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Not Your Disney Romance

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The longer Derek stared at the letter in hand, the more he desperately wished that he was dreaming. However, Derek was pretty sure his subconscious couldn’t create the intricate coils and symbols that made up the crest of the Turner pack, nor would it be so cruel as to torture him with the words within the letter. Dread and horror settled heavier and heavier in his gut with every sentence that his eyes glossed over. He hadn’t actually thought they’d follow through with their claims of enacting an old treaty betrothal between the Hale and Turner pack that had been drawn up years ago, especially since he was well over the age of eighteen by now.

This was over his head. Even six years of being the alpha hadn’t prepared him to deal with pack politics that nobody had ever really taught him about. Derek had been taking a shot in the dark when he’d responded to their initial letter (found in an old P.O. box Laura had set up a dozen years ago after the fire) stating that their delay in calling upon the treaty had rendered it void. He’d even been sure to mention having already found a significant other--one that happened to not actually exist--so that they might change their minds. Derek had really been hoping they wouldn’t call his bluff…but all his hopes had been in vain.

Not only had they called his bluff, but according to the letter, Derek had less than a week to find himself a fiancé because the Turner pack was coming down to ‘officially’ break the treaty and give Derek and his nonexistent mate their blessing. Derek knew for a fact that turning them down could probably end in a lot of hell and maybe even bloodshed if they discovered that Derek had been lying to them.

He knew for a fact that they were desperate for a born werewolf to help strengthen the pack’s future bloodlines.

Derek grabbed his cell phone from the coffee table and hit Scott’s speed dial number. He wasn’t sure Scott was going to be able to help--but Derek had learned after a good handful of years that keeping something like this to himself was a far worse decision than actually calling Scott for help.

When the call went straight to voice mail, Derek sighed, hung up, and called Stiles.

“Mornin’, Starshine,” Stiles chirped when he answered, “Scott not answer?”

“No,” Derek muttered, smiling a little at the grumble he got from the other end, “can you get in contact with him? I need everyone here as soon as possible.”

Stiles let out a nervous hissing noise as he sighed through his teeth, “is this an emergency?”

“It will be.”

Judging from the thudding on the other line, Stiles had probably dropped something onto his desk in a fit of exasperated dramatics. “Define ‘will be’,” he snapped, “because the last time you said that, Erica’s hair got set on fire and I needed three new tires for the jeep.”

Derek wasn’t going to take the bait this time--because Stiles loved baiting him and Derek maybe had a terrible habit of letting Stiles get his way sometimes. If this were any less serious, Derek was pretty sure they’d be bickering about the schematics on who was to blame for the destruction of the jeep’s tires and Erica’s goldilock curls.

“How much is there about arranged marriages in that book you got from Deaton?”

Stiles released a strangled garble of noises that usually meant he was in the process of reacting to whatever question had been thrown his way. It took a second, but Derek soon heard the shifting of paper as Stiles started to flip through the book. “Uh,” Stiles grunted, muttering to himself for a second and then going silent to blurt, “wait, are you engaged?”

“Possibly,” Derek admitted wearily.

Another, longer silence happened, and then Stiles let out a dramatic and pained sigh of the greatest suffering. “I’ll get the pack together.”

Even if Derek was going to entertain the thought of thanking Stiles, it was pointless because he hung up right after he’d finished talking. Derek and the other werewolves weren’t the only ones who had changed and matured over the years. Stiles had gotten the brunt of a lot of their issues, and it made him tougher and sharper than the sixteen year old kid Derek had met in the woods so long ago.

It came with a price, though, and no matter how many times Stiles claimed that his injuries were worth it, Derek still felt miserable on the few times that Stiles walked a little slower or spaced out more than usual. Despite the bad days, Stiles was resilient, adaptable, and the most stubborn and irreplaceable human that Derek had met in his entire life.

Derek looked around his apartment, realizing with a pang of sorrow that he was going to have to clean before the pack showed up. Everyone had been busy for most of the week, which meant that Derek had kind of let things get out of hand with no one to impress. He started with the living room, grabbing a trash bag and getting to work.

Stiles let himself in while Derek was pulling his first load of clothes out of the dryer. He was one of the few pack members with a key--other than Isaac and Scott--and was always happy to use his key even when he knew Derek was home. Derek popped his head out of the tiny laundry room, calling out so Stiles could figure out where he was.

“Need help?” was the first thing Stiles asked, grinning crookedly. Derek grunted, lifting up the basket and gesturing for the couch.

“If you like folding socks.”

“Sure,” Stiles brought his cane up, giving Derek half a second to see the runes carved into the dark oak before he poked Derek harshly in the stomach, “since you decided to let me call everyone instead of doing it yourself, nobody is going to be here for another hour.” Derek cringed, feeling the sharp flare of pressure that came with that particular protection symbol.

 

“They listen to you,” Derek pointed out, “you’re more annoying.”

Stiles wielded his cane, shaking it menacingly, “watch it, buddy,” he warned, but with no actual malice in his words.

They sat on the couch, Derek pressing up against Stiles’ right side and making sure that his thigh was touching Stiles’ bad leg as he started to pull clothes out of the basket. Stiles was loathe to admit, but having werewolves who could ease his pain a little always put him in a better mood. It had been overcast since the night before, which meant that Derek was sure Stiles’ leg was bothering him more than usual.

Derek put up with the dull throb in his leg that came from taking some of Stiles’ pain while they folded his laundry in silence. It was one of the many ways Derek had learned to show his gratitude for all the hell that Stiles had gone through for the pack. Stiles was having one of those days where he wasn’t particularly talkative either, his fingers nimble as he paired off sock after sock and hummed an old rock song under his breath.

By the time everyone finally showed up, the entire apartment was starting to feel cramped.

“So wait,” Scott threw a hand out, looking just as confused as everyone else after Derek‘s explanation, “are you engaged or not?”

“I was,” Derek tried again, “before my family died, I was supposed to marry the daughter of the alpha when I turned eighteen. After the fire, Laura and I moved away and the Turner pack lost contact with us…”

Derek pressed his fingertips together, and then brought them to his temples to rub absently. “The terms of engagement were for a born werewolf from the Hale pack of Beacon Hills. Two werewolves isn’t a pack…not one that’s worth marrying into.”

Stiles crossed his arms, bouncing his leg in his usual fidget. “So, what? Now that you’ve got this big bad pack, they think they can just be like, ‘oh hey by the way you were supposed to marry our daughter ten years ago,’ and think it will work?”

Derek shrugged, “pretty much. Only now I’m the alpha, and there’s enough of us that we could double the strength of their pack if they married us in.”

“Us?” Scott echoed, “what do we have to do with it? Do you mean if you marry this chick that we have to join their pack?”

“Dude,” Stiles piped up, “that’s lame.”

“So why tell them you’re already engaged?” Boyd asked from where he was lounging in the recliner. “Is it some kind of loophole?”

Derek scrubbed at his face, shrugging and trying to ignore the urge to cry in frustration. “They waited ten years to enact the betrothal. By right, if I’m married or going to be married in that time, the treaty is void. The problem is that now they want to come here to meet my mate and bless the marriage and I have no way of stopping them.

“You’re engaged?” Stiles blurted, staring at Derek like he’d eaten the very last curly fry on earth. Derek stared in disbelief and Scott let out a loud noise of understanding.

“Oh, you lied!” he exclaimed, face splitting into a knowing grin while Stiles made a few expressions before settling on a sheepish shrug.

“So what do we do?” Stiles asked, gesturing to the pack as a whole, “I’m pretty sure none of us really want to join these guys if they’re as power-hungry as you say.”

Isaac dug his hands into his pockets, “we could hire someone? Maybe get an escort to be his fiancé?” Boyd twisted his head, giving Isaac the same blank-faced stare that he’d somehow learned from Derek. Isaac ducked his head, “right, bad idea.”

“What about Danny?” Scott suggested. Derek shook his head, temporarily relieved that Jackson and Lydia were out of state for their anniversary so he didn’t have to hear the two of them reprimanding Scott for volunteering their best friend to fake-marry Derek.

“Doesn’t smell like pack,” Derek said, “just a friend of the pack.”

“I could do it?” Isaac shrugged, gnawing on the corner of his lip.

Derek thought about it, but the idea of being intimate with Isaac made something churn in his gut. “Wouldn’t work. We interact too much like alpha and beta… they’d be able to tell,” he explained, getting nothing but looks of confusion from Isaac and Scott. “We have to pass as lovers, which means you need to be my equal; and you take orders too easily.”

Isaac nodded slowly, making a sound of understanding just as Allison and Erica slipped into the apartment after having run to the store to grab a few things to make for dinner.

“Besides,” Derek added, watching Erica plop herself in Boyd’s lap, “you smell like…” he gestured vaguely, hand waving over to Scott and then to Allison--because it didn’t take a genius to tell that the three of them had been experimenting for the past couple of months. There hadn’t been a reason to bring it up before now, and Derek almost regretted it as Stiles’ mouth dropped open and he gaped at Scott--who was red in the face and avoiding eye contact.

Isaac, however, just nodded understandingly, “fair enough.”

Somehow, everyone but Derek turned to look at Stiles at the exact same time. Derek, however, was trying to desperately ignore what was about to happen. He had not spent the past few years ignoring how hard he had fallen for Stiles, just to be forced to pretend they were in the relationship he’d always wanted.

“Do they have to be a werewolf?” Stiles asked, and Derek barely stopped himself from wincing when he added, “I could be your boyfr--”

“Fiancé,” Derek interrupted.

“Yeah, that.”

Grimacing, Derek brought a hand up to his face, mouthing the word, ‘fuck,’ into his palm so that no one could see it. This was going to end badly, there was no way it couldn’t.

Stiles huffed, “don’t look so offended. I’m a catch.

Derek knew that tone of voice well. It was the same indignant pitch that Stiles always took on when he was ready to put up a fight if he didn’t get his way. Stiles had a habit of stubbornly doing things just for the sake of proving others wrong. “You have to smell more like me,” he said, hoping that would be enough to change Stiles’ mind once he realized what type of interaction this sort of ‘job’ would entail.

A scoff, “not that hard. I’m a cuddler anyway.”

“We have less than a week. How are you going to explain to your dad where you are? You need to make my apartment smell like you.”

Stiles stared and then, very slowly, said, “this isn’t high school,” because of course Derek couldn’t use Stiles’ father as an excuse anymore. The man had known about the pack for three and a half years already. Nope. Stiles had already sunk his claws in. There was no way he was going to back out now. Derek was screwed.

He must have been staring too long because Stiles clapped a hand on his good leg and grinned, “well that’s that, then. Anyone hungry?” he asked, pushing himself up into a stand, snatching his cane from the coffee table and heading for the kitchen. Derek got up, turning in time to see Stiles suddenly put his cane down and start to use it after he’d only gotten a few feet from the living room.

Everyone else resettled in the living room to discuss their weeks while Derek helped Stiles rummage around for the necessary utensils needed to make pasta. Other than needing to use the cane to get to the kitchen, Stiles seemed like he was doing better than earlier.

“If we do this, you need to be on your guard,” Derek warned, pulling out the pre-made sauce jars out of the grocery bags that Allison had left on the counter. “You’re human, and that means that they’re going to be pretty pissed when they find out they lost an alpha to what they think is a weaker race.”

Grinning and setting down the saucepan on the stove, Stiles turned and gave Derek’s shoulder a firm pat and then squeeze, “the cane isn’t just for the gimp leg, remember?” he teased. Derek frowned, and Stiles made a move to poke him with the rune-etched end that had Derek jerking away out of instinct.

“See? I can be scary,“ smugly, Stiles set the cane against the counter and went about filling a pot with water. Derek would have been more inclined to believe him, if it weren’t for the fact that he didn’t know the Turners well enough to trust them not to do something that could end up with Stiles getting hurt or killed. He grabbed some basil and salt, sprinkling them into the pot when Stiles set it on the stove.

“You should probably stay tonight,” he said, “I still have some of your stuff from the wendigo last month; I washed them.”

“How sweet of you,” Stiles said dryly, grabbing the half-empty bag of garlic knots from on top of Derek’s toaster oven. Derek harrumphed, watching Stiles set a few on a pan so they could be heated up once the food was nearly finished.

“Shut up,” he sniped, filching one of the rolls and ducking Stiles’ karate-chop flail before escaping to the living room.

-

After the food had been completely destroyed by hungry werewolves and college students alike, everyone went their separate ways. Derek made sure before they left that they had all finished smoothing out their stories (which was really just a romantic version of how Derek and Stiles had actually met) for when the Turners arrived--as well as Derek telling them what he knew about this pack; which wasn’t much.

 

Stiles flopped back against the couch, rubbing his stomach with a contented sigh, his good leg settling on the arm of the couch. Derek watched from the kitchen as Stiles reached for his bad leg, hauling it up onto the arm with a grunt. He went back to cleaning up the mess from dinner while Stiles used his cane to drag the controller for the play station within reach. Derek was just rinsing out the saucepan when Stiles’ voice drifted from the living room.

“Derek, can you turn the TV on?”

“You have feet.” Derek shot back.

Stiles released a long, dramatic whine and then, “but you’re my fiance! You have to provide for me!” in a way that was so exaggerated Derek actually felt a little better about the entire arrangement. It meant that Stiles was going to treat this just like every other awkward situation they’d ever been forced into; with humor, and the best effort he could muster.

Drying his hands off with a paper towel, Derek left the dishes to be done later and wandered into the living room. Stiles was waving his cane around, trying to reach the remote on the recliner without falling. It was almost comical, but Derek knew no matter how much Stiles might have been playing it up, his leg was probably still bothering him.

No matter how fast a human healed, Stiles was never happy. He’d keep pushing himself until things like this happened--where he’d rather ask for help than deal with the pain and aches that came from moving around. Derek grabbed the remote, flicking on the television and then heading for the couch. He lifted up both of Stiles’ legs, sitting down and settling them onto his lap.

Stiles spent less than a second looking at Derek oddly before he shrugged and said, “if we’re gonna go all domestic, you should rub my feet. You know, for practice purposes.”

Derek had a hard time finding an argument to that when he had spent years looking for a hundred reasons to touch Stiles. It was hard to find any reason not to comply when Derek also knew for a fact that Stiles’ feet were almost always bothering him because of the way his injury forced him to walk. He fiddled with Stiles’ sneakers, pulling the laces loose and then tugging both of them off.

“Seriously?” Stiles gaped. Derek shrugged, grabbing his bad leg’s foot, and dug his thumbs right into the sole, pushing upward at the tense, sensitive muscles there. Stiles let out a choked warble of, “oh God,” head thudding back against the couch and his toes spasming. Derek snorted, massaging firmly in slow, outward circles.

“Yeah, forget buying me seat covers or something as payment… just add foot rubs to each pack meeting,“ Stiles whimpered, his foot arching just the tiniest bit when Derek hit a sensitive area, “maybe twice on Mondays.“

Derek cracked a grin, a swell of fondness overwhelming him suddenly. When Stiles had been in high school, they didn’t have this familiarity. Derek had been so alone back then; relying on a barely-there bond between himself and a bunch of teenagers, and in a constant state of waiting for something to kill him. He wasn’t really sure what he’d done right between then and now, but whatever it was that had kept everyone together, Derek was grateful for it. He was grateful to have such a closeness with Stiles--even if it was under somewhat false pretenses-- that they could joke around and Derek was able to touch him freely while leaving all awkwardness behind.

If there was one thing he’d missed about his family, it was the open affection between all of them. It had taken Derek a long time to get that with this new pack--two years before Erica would curl up next to the couch, four years until Boyd would pull him into a greeting hug, and five before he could reach out and hold Stiles without worrying about the repercussions.

It didn’t take long before Stiles was a sufficient pile of goo on the couch, the controller hanging limply in his hand while Derek rubbed at his ankles.

“Did you do your stretches?” he asked. Stiles cracked an eye open, glowering at him.

“Yes,” he muttered, “I kind of have to if I don’t want to be crippled for the rest of my life,” his tone was sharp and bitter, full of frustration that Derek knew he had trouble expressing. Derek shrugged once, because--in all honesty--he had no idea how human injuries healed. The only reason he knew so much about Stiles’ was because each trip he made to the hospital was met with Melissa McCall’s wrath and a folder full of printouts on whatever treatment required.

Derek placed his hand behind the knee of Stiles’ bad leg, pushing up and bending his leg towards his stomach. Stiles let out a loud, pained whimper, his face scrunching up.

“Breathe,” Derek reminded him, ignoring the dirty look Stiles shot his way. Stiles’ leg shook in his palms, but Derek kept gently pushing until Stiles let out a long, shuddering breath, finally relaxing enough that Derek could push just a few inches more. This wasn’t the first time Stiles had needed help with his physical therapy--there were days near the beginning where it had taken almost the entire pack to even get him out of bed.

Counting in his head, Derek finally lowered Stiles’ leg after a good minute, watching as Stiles went utterly limp again. “Do you need help getting up?”

“Nah,” Stiles sighed, pushing himself up, “I’m pretty sure I could run for a mile right now.”

Derek narrowed his eyes as Stiles laughed and stood up, stretching and groaning. “I’m kidding, dude.”

“Dude,” Derek mocked, “you’ve done it before.”

“Okay, that was one time,” Stiles sniped, standing before Derek, bouncing a little and wiggling his arms and legs to work out the kinks he’d gotten while laying down. He was moving better, knees bending together and his hips rotating the way they should have been. It made Derek feel a little better knowing that he was repaying Stiles in some way for all the things he’d gone through for the pack.

Standing, Derek reached out to scrub a hand over Stiles’ head and give it a gentle shove, “go take a shower, you’re going to have to sleep with me.”

“Huh, I guess you’re right,” Stiles hummed, punching Derek gently in the chest in retaliation for the noogie. Derek was grateful for small favors like Stiles being smart enough to catch onto why they needed to share the bed. This entire situation was awkward enough, but at least he didn’t have to go on a massive explanation about scent marking and pack territory.

While Stiles showered, Derek hurried into his room to kick the last of his dirty laundry under the bed with some of the random nick nacks that he’d never put back on the shelves. He changed the sheets with a fresh pair out of his closet and threw all his trash away, carrying out some dirty cups and dishes. He was putting them in the sink just as Stiles emerged from the hallway bathroom in a burst of steam, wearing only his boxers and the spare t-shirt that Derek had gotten out for him.

By the time Derek had showered and put on some sweatpants, Stiles was fast asleep on his bed with his mouth hanging open and his arms starfished across the mattress. Derek rolled him onto his side, pushing Stiles closer to the wall and then climbing in next to him so they were back to back. He drifted off to the sound of Stiles’ heavy breathing and the creaking of the overhead fan.

He woke up the next morning with his head on Stiles’ shoulder and Stiles’ snores softly filling the room. Stiles hadn’t always snored, but a cracked rib that punctured his lung back in his senior year had changed things. Derek sat up, eyes dragging down to the scar on Stiles’ hip that stretched all the way around from his navel.

The scar itself wasn’t anything gruesome; less than an inch thick and a puckered pink that deepened to red around the soft flesh of Stiles’ belly. It was what had caused the scar that made Derek’s chest ache with the memory. Stiles had shoved Boyd out of the way, saving him from the manticore’s sting and getting enough of the poisoned tip that he’d been left in a feverish state of near-death hallucination for days afterwards.

Derek pressed his palm against the center of the scar--where the barb had sunken the deepest--and applied just enough pressure that he could absorb the dull throb of pain he knew would be plaguing Stiles’ joints. It wasn’t the most prominent of his injuries, but the poison had damaged his nerves, leaving part of his side numb and the rest of it prone to aching first thing in the morning.

Stiles‘ breathing changed from sleeping to waking, one eye slitting open to peer down at Derek‘s palm on his side. He made a tired snuffling sound, muttering, “don’t think that was part of the agreement,” but not doing anything to stop Derek.

“Just a bonus,” Derek pointed out, sitting for a moment longer before he pulled his hand away to climb out of bed. He headed into the kitchen, puttering around for the things needed to make the both of them some breakfast. Stiles appeared a minute later, sitting at the kitchen bar and laying out a piece of blank paper.

“List time,” he announced, clicking his pen dutifully, “so what bases do we need to cover before your bride-not-to-be gets here?”

Derek cracked an egg into the pan he’d set on the stove, grabbing up the spatula to break the yolk. “If we’re going to smell like mates, I need you to be near me all the time. Werewolf mates--”

“So, why are they called mates?” Stiles interrupted. Derek paused from where he’d been throwing some seasoning onto the egg and frowned. He’d never really thought about why they used the term mates, other than the fact that it was just something his family had always done.

“I…don’t know.”

Stiles made an unimpressed sound in the back of his throat, pursing his lips in a frown and bobbing his head, “alrighty then. So let’s just stick to boyfriends…”

Derek flipped the egg over, “this is a little more serious than boyfriends.”

“Husbands? Lovers? Betrothed?”

“How are those any better?” Derek asked dryly.

“Well they don’t sound like you’re going to beat me over the head with a rock and drag me back to your man cave and have your wolfy way with me,” Stiles pointed out, clicking his pen dramatically with the words, ‘wolfy way’.

Looking over his shoulder at Stiles, Derek made sure to raise one eyebrow slowly. It was a lot easier than telling Stiles all the ways he was utterly ridiculous, at least.

Stiles shrugged, eyebrows bobbing, and he slouched in his seat to scribble an angry penguin in the corner of his paper. “So, let’s just stick with fiance, then.”

“Fine,” Derek muttered, feeling just the tiniest bit miffed. His parents had always called one another their mates, but it made sense that the term was a little too clichéd for Stiles’ taste. The more he thought about it, the less inclined Derek was to use it. “So do you want me to just list the stuff we should do before the Turner pack gets here?”

“That’s the plan.”

Derek slid the egg onto a slice of toast, tossing some cheese on it and adding a swipe of mayo to another slice of toast. He cracked a second egg onto the pan, heading for the coffee maker to pour himself and Stiles’ a cup now that it was done brewing. Stiles hadn’t always needed lists, not in the very beginning. Now, though, with all the head injuries Stiles had sustained over the years and times their plans had gone entirely fubar, a list was pretty much mandatory.

“Touching,” Derek muttered, “a lot of it. It has to be natural, what couples do.”

“Cuddling? That, I can do.” Stiles scribbled it down, nodding to himself.

Derek made a face, sticking the finished egg sandwich in the microwave to keep it out of the way. He handed Stiles his coffee--now with a dash of vanilla creamer. “Kissing; we can’t just wait until they get here. I’ve never kissed you before--I have no idea how you kiss and they’d be able to see that right away,” it didn’t help that Derek wanted to kiss Stiles. It was going to be torture to have him and not be with him. Derek was willing to deal with it, though, because this was for the pack just as much as it was for himself.

Stiles frowned, sipping his coffee and clicking his pen, “like, French kissing?”

“Uh,” Derek panicked, because he actually had no clue, “are we going to use tongue in front of the Turner pack?”

“Okay, straight up puritan style, then.”

Snorting, Derek flipped his egg over, adding some extra pepper. “I don’t think they’ll buy the puritan lifestyle of abstinence until marriage, though,” he pointed out, stomach rolling with the realization that he and Stiles would have to, at some point, be sexual enough that the scent lingered heavily on their skin when the Turners showed up.

“Spunk exchange?” Stiles blurted disbelievingly, “you’re kidding.”

Twisting around, Derek grabbed his coffee mug and quirked an eyebrow. Stiles groaned loudly, which was only a little hurtful to Derek’s self esteem, and wrote it down on the list.

“Sharing beds, check,” Stiles muttered, “should we do laundry together? That sounds pretty domestic-y.”

“Sounds good,” Derek agreed, putting his egg onto some toast and warming up the one in the microwave for Stiles for a few seconds. “That’s pretty much it. The biggest issue is making sure we’re used to being together enough that it seems natural when the Turner pack gets here,” he explained, setting Stiles’ plate down in front of him and grabbing his coffee.

Stiles put his pen down, “okay, let’s get this over with. Come here, clam lips.”

Derek froze, halfway to sitting down next to Stiles, and stared.

Gesturing for Derek to come in close, Stiles grinned in amusement, “well you’re not gonna open them for just anyone, are you?” Stiles puckered his lips, making loud, exaggerated kissing noises. Despite his joking, Derek could hear the way Stiles’ heart sped up. It didn‘t take a genius to realize that he was nervous. Stiles hadn’t really had many successful relationships and it was likely that he had little to no experience with kissing.

Even though this entire relationship was supposed to be fake, Derek decided that their first kiss would be one that neither of them would forget. Maybe in a few years, when Stiles met the love of his life, they’d have to live up to Derek’s skill. Setting his mug down, and feeling desperate to make this work--to make some sort of lasting impression--Derek cupped Stiles’ face. Stiles’ breath hitched, heart pounding as Derek leaned in. He didn’t just kiss Stiles; he ducked forward, nipping at Stiles’ bottom lip and then pressing their mouths together slow and firm.

The sound of Stiles’ pen clattering to the counter was enough encouragement for Derek to shuffle closer. He dragged one hand across the back of Stiles’ head, fingers rubbing the scar at the base of his scalp, tracing where it had been stitched up after a witch had hit him with her staff. Stiles was shadowing the movement of Derek’s lips, breath coming in stuttered, sharp pants through his nose.

It drove Derek wild, made him want to try harder, to make Stiles love this so much that he’d never kiss anyone else without thinking of Derek first. It was selfish and Derek didn’t care because this felt like the most important thing in the world to him in that moment.

Stiles was gasping by the time Derek finally mustered the self control to pull back. A single glance down at Stiles’ dazed face had him swooping in and kissing at the red, wet corner of Stiles’ mouth with a lingering press of lips. This time, Derek pulled away completely, bringing his mug up to sip at it idly--trying to hide the way his heart was thundering in his chest and his skin felt like it was on fire.

“Oo-okay,” Stiles breathed, licking his lips and turning back to his paper, “so…uh,” he swallowed, “wow. I can say we really nailed that part of the list,” his voice cracked at the end and Stiles quickly cleared his throat. Derek couldn’t help the smug feeling from rising up inside of him, hiding his grin behind the rim of his coffee mug.

“if we’re going to make it realistic when the pack comes, might as well start now,” he pointed out.

“Uh,” Stiles stared down at the paper, finger hovering over his hasty scrawl of ‘spunk exchange’. Derek knew his imagination was going wild, and he couldn’t help but tease Stiles just the tiniest bit. Standing, Derek rested his hand on the back of Stiles’ neck, squeezing firmly and then heading into the kitchen to refill his coffee.

While they ate, Stiles started up a game of Twenty Questions with the intention of having them learn stupid, useless information about one another that they didn’t already know. By the time Derek had finished his sandwich, he was pretty sure he was in love with Stiles even more now that he knew Stiles hated left-hand turns and that his favorite animal was some extinct form of dog that could ‘unhinge it’s jaws like a snake, dude. That’s insane!’. It was the little things; the quirks that had never really found a chance to come out in regular conversation before.

When Derek reached for Stiles’ plate to bring it into the kitchen, Stiles’ hand shot out like a flash of lightening. Derek barely had a second to react before he was being dragged in and the corner of his mouth kissed.

“Thanks, honeybun,” Stiles chirped, looking rather pleased with himself for having taken Derek by surprise.

Not one to be outdone, Derek reached out, giving Stiles’ nipple a tweak through the thin cotton of his t-shirt. “Anything for my sugarplum,” he said dryly. Stiles gaped, watching Derek take the plates and deposit them into the sink.

The gaping soon turned into a wild, excited grin as Stiles sat up in his chair. “Can that be a thing? The pet names? I am so down for this--I’ll totally win.”

Derek shrugged, grabbing the coffee pot to top off Stiles’ mug. “You underestimate Erica’s influence on me,” he said seriously.

“Bring it, baby cakes,” Stiles dragged the mug towards himself, taking a long, greedy gulp of it.

Derek waited until Stiles was about to swallow before grabbing the pepper shaker from nearby and holding it out, saying, “if you’ll be Pepper, I’ll be your Tony.”

A warble escaped from Stiles as he choked on a mouthful of coffee, slamming the mug down as much as he could without sloshing it and batting Derek’s hand away. “Out of bounds!” he cried, “Totally out of bounds!”

Out of bounds, Derek knew, because nothing turned Stiles on more than geek talk.

“Come on,” Derek gestured to the sink full of dishes--some from last night, “if we’re going to act like a couple, you should do your share of the cleaning.”

Stiles glowered, “low blow,” he said, but got up and rounded the bar to help. Derek loaded the dishwasher while Stiles wiped down the counters and started to put away the pots and pans that had been hand-washed. He was bending down to stick a pan under the oven when a loud grunt escaped him. Derek turned, surprised to see Stiles’ bad leg trembling violently and Stiles resting his head on the edge of the counter.

Derek shut the sink off, quickly taking the pan from Stiles. “How long did you go jogging yesterday?” he asked softly--because the only time Stiles ever had issues with his leg this badly was when he pushed himself too hard and his body dealt with the consequences.

Drawing in a deep, calming breath, Stiles stood up and took the pan from Derek. “It’s fine. I just need to stretch it some more,” he said dismissively, taking his time in putting the pan away--leaning heavily on the counter the entire time.

He limped past Derek, using the counter for support to make his way around towards the living room. Derek came up behind him, hand reaching for Stiles’ elbow to try and help him and getting his hand smacked away for his efforts. Derek frowned, resisting the urge to glower, and stormed into the bedroom to fetch Stiles’ cane.

Stiles was almost to the couch when he came back, and he looked furious to see the cane in Derek’s hand. He snatched it from Derek, grabbing the bottom and thacking Derek hard in the thigh with the handle. Derek jerked, snatching the cane and holding it still. Stiles, pale and shaking, snarled, “if if hurts too much to walk, I’ll tell you.”

“You can barely stand,” Derek pointed out. Stiles wrenched his cane back.

“Just because I’m having issues, doesn’t mean I need you to wait on me.”

Derek’s scowl deepened and Stiles sighed, setting the cane down and using it for support as he limped around the couch. “You know, if this pack comes, and they see you taking care of me? That’s not good, dude. You know it isn’t.”

“So, what? You want me to sit and watch you be in pain? That’s not what pack does, Stiles.”

Stiles sighed, sitting down gingerly and shaking his head. “We’ll come up with some kind of code word if it’s too bad or whatever, but I am not game for being a target just because you wanted to hold my hand every time I get a flare up.”

The worst part was that it made sense. It made so much sense that it infuriated Derek. Stiles had an annoying habit of constantly being right no matter how badly Derek wanted to prove otherwise. The Turners would look for weakness in Derek’s mate, and Derek didn’t honestly know if they were above using it against him.

Huffing on a sigh, Derek clenched his teeth and turned on his heel to go and grab the muscle cream from the first aid kit under the bathroom sink. Even for werewolves, the stuff was a blessing in disguise.

Stiles was stretching his leg along the length of the couch by the time Derek came back. Even though it had been a while since he’d been hurt, Stiles was still supposed to do a little bit of physical therapy every day to keep the mobility. Derek knew that beneath Stiles’ jeans was a thick, jagged scar from his knee up to the middle of his thigh.

Given how deeply the knife had gone in, it was practically a miracle that Stiles could walk without a cane at all. His knee didn’t quite bend as well as it should, and half of Stiles’ pain was in his foot, hips, and thigh because of how he tried to distribute his weight to compensate for the lack of flexibility.

When Stiles saw Derek standing there with the muscle cream, he sighed and flopped back against the couch to take the bottle. “Sorry, man. Just… ask first before you come help? Sometimes it’s not that bad and I just need a minute.”

Derek got that, he really did. When Stiles had first gotten hurt, he was a constant ball of frustration and anger, lashing out at anyone and everything. It had gotten to a point where Derek had been terrified for months on end that Stiles was going to cut himself from the pack. Now that his leg was starting to really heal, Stiles had started to push himself more and more, always rejecting the pack’s help like it was a burden more than a blessing.

“You could let us help you,“ Derek muttered, walking around to sit on the arm of the couch.

“Yeah? And when you’re not there to help me, I won’t know how to take care of myself anymore,” Stiles snapped, wrenching the cap off of the muscle cream and sucking in a sharp breath. He shook his head, handing the bottle over to Derek and then standing. Derek watched as Stiles positioned himself on the floor next to the couch, gesturing to let Derek know he was being allowed to help. Derek stepped forward as Stiles pressed a hand to his lower back, circling his hip area and the top of his rear to let Derek know where the source of his pain was located.

“Sorry, can you just--”

“It‘s fine,” Derek interrupted, realizing that Stiles was probably cranky because he was in pain, and not because he didn’t want help. He sat on the backs of Stiles’ thighs, pulling down the elastic of his boxers enough to expose the sore part of Stiles’ hip. He squirted some of the gel onto his hand first, screwing the cap back on and then placing his hands against Stiles’ side. It didn’t take more than a few rubs before Derek found the swollen, tense area full of knots.

When Derek pushed down, Stiles let out a pained yelp, hands clawing at the ground. The more Derek massaged, the more Stiles squirmed and groaned in pain. It wasn’t the good kind of pain, either. Derek could tell that he was rubbing out deep-set knots that had swollen up over time because Stiles was probably too stubborn to ask anyone to help him weeks ago when it should have first been done.

It bothered Derek to hear the choked whimpers that came out of Stiles with each circle of his hands. Even so, he knew that when all was said and done, it would be worth it to see Stiles walking with a spring in his step and no pain in his eyes.

Once the worst of it was over and Stiles was sagged into the ground, he grumbled, “do the rest, now I’m uneven,” in a tired, irritated voice. Derek laughed, pouring more of the gel onto his hands and getting started on the rest of Stiles’ back.

“Tell me more about this pack; do you know any of them?” Stiles asked, his face smashed into the carpet.

Derek frowned, digging his knuckle into a knot just below Stiles‘ right shoulder blade and earning a jerk and yelp from Stiles. “I met Kylie when I was six.”

“…and?”

“She punched me in the face.”

Stiles laughed, bouncing Derek’s body with his cackling. “Man, you’d better hope this works out. I don’t know if I could handle seeing you whipped like that,” he wheezed.

Derek rolled his eyes, pushing a little harder than necessary at the tense bunch of muscles on Stiles’ spine. Stiles grunted as Derek said, “she’s the daughter of their alpha. My mom was the alpha. We’re both born werewolves. Our children would have come from great bloodlines.”

Silence followed, broken only by the occasional huff or squeak when Derek hit a sensitive area. Finally, Stiles asked, “do you want children?”

It was hard to answer a question like that. Derek did want children; but it was a deep-set longing inside almost all born werewolves. It was an ache for something that was missing, a need to find the missing piece. “Not with her…not with someone I didn’t trust and love.”

“Understandable,” Stiles hummed, stretching and wiggling as Derek made one final sweep along his back. He sat up, letting Stiles roll over and impulsively ducking in to steal a quick, exhilarating kiss that was more of a peck than anything.

“Better?” he asked, watching as Stiles’ startled expression melted away into a grin. He nodded, reaching out to take Derek’s offered hand as he got to his feet.

“Loads, dude. I could go wrestle a wendigo right now,” Stiles chirped, beaming when Derek rolled his eyes. He reached out, clapping Derek on the shoulder.

“I’m gonna go get dressed before everyone shows up. You, uh, might want to put a shirt on,” Stiles reached out, hands fast as ever, and pinched Derek’s nipple with a violent twist. Derek hissed, swatting Stiles’ hand away and snarling as Stiles took a step back and held his hands up.

“Hey, man, just evening the playing field. I’ll have you know these perky peppers are very sensitive,” he explained, cupping his palms over his chest gingerly, “they were violated. I had to return the favor.”

“Go get dressed,” Derek snapped, his mouth twitching not to smile a how utterly ridiculous Stiles was--and how badly he just wanted to kiss him and just beg Stiles to be with him for real.

While Stiles headed off to get changed, Derek went to wash his hands off and check through his mail again. He read over the letter from the Turner pack again, gut twisting with increasing anxiety. It was formal and distant, but biting enough that, even on paper, Derek knew that they were coming to test Derek and his pack.

There was a chance that, if they didn’t pull this off, things could go to hell. The Turner pack would be within their rights to kill Stiles if found out, but more likely they’d force Derek to take the betrothal to save the pack. The Turners were old blood, and the only reason they wanted Derek was probably because of his heritage and the heirs he could give them. He doubted it had anything to do with power that came from joining two packs.

Folding the letter, Derek hoped that being helplessly in love with Stiles would be enough to convince the Turners and keep his pack safe. If not, he had no idea how things would turn out.

Chapter Text

When the pack stopped by later in the afternoon, Derek and Stiles were well on their way to getting accustomed to one another. Stiles had called in sick at his job, making sure to email his instructors and let them know of the same ‘illness’ so that they could email him his makeup work for the day. It had taken a good hour of coaxing for Derek to even get Stiles to agree, but it worked out in his favor in the end.

Scott was the first one in the door, stopping full in the foyer so that Isaac and Allison bumped into his back. Stiles had decided to drape his legs over Derek’s lap again, wiggling his toes demandingly until Derek had given in and rubbed his feet. If there was one thing Stiles was good at, it was milking a situation for all it was worth. So when Scott made a strangled noise to see Derek giving his best friend a foot massage like some kind of hand-servant, Stiles did nothing but grin lasciviously and wave his hand.

“Hey, buddy! Why don’t you and your twosome--threesome?--take a seat?”

Isaac brushed by Scott to do exactly that, his hand holding gently to Allison’s fingers and guiding her towards the loveseat. Scott frowned, which turned into a disgruntled look as he glanced over at Isaac and Allison.

“How come nobody rubs my feet?”

“Oh God,” Derek groaned under his breath while Stiles cackled and then yelped when Derek pushed against a sensitive part of his arch.

When Boyd and Erica showed up a little while later, Scott and Stiles wasted no time in grilling Derek on anything and everything about the Turner pack. Stiles had pulled his feet out of Derek’s lap at some point, and was curled up enough that he took up half the couch and left Derek squished onto the last remaining cushion. Derek didn’t really mind, though, because it was better if Stiles had room to move his legs around in case they started bothering him. Not that he would admit knowing this; he’d rather not be dealt with Stiles rubbing it in his face that Derek actually cared about anything other than ironing his pants.

“So who are these guys? Obviously they‘re not related to Bootstrap Bill, right?” Stiles asked, phone in hand as he texted away with someone.

Erica snorted and Derek shook his head. “They’re bigger than my family ever was. They use their power to bring in other packs and make themselves bigger. They don’t work on intimidation though, they kill with kindness. It’s actually worse.”

“Worse how?” Allison asked with a frown. She was sitting between Scott and Isaac, leaning up against Scott with one leg crossed over the other. Now that their ‘secret’ was out, Isaac had no qualms about letting his palm rest on her thigh like it was an everyday occurrence.

“Worse like, if you deny their good will and hospitality, nobody bats an eye when they kill you in cold blood.” Derek explained bitterly, jaw clenching. “They’re bigger and stronger than a lot of packs around here. They have more connections than we could ever dream of having.”

Erica cringed, “ouch.”

Ouch was kind of an understatement, but Derek figured Erica understood the severity of the situation. Stiles made a thoughtful noise in the back of his throat, scratching a hand through his hair and then gesturing vaguely. “So are we talking old blood like the Weston Pack or the Deluna Clan?”

Derek paused, suddenly wishing he was still rubbing Stiles’ feet so that he had something to distract him. It had been a long time since he’d interacted with the Turners, but they were pretty hard to forget. They’d practically strong-armed his parents into agreeing to the betrothal in the first place.

“Think nice like the Warners--” Stiles made a noise of excitement; he always did like the Warners, they pampered him, “but bloodthirsty like the Deluna.”

Stiles’ pleased expression dropped into one of horror and Derek shrugged, feeling a mild pang of guilt for having to bring up the memory of the Delunas.

“They’re coming out of good will…” he began, “but if they find out how we took their ‘good offer’ of merging the packs through marriage and threw it in their face with a fake engagement to a human? It’s gonna be this all over again,” Derek hesitated, and then reached out to press his palm wide over Stiles’ thigh where they all knew sat one of his biggest scars.

It was the scar that caused half of Stiles’ issues. A scar that Derek could remember being a fresh, gaping wound that had nearly killed Stiles from blood loss alone. There was a reason Stiles hated to hear the name of the Deluna clan. They were a group of vampires out in Washington that were nothing like the ones from Twilight.

When Stiles’ father had first found out about the pack and everything it encompassed, he had sent Stiles away to live with an old family friend. No matter how badly the sheriff had tried to protect his son, it all went downhill when Stiles had started to snoop around and had stumbled upon a vampire’s nest.

Stiles, being nineteen and convinced that he could take care of himself, had decided he was going to perform his own investigation. Derek and the pack had barely arrived in time to stop things from going completely to hell.

Derek would never forget seeing Stiles strung up to a ceiling next to four other teenagers, each of them littered in cuts that bled into buckets placed beneath their bodies. It had been Isaac who had been able to decapitate the head vampire. Derek didn’t want to think about what could have happened if they had shown up even ten minutes later than they had.

Stiles looked down at Derek’s hand, mouth twisting into a frown. “We don’t have that kind of firepower,” he whispered, sounding frustrated more than anything. Derek shook his head, unwilling to voice his agreement and instead rubbing his thumb over Stiles’ scar and then pulling away.

“We don’t need firepower,” Isaac piped up, “if you and Stiles keep acting like a couple, they won’t have a reason to attack us, right? They’ll think you’re together.”

Derek nodded, “they have no reason to doubt us.”

Scott looked uneasily to Allison and Isaac while Stiles continued to stare at the scar on his leg. Erica, draped across Boyd’s lap on the recliner, shrugged and sighed, “if it gets really bad, we could always call on Jobo.“

Stiles perked up and Derek panicked, quickly blurting, “No Jobo,” before Stiles could get any ideas in his head. Jobo was a yeti that they had run into last winter who had wandered down from Canada in search of another food source. Stiles had, for some ungodly reason, had formed some sort of odd friendship with her. The entire trip back up to Canada consisted of Derek driving behind the massive creature with Scott and Boyd in the car while it loped along with Stiles on her shoulders.

Of course, that had been after they’d spent two weeks tracking her by cleaning up after the sheer chaos and panic that Jobo had caused. Stiles was convinced Jobo was a distant relative of a comic book character named Lobo, but Derek didn’t know DC comics enough to know if that was true or not. Stiles’ explanation of, ‘the love child of Wolverine and Gene Simmons,’ didn’t really help, either.

Stiles sat up a little, throwing a hand out and waving it around. “--but Jobo is all the power--”

“No.”

Huffing at Derek’s interruption, Stiles flopped back on his side of the couch and crossed his arms petulantly. Derek reached out, placing a hand against Stiles’ ankle in a way he hoped showed that he was somewhat apologetic.

“Are there any spells we can do?” Isaac asked, “Maybe ones that might help dull a werewolf’s senses to keep them from noticing that your scents might be off?”

Stiles shook his head, “I already texted Betp about it. We both figure anything that can dull the senses will mess with you guys, too, so it’s kind of moot.”

Isaac slumped into the couch, looking put out until Scott reached around Allison’s shoulders to pet him on the back of the head.

Boyd slid an arm around Erica’s stomach, hooking his chin over her shoulder. “I guess you won’t have to complain about not getting laid anymore,” he muttered to Stiles, the corner of his lip twitching. Stiles made a strangled noise in the back of his throat.

“Yeah, you know what. I’m going to call my dad and let him know what’s going on,“ he announced loudly, stretching and wiggling his fingers to try and reach his phone on the coffee table. Allison leaned forward, grabbing it for him and handing it over with a tiny smile hidden in the corner of her lips.

While Stiles dialed his father, Derek got up to go and get some water. The pack broke off into a few different conversations with one another, talking in hushed tones as the werewolves in the group eavesdropped on Stiles and his dad.

The sheriff sounded more pained than angry about it. From the mutter of his responses and the way he told Stiles that they’d discuss it over dinner, Derek figured that he’d just been woken up after a long shift. Stiles apologized profusely when he also realized this, promising to bring Derek and Scott over later and then hanging up.

Hovering behind the couch, Derek watched as a myriad of expressions crossed over Stiles’ face before he lifted his head with grave expression.

“I need to go grocery shopping.”

“Oh wow, will you look at that,” Erica leapt from Boyd’s lap, glancing at her watch and grabbing Boyd‘s hand to drag him to his feet, “you know I have a hair appointment in ten minutes so we have to go.”

Allison and Scott were getting up as well, pulling Isaac to his feet. “So, yeah, we should go and do some stuff before I meet you and Derek at your place,” Scott explained, “and you can totally let Derek help you out with the shopping.”

Derek felt victimized, crossing his arms and scowling. Just because he didn’t openly complain about things did not mean he had any more patience standing in an aisle while Stiles compared the nutrition points in every brand variation of corn flakes. It only happened when the shopping involved food for the sheriff, but it was still wearing on one’s psyche when having refried beans shoved in his face as Stiles demanded a second opinion.

“Oh yeah, everyone leave, go on. I don’t need you! See if I ever make cake balls for any of you again,” Stiles grumbled, smiling despite his evident irritation. Scott, being the last one out the door, poked his head back in and smiled apologetically.

“Don’t worry dude, I’m sure Derek will eat your cake balls.”

Derek totally would eat Stiles’ cake balls. They were delicious--and so much better than the ones at Starbucks that were more dough than anything. Not that he’d admit it, because if there was one thing more frustrating than having a sweet tooth weakness to Stiles’ cooking, it was letting Stiles know it and gloat about it.

He ended up driving them to the store closest to Stiles’ house, if only for the fact that Stiles knew the aisles and brands mostly by heart. While Derek pushed the cart, Stiles kept one hand on the side for support so that his cane could sit in the basket instead. In his other hand, Stiles held onto a crinkled list that they’d compiled in the car of food they would get for dinner, and things to get for the pack.

“Just a dozen, or a crate?” Stiles asked, peering at display upon display of eggs. “The crate is on sale--but are you gonna get sick of them like last time? Cuz, dude, finding two cartons of bad eggs was like my least favorite part of coming over last month.”

“Get a crate,” Derek interrupted, frowning. The only reason he’d gotten so sick of them was because the pack had been too busy to come over like they always did and he’d ended up having more food than he knew what to do with. Stiles shrugged, grabbing a crate with a grunt and lowering the box of five dozen eggs into the cart.

Standing up straight, Stiles scrubbed a hand over his head and hummed in thought. Derek didn’t bother to ask what was going on in his head, knowing sometimes it was easier to just wait for the end result. Stiles tugged on the cart, pulling Derek back towards the ethnic foods aisle. “Don’t want to forget rice,” he chirped.

Derek stared down at the pound of rice sitting in the cart and frowning. He gave the cart a tug, “I think a pound is enough,” he said lightly. Stiles froze, glancing down at the cart for a long moment.

“Yeah, you’re right. That’s good enough for now,” he muttered distantly, and then looked back down at his list. Derek watched as Stiles started to mutter the foods under his breath, reminding himself what they’d already gotten and what they hadn’t.

Sometimes, Derek almost forgets the shit they’d put Stiles through; the hell and pain and torture that no human should ever have to go through. He forgets, and then Stiles has a relapse and it’s like slapping Derek in the face with a huge sign reminding him of how much he’s failed as an alpha already. The memory issue is never a problem until it is, until something stresses Stiles out or he’s just had an eventful day and then suddenly he loses time.

That lost time--that’s their fault, it’s Derek’s fault. He started it by letting Erica hit Stiles in the head all of those years ago and never thinking to take him to a hospital when he found out. Derek should have known that one too many head injuries over time would build up.

None of them had known--not until one day when Stiles had called his father in a panic, lost and confused because he didn’t even remember taking a trip to look at a nearby community college in the next town over.

“Can I see?” Derek reached out for the list, catching the familiar crease between Stiles’ eyebrows that meant he was getting frustrated with himself. Stiles gave him a suspicious look, but passed the list over. Derek took it, skimming over the things he knew they’d gotten that Stiles had sloppily penned out. He glanced into the cart and then said, “this is good enough for now. If you want to make dinner in time we should probably head back.”

“Oh, yeah. We can get the rest later. Gotta get food for that other pack, too, anyway.” Stiles took the list, shoving it into his pocket. “We have to feed them, right? Hospitality and all.”

Derek pushed the cart, letting Stiles take hold of part of the handle and lean against him the tiniest bit. “It would be a show of good faith if we did,” he began, “but if you happen to cook them only tofu and egg whites, I won’t tell anyone.”

Granted, Derek had nothing against tofu and egg whites--but when you had a distressingly high metabolism and a habit of shifting into an otherworldly carnivorous creature, meat became a very important part in one’s diet. Usually the lack of meat in a meal would be enough to make Derek want to drop everything and go slaughter an innocent bunny just to get enough protein and iron to keep him from feeling agitated.

His comment got the desired effect, though, because Stiles’ frown turned into an amused cackle. “Oh man, don’t tempt me,” he moaned, elbow bumping playfully into Derek’s side. Derek shrugged.

“I’m just letting you know that it’s always an option.”

“Sometimes it scares me when you get all passive aggressive,” Stiles teased as they reached the checkout, “I’m afraid one day I’ll wake up to you putting my hand in a cup of water because I didn’t wash my dishes or something.”

Derek’s heart gave an unhealthy pull, suddenly filled with a painful longing. He knew Stiles was talking about the nights they had pack sleepovers--but that didn’t stop him from wishing for something more. He would love for Stiles to leave his dirty dishes in the sink if it meant having Stiles all the time, in every way.

Instead, Derek bit back a guilty grin, shrugging once to keep from agreeing or disagreeing with Stiles’ claims, and started to put their food on the conveyor belt.

When they got back to the apartment, Derek helped Stiles divide through the bags for which foods were meant for Derek and the pack and which bags had the food for the Stilinski men. He carried his share up to the second floor and Stiles left to go home, clean and make dinner. From what Stiles had bought, Derek figured he was going for stir fry so that he could feed everyone and not have to worry about his dad’s health.

After putting away the groceries, Derek gave in to the call to wander to his bedroom. He froze upon crossing the threshold, momentarily stunned by Stiles’ scent that was heavy in the air. It only made his heart ache a little more and Derek decided it wouldn’t hurt to take a nap before meeting with the sheriff. He crawled into bed, burying his face into the pillow Stiles had used and letting the smell lull him into a light doze.

He got up with twenty minutes to spare for a shower and change of clothes. Stiles had wanted them all to be there by seven, which meant that the discussion would be during dinner. Food always did help to soften blows, in Derek‘s experience.

Scott was already there by the time Derek showed up just two minutes past seven. Derek wasn’t surprised that he was the one to open the door, especially when he caught the sound of Stiles and his father bickering in the kitchen over methods of food preparation.

“How is it?” Derek asked Scott softly. Scott shrugged, lips quirking down in that ‘not bad’ gesture that had become disturbingly familiar to Derek in the past few years.

“Could be worse. I think he’s pretty much given up trying to stop Stiles from getting involved anymore.”

That knowledge was two parts depressing and one part relieving, if only because these types of situations had happened so much that the sheriff was actually admitting defeat. Derek clapped Scott on the shoulder, nodding at him and heading for the kitchen.

The bickering stopped almost immediately when Stiles and his father spotted Derek. Stiles’ face lit up, gesturing wildly between his dad and Derek. “There, go bug him. Let me cook in peace,” he demanded, sounding desperate.

“What you’re doing to that steak isn’t called cooking,” the sheriff grumbled, but stepped away to approach Derek, shaking his hand in greeting. “So, from what I hear, you two need to…pretend to be married?”

“Engaged,” Derek corrected, heading for the dining room to sit down. “It’s complicated. I didn’t think the Turner pack would react this way.”

“I see,” the sheriff said dryly, scrubbing a hand over his face and sighing. “--and I’m guessing Stiles volunteered himself, right?”

“Dude,” Scott cut in, grinning crookedly, “when doesn’t he?”

“I heard that!” Stiles snapped from the kitchen.

Shaking his head fondly, the sheriff bobbed his eyebrows, sighed, and plastered on a fake smile for Derek. “So, how’s work?”

Derek shrugged, feeling vaguely guilty that he actually should have focused at least a little bit on his work in the past couple of days. “I’m taking a break,” he muttered, “been having some blocks.”

“I hear that’s the worst thing that can happen to writers,” the sheriff agreed. This was true. In reality, Derek was just writing a cheesy teen romance novel that he hoped would get him some easy money for the time being. A lot of his writing was style regurgitation and basing the characters off of the pack. It made for a small fan base and limited stress about creating unique characters and situations.

The only reason Derek had ever gotten into writing in the first place was so that he could be easily available to any pack member at any time, but still make an income without worrying about set hours. He’d hated it at first, but over time it got easier.

“Okay, food’s done!” Stiles called out. Derek stood, letting Scott and the sheriff head in first to get their plates. He hovered next to Stiles--who always waited until everyone else had gotten their food--and bumped shoulders with him.

“Your dad seems to be taking this well.”

Stiles sucked in a sharp breath, holding it for a second and then letting it out. His heart rate was a little higher than normal, scent sharp with the acidic taste of anxiety. “For now,” he uttered nervously.

Even after all these years, anytime they had to explain any type of supernatural situation to the sheriff, Stiles would always worry that he’d be sent away all over again. It didn’t matter that his dad would never willingly put Stiles in that sort of danger by taking him from the pack. No amount of reasoning really stopped that irrational paranoia that seemed to stick with him no matter what, to follow him and tell him one day he was going to lose it all again.

All of this, Derek only knew, because Stiles had confessed it to him at one point last year when they pack had ended up needing Stiles’ father’s help. It took three hours of arguing for Stiles to even agree to bring his father in, and even then it was like pulling teeth just to get Stiles to explain the situation. It was better now, but Stiles still had that fear deep down.

Derek put his hand on the back of Stiles’ neck, pushing down enough to ground him. Stiles twitched, and Derek squeezed his fingers until he felt the tension in Stiles’ shoulders started go slack. “It’ll be fine.”

With a shaking breath, Stiles nodded once, and then more firmly. “Yeah,” he agreed, “we’re good. It‘s cool, no biggie. We‘ve got this.”

“We do,” Derek agreed, patting Stiles’ shoulder and then heading into the kitchen to get his food.

In the end, it wasn’t that hard to explain the situation to the sheriff. Stiles made sure to answer any and every question that came up, with Scott and Derek backing him up to he best of their ability. Derek covered what he knew of the Turners--which wasn’t much. He told the sheriff about his few childhood interactions with them, and how they’d practically strong-armed his family into agreeing to the betrothal. Other than that, most of the talking was still done by Stiles.

“So, let me get this straight,” the sheriff pointed his fork at Derek, “you need my son to pretend to be your boyfriend?”

“Fiancé,” Stiles corrected. Sheriff rolled his eyes.

“Yeah, that. So he needs to stay with you for how long?”

“Until the Turners are satisfied and leave,” Derek explained.

“Mr. Stilinski, we’re pretty sure it’s just like… political stuff,” Scott added, “I don’t really think Stiles is in danger. They just wanna like, see the competition and then go back home or whatever.”

Stiles and Derek nodded enthusiastically, watching as the sheriff turned the words around in his head for a long moment. He speared some chicken onto his fork, grunting, “competition,” under his breath and shaking his head, “for Derek.”

Derek frowned, but Stiles was the first to jump to a response. “Derek is totally competition-worthy, dad! Have you seen those pecs? That waistline?”

“You’ve been checking me out?” Derek blurted, almost jumping in surprise when Scott choked on his soda and spit it back into his cup. Stiles and the sheriff turned to stare at him, and then Stiles gestured to Derek’s body. Derek glanced down at himself, but he wasn’t wearing anything out of the ordinary. It was literally the same outfit he wore almost all the time--a wife beater and jeans. It was the middle of spring, there was no way Derek was going to wear anything more than that.

“Your collarbone,” Stiles hissed, “could collect the tears of angels.”

“I don’t even know what that means,” Derek shot back. Scott finished wiping soda from his face and chin, clearing his throat, sighing, and giving the sheriff a weary smile. Stiles grinned, waggling his eyebrows and chomping on a mouthful of rice and vegetables.

“Anyway,” he muttered, swallowing, “we’re basically just letting these guys know that hey, Derek’s taken. You can’t have our alpha. No biggie. I just have to get my cuddle on with mister cranky pants over there so that nobody gets suspicious…”

Stiles trailed off, frowning at his fork and then setting it down to take a drink. “I lost my train of thought,” he mumbled with a shrug.

“You were talking about cuddling Derek,” his father supplied, looking less amused and more pained than anything. Stiles stared into his cup for a long time, swishing it around before he hummed.

“Okay, well, yeah. I need to get my cuddle on with captain cranky over there because there’s this pack of werewolves that’s heading in. They had this ancient betrothal with--”

The sheriff stood abruptly, chair scraping across the ground. His face was grim, the age lines around his mouth and eyes looking deeper than ever. Stiles fell silent, as did Derek and Scott, all three of them watching as the sheriff walked out of the room. The sound of footsteps went all the way to the back porch, where the door opened and then slammed shut loudly.

Stiles’ face was pale, hand shaking just the tiniest bit as he clutched to his glass. The more seconds that ticked by, the more distressed he started to look, until he finally turned to face Scott.

“What did I do wrong?”

Scott shook his head, reaching out and putting his palm across Stiles’ shoulders to squeeze and rub. “You didn’t do anything, dude,” he muttered, “maybe your dad had to go to the bathroom really really bad?”

The attempt at humor fell short, and Stiles stared down at his plate with a grim look. Derek hated that look. He hated the fact that it ever showed up on Stiles’ face at all. It was a dark, self-loathing expression that told of a thousand emotions and none of them good.

“I’ll talk to him,” Derek offered. He put his fork down, taking a quick sip of his water and standing. Stiles nodded, thumbing the rim of his cup and then glancing up at Derek.

“Tell him I’m sorry?”

“You don’t have anything to be sorry for,” Derek pointed out, heading for the porch. Stiles would probably come out on his own in a few minutes, but he had a habit of avoiding confrontations if at all possible.

The sheriff was sitting on one of the folding chairs placed along the patio. His elbows were on his knees, head in his hands as he scrubbed his palm continually through his hair.

Derek sat down in the chair opposite him, looking up at the dark sky littered with smoky clouds and half-hidden stars. They sat in silence for a long time, broken only by the chirps of cicadas and the occasional hum of a car passing by on the street out front.

“Can you bring him home after this?” Stiles’ father croaked, lifting his head and staring at Derek. “Can you keep him alive?”

“I would die for him,” Derek answered, because it was true. He nearly had died for Stiles--more than once. Those moments had mostly been two parts stupid, one part pack, and all parts being hopelessly in love with a fragile human.

The sheriff laughed, bitter and dry, looking out into the darkness of his back yard. “With the amount of times I’ve heard that… I wouldn’t have thought he’d be the way he is now,” he mused, sitting back in his chair.

“There’s nothing wrong with him.”

Stiles’ father twisted his head, watching Derek with intensely focused eyes. “You know that’s a load of crap,” he said stiffly, angrily.

Frustrated and unbearably guilty, Derek clenched his jaw and curled his fingers over his knees. “If I could go back in time and stop him from ever getting involved, I would. You know that.”

Their staring contest came to an abrupt end when Stiles’ father shook his head, looking away with a sigh. “I do…and I wouldn’t want you to,” he said softly. Derek watched as he rubbed his palms over his thighs and stared up into the night sky. “Stiles is…he’s happy--happier than he has been in a long time.”

“Sheriff…”

“He forgets things sometimes... and there are mornings that he has trouble getting out of bed…but I think that doesn’t matter, not when I never thought I’d see him smile as much as he does. It’s been a long time since he didn’t need to fake it.”

“It’s been a long time for me, too,” Derek admitted, standing up and crossing over to settle his hand onto the sheriff’s shoulder. He squeezed, in the same reassuring way he did with Stiles, and then looked up at the sound of someone approaching the patio.

Stiles slid open the door, poking his head out and glancing over to Derek and his father.

“Dad?” he called out hesitantly, stepping onto the porch with the help of his cane. He hadn’t been using it earlier, but it was completely possible that he’d tried to rush to the door to eavesdrop and had ended up straining himself in the process.

Stiles’ father stood, patting Derek on the back before approaching his son. “If you do this, you have to swear to me that you will stay near Derek or Scott, or one of the others at all times. Don't go off alone while that other pack is here, do you understand?"

Taken aback, Stiles nodded slowly and then more firmly. His dad let out the breath he’d been holding, grasping Stiles’ arms gently. “I just don’t want to see you hurt…”

The cane clattered to the ground when Stiles lunged forward and into his father’s arms. Derek stepped away, feeling out of place as Stiles clutched to his dad. He headed back inside, barely catching the sheriff muttering, “you’re all I have left,” before he shut the door.

-

Derek woke up the next morning with Stiles draped across his back, legs akimbo and arms flopped like dead weight over his side and shoulders. He was still out cold, snuffling into the back of Derek’s head like Derek was some kind of living pillow. He’d been up late for a good part of the night, staying with his father for as long as possible to try and make up for the worry that he always put him through.

In reality, they all knew it didn’t do much more than temporarily put Stiles’ guilt at ease.

Derek slipped out from under Stiles, shuffling into the bathroom.

Stiles was still asleep by the time Derek was out of the shower, dozing beyond the first pot of coffee being brewed. Derek was in the process of shoving some English muffins into the toaster oven when Stiles finally did join the world of the living. He meandered along, leaning heavily on his cane with eyes puffy from sleep and a mouth twisted into a tired scowl.

When Stiles took his seat at the bar, Derek poured him a cup of coffee--adding a splash of milk, two ice cubes, and some sugar--and handed it over. Stiles made a pleased mumble in the back of his throat, burying his face into the mug and slurping at it.

“What a good fiancé,” Stiles said sleepily, grinning at Derek while he attempted to put cream cheese on his muffin without making a mess. “C’mere, big boy.”

Derek looked up, staring blankly at the way Stiles was puckering his lips and gesturing for Derek to come closer. For a second, Derek had to struggle to breathe--to tell himself this wasn’t real and that it was part of their routine. He swallowed, chest aching, and put the muffin down to lean over the counter and peck Stiles on the mouth.

“Mmh, so domestic,” Stiles teased, and then returned to greedily sucking down his coffee.

“We need to look at hotels,” Derek went back to his muffin, “I can’t house their whole pack here and they’ll probably want to stay for a few days--otherwise it’s a waste of time to come all the way out here.”

Humming incoherently into his coffee, Stiles peeked up with a wry grin, “I can ask my dad where the hookers like to prowl, if you wanna show them some good ol’ Beacon Hills hospitality?”

Derek snorted, grabbing the second muffin and covering it in strawberry jam on one side, cream cheese on the other. “That’s a great idea,” he deadpanned, handing the completed muffin to Stiles.

Looking proud, Stiles grabbed the jam-slathered half and lifted it in salute, going to take a bite and then hesitating when a thought struck him. “Oh--don’t forget we need to go grocery shopping.”

“We picked some food up earlier.”

“Did we get rice?” Stiles chewed his muffin.

“Yeah,” Derek sat down next to him, sipping his coffee that was more cream than anything, “two pounds of rice.”

His chewing slowed down to a stop, and then Stiles grabbed his coffee to take a quick swallow. “Just wondering,” he shrugged, even though they both knew that Stiles was only wondering because he couldn’t remember half of the trip to the grocery store.

Hotel hunting turned out to be more stressful and aggravating than Derek had anticipated. They had to find something in a good price range, but with spacious and well-maintained rooms that would make the Turner pack feel comfortable. After narrowing it down to three hotels in their area, Stiles had dragged Derek to a few thrift stores to buy some cheap photo frames and then to Stiles’ place to pick up his camera and a few other things.

They ended up heading back out again a half hour later after Stiles took at least a hundred selfies on his camera. Most of them consisted of their cheeks crushed together or awkward angles of them hugging and kissing. Derek’s head was still reeling by the time they finally got back to his apartment. He was ready to slink off into the kitchen for some coffee when Stiles dragged him into a kiss, slipped some tongue, snapped a photo, and then meandered towards the couch to set up his laptop and print the images out.

“That one should go by the front door,” Stiles announced, “so it’s the first thing they see when they come inside.”

“Okay,” Derek agreed faintly, mostly because he was feeling lightheaded from so much going on all at once.

Stiles, after plugging in his laptop and letting his camera upload onto the images to photoshop, flopped back against the couch. “Man,” he sighed, “I deserve all the sucked dicks for this. I’m so tired.”

Derek closed the lid on the coffee maker after dumping some grinds into it, flicking the switch on. “That can be arranged,” he said, trying not to think too heavily into his offer. If anything, they needed to be sexual to mix their scents together. There was no way they wouldn’t raise suspicion otherwise. Most werewolves had a heightened sex drive and it was only stronger with an alpha. Just the idea of being with Stiles had his skin tingling and his chest aching with desire.

A strangled noise came from the living room as Derek left the kitchen. Stiles was staring at him over the back of the couch, mouth agape. “Do what?”

“It’s on your list, isn’t it?” Derek crossed his arms, “what did you call it? ‘Spunk exchange’?”

Stiles’ ears went red and his eyes widened. For a second, he made nothing but incoherent noises while flapping his lips. “Uh,” he croaked, falling into a very familiar appearance of feigned confidence, “I mean. Sure. Yeah. If you want to. You know. For the pack and all. Greater good. I’m not complaining.”

Derek went to lock the front door first, and then he approached Stiles on the couch. “You’re sure?”

“Eh? Oh…y-yeah,” Stiles breathed shakily, sliding down into a sit and watching Derek approach. Derek, internally, was a complete wreck. Stiles was just sitting there, his left leg tilted openly to the right and a flush rising up from his neck, and Derek wanted. He wanted more than anything--more than what he was going to be allowed to have.

He knelt between Stiles’ legs, bringing one hand up to rest it over the injured thigh and feeling the warmth radiating from Stiles’ jeans. Stiles’ pulse was racing, throat clicking as he gave an audible swallow. Derek started to rub Stiles’ legs, focusing on the feel of muscle and skin shifting under his palms and not on the way Stiles’ breath was growing short.

“We only have to do this once,” he said softly, trying not to sound pained at the knowledge that he could only have this once. Stiles’ legs shifted under his hands, body slumping further into the couch and allowing Derek to spread his knees even further apart to make room for his body.

“There’s no reason we can’t enjoy it,” Stiles pointed out, “don’t look so angry about it. I can like.. I don‘t know--I‘ve got a great grip and--”

“It’s fine,” Derek cut in, not even wanting to think about Stiles’ hand on him. He barely had enough self control to do this--if they went any further, Derek was pretty sure he would be ruined for life.

Stiles reached out, hand carding through Derek’s hair before landing on his shoulder. “Dude, I can always jerk off in a jar or something for you, later.”

“It won’t smell the same,” Derek muttered. In actuality, he had no idea if that was true or not…but he would rather avoid finding out the hard way.

Stiles nodded, shrugging. “Okay well. In that case… uh…mi penis es tu penis?”

“What.”

“Nevermind. Just do your thing, alpha man.”

It took all of his self control not to roll his eyes at Stiles. Instead, Derek started to shift his hands higher, rubbing and massaging at the crease of Stiles’ thighs. Stiles shifted and the first real scent of arousal hit. It was a heady, thick smell, like smoked cloves and oranges, one that was intoxicating to Derek. He dipped his head, pressing his nose and mouth to the seam of Stiles’ jeans and breathing in deeply.

A tiny noise left Stiles’ lips, barely louder than a whine. The hand on Derek’s shoulder shifted and his fingers curled around Derek’s neck instead. Derek dragged his hands up to the button of Stiles’ jeans, popping it and dragging the zipper down over the curve of Stiles’ crotch. Stiles’ pulse sped up, his skin warming under Derek’s touch. Derek took a second to stare at the way Stiles’ fly was parted, showing the barest glimpse of a bulge beneath pale green boxers covered in palm trees wearing sunglasses. Derek huffed in amusement, glancing up to see Stiles shrugging.

“Hey, don’t diss the undies, dude. These things are Egyptian cotton.”

“Okay,” Derek grinned, at least relieved to know that Stiles wasn’t going to make this awkward. He settled both palms onto Stiles’ hips, stroking up his stomach and then back down before grabbing onto his jeans and tugging them. Stiles shifted, lifting his bottom so Derek could pull his pants all the way off. It left the scar on his leg exposed--an angry, jagged marring of skin that instantly attracted Derek’s eyes.

He sighed, shaking his head and then frowning. “I’m going to make sure this never happens again,” he muttered, palming the scar.

Stiles grabbed his hand, squeezing his fingers. “Dude, can we stop the self-loathing for today? I don’t blame you so stop blaming yourself.”

“That doesn’t--”

“Really ruining the mood, here,” Stiles pointed out.

“I think you mentioned I was good at that one time,” Derek mused, but tried to focus on Stiles’ skin beneath his fingers. He stroked his palms up those thin, muscular thighs, feeling the way they jumped and tensed against his touch. Stiles’ hand was still on top of the one covering his thigh, so Derek pressed his other one fully over the half-hard erection growing in Stiles’ boxers.

“Nnh, sometimes,” Stiles choked, dick jumping under Derek’s palm. He rocked up into the touch, hissing and squirming. “Just don’t make this awkward later, okay?”

“Okay,” Derek breathed, and bent forward to press his mouth where his hand had just been.

He wanted to memorize this, the way Stiles’ breath hitched and his heart hiccupped. There might never be another chance Derek would get to do this--to touch Stiles how he’d been wanting to for years and to make him moan in all the right ways.

Some part deep inside of Derek told him if he did this right, if he made it good enough, that Stiles wouldn’t want anyone else. It was an almost desperate feeling to just keep him forever because nobody would love Stiles the way Derek did. Nobody would fight for him and protect him and learn with him as wholeheartedly as Derek.

Derek reached up to pull down Stiles’ boxers, tugging when they caught on Stiles’ cock before it popped free. Stiles shifted, breathing in sharply and making an aborted motion to cover himself before he dropped his hand. Derek kept his eyes down, focused on the way Stiles’ dick was resting up against the crease of his thigh, flushed and halfway erect.

Ignoring the way his body throbbed with a pulse of desire--of the urge to push Stiles down and make him writhe in ecstasy--Derek reached out to curl his fingers around the base of Stiles’ cock.

Stiles attempted to speak, but it trailed off into a garbled, “uuhnn,” noise when Derek wrapped his lips around the head and started to suck. It had been a long time since he’d been with anyone, but Derek did own a laptop and watching porn at some point was pretty much a given. If anything, it helped him remember to use his tongue and to cover his teeth while bobbing his head.

The scent of Stiles’ arousal was thick and intoxicating. It was like an aphrodisiac when coupled with the taste of his cock in Derek’s mouth, salty and warm. Derek could feel himself getting hard just from the taste and smell alone. When Stiles dropped his head against the couch and let out a soft moan, it made Derek’s entire body shudder with want.

He tried to make it as quick as possible, sucking hard and sloppy with the sound of Stiles’ panting groans as background. He was making Stiles feel good. He was the one causing those noises, and the reason that Stiles’ was gasping for air and twitching under his touch. It was like a drug, one that made Derek give in to the desire to set a slower pace. He used his tongue, one hand pumping the base of Stiles’ cock and the other gently massaging his balls.

Stiles’ legs were quivering and Derek’s own dick was painfully hard inside of his jeans when the hand that had been resting on the back of Derek’s head went tense. Stiles choked, pants coming in sharp and fast with half-muttered curses escaping him.

A thought struck Derek, just as Stiles’ muscles started to tense. If there was one thing Stiles remembered, it was the people who made him laugh. He pulled off with a loud pop, voice hoarse as he said, “it’s mi pene es tu pene.”

Stiles gaped, letting out a loud cackle that broke off into a strangled warble as he came in messy spurts all over his stomach and Derek’s hand.

Wasting no time, Derek fumbled with his own pants to free his erection. He dropped his head against Stiles’ knee, panting when he finally got a hand around himself. Stiles’ cum smeared everywhere, covering Derek in his scent as he quickly stroked himself to completion.

“I was gonna help with that, but it looks like you’ve got it under control,” Stiles commented shakily, running his hands through Derek’s hair and rubbing at the back of his scalp. Derek bit down on the corner of his mouth, pressing up into the touch. All he had to really do was replay the past five minutes in his head before he was spilling into his hand in a matter of seconds. Stiles was still catching his breath and Derek took that moment to bring his soiled palm up, smearing a mixture of Stiles’ and his own cum all over the inside of Stiles’ legs.

“Dude!” Stiles cried, “oh my god. You weren’t kidding about the spunk exchange, were you.”

“No,” Derek panted, looking up at Stiles and raising an eyebrow like he wasn’t on his knees and rubbing the results of their activities all over Stiles’ legs. Stiles crossed his arms and rolled his eyes.

“Yeah well, first dibs on shower.”

“Okay.”

“You know, all those times I said you sucked, this wasn’t what I had in mind at all.”

Derek stood, tucking himself back into his pants and then heading for the kitchen to get something to drink. “Go take your shower. Wash your legs last, but it should be enough to smell like the both of us anyway.”

“Mhh, gotta love that werewolf love juice,” Stiles hummed sarcastically, grabbing his cane after he tugged his boxers up. Standing, he scratched at his side and watched Derek drink his water. “This won’t…make things weird, will it?”

Chest aching, Derek set his cup down. “If you don’t want to do this, it’s a little late for that.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“I’m sorry if you think it makes things weird. What do you want? Should I buy you a new radio for your car? Buy you some video games? A new cane?” Derek fired off anything he could think of--anything Stiles might want. He couldn’t have this going sour, not when Stiles had seemed so okay with everything until now.

“Dude,” Stiles limped forward, looking more tired than in pain. “I know this is for the pack. You don’t have to keep reminding me. I don’t need anything from you because it’s not just for you--this is for all of us. We’re in it together, man.”

It was painful and relieving all at the same time to know that Stiles didn’t resent him for any of this, but that he felt it was some sort of obligation. Derek brought his glass back up to his lips and muttering, “go shower,” before taking another sip--like the water could cool the burning in his chest.

That night, when Derek crawled into bed and pressed their bodies as close as he dared, Stiles turned his head from where he’d been staring out the opposite window.

“Things won’t go back to the way they were before,” he said quietly. Derek ducked his head down, trying to focus more on the way his knees almost touched Stiles’ thighs.

“I know.”

Stiles twisted onto his side to face Derek, mouth twisted into a scowl. Derek shook his head, wanting so badly to cup that soft cheek and to use his thumb to pull Stiles’ frown into a smile. He swallowed, closing his eyes to try and hide the pain that he knew must have been showing in them. “You’ll find someone else, though,” he murmured, “and it’ll all mean something when you do this with them.”

Derek practically felt Stiles’ breath hitch in the stillness of the air.

“Yeah,” he said faintly. It hurt more than anything, that single word, because it joined the stammer of Stiles’ heart. All because he was thinking of falling in love.

With someone who wasn’t Derek.

Chapter Text

Derek wasn’t sure which woke him up first, the trill of Stiles’ phone going off with his custom ringtone for Scott (an appropriately inappropriate midi of ‘Werewolves in London’), or his own phone vibrating on the night stand. Either way, he almost didn’t want to get up when with a breath, Stiles’ overwhelmingly addictive scent hit his senses.

The reason was that Derek had somehow slunk down on the bed until his face was buried right in the softest part of Stiles’ belly, one hand hanging limply over the front of his hips. Stiles grumbled, shifting and chuckling as Derek’s tired sigh tickled him lightly. Derek pushed himself up just enough to grab their phones, answering the call on Stiles’ and putting it next to his face before doing the same with his own.

“Mmmh?” Derek mumbled to Boyd, tuning out the sound of Stiles grumpily mumbling death threats to Scott for waking him up.

“Turner pack is here. Came up to Scott and asked to see you.”

Derek shot up, feeling instantly awake. “What?” he barked, “they’re not supposed to be here yet.”

“Yeah, well, they are. Scott’s taking them out for breakfast so you two have time to get out to his place. We were thinking the park on Alderwood. It’s close to there.”

 

“Scott says you’re paying him back,” Stiles piped up, “and that he doesn’t like the way Isaac is getting bedroom eyes from one of the betas, so we should hurry.”

“Don’t do anything stupid,” Derek muttered to Boyd, “we’ll get there as soon as we can.”

“You say that like I’m the one who comes up with bad plans,” Boyd pointed out dryly. Derek snorted, muttering his goodbyes and hanging up as he climbed out of bed. He grabbed one of his shirts from where it was half hanging out of an open dresser drawer, tossing it to Stiles to let him know to wear it. Stiles caught the shirt, bickering lightly with Scott about whether the beta actually was hitting on Isaac or if he was just being paranoid.

After changing into fresh clothes, Derek headed for the kitchen to brew a pot of coffee that would, hopefully, wake the both of them up enough to coherently and civilly face the day ahead. The last time they had tried to deal with anything stressful without the proper amount of caffeine, it had devolved into an intense screaming match that ended with Stiles punching Derek in the throat and pinching a nerve to temporarily paralyze his right arm. While Derek had been snarling and failing to get his arm to cooperate, Stiles had stomped off to set the kelpie on fire himself with hair spray and a lighter.

Derek was contemplating what to make to eat as the coffee maker bubbled to life when Stiles shuffled into the kitchen and sat at the counter with a groan. His heart was stuttering a little faster than normal, anxiety growing thicker in the air by the second. Derek walked around to where Stiles was hiding his head in his arms, rubbing gently between his shoulder blades in slow circles. Stiles gradually started to go limp, voice barely above a mumble when he mustered the energy to talk.

“Can we go over everything one last time? How did we get together and all that? Just for posterity’s sake.”

“Sure,” Derek rubbed Stiles’ shoulders, thumbs digging just enough to make Stiles let out a low mumble of appreciation.

“Keep with the rubbing, though.”

“Of course,” Derek said dryly, squeezing Stiles’ shoulders for emphasis.

“So,” Stiles rumbled in a low, tired rasp, “you were being a stubborn alpha and I was being an even more stubborn human, and we ended up joining forces to take down a coven of witches. The clash of egos resulted in you falling for my witty charm, and I fell for your lack of emotion.”

“I have emotion.”

“Brooding and angsting don’t count,” Stiles grumbled. Derek’s thumb ghosted over a knot and he dug in until Stiles let out a squeaking grunt and jerked his arm back to elbow Derek in the gut.

“Okay, okay. You have some humor hidden deep in that black heart of yours.”

“Better,” Derek conceded, patting Stiles on the back and then returning to the kitchen to pour them both a cup of coffee. Stiles lifted his head up, watching with eyes puffy from sleep and hair that was so disheveled it looked like it had been sent through a hurricane. He looked awful and exhausted and Derek wished he could have Stiles like that every morning for the rest of their lives.

After dropping two ice cubes and a dash of vanilla creamer into Stiles’ cup, Derek stirred it around and slid it over the counter to him.

“There’s not much to change,” he pointed out after another beat of silence. “That’s how it went, except for the part where we got together when we really didn’t.”

Stiles made a face, stirring the ice in his mug and then blowing on it before taking a sip. “You make it sound like we’ve made horrible life choices.”

“Well,” Derek hedged, staring at his mug of black coffee and then peering at Stiles over the rim, “you are missing out on some pretty awesome foot rubs,” he mumbled, taking a sip as Stiles snorted loudly.

“If that’s all you were going to be bringing to the table, I’m sure I’m not missing out on much at all.”

“Hey, I have to keep some secrets in the bedroom.”

“Oh my God. Go, leave me--actually, no, make me food.”

Derek huffed, biting back a grin and setting his cup down to open the fridge. He snagged a container full of grapes, placing it in front of Stiles with a chaste peck on the cheek before heading into his room to get his phone and wallet. Stiles made a noise of offense from the kitchen, muttering to himself about Derek being a terrible future-spouse.

By the time they were in the car and headed for the meeting spot with the Turners, Stiles had gone from prepared and organized to a ball of nervous energy. Every few seconds had him unfolding his list, checking it over, and then reaching out to touch his hand to Derek’s arm or shoulder like he could lay his scent on just a little thicker. It didn’t really work like that, but Derek didn’t have the heart to tell Stiles to stop when it seemed to be one of the only things keeping him from jumping out of the car guns blazing to shoot the entire pack down and be done with it.

The park was just in view of Scott’s apartment, heavily lined with trees and nature walks leading up to a small forest area further down. There was a small group of people situated at a picnic table with Scott, Isaac, Allison, and Boyd. Derek recognized Kylie’s dark red hair, but from a distance he wasn’t sure who the others were. Henry Turner, their alpha, was nowhere in sight.

Pulling into a parking space, Derek had barely turned the car off before Stiles’ hand was grabbing at his wrist in an almost punishing grip. Derek hesitated, glancing first to Stiles’ hand and then up at his worried face. Stiles frowned, “Did you tell them I’m a dude?”

“I didn’t even tell them you were human,” Derek confessed, feeling bad for how blunt it came out when Stiles made a face like he wanted to throw up. Derek twisted his palm around until his fingers were laced with Stiles’, taking a second to memorize the feel of it before he squeezed gently and said, “just breathe.”

“I’m breathing. I am so breathing right now. I have all the breath in the world.” Stiles chattered, staring down blankly at their clasped hands. Derek’s palm felt clammy against the sweat of anxiety coming from Stiles’ skin.

His thumb brushed over the curve of Stiles’ knuckles. “You’re panicking.”

“I’m going to punch you in the throat.”

Derek snorted, rolling his eyes to hide the relief that came from hearing Stiles resort to one of his normal threats of violence that came out when he was stressed. He glanced out the windshield, catching sight of everyone watching them and waiting for them to get out of the car. It was the perfect chance to steal a kiss, and Derek did just that. Cupping the back of Stiles’ head, he pulled Stiles in until their foreheads were pressed together. Stiles’ eyes fluttered shut, recognizing the surprisingly familiar gesture of comfort that Derek gave to pack members every now and then.

“It’ll be fine,” Derek murmured, “We just need them to see we’re in love, and they’ll leave.”

“Easier said than done,” Stiles breathed. Derek pulled away, frowning at the sharp ache that came from those words. No matter how true they might have been for Stiles, they still hurt.

Stiles looked up at him, confusion turning into a scowl. “You know, most werewolves have a good track record for being stubborn. I don’t think a couple of kisses is going to do it.”

“Better make them count, then,” Derek said softly. Stiles rolled his eyes dramatically, but tilted his chin forward and pursed his lips in the anticipation of a kiss. It was such a silly and natural gesture that Derek had to draw in a short breath and tell himself this wasn’t the real thing before he bent forward to press their lips together. Stiles sighed against his mouth, lips parting and body rocking into Derek’s like it was instinct to deepen the kiss. Derek took a second to rub the back of Stiles’ head and neck, pulling whatever pain he could find (as minor as it was) to try and help Stiles relax.

When they pulled away, Stiles took a long while to open his eyes. He did it gradually, tongue darting out to wet his lips and then gaze flickering down to his cane. Sucking in a breath, Stiles held it for a second, nodded, and then let it out before getting out of the car. Derek did the same, watching Stiles hesitate before he grabbed his cane as an afterthought. He didn’t use it, though, instead pressing in close to Derek’s side so that Derek could put a steadying hand against his lower back as they made their way towards the group.

Kylie had grown a lot since Derek had seen her last, but she still looked so much like her mother that it was easy to spot Jen by her mousy brown hair when they got closer. Both women had narrow hips and equally narrow shoulders that made for a slight figure overall.

Kylie was the shortest in the group, a good foot shorter than the two men of the pack. Derek didn’t recognize either one of them--from the younger one with short blond hair, to the older one with glasses and a thicker build who smelled a lot like ozone and human the way that Deaton did. Other than that, there were two other women. Derek knew the older one was Kylie’s aunt Amber from her bustier build and thick, dark hair, but the younger one was also unfamiliar. From what he could tell, she might have been related to Amber since they both had the same dark waves of hair and round hips.

Stiles’ hand reached back, pulling Derek’s palm from the base of his spine and instead clutching to his fingers like some kind of mutant crab. Derek didn’t mind it, giving him a reassuring squeeze as they drew closer to see almost the entire Turner pack staring at them in horror. Derek inhaled sharply, catching the sharp scent of an alpha and trying to discreetly glance around. Henry was absent from the meeting--which could only mean...

Jen stepped forward, and the scent grew thicker--like rosemary and sage into an overpowering smell that made Derek’s head spin. Kylie’s mouth was wide open, staring blankly at Stiles in what was likely shock at realizing he was a human male. The unnamed girl was sitting on the bench with Isaac, both of them doodling in her sketchbook like they could care less about what was happening. The human seemed interested in what was going to happen, but Derek wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not.

The one who made Derek on-edge was the other werewolf; the one with a twiggy frame, blond hair and an increasingly surprised expression that bordered on hungered the more he looked at Stiles.

 

Derek was about to pull Stiles in close just to let the other werewolf know he was off-limits when Kylie let out a dramatic squeal of Derek’s name. It made him jump in surprise, barely able to pull his hand out of Stiles’ grasp when she lunged at him in a violent hug. Derek stumbled, grunting at how much force such a tiny woman had managed to put into her embrace. Her nails were sharp, bordering on claws as they dug into his back like she wasn’t going to let go anytime soon.

In fact, Derek was pretty sure if she squeezed any tighter that blood was going to be drawn. From next to them, Stiles let out an amused sound. “Well, isn’t that cute.”

“I can think of some other things that are cute,” piped up the blond werewolf as Kylie finally pulled away (not without taking a bit of Derek’s shirt with her). That’s when Derek realized that blond guy was watching Stiles with a quirk to his lips like he was greatly enjoying what he was seeing. It reminded Derek of all the old ‘Little Red’ jokes the pack used to make at Stiles. This guy was more of a Big Bad Wolf than Derek could ever be.

A coil of possessiveness shot through Derek like bullet. He reached out instinctively, hand circling Stiles’ waist and dragging him in as close as he could manage. Stiles grunted, hand coming up to pinch Derek’s bottom in a way that was probably meant to be more of, ‘don’t act like a child,’ than ‘I’m okay with this manhandling.’

Jen didn’t even bat an eyelash at Derek or Kylie’s behavior, instead smiling wide and gesturing to Derek. “Derek, sweetie, you’ve grown so much! Have you taken over your family’s home?”

“It was set on fire, if you don’t remember,” Derek said dryly. Amber sighed, cocking her hips to the side and tilting her head as she watched Derek with dark, scrutinizing eyes.

“That’s what your inheritance and life insurance are for, honey.”

Stiles tensed in Derek’s arms, eyebrows bobbing as he glanced to the ground with a low breath of, “Wow.”

A strangled, tight noise came from Jen that maybe wanted to be a laugh and was slaughtered during the escape. “When you told me you were engaged, I have to say I was expecting something a little more...female.”

“I didn’t actually specify,” Derek’s fingers tightened on Stiles’ hip while Jen glossed her eyes over Stiles like he wasn’t worthy of a full look.

 

“I didn’t mean to assume. You just didn’t seem the type.”

“Gay has a type?” Stiles interrupted, leaning a little more into Derek’s side like it was the only thing keeping him from saying something that would get them all killed.

“Honey, no.” Jen hurriedly tried to fix herself, head shaking and making some of her hair fall from where it was tucked behind an ear, “I just meant he very much liked girls back in the day. He and Kylie got along so well when they were children.”

“Well, Stiles and I get along great now,” Derek snapped, a little too harshly than he really should have. It was worth it, if only for the bright grin that seemed to light up Stiles’ face. Amber bumped shoulders with her sister, focus sliding down to the cane Stiles was holding loosely in his free hand.

She hummed thoughtfully, “It looks to me like your definition of ‘great’ involves putting your fiance in danger. You do know humans are breakable, right?”

Stiles stiffened into Derek’s side, practically tensing for a fight. Derek squeezed his hip, hand rubbing up and down his side and frowning. “I know more than anyone.”

The blond werewolf approached, hovering on Jen’s other side and crossing his arms as he dragged his eyes all over Stiles’ body and then grinned. “Looks kind of stubborn to me, mom. Can’t fault him for that.”

“Damn straight,” Stiles agreed, chest puffing out proudly. Blond guy approached, reaching a hand out for Stiles to shake.

“Devin, but you can call me Deej.”

“Deej?” Stiles echoed.

Deej quirked an eyebrow, “Coming from you? Stiles?”

“...touche,” Stiles mumbled. The leering smile that Deej gave Stiles was enough for Derek to tense his shoulders. Every single drop of the alpha in him was telling him to take this beta down and to physically remove him from anywhere near Stiles’ vicinity. Instead, he controlled that urge into a deep scowl when Deej’s fingers dragged along the inside of Stiles’ palm as he pulled away. He smelled like interest, but part of it seemed like excitement--as if he was doing this to test them.

Jen cleared her throat, giving her son a dark look before completely morphing it into a cheerful smile as she faced Derek and Stiles.

“Why don’t we take a walk? We’re a little out in the open for this kind of conversation. Wouldn’t want to attract too much attention.”

“Like a group of people standing around in the woods isn’t suspicious,” Stiles muttered under his breath. Derek nudged him with a hip, biting back a grin at the nasty look Jen shot him--like she wanted to crush him beneath her heel. Stiles was completely unaffected, pressing right back into Derek’s hip check with one of his own as they made their way towards the nature trail.

Derek left a steadying hand against the lowest curve of Stiles’ spine--partially for support and partially to keep himself from turning around and punching Deej in the face when he realized the other werewolf was lingering to get a better view of Stiles’ assets. Kylie was on Derek’s other side, chattering on about how much she’s matured and become a great werewolf over time, but Derek had a hard time listening to her when Stiles started listing a little in his stride. He wanted desperately to force him to use the cane, but Derek knew from experience that would only make Stiles angrier and more likely to not use it.

Then again, listening to Kylie was only a small fraction less aggravating than what Allison was going through as she, Isaac and Scott were flanked by Amber and Jen. Isaac had been keeping to himself for the most part, hands in his pockets and shoulders hunched as he kept two steps behind Scott. Derek wasn’t really sure exactly how developed his relationship had become with Scott and Allison, but he was at least a little grateful that they were being subtle enough that Jen and Amber didn’t find something else to harp on. Instead, they were practically henning Allison about the possibility of childbirth and whether or not her ‘frail human body’ could survive birthing more than one cub.

It was another five minutes before they reached the rest area at the center of the trail. There was a small cluster of picnic tables, which Scott led the group towards. A glance back showed Boyd talking quietly to the human of the group who had, for the most part, kept to himself. Deej and the werewolf girl Derek didn’t know the name of were bickering softly about pack etiquette. At least someone had noticed Deej’s inappropriate behavior towards Stiles. That made Derek feel a tiny bit better-- not that he’d admit it.

Stiles was leaning heavily against him as they made their way towards one of the benches. There was a sheen of sweat dotting the back of his neck, thick with the scent of pain. Deej appeared at Stiles’ side, ducking in low and frowning in concern. “Are you okay? You seem hurt.”

“I’m fine,” Stiles grinned, bumping shoulders with Derek, “I’ve had way worse.”

Instead of listening to Stiles, Deej grabbed at his elbow and pulled him away from Derek’s side to tug him down to the nearest bench and force him to sit. Derek tensed, clenching his jaw when he had the urge to snarl and snap like some kind of aggravated teenager. If he were shifted, all of his hair would be standing on-end like a dog ready to fight.

Stiles flitted his eyes over to Derek, pursing his lips and giving his head a little half-shake to let Derek know there was nothing to start a fight over. Derek realized that it was entirely likely that Deej was supposed to show interest in Derek’s fiance to try and draw them away and make the relationship seem unreliable. It was the exact kind of tactic that Derek would expect from them--especially if Henry was out of the picture. If that were the case, Derek was going to have to trust Stiles’ ability to handle it on his own.

“How did you hurt your leg?” Deej asked softly, taking a seat next to Stiles. Derek tried to listen in as Stiles told him about the Deluna clan, but that was when Jen decided it was time for her to bond with Derek.

“Thank you so much for letting us come here,” she said, setting a hand on Derek’s shoulder. “After my husband died and I became the alpha, I knew we had to find Kylie someone to help her carry on the bloodline. She and her brother are all I have left and...well...as you can see, my son’s interests lie in a … less productive orientation.”

Derek stared, in a state of shock over the words coming out of Jen’s mouth. She was like every bigoted old person Derek had ever been forced to deal with. When he’d been a kid, Henry had done most of the negotiations with the family while his wife had quietly kept to the side. He’d never really talked to her before now and he was almost glad for it--because a younger Derek wouldn’t have had the control to keep from lashing out at some of the things she said.

When Derek didn’t say anything, Jen took it as permission to keep talking, “and you know, born werewolves are such a rare breed nowadays--especially with all the hunters popping up and thinning out the selection. It’s important that Kylie find a nice alpha to help carry on the bloodline...”

Derek’s eyes strayed to where Stiles was grinning and chatting with Deej. A pang of possessiveness shot through him, his insecurity making it harder to keep from going over there and whisking Stiles away from Deej and his stupid smiles that seemed to urge Stiles into talking even more.

“-- know a born werewolf for an alpha is more likely to bear sons? It’s all in genetics nowadays. I even read an article online about how some doctors can let you choose your child’s hair color and everything. Humans are terrifying when you give them too much wiggle room.”

From nearby, Stiles made a soft noise--one for Derek’s ears only-- that was a startled squeaking grunt of relief that meant his pain was being taken away.

Whipping his head around, Derek zeroed in on where Deej was leaning into Stiles with a palm wide over his thigh as he sapped away the aches and pains there. A snarl burst from deep in his chest, loud and animalistic in a way that had Stiles and everyone else looking at him in surprise. Deej didn’t pull away instantly, instead dragging his hand slowly from Stiles’ leg and then giving Derek a tight, fake smile.

“Considering you’re engaged, you’re pretty inattentive to your fiance’s pain.”

“Stiles can take care of himself,” Derek said sharply, curling his hands into fists and watching the way Stiles glanced from him, to Deej, and then back to Derek before quirking an eyebrow.

Deej shrugged one shoulder, “To a point,” he agreed, “but he’s just a human. You should be making exceptions for him. Did you make him walk with you all the way out here just so he could seem strong?” Scowling, Deej turned to face Stiles, eyes scanning his body for injuries he might not have seen before. “If he’s hurting you in any way, you can always leave him. I’d never hurt you.”

“He’s not hurting me,” and that was Stiles’ amused tone, the one where he was trying to be consoling but on the inside he was probably cackling in glee at Derek’s pain.

Derek crossed his arms, narrowing his eyes at Deej in a way he knew to be intimidating. “I’m not hurting him.”

Deej’s fingers kneaded at Stiles’ thigh, massaging over the scar. Derek tensed, upper lip curling back as he bit out, “If Stiles was in enough pain to affect his walking or movement, I would know. He’s stronger than you think. Humans don’t break as easily as everyone assumes. They bounce back.”

“He might be strong for a human, but he’s still a human,” Deej chastised gently. That was when Stiles’ amused expression turned miffed, which Derek knew meant he was going to start getting annoyed soon. Might as well see if he could get Stiles to stop acting so innocent before Deej tried to whisk him off in a plastic bubble.

“So you think humans are fragile? That they should be treated like glass?”

Deej glanced over to Stiles before shaking his head. “I think humans are strong willed, but they require a certain amount of care put into them,” he explained lightly, standing up and holding a hand out to help Stiles to his feet. “Just because he can bounce back doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be there every step of the way to give him support. You’re not a very attentive fiance.”

It was a tiny twitch in Stiles’ left eyebrow that told Derek he didn’t really have to say anything at all. He grunted a tiny, noncommittal noise as Stiles took Deej’s hand and pulled himself up. The next second was dizzying as Stiles whipped his cane around and hooked it behind Deej’s knee, wrenching forward to force it to buckle. Deej jerked, trying to shift his balance and yelping as Stiles used their clasped hands to shove at his shoulder, at the same time he used his good leg to kick Deej’s foot out from under him.

Deej went down in a tumble of limbs, landing on his back and staring blankly up at the sky. Stiles pulled his cane back, giving it a little twirl and humming, “smothering never went over real well with me,” before shooting Deej a wicked grin.

The entire clearing began to reek of arousal. The beta girl who had previously been drawing quietly made a choking sound strangled on a laugh while Jen brought a hand up to rub at her temples. Derek rolled his eyes, gesturing for Stiles to come over, “Get over here before he tries to take your clothes off,” he snapped, biting back an amused grin despite himself. Stiles set his cane down, using it just enough to even out his gait as he came up next to Derek’s side.

“Yes, dear,” he chirped, twisting to steal a kiss from Derek before snuggling up into his side like it was the most natural thing in the world.

Derek couldn’t help but wrap a hand around Stiles’ shoulders, turning to kiss his temple while muttering, “nice one,” in a voice so low that only Stiles and the closest werewolves could hear.

Amber made a sound of disdain, “you might think that sort of behavior is cute, but I bet that’s exactly what’s gotten him all those scars. He reeks of pain. If anything, you letting him do whatever he wants is why your human is practically broken.”

“Stiles isn’t broken!” Scott roared, jumping to his feet from where he’d been sitting next to Allison and Isaac on the bench. Kylie snarled, getting in between Scott and Amber and flashing her teeth. Scott shifted, baring his fangs as Isaac and Boyd crowded in on either side of him, ready to attack at a moment’s notice. Allison’s right hand shifted, curling in to where she usually kept a small dagger taped against her arm--hidden beneath her sleeve. Other than that, she didn’t move except to grab Scott’s elbow to keep him from lunging forward.

The artist beta ducked her head down, peering up between her bangs at the bloodbath ready to happen and then mumbling, “this is almost as bad as Twilight,” under her breath. Stiles cackled, reaching out to gesture for Scott to de-wolf or at least back down from attack mode.

“It’s cool, man. They’re just jealous they don’t have one of me.”

“Honey, no offense, but humans aren’t really useful,” Amber pointed out, ignoring the way Scott’s eyes flashed angrily. Jen reached out, placing a hand on her sister’s shoulder and shaking her head.

“The magic ones are useful. Look at Alex.”

“Don’t look at me,” the human from their pack chimed in, lifting his head from where he had been typing things on a tablet. “Forget you ever saw me.”

“I’m totally magic,” Stiles butted in, lifting his cane and wiggling it around, “did you miss the scribble art on my mojo stick?”

Before Jen or Amber could make any other kind of backhanded comment, Derek stepped in. “Other than having come here to insult my fiance, are you satisfied?”

Kylie made a sad face, frowning and looking at Stiles like he was some kind of homeless kitten as Jen turned to her daughter and pet some of her hair from her face. “We were just having conversation. Anyway, I’d like to see the town a little bit. We haven’t been here since my husband was alive. Maybe Kylie and your...betrothed...could do with getting to know one another.”

The frown on Kylie’s face became a grin, canines elongated as she flashed them at Stiles. Apparently she ate homeless kittens for breakfast.

A dismayed sound came from Deej. “I wanted to get to know him.”

“Oh yeah,” snorted the quiet beta, “I’m sure you do.”

“Shut up, Ivanna,” Deej hissed, “go draw your butts.”

“You wish you had these butts,” Ivanna muttered under her breath, glowering at her cousin and looked back down at her sketchbook just as Amber came over and wrenched it away. Ivanna tried to grab it back, but Amber swatted her daughter’s hand away and tucked the sketchbook under her arm.

“Don’t draw while we’re with guests, Ivanna. That’s rude.”

The look on Ivanna’s face promised a swift and unpleasant death for Amber, eyes narrowing in anger before she pulled her phone out and instead began to text someone.

Boyd, hip leaning against the picnic table, gestured to Jen and Amber. “I’m sure you are all tired. we can show you the hotel we booked for you...it’s not too far from here.”

Apparently, just thinking about being free from the Turner pack was enough for Stiles to sag a little into Derek’s side. Derek rubbed his arm firmly, patting it and then giving Jen and Kylie the best smile he could muster--which probably made him look constipated. Stiles always liked to tell Derek when his smiles made him look constipated.

“Why don’t you get settled at the hotel and we can catch up over dinner tomorrow? You did show up earlier than expected. We weren’t exactly ready for you,” he offered, taking Stiles’ elbow nudge in his side as a sign to hurry up with the goodbyes. “If you’ll excuse us, we have a few errands to run, anyway.”

“Wedding stuff!” Stiles piped up, looking over to Derek and smiling at him and then at Jen. “You know how it goes.”

Sometimes Derek had a habit of forgetting how strong Stiles really was, but he was always reminded in moments like this, when Stiles reached behind him and gave his left asscheek a strong slap and squeeze that had Derek grunting and rocking forward. It was a good thing Stiles was a human, because he was the only one besides Allison who wasn’t able to scent how much that playful grope had turned Derek on. Scott, looking horrified, stared between Derek and Stiles while Isaac’s eyebrows shot up and Boyd pointedly turned away. Deej, on the other hand, let out a soft whimper.

That might have egged Derek on to retaliate, palming Stiles’ bottom through his jeans and squeezing just shy of painful. Stiles made a warbled grunt before patting Derek on the chest and saying, “that’s the stuff, babycakes. Now, lets go pick out flowers.”

The second they were back into the car, Stiles sagged against the chair like all of the muscles in his body had left him. He groaned, sobbing out, “My God, it was like being in a pack of harpies.”

“It could have gone worse,” Derek muttered, starting the car and looking behind himself to pull out of the parking space. “At least nobody got killed.”

“I love your optimism,” Stiles replied dryly. Derek rolled to a stop at the sign before the main road, turning to Stiles and reaching out to clasp his shoulder.

“It’s fine. We’re okay,” he said, trying not to give into the guilt that told him that all of this stress was his fault alone. “Just another day or two and they’ll be gone.”

“This sucks.” Stiles grumbled.

“Yup.”

-

After a quick detour to the downtown precinct to update Stiles’ dad on the pack and let him know that yes, Stiles was alive and no, he hadn’t been threatened with bodily harm, they made their way back to Derek’s apartment for some down time.

The only problem was that when Derek opened the door, Deej and Ivanna were sitting on his couch chatting with Boyd and Erica. It was instinctual for Derek to shove Stiles back, a snarl punching right out of his chest and his fangs elongating. They were intruders in his home and the fact that Derek hadn’t been the ones to let them in was enough to set off all the alarms in his head. He could feel Stiles trying to peer over his shoulder, curious as to why they had visitors.

“Woah there, tiger,” Deej stood, holding his hands out and then jutting his chin just enough to show Derek the pale column of his throat. “We come in peace.” Stiles’ hand was a gentle touch between his shoulder blades, and even though he was human, it was like he was sapping the anger right out of Derek.

Ivanna leaned to the side around Deej’s legs so she could be seen from where she still sat on the couch. “Our family sucks. We want to help you.”

“I like her,” Erica chirped, grinning crookedly. Derek rolled his eyes, all hostility gone as he moved to let Stiles in the apartment and then shut the door. Of course Erica would like her. She liked anyone who was down for a little subterfuge.

Stiles, instead of going to take a seat, wrapped his arm around Derek’s waist and gave Deej a hard, contemplative look. “This isn’t some plan to seduce me, right? I mean, dude, you’re cute, but you’re not that cute. Derek is my boo, you can’t compete.”

“Your boo?” Derek echoed dryly. Stiles pressed a finger to Derek’s lips, squishing and wiggling them back and forth as he made a shushing noise. Derek tried to glare at Stiles’ finger, but all he managed to do was cross his eyes and look foolish enough that Stiles was cracking a grin and biting back an amused snort.

When Stiles pulled his hand away and tugged Derek towards the loveseat, Derek didn’t even think to stop him and sat down obediently next to Stiles. The second Stiles’ feet were in his lap, he began to unlace his sneakers without question. Deej quirked an eyebrow, but nothing else was said on the matter.

“So why are you here, if you aren’t trying to whisk me away in the dead of night?” Stiles asked, wiggling around on the loveseat until he was comfortable. Ivanna snorted and Deej looked uncomfortable for a minute, like he was trying to think of the easiest way to explain the situation.

“We’re not pack by choice,” Ivanna offered, nudging her cousin with her shoulder in support. Deej nodded, and Ivanna continued. “It’s like we’re the only ones who aren’t crazy in the whole family. Half of the betas can’t stand them, either.”

“You have betas?” Derek asked.

“Ones back home--ones that mom turned after...after dad died.” Deej answered. “She doubled the size of the pack in like, a month or something. It was nuts.”

“I know how that feels,” Stiles muttered, shooting Derek a pointed look that got his toe pinched in retaliation. Stiles grunted, digging his heel into Derek’s thigh and then yelping and kicking out when Derek tried to tickle the sole of his foot. “Hey! We’re trying to have a serious conversation here!” he cried, reaching out to try and swat Derek’s hands away. Derek snatched his wrist, using Deej and Ivanna’s presence as an excuse to pull Stiles’ hand forward and tap a chaste and apologetic kiss to his knuckles. Stiles’ face flushed, red prickling down his throat and disappearing into the collar of his shirt.

Satisfied, Derek let his wrist go and sat back, gesturing for Deej to continue. Deej was watching the two of them with a mixture of sadness and amusement--an expression Derek knew well enough.

Ivanna reached out, placing a hand on her cousin’s arm and giving Deej a tiny smile before looking back at Derek and Stiles. “The issue is that they’re all turned werewolves. I know Derek is the only born wolf in your pack, but that’s not how it’s supposed to go. They must be desperate to find a born werewolf to bring into the pack, otherwise I don’t really know why they dragged us out here if they don’t plan on bringing you back with them.”

“You can’t have him,’ Stiles blurted sharply, pulling his feet from Derek’s lap to sit up properly. Derek’s chest clenched, breath catching in his throat at the sheer command in Stiles’ voice. Stiles must have noticed Derek’s surprise, because he glanced over and scowled in confusion. “What? They can’t.”

Derek surged forward, capturing Stiles’ lips in a chaste, biting kiss. Stiles let out a noise of surprise, hand flying up to cup Derek’s face and parting his mouth just enough that Derek could nibble on his bottom lip.

“You guys are happy together,” Deej said quietly. Derek broke away from the kiss, startled by the longing in his voice. Deej was staring down at his clasped hands, thumbs flicking over one another and leg bouncing. “I think my dad would have liked to see that if he were alive. He’d hoped you had found someone by now...too bad mom killed him before he could find out.”

Silence fell over the room for a long moment as Stiles’ heart skipped. Derek couldn’t even find words, instead opting to reach for Stiles’ hand still resting on his shoulder to lace their fingers together. Erica and Boyd glanced at one another, both uneasy.

Ivanna set her pencil down, thumbing it awkwardly and then frowning. “Why do you think it took this long to call out on it? Uncle Henry didn’t want to do that to you, but Kylie... She can’t keep a boyfriend very long and Jen was getting desperate to marry her off just to get an heir.”

“Why can’t she keep a boyfriend?” Boyd asked softly.

Ivanna snorted, “she’s pretty much the devil.”

Stiles let out a strangled laugh, one that sounded more like a stifled sob than anything. Deej flopped back against the couch with a tired sigh. “She’s hella controlling, man. Like, I came out a few years ago and I thought mom was gonna kill me. Kylie was spoiled before, but after that, it’s pretty much been Hell. It’s like they’ll do anything to keep our bloodline going. The only guy who would ever marry Kylie would pretty much need to be spineless and have a high pain tolerance.”

“What, does she beat them up or something?” Erica asked lightly, attempting humor. Deej pursed his lips, gesturing for Ivanna to explain.

“She’s the alpha’s daughter and a girl. She’s always gotten her way; she can pretty much do anything she wants. Seriously? No one is going to believe a lawsuit saying a five two woman broke a man’s collarbone and put him in the hospital. Especially not when he’s covered in claw marks.”

“I miss dad,” Deej said faintly, kicking his legs out childishly. “Mom wasn’t so bad when he was around. I just... do you know how fucked up that is? Your parents are fighting and then your mom just kills your dad in his sleep because she wasn’t getting her way? Ivanna and I are like the only ones who can see that. Kylie and Amber think she hung the moon, and all of the betas are ones that she turned or are too afraid to do anything about it.”

“How do you even live with that?” Derek asked. His family, when they had been alive, had been kind and loving. They were nothing like the pack Deej and Ivanna were describing--broken and ruthless and divided. It made his skin crawl just thinking about it.

Smiling thinly, Ivanna turned to Deej and nudged shoulders with him. “We spend a lot of time out of the house. Mall rats don’t really get noticed much in a crowd, anyway.”

Stiles shifted, stretching his sore leg out and leaning against Derek for support. He let out a pained grunt and Derek instinctively reached out to rest his hand over Stiles’ thigh to take some of the pain. Stiles shot him a grateful smile before looking back to the betas. “What can we do to help?

That was exactly what Derek didn’t want to hear. Any time Stiles offered a hand to someone, it inevitably ended in bloodshed and a few more years off Derek’s life (and probably some gray hairs on his temples).

Not wanting to see this go down a dangerous path, Derek leaned in until his lips were brushing Stiles’ ear. Softly, he murmured, “this is out of our hands.”

Stiles shot him a look clearly stating that it was so far in their hands it might as well have been superglued.

“If... if you help us--help Deej become the alpha--then you won’t have to worry about marrying Kylie anymore.” Ivanna said slowly. Stiles sat up straighter and Derek narrowed his eyes.

“You have to kill an alpha to become an alpha.”

Deej pursed his lips, staring down at his hands. “I was hoping you could help us find another way. Just something... I don’t know. She’s not really my mom anymore, and Kylie’s fucking nuts. I know Stiles has experience at magic. Alex does too, but he doesn’t really deal with the old school junk. Those runes, that means you know a lot about the old ways, right? There’s got to be something we can do.”

“Dude,” Stiles said faintly, “these runes I found in a book. I know jack about werewolves and how to make an alpha without killing one.”

Ivanna sagged back into the couch with a sigh and Deej’s face fell. Derek wanted to say something to make it better, but since he had killed Peter to become the alpha, it was a little hard to offer any sort of advice to the younger werewolf.

“Wait,” Stiles moved to get up, hand reaching out to use Derek’s shoulder for support when he jarred his leg too much. “I think I know someone who might. Well, I mean. I think I know a place where we could find that kind of stuff,” he turned to face Derek, grinning wide and hopeful. “You think Gabby’s shop is still open?”

Derek glanced over to the clock, frowning. “She has her apprentice running the shop now. It’ll be open.”

“Oh yeah,” Stiles breathed, “Nick! He can save us.”

“Nick gave your whole body static cling for a week when he tried to fix your phone,” Erica butted in, “remember?”

Stiles cringed, making a pinching motion with his fingers. “Just a little cling. Besides, he’s still new. He totally makes up for it with his mad cleaning and organizing skills. Dude, I found like, three books on kelpies when I went there last.”

“Is that a good thing?” Ivanna asked.

“It’s a great thing,” Stiles corrected, “because the owner is a hoarder.” Stiles pushed himself into a stand, turning to grab Derek’s hand and tug him up as well.

“I’m coming with you,” Deej said firmly, “I want to help.”

“Oh, you’re going to help. There’s no way I was gonna do this alone.” Stiles laughed. Derek frowned, tightening his hold on Stiles’ hand and then looking down at their clasped palms.

“I’m coming too.” Okay, so Derek was usually banned from the research portion of things, but he wasn’t going to let Stiles be left alone with Deej if he could help it. Without his family around, Deej didn’t seem to lay the charm on as thick, but Derek wasn’t going to take any chances.

“Duh,” Stiles grinned, winking.

-

The White Rabbit was a decently sized bookshop hiding behind a strip mall. It sat directly on the border between Beacon Hills and a small neighboring town called Sutter Creek and attracted a variety of people--supernatural and human alike. The outside was plain and nondescript, but the inside was where the magic (literally and figuratively) happened.

Stiles was the first one through the door, happy to shove it open and make the bell overhead jangle loudly. Derek stayed close behind as he marched across the ornate entry rug that hid a multitude of sigils carved into the floor. The counter was empty, and a quick sniff told Derek that whoever was manning the store had not been keeping post for at least an hour. Stiles tapped the bell on the counter and Deej kept himself busy by snooping around the books on a display that read ’STILL A BETTER LOVE STORY THAN TWILIGHT.’

Stiles flicked the bell again, frowning. “Hang on. he's probably hiding in the back reading some five hundred year old journal that doubles as a romance novel. Nick!

There was a shuffling noise in the back before Nick popped his head out. Nick was someone that Derek had a hard time forgetting. He wasn’t sure if it was the strong jawline and almost cherubic face with a ‘smile that could light a room’, or his habit of trying his hardest to outdo Stiles’ spells with his own self-taught magic. Those usually ended with one of them setting things on fire or Nick fumbling to clean up any messes before Gabby found out.

Still, where he was lacking in actual magic skill, he made up for with his impeccable management of the bookstore. Also, he and Derek shared a love of pastries and Derek knew exactly which ones from the shop down the road could get him an extra discount on whatever book Stiles inevitably ended up buying.

Stiles called him the embodiment of Captain America, which--other than his competitive streak a mile long-- probably wasn’t that far off.

“Hi, hello, sorry! I was reading!” Nick called out, hurrying quickly to the counter and waving around the book in his hands for emphasis. Derek wasn’t quite sure what country he originally came from--only that his accent was crisp and succinct, with a slight curl on a few words that made Derek assume it was Dutch or German. “Good to see you. How are you? Are the kelpies taken care of?”

“Yeah dude. They’re totally roasted,” Stiles grinned, peering at the book in Nick’s hands and raising an eyebrow. Derek caught the title and almost choked on his spit when he realized it was pretty much the supernatural equivalent of a smutty romance novel. Nick caught on quickly and fumbled to flip the book so that the cover was facing down.

“I’ve read all the other books in the store!”

“Really? Maybe you can find me a book about werewolf hierarchy and bloodlines?” Stiles asked cheekily, leaning up against the counter and wiggling his fingers towards Nick’s book. Nick snatched the book up, using it to swat Stiles over the knuckles, which made him yelp and draw his hand back with a pout.

“Say ‘please’,” Nick cajoled, eyes flitting up and his entire body freezing when he caught sight of Deej. Deej brought a hand up, wiggling his fingers and leering in a way Derek was starting to grow familiar with. “Who is your friend?”

“Eh?” Stiles twisted around, glancing back at Deej and then looking over at Nick again as a sly expression flickered across his face. “Oh, that’s our buddy Deej. He’s the one who needs the book, you know. So you should totally help us out.”

Nick fumbled with his book, quickly stuffing it under the counter. “Why didn’t you say so? Usually you just come in here and pester me for discounts. You’re making me look bad.” With that, Nick quickly disappeared into the back store room after one last glance over his shoulder at the three of them.

“So does that mean he’s not taken?” Deej blurted. Stiles’ face lit up like it was Christmas day and Derek wanted to groan. If there was one thing he loved to do more than running off into life-threatening danger, it was to try and play matchmaker. Both situations usually ended in tears.

“No, he’s not.” Derek answered, “He’s completely single. You should talk to him and stop hitting on my fiance.”

“Aww,” Stiles cooed, whirling around and throwing his arms around Derek’s shoulders, “I knew you loved me, honey bunch!”

Derek tried to frown but it was hard when Stiles was peppering his mouth with stupid, childish little kisses that made his stomach do funny things.

When Nick returned with the book, Stiles plucked it from his hands and dragged Derek off towards the reading nook to crack it open and get some reading done. Derek crammed in next to him on the massive plush armchair, settling his arm over Stiles’ shoulders and peering down at the introduction page.

While Stiles flipped to the index and thumbed through the book to find the right pages, Derek tuned in to the conversation happening at the front desk.

“So, you’re an apprentice?”

“Not a very good one,” Nick sounded flustered--his accent growing thick on some of his vowels.

“I’ve heard otherwise.”

“Don’t listen to Stiles. He only uses me for discounts.”

Derek snorted just the tiniest bit, cheek rubbing against the side of Stiles’ head and getting tickled by the soft hair there. Stiles must have heard Nick, because he called out, “Your boss overcharges, anyway!” before going back to reading.

A soft chuckle came from Deej, followed by an awkward pause and then, “so where are you from?”

“Belgium.”

“Really? Is the cream as good as they say?”

Stiles’ body shook against Derek’s chest as he bit back the laugh that wanted to break out. Nick made a tiny, confused noise. “Excuse me?”

Derek peered over Stiles’ head to see Deej’s face turning red and his hands fumbling to pick up books he’d knocked over on the counter. “I mean the ice cream. That’s what your country is famous for, right?”

Nick reached out to pluck some books from Deej’s hands, putting them back into their proper stacking order. The corner of his mouth twitched up into a shy smile, his dark blond bangs casting a shadow over the top of his eyes when he peered up at Deej. Derek tapped Stiles’ shoulder with his thumb and pointed over to them. Stiles lifted his head, letting out a tiny cooing noise and elbowing Derek right back in the gut like he was the one to spot it going down.

“It’s not so good in America, if that’s what you’re asking.”

Deej frowned, “you sure? Have you been to a Cold Stone? They’re pretty good.”

Shaking his head, Nick fiddled with the corner of the book in his hands. “They don’t have any in Sutter Creek.”

“There’s one in Beacon Hills. I saw it on our way out here.”

“You should show me sometime.”

Stiles jerked, turning and slapping Derek frantically and violently on the leg until Derek had to reach out and grab his hand to make him stop. “I know,” he muttered, “I know.”

Wiggling, Stiles grinned and wagged his eyebrows, mouthing, “totally flirting,” like it wasn’t obvious. Derek rolled his eyes, pulling Stiles’ hand up to his mouth and kissing at his knuckles. Whatever energy had been shooting through Stiles was gone in a heartbeat as his focus flickered down to their hands and then back up to Derek’s eyes.

He looked surprised. Like he was finally understanding something.

Gut sinking and anxiety twisting like a knife into his heart, Derek started to pull away. Stiles was catching on--he had gotten too close and now there was no going back. Stiles was going through a myriad of expressions, from confusion to disbelief before he frowned.

There was an apology ready to burst from the tip of his tongue when Stiles lurched forward and stopped it with a kiss.

It was just like every other kiss they had shared, except for one thing. Stiles tasted like desperation. His hands curled into Derek’s shirt, dragging him impossibly closer and sliding his palms upward. Fingers carded through his hair before Stiles was clutching the back of his head, like he was begging Derek with his body to just return the kiss like his life depended on it. Derek was reeling, stuck on the part where Stiles had caught on to his feelings and was doing the complete opposite of rejecting him.

When Stiles’ thumb pressed against the back of his left ear--the one place Derek was ticklish-- it was like breaking that last bit of restraint. Stiles was the only one who knew about that spot; was the only one who would have cared to remember even if he wasn’t. It was like the thousandth reminder of why he loved Stiles and the first of many reasons why Stiles might just love him back.

Derek twisted his body, wrapping one hand around Stiles’ back and shifting them so that they fit together more comfortably. Stiles gasped out a curse of, “you fucking jackass,” before he was diving in and kissing Derek all over again. Derek couldn’t even muster a response other than to cup Stiles’ face and bite at his top lip when Stiles tried to pull back for a breath. It was intense and frenzied and they were probably making a lot of noise from the smacking of their lips, the shifting of clothes and the way Stiles was practically breathless in his lap.

“If you guys keep that up, I might actually have to kick you out for public indecency.” Nick called out from the front of the store. Derek wrenched his head up, one hand still holding Stiles’ thigh over his hip and the other around his back. Stiles’ laugh was borderline hysterical, face flushed and mouth kiss-swollen. His eyes, though, were what got Derek. They were happy, brighter than Derek had ever seen.

He didn’t even realize he was grinning until Stiles reached up and pinched his cheek.

“I didn’t know you two were together,” Nick mused. Derek snatched Stiles’ wrist, pulling it down and looking over to where Deej was giving Nick an odd look.

“They’re engaged.”

Nick looked thoughtful for a second and then nodded seriously. “I can see it.”

Beaming, Stiles moved to play with Derek’s fingers. “Did you hear that? We’re predictable, sweetums.”

“Wow,” Deej muttered, “you two are giving me tooth rot. You can keep Stiles, dude. I don’t think I could handle the pet names.”

Derek didn’t mean to, but he puffed his chest a little in pride. That is, until Stiles pinched him on the nipple and gave him a dirty look that clearly meant, ‘I am no trophy wife, you big caveman alpha,’ which had Derek deflating a little.

Wiggling out of Derek’s lap, Stiles grabbed his cane from where it had been sitting against the armchair. Apparently their activities had caused more of a strain than Derek had realized, which caused a sluggish, heavy feeling of guilt to sit low in his stomach.

“We’re gonna get this book,” Stiles said, setting it on the counter. Deej looked panicked for a moment, eyes darting from the book and then up to Nick.

“I can have Ivanna pick me up in a little while. You guys look like you want some alone time, anyway.”

“If it’s okay,” Nick began, ringing up the book, “I can give you a ride home after my shift. That is, if you don’t mind a couple more hours waiting around here.”

Deej beamed, leaning up against the counter and gesturing vaguely. “It’s not waiting at all. You kinda know a little about everything. I know a lot about nothing. I’m seeing a connection here.”

“Derek,” Stiles reached out to pull on Derek’s sleeve, “take me home before I kill myself from secondhand embarrassment.”

That was something Derek had no problem doing. It didn’t help that hearing Stiles say, ‘take me home,’ had Derek’s possible caveman alpha instincts going wild with the desire to do exactly that.

The car ride home was a quiet one--but that was mostly because Stiles was frantically flipping through the book he’d bought. Every now and then, he would ask Derek a question or two about betas versus alphas, but he kept quiet more than anything. Derek tried to reach over to grab his hand--to see if maybe what had happened in the bookstore really was more than what they’d been pretending-- but Stiles had slapped his hand away.

He would have been hurt, but Stiles did it with a hiss before leaning against his door and snapping, “dude, I am like ten seconds away from giving you road head. Reading this book is like the only thing saving us from like, eight traffic violations.”

That was pretty much all Derek needed to hear to send every single one of his worries flying out the window.

Getting back to Derek’s apartment didn’t go exactly as planned, though. Stiles’ memory must have lapsed halfway through the trip because pulling into the parking lot had him glancing around in confusion. He was still frowning when they made it up to Derek’s place, to a point where Derek had to take his hand and get him to sit down on the couch.

“I...” Stiles trailed off, watching Derek take a seat next to him. “The bookstore, what happened?”

Derek’s heart sank, and he reached out to shakily take Stiles’ hand. Just because Stiles forgot, didn’t mean that his feelings were gone.

“I think what we have isn’t what we originally thought,” he muttered, peering up at Stiles nervously.

Stiles sighed loudly in relief, sagging back against the couch. “Oh, thank God.”

“What?”

Tensing immediately, Stiles’ eyes fell to their hands. “Nothing... it’s just... sometimes I forget, right? I forget where I am or what I was doing?”

“Yeah,” Derek agreed, unsure if he liked where this was going. He rubbed his fingers over Stiles’ knuckles, trying to show him that whatever he said, Derek wouldn’t hold it against him. Sometimes it worked--when Stiles’ anxiety was open to affection. Other times, little touches like that could backfire. Derek didn’t think this was one of those times, though.

Stiles gnawed on the inside of his cheek and then shrugged one shoulder. “Sometimes I try to fill in the blanks...like... stuff gets made up or something. Dreams or memories or something that didn’t really happen. I just... I wasn’t sure, but it felt so real this time.”

“This time?” Derek echoed, watching in awe as Stiles’ neck and ears began to flush, and he looked anywhere but at Derek.

“Yeah, dude. This time...” Stiles finally looked over at him, grinning crookedly. “Maybe there will be a next time if we can make Deej the alpha. Then you won’t have to marry Kylie. You won’t have to go with someone that’s...”

“That’s no better than Kate?” Derek supplied. Kate didn’t come up much at all anymore, but Stiles had been the first person Derek had ever fully talked to about it. That had only been, initially, because Stiles had figured most of it out and then confronted Derek--but the significance was still the same.

Stiles reached out until his palm was cradling Derek’s jaw.

“Someone that’s not me,” he corrected.

Derek didn’t even think. There were no words or thoughts that came to him other than the uncontrollable need to have Stiles in his arms. He didn’t hesitate for a second to give in, reaching out and pulling Stiles against his chest until they were clutching to one another like it could somehow bolster them for the days to come.

Chapter Text

Derek wasn’t sure when it happened, but one minute he’d been holding tightly to Stiles, and the next they were kissing and Stiles was pushing him back against the bed with a grin, ducking down to bite gently at Derek’s top lip.

Derek was almost distracted entirely by having everything he wanted in his arms at that very moment, but he was, by nature, someone who got trapped in his thoughts too often. When Stiles started to pull at his shirt, Derek reached out to snag his wrist.

“Wait,” he breathed into Stiles’ mouth, kissing once and then saying, “wait,” more firmly as he dropped his head back against the pillow.

“Huh?” Stiles frowned, looking at where Derek’s fingers held his wrist hostage.

“What is this?”

“Kissing?” Stiles guessed hesitantly, brows pinching together in a way that made the tiny sliver of a scar on his temple stand out in the moonlight coming in from the window. “Groping? Horizontal mambo? Topless tango? Well, not topless yet... I’m working on that.” Stiles tugged gently on Derek’s shirt for emphasis.

“You know that’s not what I meant,” Derek grumbled, a coil of irritation rising up in him. Stiles’ heart was skipping a little in that nervous manner that was painfully familiar. When Stiles started to twist the fabric of Derek’s shirt between his fingers and lick his lips hesitantly, Derek sighed. It wasn’t hard to tell when Stiles wanted to ignore confrontation--and apparently this was too new for him to really discuss what they had going on.

“Does it have to be complicated?” Stiles asked weakly. Derek didn’t like the way Stiles’ eyes were darting all over his face. It was like Stiles was trying to find the answers in Derek’s eyes or in the line of his mouth. He didn’t particularly feel like arguing or trying to pry answers out of Stiles just yet, so he reached up and hooked his hand behind Stiles’ head to pull him down into a kiss.

Stiles went along with it easily, dragging Derek’s shirt up and over his head and wiggling so that he was sitting right on Derek’s crotch instead of on his hips like before. It sent a sharp and electrifying thrill through Derek’s entire body, hands groping forward and scrambling to pull at Stiles’ shirt. He wrenched it up, laughing when Stiles made a strangled warble as the collar pulled on his nose. Derek was still chuckling when Stiles dove back in, chasing that laugh with kiss after kiss.

At some point, Derek started to grind his hips upward in slow, systematic rocks that had Stiles gasping into his mouth. He dug his fingers into Stiles’ hair, memorizing each smell and sound that came from him, wanting to make sure he never forgot the taste of Stiles’ lips or how his mouth was soft when he kissed and hard when he grinned.

Palms groping along Derek’s stomach, Stiles gave a shallow downward thrust, hissing and tensing. It wasn’t a good kind of tense, not when a tiny and pained sound broke out from deep in his chest. His thigh shook against Derek’s hip, hands flying out to grasp at the mattress. “Fuck,” he cursed, clenching his eyes shut and then dragging in a slow breath, “I can’t move.”

“Cramp? Or did you overdo it?” Derek wriggled into a sitting position, helping Stiles ease himself up and to the side so he was laying down beside Derek. Stiles was so tense he was practically vibrating out of his skin, jaw clenched and a furrow in his brows. After a second, he started to relax, sagging slowly into the mattress.

“I think I overdid it,” Stiles rasped with a scowl, “which sucks.”

“Mmh,” Derek rolled over, throwing an arm across Stiles’ chest and pulling him into a slow and lazy kiss. “We can try again later,” he murmured, knowing the best way to cheer Stiles up was to give him something to look forward to down the road. Stiles, mollified, pressed back languidly, mouth open and tongue darting out every so often like he just wanted a quick taste of Derek’s lips.

Stiles started to drift off at some point between kissing Derek and having his hair petted. He went slack, snuffling a little as his eyes fluttered sleepily. Derek ran his fingers through the short hair at the base of Stiles’ skull, nuzzling against his cheek and petting a hand down his side. His chest ached, gut twisting with fondness at the way the years seemed to melt away from Stiles’ face as sleep overcame him. He looked innocent and vulnerable in Derek’s arms, head lolling against Derek’s bicep and heartbeat evening out gradually.

It didn’t take long before Derek gave into sleep as well, burying his face in the curve of Stiles’ throat and resting an arm over his body.

Stiles was the first to wake, and by the time Derek got up, he was curled in close and using sticky notes to mark pages in the book he’d bought from Nick. It took Derek a long time to get out of bed, if only because he not-so-secretly enjoyed curling up with his head on Stiles’ thigh and letting Stiles absently stroke his hair.

Nearly an hour went by before Stiles shut the book and dragged Derek out of bed to make coffee. A quick check on his phone let him know that Deej planned on coming over later, and so he texted the pack to see who had time to stop by around that time. While Stiles was in the shower, Derek put a pot on and attempted to tidy up his living room so it didn’t look like a bunch of college kids crashed there constantly.

Stiles came out dripping wet and in a tee shirt and briefs, shuffling his way towards the kitchen with a hand on the wall for support. Derek wandered into his room to grab Stiles’ cane, coming out and propping it against the counter while Stiles sleepily poured himself a mug. After glancing down at his cane, Stiles peered up and gave Derek a tiny smile--grateful that Derek wasn’t pressuring him into using it, but giving him the option all the same. This was only something Derek had learned over time, and he still forgot it on occasion.

Shrugging, Derek leaned in for a quick kiss, licking at the taste of over-sweetened coffee on Stiles’ lips before rubbing a hand down his back. “Deej and the others will be here in a little while.”

“Mmmh,” Stiles hummed, pressing into Derek’s hand and twisting his head for another kiss. “We still haven’t found anything yet, though.”

“I know,” Derek mumbled, nudging Stiles’ temple with his nose and ignoring the urge to just grab Stiles and hug him tightly and never let go. “That’s why they’re coming over. We don’t have much time, we need to look at other options.”

“Ah.”

“It’ll be fine.” At least, Derek hoped it would be. What he had with Stiles was so new and raw that he really didn’t want to mess it up any more with pack issues and all of the drama surrounding their current situation. Stiles mumbled incoherently into his mug, taking a deep gulp from it and then setting it down so he could turn in Derek’s arms.

“You know what else is fine? You.” Stiles leered. Derek barely stopped himself from rolling his eyes, shooting him a tiny smirk before dragging Stiles in. They had a couple hours to make out before the pack came over, anyway.

--

Isaac and Scott were the first to show up, raiding Derek’s pantry and bickering over who would be the one to pick Allison up from work while her car was in the shop. Ivanna came next, with Deej and Nick trailing in behind her looking like two children caught stealing from the cookie jar.

Or getting frisky in the car, if the stink of arousal and leather seats was something to go by.

“So, brainstorming?” Stiles offered as the pack settled in the living room. He plopped down next to Derek, elbowing him until Derek lifted his arm and settled it over Stiles’ shoulders. Stiles’ lip twitched to hide a smug grin as he made himself comfortable.

“Did you find anything in the book?” Deej ventured, leaning forward so that his elbows were resting on his knees, face pensive. Ivanna peered up from her sketchbook, thumbing her pencil. They both deflated when Stiles shook his head.

“Basically, like... even if we could give Deej her alpha status, all Jen has to do is kill him to get it back. I mean, no offense dude, but if your mom killed your dad for it... I’m not so sure there’s anything stopping her from killing her son, either.”

Derek didn’t even cringe at the bluntness of Stiles’ words. Years of fighting and dealing with life-and-death situations had numbed all of them far too much to sugar coat the truth. Deej looked sickened and Ivanna reached out to touch his arm in a familial gesture of comfort.

Nick stood, scrubbing his hands through his hair and making small noises like he wanted to speak but couldn’t find the right words. Deej’s eyes flickered up to watch him for a moment before they fell to the floor. Derek knew exactly what Deej was going through, the trepidation and fear that came from being powerless against family.

“It all boils down to you,” he said softly, drawing the attention of everyone in the room. “I know she’s your family, I know you love her, but she’s hurting you and everyone around you. Can you live with that for the rest of your life?”

Met with silence, Derek continued. “It’s not just your mom, it’s your sister and your aunt. That’s a lot of family to lose in one day...” I would know, was what Derek wanted to add on, but kept himself in check. Stiles’ hand curled around his knee, squeezing tight. It was such a small gesture--but it was something Derek never had after his family had died. Derek pulled Stiles in, taking comfort in the warm press of his body and the closeness of a mind that knew him more intimately than anyone else alive.

“There’s more back home,” Ivanna said quietly, fiddling with her pencil. “Some of Jen’s betas and a few pack members from before my uncle died.”

“Are they loyal to Jen?” Derek asked.

“Some are,” Deej frowned, “enough that they wouldn’t be okay with me as the alpha.”

If things weren’t complicated before, this added a whole new level of messy to the situation.

Scott made a small noise in the back of his throat, sitting up from where he and Isaac had mostly been observing from the loveseat. “Are there any other packs that can help you out? Maybe if you have backup when you get there, your mom’s betas won’t fight back?”

Deej let out a soft sigh, leaning back and then sitting up again before he rubbed at his neck and shrugged, peeking up wearily at Scott. “Honestly? The only pack that would take my side would be yours.”

“No,” Stiles blurted, before Derek even had the chance to turn them down. He shifted under Derek’s arm, sitting up with a grunt as everyone’s eyes focused on him. “I’m sorry dude, but no. We’re a tiny pack, with three humans and a whole town to look after. We would love to help you, but do you have any idea how much planning that would take? How much time we’d need to get the resources?”

“But--” Scott began, only to have Derek cut him off with a sharp gesture.

“Stiles is right,” he agreed, remembering a few too many times where they’d run into battle unprepared. “Two packs fighting is guaranteed losses on both sides. We’re on even grounds with this pack, and chances are that they’re going to be ready for a fight when they feel the alpha power shift to Deej anyway. If we had more time, maybe we could help...but as it is, Lydia and Jackson are out of town and that leaves us down two pack members. I can’t risk it... we can’t risk it.”

“I...” Deej’s breath hitched, eyes falling to look at his hands. He squeezed his fingers together, knuckles turning white until Nick reached over to place a hand over them. “I get it, man. We’ll think of something.” Deej took in a deep breath, nodding once and exhaling. “I’m gonna step outside for a minute. This is a lot to take in, you know?” He stood, brushing his palm over Nick’s head and then making his way towards the balcony at the back of Derek’s apartment.

The worst part was that Derek wanted to help Deej and Ivanna out, but his hands were tied. It wasn’t safe enough for them to run into this blind. Derek had enough near-death experiences with the pack to know when to cut his losses. It might paint his pack in a bad light, but Derek couldn’t care less when it meant that Stiles and the others were alive and well because of his choices. He’d learned from most of his mistakes back when the pack was still in high school.

“Dude,” Stiles turned, giving Derek wiggle of his eyebrows and jerking his head towards the balcony. Derek didn’t need to be a genius to realize Stiles wanted him to bond with Deej over alpha-things and losing family members.

Deej was leaning against the railing, watching the traffic on the street below when Derek came out. His scent was sharp with a heavy, fear-thick anxiety. Derek didn’t even have to try and force himself to be conversational because the second he stood next to Deej, the younger man was rushing his words out.

“I’m freaking out, dude. I don’t want to be the fucking alpha! I couldn’t even handle assistant manager at my old job! I... I can’t let Ivanna do it either because she’s got a harder time with being in charge than I do...” Deej trailed off, kicking his toe gently against the railing. There was so much of himself that Derek saw in Deej, it was almost terrifying. He was what Derek might have become had Kate and the fire never happened--naive, full of hope, and afraid of the world he wanted so desperately to face head-on.

“You don’t have a lot of options,” he pointed out, joining Deej in leaning against the balcony rails.

California was a nice place to live compared to a lot of other states. The back of Derek’s apartment faced west, the road below shaded by rows of palms that rustled with the late afternoon breeze. Clouds were dotting the sky in fat puffs, rolling slowly overhead and keeping the sun half-shrouded from view. Derek came out onto the balcony a lot when he was feeling particularly overwhelmed or just melancholy. The atmosphere was relaxing, air warm and the ambiance of the road below almost drowned out by the gentle clinking of the wind chime Allison had hung up in the corner as a housewarming gift years before.

It wasn’t long before Deej spoke again, absently watching two squirrels chase one another along the trunk of a cedar tree down the road. “What am I gonna do?”

Derek had absolutely no idea what they were going to do. This was a situation that needed weeks of planning and they had less than two days to figure something out. No matter what they did, people were going to get hurt, and Deej was going to hate himself afterwards.

“My family died when I was fifteen.” Derek began, “it was my fault.”

Silently, Deej turned to watch him. Derek had to keep his eyes focused on some point in the distance, unable to face the expressions that might cross Deej’s face as he spoke. “I thought I was in love. I wasn’t, and she was a hunter.”

Derek didn’t stop there; he kept going, kept talking until his voice would have gone raw if he were human. He told Deej about Peter and Laura, about becoming the alpha and the power and mistakes that resulted. They watched the sun shift from midday to late afternoon, rays warm on their skin while Derek told Deej about Jackson and Lydia’s immunity, about the alpha pack and so many other things they’d encountered in the past.

By the time Derek ran out of words to say, Deej was staring at Derek like he was an entirely different person. He looked bewildered, one hand still holding the balcony railing and the other one hanging limply at his side. “How did you do it?”

“Do what?” Derek scowled, because he was pretty sure that he just spent the past hour explaining exactly that.

“How did you keep going?”

Nobody had bothered to ask Derek that. Stiles and Scott had always accepted Derek as stubborn, and the rest of the pack had never really known him as anything other than the alpha. It was a little jarring to realize in that second that he honestly had no idea how he’d made it through the first year coming back to Beacon Hills--or even before that.

“I was scared,” he admitted, “I didn’t want to die... to find out if I would have to face my family again after everything I had done to them. After a while, though, I had more reasons--but in the beginning, it was because I was afraid.”

Apparently Derek’s answer wasn’t the one Deej was looking for, because his frown deepened until he looked just like Stiles did when he opened the fridge to find emptiness. Derek shrugged, “it’s okay to be scared, and it’s okay to not know what you’re doing,” he said, hoping that maybe simplifying what he meant would make it easier to understand.

“You seem to know what you’re doing.” Deej pointed out softly. Derek snorted, unable to help himself from thinking about Stiles and how years of skirting around one another had gotten them stuck in this weird pseudo-relationship that Derek had no idea how to handle.

“Not as much as you’d think.”

Deej gave him a crooked, forced smile before sighing and pushing himself off of the railing and into a stand. “I have no idea what I’m doing,” he confessed.

Smirking, Derek reached out to clap Deej on the back and squeeze his shoulder. “Most of us don’t,” he pointed out, guiding Deej back inside of the apartment. Isaac, Scott and Ivanna were on the couch watching what looked like Stiles’ battered copy of Balto while Stiles and Nick were at the kitchen table. Derek didn’t even have to listen hard to realize they were talking quietly to one another about magic or something of the like.

 

This happened every time they got together. It was hard to wrap his head around the differences between Nick and Stiles’ magic, but there was apparently enough of a gap that the two could spend hours brainstorming techniques and meditation versus channeling energy into items. Stiles had spent a long time explaining to the pack that, while he could write sigils and brew concoctions and utilize mountain ash and a hundred other supernatural elements, he was only a conduit for magic and not a conductor. Nick, on the other hand, was like the outlet to Stiles’ light bulb when it came to magic.

Seeing Stiles talk so animatedly with Nick, gesturing wildly and grinning like a madman, Derek was more than happy to give into the impulse to make his way over to them. He bent down, slinging one arm around Stiles’ stomach and burying his face into his throat--just because he could.

Stiles set his palm on Derek’s arm, patting it insistently. “Dude, dude. Nick made up his own spell last night!”

“Mmmh?” Derek murmured, breathing in deeply and enjoying the way Stiles smelled.

Stiles squirmed, “Okay, well it was an accident...but still! Maybe I could learn how to do it?” The hesitance in Stiles’ voice, and the way his heartbeat kicked up a notch was enough to set off alarm bells in Derek’s head. Usually when Stiles got this excited about something, it was either dangerous or generally ill-advised.

“What did he do?”

“I was trying to share some thoughts with Deej... I went a little overboard,” Nick muttered sheepisly, peering up at Deej and giving him a timid grin.

“How overboard?” Derek frowned, picking his head up.

“Five years worth of shared memories.”

“It went both ways,” Deej chirped, matching Nick’s smile with one of his own. The mere idea of tampering with Stiles’ mind and memories any more than what’s already been done was enough to make Derek shut down against the idea entirely. There was no way he’d risk something as fragile as Stiles’ mind against something volatile like a spell invented by accident.

“No.”

Stiles stiffened, hand settling on Derek’s arm around his stomach. “It’s not for anyone but me--if I could just learn enough so that the blank-outs wouldn’t be an issue--”

“No. We’re not messing around in your head.” Too much was at stake for Derek to just sit by and let that happen.

For a split second, Derek felt guilty about the crestfallen expression on Stiles’ face, but it was gone when Stiles turned his despair around into anger. He pushed at Derek’s hand, hissing, “do you have any idea how much that could help us? How many times have I lost minutes--hours!--during something important?”

“Do you have any idea how many ways it could go wrong?” Derek countered, settling one hand on the back of Stiles’ chair and the other on Stiles’ shoulder to keep him from getting up in a fit if pique. “You can’t cast magic, Stiles.”

“I can try!” Stiles protested--and that was what really set Derek off. All the times Stiles had ‘tried’ something that had resulted in injuries or deaths was too high a number for Derek to feel at all safe about any of this.

“I’m not going to risk that!” Derek cried, louder than he’d intended. Stiles jerked like Derek’s words had burned him and Derek had to bite the inside of his cheek not to say something he’d regret. Instead, Derek stood up and gestured for Stiles to follow him out of the room. At first, it looked like Stiles was going to protest and demand they hash out the argument in front of everyone else, but he soon sighed and stood up to follow Derek to the bedroom.

Derek shut the door while Stiles made himself comfortable on the bed. Someone in the living room had courteously turned up the volume on the television to give them some semblance of privacy, and Derek was grateful for it.

Stiles crossed his arms, sitting on the edge of the bed and looking more and more agitated by the second. “Now you’re telling me we have a way around what’s wrong with me and you don’t want to do it? What, do you like me broken?”

It was typical of Stiles to hit below the belt when he was angry, and Derek wasn’t going to rise to the bait. He scowled, arms crossing to mimic Stiles’ pose until Stiles sagged the tiniest bit from his defiant posture. “Sorry,” he mumbled, “I know that’s not what you meant.”

With a sigh, Derek strode over to the bed to sit beside Stiles. “If I could take it all back--if I could go back in time and stop you from ever taking Scott out into the woods that night,” Stiles cringed and Derek continued on, “I would do it. I never wanted you to go through any of this... I didn’t want it to happen to anyone.”

“That’s a lie,” Stiles said softly, enough that Derek had to look over at him in confusion. The corner of Stiles’ mouth twitched up into a smile. “You wouldn’t do it because you’d lose all of us. You wouldn’t do it because you don’t want to be alone.”

It stung, because it was the truth, and Derek didn’t want to admit it. Sometimes Stiles said things that were too close to home--to Derek’s heart--for him to handle. He pursed his lips, teeth clenching for a moment before he quietly admitted, “I’d rather be alone than know it’s my fault you use that cane.”

“I’m pretty sure that was my own fault,” Stiles interjected knowingly. “You know the whole ‘I’m going to hunt a vampire nest, peace out bro’ ? I wasn’t even in the state. how is that your fault?”

Derek barely shrugged before Stiles was reaching for something along the side of the bed and coming back with his spare cane. Derek thought Stiles was going to get up and storm out of the room with it, but instead, Stiles just used the rune-etched end of the cane to thwack Derek in the shin. Derek jerked--mostly in surprise and a little bit in ‘ow, that hurt’, and Stiles did it again.

“Stop with the guilt complex, dude!” Stiles cried, hitting Derek right under the kneecap. “Stop!”

Derek grabbed the cane, wrenching on it to try and pull it away from Stiles. Even with werewolf strength, Stiles managed to hold on enough that he was jerked forward and into Derek’s body. Derek dropped the cane so that he could reach out and steady Stiles, chests pressed together and Stiles’ good leg half on top of Derek’s. Stiles hesitated for a moment, and then let go of the cane to cup Derek’s jaw. His thumb brushed the high point of Derek’s cheek, tracing down into the hollow. “I don’t want to forget things,” he mumbled, nail gently scraping the swell of Derek’s lower lip. Derek’s heart thundered in his chest, skin tingling from that single touch.

Stiles frowned, other hand running his fingers through Derek’s hair in a gentle petting motion. “Sometimes I wake up from a lapse and I wonder if what’s between us is real or if I just wanted it so bad that my head made all that crap up at the bookstore to fill in the gaps.”

“I’ll remind you.” Derek grabbed Stiles’ hand, pulling it from his face and kissing the heel of his palm. “I always do.”

“You do, don’t you?” Stiles muttered thoughtfully, eyes bright and full of a hundred emotions Derek couldn’t begin to categorize. So instead, he kissed Stiles and hoped that would be good enough.

With a tiny noise coming from Stiles that was smothered between their lips, Derek pulled Stiles in, wanting to get as close as possible. They didn’t kiss for very long before Stiles was wrenching back and shaking his head. “Wait, no. This has nothing to do with you stopping me from doing that spell,” he panted.

“What if you lose all of your memory instead? It’s not exactly stable,” Derek protested, “and you won’t be getting your memories back, will you? You’ll just be sharing with me or someone else. It’s not the same thing.”

“It’s better than not knowing! You don’t know what it’s like to have just this blank nothingness where something belongs!”

Derek knew this was an argument that would take days to resolve--days he didn’t exactly have on hand at the moment. He sighed, shaking his head. “Can we talk about this later? After the Turners leave?”

“Yeah...” Stiles sagged, pulling away and dragging his hands through his hair. “Sorry--I just--”

“I know,” Derek assured, “We’ll talk about it later.”

“Later.” Stiles confirmed.

They returned to the living room and a handful of expectant faces. Stiles shook his head, “we have other things to deal with... like Deej’s mom.”

“I’m going to have to kill her, huh?” Deej asked, voice cracking near the end and lips twisting into a grimace.

“Yeah... and from the sound of it,” Stiles sat down on the arm of the couch, holding his foot out and stretching it, “it’s not just your mom that you’ll have to kill.”

“There’s Amber and Kylie, and then the betas back home,” Derek countered, “which means the second the alpha status changes hands to yo, they’ll know. I doubt all of them would accept you as their alpha.”

“We’ll think of something,” Stiles blurted vehemently. “Just because we can’t get involved, doesn’t mean we can’t help in other ways. We might be able to hash out a plan or something--adamantly, sometimes you have to wait for the right moment, anyway. If we can just get everyone’s guard down for an attack--”

“That only takes care of the three of them.” Derek snapped, agitation rising at the mere thought of any sort of pack dispute. “As soon as he and Ivanna go home, they’re going to have at least half a pack to deal with. He’ll be a new alpha still getting used to his powers-- there’s no way he’ll be able to take on the rest of his pack.’

Stiles opened his mouth, no sounds escaping before he finally grunted in frustration and slid down to sit on the couch proper. “We have time to figure something out. No rush, right?”

Deej looked ready to throw up all over himself, face pale as Nick rubbed his back reassuringly. He whimpered, hiding his face in his hands like a man accepting death.

Isaac, squished in the recliner with Scott, crossed one leg over the other and asked, “what if we went back with them?”

“No,” Derek crossed his arms, “they’ll know the second Deej becomes the alpha. Us walking through that door would be like walking into a trap. I’m not risking anyone’s lives when we could be easily outnumbered.”

“So we just sit here and do nothing?!” Scott cried, throwing his arm out and gesturing to the group as a whole.

If there was any other option, Derek would be open to it--but there wasn’t. He sighed, “We meet them for dinner tonight. Maybe we can come up with some kind of truce.”

At least a truce could buy them some time. It was already established that Derek was with Stiles--so it wasn’t like things could get much worse.

----

If things got any worse, Derek was pretty sure there was going to be bloodshed. The entire dinner was a mess of backhanded comments from Jen, Amber ignoring Stiles completely, and Kylie ‘accidentally’ spilling things or kicking Stiles under the table for the majority of the evening.

The meal had started with Scott, Allison and Boyd (Isaac busy with work and Erica studying for an exam at home) but ended with just Derek and Stiles. The main reason for that was mostly Derek’s judgment to send them home when half the things coming from Jen and Amber’s mouths had everyone ready to lunge across the table and tear someone’s face off.

After dessert--which was really Stiles forcing Derek to split a sundae with him while Kylie glowered at him from across the table--they headed outside of the restaurant. Stiles was the one to suggest meeting up at the preserve, because the sheer multitude of people surrounding them at dinner made it hard to get any type of serious conversation done.

The Hale house had been torn down and reconstructed into a small cottage the year prior after some serious pressuring from most of the pack. Beneath it was a small panic room that had only been used once so far, and the inside was furnished with the bare essentials. The area surrounding the land had been donated to a wildlife conservation center, which meant that very few people headed through the dense trees and underbrush anymore. Sometimes Derek would loan the cottage out for a weekend to a college student studying towards some form of nature degree, but for the moment, it was empty.

Empty enough to be a neutral ground for two werewolf packs, at least.

Derek let the Turners in first, hesitating when Kylie latched onto Stiles’ arm and gave Derek a grin with far too many teeth. “I think your hubby should show me around. It’s been a while since I was here, who knows how much has changed!”

Considering they were in the middle of a forest nearly two miles from civilisation, it wasn’t hard for Derek to see through her cheap lie He couldn’t call her out on it, though, and Kylie knew it--if the smug twitch of her lips was anything to go by.

“Uh, sure,” Stiles muttered, shrugging and exuding that pungent scent of anxiety that Derek knew well enough to catch onto the fact that most of it was forced. “I mean, they did tear some stuff down for a nature trail. We could look at that?”

Kylie squealed and dragged Stiles off before Derek could really stop her. He pulled his phone out, shooting Stiles a quick text.

don’t turn ur back on her

Stiles answered with, ‘<3,’ and that was satisfying enough for Derek to tuck his phone away.

He sat Jen and the others down in the living room, nodding once to Deej and Ivanna before taking the chair directly across from Jen. They didn’t talk about much, mostly small talk with Jen crinkling her nose at the furnishing and Amber fiddling with the throw sitting on the back of the old loveseat. It was a good ten minutes of them trying to pry into Derek’s life indirectly before the ice was finally broken.

“So,” Amber began, “a human? Little beneath you, isn’t it?”

“Your family always did seem pretty big on bloodlines. Didn’t your uncle date a human woman, once? I hear that ended badly.” Jen interjected, pursing her lips thoughtfully. “Well, as bad as things can go when a human is weak and ends up getting themselves killed.”

“It’s a good thing you don’t have to worry about it then, isn’t it?” Derek said tightly, left hand curling into a fist. He counted to five, clenched, and then loosened his fingers with a soft exhale. “I’ve been with Stiles for years. He was there for me when I needed him. I can’t say the same for you and your pack.”

“Honey, I’m sorry but your sister was a bitch. I couldn’t exactly allow girls like that into our pack. All it would do would be to cause stress on all of us as a whole,” Jen barked, covering up her insults with an instant, simpering smile. Derek could hear the sharp intake of breath from Ivanna, and knew the air was pretty much tense with the possibility of attack if he rose to the bait.

“Sorry,” he said, “I guess it’s understandable that having someone like my sister in your pack would have been hard on your self esteem.”

Amber hissed through her teeth, moving like she was going to get out of her seat, but Jen reached a hand out to place it gently on her sister’s knee. “Well. You seem happy here with your little human. I suppose we should go and fetch Kylie, then.”

They filed out of the cottage, Deej lingering back to try and establish some sort of silent communication with Derek. Considering it had taken his own pack years to get simple gestures down, Derek had no idea what Deej was mouthing, or what the gesturing and eyebrow-wiggling meant. He shrugged, brushing past Deej and frowning upon realizing that Amber and Jen weren’t heading anywhere. Kylie and Stiles’ scent was all over the place--and, knowing Stiles, it was probably intentional.

He closed his eyes, focusing as hard as he could to try and pick up the sound of any heartbeats nearby. There was a jogger a half mile away, and a family on a picnic at the edge of the nature trail, and Stiles and Kylie were almost indistinguishable from how far they must have been.

When they found Stiles and Kylie, it was at the bottom of a small hill with Stiles standing in place while Kylie circled him like a predator. Derek wanted desperately to jump down there and interrupt before Kylie could sink her claws in or say something that could crack their already fragile relationship, but with Amber and Jen watching him closely, he knew they were waiting to see just how much he trusted his ‘little human’ to take care of himself.

“Look at you,” Kylie laughed, “you can’t even stand up on your own. You’re a cripple--already broken and useless. What kind of mate could you be, looking like that? I mean, it’s cute how you think you can help, but you really can’t.”

Stiles barely flinched, leaning heavily on his cane with his thumb tapping impatiently against the curve of it while Kylie prattled on. After another minute, he sighed and shrugged. “Look, lady. I’m having trouble seeing the issue here. I mean, Derek loves me and here you are resorting to petty intimidation because nobody likes you and you’re desperate. Gold star, you tried... but I’d be an idiot to fall for that. You get me?”

The snarl that left Kylie was more animal than human. She lashed out, shoving Stiles so hard that he toppled over. If Derek hadn’t been watching as closely as he was, he’d have missed the way Stiles hesitated bracing himself before going limp and allowing Kylie to knock him over.

If Stiles was good at one thing, it was the ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ technique.

Deej shifted like he was going to stand, and Derek held a hand out to stop him. Deej froze, looking at Derek like he’d grown two heads, but Derek just made an aborted movement to let Deej know he needed to wait before jumping in.

A strangled noise came from the clearing and Derek turned to see Stiles gasping for air as Kylie pressed her foot down against his throat. It sent off every alarm in Derek’s head, but he also knew that Stiles could stop her at any moment. He was clutching his cane, hand shaking like he was waiting for something. Derek hoped desperately he was reading Stiles right after years of working with him.

“You don’t win points for originality,” Stiles wheezed, laughing and then gurgling when Kylie pressed down even more.

“You think your love is so great?” Kylie sneered.“You think that you’re living some kind of fairytale romance?” Snorting, Kylie twisted her foot a little and made Stiles groan in pain. “I hate to break it to you, kid, but the Little Mermaid didn’t get the prince, and neither will you.”

Stiles laughed, wet and loud, and then wrenched his cane up. The click and clang of a hidden blade being released was so loud it was impossible to miss when Stiles drove the blade into Kylie’s leg. He didn’t stop when she started to scream, shoving and pushing until the limb was almost completely severed off--enough that it would take her a good while to heal.

Ivanna hissed and Derek could tell that Amber and Jen were ready to leap forward and take Stiles’ life if he did anything else to harm Kylie. They didn’t, though, much to Derek’s surprise.

Stiles pushed himself up into a stand, limping to where Kylie was trying to hold her mutilated leg in place so it could heal properly. He brought the cane up, twirling it fast enough that some of the blood flecked off.

“I was always more of a Disney guy myself.” he explained, inspecting the blade and then grinning down at Kylie, “why deal with the nitty gritty when you can have all the good stuff instead?”

“What the fuck did you do to me?!” Kylie screeched, leg smoking as it struggled to heal, blood still pumping sluggishly all over the forest floor.

Stiles tilted his head a little bit, and then held the cane up so that the metal glinted in the light of the half-moon. “Did you know if you use rowan as kindling for a flame, the sword you forge on it is basically the kill-all for like, half the things that go bump in the night?”

Kylie howled and lunged forward. She was fast enough to take Stiles by surprise, fast enough that Derek could only watch in shock as her claws dug into the flesh and muscle of Stiles’ shoulder. If Stiles hadn’t jerked at the last moment, it would have been his heart.

Derek howled, drowning out the pained wail from Stiles as he leapt forward. In four long strides, he was bodily slamming Kylie off of Stiles. Kylie yelped, claws scrambling at any part of Derek she could get to. Derek couldn’t even feel it, too blinded by a sudden, encompassing rage that came from watching his pack get hurt. Hand around Kylie’s throat, Derek threw her as hard as he could into the nearest tree, barking sharply and then snarling with all of his teeth showing. If she got up again, Derek wasn’t going to be so merciful.

“Kylie, that’s enough!” Jen’s voice cut in over the haze of anger. Kylie sagged against the tree, eyes glowing blue and Stiles’ blood dripping from her hand. The flesh of her leg was bubbling and hissing, struggling to heal where the blade had touched.

She wasn’t his priority, and that was why Derek ignored her in favor of turning and making his way back to Stiles. He reached out, one hand cupping Stiles’ cheek and the other hovering near the still-bleeding wound on his shoulder. “Are you okay?”

An answer wasn’t immediate. Stiles was looking blankly past Derek’s shoulder, skin pale and clammy like he was going into shock. Derek cursed, wrapping Stiles into a hug and hissing, “come on, Stiles. Stay with me.”

Stiles jerked back, suddenly and wildly, and stumbled away from Derek like he’d been burned. “I can’t do this.”

“What?” Derek reached out for Stiles’ injury with the intent to take his pain. Stiles moved out of his range.

“I’m done. I can’t do this anymore. I’m out.”

The unbearable, ugly sensation of ice settling in the pit of Derek’s stomach was enough for Derek to lose the words struggling to rise out of his throat. He floundered, reaching for Stiles again and shaking his head. “What are you talking about? Sti--”

“I don’t even remember how we got here!” Stiles cried hoarsely, body shaking.

The memories, again. Derek should have known this would come back to bite him in the ass. Nothing ever stayed good for him. “You went for a walk with--”

“Telling me doesn’t bring the memories back, dumbass!” Stiles shrieked. Derek went utterly still, taken aback for a long moment. Stiles hadn’t used petty insults on him since he was in high school.

Deej came forward, holding his hands out like a peace offering. “Stiles, you’re just running on adrenaline. It’s okay, this is just a huge misunderstanding.”

Stiles frowned, body tense and coiled tight like a spring about to burst. “I understand pretty well, and I’m done. I’m tired of the pity parties, and I’m tired of having to deal with all of the emotional baggage that comes from some guy who can barely wipe his own ass, let alone take care of an entire pack.”

“Stiles,” Derek croaked, “what the hell?”

Stiles grinned, but it was a blank, joyless smile. “You should go with them. I’m sure they need you more than we do.”

“Don’t say that,” Derek pleaded, crossing over to Stiles and reaching out for him. “Don’t say that.”

Instead of taking his words back, Stiles shakily stepped away from Derek. Sweat was beading along his forehead, frame swaying like he was struggling not to collapse from pain or fatigue.

From behind them, Jen piped up, “tired of being used as a ragdoll, honey?”

Stiles’ jaw twitched and derek struggled to find words but all he could think of was how this was his own fault, that he’s the cause of his own heartache. He tried, softly saying, “you told me all of this was worth it. you--I thought we....”

“Maybe this was one time too many.” Stiles cut in sharply, lips pursed and quivering.

Derek was pretty sure the look on his own face was something akin to horrified. Stiles didn’t even seem bothered by it at all as he cleared his throat and muttered, “I think it would be better for all of us if you just left.”

Derek forgot how to breathe. He forgot how to even blink, trapped staring at the cold look in Stiles’ eyes. It felt like an eternity before he could break away, clearing the choked feeling out of his throat and backing up.

He was already out of sight before Stiles’ heartbeat changed at all--a single clench and stutter-- and Derek honestly didn’t know if it was from regret ...or guilt for telling the truth.

Jen and the others caught up to him quick enough, crowding in on all sides as they hustled him back towards Derek’s property, where the cars were parked.

With his mind whirling and his heart struggling to keep beating, Derek wasn’t even listening to Jen’s words until she grabbed his shoulder and forced him to stop walking.

“Did you hear me, Derek?”

“What?”

Jen smiled, a pathetic, pitying one. “I said it would be best if you left your things here when you came with us. It helps if you don’t have any reminders of the past when joining a new pack.”

Oh, right.

Stiles didn’t just break up with him for the sake of breaking up.

Stiles was sending him away.

Kylie reached a hand out to pet Derek’s back. “He didn’t deserve you, anyway,” she cooed.

Derek snarled, gnashing his teeth at her. “Don’t touch me,” he barked, feeling tense and on-edge enough to give into the temptation to kill her on the spot.

“Kylie, why don’t you help Deej and Ivanna pack up the hotel? I think we have a few loose ends to tie up here.” Amber handed Kylie the keys to her car, motioning for Derek to come with Jen and herself towards the camaro.

“I can’t leave Stiles here,” Derek protested, “I was his ride.”

Amber turned, frowning. “Your ex-fiance made it pretty clear that he’d be perfectly happy with you leaving him.”

Derek’s phone chirped with an incoming text message and Derek couldn’t stop himself from rushing to see it. Stiles did have a habit of speaking impulsively--there was a chance that--

Amber snatched the phone from his hands, crushing it in her palm. “Sweetie, all the apologies in the world won’t take back the things he said to you. You deserve to be with your kind, anyway. We’re practically family, after all.”

Jen nodded, watching as Kylie and the others drove off. “We’re going to leave tonight, since we got what we came for. Is there anything you need to get from your apartment? I mean, technically you’re not engaged anymore... which means you have to come with us no matter what.”

Derek thought about his clothes, about the things the pack helped him pick out for himself and for his home. He thought about his game consoles--but they were all ones that Stiles made him buy. There’s also the books Lydia and Allison filled had his shelves with, and the comics from Scott and Isaac. He thinks about the posters on the walls that Erica spent two weeks covering his apartment with, and about the half-finished motorcycle that’s been sitting in a storage unit. he and Boyd were fixing it up.

Something was telling Derek he should stay--that he should talk to Stiles and figure out what was wrong and why Stiles had said those things. He was having a hard time trying to think of reasons to fix the situation when it would be so much easier to just give in. His head felt muddled, thoughts thick like molasses and difficult to sort through. The only real thing that felt clear to him was that Stiles didn’t want him and that he should just go with the Turners.

It was like a huge weight lifting off of his chest when Derek shrugged and said, “no, not really.”

Chapter Text

Riding in a car packed full of people he didn’t like should have been agonizing for each and every second. In reality, it passed like a muddled blur--broken only by Deej’s disappointed looks and the occasional too-friendly touch from Kylie. For some reason, the entire situation felt surreal; like he was just watching everything happen from a distant dream. The ache in his chest felt like a dull burn, twisting and prodding occasionally, but easy enough to ignore. Every time Derek tried to think of reasons to go back, or even to think of why Stiles had acted so irrationally, it was like someone was pouring tar into his brain and gooping up his thoughts until there was nothing solid to focus on.

They stopped for lunch at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant. Derek had a fish sandwich suggested to him by Jen, and then nearly spat it back out after remembering upon the first bite that he hated fish. He almost tried to order something else, but when Amber pointed out that it would take too long, he ended up nibbling on his fries while everyone else conversed cheerily around him. He felt like something was broken, but he had no idea what it was.

Arriving at the Turner’s home felt like finally reaching the prison he was sentenced to life in. There were at least five betas lounging here and there, most of them sniffing at Derek before dismissing his presence as unimportant. Deej had spent the last hour of the car ride texting with Nick, and he made a beeline for his room once they walked through the door.

Jen pressed her hand against the back of Derek’s shoulders, guiding him down the hall. “You’ll be staying with Kylie. I mean, you’re engaged, after all. No reason to keep you apart. It wouldn’t hurt to get a jumpstart on some cubs, if you’re feeling up to it. This has been a long day for you, so don’t feel rushed.”

Derek didn’t know what to say, mostly because any time he tried to tell her how very much he did not want to make cubs with her daughter, his tongue became heavy and impossible to use. He ended up making a tiny noise of acknowledgement as she all but pushed him into Kylie’s room.

It was like a five year old had vomited rainbows all over the place. Nothing matched the way it should have, and Derek was pretty sure that some of the band posters on the wall were the same ones he’d seen in the room of a pre-teen they’d saved from a striga the year before. Derek had to take a second to just sit on the bed and breathe. He knew, somewhere deep inside, that this was so far out of his hands it was ridiculous. At the same time, no matter how badly Derek tried to remember why he’d agreed in the first place, it was like someone kept re-directing his train of thought into stupid things like why Kylie had a purple dust ruffle.

The more Derek tried to think of ways to reverse the situation he was in, the more nauseous he felt and the more his head began to hurt. It wasn’t long before he had a crippling migraine with absolutely no progress in organizing his thoughts. He felt exhausted, enough that sleep sounded like a much better idea than trying to escape.

Derek was out before his head even hit the pillow.

When he woke up, it was to the weight of a body on top of his own. It wasn’t Stiles’ weight--Stiles always favored his injured side in everything he did--but someone else’s. Derek cracked an eye open, gut burning in horror at the sight of Kylie on top of him in nothing but a sheer night gown, breasts visible through the material. She was fumbling with the fly of his jeans, one hand rubbing slowly up his hip and then down his thigh like she was trying to get his body to react the way she wanted it to.

Unthinking, Derek howled and threw her off of him. She went tumbling to the ground in a heap of limbs and shrieking. Derek leapt to his feet, clarity of mind hitting him in a rush. He had no idea why he ever agreed to any of this; why he would leave Stiles and the pack behind because of a stupid argument. It was so unlike anything he’d ever done before that Derek’s chest ached with shame. There was no excuse for his behavior, not even if Stiles’ words had been true. Derek knew Stiles, and he knew that Stiles said shit without thinking. He also knew that Stiles would never genuinely want anyone to leave without a good, solid reason. Hating Derek was not one of those reasons--not when they’d been kissing and happy in bed just that morning.

No. Derek hadn’t been thinking. That was exactly the problem. He’d felt spellbound the entire time--which was exactly what must have happened. They’d been so focused on their immediate problems that they hadn’t thought to watch out for something as underhanded as a spell being cast by someone in the Turner pack.

Hurriedly getting his pants back on, Derek snarled when Kylie tried to shuffle back over to him. “Get away,” he snapped, teeth bared and eyes flashing in warning. Kylie hesitated, and that was enough for Derek to turn on his heel and march out of the room. Kylie followed, shouting obscenities and practically clawing at his arm to try and drag him back into her room. Derek shoved her, watching as she stumbled for a moment and then caught herself against the wall.

Satisfied, Derek continued down the hall. He made his way through the living room, ignoring the way Jen and Amber practically leapt to their feet in shock. Derek was going home--even if he had to run the entire way there.

“Derek?” Jen asked, wary. “What’s wrong, honey?”

“I’m going home,” Derek growled, shoving one of the betas aside.

“Alex!” Kylie howled, “Alex, get out here!”

“I’m leaving!” Derek repeated when two more betas tried to block his exit. “Get out of my way. You did something to me, didn’t you? You did something to Stiles, too!”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Derek, “ Amber approached, hands out like she was trying to calm a skittish animal. Derek felt caged, the hair on the back of his neck rising like hackles and his nails turning to claws. Amber tried to set a hand on his arm and he gnashed his teeth at her until she backed up. He’d fight his way out or die trying.

“Derek, you’re just having some anxiety about being in a new place, is all,” Jen assured, shaking her head. “We all get like that, it’s okay.”

Derek opened his mouth to protest, except the words never came out when he was hit with a rush of vertigo. He shook his head, trying to dispel the sensation. “No,” he breathed, vision spotty, “no I’m not. I want... I want to go home.” That’s what he wanted. He’d almost forgotten. That longing for familiar faces and scents was enough to give Derek the energy to hiss, “I want my pack.”

“We are your pack, honey,” Jen said. Derek knew she was wrong, knew because his stomach hurt just thinking about it. He knew, but at the same time, he felt confused because part of him was saying that her words were true. Part of him was screaming at him to listen to her; that she was his alpha and that this was his new home. He glanced around, taking in the sight of Deej and Ivanna hovering, of Alex watching with Kylie holding his arm like a lifeline. These strangers were meant to be his new family, weren’t they?

“No... no, I have one back in Beacon Hills,” Derek muttered, hand coming up to press against his temple in an attempt to dispel the headache that had started to settle right between his eyes.

“They abandoned you, Derek,” Jen reminded him sharply. Her words stung like a knife digging in the space right under his heart. Derek forgot how to breathe, forced to listen as she continued. “Don’t you remember? They don’t want you anymore. We want you, though.”

That seemed... right... they did say cruel things to him. Not only that, but it had been so hard to get them to be pack in the first place. They were probably happier as a pack without him to interfere. Stiles deserved so much better--someone who wouldn’t cause him so much pain. He shook his head, eyes closing to try and block out the image of Alex, Deej, and the rest of the betas watching him like he was some kind of joke.

A tiny, pathetic noise of defeat came from somewhere deep inside Derek. It was like an invisible hand had wrenched the sound from him. He didn’t even know why he’d wanted to leave in the first place.

“I guess,” Derek admitted quietly, rubbing his aching head. “I don’t know what came over me.”

“It’s okay, sweetie,” Jen grinned, reaching out to pat him on the shoulder, “we all get like that sometimes.”

Deej, from where he stood next to Ivanna, shook his head. He looked ready to lunge across the room and strangle Derek, but Derek had no idea why. They were pack, and pack loved each other.

Kylie unclamped herself from Alex’s side, rushing over and clinging to Derek with a happy sound. “I’m so glad you changed your mind!” She smacked a kiss against his cheek, and it left Derek feeling like ants were crawling under his skin. He wanted to pull away, but his arm was heavy like lead in her grasp. She tugged him back towards her bedroom and Derek’s feet moved on their own, following her every step. Things felt disjointed and fuzzy around the edges, like his body had officially been programmed to autopilot against his will.

With a gentle push, Kylie had Derek falling back against the bed so that she could clamber on top of his body with a happy purr. Derek wanted to scream and push her away, but he couldn’t find the energy or motivation to do either. She kissed him, open and wet, and it felt disgusting. Her tongue was slick when it pried Derek’s lips open, wriggling inside while she pushed him harder into the mattress. Derek hated the way her claws dug into his chest, hated how much he didn’t want this but couldn’t stop her. He felt sick to his stomach, felt guilt that told him this was betrayal in the highest form. Derek didn’t understand why, because he knew they were engaged and that meant he should be enjoying it and not hating it.

Kylie’s teeth bit into his mouth as she smiled, hands moving to start tugging at his pants again.

“So we’re into rape now, huh, sis?” Deej’s voice came from the doorway. Kylie jerked her head up, hissing and curling her hands into fists. Derek wondered why his body felt like it was made entirely of immovable mass, limbs heavy when he tried to at least sit up while Kylie growled and cursed at her brother.

“None of your business, Deej. Besides, he wants it--don’t you, Derek?”

He didn’t, not really, not when he could barely move his body other than to blink and breathe. He tried to say no, to tell her this, but he found himself nodding, much to Kylie’s delight. She gave Deej a smug look, thumb flicking open the button to Derek’s fly for emphasis.

“He’s under a compliance spell, Kyls. What do you think he’s going to say?” Deej hissed, jaw flexing like it was taking all of his willpower not to howl and scream instead. Kylie snorted, dragging down the zipper in a slow, exaggerated manner. She shrugged, watching Derek and studiously ignoring her brother’s judgmental staring.

“We’re engaged, so it’s not like it matters.” She said dismissively, palming Derek roughly through his boxers. Derek made a pained noise, feeling crowded and violated in so many ways.

“Dude,” Deej said faintly, “I’m seriously going to get mom in on this.”

“Mom killed dad,” Kylie snapped, body going tense before she forced herself to relax and resume groping Derek, fingers tracing the outline of his flaccid cock in hopes of getting some sort of reaction. “I don’t think she’s going to care what happens to my mate.”

“Kylie, don’t do this,” Deej stepped into the room, spreading his arms out in a pleading gesture. “Don’t be like her, please.”

The look that crossed Kylie’s face was similar to the one a person would make when smelling or seeing something particularly foul. Her nose crinkled as she sneered, but her hand blessedly drew back. She climbed off of Derek’s body, adjusting her nightgown and puffing her chest out. Deej grimaced, glancing away and looking particularly sickened at the sight of his sister’s nearly-exposed breasts.

“Just because I don’t do it today, doesn’t mean it won’t happen eventually.” Kylie said stiffly, fixing her hair and brushing her bangs from her face.

“Thank, Kyls, I mean it.” Deej gave her a smile, but it was answered with an annoyed eye roll from Kylie before she brushed past him and out the door.

Derek struggled to push himself up, breathing labored and head roaring in pain. Deej must have noticed, because he quickly said, “get up,” and any resistance Derek had previously met was gone as his body hauled itself into a sitting position on the bed.

“Fix your pants.” Deej added, watching Derek’s hands mindlessly move to button his fly. He was scowling deeply, brows pinched together and making a crinkle appear in his forehead. “You know what’s wrong, don’t you?”

Trying to talk was difficult when his mouth felt like it had been sealed shut. Deej sighed and added, “answer me.”

Derek nodded. “A spell--a strong one.”

Grimacing, Deej shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans and rocked back on his heels. “I wish I could stop it, dude. I’m so fucking sorry. I had no idea.”

‘It’s okay.’ Derek wanted to tell him, but he couldn’t control his mouth enough to get the words out. Instead, he stared and hoped his face didn’t look too angry.

“It’ll be okay, I swear,” Deej promised. “Seriously, things will get better. Just give it time.”

Derek wanted to laugh in his face--or spit in it, he wasn’t sure. Until now, Derek had been under the impression that Deej was on their side...but his confidence in the other werewolf was starting to get weaker with each passing moment. It was hard to really be sure of anything when his mind was stuck in a permanent state of slow fuzziness.

“Get some sleep,” Deej suggested. The only problem was that, with Derek spellbound, it was more of a command than anything. Derek was helpless to stop his body laying itself across the bed, or his eyes closing, or his mind shutting off completely until he was dragged into a sense of nothingness.

--

Waking up was more gradual than anything, like someone had started to turn up the dimmer switch on Derek’s consciousness. He felt Kylie’s body pressed up against his side, her scent thick in his nostrils. To someone else, she might have smelled good, but to Derek it was more sickening than anything. He missed Stiles’ scent, missed the smell of his apartment and the pack. Hell, he was even starting to miss Allison’s hugs the more he was stuck settling for Kylie’s embrace. Anything was better than this place--full of foreign smells and creaky rooms.

They way his eyes burned, Derek knew tears were welling in them right before he blinked and forced them to trickle down his cheeks. He hadn’t felt this miserable and hopeless in years. The only upside was that the spell had worn off enough for him to be able to wipe at his face. It took a second, but Derek managed to push himself out of bed and pad silently out of the bedroom.

The first thing Derek did was find the bathroom. After taking care of business and washing his face, he went out into the living room to see that the first light of dawn was just starting to trickle in through the blinds. Deej was at the kitchen table, bags heavy under his eyes as he tapped away furiously at his laptop. He sniffed once, going utterly still before jerking his head up to stare at Derek with wide eyes.

Derek opened his mouth to say something, but Deej quickly brought a finger to his lips and then gestured for Derek to come over. Just the tiny bit curious, Derek obeyed. Deej moved the laptop enough so Derek could see the screen, and his heart nearly stopped in his chest at the sight of Stiles’ username up in a chat window.

Typing, Deej wrote out for Derek, too many people here. someone might wake up and hear us talking. we can type for now, they won’t suspect anything. i’m on the computer all the time, anyway.

It made sense, actually. Derek felt a little impressed--mostly because it wasn’t something he would have thought of so easily. He nodded and Deej erased his last line and typed again.

do you feel fully in control yet?

Derek took a second to consider leaving, just getting up and walking out the door and going back home, but as soon as he tried to actually take a step towards the front door, his head started to ache and his thoughts started to blur. He shook his head, taking a seat next to Deej and telling himself he would stay--if only to get rid of the migraine that was starting to develop.

Frowning, Deej nodded at him and then started to type into the chat window.

deejadoodle: Derek’s up. He’s here, but the spell is still keeping him from leaving.

The reaction from Stiles was almost instantaneous. Derek had forgotten how fast he typed, but it was easy to remember when the chat window started pinging again and again as Stiles practically blew it up with messages.

thestilinsking: DEREK

thestilinsking:DEREK ARE YOU OKAY?

thestilinsking:I’M SO SORRY. I WASN’T SAYING THOSE THINGS.

thestilinsking:LIKE IM PRETTY SURE YOU KNOW THAT NOW BUT I HAVE TO SAY IT ANYWAY

thestilinsking:I DIDN’T MEAN ANY OF IT. IT WASNT ME

thestilinsking:YOU’RE OURS. THEY CANT HAVE YOU, REMEMBER?

Derek knew he was grinning like an idiot. His cheeks were aching and his chest was swelling with a combination of relief and elation to know that Stiles was okay, and that nothing he’d said had been true. Deej cooed quietly, and then typed up a message to Stiles.

deejadoodle: he’s smiling. i think he’s blushing. aw that’s adorable. can i keep him?

Stiles’ answering message came back immediately.

thestilinsking: NO.

A window appeared, flashing the stilinsking wants to video you like a beacon. Deej flailed, rushing to type up a message to Stiles in the chat.

deejadoodle: can’t talk, pack will hear.

thestilinsking: turn off the sound. I just want to see him, ok??

“Oh my God,” Deej hissed, lip twitching to hide a smile as he hit the mute button and accepted the call.

The second Derek saw Stiles’ face, he thought his heart was going to explode into a thousand pieces. There wasn’t even any reason, other than the fact that he was seeing Stiles and he was okay and smiling and happy to see Derek alive. Allison, Isaac and Scott were in the background, all of them hovering so they could each see the screen, and it helped fix a little bit of the broken pieces inside of Derek to know that his pack was there for him. Unthinking, he reached out to take the laptop from Deej, pulling it in close so that he could see everyone properly.

Stiles waved, typing, hey there big guy. miss me?

It took Derek a second of hunt-and-peck to respond with, yes, because he did.

Though he tried to hide it, Stiles practically preened at the knowledge--Derek could tell with the way his shoulders twitched back and his right eyebrow twitched up.

thestilinsking: can you hold on just a little longer? we’ve got a way to fix all this.

Apparently, the look on Derek’s face was enough for Stiles to add, we’re coming for you. but we think that guy’s magic will just send us right back home if we don’t do this right.

Derek normally wasn’t a man of too many words, and it was only worse with something as slow as inexperienced typing on a keyboard. He nodded, and sent Stiles, ok, to let him know he understood.

thestilinsking: we miss you, man.

Stiles brought his hands up, making a little heart. It was pretty childish, but so much Stiles that Derek had to frown at how badly he wished he was back home--if only to crush Stiles into a stupid, suffocating hug. It was a far better option than being forced to chat with him over a muted video.

Scott wiggled his way past Stiles, typing out a message while Stiles tried to un-usurp the laptop.

thestilinsking: we have a plan dont worry

i hope so, is what Derek typed back. Stiles was staring at the screen, frowning like he wanted to say something, when a rustling noise came from somewhere in the house. Someone was waking up.

Deej grabbed the laptop back, dragging it towards himself to shoot off a message to Stiles that they had to cut the call short.

Derek pressed in close, trying to get a last look at Stiles and his packmates before the video closed and Deej pulled up a random blogging website. He made a shooing motion at Derek, gesturing towards the coffee maker and wiggling his eyebrows meaningfully. Derek huffed, getting up and going to make a pot of coffee, as per Deej’s silent suggestion.

It wasn’t long before Amber was emerging from her room in a fluffy robe, hair a complete mess and her face looking like she was ready to kill kittens if they mewled at her wrong. She hip-checked Derek away from the coffee maker to pour herself a cup, ignoring his presence entirely. He took it in stride, shuffling towards the living room with his own mug and finding a tattered old recliner in one corner to settle himself in.

He stayed there for most of the morning, entertaining himself with a musty-smelling copy of Moby Dick that had been used as more of a decoration than actual reading material. The Turner pack mostly mingled, some bickering and others ignoring everyone as they went about their daily routine. It wasn’t until he’d re-read the same sentence for the fifth time after hearing Kylie and one of the betas getting into an argument over who stole who’s hair brush that Jen finally struck up conversation with him.

“So, Derek, sweetie...how long has it been since you became the alpha?”

Derek kind of wanted to throw the book at her head, but he knew that would only end with Alex putting him under another spell to the point of near-unconsciousness. He grit his teeth, muttering, “a while.”

Jen’s lips thinned, cheek twitching like she was biting the inside of it. “I see... well, how many children do you hope to have?”

When he tried to say, ‘none’, it was like his lips sealed themselves together. He glanced around the room, catching Alex sitting innocently at the kitchen table and sipping at his tea. For a second, he glanced up to give Derek a tiny smile, winking and then going back to reading whatever was on his phone. The truth pushed itself out of Derek almost immediately after.

“A lot,” he blurted, “I miss having a huge family. I want that again, even if I have to adopt.”

“Well,” Jen said breezily, “hopefully it won’t come to that, will it? How was your first night here, by the way? I hope Kylie wasn’t too rough on you.”

Oh, if the pack was here, Derek was pretty sure Stiles or at least Erica would be going after Jen with a lead pipe. They weren’t, though, and all Derek could do was keep himself from snarling. Instead, he gave her a tight, impassive smile and shrugged in a way that couldn’t be taken as particularly good or bad. Luckily, Jen seemed satisfied enough with that.

“Hey, man, wanna play some games?” Deej popped up from behind the couch, gesturing vaguely to the hallway where most of the bedrooms were. Derek was awful at most games--his only specialty were with the older consoles--but saying no was kind of difficult when Alex was nearby and ready to zap him with another compliance spell if need be.

Deej must have noticed his indecision, because he reiterated with, “I think you totally want to play,” so that the little part of Derek still taken under by the last spell had him shrugging and standing. If he tried hard, Derek might have been able to resist, but he knew it wouldn’t be worth the hassle when he was pretty much stuck in a nest of vipers with a viperine as his only friend.

Turning on the console, Deej tossed Derek a controller and flopped back on the bed, gesturing for Derek to find a place to sit and get comfortable. Derek stood there awkwardly, wanting to throw the controller at Deej’s face, but then Deej sighed and said, “sit down and play.”

Derek did exactly that, despite his best efforts not to.

He spent most of the time accidentally dying or getting killed in some ridiculous manner while Deej cackled and kept checking his phone like it was some sort of addictive drug. Derek wanted to ask if it was Stiles, but it was pointless to do so because the pack listened in on everything that went on. It was the fifth or sixth time that Deej pulled his phone out that he actually did something, and that was only to tuck his phone back in his pocket and whine, “shit, dude, it’s hot as fuck in here. Mind if I open the window?”

Derek himself didn’t feel hot, or even particularly warm, but he shrugged anyway. Deej grinned, getting up and clambering over to his bedroom window. Before he opened it, he turned and pressed a finger to his lips in a shushing motion. Derek stared, disbelief striking him dumb as Erica’s blonde head popped up in the window as it opened up. She waved, hoisting herself inside and being immediately followed after by Isaac.

The only sound in the room was the screaming of monsters on the television from the video game as Derek’s betas hurried over and practically patted him down for injuries. Derek didn’t even think, practically manhandling Erica into the tightest hug he could manage while Isaac returned to the window to help Allison climb in.

She was in her usual hunter’s suit--black boots, leather jacket and matching pants with fat pockets stuffed full of various weapons designed specifically for supernatural extermination. With her hair tied up in a tight bun, Allison tucked a few stray curls behind her ear and came over to give Derek a gentle squeeze on the shoulder and a kiss on the cheek.

Stunned couldn’t even begin to describe how Derek was feeling. It was almost like he was living in some kind of dream, his pack coming to save him and showering him with fond gestures in the process. Erica pulled away, reaching out to fluff up Derek’s bangs before looking over at Deej.

Deej was staring at his phone, three fingers held up as they counted down. When he brought down the last finger, the entire house shook violently with the sound of a deafening boom. Splintering wood and howling came from the living room, and then a bone-rattling roar exploded from close by. It was a roar Derek hadn’t heard in quite some time.

Stiles had brought that stupid yeti with him.

The smile on Isaac’s face was threatening to split his cheeks as he wolfed out and gave Derek a thumbs-up before wrenching Deej’s bedroom door open and running out with an animalistic cry. Erica gave him a friendly slap on the ass, following after Isaac. Allison cocked her crossbow, looking at Derek expectantly.

“What? Did you think we’d just give you up so easily?” She asked, laughing softly at the blank look Derek gave her in response.

Another crash came from the living room, this one followed by Stiles’ voice bellowing, “Ride like the wind, Jobo!”

Jobo gave an answering warble of yeti jibberish and smashed something. The sound of Stiles’ voice was like a lure, dragging Derek to finally follow his betas out into the throng of chaos. There was complete madness going on, Stiles sitting on Jobo’s shoulders while the beast grabbed members of the Turner back left and right and threw them around like they were ragdolls. Ivanna was nowhere to be seen, Deej quickly coming to stand at Derek’s side. “Holy shit, they went all out, dude.” Deej whispered.

A flash of white came from the corner of his eye and Derek turned to stare in numb disbelief as a unicorn reared up and kicked Kylie in the face. There were spatters of blood all over it’s coat, horn dripping red as it galloped towards one of the Turner betas and impaled her through the chest with a loud whinny.

Derek had no idea what the hell was going on.

Alex was in the corner of the room, slowly being corralled in by Isaac and Erica, the both of them snarling and flexing their claws. He threw his hands up, blurting, “would you look at that? You just killed my paycheck. I think my job here is done,” and disappearing with a loud crack of smoke.

Just behind them, Amber fell to the ground, skin pale and lips blue as Nick stepped closer with both hands out--twisting his palms as a small vortex of air continued to pulse around her head and suffocate her.

Next to Derek, Deej sighed, “he’s so sexy when he uses his magic to kill my oppressive family members,” and hopped over one of the dead betas on his way over to the mage’s side.

Boyd tore the throat out of another Turner beta, eyes glowing bright as he howled in triumph before bounding over to Scott’s side and tackling Jen just as she knocked Scott to the ground. Erica pounced on Amber, taking advantage of the woman’s weakened state to shove her clawed hand straight through Amber’s chest and into her heart. Apparently, Nick had been distracted from his spellwork by Deej’s very enthusiastic greeting kiss.

Stiles, still perched on Jobo’s shoulders with one hand buried into the yeti’s long mane of hair, waved frantically at Derek. “Sweetums, I’m so sorry about the delay! Traffic was awful!”

With the spell that had been keeping him complaint finally broken, Derek, of all things, could only stupidly say, “rush hour is pretty bad this time of day,” and watch as Stiles’ face lit up as he released a loud and delighted cackle. It was like the life had finally been breathed back into Derek’s body, chest fit to burst with suffocating affection for this foolish, stubborn human that had somehow crawled under his skin and fit himself next to Derek’s heart like a permanent fixture.

Kylie’s bloodcurdling screech of rage caused both of them to look over and see Allison on her back, using a small staff carved from rowan to strangle her. She clawed at Allison’s arms, choking as the skin of her throat smoked and bubbled.

“Wait!” Stiles cried when Allison pulled a blade from the holster on her thigh. Allison hesitated and Stiles added, “this one’s mine!”

“Seriously, dude?” Scott whined from where he was wrestling around with Jen. “This isn’t some cheesy action movie!”

“Hey, don’t judge me--she tried to get nookie from my man.” Stiles snapped, patting Jobo on the head. Jobo made a low rumble in her chest, lumbering over and plucking Kylie up like some sort of cheap toy, pulling Allison away and setting her back down before squeezing Kylie so hard that everyone could hear the snapping and crunching of her bones.

“I hope you didn’t think you’d get away with it,” Stiles said, watching as Kylie’s enraged expression slowly turned into one of terror. Stiles ignored it, reaching for the gun tucked into his side and pulling it out. He flicked the safety off, lining up the shot and shooting her clean in the head. The bang was deafening, jarring the last of the betas into losing their concentration. Stiles tucked the gun away as Kylie went limp in Jobo’s hand, life immediately gone out of her.

Derek had almost forgotten how terrifying Stiles could be when he put his mind to something.

Jobo let Kylie’s body drop to the ground with a thud as Jen screamed and howled in enraged distress. The sound was cut off when Deej jumped on her distracted state to run his claws through her neck, killing her almost instantly. A hush went through the room as the last few betas reacted to the change of alphas, most of them backing down quickly while one tried to keep fighting and was killed by Isaac.

Deej stared down at his hands, flexing his fingers as his eyes glowed red. He looked up, taking in a deep breath and looking to the last of his pack. “I’m the alpha, now,” he said lowly.

The seriousness was broken when Stiles howled in laughter, followed quickly by Scott and Allison as they dissolved into hysterics. Derek knew exactly why they were laughing, and had to keep from crossing his arms and pouting. That was years ago, and it wasn’t like there was much else you could say when you suddenly became the alpha, anyway.

It was only a little comforting to know that Deej and everyone else looked utterly bewildered as to why the three of them were practically in tears. Stiles caught his breath first, wiping at his eyes and chuckling as he scratched Jobo behind the ear. “All right, big girl. You can let me down, now.”

Making a small noise, Jobo lifted him off of her shoulders, waiting until he had his cane out before she set him properly on the ground. The unicorn that Derek still had no explanation for let out a snorfle and nosed up against Nick’s elbow. Derek was only slightly distracted by it, but only because he couldn’t tell if it was actually shimmering, or if that was just from the sunlight reflecting off all the blood in it’s coat.

Stiles made his way over to Derek, cane clicking against the floor as he smiled. “Told you we’d fix this,” he said, reaching out and gently cupping Derek’s shoulder.

“Where did you get the unicorn?” Derek blurted--instead of saying something more important, like ‘I love you’, or ‘I’m so proud of you’, or even ‘thank you for saving me’.

Stiles had the audacity to look sheepish, shrugging and gesturing vaguely. “We needed something to summon that could carry Nick, and, you know, I was all for Cthulu or whatever, but like...unicorns, man. How was I supposed to pass that up? Besides, Basil’s a total sweetie.”

There was probably something Derek should do, like cross his arms and look menacing, or maybe to lecture them on how reckless they had all been. He didn’t do either of those things, though. All he could really do was reach out and grab Stiles, pulling him in until Stiles was crushed to his chest with a soft grunt.

Stiles dropped the cane with a loud clatter, clutching to Derek and sagging in a way that spoke volumes about how scared and freaked out he must have felt about the entire situation.

“Thank you,” Derek muttered, because he’d had a few long years to learn when to show gratitude where it was due.

With a tiny wiggle and snuffle into Derek’s throat, Stiles sighed, “you’re mine. I wasn’t gonna give you up that easily.”

Pulling away, Derek finally did what he’d been wanting to do for hours, cradling Stiles’ face in his palms and kissing him. Stiles’ mouth curled into a smile against his lips, words muffled as he cooed, “aww yeah, kisses. The hero always gets the kisses. Best.”

“Shut up,” Derek growled into his mouth, nipping at the corner of Stiles’ top lip and kissing him again, trying to at least squish the grin right off of Stiles’ face. He didn’t really care, anyway, as long as he got to keep holding Stiles like this.

Nearby, Deej and Nick were talking in soft undertones. Isaac had Jobo on body-cleanup duty while Allison and Scott got their post-adrenaline cuddling on and Boyd and Erica bickered on who had the best kill. Basil the unicorn was in the pantry, munching on apples and Ivanna had appeared out of nowhere and was fawning over the fact that there was a unicorn in her kitchen--though she soon wandered over to Isaac to help him with moving the remains of her old pack. The betas who were still around seemed to be at a loss for what to do, and were mostly hovering uneasily near Deej.

“Is it any different?” Nick asked Deej.

Shrugging, Deej ran his tongue over his fangs, as if seeing if they had changed at all. “It’s...intense... I don’t know. I just feel really in control right now. This is weird.”

It would probably be best if they kept contact for a while longer, if only so that Derek could help Deej with the transition into being a new alpha. He said as much to Stiles, mouth nuzzling agains tthe hollow of his cheek. Stiles nodded, squeezing Derek tight. “Might be a good idea. We don’t need him going on a turning spree like you did when you became alpha.”

Derek gave in to the childish desire to pinch Stiles in the side, taking pleasure in the way he squirmed.

“I kind of miss the blue eyes,” Nick said. Deej let out a tiny dismayed sound, one that had Nick quickly shaking his head and adding, “but the red is kind of sexy. unhinged. I like it, it’s different, but a good kind of different.”

They kissed, slow and happily, to a point where Derek had to look away. He almost wanted to ask Stiles what he thought of the red alpha eyes, but decided not to when Stiles sighed and thunked his head into Derek’s shoulder.

“You know what I miss?” Stiles muttered, sliding his palms around until they rested on Derek’s lower back.

“Hm?”

“Butt squeezies.”

“What?”

Stiles’ hands slipped down to cup Derek’s ass, massaging for a second before squeezing with a contented sigh. That was when Derek realized that Nick might be cute and nice, and everything Deej could ever want...but Stiles was everything Derek had ever needed.

A tiny, contented rumble came from deep in Derek’s chest, fingers sliding down until he could give Stiles’ bottom a return squeeze that had Stiles snorting in amusement. Stiles lifted his head and ducked in to give Derek a quick peck on the lips before he pulled away reluctantly. “As much as I love post-bloodshed snuggles, we really have to figure out what’s going to happen now.”

It was true, sadly. They needed to help Deej adjust to his new power as an alpha, and straighten out what would happen to the last of the Turner pack. Not only that, but Derek had a feeling that going home would be met with a few key discussions like his relationship with Stiles and the ethics of summoning mythological creatures for the sake of bloodshed and looking cool.

No matter what, though, Derek figured that as long as he had the pack and Stiles at his side, nothing they faced in the days to come would be much of a trial at all.

--

Epilogue: one year later

After months arguing, sexiles, Stiles disappearing for two days in a fit of pique, and even more trial and error, the pack came to the conclusion that Stiles’ loss of memory couldn’t be fixed by magic because it hadn’t been caused by magic. The permanent brain damage was exactly that. Permanent. It was a miracle that Nick and Deaton were able to join ideas with Stiles enough to come up with a spell that gave Stiles the ability to borrow memories from the pack if the situation called for it. The downside was that it became such a hassle to cast that Stiles rarely did so unless the situation called for it.

Stiles still used the cane, but he’d gotten better about his physical therapy after realizing that over-taxing himself meant he and Derek had to resort to vanilla sex, which Stiles apparently had a grudge against on a good day. The added strain was enough for Stiles to settle into actually letting Derek and the others help him with far less complaint in the past months.

Deej moved to Florida, and he took Nick and most of the pack with him. They planned on visiting after they were fully settled, mostly so that Nick could catch up with Stiles and tell them stories about all of the monsters (both human and supernatural) that he’d encountered in the sunshine state.

Stiles moved into Derek’s apartment in the fall, and it was like he’d always been there. His stuff was constantly all over the place--to a point where he and Derek had gotten into a few arguments about who’s turn it was to do the dishes, or that someone had forgotten to take their clothes out of the dryer again. The fights never escalated much beyond heavy bickering, and when it did, they usually ended with someone getting fucked on the kitchen table.

When Derek’s birthday rolled around, Stiles presented him with a pair of edible underwear and a parakeet. The underwear Derek understood--because it had been an inside joke the week before. The bird, not so much. At least, not until Stiles had sheepishly admitted that Deej had told him about what Derek had said to Jen about wanting children. Derek had been shocked, and a little disheartened at the implication, until Stiles had explained that he wasn’t ready for kids, and that he hoped a bird would be acceptable until he was. Of course, after a beat, Stiles had added that Derek always reminded him of a bird when he puffed out his chest in pride or anger. Derek had almost pouted about that, but was mollified by the tease when he realized that Stiles had gotten him a bird because he wasn’t ready for a family yet.

Which is exactly why Derek’s morning routine had somehow become something like, ‘wake up, shower, make breakfast and feed bird. Feed boyfriend.’

Only today, Derek planned on changing his routine just a little. He didn’t want to feed his boyfriend, he wanted to feed his fiance.

His father’s ring sat heavy in his pocket while Derek went about scrambling a couple eggs as Stiles snoozed on obliviously. His parent’s wedding rings were one of the only things Derek still had from the fire, and while Stiles couldn’t wear his mother’s, his father’s seemed just about right. It might sit a little loose, but Derek figured they could always get it sized to fit him later on. Derek was sure it’d do just fine for now, though.

When the eggs were done and the toast buttered, Derek poured Stiles’ coffee--making it just how he liked it--and took the entire tray into the bedroom. Stiles was starfished out on the mattress with the covers half hanging off of his legs and his mouth open in a soft snore. Derek hovered in the doorway just to admire the view before he sat down in the little space between Stiles’ hip and the edge of the mattress. He put the tray down on the night stand, reaching over to card his fingers through Stiles’ hair. Stiles snuffled, cracking one eye open and then letting it slide shut again with a tired mumble.

Huffing on a laugh, Derek took Stiles’ left hand gently between his own, grabbing the ring out of his pocket and slipping it onto Stiles’ finger. It did fit a tiny bit too loose, but it looked so right on Stiles’ hand that Derek couldn’t help but run his finger over it fondly. Stiles’s eyes fluttered beneath his lids, already drifting back off to sleep as Derek bent down and gave him a kiss.

Blearily, Stiles muttered into Derek’s lips, “m’hungry,” and leaned up into the kiss with a happy sigh. Derek grinned, pulling away and grabbing the food tray while Stiles sat up with a yawn. He waited, watching as Stiles muzzily nibbled on his eggs and sipped at his coffee. It wasn’t until the cup was halfway gone that Stiles stilled at the clink of the ring tapping against the mug. He blinked, and then stared at the ring on his hand like he was trying to process what it was.

“Don’t tell me you proposed and I forgot,” Stiles croaked tiredly. Derek’s gut twisted, guilt slamming into him like a sack of bricks. He was such an idiot.

“No,” he said quickly, “I didn’t. I just. You know, I wanted to be-- I just put it on you earlier. I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking, I just--”

Stiles shook his head, setting the coffee down on the tray and then putting the tray back on the night stand. Derek wanted to bite his tongue off, or maybe just go back in time and redo the entire morning.

“Get over here, you dweeb,” Stiles commanded, reaching out and grabbing a fistful of Derek’s shirt. “It’s been like a year since I got to call you my boo. Now I can do it whenever I want.”

The grin on Stiles’ face was infectious, spreading to Derek’s as he let himself be reeled in and kissed stupid. What they had may not have been the typical Disney romance, but it was plenty good enough.