stiles feels better automatically. “You should make something for yourself,” Derek says.

Stiles shrugs. “I’ll get to it,” he says, but he’s thinking of all the other protections he can make for the pack, maybe even something for his dad. He can convince his father he’s suddenly into weird arts and crafts, right? And get him to wear it all the time? Maybe a keychain.

Derek is looking at him with a mysterious expression on his face. Stiles has gotten used to Derek’s face, has figured out which twitch of an eyebrow means what and whether or not a certain quirk of the lips means bloody murder. This look is one Stiles hasn’t seen before, and it’s … well, it’s sort of like Derek is really seeing him for the first time. Which is ridiculous.

“Yeah, so. Go on, get back to your training. Nothing to see here,” Stiles says in a loud voice, because he can tell the rest of the pack is eavesdropping after the magic show he just put on.

Derek nods shortly and turns back to the pack.

“Thank you,” Peter says.

“What? For what?” Stiles asks. He folds up the design for Derek’s talisman and puts it in his bag, then takes out a page where he has scribbled runes for the forest. Absently, he slides it over so that Peter can take a look.

Peter checks over the runes slowly. “I meant thank you for the talisman. Someone has to look out for Derek and he won’t let me do it.”

“Do you blame him?” Stiles blurts out.

Peter smiles. “I guess not. Now, these runes are perfect. I can tell you picked carefully. I can see the pack personalities in your choices, even.”

Stiles looks away, flustered. He hadn’t expected anyone to pick up on how hard he worked on this or how much he really cares for everyone — enough to tailor the protections for individuals as well as the pack as a whole.

“Why don’t you ask Derek for the bite, Stiles?” Peter asks, a little too nonchalant.

If you become a werewolf, I’ll have to find another Host, Addie says warily. I can only coexist with a human.

“Where did that come from?” Stiles asks.

“You love this pack,” Peter says. “You do so much for us. I think you want it, Stiles. I think you want to belong completely.”

Just then, Derek yells at Boyd and throws him across the room. Stiles snickers. “I don’t want to be one of Derek’s betas. He’s not the boss of me now and I like it that way,” Stiles says.

Peter gets a thoughtful look on his face but Stiles ignores him and starts talking about the rest of the wood he ordered for special ornamental amulets to hang around the new and improved Hale house. Peter lets him go on for the next half hour until he finally puts his hand up to stop him.

“This protection magic is good, but don’t you want to try something a little more … immediate?” he asks.

Stiles doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but Addie does. He wants you to learn offensive magic so you can fight.

“Can I do that?” Stiles asks, both of Peter and Addie.

“You should,” Peter says.

You … could, Addie says, more hesitant.

“I don’t want to accidentally set someone on fire,” Stiles says without thinking. When he hears himself he winces. “Um, sorry.”

Peter waves his apology away. “Figure out what you think will work best for you. It doesn’t have to be fire.”

Stiles thinks it’s not going to be fire. Too much history there for him to feel comfortable using it. But cold, maybe, or something physical — he can do that. He could fight the Alphas if he learned to use magic offensively. He could protect the pack even more than he'd planned.

“Addie, can you teach me to do that?” Stiles murmurs.

Yes, under … conditions.

Of course there would be conditions. There are always conditions. “Okay, like what?”

I want to teach you to heal first. And any offensive spells you learn can only be used in life or death situations or I’ll take drastic measures. Addie sounds extremely stern.

“Well?” Peter asks, smiling.

“I get to learn healing first,” Stiles says, taking it as a positive. He thinks of Matilda the cat with the hip dysplasia and her pain-filled mews. Healing her will be a good thing. Healing the pack if they get hurt and are slow to heal on their own will be even better.

It’s getting late and the training winds down. Scott heads for home on his bike.

Stiles is getting into his Jeep when Derek stops him. “I didn’t say thanks,” Derek says. He touches the talisman around his neck.

“Oh, that? No problem,” Stiles says. He's keenly aware that no one's around and he and Derek are alone. And that Derek's looking at him intently, in a way that makes Stiles’s heart rate pick up.

“I didn’t expect it,” Derek says. Stiles gets the feeling he’s trying to say something but doesn’t know the right words.

“Surprise!” Stiles says with a nervous grin.

Derek steps closer and leans in. For one heart-stopping moment, Stiles thinks he’s going to be kissed. Seriously. That’s the whole mood here and maybe...

But Derek just sniffs him. His neck. He’s so close Stiles can feel the heat from his body and all Derek does is sniff him.

“Dude, what the fuck?” Stiles says weakly.

“You’re pack,” Derek grumbles. He pulls away and glares at a spot over Stiles’s shoulder.

“Yeah, I know,” Stiles says.

“You don’t need to be a werewolf to be pack,” Derek says. “I just wanted you to know.”

Oh. He must have heard the conversation with Peter. Stiles licks his lips. “Okay. I knew that already, but it’s nice to, uh, hear it. So thanks.”

Then Derek looks at Stiles, face serious and intense. “But if you want the bite, I’ll give it to you.”

Stiles mouth falls open. He feels it go, but has no control over it. Then he nods, yeah, okay, and says, “I’ll think about it.”

Derek nods and turns around, then does his famous vanishing act.

As soon as Stiles wakes up, he regrets not putting a talisman in his own house or around his own neck or anywhere, really, that would prevent something like this happening.

There’s someone in his room, someone not Derek and not Scott and not Dad. Someone he’s never seen before.

“Hi?” Stiles says, sitting up in bed.

The young man is wearing a white shirt and white trousers, almost like a uniform but more expensive. “Be quiet,” he says. It’s not much to go on but it sounds like he has an accent.

“Oh, you don’t know me at all. I don’t really know how to be quiet. Let’s start with names, okay? I’m Stiles, and you are...”

His name is Serge and he’s a Candidate from the Order.

“Okay, that means nothing to me, Addie,” Stiles mumbles.

“My name is not important,” Serge says. “I am here to tell you to give Adelinde up to me.”

Yep, definitely an accent. French, maybe? Kind of French but sort of not. “I think that might kill me,” Stiles points out.

“Not my concern,” Serge says. “She was promised to me; she is mine. I will get her.” Then he pulls out a knife — a monstrous knife! — and moves toward Stiles.

“Whoa, whoa, Addie, help me out here!” Stiles says, panicking.

I’m still too weak to take form, Addie says, not exactly calm herself.

Stiles rolls off the bed and kicks out at Serge, catching him in the knee. It doesn’t stop him for more than a few seconds.

“She will not help you because she is meant for me,” Serge says, moving closer. There’s a fanatical gleam in his eyes, madness, and Stiles doesn’t know what to do. He’s not a fighter. He hasn’t been training with the pack. He hasn’t learned any offensive magic yet.

You must hit him with pure magic, Addie says, at exactly the same time Stiles has figured that out.

“This isn’t going to be pretty,” Stiles warns, holding out his hands toward Serge.

“What are you doing?” Serge asks, stopping for the moment.

“Go away and I won’t hurt you,” Stiles says.

“No. I am here for Adelinde. Give her to me,” Serge says, and makes a slashing motion with the knife. It slices into Stiles’s left arm so quick Stiles almost misses it. He doesn’t feel it until he sees the blood begin to drip out.

“Shit. Okay. I warned you,” Stiles says, and concentrates on pushing the magic out as a bolt to Serge’s chest.

It works. Somehow, it works.

“Okay, Addie, you’re gonna need to explain just what this was about,” Stiles mumbles right before he picks up his phone and dials 911.

Serge is out cold, and there’s no telling how long he’ll be unconscious. Stiles’s arm is bleeding sluggishly even after he puts a towel and plenty of pressure on it.

Dragons and humans have coexisted as Host and symbiote for thousands of years, Addie explains. The Societas Draconistrarum finds Candidates and trains them to be Hosts to replace older Hosts. Jennifer fled the Order when she fell ill, suspicious that someone from within had poisoned her.

“You couldn’t have told me this before?” Stiles asks angrily.

Serge was slated to be my next Host. Jennifer never liked him.

“I can’t say I like him much myself,” Stiles says.

Jennifer traveled to find her successor. She found you and decided you were the one.

Sirens are blaring down the street and Stiles checks on Serge to make sure he’s still out. He is.

“How did he find me?” Stiles asks. “I don’t understand that part.”

Dragons are attuned to the Order. It works the other way, as well. I should have known Serge was coming, but I was distracted.

Stiles sighs and goes downstairs to meet the police and ambulance.

Derek gets a bit overbearing after the attack. For one, he thinks Stiles should have called him to deal with Serge instead of the police. For two, he doesn’t want to let Stiles out of his sight. He even suggests Stiles stay overnight at the train station when the Sheriff is working, just to be on the safe side. (His dad hadn’t wanted to leave him, but Stiles had reassured him about twenty times that yes, he was okay and no, it wasn’t about to happen again with Serge in the county jail.)

“You’re crazy if you think I’m sleeping in an old subway car,” Stiles says.

“I’ve got a mattress,” Derek says. “I’ll even put covers on it.”

Stiles shrugs. He’s touched but he won’t admit it. Derek looking out for him isn’t completely unusual, but he seems to have stepped up his game a little. Stiles can’t help but think that things have changed. Somehow. He just doesn’t know what they’ve changed to, or how, or why. There are a lot of questions whirring around in his mind, and Addie is no help at all.

Humans are quite amusing at times, she says. But then she mentally stiffens — it’s so weird how Stiles can feel these sorts of things — and says, More are on their way. Soon. It’s a testament to how attuned they're getting that Stiles doesn’t have to ask what she means.

“Uh, Derek?” Stiles says, absently touching his bandaged arm. “Addie says some more people from the Order are on their way.”

Derek growls low in his throat. It makes the little hairs on the back of Stiles’s neck stand up. “How far away are they? Can she tell what they want?”

They are in Beacon Hills. They just arrived. I cannot judge intent, though they do not seem to be a threat to me. She doesn’t mention whether or not they’re a threat to Stiles, he notices.

“They just got into town. She doesn’t know what they want,” Stiles says. “But if I had to guess, I’d say they’re here to get their boy out of jail.”

“I doubt that’s their only purpose,” Derek says, moving closer to Stiles. He lays a hand on Stiles’s shoulder. Maybe it’s supposed to be comforting. For Stiles, it just serves to make his heart pound. He’s not afraid; he stopped being afraid of Derek a few months back after Derek saved him yet again. Stiles had figured if Derek was going to keep saving his life he probably didn’t want to rip his throat out with his teeth after all. No, Stiles isn’t scared of Derek anymore, but he’s got a new reaction that’s like fear only more embarrassing. So when Derek puts a hand on him, the heat and pressure of it makes everything speed up — his heart, his blood, his thoughts. It rarely lasts long, this touching, but it’s been happening more and more.

Derek's looking at him strangely.

“Um, what?” Stiles asks. Addie laughs in his head.

“I said we should keep the pack together for the next few days,” Derek says. He squeezes Stiles’s shoulder. “We’re being threatened on all sides. We’ve got the hunters out for any werewolf blood they can shed, the Alpha pack trying to take over our territory, and this new threat — an Order of people who can, what, turn into dragons? I don’t like this.”

“The dragon comes out of the Host, the Host doesn’t become the dragon,” Stiles corrects. He’s at least learned this much. He cuts off the inevitable question. “But Addie can’t, yet. She’s still weak from Jen being poisoned.”

Derek looks thunderous. He grabs on to Stiles’s other shoulder to hold him in place. “So her last Host was murdered? You didn’t think to tell me this? You’re in real danger, Stiles!”

“When am I not in danger?” Stiles says. Loudly, but not quite yelling. “And she just told me. I didn’t know, either.”

Sighing, but still looking like he wants to slash someone’s throat, Derek runs his hands gently down Stiles’s arms. Stiles doesn’t think he’s even aware of what he’s doing. “Does she know who killed Jen?” Derek asks.

“Nope,” Stiles says, “But we think it could have been Serge. He was pretty nuts and he was next in line to be a Host.”

“But it could have been anyone,” Derek says.

“But these Order people, they could just be coming to, uh, welcome me to their club,” Stiles says. He probably sounds about as optimistic as he feels — not very. Then Addie speaks up, lets him know a few facts, and he breathes a little easier. “Look, Addie says the Order just wants what’s best for their dragons. They aren’t that dangerous.”

“You’re dangerous and you haven’t even been properly trained yet,” Derek points out.

Stiles rolls his eyes and snorts. “Dangerous? Me?”

Derek glares. “Tell me again how you took out that knife-wielding maniac with raw magic.”

“You just said it yourself: knife-wielding maniac!” Stiles says. “I wouldn’t do that unless my life was being threatened! Imminently!” He takes a deep breath and continues, a little calmer. “Anyone can be dangerous in that kind of situation. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you will.”

“And the fact that they can summon dragons?” Derek says. “That doesn’t worry you?”

“I didn’t say I wasn’t worried,” Stiles says. “Just that I don’t think we should jump to conclusions. I’m basically one of them now. Sort of. Maybe they’re just here to meet me and make sure Addie’s safe.”

“I still don’t like it,” Derek growls.

“But is there anything you do like?” Stiles asks. It’s a tease, but Derek needs to lighten up a little.

Instead of answering by rolling his eyes or glaring, Derek moves in closer and … geez, he’s sniffing Stiles’s neck again. Up close and personal. His nose isn’t quite in the crook, he’s not touching, but he might as well be for the reaction it causes. Stiles’s whole body feels hot and he tips forward into a lean, searching for some kind of contact. He isn’t sure what’s going on, whether this is a wolf thing or a man thing. It feels sort of like a man thing, but the sniffing is generally all wolf, right? So it’s confusing.

“What-” Stiles starts, but then shuts up when Derek grabs his shoulders and licks a stripe up his neck. It should be gross but it’s not, and it makes Stiles tilt his head back, exposing his throat.

It isn’t until Derek gives a pleased, possessive growl that Stiles realizes what he just did. He really should correct Derek, because Stiles doesn’t mean to be all submissive beta wolf-boy, he’s not giving Derek whatever the rest of the pack gives him.

“You’re still not the boss of me,” Stiles says breathlessly, grabbing the lapels of Derek’s jacket so he doesn’t fall over.

Derek gives a hoarse laugh and bites Stiles’s throat gently. Stiles has never seen Derek do shit like this with any other member of the pack. Maybe Derek has, maybe he does, maybe it only happens out of sight of humans. But somehow, Stiles doesn’t think so. This seems a little more personal.

Stiles wants to urge Derek to use words, he really does. But his body likes what’s happening a little too much and his mouth isn’t cooperating with the talking thing right now. He wonders what he did to bring this on, backtracking in his mind, going over their conversation...

“So this is you telling me you like me, huh?” Stiles finally asks. Gasps, really, because Derek’s lips and teeth are doing all kinds of obscene things to his neck. And that is going to leave a mark.

Stiles pulls Derek closer so that they’re pressed together. They still haven’t kissed, which is weird, right? Stiles decides to do something about that. He reaches up and takes Derek’s face in his hands, then presses their lips together.

It’s not perfect. Derek stiffens, like he isn’t expecting an actual kiss. Stiles is patient and persistent, though. He does the only thing he can think of and takes Derek’s bottom lip between his teeth. The bite seems to wake something primal inside Derek and suddenly they’re really kissing and Stiles has lost control somewhere along the way. Funny enough, he doesn’t mind. He wraps his arms around Derek’s neck and just gives in.

“Ew,” Scott says as he (loudly) drops his bag on the table and makes gagging noises.

Stiles sighs when they break apart and then the others begin to pour into the station. He glances at Derek and sees Derek’s looking cool and unaffected, which has got to be a front because Stiles definitely felt an erection there pressing against his own, not thirty seconds before.

“What?” Jackson asks.

“You don’t wanna know,” Scott mutters.

Stiles watches them all as they come in, sees how Boyd scents the air and smirks at him. Then he nudges Erica and then they’re both smirking.

Peter comes around a corner and Stiles realizes he’s been lurking behind the train car for ages and probably heard everything. Not only that, but Derek had to have known he was there and let him stay. Well, it’s not like they said anything they weren’t going to share with the rest of the pack anyway.

Isaac comes in carrying two bags, and following him is a surprise. It’s Lydia, holding her head up high and trying to look like she completely belongs.

“I wasn’t expecting a guest,” Derek says neutrally.

“I’m not a guest; I’m Lydia,” she says. “I’m here to help.”

Derek tilts his head and looks at Jackson. “You told her she could come?”

“I can speak for myself,” Lydia says. “I decided to come on my own. I didn’t ask first. I’m asking now, though, since you’re the Alpha: will you let me prove myself to you? To be a part of your pack?”

“You’re human, and immune to the bite. It’s dangerous to be in a pack in your position,” Derek says.

“The way I see it, it’s more dangerous to not be a part of the pack,” Lydia says.

“So you want our protection?” Derek says.

Lydia nods. “And I figured that if Stiles can be part of your pack, so can I.”

Instead of asking her what she brings to the pack, the way Stiles expects, Derek glances over at Peter. Lydia follows his line of sight and frowns. Derek raises an eyebrow. “What do you think?”

Peter looks surprised and pleased to be asked. Stiles wonders if Derek’s actually going to listen to what he says. “I believe we need her as much as she needs us,” Peter says cryptically. Stiles wonders what the hell he means by that. He knows a little of it, that Peter was in Lydia’s head for months, but what Peter knows because of that is a mystery.

Stiles used to wish he knew Lydia that well. Once upon a time. It’s weird how he was madly in love with her for years. He guesses he loves her still, but it’s definitely platonic. His romantic affections all belong to a certain Alpha werewolf now. So, yeah. Weird how things work out and how fast situations can change.

“Does that mean I’m in?” Lydia asks.

“No,” Isaac says. It’s strange, because Isaac is usually pretty quiet during pack meetings. He looks at Derek and Derek nods, so he continues. “We’re a family and you can’t just jump into a family. There’s a … process.”

“Trial period,” Erica says. She doesn’t seem as hostile to Lydia as she’d been a week or so ago.

“Yeah, that sounds good,” Scott says.

Derek looks pleased that the others have their own ideas and are agreeing without his prompting. Maybe it’s a pack thing that they all feel the same way. Derek says, “Give it a few weeks, see if you fit in. Get to know everyone. If it doesn’t work, on either of our sides, you can go without anyone feeling offended.”

Stiles nods. It’s a good idea. Addie agrees.

“Thank you,” Lydia says. “I’ll take that.”

“I’ll need your help with my Latin anyway,” Stiles says. “Addie knows all the right words and pronunciations, but she’s a terrible teacher. No patience at all.”

Or perhaps you’re a terrible student, Addie teases. It’s good to hear her playful. Stiles is starting to think that maybe she likes him after all.

“Who is Addie?” Lydia asks.

It’s always hard to explain, but Stiles tries. “There’s a dragon in my head. She’s a symbiote, which means she shares my body most of the time. She's been sick, but when she’s feeling better she can come out and be, well, an actual dragon. But for right now she’s just a voice in my head and a tattoo on my back.”

Lydia tilts her head. “I want to see.”

Everyone else in the room wants to see, too. Stiles flushes. So far the only person who’s seen it is Derek. But he shrugs and takes his shirt off, then turns around. It’s cool in the station and he gets goosebumps.

“Holy shit, it’s moving!” Scott says.

“Interesting,” Lydia says.

Everyone else is silent. Stiles puts his shirt and hoodie back on. “Okay, so that’s over. Can we get back to the meeting now?” he says.

Derek starts talking about the Order and about how Stiles was attacked. Then he mentions that some of their members are in Beacon Hills and everyone should be watching out, especially for Stiles, who will be guarded from now on. Stiles groans but he knows it’s smart.

No one knows anything else about the Alpha pack and there’s been no hunter activity, so the rest of the meeting is short. Time for training.

Stiles, Lydia, and Peter take their places at the table and Stiles brings out a big spellbook he printed out and had bound at the FedEx office. It’s half about healing and half about offensive magic, and as he promised Addie, he’s working on the healing first. Today he’s hoping to get rid of the gash on his arm. It’s all stitched and wrapped up, but it’s sore and annoying. He might even be able to come out of this without a scar.

But first he’s got to get the Latin right.

You’re distracted, Addie tells him after he’s been working on one particular spell for fifteen minutes. Stop thinking about Derek and focus! This is important.

Right. She’s right. This spell, if he understands it correctly, is a building block for other healing spells. Once he masters this one he’ll be able to heal different kinds of wounds, and not just his own. That’s more important than the way Derek’s lips felt, or how his tongue was rough and tender at the same time, and how...


“Ow,” Stiles complains, rubbing his head.

“What?” Lydia says. “Is my tutoring giving you a headache? I’m sorry, should I just leave you here to figure it out on your own?”

“No. Addie yelled at me,” Stiles mutters. “Okay, so is it sano or sanare?”

“This one should be confervo. I’ve already told you that, Stiles. Look, do you want to learn this or what?” Lydia glares at him. Peter is smirking like he knows exactly what Stiles has been thinking about.

Stiles sighs. “Okay. The words don’t matter as much as the intent and the way the magic washes over the wound; I got that much. I could use integro and it would work, I think.” Lydia is still glaring so he says quickly, “But I’m not! It’s confervo, definitely.”

“Riiiight,” Lydia says. “Okay then, you’re ready. Take off the bandage.”

Stiles has tried not to think too hard about the wound and how close he came to dying when he was attacked. The thing... is it a thing? The whatever it is with Derek helped keep his mind off it for a little while, but now he’s got to look at the long, stitched gash and-

He’s not having a panic attack. He’s not. He refuses, not with people around like this. This is just a little anxiety brought on by a reminder of a traumatic event. But hey, he’s been through plenty of those lately; the past year has been full of trauma. He’s kept it together so far, and he’s going to fight the panic now and win. Just like always.

Stiles takes some deep breaths. He needs a focus point, though, something to ground him and hold his attention. In the past, his dad has been there for him and he’s used that connection. Right now...

Right now you’re surrounded by your pack and you’re safe, Addie says soothingly. Focus on them. On the good you want to do for them. Take the bandage off and heal yourself. You can do this.

He can do this.

“Stiles?” Peter asks quietly.

He looks up and sees that Derek has stopped what he’s doing and is looking over at him with his head cocked. Stiles gives him a weak smile and a thumbs up. Then the unwinds the bandage and removes the covering under that.

It’s ugly and Stiles’s breath catches in his throat.

Heal it. Just do it. I believe in you.

Stiles takes his hand and hovers over the wound, then closes his eyes. He understands the way the magic works, how deep it has to go, the way it must flow from him and into the flesh in order to heal. He knows it will probably hurt a little, but he’s prepared for that.

He mutters the words under his breath, careful of his pronunciation. He feels the magic flow down his arm, feels it spread through his palm and fingertips, and sees in his mind the way it moves out of him and into his arm. It seeks out the broken, the damaged, and the severed. And then it knits things together.

It doesn’t actually hurt. It burns a little, and it itches like crazy, but there’s no real pain.

Lydia gasps beside him so he knows it must be working, but still he doesn’t open his eyes. Not until he knows it’s finished, when he feels the magic come back to his core. It seems to take a long time, but that’s probably just because Stiles is so aware of everything at the moment. Finally it’s over. He just knows.

He opens his eyes and is a little disappointed to see that there’s still a scar. But it’s healed. The sutures have fallen out during the spell and they litter the table, all of them like tiny black bugs.

“Let me see,” Lydia says, touching Stiles’s arm. Wow, he thinks. Once he’d be over the moon to have her touch him. Now he waits for her to be done and pulls away.

“So I’m calling this a success,” Stiles says. He notices then that he feels a bit lightheaded. “Addie, can I maybe learn a different spell now? Like, one healing spell for one offensive spell? That’s fair, right?”

She laughs in his head. If you can stay awake I’ll teach you how to use my breath.

Stiles blinks. She’s right. It’s not as bad as the weariness that took him after the camouflage spell, but he’s tired. The healing spell took a lot out of him.

“What’d she say?” Peter asks. “Should I run for cover now so you can practice something new?”

Stiles shakes his head. As much as he wants to know what Addie means about using her breath, he’d rather just put his head down on the table and snooze. He yawns and says, “I think I need a nap.”

Derek is beside him between blinks. “Are you okay?”

“Tired,” Stiles says, smiling at him. “But I did it.” He holds out his arm for inspection.

Derek touches him then, and it’s totally not like when Lydia did it. He traces the pink scar gently and Stiles shivers. “I have to go out and get something, but I’ll be back soon. Stay here with the pack.”

Stiles nods. He’s not obeying because Derek’s the Alpha or his … whatever; he’s so tired he couldn’t move even if he wanted to. He closes his eyes and focuses on how safe he feels right where he is, with the rest of the pack there, watching over him. It only takes a moment for him to drift off.

He wakes up in a strange bed, on sheets that are stiff in a way only new ones are, under a soft comforter that still smells like the store. That’s not what wakes him, though.

It’s the fever-hot body spooned behind him that pulls him out of his dreams. No, it’s the sleepy nuzzling at the back of his neck. The satisfied growling. Or maybe the arm around his middle.

Wait, nope, it’s definitely the hardness rocking against his ass that wakes him up. Everything else is secondary.

“Derek, I think we should talk about this before you start molesting me in my sleep,” Stiles mutters.

Derek stills and moves back so that he’s no longer doing the rocking thing. “Sorry,” he says, and he sounds a little lost. Stiles rolls over on his other side, facing Derek, just in time to see Derek blushing.

“It happens,” Stiles says, then bites his lip. Derek’s eyes fall to his mouth and he looks hungry and hesitant at the same time. Stiles feels bolder, then. “You got sheets and a cover for me?”

Derek shrugs. “Yeah.”

“I think we should talk about what we’re doing,” Stiles says. “This... this. With the kissing and the… whatever else we want to do.”

“Do you want to?” Derek asks.

Stiles laughs breathlessly. “God. Can’t you like, smell it on me or something?”

“Humans aren’t as straightforward as wolves,” Derek says. “You might smell one way but...”

That’s understandable. Wolves go more on instinct, right? “If I were a wolf, what would happen?”

Derek’s eyes flash red and he leans in, presses his forehead against Stiles’s. He’s breathing faster and his body is tense, like he’s holding back. Stiles realizes he doesn’t want him to do that, not at all. Derek says, “If you were a werewolf, I would be fucking you right now.”

Stiles shivers all over. Full body shiver. He might even whimper. “I need to know, though. What-”

Stiles! Addie yells, at exactly the wrongest time.

“Worst timing ever,” Stiles mutters, and sits up, ignoring his raging boner and serious relationship questions. “What is it, Addie?”

They tracked me here to the station. They’re close. Almost here.

“Shit,” Stiles says, bounding off the mattress and pulling on his clothes. “Addie says the Order found us and are coming here now.”

Derek throws his own clothes on and growls. Stiles knows it’s a territory thing as much as a protect-Stiles thing, but it still makes him feel good. Safe.

They walk/run to the entrance to wait and they don’t even have to wait long because two men, both dressed well and all in black, waltz right into the station like they own the place. They don’t look the least bit intimidated by the growling Alpha who meets them at the door.

“Get out before I tear you both to pieces,” Derek says, his claws coming out.

One of the men steps forward and with a smile that’s a bit on the slimy side says, “We don’t mean you any harm, werewolf. We’re only here to talk to Mr. Stilinski.”

“So talk,” Stiles says, folding his arms.

The slimy one says, “I’d prefer we do it alone.”

Derek snorts and Stiles says, “Yeah, that’s not gonna happen.”

Both men eye Derek and then turn back to Stiles. Slimy says, “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Roland, and my associate here is Mark. I don’t know how much Adelinde has told you about our Order, but we are peaceful. We don’t want to hurt her. We’re here to make sure she’s alright, in fact.”

Stiles notices that Roland doesn’t say anything about not wanting to hurt Stiles. It’s all about the dragon with them.

“She’s fine,” Stiles says.

“We’d like to see that for ourselves, if you don’t mind,” Mark says. His voice is a lot less oily and more kind. Stiles doesn’t trust him as far as he could throw him.

They want to see me manifest. Tell them I’m still weak from Jennifer’s … illness, Addie says.

“Addie’s weak. Jen was really sick when we met,” Stiles says. “So she can’t come out to play. Sorry.” He’s really only sorry that he hasn’t had a chance to see Addie in all her dragon-y glory.

Roland looks pissed, but Mark says, “That is unexpected, but we can wait until she’s ready. Until then, we should get to know you. You have to understand that this sort of thing is unusual for us. Usually a Host is chosen from a group of Candidates who’ve trained to be Hosts from an early age.”

“Has it happened this way before? An outsider becoming a Host?” Stiles asks curiously.

Roland shakes his head but Mark says, “Yes. In thousands of years of course there have been mistakes and rebelliousness. But it hasn’t happened in some time, about a hundred and fifty years or so.”

Don’t ask him what happened then. He’ll just lie, Addie says.

“So you’re probably here to judge my fitness as a Host, right?” Stiles says. Beside him, Derek hasn’t moved or looked away from the two men. He’s been glaring the whole time. It’s almost funny, the way he wants to protect Stiles.

Mark smiles and Stiles almost relaxes. Then he remembers it’s possible one of these men poisoned Jen and a shiver — not the good kind — runs through him.

“You’ve guessed correctly,” Mark says. “We can’t have just anyone playing Host to an ancient and powerful dragon.”

“So … if you decide you don’t like me?” Stiles asks.

Mark’s smile falters for a moment, but Roland says, “Ultimately the question will be answered by Adelinde.”

Stiles huffs. “Addie likes me just fine. And you can stop hiding the truth from me: I know I’d have to die to give her up to another Host.”

Roland tilts his head. “You aren’t stupid, at least.”

“Yeah, well. I met one of your Candidates and compared to him I’m amazing,” Stiles says. “Especially since I’m not batshit insane.”

“We don’t exactly know what happened to Serge,” Mark says apologetically, “but we suspect foul magic. He’s not himself. Please don’t judge his character based on your experience with him.”

Stiles tilts his head, taking this in. “So you know someone’s fucking around inside your Order, plotting and killing people. Do you know why?”

“It is not your concern,” Roland says. “The Order of the Dragon is closed to outsiders and this is our business.”

“Someone made it my business when they went after me,” Stiles says. “I was almost killed!”

Derek growls, so low Stiles almost doesn’t hear it.

“It’s okay, I’m safe now,” Stiles whispers to him, and moves closer so that Derek can touch him or sniff him or whatever if he wants. He doesn’t do those things, but he does relax a bit.

“We were not aware you were close with the local werewolf pack,” Mark says, words coming out slow and deliberate. “But since you are, that actually opens up an alternative solution we hadn’t thought of before.”

If you want to be rid of me and still live, this is the only way, Addie whispers.

“Receive the bite, become a werewolf, and Adelinde will be able to pass into her next Host without damage to either of you,” Roland says.

Stiles knew this was coming but he didn’t think they’d put it to him so boldly. He can hear the underlying threat, too — if they want Addie back and he doesn’t do this, they’ll kill him. Derek is as stiff as a board beside him and Stiles gives in and laces their fingers together. Maybe Derek doesn’t need the reassurance but Stiles sure does.

“So my choices are … A. die, B. become a werewolf, or C. live with a dragon in my head for the rest of my life. That’s what it boils down to, right?” Stiles asks while Derek squeezes his hand.

“We don’t want you to die, of course,” Mark says.

“The death option is off the table, I can tell you that now,” Stiles says tightly.

“I’m surprised your werewolf friend has nothing to say about this,” Roland says.

“Derek’s the strong, silent type,” Stiles says, leaning against Derek’s side. This is too much stress. Stiles wants the men to go away and never come back. His chest is tight with anxiety and his stomach is in knots.

Maybe he smells it on Stiles or maybe he senses it some other way, but Derek does the best thing he could possibly do in this situation. He wraps his arm around Stiles and says, “I believe you’ve overstayed your welcome … the welcome I did not extend to you. I suggest you leave now.”

Sam nods and Roland says, “This isn’t over. Think about what we’ve said and we’ll get back to you.”

“Or you could just leave us alone,” Stiles says without hope.

They would never do that, Addie says, which is what Stiles figured.

“Our responsibility is to Adelinde,” Mark says. “We can’t walk away from that. Our oaths will not let us.”

“Great. Well, I guess I’ll see you around, then. Just … take your time getting back to me, alright? I’ve got enough on my plate at the moment,” Stiles says.

“We’ll see ourselves out,” Roland says, and the two men turn and leave.

As soon as they’re gone, Stiles begins to shake. Derek wraps his arms around him and Stiles buries his face in his neck. “They’re going to kill me,” Stiles says. It’s muffled and quiet but Derek hears him.

“I would never let that happen,” Derek says.

“They don’t want some kid they’ve never heard of being Addie’s Host,” Stiles says. “They can’t control me.”

Personally, I believe that’s a good thing, Addie says.

“Maybe you should think about what they said,” Derek says after a while. His words are hesitant, but Stiles hears a bit of hope in them.

It’s enough to make him pull back and look into Derek’s eyes. “You want to give me the bite, don’t you?”

Derek doesn’t look away. “I don’t want to lie to you. I think you’d make a good wolf. And it would solve the problem of the Order; they’d leave us alone as long as they got their dragon.”

I do not belong to the Order! Addie corrects hotly.

Stiles smiles. “Addie says she’s her own dragon.”

“Will you at least consider it?” Derek asks.

“What, do you think I’ve never thought about it before?” Stiles asks. “I’ve made lists of reasons why I should stay human, and lists of reasons why I should be turned.”

“And?” Derek asks.

Stiles sighs. “And the only reason I didn’t want to be completely human was so I could protect my family — my dad and the pack. With Addie’s magic, I can do that. I can heal, and protect, and I’m going to learn to fight. I think if the choice was human without Addie and werewolf, if you’d come to me and asked me, I would have chosen wolf. But now?” He shakes his head.

“So your choice is the dragon,” Derek says and looks away.

“My choice is always going to be what’s best for the people I love,” Stiles says softly, reaching up to touch Derek’s jaw with his fingertips.

Derek looks back, sucking in a surprised breath. “Stiles...”

The stubble tickles the ends of his fingers and Stiles wants to feel it everywhere. He wants beard burn on his thighs. He’s thought about it enough, what that would feel like, and how it would get there in the first place. He wants it more than anything.

“The way you smell...” Derek murmurs against Stiles’s lips. “The things you do to me...”

Stiles doesn’t care if Derek doesn’t complete a thought. He can roll with sentence fragments. Especially when they’re like this.

“Just tell me what this is,” Stiles says seriously. “If it’s just... just fooling around, I need to know.” Because Stiles’s heart is already stupidly involved here, and he wants to know if he’s walking straight into hellish pain.

“Not just fooling around,” Derek whispers, and kisses him. No, kissing is where you press your lips together and maybe the tongue gets involved a little. This is some kind of devouring thing happening. It’s hot and hungry and claiming, like Derek is desperate to take Stiles’s mouth with his own. To make it his own. Stiles is down with that, though. Stiles is so down with that.

It doesn’t matter that the Order might want to kill him, or that the Alpha pack wants to kill them all, or that Scott might walk into the station at any moment...

Oh please, please, no. They’ve had enough interruptions already. He just can’t handle another one, not when Derek’s hands are traveling down his back and cupping his ass and pulling him closer.

“Let’s go see if the bed is still as comfortable as it was an hour ago,” Stiles says.

Derek huffs a laugh and kisses his neck. “We can’t. I sent the others out but they’ll be back soon.”

Dammit all, cockblocked again! Stiles groans and Addie laughs in his head. He swears he can hear a Seinfeld character screaming, “No sex for you!” Or maybe he’s finally going insane for real. Is blue balls a real thing, and if so, does it cause mental imbalance?

The rest of the pack bring back food. Which is good, because Stiles is starving. He eats his burger and curly fries and tunes out the pack’s chatter. He’s thinking about being one of them. Yeah, he said he was happy being with Addie, having magic, being able to protect them all through spells instead of teeth and claws, but there’s another side to being a werewolf that he hasn’t let himself think about much.

He’s a member of the pack, there’s no question of that. As rocky a start as they got, they’re a family now. Jackson is submitting to Derek, when Stiles had thought that was impossible. Even Scott is starting to settle. So yeah, Stiles is pack. But he doesn’t feel that mystical bond the wolf members feel. He doesn’t have that tie to them, to Derek.

Part of him wants it. Not only that, but he wants the super senses and the instincts and the badass claws and … well, he can do without the Elvis sideburns because really, those are ridiculous. The glowing eyes are cool, but they don’t seem to serve any real function.

He knows Derek wants him to be a wolf. It’s pretty clear it’s because of the pack bond. Derek wants to feel him. Does he want to dominate him? Stiles doesn’t want to be just another beta to Derek. He’s not sure what he wants to be to Derek, but he has some ideas. Boyfriend is a good start. An equal, or at least as equal as you can be with an Alpha werewolf.

“You okay?” Scott asks him.

Stiles looks up from where he’s been staring at his last curly fries, which are now disgustingly cold, and nods. “Just thinking.”

“About Derek?” Scott whispers. Like Derek wouldn’t be able to hear him if he wanted. Derek’s got ears like a bat — or a wolf, anyway.

Stiles just shrugs and sips his drink. The straw is misshapen from where he’s bent and bit it at the tip, so the soda comes through slowly. Just how Stiles likes it.

“What’s going on with you two?” Scott asks, still whispering. “And why does the station smell like other humans?”

“Long story,” Stiles says. “And me and Derek? I have no clue, man. He’s not exactly Mr. Feelings Talker.”

Scott wrinkles his nose. “You both smell like …” He flushes and looks away. “Like you need some time alone together.”

“Yes!” Stiles says, a little loudly. “That is so true you don’t even know!” But then he realizes that if Scott — who is reluctant to embrace the furry senses — can smell it, so can everyone else. Well, everyone but Lydia, but she’s so smart she can probably read between the lines.

When he looks around, he notices that everyone is looking at him and Derek out of the corner of their eyes and then giving each other knowing, amused looks. It’s a lot of silent communication but Stiles is attuned to them. He knows they know. And now they’re looking back at him like they know he knows they know.

Werewolf senses mean no privacy at all.

Time to take their minds off it.

“Okay, quick meeting,” Stiles calls out.

Derek nods at him, approving. Stiles wonders where he’d be in pack hierarchy if he was bitten. He’s starting to feel like Derek’s second in command. Nothing overt or anything, it’s just little stuff adding up. Like the way the others look at him now, gathering around and waiting.

“So, you probably smelled other humans here, and you’re curious. Don’t worry, they aren’t a threat to you. Or to Derek. There might be a tiny threat to me, but we’re going to deal with that,” Stiles says. He might as well be as honest as possible. It’s what he wants from the pack in return.

“Who are they, and what’s the threat?” Boyd asks.

Stiles holds up his hand, listens to a few things from Addie, and then says, “They’re from an ancient Order called the Societas Draconistrarum.” He doesn’t trip over the Latin at all. He wonders if Lydia is proud. “Basically, they’ve been Hosting dragons for a couple thousand years. Dragons used to live freely, but they were hunted by humans almost to extinction. The remaining dragons made a pact with the first Order, a group of … let’s call them mages, I guess. The mages made it so that the dragons could hide in plain sight as symbiotes. So, for thousands of years this Order has protected the dragons and served as Hosts to them, only recruiting the best and brightest into their little club.”

“Best and brightest? How’d you get involved, Stilinski?” Jackson asks. The gentle swipe at Stiles brings down the tension in the room.

Stiles gives him a shit-eating grin. “I’m just special that way, I suppose.”

Tell them about Jen. And the Alpha connection.

“Right, so... Addie’s last host was murdered,” Stiles says. “We think it’s because she was headstrong and otherwise weak without the dragon. She couldn’t do magic, and she wouldn’t be the sort to fall in line with whoever wanted her to do certain things. She left the Order as soon as she figured out she’d been poisoned.”

“If someone wanted her out of the way, why not just kill her?” Lydia asks.

“The poison made it so that Addie couldn’t manifest. It made her even weaker,” Stiles explains. “They tracked her here and … someone in the Order either controlled the Alpha pack or made a deal with them. That’s why Jen and I were taken.”

“They wanted to get your dragon into someone else while Addie couldn’t protest,” Lydia says.

“That’s what we think, yeah,” Stiles says.

“And you were attacked by, who, exactly?” Isaac asks.

“His name is Serge and he was supposed to be Addie’s next Host. The men from the Order seem to think he was under the influence of ‘foul magic’ when he attacked me,” Stiles says.

“How much longer until Addie can manifest?” Derek asks.

Stiles waits for Addie to answer, but she can only say, I’m not sure. I’ve never gone through this before.

“She doesn’t know,” Stiles says. “But until then, I’m vulnerable to attack by whoever is behind this.”

“But you can protect yourself,” Scott says. “You put the whammy on that guy.”

I will teach you to control my breath today. That should keep you safe from anyone else like Serge.

“That was practically accidental,” Stiles says. “But Addie’s going to teach me something better soon.”

“It’s clear that one of the Hosts from the Order is behind this,” Derek says. “Someone with dark magic and a dragon that can manifest. I don’t want you alone anymore.”

“I can’t just move in here,” Stiles says. He thinks he sounds reasonable enough. “Dad works a lot, yeah, but he’ll expect me home at least some of the time.”

“We’ll work to protect your house,” Peter says. “Just like we were planning to do for our den in the forest.”

It takes Stiles a moment to equate ‘den’ with ‘the Hale house’, but the others are nodding and don’t seem to think his wording is out of the ordinary. Werewolves, right. Of course they’d consider it their den.

“We can’t do everything we planned,” Stiles says. “It’s not like my house is surrounded by trees we can carve runes in.”

“No, but we can hang talismans around the entrances and carve runes in the windowsills,” Lydia says. Stiles shouldn’t be surprised that she’s so good at this. She’s fitting into the pack perfectly.

“Do it, as soon as possible,” Derek says commandingly. “Until then, you’re staying right here.”

Stiles mock salutes. “Yessir.”

Stiles stays too busy to talk to Derek. He’s learning new spells — something called ‘healing hands’ that works on other people and not just himself, ‘dragon’s breath’ which isn't fire after all but a freezing stream of cold, and a locating spell that Stiles has dubbed ‘the packfinder’. When he’s not working on his Latin (why Latin? Why not Gaelic or Greek or Egyptian?) (I’m from Rome, Stiles, Addie explains) he’s sleeping. Magic is utterly exhausting. Addie claims he’ll build a tolerance soon and he can tell he’s not getting quite as tired as he was at first, but it’s still a pain.

Except for when Derek sleeps with him. They don’t do anything in bed but cuddle, but then again Stiles has been too tired to do anything sexual anyway, as impossible as that seems.

Derek spoons behind him while he sleeps, his arms around him, or sometimes Stiles sleeps with his head pillowed on Derek’s shoulder while Derek runs a hand over his head and down his back. It’s comforting and safe and Stiles knows no one's going to get him like this, no one would dare take on an Alpha and his … cuddle buddy.

“Need a name f’you,” Stiles murmurs one night. “I like labels.”

Derek rumbles a soft laugh and kisses his head. “Go back to sleep, Stiles.”

But Stiles is persistent and he needs to know. He props himself up on one arm and looks at Derek’s relaxed face. “Are you serious about this?” he asks, words as deliberate as he can make them. They still slur a bit, but he’s sure Derek understands.

“Yes,” Derek says.

“Yes,” Stiles echoes. “Okay.” He wonders if Derek means boyfriends or … wolf mates. Stiles has done extensive research on the sexual habits of werewolves and while a lot of it was just plain weird and pornographic (not that he’s complaining, exactly) every source seemed to agree on the whole ‘wolves mate for life’ thing. But he’s thought about that a lot, too — humans mate for life in a lot of cases. It’s not something that happens overnight. There’s dating and there’s buildup and sex and conversations about the future.

“You’re overthinking this, aren’t you?” Derek asks.

“Mmm,” Stiles says. “Probably.” He leans down and drags his lips over Derek’s clavicle. He realizes he could love this person. He’s lost and broken, but Stiles thinks he’s finding his place and picking up the pieces. Derek’s been hurt badly in the past, and while Stiles doesn’t know the details he can make some assumptions. Just the fact that Derek's willing to share this much with Stiles means that he’s serious. He’s putting himself out there in a less-obvious but clear-to-Stiles way. Derek's lost so much, and Stiles wants to give him everything he can.

Sounds like you’re already in love with him, Addie says smugly.

“Shut up, Addie,” Stiles murmurs, and covers Derek’s body with his own. “What do you want?” he asks Derek, gaze flicking from his mouth to his eyes and back again.

Derek licks his lips and it makes Stiles want to moan. “You know everyone can hear us, right?”

Right. They’re in the corner of the station, but everyone around them has super hearing. It sucks, and Stiles bites his lip in indecision.

“Don’t even think about it, Stiles!” Scott calls out from the other side of the station.

“Oh, cover your ears or something!” Stiles yells back, leaning in to take Derek’s bottom lip between his teeth. He knows from limited experience that Derek likes that. He’s dying to find out first hand what else Derek likes.

“I’m going for breakfast!” Jackson calls out.

“It’s four AM,” Erica grumbles.

“Waffle House is open,” Boyd says.

“I’m in,” Isaac says.

Stiles just keeps kissing Derek. He yawns a little, but he’ll fight sleep for this.

“They’re gone,” Derek says, and rolls them over easily so that his body covers Stiles’s.

Stiles looks up at him and grins. “Are you going to have your wicked way with me now?”

A growl is the only response before Derek is attacking Stiles’s neck like it’s a tasty treat. His teeth are blunt but unrelenting, and Stiles knows he’s being marked. The thought gives him a full body shiver.

“You don’t know how hard it’s been, being so close to you and not able to touch,” Derek says.

The words wash over Stiles and turn him on even more. “Keep touching. Don’t stop.”

“I feel like I’ve been waiting years for you,” Derek says. It’s … god, is this Derek being romantic? It’s working, whatever.

“Don’t stop talking,” Stiles gasps, because this is new and good and Derek’s growling voice is making his cock throb.

“Knew you’d be just like this, demanding and needy and perfect for me,” Derek says, and he’s rolling Stiles over on his side and sliding in behind him. His hands are everywhere, pulling Stiles’s shirt up to his armpits, pushing his pants and underwear down around his knees. There’s a loud zipping noise — or unzipping, rather — as Derek wrestles his way out of his own jeans.

“Not to break the mood or anything, but um, you don’t happen to have lube, do you?” Stiles asks. He wants Derek, he really does, but there’s no way he’s having his first full gay experience without being completely prepared.

“Don’t need it,” Derek growls, and then he’s pushing his cock — his big, hard, mouthwateringly thick cock — between Stiles’s thighs.

“Oh,” Stiles says, tightening his legs. It’s not perfect and Stiles wishes there was something there beside a trickle of precome to ease the friction, but Derek seems to like it. He bites the back of Stiles’s neck and reaches around to stroke his cock. He must have licked his palm because it’s a nice slick slide, almost too tight but absolutely perfect.

“Can’t wait to fuck you for real,” Derek says, breath hot against his shoulder. “I know you’ll be perfect for me.” His cock nudges the underside of Stiles’s balls as it rocks, and the closeness of it makes Stiles cry out. He feels needy and empty and wants exactly the same thing Derek wants.

“Want it,” Stiles says breathlessly. “Want all of you.”

Derek growls deep again and stills, his hot come painting the inside of Stiles’s thighs.

Once Derek comes back to himself, he rolls on top and starts stroking Stiles’s dick again. It’s not enough, though. Stiles’s body knows what it wants and his mouth starts running before he can stop it.

He whimpers. “God. Finger me or something, I need... I need you inside.”

Derek kisses him soothingly and slicks his fingers with come, then runs his blunt fingertips over Stiles’s hole. Stiles pushes back, making greedy sounds that he’d be embarrassed about in any other situation. Now he doesn’t care. Now he only wants to be filled.

“You’re going to smell like me and sex, now,” Derek whispers. “Everyone will know you’re mine.”

Stiles doesn’t think now is the time to explain it goes both ways. At the moment, he doesn’t really care what Derek says as long as he keeps talking in such a sexy voice. It’s his wolf-voice, only different. It’s possessive and desperate and so, so hot. He’s got one finger inside Stiles now but it just isn’t enough. “More, Derek. Give me more, please.”

Derek adds a second finger slowly. It burns a little this time where the first finger didn’t. Stiles is about to demand more, because it still doesn’t feel like enough, when Derek crooks them and brushes against his prostate. It’s amazing. It makes him fist the sheets and cry out as Derek murmurs gently.

“You’re going to come, aren’t you?” Derek says, and it’s like a command.

“Not the boss of me,” Stiles reminds him, panting harshly. But then Derek does something new with that sweet spot and leans down to lick Stiles’s length and yeah, he’s coming, alright. He’s spurting all over himself, making a total mess.

He opens his eyes again, expecting a smirk, but Derek is staring at him like he’s never seen anything like him before. Like maybe he’s got some deep feelings he hasn’t quite expressed yet.

Stiles looks down at himself and makes a face. “Got tissues or something?” He asks. He’s got come between his legs, in his ass, all over his belly and chest — he’s a mess.

Instead of getting up, Derek just shimmies down the bed and starts licking him. He starts at Stiles’s right knee, where a drop of Derek’s come sits like a seed pearl, and then he works his way up. It’s weird and hot. Weirdly hot. By the time Derek's at Stiles’s chest, they’re both hard again and basically humping each other. Derek growls a lot. Stiles growls back playfully. There’s messy kissing and more sloppy coming, and this time it gets all over Derek, too.

“I can't wait until the house is ready,” Stiles mumbles sleepily when it’s all over for the second time. “Hot running water's a blessing that should never be taken for granted.”

“Not too much longer,” Derek promises. “For now, maybe we should go back to your house. When does your dad get home?”

“His shift doesn’t end until seven. We’ve got a couple of hours.”

“I’ll text the pack and let them know where we’ll be,” Derek says, whipping out his phone from somewhere.

Good. Stiles is looking forward to a shower. And, as he yawns, more sleep.

Stiles is fast asleep and doesn’t notice the problem at first. It’s not until Derek wakes him at nine that he finds out.

“Call your father,” Derek says.

Shit happens all the time. When your dad’s the Sheriff, you get used to irregular hours and sudden schedule changes.

The call goes straight to voicemail. Stiles hits end and shrugs it off, then scrolls through his contacts to the Sheriff’s Department and calls them directly. After twenty seconds he learns his father got off at seven as planned and hasn’t been seen since.

The BCSD isn’t far from the house. Stiles and Derek get out and drive the route in case something happened to the car. They find nothing.

They go to the Department parking lot and Derek picks up a faint scent. Wolves, the same ones he smelled on Stiles after he was kidnapped by the Alpha pack.

“Shit,” Stiles says, and begins to panic. He should have made that talisman. He should have made sure his father was protected. He’s been so worried about that pack that he hasn’t given enough thought to his own father, the only blood relative he has left.

“Stiles!” Derek says, grabbing him by the shoulders. “Breathe for me, baby. This isn’t your fault.”

Stiles takes a few unsteady breaths but they want to come fast and shallow instead of the slow and deep he needs. But Derek’s there. It’s okay. It’ll be okay.

“We’ll find him,” Derek is saying. “C’mon, you need to stay calm.”

After he’s taken a few long, slow breaths, counting the inhale, hold, and exhale, Stiles can finally speak again. So he says, “Baby? Really?”

Derek blinks and then turns pink. “If you don’t like it...”

This is definitely not the time. But Derek looks so open and unsure that Stiles has to say, “No, no, it’s okay. Just, um. Unexpected?”

“I don’t have to...” Derek says, and he sounds so earnest and fuck, Stiles really is in love with him.

“Just not around the rest of the pack, okay?” Stiles says. “I’d never hear the end of it.”

Derek smiles and nods and gives him a one-armed hug. “Are you feeling better now?”

“Yeah. We need to get the pack together,” Stiles says.

Derek is already taking out his phone to send multiple texts. “We’ll go back to your house and figure this out from there.”

And you’ll need more rest if you’re going to be any match for the Alpha pack, Addie says.

“There’s not a lot to figure out. The Alpha pack is working for someone in the Order, and the Order is trying to get to me through my dad,” Stiles says, ignoring Addie.

“No one is getting to you,” Derek vows, kissing Stiles’s forehead. “We’ll get him back.”

“We’re no match for a whole pack of Alphas,” Stiles says. “My magic against one Alpha … maybe. But all of them? We still don’t even know how many there are.”

“Let’s wait until the pack gets here before we start making plans,” Derek says.

Stiles nods. It’s the sane thing to do. It doesn’t stop him from wanting to go out and freeze the entire Alpha pack in one go. If only he could. Addie’s magic's there, but his skill isn’t up to a full-scale attack like that.

I’m almost well enough to manifest, Addie suddenly says. If we can get you in the center of them, I can come out and eliminate the threat.

Stiles knows Derek would never let that happen. Put himself in the middle of the Alpha pack, put himself in that kind of danger, even with Addie to back him up? No way.

So you must choose whether or not to tell your Alpha your plan.

Once they get back to the house, Stiles’s phone vibrates. He excuses himself to the bathroom and checks the incoming messages. There’s a picture of his dad, trussed up and bloody, and an address. The next message says, ‘Simple trade. Come alone.’

The address is in the warehouse district. His bad joke has come back to haunt him and he wants to laugh at the irony.

Addie's right, though — he's got a choice to make. He either tells Derek about this or he doesn’t. He’s a member of the pack and Derek's his Alpha. He’s also his boyfriend. Not telling him might lead to some consequences Stiles can’t bear.

But one thing he knows he can’t bear is his father’s death. Especially since this whole thing is technically Stiles’s fault. He could have gone with the Order’s suggestion of getting the bite and giving up Addie. Then they’d be gone, the Alpha pack wouldn’t have such an interest in him, his dad wouldn’t be in danger, and Stiles would still have the ability to protect the ones he loves.

And I’d be Hosted by a magically-manipulated puppet. Don’t forget me in your hypothetical ‘better’ scenario, Addie says.

“Sorry, Addie,” Stiles says. Then, “Are you sure you’re ready to come out?”

I’d prove it to you now if I didn’t need a cooldown period between manifestations, Addie says.

“How long is the cooldown?” Stiles asks.

At least twenty-four hours, Addie says. It takes that long to gather myself together again.

Stiles nods like he understands, which he doesn’t, but he gets the gist of it. A full day between manifestations, and he doesn’t have that long. He’s got to get to the warehouse and rescue his dad, with Addie’s help.

His mind is made up. He’s doing this. But he needs to tell Derek.

“No,” Derek says.

“I get in, get Dad out, then Addie shows up and I get myself out. It’s that easy,” Stiles says. Of course he knows there are about a hundred ways the plan could go inside out and sideways, but he’s got to stay positive.

“No,” Derek says again.

Stiles looks around the room at the others, begging for some kind of backup. But even Scott is siding with Derek on this. Stiles clenches his fists. “You can’t stop me. I’d just rather have you guys in on the plan than not.”

No,” Derek says, like stressing the word is going to make it carry more weight.

“Derek,” Stiles says, rounding on him and showing him just how serious he is. “I have Addie. I have magic. This is my dad we’re talking about. I can’t leave him there.”

“I can make something resembling tear gas,” Lydia says. “Then all we need are gas masks. If we throw it into the warehouse and then take the Sheriff out of there, we’d stay mostly safe.”

“Where are we going to get gas masks?” Scott asks.

Stiles wishes his magic was more trained. He could use magical fog to knock out the Alphas and conceal his pack. He knows the camouflage spell pretty well now, but he doesn’t think he can cast it for everyone else and keep it going, without getting exhausted.

No, but you can imbue talismans with the same spell with much less effort, Addie whispers.

He thinks about it while the others talk over him. Derek looks at him several times, frowning. He knows Stiles is plotting. Finally, Stiles holds up his hand and smiles grimly.

“Okay, I’ve got a plan.”

He walks in, alone, his hands empty. He’s still reeling from the near-violent kiss Derek gave him right before sending him on his way. His lips are swollen and tingly, but now is not the time to think about Derek’s public display of ‘you’d better not get killed’.

Someone’s coming from the Order, Addie says as he's suddenly surrounded by Alpha werewolves on all sides. There are five of them, total. Stiles stiffens. His dragon can only fight so many without being overpowered herself. Don’t worry.

Don’t worry, indeed. Easy for her to say. She’ll be alive no matter what. It’s Stiles they want to kill.

“We had a deal. Where’s my father?” Stiles asks, keeping his voice as even as possible. He knows they can all hear his heart pounding and smell his fear, but he’s not going to give them anything more than that.

One of the Alphas shrugs carelessly. “He’s in the other room. Don’t know if he’s still alive or not.”

Stiles’s heart's in his throat now and he can barely talk around it. “Let me see him.”

“Sure, kid,” says the cowboy Stiles recognizes from his kidnapping. Which makes him think of Jen, which pisses him off. Magic wells up inside him, ready to come out at his call. It’s a good feeling. Powerful.

The Alphas push him along to a small office in the warehouse, then lock him inside. At first he doesn’t see his dad, but then there he is on the floor like he was mauled and just dumped there. There’s blood on his shirt and face, smears, and Stiles is not going to panic.

“Dad?” Stiles says, gently turning his father over onto his back. His chest bears claw marks and Stiles searches all over for more blood that might indicate a bite. He’d rather have a werewolf dad than a dead one, but it’s not in his top ten list of ways this should end.

“Stiles,” his dad croaks. “Get out of here.”

That’s a laugh. “Sure, as soon as I can. Got to make sure you don’t die on me first, though. Hold still.”

He’s only practiced the healing hands spell once, on the cat at the animal clinic. It worked then but that was another kind of problem. Hip dysplasia is different than ten inch gashes, and that’s not even taking into consideration the fact that Stiles has never done this on a person before. Derek had volunteered, but his super-speedy healing meant it was over before Stiles started chanting.

Chanting, right. Latin again. Addie whispers the correct wording to him and then he’s doing it, laying his hands over his father’s chest and moving the magic into and under the wounds to heal them.

“Stiles?” his dad asks, looking down at the disappearing marks. Now there are just long pink lines on his chest, where before there were deep gashes. “You’re going to explain all of this?”

“Soon as we get home, Dad,” Stiles promises.

The Alphas didn’t check him very well this time and he takes his phone out of his hoodie and sends a text to the pack. He also takes out the empty talisman he was carrying.

“What’s that? Did you call the police?” his father asks, ever the Sheriff.

“Weird how that option never came to mind,” Stiles mutters to himself. Of course the cops would all get torn to pieces and there are few enough applicants already. No one wants to work at the Beacon County Sheriff’s Department anymore, not with their kind of mortality rate.

“They aren’t human, Stiles,” his dad says hesitantly, like a question.

“No, they’re werewolves,” Stiles says. “But that doesn’t mean all werewolves are bad. These particular ones are, though.”

“Right. Werewolves,” his father says. He snorts. “What?”

“I’m serious,” Stiles says. The look on his dad’s face is pure shock. “Just believe me, okay? I promise it’ll all make sense later.”

His dad shakes his head and squeezes his eyes shut. “Werewolves,” he mutters. Then, with the cool gained by past experience with danger, he nods grimly. “We need to leave.”

Stiles flashes him a grin. “Don’t worry. We’re getting out of here soon.”

They’re coming, Stiles. Hurry!

Stiles nods and cups the empty talisman in his hands, then works the magic. It doesn’t have to be perfect; there will be enough distraction that it might not even be needed. When he’s finished he loops it around his father’s neck and watches him disappear from view. “Perfect.”

“I can’t see myself,” his dad says, apparently looking down or at his hands or something.

“That’s the point. Now. I’m going to open the door and you’re going to walk out of the warehouse, straight past the loading dock, right to Scott and Lydia. Stay there,” Stiles says.

“And what will you be doing while this is happening? Where’s your amulet?” Dad asks.

“I have a secret weapon,” Stiles says.

“Are you a werewolf?” his father asks, sounding shocky.

“No. I’m a Host to a badass dragon who’s going to eat those Alphas out there for breakfast,” Stiles says with a grin he really doesn’t feel. It’s weird talking to someone you can’t see, but Stiles is just happy the magic is working.

He feels his father grip his arm. “I don’t understand what you just said, and I have a feeling I won’t like it when I do.”

Stiles pats his father’s invisible hand awkwardly. “Dad, I really, really wish I had time to explain everything, but I don’t. We’re in real danger here and I’ve got to get you out.”

He freezes the lock on the door with the dragon’s breath spell and then knocks it to the floor.

“Now go,” he whispers, and hopes his father does exactly as he was told.

Take your shirt off unless you want it torn to pieces, Addie says.

“My favorite hoodie? No way,” Stiles says and whips it off over his head. He hears a gasp — his father must have seen the tattoo. “Dad,” he whispers, “I promise, I’ll tell you everything. Just get out of here.”

Showtime Addie says. She sounds giddy. Stiles realizes she hasn’t manifested in a long time and is eager to come out to play.

“Hey, Alpha douchebags!” Stiles calls out, and two of them stalk toward him, snarling.

“How did you get out?” Cowboy asks. The other one is tall and wiry, like a basketball player.

“Just a trick I know,” Stiles says airily.

Brace yourself, Addie says, and then there’s a pulling sensation, like Stiles is losing something vital, and then...

Addie is there.

Stiles knows she's a dragon. He knows what the tattoo looks like and the word ‘dragon’ has been bandied about nonstop since this whole thing began. But to actually see her, a mythical creature of pure magic, all black with shiny scales and fire-red claws and horns and deeply intelligent black eyes — well, it’s a wonder Stiles is still standing.

She looks at him and rolls her eyes and yeah, that’s his Addie. He gets the message and moves out of the way.

The two Alphas are backing away. They know when they’re outmatched. She corners them, though, and chomps. Stiles hears their bones crunch, like a couple of roaches squished under a boot.

Others come running to see what the commotion is. Stiles leaps out of the way before Addie roars at them, her icy breath freezing them solid. It’s like something out of a comic book: a freeze ray. He could never get his dragon’s breath spell that powerful. Well, maybe with practice.

He’s not paying attention. No, he is, he’s just paying attention to the wrong things. He’s grabbed from behind, arms locked painfully behind his back.

“If I kill you now, Adelinde will have no choice but to bond with Serge,” Roland says in his ear.

“Serge is in jail,” Stiles says.

“Wrong,” says another voice, and shit, it’s Serge. “Kill him, uncle.”

Addie is done with the Alphas; there aren’t any of them left. She turns back to Stiles and stops when she sees his situation.

“Adelinde, I’m sure you don’t want to fight with Dracu,” Roland says, and it takes Stiles a moment to realize he must be talking about his own dragon. “Come peacefully and you will be treated well.”

“She’s not a pet or a slave,” Stiles spits. “Why do you want to control dragons?”

“Because we can pool our magical resources together and do great things,” Roland says.

“So you just want more power,” Stiles says. There's a shift in the air to his right and he knows Derek is there, wearing a camouflage talisman and waiting for his signal. It’s dangerous, though. Dracu could manifest and kill them all. There’s no telling what his opinion of all this is.

“Someone’s here,” Serge says, looking around frantically. “I heard something.”

Addie roars her displeasure.

Roland goes on as if he didn’t hear. “For too long, the Order has stayed in the shadows, protecting ancient secrets. We could have influenced the entire world, but instead they chose to hide away.”

“Uncle, I heard something!” Serge says again.

Stiles is bound with his hands behind his back and can’t do anything but watch as another dragon manifests in the warehouse next to Addie. This one is brown with a golden underbelly, larger than Addie. Their eyes meet, and then as one they converge on Roland.

“Dracu! Dracu, come out!” Roland says, holding out a hand as if to stop the dragons from attacking. But no magic comes and Dracu doesn’t manifest. Stiles realizes Dracu is on their side, not Roland’s.

Serge gasps as the brown dragon takes a swipe at Roland, then hides his face when Addie breathes ice on him, freezing him in place. Only then does Stiles see Mark standing by with his arms crossed. He has a scarily calm expression on his face.

When Roland is frozen, his magic fails completely and Stiles is unbound. Around him, his packmates take off their talismans and skirt around the dragons to check on Stiles and to grab Serge.

Derek is the first to reach Stiles; he must have been close. Stiles leans into him and Derek wraps his arms tightly around him.

“Wait,” Stiles says, and then walks up to Addie, ignoring Mark’s dragon for the moment. Hesitantly, Stiles reaches out to touch Addie’s scales. He’s amazed to find how hard they are. Addie lowers her head so she can meet Stiles eye to eye. Stiles grins. “Hey.” Addie snorts and Stiles pats her nose. Then he looks at Mark’s dragon and nods. “Thank you.”

Hang on, Addie says in his head, and then she’s moving back into Stiles, and he can feel the fullness of her, the power. His back tingles for a moment and he knows the tattoo has returned to its place.

When Stiles looks up again, he sees that Mark’s dragon has returned, too.

Mark holds out his hand and Stiles shakes it. Derek drapes his jacket over Stiles’s naked shoulders and Stiles gives him a grateful smile.

Mark looks sadly at the frozen Roland. “I knew he was betraying the Order, but I couldn’t find a way to capture him without hurting Dracu.”

“That won’t hurt him?” Stiles asks.

“A Candidate is on her way to take over. Dracu has a day or so at least until he needs a new Host,” Mark says.

“Thank god this is over,” Stiles says with a sigh. “I mean, awesome dragons are awesome, but my life needs to get back to normal.” Whatever ‘normal’ means.

“The Order is going to want to keep tabs on you,” Mark says.

“Is anyone else going to try to kill me?” Stiles asks. Beside him, Derek growls.

“I highly doubt that. After what you’ve done here, it’s clear that you and Addie work well together and it would be a shame to part you,” Mark says. “But try not to let her manifest anywhere you have to explain it.”

“Ancient secrets, right. I’ve got it,” Stiles says. Erica throws him his clothes and he grabs them. “Yay, my hoodie!”

“Ready to go home?” Derek asks. It’s clear he thinks that’s a good idea.

Stiles groans. “Shit, I’ve got to explain everything to my dad.”

His dad takes it about as well as Stiles expected. Better, actually. He’s happy to find out that he’s not insane and all the animal attacks around Beacon Hills were something more. The look on his face when it all slots together makes Stiles smile. The subject matter is grim, of course, but it’s good to finally come clean.

After he’s shown his dad his tattoo again, and explained in excruciating detail about Addie and her role in his life now, his father notices how worn out he is and takes pity so he can go upstairs. Stiles isn’t as tired from doing magic as he’s been in the past, but there’s an emotional tiredness that he needs to sleep off. Having everything over, finally, is such a relief. He’s been on edge since the Alpha pack first came to town, and now that they’re gone he can rest. His own pack is no longer in danger, at least not from that direction.

He takes a long shower, puts on fresh boxers, and shuts his door tight. He opens his window before he goes to bed.

He wakes up in Derek’s arms, just as he’d hoped. A quick glance at the clock tells him it’s past midnight and he’s been sleeping for about five hours. He doesn’t know when Derek showed up, but he’s sleeping soundly beside him.

Stiles props his head up on one hand and takes the opportunity to look at Derek. He smells like soap on top of leather and that forest-scent he can never shake, so Stiles knows he’s showered somewhere before coming over.

His face looks peaceful. He’s not angry or frustrated and there’s no worried line between his eyebrows. He looks good like this, like he could wake up and give Stiles an easy smile at any moment. Just imagining it is enough to make Stiles’s heart turn over.

You really do love him, don’t you? Addie asks. Stiles smiles and reaches out to touch Derek’s shoulder gently, smoothing his hand down the well-muscled arm.

“I think you should be quiet for awhile,” Stiles whispers to the dragon, because he has plans that don’t include her.

As you say, Addie says. She sounds greatly amused.

But Stiles doesn’t have time to think about Addie’s amusement, because Derek’s eyes are opening and he’s looking at Stiles like that. Zero to sixty in 3.9 seconds, Stiles thinks. Just like Derek’s told him about his Camaro.

Stiles puts a hand on Derek’s chest and gently pushes him down on his back. He slides down Derek’s body, his intent clear. He’s never given a blowjob before but he’s watched plenty of porn and had lots of fantasies. Derek seems to be completely with the program, his eyes flickering briefly red and back again.

“Let me know if I do something wrong,” Stiles says, self-conscious. He looks at Derek’s cock and feels a little intimidated, because how’s it going to fit? He wants it, though. In his mouth, in his ass, it doesn’t matter. He just wants it.

Derek’s eyes are intense when Stiles looks up at him again. Derek says, “I don’t think you could do it wrong.”

Stiles makes a face, because what if he uses his teeth unintentionally? Everything he's read always says to watch the teeth. Then again, Derek might like that. There’s no telling with a werewolf, is there?

“Lick first,” Derek says, cutting into Stiles’s thoughts.

Right. Stiles can follow direction. He takes Derek’s cock in his hand and licks up the underside with the flat of his tongue. When he gets to the head he flicks his tongue at the slit and Derek makes a noise in the back of his throat. It’s a good noise, but Stiles isn’t sure what prompted it. He’s just started, after all.

“You look incredible,” Derek says hoarsely. “Keep going.”

Stiles licks his way around Derek’s cock, making it wet and sloppy, and then without prompting takes as much as he can into his mouth. His hand at the base keeps it from going too far, and he congratulates himself silently on the forethought.

The weight of cock on his tongue is a new experience, but everything about it serves to make Stiles harder. He’s glad he’s wearing boxers and not jeans because it’d be uncomfortable if he was wrapped up tight down there. He doesn’t quite manage to hold back a moan when Derek shifts his hips and pushes in a little further.

Stiles,” Derek says. “You like that?” His hands are petting Stiles’s head and he moves his hips again. This time his cock moves back so that just the head is there, and Stiles whimpers and tries to take more again. But Derek holds him in place and won’t let him move. “Just like this.” And then he’s sliding back in, wet and slow, filling Stiles’s mouth again.

It’s probably foolish to move his hand from the base of Derek’s cock, but Stiles wants more. He looks up at Derek’s face and sees just as much want there.

“You look so good with my cock filling your mouth,” Derek says, and the words tumble out like he can’t stop them. Then he moves again, still slow, but this time his cock goes farther and Stiles can feel it at the back of his throat. It’s not harsh enough to trigger his gag reflex, though, and it feels so amazing. He can taste Derek’s salty precome on his tongue. It makes him reach down and palm his own cock through thin cotton.

Derek is starting to pant, and as much as Stiles wants him to finish in his mouth, he wants other things more. Stiles pulls off Derek’s cock and looks up. “I want you to fuck me.”

“You-- fuck,” Derek gasps, looking almost lost to lust and emotion. “Are you sure?”

Stiles laughs. “Yeah. Positive.” He moves up the bed and rummages through the side table for his bottle of lube. There’s an unopened box of condoms there, too, but Derek’s a werewolf and can’t catch anything and Stiles is a virgin and hasn’t had any opportunities to catch anything. So condoms aren’t needed. Which is hot, really. He doesn’t want to feel anything between him and Derek.

Stiles decides to show off and makes the lube float in midair before pushing it over to Derek’s waiting hand. Derek smiles at the show of magic and pulls him down for a kiss. “You’re amazing. It’s hard to believe I can have this. Have you.”

“Believe it,” Stiles whispers between kisses. “I’m yours.” Totally, completely.

Derek gives a playful growl and rolls them over. Stiles looks up at him and grins. Then they’re kissing again, their bodies pressing and sliding together, and Stiles thinks, I really love him.

Stiles parts his legs for Derek and Derek slicks his fingers with lube. “I feel like I’ve been waiting for you forever,” Derek says, and pushes in with two slick fingers. It’s almost too much all at once, but somehow Derek knows exactly what Stiles can take.

It feels good: the stretch, the fullness, and then the twist of Derek’s fingers that makes him cry out.

“Don’t stop talking,” Stiles says. Because Derek’s sex voice is amazing. Not to mention the things he says.

“God, Stiles, I’m going to fill you up,” Derek murmurs. “Can you take another one? Take another finger for me, baby.”

Stiles’s fingers are digging into Derek’s shoulders now, and he pushes back on the three fingers that Derek gives him. It’s good, so good, and he can’t help the whimper that comes out of his mouth.

“You sound good, too. You make me want to howl, you’re so perfect,” Derek says.

Stiles begins to fuck himself on Derek’s fingers, needing it, needing more. He’s so close to begging. Maybe that’s what Derek wants.

“Perfect and mine,” Derek whispers. “Look at you.”

Stiles knows that Derek’s possessiveness is a werewolf thing; he doesn’t mind one bit. Especially when he’s half mindless with lust like right now. “Yours, Derek. Just yours. Now fuck me!”

Derek growls and shoves a pillow up under Stiles, then lines up and begins to push in. His hands are tight on Stiles’s hips, and his cock is huge. Stiles whimpers, but this time it’s because it hurts.

Derek stills and kisses his knee. “Shh, you’re doing so good. Just let it happen.” He holds himself there, sweat beading on his forehead, letting Stiles get used to the intrusion.

It takes what feels like forever, but then it doesn’t hurt anymore. The burn that was like fire just moments ago is now a pleasant warmth, and Stiles realizes that Derek is inside him. He wants more. More stretching, more filling, more fucking. So he gives an experimental roll of his hips, taking Derek in further.

“Yeah, just like that,” Derek says, sounding relieved and close to desperate.

“Move,” Stiles demands.

“You’re so tight,” Derek says. He thrusts in slowly until he’s buried to the hilt.

Stiles moans and clings to him, lifting his knees up as far as he can get them to go. It pushes Derek in deeper, and then Derek’s control seems to break and he starts fucking Stiles for real. It’s like trying to hang glide in a hurricane. Stiles can’t find the rhythm, can’t do anything but hold on for the ride.

Every thrust pushes Stiles closer to the edge, and his cock hasn’t even been touched. Derek has him on a razor’s edge, and when Stiles looks up he sees red eyes focused entirely on him. It should scare him, to see how close to the wolf Derek is. But it doesn’t. It turns him on even more, if that’s possible. Stiles realizes that Derek’s control hasn’t broken at all, not really. While his eyes are red, his claws are sheathed, and he’s actually fucking Stiles in a measured way.

“You stopped talking,” Stiles gasps between thrusts.

Derek growls. “Fucking you, making you mine,” he says, which is probably all that’s on his mind at the moment. It’s flattering, and sexy as hell. Stiles is close, and he can tell Derek is, too.

“I am yours. I want you so bad,” Stiles says, clinging to Derek’s shoulders. He bites and licks at the side of Derek’s neck. “Love you so much,” he gasps.

Derek groans and thrusts hard, then changes angles until Stiles cries out from pleasure. “Come for me,” Derek says.

It’s not the order that makes Stiles come. It’s not like he was waiting for permission or anything. Stiles’s orgasm makes an appearance after the demand because of complete coincidence. That’s all.

And then Derek is coming, and Stiles swears he can feel it, a pulse of heat inside him. It’s impossible of course, but the thought is hot as hell.

They lie together, sweaty and panting, for a good five minutes. Then Derek leans over and kisses him. It’s slow and somewhat sloppy, absolutely perfect.

“You’re still not the boss of me, though,” Stiles says with a grin. He’s sure it’s a goofy smile but he really doesn't care.

Derek traces his features with a fingertip, touching his nose and lips and chin. It’s delicate and gentle. Stiles realizes he’s seeing a whole other side to Derek now. He likes it.

“You said you love me,” Derek says softly.

Stiles blinks. “Don't you want me to? Because I don’t think I can do anything about it.”

“No, that’s not what I meant,” Derek says, pulling Stiles close. The action puts Stiles’s mind at ease. “It’s just dangerous for you.”

“It’s been dangerous for me since the beginning,” Stiles says. “At least now I can fight back.”

Derek’s silent for a few moments, then he says, “Yeah, you can.”

Stiles closes his eyes and yawns. “Wake me up before you leave.”

“I will,” Derek says, kissing Stiles’s forehead.

It’s good, this thing they have. And having everything wrapped up and tidy, having his dad, the pack — the town, even — safe, makes Stiles feel at ease.

He’s drifting off to pleasant dreams when he hears Derek’s voice again. Three words.

It’s enough to make Stiles greet his dreams with a smile, knowing he is loved.