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The Morning When It's Clear

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Sometimes Derek wonders what made his uncle bite Scott McCall. Not that he questions the whole insanity after being burned alive and trapped in a coma for six years thing. No, that’s pretty clear to him. What he wonders is why Scott specifically. If it was just because he was nearest, alone, if there was something about him that drew Peter’s attention.

Once, Stiles and Scott got into a screaming fight over that night, over Stiles forcing Scott to go out to look for a body in the woods – Derek barely managed not to remind them that the body was his sister – over Stiles feeling guilty about it, over Scott both being angry with him and not wanting him to be guilty. For the next week, Stiles kept singing under his breath about Little Red Riding Hood and big bad wolves and Derek didn’t quite get the reference, but it made him really uncomfortable and he was very glad when they made up.

Derek and Scott have gotten into their own screaming fights. Over the Alpha pack, over Allison, over the time Stiles drove the Jeep into a lake and nearly drowned himself to save them. Derek didn’t really think that one made sense, himself. It wasn’t like he’d asked Stiles to do it. It’d been his own stupid idea. But the worst one was over Peter. Scott yelled that Derek took away his opportunity to be human again, that he lied to Scott, that he ruined everything. Derek cracked and shouted back that it was a lie from the start, that nobody had ever become human again, that Scott refused to help him back then, did he not remember that? Did he not remember that he refused to help when people were being killed and Derek couldn’t stop the Alpha alone?

And he’d yelled that he got it, okay, but maybe Scott could let it fucking go when Derek still woke up with the taste of Gerard Argent’s poisoned blood in his mouth.

They didn’t talk for a while after that.

 

 

Derek wasn’t popular at school when he was young. And that might be an understatement. He was, quite frankly, a complete dork, if he’s honest with himself. Laura was popular, better with people than he ever was and so were his cousins, humans and werewolves both. Laura liked to joke that he hadn’t been properly socialized as a child.  But his sister had been a late bloomer wolf-wise, not shifting until she was almost fourteen. Derek, on the other hand, had flashed his eyes for the first time before he was even two, had made his poor mother crazy teething an extra set of teeth, had lisped around fangs for years when he got upset. Sometimes he wonders if Laura was right, if their parents hadn’t taught him well enough how to be properly human because he’d been too hard to teach how to be properly wolf.

In retrospect, it makes sense why she chose him. Alone more than not, no friends at school, only ever hung out with his sister because she made him. Awkward, lanky and skinny, hadn’t grown into his body yet. Bad with people. Didn’t date. He was an easy target. It makes sense.

He met her when he was fifteen. She was a lifeguard at the high school pool. Derek wonders sometimes if there was a person who she took the job from or if she just applied under the fake name sometimes, wonders if he’ll ever get the smell of chlorine out of his head, wonders how he could have been so stupid as to believe a beautiful twenty-two year old woman would actually want to have sex with him, could fall in love with him and mean it.

Although, no, that’s not how it went, really, is it? He didn’t meet her, not in the way the words suggest. No. When he was fifteen, Kate Argent let him meet her.

Four months later, she burned his home to the ground with his family inside.

 


Scott goes to college an hour away. He’s going to become a teacher, likes the idea of teaching third or fourth grade. When he finishes his freshman year, Derek pulls a few strings and buys a couple ounces of recreational wolfsbane. It costs him an arm and a leg, but it makes alcohol effect the werewolves without having to drink their weight in booze or, you know, hallucinations and possible death. They're all still underage, but everybody is over eighteen and nobody's going to drive. Derek doesn’t drink much himself – doesn’t like the way it makes him feel, doesn’t much like the taste of alcohol, doesn’t like talking around his fangs when his control slips – but he nurses a glass of Dr. Pepper through the evening and smiles a bit more than he would have a few years ago.

Scott flops down on the couch next to Derek, hard enough to splash spiked-root beer on his wrist. He frowns and slurps it away before looking at Derek. “You’re not drinking.”

“Not a fan.” Derek shrugs.

“S’cool.” Scott nods. “Thanks, by the way.”

Derek shrugs again. “You earned it. Your mom’s told me how good you’re doing.”

Scott blushes, ducking his head. “You’ve been talking to my mom about me?”

A little under two years ago, Scott McCall applied to three schools and got accepted to all three. A little more than a year ago, Derek wrote a check because Scott’s grades weren’t good enough for a scholarship, because Melissa made too much for financial aid and too little to be able afford college, because at least then he was doing something good with the money. A little more than a year ago, Melissa McCall cried when he gave the check to Scott and hugged Derek so hard his ribs hurt.

“She makes me have dinner with her and the Sheriff every week,” Derek admits. “She keeps saying I don’t eat well enough. Too much fast food, she says. I keep reminding her I’m a werewolf and then I get a lecture about cholesterol. That doesn’t even make sense.”

“Did you accidentally puppy-dog eye her?” Scott asks seriously.

“I – no? What the hell, no.” He levels a glare at Scott. “And dog jokes aren’t funny.”

Scott laughs. “You totally did. Oh my God. That’s priceless.”

Derek rolls his eyes. “Shut up and go make out with your girlfriend.”

Currently, said girlfriend is laughing with Stiles, who wouldn’t have been here if not for the gas money Derek sent him to come home for the weekend. He’s not done the semester for a few more weeks, but it was nice to surprise Scott with this. Scott admitted once, to Derek when Stiles was gone, that Stiles was part of the reason he wanted to teach. That he hated the way Stiles had been treated because of his ADHD in school even though he was smart as hell. It was only right that he be here, really.

“No, dude, we’re having a bonding moment.” Scott grins at him, nudges him with one shoulder. “Bond with me, bro.”

Derek reaches over and takes his cup away, then shoves him off the couch.

 

 

He hates to think it considering Peter’s state of mind, but sometimes Derek thinks that Lydia would have made an excellent werewolf if not for her immunity. She’s smarter than most of them combined, except maybe Stiles. And, yeah, Derek will never, ever come even remotely close to having that kind of sheer IQ, but there’s as much value – if not more – in how clever she is socially.

Derek isn’t ignorant about what he looks like. He knows he’s attractive, knows he inherited his mother’s eyes and cheekbones, his father’s build, knows that he’s worked his body in a way that’s more than werewolf strength, more than quick metabolism. He knows the way people look at him. He knows how to play the game, how to flirt when he doesn’t mean it, how to get something with a smile. He’s had years of experience playing this particular game and Lydia would still beat him every time. He’s seen her talk her way into places none of them would have been able to get into otherwise, seen her talk her way out of being killed like it was nothing more than a high school debate, seen her bring people to their knees with her words alone.

Peter was insane, Derek knows. Lydia will, likely, forever have both physical and emotional scars and nightmares from his attack. Most of the time, he thinks that Lydia doesn’t need to be anything but Lydia.

Sometimes, though, sometimes he thinks he understands why Peter chose Lydia.

 


He was four months shy of his sixteenth birthday when his family is destroyed. He slipped around emergency personnel while the fire still blazed, believed desperately that he’d be able to save his family if he could only get inside. He was faster than humans, stronger. He could save them, he thought, thought it right until the wolfsbane on the front door burned him and Laura yanked him back.

They spent the first night at the hospital, too numb to talk much, until it became clear there was nothing they or the hospital could do for Peter and Laura made him leave. The second night, they spent in a hotel room. He’d curled up in a cheap bed that smelled like strangers and sex and made him sick to his stomach, tried to soothe his own heartbeat so it wouldn’t keep his sister away when she’d been awake for almost forty-eight hours. When she laid down behind him, he wondered how long he had until he broke down and begged her to forgive him, wondered if she’d figured out what he’d done without him telling her, wondered how long he had left to live.

“God, Derek, what the hell is going through your mind?” Laura choked into his hair and grabbed him, held him like she hasn’t since he was small and he used to sneak into her room when he had nightmares. “I can smell – are you afraid of me?”

He clenched his fingers into the cheap blankets and slowly, carefully tilted his head enough to bare his throat. “You’re – you’re my Alpha now.”

“I’m your sister, you fucking idiot,” Laura said. “C’mon, stop, no. You’re going to be safe. We’re going to be safe. We’ll leave as soon as everything’s settled, go somewhere new where nobody can find us.” She rubbed her jaw against his, gently. “I’m gonna keep you safe.”

He never told Laura about Kate.

 

 

Lydia always smells a little like bubblegum and Derek’s not quite sure why. He’s never seen her chew the stuff and the only time he bought Laura something bubblegum scented, she’d thanked him very nicely and then told him that she was not actually five years old and called him an idiot. Maybe it’s body chemistry, though. That’s uncommon but not impossible. Laura once dated a guy who always, showered, fresh from a workout, first thing in the morning, always smelled like green apples. It’d made Derek hungry more often than he was comfortable with.

It drives him a little nuts but he’s not stupid enough to ask about it. He grew up with a sister who was only a year and a half older than him. He’d been well trained in his youth.

“I’m applying for a single this semester,” Lydia says, holding a dress up to herself. She fingers the fabric for a moment, then tosses it onto the pile in Derek’s arms.

“Sick of sorority life already?”

Lydia shrugs. “No. I’m sick of living in a house with twenty-five other girls. I have to keep everything good on my Kindle so no one sees it, everything physical has to be locked up, and people keep asking to borrow my shoes. Which, no.”

Derek bends his knees enough so she can set a sweater on top of the dress. “You could get an apartment.”

She smiles up at him. “But then I wouldn’t get to show you off to all my friends.”

Lydia has a philosophy about dating during college. It’s long and detailed and Derek has heard it more times than he can remember. It’s one of his favourite of her rants, honestly, but the one it slides into, about images and dating, that one makes her eyes too bright. So he plays fake arm-candy a few times a year. Goes to as many of the big formal dances her sorority throws as he can, pretended to get caught sneaking into her room a couple times, shows up at the house to take her out so she can talk about all the things that annoy her about her professors at him over waffles at iHop.

She doesn’t really remind him of Laura, but spending time with her does remind him of what it was like to be Laura’s brother. It isn’t the same – won’t be ever be the same – but it’s nice.

“Oh.” Derek, now sitting outside of the dressing room Lydia’s in, looks up from his cell phone. “By the way, Stiles called last night.”

“Of course he did,” Lydia says from inside. “It was Saturday, wasn’t it?”

Stiles calls his dad every Saturday afternoon to check in and to tell his father about his week. Then, after dinner, every Saturday, he calls Derek. They talk, usually while Stiles is doing last minute homework for his Monday morning class and Derek stretches out on the couch with a sketchbook and whatever food he made himself waiting for Stiles to call.

“Anyways, he says he hates you for getting out early, says he’ll bring home that sweater you left at his dorm the last time you visited when he comes home, and sends his love.”

“Good.” Lydia opens the dressing room door. “What do you think?”

Derek raises an eyebrow. “That that’s more of a wide belt than a skirt.”

Lydia smiles. “Perfect.”

 

 

Jackson was a mistake.

Derek’s not stupid, despite what his actions back then might say about him. Jackson was a massive ball of insecurity and deliberately perfect hair, it got seventeen people killed, and only stopped because they got lucky as hell that Lydia stopped it before the kanima evolved and became completely, totally unstoppable. Derek knows that biting him was never going to be a good idea, okay? He knows that. He’s added the kanima’s victims to the list of names he recites at night before he sleeps, so he doesn’t forget any of the people he’s gotten killed.

No. Biting Jackson was a mistake and he knows it.

 

 

Laura had friends in Georgia from college. She went to Berkeley, was at school when the house burned and started driving before anyone phoned when her eyes turned red. Dropped out after because she was Alpha, because out of eleven Hales, there were three left now and one was comatose, because it would be so easy for hunters to wipe out the last of their family. In Georgia, Derek went by Mark and Laura by Jenny.

Six months later, in Arkansas, they answered to Ben and Susannah. Laura had a nightmare and Derek doesn’t know the details of it, but it’s enough to make her smell like terror and they left, spent four months in Kansas as Rob and Manny and another two in Nebraska as Tom and Ruby.

Then it was North Dakota and Gene and Isadora because Laura is tired and Derek is too numb to argue with something that makes her give half a smile. North Dakota lasted a year and a half. It was a nice place. Laura went on a date with a co-worker. Smiled sometimes. North Dakota was a good place until they’re out one day and somebody yelled their names, their real names, and they both turned without thinking. The last of the Hale family, who lived for decades without hunters knowing their secret, were young and vulnerable and alone.

Derek got shot in the shoulder with an arrow and Laura took a bullet – regular, no wolfsbane, thank God – to the calf. They managed to fill two suitcases only by the grace of werewolf speed, left more than they took.

They spent six months in Michigan as Tyler and Liz because Laura is an asshole. Laura had another weird dream one night. Neither of them liked Michigan that much so they moved on.

In Ohio, they were Zack and Emma. Laura got a job in a diner and her hair smelled like French fries constantly. Derek was never quite sure if it made him hungry or slightly queasy. Laura went on a few more dates, came home smelling like apples and the warm, gentle scent she radiated when she was content. She mentioned setting him up with somebody, tried to say in a way that wasn’t cruel that she didn’t think it was normal he hadn’t dated in three years.

He went out a week or two later to a bar that he wasn’t legal to get into yet, slipped a tiny bit of the recreational wolfsbane into his own drink, and went home with a guy who smelled like rum and aftershave. He liked the guy’s big hands, the scrape of stubble against his throat, and the ache that didn’t fade right away after the guy fucked him boneless. He hadn’t had sex since – hadn’t even jerked off for longer than he could remember. Hadn’t wanted to.

The sex felt good, though. He bought the guy coffee in the morning and Laura teased him when he got home about doing a walk of shame. It was nice.

A few months later, he asked out a girl that worked with Laura. They went out three times and on the third, he let her take him home and went down on her on her couch, used his mouth and fingers to get her off three times before she collapsed against him, exhausted. He didn’t think he was ready for more, but he liked this, liked making someone feel good. Two days later, the diner burned down. The owners, werewolves like Derek and Laura, didn’t get out. The girl Derek was dating found a purple flower in her mailbox, called him asking if he left it only minutes after Laura got the call about the diner.

They settled down north of Raleigh, North Carolina on the fourth anniversary of the fire. Derek didn’t ask anyone out again and Laura didn’t pressure him about it.

 

 

“Thanks,” Jackson mutters as he tapes a box shut. “Just… by the way.”

Jackson has spent the three years going wherever his parents have told him to go, has only needed Derek to come deal with things once, and that was only because the pack where he lived last had been beating the crap out of him for months before he said anything.

Hale is still a powerful name, Derek proves, and ends that.

When Danny decided on NYU, Jackson’s parents had banned him from going there. Derek offered to pay for his tuition like Scott, but Jackson refused – more politely than he might have once. He’s been working full-time whenever he isn’t in class since, but it’s cheaper to live off-campus, especially – especially like this, and Danny’s a good influence, a good kid. He’ll be moving in, too, as soon as he's done finals.

Derek stares at the bookshelf. “Yeah. The, uh, the water won’t get hot Thursday mornings after six no matter how much you run it. The stove probably still needs to be fixed. Or replaced. Laura’s – the master bedroom window leaks air like crazy but it won’t let in rain. There’s – the building is like a hundred years old so it has…”

“Personality,” Jackson says. “Character.”

“Yeah,” Derek says and takes down the photo of him and Laura that he’d thought for years had been lost in one of the moves. “Yeah, it has character.”

They’d spent two years here. Derek traces one fingertip over the glass, following the curve of Laura’s cheek. Put their names on their fake IDs because they were sick of not being Hales, because New York had a large enough supernatural population that they were relatively safe, because people would have noticed if they disappeared and they could.

He breathes out and puts the picture into the box nearest him.

 

 

Isaac is complicated.

He’s complicated and messy and delicate in some ways and hard as steel in others. Derek thinks – he thinks that as long as Isaac doesn’t, that he will never regret giving Isaac the bite. Isaac is not a mistake and he doesn’t think biting him was, either. Not with his father being the way he was. Isaac deserved power, deserved to be able to protect himself.

Derek knows how his mother’s teeth feel on the back of his neck. He remembers being six and the full moon hurting, like his skin was too tight and on fire and horrible, and his mother pulling him into her lap and setting her teeth in the nape of her neck, the same way her mother had, and her mother before her, the way wolves carried a cub to move them. He broke his arm once and it’d healed badly, had needed to be rebroken to heal correctly. His mother had stroked his hair, held back tears while his father’s strong hands fixed him.

He has memories of his parents that are laced with the memory of pain, but they never hurt him out of anger. He thinks maybe it’s a lot like shots or surgeries to heal illnesses with human children. A matter of doing what you have to, to make your child well and healthy. Just different physiology.

So, no. Derek doesn’t regret turning Isaac and probably never will. But that doesn’t make him easy.

 

 

Laura dragged Derek out at two in the morning once. He worked construction then and he bitched liked hell at her for waking him up. It was a good job, hard enough that sometimes he falls into bed at night utterly exhausted, sometimes felt an ache in his muscles at night. That was like nothing he’d ever felt before and he liked it. What he didn’t like was being woken up at God o’clock in the morning on his day off. But Laura was his sister and he loved her – most of the time – so after he threatened to rip her spleen out through her nose and she threatened to drag him out of bed by his hair, he got up and put on his jeans.

They ate Indian food in some corner of the city that Derek was not sure he’d ever seen before, stuffed themselves on the buffet and over-tipped because they were werewolves and they ate more at three in the morning than stoners and college students.

Later, they sat on the balcony of the fire escape and passed a giant tub of gummy worms back and forth. It was November and smelled a little like it might snow. Derek liked the feel of the breeze on his skin, liked listening to the noise of the city, liked the quiet of sitting with his sister doing nothing. He was twenty-one and most of the time he felt ancient, but this… this felt normal.

“Love you,” he said, and the words didn’t hurt as much as he’d expected them to after five and a half years.  

Laura leaned against him, smelling like spices and candy and… contentment. “Love you, too, little bro.”

 

 

Isaac’s not in college. Derek doesn’t care – he never went, didn’t even finish high school – but it means that Isaac is around more than any of the others with Lydia across the country, Scott an hour away, and Stiles at Berkeley. He likes that more than he knows he should admit. He’s twenty-four and most of his pack is nineteen already. It’s not like he’s got any business empty-nesting because his nestlings flew away… and this metaphor is getting away from him.

Anyways. He likes having Isaac close. It’s not a big deal. Isaac doesn’t have any family besides a few distant cousins he’s rarely met. He sold his dad’s house as soon as he turned eighteen, said he couldn’t live in a house where everything smelled like his own fear and pain, where he’d be haunted by the ghost of his father at every turn. Derek didn’t argue with him about it, just helped him figure out paperwork as much as he could. Then Isaac lived with foster families for a couple years, legally, but he slept on the couch in Derek’s apartment more often than he didn’t. To the point where Derek ended up having a really, really uncomfortable conversation with the Sheriff where he was reminded that he’d been wanted for murder. Twice. Derek walked in on things he should never have to have seen too many times and bought a house. Where Isaac could have a bedroom.

With a lock.

Stiles groans suddenly from the middle of the sofa in Derek’s living room. “I hate everything to do with college I don’t even care anymore gimme a damn pillow.”

Isaac blinks, leaning forward from the end of the couch where he’s sprawled across the reclined seat. “Wait, was that supposed to be a sentence?”

“Shut your furry face,” Stiles mutters, yanks one of the tiny square pillows that Derek only has because Lydia told him to off the back of the couch and pitches face first towards the arm of the couch. Right into Derek’s lap.

Derek forgets how to breathe. It’s – it’s not like he doesn’t touch Stiles – he’s pack, of course he does – but this is not normal for them.

“I. Hate. Everything,” Stiles says into the pillow and promptly passes out.

Isaac is laughing at him, silently shaking with giggles, and Derek takes back every thought he’s ever had about Isaac being his favourite. Isaac is the worst, the little snot.

Derek glares at Isaac with every ounce of malice he learned from living with his sister for twenty-one years, then drags the blanket on the floor up over Stiles’ body. It’s huge, big enough that he can toss one end over Isaac at the same time. “Shut up,” he mutters.

Isaac lets out a laugh, soft enough not to wake Stiles or Scott who’s sleeping on one of the other couches. The third is taken only by Lydia, and Derek’s not entirely sure why Stiles chose to sit between him and Isaac instead of sharing with her. She’s small. Stiles could have had like half the couch to himself. Although he might have ended up with Lydia’s feet in his lap. Or under it. Derek’s spent enough time letting Lydia use his ass as a footwarmer to know how easily her feet get cold.

“Nice having him home, huh?” Isaac says softly.

Derek rubs a hand over the back of Stiles’ neck, carefully. “Nice having any of you home.”

“Right,” Isaac says, grinning as he settles back against the reclined seat of the couch. “Sure.”

Lydia pushes up, turning to lean her chin on the arm of the couch, and reaches over to brush her fingers against Isaac’s knee. “Hey, how’s work?”

She looks half-asleep, like she was dozing off, and Derek is pretty sure that if she’d been paying attention to the conversation, she’d be teasing him by now, too.

Isaac shrugs. “It’s work. Better than digging graves. Classes good?”

Lydia nods with her chin still pressed into the fabric of the couch. Derek’s never seen her smile that way at someone before and it makes the soft spot under his heart that has her name written on it warm up. And maybe he’s also planning on gently teasing her later, but she’s his best friend and that’s his duty.

Derek looks down at Stiles and holds back the urge to sigh. Lydia’s never going to let him live this down.

When Stiles makes a noise in his sleep and shifts, turning his head so his breath warms the strip of Derek’s hip that’s bared by his shirt riding up, Derek can’t breathe enough to bring himself to care.

 

 

Erica was angry. Scott and Allison used to sometimes like to pretend that Erica was some sweet innocent thing before she was turned, that becoming a werewolf made her different, made her wrong, but Derek…

Derek knows better. Erica’s anger was a palatable thing long before he ever put his teeth in her. Anger about being ignored for so long, anger at all the times her classmates didn’t ignore her, didn’t help her when she was weak and vulnerable, anger at her body for failing her so badly, anger at herself for letting her disease take over her life. Derek saw her anger, when he was so angry himself, and part of him, a part that was sick and twisted and burned and scared, liked her anger. Part of him wanted to watch the world burn by her hand and see how people screamed for her.

He tries not to think about that part of himself too often.

 

 

Laura and Derek had a horrible, awful, screaming fight when she said she was going back to Beacon Hills. She’d promised him once, late at night in some crappy motel or apartment, he doesn’t even remember anymore, that he’d never have to back there.

“And you don’t have,” she said, for the third time. “I’ll go. You can stay here and I’ll be back in like a week.”

Derek yelled at her some more, and she yelled back, because even though he was twenty-one and she was twenty-four, that was what they did, same as they had when they were kids and fighting over the bathroom in the morning. Derek thought sometimes that he’d never feel more than fifteen and maybe Laura would never feel more than eighteen. They were both broken that way because of him.

In the end, though, Laura was not only his Alpha but his sister and probably, his best – if he was honest, his only – friend, and he wasn’t the boss of her. He liked to think he got a say in her life, if only because they were probably unhealthily co-dependent. Laura was Alpha, and she needed a pack. A pack of two was probably more broken than not, smaller than any they’d ever even heard of, but they couldn’t risk expanding it so she needed him. She needed him and he couldn’t breathe when he thought about not having her. So, in the end, he clenched his teeth and stopped arguing.

Laura’s heartbeat was steady when she said again that she’d be back in a few days. It was the truth when she said it.

It became a lie a week and a half later when she wasn’t home and she hadn’t answered her phone in two days. He rented a car, because Laura took theirs, and drove for a day straight, stopping only to gas up the car, piss, and get food when he had to. Normally it would take two days to get there, but he sped and took as many shortcuts as he could.

He hit the limits of Beacon Hills and had to pull over, because he’d been able to fool himself for days that the connection had been stretched by distance, just stretched too thin to feel. How would he know otherwise? The furthest he’d ever gone from his mother or Laura had been under fifty miles that one time he went to camp for two weeks. And he believed that, told himself he believed it and ignored the lie of his own heartbeat, until he was back in the town he was born in and the connection between him and his Alpha – his sister – was gone from the back of his head, as fully as if it’d been sliced away with a knife.

Derek checked the rear view mirror of the rental car, flashed his eyes at himself to check – he wasn’t convinced, he knew better, but he had to check – and when they went bright and blue, he breathed out. Shoved the mirror away so he didn’t have to look at himself. Braced his arms on the steering wheel and dropped his forehead against them.

Then he let himself break down, because he knew, absolutely and certainly, that his sister was dead.

 

 

It takes a few hours to drive to Oregon from Beacon Hills, or at least to where he wants to be in Oregon. Derek can usually make it in about four and a half if he stays off the busy highways and doesn’t get caught in rush hour traffic. He drives carefully, though, because he’ll get yelled at for being reckless, which is ridiculous because, hello, werewolf. He’s pretty sure after being literally gutted, he’d survive a car crash just fine. Plus he never takes the Camaro for this. He bought a God-awful ugly grey thing that has an amazing safety rating and four doors a few years ago, drives it when he comes up here.

The curtains twitch when he pulls into the driveway, making him smile and giving him enough warning to catch the body that runs at him at full werewolf speed the second he’s out of the car.

“Unca Dewwick!”

Well. Full werewolf speed for a two year old, anyways.

He grabs her and lifts her over his head because he’s tall enough and she’s tiny enough still that it makes her squeal with laughter.

“You’ve got so tall!” he says when he lets her drop down to eye level with him. “Who told you could grow so fast?”

“Mommy,” she says with a grin.

“Oh, well, if Mommy said, I guess it’s okay.” Derek shifts her to his hip and heads into the house, kicking off his shoes onto the mat there. Then he reaches out with his free arm and catches Erica around the waist to pull her in close enough for a kiss on the cheek. “Hey, there.”

The kid’s name is Delia. She’s two years old, has her mother’s blonde curls and the prettiest blue eyes Derek has ever seen. She loves Tangled, race cars and Erica spends far too much time telling her she’s not allowed to beat boys up just because she can. Taking her to the park is exhausting, she travels with more stuff for a two hour trip than Derek did sometimes when he and Laura were on the run, and last month Erica called him in tears because she had a temper tantrum and shredded her carseat.

She’s also probably his favourite person in the world.

“Glad you made it down okay,” Erica says, leaving a very deliberate lipstick mark on his cheek, like she does every time he visits. "We missed you last week."

Motherhood has not mellowed Erica. She’s worked hard to get past the anger, for her own sake as well as Delia’s, but she’s still the same girl she was when she was sixteen in many ways. She’s sharp-edged, hard to please, isn’t always nice. She doesn’t take shit from anybody, refuses to give up her makeup or clothes that make her feel powerful because she denied herself them for so long. Although she mostly skips the short skirts these days because they make it a pain to chase Delia. But she can run in high heels better than most people can in sneakers

Derek privately thinks the most beautiful she’s ever been was puffy, red-eyed and exhausted in the hospital holding a newborn Delia, but it’s none of his damn business how she dresses, never has been, and he’s not stupid enough to say that. Honestly, he hopes that Delia grows up to be just like Erica. Fierce and strong and amazing.

“You want coffee or something?” Erica asks as she walks towards the kitchen. “How long have you been driving? Hungry?”

“Nah, I’m good.” Derek shifts Delia a little higher so she can shove her face into the curve of his neck. She likes to make him smell like her and he – he is so not Alpha when it comes to her, too completely and totally wrapped around her tiny finger. “I still don’t know how you drink that stuff.”

Erica laughs and she pulls the fridge door open. “Derek, I have a two year old werewolf and I work two jobs. I need to at least pretend it helps to keep myself sane. Del, you hungry, babe?”

Ten minutes later, Derek finds himself being force-fed apple slices, teddy grahams and baby carrots by a two year old off a Winnie the Pooh plate. He may or may not be wearing a pink tiara. He may or may not have to destroy Erica’s phone before he leaves because she will text the pictures to Stiles and Stiles will put them on Facebook and possibly frame them. The first time he saw a picture of Derek holding Delia, he made a noise like a dying cat and demanded copies. There’s one on his dresser in his dorm, right next to the picture of his mom and dad.

Derek really doesn’t understand that boy sometimes.

When Delia has eaten enough – and made Derek eat enough for her satisfaction – Erica sends her into the living room to play. She clings to his neck until he promises that he’ll take her to the park later, lets her scratch her baby-soft cheek against his stubble because she likes the way it tickles, and then does his “Booty and da Beast” growl for her until she laughs and runs away.

“Whipped,” Erica says with a laugh, biting into one of the leftover apple slices. “Totally, completely whipped, dude.”

He shakes his head. “That used to scare people.”

“No, it didn’t.” Erica grins. “And it really isn’t scary when you’re wearing a pretty pink princess tiara.”

Derek curses and pulls it off. “At least I’m not covered in g-l-i-t-t-e-r this time.”

“Aww, but you look so cute all sparkly.”

He rolls his eyes. “Just because you have fantasies about those stupid Twilight vampires…”

Erica laughs again, easily and lightly, and Derek likes that she does that now, and often. His own smile is easier to get to than it would have been three years ago and that’s nice, too.

“Hey,” he says, softening his voice. “You guys doing okay?”

“Yeah,” Erica says without hesitating. “We’re good. She’s starting to talk so much, can you believe it? She tells me stories when she comes home from Margo’s about her day and what she did and all the things I have to tell Unca Dewwick. She knows all the colours I point out and she’s starting to learn her letters. I’m teaching her letters. We’re really, really good.”

Erica’s parents kicked her out when she told them she was pregnant. Derek let her stay with him because fuck that she was sixteen and she didn’t deserve that, should never have to worry about where she was going to sleep. He would have let her stay as long as she wanted, but Beacon Hills was… unstable, still, and Erica hated seeing her parents almost daily only to have them ignore her.

Margo who baby-sits Delia now is the sister of the Alpha of a pack from near Eugene. The town Erica settled in is large enough for them to blend in easily, but not too big, and the pack that has the territory is big and older even than the original Hale pack. They used to rent cabins with them in the mountains and “camps” in the summer so the werewolf kids could hang and the adults could bitch. There are kids for Delia to grow up with, support for Erica, and Derek, as long as he phones ahead to tell them that he’s coming up, is welcome to see them as often as they want.

He thanks God everyday that he did right with this when he picked up Laura’s old address book.

“If you need anything–”

“I know,” Erica says. “Derek, you gave her a college fund for her first birthday, you’ve bought her most of the toys and clothes she has without being asked, you made her crib, you changed diapers, you stayed with me in the hospital when I had her, you drive five hours to come see her twice a month, you let her put you in a tiara and paint your nails. I know.”

Delia isn’t – she isn’t his. Other than one ill-advised kiss, Erica and him have never been like that. Derek was a terrible idea back then and Erica and he make far better friends than they would have lovers. Erica might know who Del’s father is or she might not, but Derek hasn’t asked and he’s not going to. If Erica ever wants him to know, she’ll tell him. Otherwise, Delia has a Mommy and a Daddy and a pack, an Uncle Derek and half a dozen more uncles and aunts back in Beacon Hills, and that’s everything she needs.

Erica stands up to kiss him on the cheek again. “Stop worrying so much and go play princesses with my kid. Maybe she’ll let you be the prince this time. Or she’ll hit you in the head with one of the frying pans from her play kitchen.” Erica frowns for a second before grinning, bright and beautiful. “But you’re hard-headed. You can take it.”

 

 

Boyd was a good choice. He’s strong and solid and smarter than Derek nine times out of ten. He works hard to support himself, works hard to be a good werewolf, works hard to protect people. He didn’t need the bite like Erica or Isaac, didn’t need the power, but he did well with it. Derek thinks – Derek hopes that his parents would have approved.

He doesn’t know, though.

 

 

When Derek found Laura – found Laura’s body, there was nothing he could do. He covered her as carefully as he could, because it seemed wrong somehow that she was exposed like that, wrapped her up like it’d keep her warm. He spent the next few hours weaving wolfsbane into a rope, half-shifted and his hands covered in rope burn, and pretended that the tightness in his chest was only because of the plant.

He buried her under the spiral as a promise, buried her under the wolfsbane as tradition, so she could run as a wolf forever. Dully wondered who’d bury him.

Wondered how he was supposed to survive without his sister.

Wondered if he cared anymore.

 

 

Erica goes to work at four on Saturdays. When Derek’s up to visit, he’ll watch Delia until bedtime, doing the supper and bath thing. It’s not new – he used to get stuck baby-sitting his cousins because Laura hated kids and he was the oldest after her – but when he tucks her into bed, her room smelling like baby shampoo and bubble bath, werewolf and pack and baby, it makes his instincts ache a little. It feels healthier than the instincts that made him bite broken teenagers, though, so maybe it’s not a bad thing.

“She’s out,” he says, handing Boyd a beer as he sits on the couch next to him. He’s underage but it won’t get him drunk anyways. Honestly, Derek’s not entirely sure why they drink the stuff considering it tastes horrible.

Boyd nods his thanks. “Awesome. Glad you made it up this week. She missed you last weekend.”

Derek fights back the distinct urge to squirm. She’s a toddler, for God’s sake, he shouldn’t feel this guilty about not coming to see her. “I couldn’t get away. Something came up and I couldn’t leave.”

“Omega?”

“Gnomes,” Derek says darkly, and shudders. “I’m not talking about it. Ask Stiles. I can – I can skip next week. I know you usually take her this weekend.”

Boyd elbows him. “Don’t be an idiot. Del would love if it you came up two weeks in a row. And I do actually like seeing you, too, you know. If you can get away, come next week. Hey, bring Stiles with you. We haven’t seen him in forever and I don’t think he’s been forced to play princesses recently enough for my tastes.”

When Boyd grins, it’s a wicked, vicious thing that Derek used to see in the middle of bloody fights. He’s slightly more afraid of it now, says a silent apology to Stiles and agrees to ask.

Boyd frowns suddenly. “You think we should be concerned about the frying pan thing?”

“Nah. She mostly hangs around with werewolf kids anyways. My mom used to like to tell the story about how I bit Laura when I was four because she took my favourite book away and she broke my nose.”

“That’s a story your mom liked to tell?” Boyd raises an eyebrow. “Were you like a sixteen pound baby or something?”

Derek snorts. “No.” Barely six pounds, actually, and three weeks early. “But then I shoved Laura and she shoved me back and we fell down the stairs and broke a table, a lamp and killed a plant. Mom liked to tell it at birthdays to remind us how much we drove her nuts.”

It’s still not always easy to talk about his family – especially not to talk about them in the past tense – but he’s trying to get used to it. He wants his pack to know about them, wants to be able to tell Delia about his family one day.

Boyd shakes his head. “Did Erica tell you about the cat?”

“No, what happened?”

 

 

Humans in werewolf packs aren’t really rare or anything. In the end, pack is usually just another name for family. Or at least it was for the Hales. Derek had cousins born humans growing up, spouses of relatives that decided not to take the bite. It’s just… there aren’t many humans he considers family these days. He likes Danny, thinks it’s good that Jackson has him around and likes the kid well enough to let him live in the apartment he owns, but they’re just not family. Derek and Allison have come a long way since she tried to murder him last, but while she’s very obviously Scott’s pack, she’s not his.

When it comes down to it, there’s pretty much Lydia and Stiles. Derek doesn’t fool himself into thinking that it was his choice to make Lydia pack – she is in charge of their relationship and forever will be. He has no real issues with that.

Stiles – Stiles was Scott’s pack first. He still is and will always be, because those two are brothers as surely as if they were related by blood. But somewhere between the Alpha pack, the horrific thing that was what was left of Gerard Argent at the end, those witches that Derek managed to piss off completely without meaning to and got himself cursed and nearly dead, he let Stiles in. Had watched Stiles take an arrow for him, had held himself carefully still even as his claws itched and his teeth ached in his gums while Stiles presses wolfsbane ash into his wounds, had broken down and laughed so hard his ribs hurt for the first time in years at something stupid Stiles said.

He’s offered Stiles the bite, because Stiles would be an amazing werewolf, but Stiles said no. Stayed anyways.

And he left for college, but stayed in the state, stayed within driving distance. Comes home whenever he can, every holiday, and has a dorm room covered in pictures Erica, Boyd, and Delia, of Isaac and Derek, just as much as his father, Scott and Lydia.

Pack by choice alone, Derek thinks sometimes, and is amazed.

 

 

When Laura was sixteen and Derek was fourteen, their parents went away for the weekend. Laura somehow managed to get a bottle of wolfsbane-infused absinthe. It was quite possibly the most disgusting thing Derek had ever tasted, but they drank it anyways because Laura paid an arm and a leg for it and he’d never be able to lie to Mom about it after the first drink. It was all for one and all that shit.

They laid in the backyard on a blanket – because there was no way that they could fool their parents if the house smelled like alcohol and drunk teenagers when they got home – and Laura told Derek about the stars, about constellations, told stories about the moon that he’d heard a million times but Laura was still learning her way of telling. Her voice stumbled occasionally as she forgot part of the plot or the way their mother phrased things, but it was familiar and soothing anyways. Their parents were protective, overprotective according to Laura. They’d never been left alone for this long before. There was always pack.

Derek rolled onto his side, curling in enough to press his face to Laura’s side. He wasn’t sure he liked it, honestly.

Laura stroked a hand through his hair, comforting, and told another story.

 

 

Stiles falls asleep on Derek one lazy Saturday afternoon. It’s not the first time it’s happened. Lydia’s used Derek for a pillow more often than he can count, Erica has sobbed herself to sleep out of pure exhaustion against his shoulder, Scott’s passed out drunk on him once, and when they watch movies, Isaac tends to fall asleep against whoever he’s sitting next to. It’s not even the first time Stiles has done it.

It’s just.

He’s been gone. He’s come home to visit, yeah, but he was gone for almost a year and it’s only been two weeks since he got home for the summer and this is the first time they’ve been alone since then and Derek – Derek lives in the pleasant delusion of forgetting what it’s like so he doesn’t go crazy. Because if he lets himself remember the way Stiles smells, the way it sinks into the house and lingers for days after he’s gone, like a part of Stiles wants to stay even if the rest of him can’t, lets himself remember the way Stiles’ skin is insanely soft on the inside of his arms and the back of his neck, but callused at the fingers, the way he smiles with his whole body, the –

And shit, he’s – fuck.

Derek exhales as silently as he can and tips his head back to stare at the ceiling, reciting baseball scores in his head.

“Oh, fuck, asparagus,” Stiles mutters, shifts, and then freezes, one eye opening. “Oh. Okay. No asparagus,” he says, like that makes any sense at all, and shoves his face back into the pillow that Derek is very, very grateful for. “Good.”

Well, at least now Derek can distract himself by trying not to laugh. “What?”

“Oh.” Stiles stretches, eyes still shut. “Sorry. Weird as hell dream. Thanks for letting me pass out on you, dude. Haven’t slept that good in weeks. You hungry?”

“Why, what do you want me to make you?”

Stiles grins, slowly. “Man, it’s nice to be home. I can cook something. What do you have? Did I sleep through lunch?”

“I – yeah, you kind of did,” Derek says. “What do you want?”

“Dunno. Not asparagus.” Stiles turns his head and Derek hears his own heart skip a beat when warm breath ghosts out against his stomach. Damn it, that shouldn't still happen. “What do you want?”

You, the voice in his head says and Derek – Derek needs to be somewhere else.

“I need to – can you get off?”

“Oh, shit, dude, yeah, I’ve been asleep on you for like two hours. Your eyeballs are probably floating. Sorry.”

He’s fine, honestly, but it’s as good as an excuse as any to escape being in the same room as Stiles, so he hides in the bathroom for as long as he can. Washes his hands for a good two, three minutes. Brushes his teeth, then lets his fangs drop and brushes those too. Stiles made fun of him the first time he saw that, but Derek doesn’t even want to think about the taste if he didn’t.

Besides, tooth decay is a bitch.

He runs out of things to distract himself with, groans as quietly as he can, and goes out into the kitchen.

“I could make a stir fry?” Stiles says, staring into the fridge. “Or… sandwiches?”

Derek leans against the counter in front of the sink, his hands gripping it on either side of his hips. “I don’t know why you’re here half the time.”

It comes out wrong, not the right words, not the way he wanted to say it, but he’s been trying to ignore this for years. He’s twenty-four and he should be past the age of stupid, hopeless crushes, but somehow he’s not and he just – he can’t breathe with it anymore.

Stiles straightens and closes the refrigerator door, turning to face him. “You don’t?” he asks, raising an eyebrow.

“No,” Derek says, honestly. “You’re confusing and I don’t understand you at all.”

Stiles shakes his head and steps closer, trapping Derek in the corner of the counters. “Really? You’ve known me for three years. I’m not that complicated. Besides, I thought I was pack.”

“You are pack.”

“Uh-huh,” Stiles says. “Exactly. We’re pack. You know that, right?”

Derek swallows, nods. “Yeah.”

“Good.” Stiles closes the last of the distance between them, biting down on his bottom lip as he settles his hands low on Derek’s sides, pinkies brushing the waistband of his jeans. “You know I’m not going anywhere.”

“I know,” Derek says.

“You better.” Stiles inhales, his eyelashes fluttering down towards his cheeks, and he leans forward, carefully and deliberately fitting his mouth over Derek’s.

Derek’s mind goes blank, senses overwhelmed. He’s never been one to let his senses get the best of him, not if he’s whole and healthy, but there’s just – Stiles smells like shower gel and sleep and Derek, and his fingertips are flexing gently at Derek’s side, and his mouth.

Stiles pulls back before Derek can shake himself out of it and react.

“Sorry,” Stiles mutters. “I guess I wasn’t–”

“No, don’t, don’t stop.” Derek jolts and grabs Stiles by the back of the neck. “You weren’t – you didn’t – it’s okay. I didn’t know you wanted to. No, get back here, don’t stop.”

Stiles grins. “Dude. You’re rambling.”

“I don’t care,” Derek says and pulls him in again.

The second kiss is better. Mostly because this time Derek actually kisses back, leans into the kiss and gives as good as he gets.

And what he gets is Stiles’ exhale soft against his mouth, like he’s surprised, and Stiles licking into his mouth a moment later. He hears a moan and it takes him a moment to realize it came from him. He can’t even bring himself to be embarrassed, not with long, elegant fingers wrapping over his jaw, slipping under the hem of his shirt and rubbing carefully there, like Stiles is scared Derek will spook.

When Stiles pulls away this time, his mouth curves up at one corner, lazy like when he first woke up. “Nice.”

“This is my kitchen,” Derek blurts.

Stiles chuckles. “Yup, that it is. Stellar observation there, dude. You wanna make out some more in your kitchen?”

Derek swallows, brushing his thumb against Stiles’ top lip. That lip is unfair, his whole mouth is unfair, too soft and pink and never fucking shut. “I – we could – the counter is kind of digging into my ass.”

Stiles grins. “Man, you’re articulating even less than usual. Break your brain a little?” Derek glares, but Stiles softens the insult by brushing their mouths together again. “S’okay, you’ve been breaking mine for years. C’mon, come with me.”

He grabs Derek’s hand and tugs, walking backwards for a moment before tripping over something – not that there’s anything to trip over – and flails, nearly hitting the ground before Derek grabs him. He turns red and Derek’s not entirely sure why he finds that adorable. It shouldn’t be cute, or endearing, and yet it is.

Stiles leads him into his own bedroom, shuts the door behind them. “Okay, so, we don’t have to do anything,” he says, planting his hands on Derek’s shoulders to push him down on the bed. “But if we made out on the couch, somebody would end up walking in us, I just know it. Probably Scott and then he’d make that tramautized face and I really don't need to see that. But you don’t have to do anything you don’t want. You can say no to me."

Derek blinks up at him. “Stiles, I’m twenty-four. You don’t have to give me the ‘just say no’ talk.”

“Actually, that’s drugs.” Stiles takes a step closer, nudging his knees against Derek’s. Derek takes the hint and spreads his legs to make room for him. “It’s just – I like you. A lot. This isn’t just a ‘I wanna have crazy hot sex with you’ thing. Although, yes, for the record. But,” he says, his voice going firm, “I want you to know that you mean a lot and I’m not going anywhere and–”

“Stiles.”

“Yeah.”

Derek smiles, slowly. “You’re rambling.”

“Yeah,” Stiles says, laughs, and pushes him down onto his back again.

Derek loses his breath, but it’s good. He’s well aware of what he looks like and people don’t – they don’t usually take control with him. He likes this, though, likes Stiles’ hands on his shoulders and his weight and… yeah. Yeah, this is good.

Stiles crawls up onto the mattress with Derek, straddling his thighs and lifting himself on his hands. “Tell me what you like?”

Derek swallows, lifts his hand to stroke the sharp angle of Stiles’ jaw. “I like you,” he says, his voice thick. He’s bad at this, bad at words, but he’ll try if Stiles wants him to.

Stiles laughs and threads his fingers through Derek’s hair. “You’re such a dork.”

He tugs, gently, and Derek lets him, tilts his head back to bare his neck for Stiles’ mouth. There are instincts in the back of his head that tell him not to, that push him to flip Stiles over and take, but he likes this right now, likes having Stiles on top of him and in control. Instincts get easier to ignore, anyways, once you get used to them.

Stiles scrapes his teeth down the side of Derek’s neck and a shudder runs through him. He’s suddenly, completely, hard, his jeans way, way too tight, aching with it in a way he didn’t for years and that still surprises him when he just… wants.

“Oh,” he says out loud, surprised. That – that’s new.

“Yeah,” Stiles rasps, sucks a bruise into the base of Derek’s throat. It hurts a little, but in a good way, heals too fast, and Derek thinks about letting the mark stay. “Yeah, God, your skin. I wanna – can I take this off?”

He tugs at the hem of Derek’s T-shirt with one hand, the other still in his hair.

“Yes,” Derek says, pushing up on his elbows. “Yes, just – you too.”

“Okay. Yeah, okay.” Stiles pulls back, moving to stand between Derek’s legs again. “What the fuck colour does it say your eyes are on your licence?”

“Uh – green?”

Stiles strips off his top layer. Plaid, of course. When is ever not plaid? “Seriously? There are like eight million colours in your eyes. God, you’re, like, impossibly pretty. It’s not fair.”

“Sorry?” Derek sits up the rest of the way and tugs his shirt off in one tight move, not entirely sure what he’s supposed to say.

Stiles goes still, his last T-shirt half off and his stomach bare. “What? No.” He jerks his shirt off and crowds his way back into Derek’s space, lifting his face with one gentle knuckle under his chin. “What do you have to be sorry for?”

“I…” Derek doesn’t know how to know how to answer that.

Stiles shakes his head. “No, you idiot. No, you’re kind of perfect.”

He starts to protest, because he is far from perfect, but Stiles’ mouth cuts his words off and he – he doesn’t think it’s unreasonable he has trouble actually thinking after that. Not when Stiles is pushing him back onto the bed again, all the way to the middle this time, and moving over him all bare-skinned and muscles rippling under his skin. Stiles is still slim, probably always will be because that’s just the way he’s built, but he’s strong and capable and the flex of his arms and shoulders is stupidly distracting.

Derek catches Stiles’ elbow and tugs, pulling until Stiles sprawls across him. He’s heavier than Derek would have expected and Derek likes the weight. Likes it better when Stiles shifts and a thigh presses between his, firmly.

“God, I want to take you apart,” Stiles mutters, pressing his mouth to Derek’s collarbone as his hips arch up. “I wanna – wanna watch your eyes when I make it so I’m the only thing you can think about.”

He leans down and flicks his tongue over Derek’s nipple. Derek jolts, his fingers spasming on Stiles’ shoulders.

“Yeah?” Stiles says with a grin. “That works for you? It mostly just feels wet for me. Good to know. God, I want to fuck your brains out.”

It’s said against his skin, half-muffled by another kiss that has Derek shivering from the feel of Stiles’ soft, warm mouth moving over him. He’s aching, and honestly his jeans are kind of starting to hurt, but it’s been years since he felt like this.

He swallows and lifts one hand to run it through Stiles’ hair. “Okay.”

“Okay what?” Stiles asks into his skin, distracted.

“You can – we can do that. If you want.” His face is hot and he wouldn’t be surprised if he was blushing which – it’s ridiculous, honestly. He’s twenty-four years old, he should be past this. “We can – we can.”

“Oh! Oh, fuck, yeah, we can,” Stiles mutters and attacks Derek with his mouth. He licks inside, palms hot against the base of Derek’s neck, stroking down towards his shoulders like he can’t touch enough skin, grinds down until they both shudder. “Can I take your pants off? You should so be all kinds of naked right now.”

Derek reluctantly takes his hands off the expanse of Stiles’ back to reach between them for the button of his jeans.

“No, let me,” Stiles says, pushing his hands aside.

They’re clever fingers, Derek thinks, twisting his fingers in the sheets of his unmade bed. Long, thin but strong. He’s had trouble ignoring them when Stiles is working at something for a long time, be it replacing the laces of a lacrosse net – and that sometimes involves his tongue for some damn reason and Derek usually has to make an excuse to leave when that happens – or moving over the keys of a computer, through the pages of several books that are dozens of years older than Stiles himself, researching, or shifting gears in the Jeep, wrapped around the steering wheel.

Clever fingers, but never so clever as they are unbuttoning his jeans and nudging the zipper down.

Stiles tugs at the waistband of Derek’s jeans as soon as they’re open. “Yeah, get these off. I don’t know how you can stand these anyways. You have – here, lift.”

Before Derek can work out exactly what Stiles is telling him to do – the kid is distracting, okay? – Stiles grabs his hips and lifts them off the bed himself, then yanks his jeans down around his thighs with one hand and lets go.

“Look, you have little red marks,” Stiles murmurs, his hands moving to the grooves of Derek hips. “You ever think about a nice pair of sweatpants? Maybe pajamas. Could get you ones with little sheep on them, make you feel right at home.”

“I – they heal?” Derek blinks. “Also fuck off. Sheep?”

He gets it a split second before Stiles grins.

“Well, you know. Wolf in sheep clothing.”

“You are an asshole,” Derek tells the ceiling.

“I know,” Stiles says and presses his mouth to Derek’s hip.

Derek stares at the ceiling and tries to remember how to breathe. It’s not a great effort with Stiles’ lips moving along the marks left by his jeans, softly, from the jut of one hipbone, across the soft part of his stomach right above the elastic of his underwear, to the other hip. It’s a good ceiling, Derek thinks desperately as Stiles tugs at the elastic. Doesn’t have holes, isn’t burned, doesn’t leak. All good things, considering.

Then Stiles licks him from root to tip and sinks down onto him.

“Oh,” Derek says to the ceiling, hears his own heart jolt into a race in his ears.

Stiles hums, gently, and Derek groans, trying not to shift around too much. And he’s not taking his eyes off the ceiling because it’ll kill him otherwise. He just – he can’t look at Stiles right now, not when his mouth is – Derek just cannot look at that mouth right now, not when it’s stretched hot and wet over him. He think he’s doing a fine job of breathing right up until Stiles presses his thumb against the base of Derek’s dick and takes him deep enough that he feels the flutter of Stiles’ throat around the head of it when he swallows.

“Oh, fuck.” Derek arches half off the bed, jolting up to grab Stiles by the shoulder and pull him off. “Fuck, God, stop, stop, I can’t – your mouth, Stiles.”

Stiles wipes the back of his hand across his mouth and grins. “You’re pretty when you forget how to talk. Why are you still wearing pants?”

“Why are you?” Derek manages.

“Damn good question.”

One day, preferably soon and possibly later today, Derek is going to strip Stiles down to nothing, pull him down into the sheets, and spend hours exploring every single inch of his skin. Drive him as crazy as he’s been driving Derek for years.

But that’ll have to wait because right now Stiles has his clever fingers inside him, and he’s not actually sure he’s going to survive this. He’s never heard his heartbeat sound like this, he isn’t breathing right, and he’s pretty sure he’s not supposed to feel this hot. Fevers kill, don’t they? He’s only ever felt them when he’s poisoned and actually dying, there’s no way his body was made to survive this.

“Are you actually breathing?” Stiles asks, biting a kiss against the hinge of Derek’s jaw. “’Cause I don’t think you are.”

“No, it’s a new talent. Between this and the werewolf thing, I think I can have a career in the circus,” Derek snaps.

Stiles laughs, his cheeks red, and curls his fingers in a way that has Derek jumping. “Talk snarky to me, baby.” He grins when he sees Derek’s response and very deliberately strokes his fingers against the same spot. “You’re kind of shaking there. That the sweet spot for you? You know you’re gorgeous like this, right? God, I could do this for fucking hours."

Derek grits his teeth. “Or you could be fucking me by now. I’m fine, you don’t need to – I’ve done this before, and werewolf, I heal, come on.”

His hips jerk up without his express permission, riding the thrust of Stiles’ fingers inside of him, long and clever and not enough right now, damnit. Stiles plants a hand against his stomach and shoves him back down onto the mattress, the force of it stealing the breath from Derek’s lungs.

“You said it’s been a while.”

“Stiles, I will kick you out of my bed and finish this myself.” It’s not a great argument when his hips are still arching into Stiles’ hand, he knows.

Stiles snorts and bites Derek on the chin. “Sure you will. You’re so impatient. Patience is a virtue, you know.”

“Not right now, it isn’t,” Derek mutters through his teeth and he doesn’t get why that makes Stiles laugh against his throat.

“Okay, okay,” Stiles says and pulls his fingers out of Derek. “Okay. Just – c’mere first.”

The kiss somehow manages to catch Derek off-guard. He feels himself go still, feels something inside him calm momentarily when Stiles licks into his mouth, reaches up to cup his fingers around the back of Stiles’ neck to keep him close, until Stiles pulls back to line himself up and Derek buries his face in the curve of Stiles’ neck.

“You’re still shaking,” Stiles says softly and pushes inside.

Derek inhales the scent of Stiles’ skin, sweat and sex and Adderall and Stiles, and shudders, keeps breathing in that scent through the initial stretch and burn of penetration. It’s almost overwhelming at first, always is, and it just – it honestly has been a while and it’s never been with Stiles.

Stiles slides a hand up the side of Derek’s neck, squeezes gentle. “Alright?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m good.”

Stiles’ other hand moves between them and wraps around Derek’s cock, slick with lube. He strokes, slow and firm, until Derek’s not only used to the fullness, but hard again.

“You can move,” Derek says into Stiles’ skin. “C’mon, it’s okay. I’m okay.”

He pulls back because he wants to see this, wants to see Stiles’ face.

Stiles bites his bottom lip, teeth sinking into a lip turned red and swollen from kissing. Then he hooks one arm around Derek’s thigh and pushes his legs apart, bracing the other hand on the mattress next to Derek’s shoulder, and thrusts. Derek groans and presses his heels into the mattress to push up to meet them, reaches up to wrap one hand around the back of Stiles’ neck and pull him down to kiss.

The idiot laughs into it, breathless and wild.

“You’re awesome,” he mumbles, dropping down onto his forearms over Derek. “You’re so good.”

“You’re such an idiot,” Derek says, but it’s muffled by the press of his mouth against Stiles’ throat.

“Yeah,” Stiles groans and reaches between them again. He slides those long, clever fingers over the head of Derek’s cock. The barely-there touch makes him shudder, makes his hip shift restlessly against the steady thrust of Stiles’.

Derek may or may not get a little lost in the press of their bodies, in the gentle rasp of Stiles’ calluses over his skin, in the way Stiles’ palm goes slippery with sweat against his thigh, in the way Stiles turns red low on both cheeks, in the way that his shoulders and neck flush red from Derek’s stubble. He thinks absently that nobody could blame him, really, as pleasure curls into a knot tight and low in his stomach, not if they knew what it was like.

“You should ride me next time,” Stiles blurts, his back shaking under Derek’s hands. “I mean – yeah, that’s a thing we should do. Or the other way around, I’m good with that, too. I like switching. We just – we should do this all the time. In as many different positions as possible. Wanna bend you over the kitchen table and you should fuck me in the shower because I’d so injure myself doing that but, you know, werewolf and you're awesome and–”

Stiles breaks off and grabs a fistful of Derek’s hair, uses it to pull his head to the side and sinks harmless, oh so human, teeth into his neck.

Derek hears himself moan as though from afar and the knot in his stomach tightens, burning hot and bright. It takes only a few finally firm strokes of Stiles’ palm to have it bursting, to have him coming all over Stiles’ hand and his own stomach.

“Fuck, yeah,” Stiles rasps and arches into him, following him over a bare few seconds later.

He grunts when Stiles collapses on top of him, manages to lift a hand to run his palm over Stiles’ sweaty hair. Other than that, he’s not sure he’s going to be able to move for the next week.

Stiles groans and turns his head enough to kiss Derek’s shoulder. “I can’t feel my legs.”

“They’re still there,” Derek manages to say. “Can feel your knee digging into my thigh.”

“Suck it up,” Stiles mutters into his skin. “I’m dead. Either move me or get used to it.”

Derek runs a hand down Stiles’ back and doesn’t say anything. He’s definitely not moving any time soon.

 

 

Melissa McCall was the first person he told about Kate. He didn’t mean to do it, but it was late, he hadn’t slept in two days and he had a pregnant sixteen year old asleep in his apartment. So maybe he was a little on-edge when Melissa sat down on the other side of the kitchen table and asked, was the baby his?

“She’s sixteen,” Derek snapped. “She’s a child. I wouldn’t – I’m, I wouldn’t – do you think I slept with her to make her want to be a werewolf? Or maybe that I pretended to care about her so I could burn her house down while she was at school?”

 It took him a moment to realize what he’d said. The silence practically hurt and he wanted more than anything to say something to break it.

Melissa broke it first, though, with words like, sexual abuse, and survivor’s guilt, and PTSD. She asked if it was okay before she touched him and he pulled a face that made her laugh. Then she pressed a hand to his shoulder, sat in the chair next to him, and let him talk. And he talked and he told her about Kate, and how much he missed Laura, and how much he didn’t know what to do about Peter, how to feel about him, how much he didn’t know what to do about anything. It was like the words were torn out of him the more he spoke, felt almost like bleeding, and it left him hollowed when he finally ran out of words.

He slept for more than five hours straight for the first time in almost seven years that night.

Two weeks later, after Erica left, Derek walked out of the grocery store and everything went black. When he woke up in chains, he wasn’t really surprised.

He lost track of time. Things hurt and he thought there was probably electricity involved – when the fuck wasn’t there electricity involved in these things – and it was just better to try not to be there as much as possible. They dosed him with something, anyways, cut him open and spread poison as deep in the wound as they could, and it made it worse.

He passed out and didn’t expect to wake up again.

So it was a bit of a surprise when Stiles shook him awake.

“Oh, thank fuck, you’re alive.” Stiles had a cut above his eyebrow that steadily leaked blood, red streaking across his forehead every time he tried to swipe it away with the back of his hand, a fat lip, and a look in his eyes Derek had never seen before. “Dude, you’re a mess.”

“Stiles!” a voice said and then Melissa McCall was pushing into his space. “Hey, Derek, can you look at me?”

“It’s a wolfsbane variant.” Stiles glanced at her. “They bred it or whatever you call it with plants. You have to burn it.”

“Don’t have any,” Derek mumbled.

Stiles shoved a hand into his pocket and pulled out a handful of leaves. “I do. Scott and I beat up – talked a guy into giving it to us.”

“Stiles, he has to go to the hospital.”

No,” Derek said, jolting.

Stiles looked over his shoulder, biting his lip as he turns back and sets to work with a lighter and his library card. “Yeah, no, she’s right. You’re going to have to go, get examined. They’re going to want to take pictures and stuff for the case.” He scraped the pile of ashes off his card and into his palm. “Try not to heal everything.”

“No, I’m not – can’t go the hospital, people will find out–”

“Hey, no,” Melissa interrupted, reaching over to gently rub Derek’s shoulder. “No, I’ll be there and I’ll make sure you’re safe.”

“You have to play human,” Stiles hissed, looking over his shoulder again. “The entire police force of Beacon Hills and most of the county has been looking for you for three days.”

“Stiles, you’re not helping,” Melissa said with a glare.

“We’re running out of time!” Stiles shook his head. “The only reason that this place isn’t swarming with cops is that there are a lot of dead bodies out there and people think you’re going to be in shock and nobody wants to traumatize you. And, dude, your undead uncle spent six years in a hospital. You’ll be fine for a couple days. Now do you want to do this or do you want me to do it?”

He let Stiles press the ashes into the deep wound in his side. Things got fuzzy after that for a little. The wolfsbane burned as it healed and it was all he could do to curl into himself more than he already was. But there was a cool hand on his back that stroked up and down, soothing, until he breathed more normally, and Melissa’s voice murmuring soft words of comfort.

“You’re going to be okay,” he tuned back in to hear her say. “We’re gonna take care of you. You’re going to be fine.”

“And the hunters are going to get their asses thrown in jail,” Stiles added brightly. “Because kidnapping is a felony.”

Stiles,” Melissa said through her teeth.

Derek laughed even though it hurt.

 

 

Derek’s earliest memory is of Laura. They weren’t that close before the fire, because they didn’t need to be, but he remembers being small and afraid and crawling into bed with her one night because her room was across the hall and he was too afraid to walk all the way down the upstairs hallway in the dark. He remembers the way she wrapped around him like a blanket, the smell of family and pack and Laura luring him to sleep again.

He likes to think of that memory when he visits her grave.

 

 

“Oh my god, why are you so nervous?” Stiles asks, pulling Derek’s hands away from his collar. “You have dinner with Melissa and my dad every week. I think you have dinner with my dad more than I do, actually."

“Yeah, well, I’ve never had dinner with them as your – when we’re–”

“Fucking like bunnies?”

Stiles.” Derek swallows, rubs the back of his neck where his collar is making it itch. “Is that what we’re doing?”

“Well, yeah.” Stiles rolls his eyes and shoves Derek’s head down, reaching over to fiddle with the back of his shirt. “You didn’t notice the part where I had your dick in my mouth this morning? Ah, screw it, hold still for a second.” There’s a tearing noise and Stiles hands Derek the tag from his shirt. “And it’d be cool with me if we were, like, dating, too.”

Derek takes the tag from him and puts it in the pocket of his jeans. “Okay. Yeah, I mean, me too.”

“Okay then,” Stiles says. “Can we go inside now?”

“Yeah.”

It’s not as awkward as it could be. Derek kisses Melissa on the cheek when he finds her in the kitchen, and she threatens Stiles with a butcher knife when he tries to steal something from one of the plates on the counter.

Stiles laughs and backs away with his hands in the air. “Okay, okay. Dad in the living room?”

“Yes, now get out of my kitchen.” Melissa shakes her head when Stiles finally leaves, his mouth stuffed with pilfered cheese. “Do you want something to drink, Derek? There’s a bottle of the good stuff in the freezer. You might need it when John notices the hickey on Stiles’ neck.”

Derek groans, slumping against the kitchen counter as he covers his face with his hands. “It’s not a hickey. He tried to iron his shirt while he was wearing it.”

She laughs. “Of course he did.”

“I’m not lying,” Derek tells his hands. “If I was, I’d come up with something far more believable.”

“I believe you, sweetie,” Melissa says. “I don’t believe Stiles sometimes. But this is good, right? You’re good?”

Derek drops his hands. “It’s good. I’m good.”

“Good,” she says. “Now why don’t you cut up those tomatoes for me?”

Stiles’ face is beet red by the time they sit down for dinner. Derek chooses not to ask. He’s pretty sure he doesn’t want to know what Stiles and the Sheriff were talking about and he’s also pretty sure he’ll end up having his own talk with the Sheriff after dinner while they clean up. He’s willing to let it wait, though, because Stiles presses their knees together under the table, steals the carrots off Derek’s plate and replaces them with his broccoli, laughs with his whole body when somebody says something funny.

The house smells like pack and family and food, all mixed up into something that just feels like home.

“–and then Scott fell off the roof,” Stiles says.

“Scott is a terrible werewolf,” Derek says, dropping a carrot onto Stiles’ plate. “I would never have bitten him.”

Stiles laughs.