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Between Dogs and Wolves

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Between Dogs and Wolves

 

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“My mother was a wolf, you see, and my father was the North Wind.

Like both of my parents, I’m fast.

And like both of them, I’m strong.

And like both of them, I bite.”

 

— Bigby Wolf, Fables: The Wolf Among Us

 

 

 

Derek wakes up gasping, his sleep rudely interrupted by the screeching ringtone of Laura’s text. He paws blindly at his nightstand, trying to avoid looking directly at the offending brightness from the screen. Then, after blinking owlishly at his phone for a minute, he tears himself almost violently from the bed. A total absence of emoticon or hideous grammar in one of Laura’s texts is disturbing and often the first sign of something going very, very wrong.

 

He rushes out of his bedroom half naked, barefooted, and wearing enough firepower on him to blow up a small building. He swallows the few corridors separating him from the meeting room in quick but controlled steps, before throwing the door open. On the other side, he’s greeted by the strange sight of his sister and half his clan facing two perfect strangers, all of them still, arranged in a loose circle. The whole scene is drown in the kind of silence Derek usually associates with churches or murder scenes.

 

“Derek,” acknowledges Laura after a few seconds of tense immobility. She doesn’t move to face him, keeping her eyes focused on the two strangers and it raises Derek’s unease to a new level. He comes forward instinctively, a few inches on her left and in front of her, using the bulk of his body to shield her.

 

Of the two strangers, the woman is the first to grab his attention. She is devastating, a renaissance painting wrapped in a designer suit and killer heels. Everything about her exudes coldness and efficiency, from the perfect waves of her blood-hair to the pale briefcase resting between her manicured nails. Her piercing eyes roams the room calmly, assessing each one of them. She glances at one of their man –a behemoth of a man, with hands that could crush her like a bug- and he drops his gaze and fidgets like a guilty kid.

 

Derek, after a lifetime of having his existence thrown into disarray by beautiful women, can only commend his instinct.

 

Besides her, the man seems almost inconsequential. Young, handsome –in a classic soap opera’s sweetheart way-, thin, and apparently unarmed. He’s wearing an obviously cheap suit and pricy glasses, that eat half his face. Everything about him screams non-threatening but there is just something. It’s an indefinite feeling born from the looseness of the man’s body, the lowered shoulders and the bored smirk. He’s truly not worried, despite the number of men and apparent guns in the room. Years have taught Derek to be wary of people at ease under threat. This kind of confidence is often backed up by the ability to leave behind a field of bodies.

 

Laura finally turns toward him, with her best diplomatic smile, the one with all the teeth and the dimples. Her eyes are blown wide with excitation. Derek already hates where this morning is heading.

 

“Derek. They are Stilinski’s.”

 

 

xxx

 

 

In their world, new names never lasted long. There was always a new rival, an avid second, a younger pretender to the throne. To the Hales, ancient Hales whose ancestors were smiling in old painting all over the country’s museums, new names were like tumbleweeds, never taking roots in History.

 

John Stilinski was an unknown ex-cop wearing an unknown name, thrown into power at only twenty-nine and supported by few.

 

And John Stilinski became the glitch in the system.

 

It only took a few years for the Stilinski name to be known by all in their world. Success always meant whispers in the wind. And so they talked about them.

 

Oh, how they talked.

 

They talked about the clan’s power, they talked about its wealth, they talked about its influence. They talked about its men. Of people coming from all over the country to pledge their allegiance to this new name. Of men and women that could never be bought, could never be stolen away. They talked about the discreet clan, sewn tight together by something deeper than loyalty.

 

They talked about Claudia Stilinski. They called her “Donna”, with thick Italian accents and adoration in their eyes.

 

And they talked about John Stilinski. About his fairness and his kindness. They talked about his rewards for loyalty. They talked about his punishments for betrayal. They called him “Sheriff”. They called him a good man, with terror in their eyes.

 

 

But Derek was a kid, too young to listen to whispers. He grew up only knowing the Stilinskis as his parents’ best friends.

 

So to Derek, John Stilinski meant his mother laughing at the door and his father almost jumping down the stairs in enthusiasm. He meant rough hands and careful hugs and kind gifts. He meant the arm helping Nana out of the car and jokes that made his aunt laugh so much she almost fell of her chair. He meant the soothing giggle of his parents floating from a door left ajar.

 

He meant a name on an ugly mug made by Laura and a badly sketched figure on a child’s drawing stuck to the fridge. He meant kisses on their heads and stories and, always, an attentive ear to their rambling.

 

To Derek, John Stilinski was family.

 

-

 

Derek was a teenager when the drawings, the mugs, the gifts, the laughs and his family turned into ashes and smoke.

 

And Derek was lying there in the grass, next to Laura’s sobs, in front of the attic window from where Peter jumped, his clothes flickering under the fire trucks’ pretty lights.

 

He doesn’t remember much. He was too busy trying to count, again and again, how many people were inside the house. He remembers his fingers shaking. He remembers not having enough of them. He remembers not having enough toes.

 

But he does remember John. He remembers his yells and his rough trembling hands on his cheeks. He remembers John’s face, blackened by ashes and washed in places by tears. He remembers kisses after kisses on their temples and being squeezed against John’s broad chest.

 

More than anything, he remembers John’s broken voice and fiery eyes when he simply said:

 

“Give me a name.”

 

Laura started crying harder, and Peter’s body was somewhere in an ambulance and all the others (and Derek still didn’t know how many they were) were now dust and ashes but Derek looked straight at John and said:

 

“Kate Argent”

 

-

 

Derek was still a teenager, Laura’s hand shaking in his, and Peter still sleeping in a hospital bed, and John’s arm was heavy on his shoulders. Derek was still a teenager and Kate Argent was kneeling at his feet in an open field.

 

The Stilinskis were there, all of them men and women Derek had met several times in his life. They were all silent, looking at him with sad eyes.

 

 

Chris Argent was keeping Kate at gunpoint, forcing her to bow down in the grass. His gaze was focused on John. Even when Kate screamed at him from the ground. Even when she called him a traitor. Even when she threatened him. Even when she cried. Even when she pleaded. Chris’ gaze never left John.

 

When Kate turned to Derek, tried to reach him, tried to touch him, John simply shot her down without a word.

 

 

Months later, Derek heard for the first time the whispers. The whispers talking about the Stilinski’s mercy, wrapped in steel and death.

 

And he remembered a Chris Argent who never looked down, whose loyalty was greater than blood. He remembered John’s arm wrapped around his neck, heavy and comforting, and the gun in his other hand that never wavered.

 

They whispered about the Stilinski’s love like they whispered about atomic bombs and rare poisons, with greed and horror in their eyes.

 

And Derek smiled at them.

 

-

 

Derek was an adult and Peter had been running their old family’s name into the ground for years when Laura came into his room, white as a sheet.

 

John Stilinski was good and laughs and hugs.

 

John died in a back alley, surrounded by the corpses of his most loyal guard ‘dogs’.

 

 

Laura described a dirty place with garbage on the side and walls covered in blood. She said he was not alone, his body found under those of his men. She listed the names. Names that had been dancing on the wind for so long, whispered by so many with the fervor and veneration of old pagan prayers. The name that now laid littering the ground. Laura told him they died as Stilinskis, fighting and clawing to protect each other until the end.

 

She explained that the remnants of the family had withdrawn into a secret safe house and that no one knew where they went. That no one knew who was responsible.

 

Derek looked at the pictures. He looked at the face of the man that made his father beam, his mother shine, Laura chuckle, his aunt fall of her chair and his grandma smile. Of the man who taught him what loyalty meant.

 

Derek looked everywhere for revenge, followed every clue, every whisper.

 

And for many years, he waited.

 

 

Waited for a name.

 

 

xxx

 

 

Four million.

 

Four million.

 

Derek has always suspected that building back their clan to even a fraction of its former glory must have cost a fortune, a fortune they simply didn’t have anymore. They lost a lot of their money in the fire; lost men and ties and businesses. Under Peter’s craziness, they lost much more.

 

Somehow, he never thought of the funds coming from the Stilinskis. Peter has always had a wary relationship with John, that turned glacial after the fire. He forbid Laura and Derek from ever contacting him again. When John died, the crime scene pictures were the first time Derek had seen his face in years.

 

And their bastard of an uncle had gone behind their backs and asked him for four million.

 

If his uncle’s body wasn’t already decomposed in a river somewhere up North, Derek would gladly rip his throat out himself.

 

But never let it be said that, even in death, Peter isn’t able to ruin Derek’s life. Because the Stilinski clan is finally reaching out after years of reclusion, and Derek carefully crafted plan of offering his help to avenge John’s death is taking a disturbing turn.

 

And of course, Laura would seize this perfect occasion. Of course she would not just ask for the few days needed to liquidate some assets and pay back the four million they absolutely have these days. Of course. This is Derek’s life.

 

When Derek extracts himself from the Stilinskis’ limo’s backseat and almost slips right off the leather seat, he tries to keep his insults as silent as possible.

 

 

It’s not even eleven in the morning, and there he is, half-naked between two Stilinski men. His weapons have disappeared between the hands of a smirking Jackson, but he has been allowed the right to put on shoes. He tries to focus on the silver linings of this situation.

 

Blind optimism won’t prevent him, sadly, from dripping everywhere.

 

Laura’s idea of a good first impression has somehow translated into lavender body oil and Derek looking like a cheap exotic dancer.

 

They are currently crossing a lavish manor, full of masterpieces and marble and tasteful chandeliers and Derek is shying away from them, truly afraid of spontaneously combusting if he comes too close to any kind of heat source. He feels like a not-so-virgin sacrifice being led to the altar, and he concentrates on dreaming of breaking douchey-glasses’ mocking smirk.

 

Their humiliating journey ends in an old library, its dusty light falling on rows and rows of books on precious wood and a beautifully painted ceiling. In the corner away from the door, two men sit on a mismatch of decadent leather couches.

 

They come closer and one of them jumps up, deploying a huge frame only to wrap it protectively around the man still sitting down. His face is closed up, frowning, his body a study in subtle tension and readiness to pounce. He’s a guard dog if Derek has ever seen one, and he holds his gaze placidly, letting the man appraise him.

 

“This is…not four million in cash,” remarks the sitting man, obviously perplexed.

 

“Your powers of deduction will always astound and awe me boss,” answers simply glasses-guy, stupid smirk still anchored on his face.

 

When Derek’s eyes finally fall on the so called boss, everything stops. His first, overwhelming impression is one of youth. The expensive suit and slicked back hair can’t change the fact that the kid doesn’t look a day over twenty. Even sitting down, he can see how his body is still in places a confused puzzle of gangly lines, waiting to be grown into.

 

This pretty thing in an adult costume is the one wielding the power of the Stilinski clan. The thought is almost frightening in its absurdity.

 

“Isaac. Did you fail to get my money back and decided to pick up a stripper on the road to bribe me? Because let me make this perfectly clear: this would totally work. Well done”

 

Glasses-guy – Isaac – barks a laugh and takes the infamous glasses off.

 

“Sorry to disappoint Stiles. This is the payment for the Hale debt.”

 

Big amber eyes blink, surprised.

 

“Why do people always try to give me human beings? Are we back to the Dark Ages? Do I somehow give some kind of feudal vibe?” he whines, arms flailing in the air to mime what could be a crown or a murder attempt.

 

The redhead woman, that Derek had somehow forgotten in all this agitation, comes forward, her heels clacking on the wood. She bends over silently to sit on the armrest, crosses elegantly her legs then kisses her boss with painted lips.

 

“Stiles, this is Derek Hale, Laura Hale’s little brother,” she starts with a soothing voice while rubbing off the lipstick from his cheek. The kid goes limp under her hand, heavy lidded and soft as a cat being petted. She smiles at him and tucks a strand of hair behind his ear. “And he is not payment. Just a token of goodwill from his clan, until we get paid”.

 

The kid’s face tilts back to look at her, a twinkle of amusement in his eyes. Her hand keeps petting his face and he kisses briefly her knuckles.

 

“I see. And you were okay with this?” he asks innocently against her skin, layers of conversation only expressed in his teasing grin. The redhead keeps silent, raising one perfect eyebrow. The kid bites off a laugh before turning back toward Derek.

 

“So. Are you worth four million Derek?” He challenges with a small smile.

 

Derek takes a few seconds to imagine a way to explain his relation to John, his need for revenge but also Laura’s maniacal grin and the bottle of oil and her excited voice whispering about gossips.

 

He honestly doesn’t know how to expose the insanity that is his life without a well-organized PowerPoint and dozens of drinks.

 

So he keeps silent.

 

 

Isaac, of course, immediately bristles at his insolence.

 

“Mister Stilinski asked you a question Derek,” he points out aggressively, abruptly all cutting edges and threats.

 

Stilinski interrupts him with a simple wagging of his fingers. “It’s ok Isaac, I can appreciate the strong, silent type”.

 

Isaac backs off with a sour face but Stilinski stays focused on Derek. And, suddenly, Derek can find John in the kindness of his eyes, in the mouth seeming always prompt to laugh. He relaxes slightly despite his dignity escaping from him with each drop of oil splashing on the floor.

 

After an outstretched silence, Stilinski sighs.

 

“Are we really sure they aren’t using us to get rid of His Grumpiness here? Because as much as I value a good bribe offered as some glorious eye-candy, this one honestly looks more like somebody you would send away in fear of a murder attempt. And the reason would surely be some tragic reason like stealing his cereals or something.”

 

Derek tries, and fails, not to scowl. From a perch on the armrest, the redhead lets an amused smile escape. She swiftly hides it by turning to fuss at Stilinski’s collar. He tilts his head obediently, exposing an indecent expanse of neck sketched in sharp shadows and freckled skin.

 

Slowly, Derek is getting sold on this whole sexual sacrifice possibility.

 

 

Of course, this being Derek’s life, when Stilinski looks back at him it isn’t with any degree of lust but with a smile people usually use on small animals lost in the rain.

 

“Ok, enough joking around. We’ve already established that we don’t live in medieval times, so your virtue will be safe here. Well. As long as you can put a shirt on before Erica returns. If not, all bets are off. Once all of that,” he points his chin vaguely in the direction of Derek’s abdomen, “is put away from our mere mortals’ eyes, you will report to Boyd here. He will integrate you to my personal bodyguard roster.”

 

The mountain-guy behind him surges up, mouth open to object. He shuts it with an audible snap when Stilinski holds up a hand, but his frame doesn’t lose an ounce of stiffness.

 

“I know Boyd. I know. Just… Don’t give him a weapon? Or leave him alone with me? I have the utmost faith in all of you, I know you will be able to prevent him from doing any kind of long-lasting damage.” When this clearly doesn’t appease Boyd, he continues in a softer voice, “I know. But my parents loved the Hale. Loved them. Dad learned to make the pasta sauce you love so much from this man’s grandma for god’s sake! The less I can do is not assign their only son to pick up leaves in the garden or confine him to his room like the grouchiest concubine in history.”

 

Boyd backs off reluctantly, eyes lowered in obedience but shoulder taut. The woman sighs deeply.

 

“At least your murderer will be good-looking,” she simply comments while getting up.

 

“You know me Lydia, always wanted to leave this world on a pretty view.” He smiles up at her, foxlike and radiant.

 

She observes him for a moment with a complex expression, a mix of irritation and fondness, as if looking at a brain-damaged puppy. In the end she never answers, only kissing him on the forehead before leaving.

 

She only faces Derek for a split second while passing him, but the venom in her eyes sends a clear message. Should Derek make any wrong move, she would be the first in line to take a bite out of him. She doesn’t even reach his chin in high heels, and Derek believes her wholeheartedly.

 

Boyd’s hand falls on his shoulder with all the weight of an executer’s axe. Derek is still dripping oil everywhere.

 

He hates his life.

 

 

xxx

 

 

Living in the Stilinskis’ mansion is…different.

 

His room is austere, basic furniture and neutral wallpaper, but the mattress is perfect and the view on the garden amazing. Derek hasn’t brought a lot of things except books that end up all over the place, and some clothes. He takes off the ridiculous generic painting of flowers on the wall and hides it inside the closet.

 

He spends almost all his free time in his room, despite its almost depressing emptiness.

 

The corridors are always crawling with Stilinskis, most of them eyeing him with overt animosity, others flashing their weapons at him with savage grins. Derek is used to work in hostile environments but the omnipresence of the threats is making his skin crawl.

 

He mainly eats with Chris Argent, who knocked on his door the day of his arrival. He’s the only face left here from Derek’s past. He has aged, too much for so few years, but he smiles warmly at Derek when he shakes his hand. Derek does the same, and doesn’t ask about his fiery wife that used to cook like other people gutted a deer. Derek has learned to resolve the equation of pain and absence a long time ago.

 

When Derek isn’t reading or sleeping or eating silently in Chris’ company, he’s at Stilinski’s side. Isaac and Boyd have been his babysitters for the first few days, never leaving him alone for a second. Derek tries not to sigh audibly each time one of them looks up sharply when he gets up to make some tea.

 

Isaac is usually in charge of late afternoons and later nights, coming in the office with the ruffled hair and the grumpy murmurs of the just-awaken.

He has a unique way of guarding someone, always lounging on flat surfaces like a forgotten model from a fashion photo-shoot. When he’s vertical, he tends to melt against the walls or the shelves to play annoying games on his iPhone. Derek has still to find any weapon of any kind of him. He spends his days swearing at his screen, bantering with Stilinski for hours or smirking obnoxiously at Derek, trying to goad him into violence.

 

At first, Derek is so shocked by the kid’s complete ineptitude for the job that he’s almost offended in Stilinski’s stake.

 

It takes him several days to unwrap the pretty thing packaged in indolence bullshit. When he finally does, it doesn’t take him long to finally make him pinpoint the thing that made him stop and take notice during their first meeting.

 

Derek’s bored and he watches Isaac lazily wandering the room, shoulders low and spine rounded, and he finally sees the way his body is always splayed somewhere between Derek and Stilinski. Isaac plays his game, and his eyes flickers discreetly all over the room without pauses, jumping from Stiles to Derek to the screen. His hand is always deep in his pocket and Derek knows, just knows, that some kind of weapon is there, ready to nip in the bud any abrupt movement from Derek. 

 

This kid is not a guard dog.

He’s a hyena.

 

He will roll and laugh in the grass, overplaying his harmlessness. But he’s only waiting for a reason to crush bones beneath his teeth. Just thinking about it gives Derek bad chills, and he tries to stay as far away from the metaphor as possible.

 

 

Derek’s nanny in the mornings was, however, casted in a whole other mold. Boyd could be the textbook definition of hired muscles, his frame impressive even after several days with him. He is layers and layers of strength over a core of unmoving waters. The man is clearly wary of Derek’s presence, cold and watching him with hawk eyes, but without aggressiveness. He looks at Derek with the placid certitude that should he try to hurt Stilinski, he would only crash again and again against him and break into pieces.

 

But around Stilinski, the man changes. It’s something faint and profound at the same time, difficult to pin down. It’s a lightness in his jokes, a softening of his voice, the increased caution of his hands. But it’s also some ancient quality that comes and goes in waves, in the devotion of lowered eyes, in shy smiles under a mundane compliment, in a coffee made with hair-splitting precision.

 

Sometimes, Boyd bows deeply at an order and Stilinski pushes him back with a hand on his face, laughing happily.

 

Derek, from his designated spot on the couch, is grudgingly fascinated by their interactions.

 

 

In the middle of everything there is Lydia, coming in and out of the office in a thunder of heels on wood and flows of files. She is frightening in her efficiency, her brains as sharp as a whip and her tongue even more dangerous. Her remarks are often acidic, she swears violently to the heavens at men’s stupidity and she likes to burry one of her heel in Isaac’s flank when he’s pretending to sleep a little too well. But she takes the time to explain everything all the time, despite Stilinski tendencies to lose focus, and always brushes away his apologies.

 

To Derek, she now only allows the same level attention one would give to a new ornamented chair: a basic awareness so as not to bump into the new furniture and a distracted look here and there to admire a well-done embroidery.

 

 

And the rest of the time is, well. Stilinski.

 

With the jokes and the obsession for comic books and obscure movies. The brain exploding in all directions every second, fireworks of ideas between his neurons, and a mouth that can’t stop running.

 

Stilinski drowning in files and caffeine and looking up just to smile at all of them.

 

With too many hands movement, and the crazy hair, and who falls from his chair at least once a day and almost brains himself against the desk.

 

Stilinski who always takes the time to describe new things to anybody present in the room, and insists to include them in decisions. Stilinski who somehow makes the worst coffee for Boyd and Isaac and always over-brews Derek’s tea, but keeps trying anyway.

 

Stilinski who is not a kid. Twenty-one, with huge hands and corded forearms, high cheekbones and broad shoulders.

 

Stilinski who’s wicked smart and kind of beautiful in the morning his mouth and eyes and collarbones peeking out of messy shirts.

 

Stilinski who whimpers over paperwork, sucks on pens and drowns pornographic moans in his coffee.

 

Well.

 

 

The less said about Stilinski, the better.

 

 

xxx

 

 

Laura’s ringtone is, somehow, even more irritating in his new room, resounding shrilly between the walls. Derek cringes and looks at his sister’s name on the screen for long seconds before picking up.

 

“Baby bro! How’s the life of a kept man treating you?”

 

Derek hangs up. It takes Laura calling back six times before he capitulates.

 

“I hate you,” he growls.

 

“Please, don’t lie to yourself, I’m the light of your life and you know it.” Her voice is amused and fond and Derek has missed it cruelly. Since their family’s death, he has never liked being separated from her. “So! Tell me everything! How is life at Stilinski’s castle? Did they put you in a crown and pretty gown and let you brood at the window all day long? Is it everything you dreamed of?”

 

Despite the teasing, Derek almost blurts something humiliating, conditioned by years of confessions to this exact tone of voice. He has to physically grit his teeth to keep the knee-jerk answer in. He doesn’t want to imagine how many years of mockery “I don’t think they like me” would bring him.

Also, Laura would try to round kick Stilinski in the face like she did to the kids that made fun of Derek’s ears and teeth. This would turn ugly fast.

 

“The bed is good, the library is amazing but Stilinski won’t stop talking. I might snap and strangle him one day, so, you know. You should prepare for a war, just in case.”

 

Laura’s laugh is an easy thing, free and inelegant, and it’s a sound associated to some of Derek’s best memories in life.

 

“Please, don’t. They would eat us alive,” she chuckles. After a second, she sobers up “And how do you know Stilinski speaks so much? Did my evil plan of sending you all naked and oily backfired? I thought the code of honor was strong in these ones.”

 

There is still humor in her voice but Derek can hear the worry lurking under. He tries not to sigh and remind her that he weights twice Stilinski’s weight and could break him with one hand. The thought should not be as alluring as it is.

 

“I’m just one of his bodyguards Laura,” he reassures her softly.

 

“Oooh!” she squeals gleefully, clapping her hands. Derek can’t believe they are blood-related. “This is awesome! Tell me everything! Well. Not anything that would end up with you thrown into the river for spying. Did you meet others? Are they all as hot and scarily efficient as the woman that came here to claim you as Stilinski’s booty? The Martin.”

 

“I haven’t met all of them, no. Chris Argent’s daughter is one of them apparently, as are the Reyes’ and the Yukimura’s. And how did you know Lydia was a Martin?” he asks, surprised.

 

“Please. This is a Stilinski’s purebred if I’ve ever seen one. And they only have that many stunning, ruthless redheads in designer clothes in their family. She’s even more beautiful than her mother, and I’ve seen this woman punch Kate right in the face with a diamond ring. I didn’t know sexier was possible, but apparently it is. I should have offered myself as a tribute. At worst, Lydia Martin would have crushed my neck under her heels and I would have enjoyed every second of it, I just know it.” she croons. Then, after a short pause, “also, she introduced herself. Not all of us are social failures Derek.”

 

“You are shameless and a disgrace to our family name,” deadpans Derek.

 

“Please, our parents were the worst and you know it,” Laura rebukes him with a snort, “Dad would have spilled all the family’s secrets with hearts in his eyes just to impress John and I’m pretty sure there is a shrine in one of mom’s safe called “things Claudia touched”. They had the strongest respect boner for them and I would bet our entire inheritance that there have been foursome proposals in the past.”

 

“You disturb me.” Then, because it deserves to be repeated, “You disturb me.”

 

She laughs, delighted by the pain in his voice. Derek listens to her giggles and tries not to smile.

 

 

xxx

 

 

The morning is a dull but relaxed one. Derek is sitting loosely at his designated spot on the couch, fighting no to doze off in the comfortable warmth of the room. He has been guzzling tea since he woke up, but it’s not enough to compensate for a late night talking with his sister.

 

From his spot on the side of the desk, Boyd is totally laughing at him despite his straight face. He’s been helping fill basic paperwork all morning, checking little boxes with the air of a man learning to disarm a bomb. Lydia just left the room in a flurry of red hair and glasses, stealing a cup of Derek perfectly brewed tea while passing. Stilinski immediately faceplanted on his desk and hasn’t moved for four minutes now, nose and forehead squished against the wood.

 

The only signs of life left are random whimpers of suffering.

 

Derek smirks in his Earl Grey at a new, particularly pathetic one. He will give the man five more minutes before starting to mock him. The pile of files is impressively high and boring today. He just witnessed Stilinski and Lydia argue for half an hour on the subject of dental plans for men in Minnesota.

 

The door opens widely, shattering their calm bubble. The newcomer is a stranger to Derek, who took care to remember every faces in the manor these last days. He’s young, with a crooked jaw and shaggy hair. More worrying, he’s followed by four of the biggest dogs Derek has ever seen. Derek gets up slowly, putting his mug down on the table. He closes up on Stilinski, his eyes never leaving the stranger.

 

Stilinski raises his head, nose and forehead red and flattened. His whole face lights up.

 

“Scott!” He beams before vaulting over the corner of the desk and almost hitting Derek in the face with a flying elbow.

 

The stranger – Scott – laughs and grasps him by his waist, picking Stilinski up in a bear hug. Derek glances at Boyd who didn’t even look up. The hug devolves in some kind of weird nuzzling thing for a moment before they separate with mirrored demented grins.

 

“I missed you so much! Now please, do your job and save me from paperwork. It’s getting out of control. I’m pretty sure it’s gaining sentience, and will take over the house soon by suffocating me. That, or the boredom will slay me,” he whines, high and pitiful. Scott’s hands clasp on his neck, serious but smiling.

 

“I love you, you know that. And I will always be the knight in shining armor rescuing you on my white stallion when you need me. But dude, even I won’t go against Lydia. It’s Lydia. And I kind of want to be able to give my daughter a brother or sister one day”

 

Stilinski groans dramatically. “You would look very fetching in an armor,” he concedes grudgingly.

“I would”

 

Stilinski sends him a last pleading glance before sighing, defeated.

 

“Ok. So if my break is only to be temporary, at least give me news about your two girls and my future goddaughter,” he laments. He slaps his thighs three times, squatting. “Come here puppies,” he croons, voice sweet. The dogs, behaving perfectly until then and sitting at Scott’s feet, all jump forward. 

 

Derek watches, horrified, the man he’s supposed to protect topple to the ground under six hundred pounds of muscle and fur.

 

He blinks at the scene, frozen on the spot with a hand on his waist looking for an absent gun. One of the dogs catches Stilinski’s sleeve in its heavy jaw and starts pulling roughly while shaking its massive head. Alarmed, Derek instinctively advances on them with a shout.

 

He only has a fraction of second to regret his reflex before the pack turns on him, behavior shifting drastically. Hackles raised, they start growling low in their throats. Their eyes fixated on Derek, they slowly circle Stilinski, moving with cat-like grace despite their size. The hair bristling all over their spine only reinforces the feeling of sheer power emanating from them.

Derek has heard stories of guard dogs tearing a man to pieces like a toy in minutes. These dogs, heavier than him and taller than a human on two paws, could do it in half the time without even trying really hard. He swallows.

 

He backs off slowly, hands and shoulders lowered to project as much passiveness as possible. The situation stays still for a small eternity, the growls only rising up in volume.

 

“Scott.” Stilinski’s exasperated voice slashes the tension like a knife.

 

Scott rolls his eyes but clicks his tongue imperiously. The dogs obediently crawl back to his heels, sitting all around him. They calm rapidly under his hands.

 

“So, Derek. Not a dog person I presume?” asks Stilinski, limply spread on the floor and a chuckle in his voice.

 

“I am. But these are not dogs. These are domestic accidents gift-wrapped in paws and teeth,” he answers, observing warily the animals. On the ground, Stilinski bursts out laughing. Even upside down, the view is still frustratingly enticing.

 

“Scott has raised every dogs of this manor since they were pups. They are huge fuzz balls, really, don’t let yourself be fooled by their bad boy’s appearances,” he looks at Derek, eyes dancing with mirth. Then, after a second of reflection, he amends “but don’t piss them off either. They have ancestors that literally fought bears and lions in arenas or were used as war dogs. So you know, fascinating and gross…”

 

“Derek?” interrupts Scott, clearly used to Stilinski’s babble, “I left for, like, a week. When in the world did you go hunting for a new bodyguard?”

 

The guy’s head cocks on the side when he’s perplexed and with the floppy hair and earnest expression he gives off an ironical but distinct canine vibe.

 

Stilinski imperiously raises a hand in the air and Derek catches it automatically. With one good pull, he brings the man back to his feet. Stilinski, gracious creature that he is, stumbles and almost goes back down. Derek grips one of his shoulder to stabilize him, gaining a grateful smile from up-close.

 

“Oh yeah Scotty, you haven’t met our shiny new recruit yet! Since you decided to get one of my best bodyguard pregnant then kidnap her and Kira for a week, I had to choose a new one all by my lonesome self. So, I decided to go with the insanely hot and silent type. I really liked the first one I got from this design.” He blows a kiss toward Boyd with a cheesy wink. The man raises his eyebrows.

 

“I feel so objectified right now”

 

“Aaw, Boo. You know that while I will never deny the aesthetical delight that watching you inspires me, my love for you is pure and transcend your eye-candy potential. You provide me perfect coffee and make Isaac squirm when I’m bored: you are my soulmate,” he vows, one hand clutching his chest dramatically.

 

Boyd looks at him with bashful eyes, his expression all small smile and badly hidden preening. Derek stares at Stilinski and can actually see the need to coo at Boyd seeps into every lines of his body.

 

These people are crazy.

 

“Stiles. Derek,” reminds Scott patiently, obviously used to getting Stilinski back on tracks.

 

“Oh, yeah. Derek. Hale. Derek Hale. Like James Bond but with more eyebrows and more abs.”

 

“Hale?” squeaks Scott, voice strangled, “Oh my god, Stiles, no. No. You have to put it back where you found him!”

 

“Derek is not a dog Scott. I’m not going to release him into the wildness to frolic in the forest. Also, his sister gave him to me,” he adds proudly, patting Derek on the chest.

 

“Don’t release dogs into the wild! That unadvised,” Scott protests, dismayed. Then, after a blink, “And you can’t give people to other people.”

 

“That’s what I said! But apparently they are only renting him to us until they find all the money, and renting is ok. And, you know. It would be…rude not to use a gift”

 

His voice turns thin and distracted at the end, his attention floating away from the conversation. Derek follows his gaze only to end on one of the dog, sitting with Scott’s fingers wrapped around his collar. Even standing beside the others, this one is monstrous in size. It is a marvel of heavy jaw and bulging muscles, cream fur fading into a severe black mask over its face. The dog is looking right back at Stilinski, whole body trembling in excitation, tail batting the air and eyes shining with adoration.

 

Scott, clearly aware of the situation, stop trying to talk and only releases his grips on the collar. The dog flies toward Stilinski, who falls on his ass with a “whoop” of delight and arms tightly clenched around its neck.

 

“This is Indiana.”

 

It takes Derek an embarrassingly long time to understand that Scott is talking to him. To be fair, the dog is licking all over Stilinski’s face and the man is laughing brightly and cooing stupid things about teeny tiny paws and blowing raspberries on it. The dog’s paws are the size of his head. The scene is utterly riveting.

 

“Indi,” repeats Scott slowly when Derek finally turns his attention to him with slightly distracted eyes. “We found him when we took down a family that loved to organize dog fights. He was just a scrawny pup then, half-starved. Probably an unwanted breeding between fighting dogs left to die,” he continues, apparently decided to engage in small talk.

 

Derek raises an eyebrow. The dog is big enough to be classified as a small pony. Scott nods, silently admitting Derek’s point.

 

“He grew up,” he only says.

 

“Does he have hellhound blood?” asks Derek, almost serious. This gets him a smile, although tiny.

 

“There is a lot of Kangal, that’s for sure. I’ve never seen a dog so bossy with other dogs,” he smirks, “the other parts we have no idea. He could be half bear for all I know. But he’s really loyal, and Stiles is his favorite thing in the whole world. I pity the poor soul that would try to hurt him on Indi’s territory”.

 

He doesn’t even try to hide his threat or his spiteful glance. Derek forces himself to ignore them.

 

“Indiana is a weird name for a dog,” he only comments. From the ground, there is an outraged gasp.

 

“It’s an awesome name for a dog,” defends loyally Scott.

 

“Dude! Respect the holiness that is young Harrison Ford,” squeaks Stilinski, mortally offended.

 

“The paperwork?” Intervene Boyd calmly, cutting through the chaos. Stilinski deflates with a high-pitched whine. Indiana starts licking him with more enthusiasm, apparently worried that the quality of his tongue bath could be the reason of his master’s distress.

 

“Sorry buddy,” whispers Scott, helping Stilinski get up while fending off the overfriendly Indiana. Derek can’t say if Scott is addressing his boss or the dog. He’s still pondering which one is presenting the most pitiful puppy eyes.

 

“I’m leaving, seems like you have a lot to do,” he points his chin at the piles of files invading the desk, “but let’s eat together tonight. Allison and Kira missed you something fierce. And Indi will be there”

 

Stilinski raises his head from his theatrical goodbyes to the dog with a goofy smile.

 

“Aaw babe, you sell it so well. Puppies, beautiful girls and a cute boy.” He bats his eyelashes at him. Scott laughs.

 

“It’s almost as if I knew you!” After a pause, he looks directly at Derek and smirks a little before saying very distinctly “Boyd, you are welcome too. And Erica if she’s back?”

 

Boyd shakes his head, amused. Stilinski huffs.

 

“So rude Scotty. So rude. I did not raise you that way,” he turns toward Derek, “don’t mind him. He spent way too many years with dogs and he was always bad at sharing his toys”

 

Scott shrugs but doesn’t deny it.

 

“I’m going to help Alli and Kira unpack. I will see you tonight?” he asks with a smile. Stilinski nods. “Perfect. Also, I’m leaving Fluff with you. He spent too much time alone in the kennel these past weeks, he’s becoming anxious. He’s training hard, but he needs bonding time with you anyway.”

 

“If I really have to,” Stiles answers with a fake sigh, wrapping his fingers around one of the dog’s collar with an excited grin. The dog licks his hands, tail waving uncontrollably. He’s as big as the others, Indiana excepted, but thinner and ganglier, obviously at the awkward age between puppy and fully-grown adult.

 

Scott leaves with a pointed glare between Derek and the dog, the message clear. Despite his youth, the dog is perfectly able and willing to tear Derek’s throat if he tries anything. Stilinski rolls his eyes.

 

“Sorry for that. They tend to treat me like a frail baby deer sometimes. On the other hand, we won Fluff so it’s a good deal,” he coos, fingers messing with the dog fur and his flopping hair. The dog buts his head against his hands with an excited whine, before sitting down and panting in joy, tongue lolling out of his mouth.

 

After a second of reflection, Derek decides to repress the last minutes and only asks “Fluffy? Who the hell is naming these dogs?”

 

Stilinski laughs, surprised and loud and kind of perfect.

 

“Fluffy! This one is all on Scott. But we all suffer it in silence because he only discovered Harry Potter last year and he was very excited and cute. We had no chance.”

 

 

Xxx

 

 

In all honesty, Derek was not expecting the pretty girl with the katana.

 

 

“Kira,” she introduces herself with an extended hand and sparkling smile.

 

“Derek,” he answers, shaking her hand warily.

 

 

Derek has been working for Stilinski for three weeks now, and it’s the first time someone reacts to his presence with overt friendliness.

 

Allison Argent, two days ago, has come the closest to it, smiling at him with caution while sitting next to her father at lunch. She was polite, making small talk and ignoring her father’s silence or Scott’s glares. Despite Kate haunting their interactions for the entire time, Allison’s eyes had stayed kind and soft. Under Scott’s tender hand, her belly was only starting to show and she radiated simple happiness.

 

Derek likes Allison.

 

 

He’s less sure about Danny, who alternates his visits between drilling Stiles on cybersecurity, spurting long strings of incomprehensible words, and flirting with Derek. He’s handsome, white smile and tanned skin, but he makes the fatal mistake of standing next to Stilinski every time and, sadly, Derek seems to have developed a slight Stockholm syndrome. Apparently Derek’s brain has decided that a tight V-neck over a muscled torso has nothing over beauty marks and a mouth made to be bitten. He’s appalled at himself.

 

 

Parrish, Parrish is the worst. They have developed an instant -and fierce- mutual hate the moment they met. Maybe more one sided than mutual, but it was really instant. The first time Derek has ever seen him, Parrish strutted in the office wearing a fitted suit and dazzling grin before throwing the cheesiest pick up line to ever been voiced by man at Stilinski.

 

Really, really instant.

 

Parrish is apparently working in law enforcement, even if he avoided giving more information, clearly distrustful of Derek. The man kissed Stilinski on the nose and made a whispered compliment about his cologne and Derek had to force himself not to show him his teeth. He’s always despised dirty cops.

 

 

“I heard a lot about you from Alli and Scott,” chirps Kira, seemingly not disturbed by Derek’s distraction. Derek can hear the excitement dripping from her voice and he forces himself not to be irrationally suspicious.

 

“I’m sure Scott had only lovely compliments for me,” he jokes, smiling prudently. Her nose wrinkles in amusement and she smirks. A pained moan interrupts them.

 

“Derek don’t be fooled by the sunshine oozing from her person. She’s the worst. She likes to hurt me for fun,” Stiles whines, kissing her on the cheek.

 

“With…katanas? Are you into samurai role play or something?”  

 

“Ah. Ah. First, she’s in the most disgustingly cute relationship ever known to man, and I like to think that they all live under my roof in a perfectly sexless union. Because my brain refuses to handle the images of a threesome involving my best friend; I don’t want to know how my precious goddaughter was conceived. Ever,” he shivers dramatically and Kira punches him in the shoulder, amused. “Also, we don’t talk about the katanas. We don’t joke about them. We don’t even think about them. She is terrifying. Between the katana and the guns that she somehow hides everywhere, I always feel like I’m training surrounded by a bubble made of badass.”

 

Kira beams, caressing the handle of her sword with soft fingers. She straightens.

 

“We should go now. We have a lot to do, and I know you’ve skipped all the exercises I asked you to do in my absence”

 

“Lydia?” Stiles winces.

 

“Please. I’ve known you since we were four. I know you don’t run unless there is either food ahead or me behind.” She shakes her head.

 

“Our friendship is deep and meaningful. She just gets me,” indicates Stilinski pointedly, turning toward Derek.

 

“I can see that M. Stilinski,” deadpans Derek. Stilinski cringes.

 

“Stiles. Repeat after me: Stiiiiiles,” he articulates slowly.

 

Derek looks back, stoically, and keeps quiet. 

 

“Stiles,” says Kira with a smile, “focus. You go put something else on, and we are going in ten minutes. Do you want to take Fluffy with us?”

 

Hearing his name, the dog perks up, his tail waving; he still doesn’t move his head from Derek’s thigh and Derek keeps dutifully playing with his ears.

 

“I can’t break this blossoming love story.” Stilinski waves at the couch where they are sprawled in a pile of legs and paws, “while I spend my days slaving under Lydia’s tyranny, they spend their time snuggling. It’s frightfully adorable. Also now Fluffy can play dead for a sugar cube, which is mainly useless in a guard dog but I’m still impressed anyway.”

 

“Sugar cube?”

 

“…Don’t tell Scott.”

 

Derek ignores them both. Fluffy is a mighty ally inside the manor, and he likes to warm Derek’s feet when he’s reading a book. Also he’s a really clever dog, that hardly needs any treat to learn new tricks.

 

He rubs his finger in the silky fur on the side of Fluffy’s jaw and the dog pants happily, slobbering all over Derek’s jeans. Derek accepts it as a reasonable price for their friendship.

 

Stilinski is finally dragged whining and pleading outside the room, Kira almost hauling him over her shoulder in her enthusiasm. Stilinski makes sad eyes at Derek but he only waves his fingers at him, watching him disappear through the door.

 

Surprisingly, the silence quickly becomes stifling. He’s used now to the office always being filled with life one way or another. Isaac and Stilinski bantering. Boyd's quiet grumbles and acidic remarks. Stilinski trying to woo numbers into obedience or singing badly along the radio. Lydia's velvety voice and unexpected, warm laughs. Danny's technobabble. Parrish' stupid pick-up lines.

 

Without noise, the room seems hollow. He tries to read for an hour but finally gives up with an irritated huff. Not knowing how long the training session will take, he decides to go outside and breath some fresh air.

 

 

The front door is not really opened yet but Fluffy forces his way through, barreling outside in a mess of excitation, fur and happy barks. Derek shakes his head, smiling, and follows placidly.

 

The garden is Derek’s favorite place in the Stilinski’s estate, with its perfectly ordered beauty. Rows of old trees shadow a path of white gravel, their vast foliage making the light dance on the ground. The plants everywhere are luscious, shining in the sun with the healthy green only found under the hand of a gifted gardener. The flowers, colorful and fragrant, are painted with an artist’s precision all over the perfectly cut grass.

 

Of course, his musings are immediately interrupted by Fluffy digging in one of the flower beds with pleased little grunts. Derek grips his collar and drags him away, the dog letting himself be moved, lax and trustful. Derek grimaces at the small bush now tilting pathetically on the left, and tries to repair it with the tip of his shoe. Fluffy tries to help, twisting his heavy body around Derek’s legs. After a few minutes of trying to keep the dog away with a hand on his dirt-coated muzzle while trying to get to the uncooperative bush, Derek gives up with a shrug.

 

Somewhere, Indiana is guarding his domain, huge shadowy gargoyle under the sun, and he’s judging Derek’s whole life. Derek just knows it.

 

They are rounding the back of the manor when he catches a long, breathy litany of profanity in a familiar voice. He smirks and changes course.

 

 

Kira is chuckling, a slightly husky, charming sound. She’s leaning over, one hand on her thigh and the other keeping her damp hair from falling all over her face. The katana is not there anymore, but the butt of a gun is peaking out of the holster on her hip.

 

Next to her, Stilinski is stretching with pitiful groans, only clad in a tank top and batman shorts. Derek has spent days watching him in his suits and long sleeves shirts. He can feel his brain split in two under the effort of mapping every unknown inch of skin and muscle revealed.

 

Stilinski gives up the position on Kira’s prompting. He whines something, smiling anyway, before rolling on the ball of his heels then raising his arms toward the sky to stretch blissfully, body balanced on his tiptoes.

 

Derek catches a devastating glimpse of happy trail and hipbones and flees in self-defense.

 

 

Boyd finds him in the office, sulking on the couch. Proving once more that he’s one of Derek’s favorite, he only sits next to him before offering a cup of tea, without comment. They drink in silence.

 

When Stilinski’s steps echo in the corridor, Derek is painfully, painfully aware that he and the dog perk up in the exact same way.

 

Stilinski comes in with a tired smile, wet hair, a suit trouser and a damp shirt clinging to his waist and shoulders. Fluffy paws at him and he laughs, hugging the dog joyously. He looks at them over Fluffy’s head and smiles, his eyes crinkling and fond.

 

He has suspenders on.

 

Derek hates him.

 

 

xxx

 

 

Derek is fuzzily crossing the manor one morning, rubbing at his stubble and yawning, when he bumps into Boyd.

 

Embarrassingly, he bounces back and has to stumble a bit to get his balance back. Still not awake, he blinks at him for long second, perplexed.

 

“Where are you going? I thought you were my babysitter today? Am I late?”  

 

Boyd and him are starting to get along pretty well, but despite their tentative friendship he would never let him alone with Stilinski, not even for a second. The man is paranoid about Stilinski’s safety and, to be honest, Derek kind of agrees with him. This disruption of their morning ritual is throwing him off his game.

 

“Hello to you too,” Boyd smiles, one of his huge hand landing on Derek’s shoulder to help stabilize him. His face is pinched in a weird way, almost mirthful under his usual front of impassibility, “Erica came back last night, she’s with Stiles. She will stay with you.” He looks at Derek, shakes his head, and starts walking again past Derek.

 

“I’m going to catch back on sleep. Good luck!” he throws over his shoulder with a rumbling chuckle.

 

He turns around the corner and Derek is left alone, blinking at empty air. He looks down at Fluffy and the dog looks back, panting happily.

 

Suddenly more alert and vaguely worried, he quickly swallows the two corridors separating him from the office and throws the door open without knocking.

 

And almost closes it right back in denial.

 

 

Stilinski smiles sunnily at him, even throwing in a dorky wave. He’s slouched in his desk chair, rumpled and wearing his usually messy informal suit.

 

There is a blonde bombshell draped all over his lap.

 

She looks perfectly at ease, her long legs clad in expensive leather boots dangling over the armrest and her head resting against Stilinski’s shoulder. She’s raking red fingernails distractedly through his hair, lazily trying to tame the crazy strands of his bed hair. She turns toward Derek slowly, all narrowed eyes and sharp smile.

 

She’s offensively beautiful.

 

 

The moment freezes for long seconds, tense.

 

“Tasty,” she finally purrs lewdly.

 

“Somehow, I knew you would approve, love. Surely because he’s exactly your type: quiet, sarcastic, intense, and strong enough to pin you against a wall.”

 

She looks up at Stilinski, her painted lips softening in a fond little smile. She brushes her nose against his cheekbone.

 

“You know me so well,” she hums, “and for that, you know that I would let you fuck me.”

 

Derek’s jaw clenches and his whole body goes tense. She’s looking at him through half-lidded eyes and Derek’s has to fight a growl.

 

Stilinski bursts out laughing.

 

“God no. Never happening. Oh, let’s be clear, you are so beautiful I sometimes want to cry when I catch you under certain lights but you terrify me. Also, your husband would twist my head off.” He pets her hair, making her golden curls bounce. She pushes her head in his palms with a blissful expression.

 

“Please. Boyd loves you more than me I swear, it’s almost tragic. I sometimes wonder if you didn’t find him in a basket under a bridge on a rainy day. It’s dysfunctional and disgustingly cute,” she pauses, smiling warmly at Stilinski despite her words. Her face suddenly lights up “Oh! Threesome!”

 

“No.”

 

She pouts melodramatically but her eyes are dancing, delighted. Stilinski shakes his head, obviously highly amused. Derek clears his throat.

 

Stilinski looks back at him with surprise, Derek’s presence clearly forgotten. Derek tries not to be offended and doesn’t really succeed.

 

“Oh yes, Erica, so this is Derek Hale, my new bodyguard and the prettiest gift ever given by the Hales. Derek, this is the infamous Erica Reyes, a childhood friend and one of my must trusted advisors. She came back this morning from six weeks managing our different branches. Nobody can rally the troops like she does: she knows how to inspire this perfect ratio of lust and terror in people to make them fulfill all her wishes,” explains Stilinski.

 

Erica chuckles throatily and kisses his cheek. Her lips leave a red splash of color on his skin and she rubs at it with the pads of her fingers.

 

“Nice to meet you,” lies Derek through gritted teeth.

 

She turns her head and, once her face is out of Stilinski field of view, her warmth melts. Her whole expression rearranges slightly in something almost creepy, all dead red smile and eyes of frozen steel. Her arm slithers behind Stilinski’s neck, her thigh sliding on the side to wrap her high heel behind his calf. She is coiling around him, slow, subtle and possessive.

 

And Derek, who has learned the hard way to recognize beauty meant as warning for danger and destruction, can see how she wears hers in the way the deadliest animals arbors their vivid shades.

 

She is the human embodiment of a dare to try to come closer and touch and die.

 

“Charmed,” she hisses in saccharine tones. She turns back to Stilinski, “I heard about him through Boyd. Heard he was good. But Stiles, as hot as he is, which is a lot, do we really have to keep a stranger as your bodyguard? If we really need someone to take Alli’s place, I can do it for a few months. It’s been a long time since I’ve broken the bones of people coming to bother you.”

 

Stilinski laughs, again, and she rolls under the hand on her waist in reptilian ripples. It’s mesmerizing to watch.

 

Derek wants to rip her off by her hair.

 

She notices his aborted movement with cool curiosity, and she snuggles closer to Stilinski with a mean little smile. She never breaks eye contact with Derek.

 

“You can’t be my bodyguard love,” answers Stilinski calmly, entirely obvious of the power play building in the room, “I need you out here, keeping people from doing stupid things with our investments. Also, you tend to break bones for fun when you’re in a bad mood, and it’s just not good meeting etiquette.”

 

“Lydia makes them cry!” She tries to protest indignantly, but her voice is too full of glee at the idea.

 

“Yes but at least their egos are the only thing that she shatters on a daily basis. It’s way better for our productivity.” He kisses the crown of her head. “Derek is a good thing, and we were really lucky. Play nice. Now, please give me back the use of my arms. I am late on paperwork and Lydia won’t hesitate to hurt me, you know it.”

 

Erica disentangles herself quickly, sliding from his lap smoothly. She straightens up and her whole body moves like a highly controlled, sharpened weapon.

 

Advisor, Derek’s ass.

 

“I don’t trust him,” she persists.

 

“I do. You will too after learning to know him,” Stiles answers, frowning.

 

“He’s an outsider!” she spits. This time the hostility is obvious, venom seeping in her raised voice. Stilinski looks at her, startled.

 

“I trust him.” The rebuke cleaves the air like a whip, immediate and absolute.

 

Erica stares at him for a long time, body puffed up in fury. She’s tense, mouth open like a snake ready to strike. Stilinski doesn’t lower his gaze, eyes cold and lips thin.

 

She finally turns abruptly on her heels, crossing the room with hurried steps and a pissed off gesture of surrender.

 

“I’m going to go sex up my husband. Don’t expect either one of us before tomorrow. Please don’t get killed by the Ken doll, I need someone to sign my pay checks,” she snarls, shoving Derek roughly out of the way when attaining the doorstep.

 

“Erica.” She stops at Stilinski’s voice, calm and soft in the tense air of the office. She doesn’t turn to face him, vibrating in indignation but obedient. “After all these years, I thought you had faith in my judgment.”

 

She deflates slowly, anger flowing out of her as fast as it rose.

 

“You know damn well that I do. I trust you with my life, with Boyd’s,” she says, low and earnest and fierce, “but not with yours. I adore you for your ability to see the best in people. But it will get you killed one day. And I love you too much for you to be allowed to die.” 

 

“I won’t. I’m too awesome for that. And I have all of you to protect my back if I ever fail.” He beams at her and her shoulders finally sag, defeated.

 

“I will send Isaac here on my way. See you tomorrow,” she only answers sadly.

 

She closes the door shut delicately with a last wary glance to Derek. The silence in the room is thick.

 

“Sooo. That was Erica!” says Stilinski, “Oh and hi Derek! Good morning, you look really dashing this morning, hope you slept well, et cætera,” he continues with a smirk and his usual spastics hands movements.

 

“Good morning sir,” he responds slowly, too wrong-footed to be amused.

 

“Ok, no, stop. Today is the day I’m putting my foot down. Here I’m Stiles and nothing else. The ‘sir’ stuff is really kinky and everything, congratulation, but it’s starting to weird me out. You’ve seen me nearly brain myself twice a day with my own chair and trip on the dog. Decorum is long dead between us, let’s be honest.” He wrinkles his nose, self-depreciating and friendly.

 

“If you insist, Stiles”

 

The intimacy of the name feels good rolling on his tongue.

 

“Good! Now, there was way too much drama in this office and it’s not even ten in the morning. So I’m going to do paperwork before Lydia decides to add blood and tears to this wonderful morning. You, go sit and look pretty. Don’t be too adorable with the dog, you are supposed to protect me, not send my blood pressure through the roof. Also, please feel free to share as many stories of Laura’s magnificence as you can.”

 

Derek falls heavily on the couch, followed immediately by Fluffy climbing all over him. Derek endures it stoically, not even wincing when the dog bruises his spleen with a wayward paw. Stiles watches him with gentle eyes.

 

“Your addiction to my sister is disturbing on so many levels,” Derek says haltingly, still a little bit breathless.

 

“She put walkie-talkies in the walls of this homophobic bastard from your clan and made him believe he was living over the vestige of a gay Turkish bath. She round kicked bullies in the face,” gushes Stiles, face enraptured.

 

“She was eight!” amends Derek, slightly defensive.

 

“She’s a queen and she already has my platonic heart all squished in her hands. Also, I’m sure she has all the baby pictures. I am ready to take off a few thousands grands from the debt to see mini-you, with all the ears and the bunny teeth and the cute.”

 

Derek focuses on not getting embarrassed. He doesn’t remind Stiles that most of these pictures burned years ago.

 

“Lydia would kill you,” he mutters.

 

Stiles looks up, nose wrinkled and his expression delighted.

 

“Derek,” he starts gravely, “I am sorry to be the one to enlighten you so abruptly, but Lydia wants to get freaky with your sister. I’m pretty sure she would take money off herself for pictures of Laura in pigtails.”

 

Derek splutters and almost throws Fluffy off his perch on Derek’s arm and shoulder. He takes a paw in the nose for his mistake.

 

“She does not!” He protests childishly.

 

“She does!” Insists Stiles, eyes alight with hilarity, “Come on dude. It’s Lydia. You know Lydia now. Tell me, you really think she would have left your place with only a half-naked you and no money if she didn’t want to get in your sister’s good graces? It’s Lydia. She would have collected and sold everybody’s liver by herself if need be, and you know it. This was her version of sweet.”

 

Derek gapes at him helplessly. Stiles stares back, eyebrows dancing playfully on his face.

 

“Let’s stop damaging your brain,” Stiles finally concedes after a long silence, “Tell me stuff about the goddess that is your sister. Did she kick other people? Please tell me she did,” he begs.

 

“She did. So much. It’s starting to become a concerning habit. I’m pretty sure she took it from mom,” Derek sighs.

 

 

When Isaac comes into the office a few minutes later, Derek is remembering their mortifying night in a police station lost in Iowa years ago, the pathetic ending of a night including an unexpected road trip, a dusty bar, two truck drivers, a cute barmaid and some truly unorthodox uses of a pool cue by Laura.

 

Isaac takes it in stride, sprawling on the other side of the leather couch with his usual theatrical glory. He smiles at Derek from under his scarf. Fluffy is fast asleep against him, his breath warm and peaceful on Derek’s neck. Stiles is giggling in his paperwork, his nose too close to the paper. There is ink on his cheekbone already and his hair and clothes are a total disaster. He’s ridiculous and lovely and so, so alive.

 

Something is strangling Derek’s throat that he can’t really identify.

 

Somehow, it tastes like fear and fondness and home.

 

 

xxx

 

 

It has been a week since his last contact with Laura when Derek’s phone beeps in his pocket. The sound is still shrill and annoying, and Fluffy barks softly in surprise. Erica bends back over her chair’s armrest, her hair brushing against the floor. Even upside down, her smile is obviously mocking Derek’s inexistent social life. At his desk, Stiles stops listening to Parrish to stare, eyebrows raised in question.

 

“Laura,” grunts Derek, trying to extract his phone without spilling his tea all over the book on his lap.

 

Stiles perks up and even Parrish turns over to look at Derek.

 

“Send her all my love,” smiles Stiles, eyes gleeful.

 

Derek’s answer is distracted, unlocking his phone with his left hand, “No.”

 

 

How are things going bunny? :D’

 

He winces at the childhood nickname. Somehow, it always seems so much worse in writing. Stiles is pouting, but Derek ignores him.

 

 

Stop that. I am not a rabbit.’

 

Taping with his wrong hand is slow and difficult, and he can see the grandpa jokes starting to form on Erica’s tongue. He glares at her. She smirks back.

 

Laura’s answer is instantaneous.

 

 

your adorable teeth say otherwise =3 and is you avoiding the question code for “I am in danger please save me Laura, you are my only hope”?’

 

“Did she kick somebody else in the face?” asks Stiles, too curious to keep sulking for long.

 

“Stiles. I know Lydia taught you about the concept of personal stuff. I remember the PowerPoint. It was horrific.” Parrish shivers and Stiles pats his knee consolingly. Once more, Parrish is sitting on the side of Stiles’ desk, bent toward him and his foot resting against Stiles’ ribcage.

 

Maybe Parrish should have been the one to be more attentive during Lydia’s presentation.

 

 

“Despite what you seem to fantasize about, my sister doesn’t spend her days kicking people in the face,” answers Derek, ignoring Parrish.

 

“Do you enjoy destroying my dreams Derek?” whines Stiles, a laugh creeping in his voice.

 

“They totally brought back home the wrong Hale. We could have met the fun one,” muses Erica. Fluffy is snuffling at her ear, worried by her unusual position. She scratches his fur blindly. After a second of silence, Erica finally sighs, “I blame Isaac.”

 

“I hurt people for a living,” Derek reminds them. Somehow, the book-tea-dog-banter combination made them all forget his reputation as one of the best enforcer this side of the country. Derek has, literally, broken people in two with his bare hands.

 

Stiles coos at him, eyes fond, “of course you do. You are the scariest babe.”

 

Derek’s face freeze, torn between a frown and a smile at the pet name. Erica snorts, loud and graceless.

 

“Like it’s hard,” she drawls.

 

“Stop telling me these things. I am still a cop, I don’t want to know” sighs Parrish, shaking his head.

 

“Please,” Erica raises her head, looking at Parrish with clear disdain, “you are so dirty that your police badge is almost ironic at this point.”

 

Parrish shrugs. Stiles laughs so hard his elbow slides right off the desk and he almost crashes on the wood chin first. Derek ducks his head to type his answering text, hiding a small, happy grin.

 

 

Dog and tea are nice. People are insane. Please send good sense’

 

 

Two minutes later, he receives a smiling whale emoji.

 

 

xxx

 

 

Between the beautiful silver candlestick and the precious china, the table is a battlefield of crumbs, stained tablecloth and empty bottles.

 

At the head of the table, the birthday boy is oscillating slightly. Scott’s eyes are glazed but he’s beaming, his hand clasped tightly over his mother’s and babbling something about paintings in the nursery. After a long day spent getting everything ready, Melissa listens to him with a tired but fond smile.

 

On Scott’s left, Allison is the only bubble of sobriety of the table. Even under the harsh light, she’s lovely, her face illuminated by happiness. Buzzed and oozing joy, Kira has buried her head in Allison’s neck and is busy covering her skin in biting and playful kisses, trying to make her laugh. One of her hand is caressing tenderly Allison’s baby bump. Allison pets her hair with an indulgent grin, kissing her nose, ear or lips when she can catch them.

 

On the other side of the dining room, as far away as possible from Melissa’s judging eyes, a wild game of poker is starting to take a vicious turn.

                                                

There are eleven players sitting in a loose circle on the ground, some of them people from John’s generation that Derek hasn’t really interacted with. Ex-army, ancient SWAT, some Russian hitmen, and at least one ex-Mossad, they form a colorful mix of lethal people. Four of them are at least partially naked, proudly showing off body parts covered in more ink than skin. Chris is apparently betting weirder and weirder weapons to stay in the game, cheered on by a bare-chested and drunk Finstock. Parrish, shirt and shoes lost, is sending alarmed looks at the pile of weapons.

 

From the table, Derek is keeping an eye on Parrish from time to time. The man is a shameless hussy, and Derek just knows that he would take any opportunity to rub his half-naked body all over his boss. Derek glares at his abs regularly to keep them away.

 

Danny, completely dressed and steadily becoming the proud owner of the strangest weapon collection known to mankind, lays down his cards with a dazzling grin. Chris clutches the disturbing bastard child between a crossbow and a Taser gun against his heart with a pained whimper. After a few seconds of ribbing and yelling, the weapon ends up staying in Argent’s arms. His shirt is ripped off.

Danny’s smirks are attaining Jackson’s levels of smugness.

 

 

The clinking of ice cubes brings Derek’s attention back to the table and he bites back a grunt of horror. Lydia, cold blooded goddess Lydia, has opened a new bottle of Scotch and is currently filling back everyone’s glass without bothering to ask for permission. Scott, pure-hearted idiot that he is, looks at his full glass with awe and immediately starts drinking with enthusiasm. At Derek’s side, Stiles deflates with a plaintive cry but he raises his own glass and obediently sips from it. Derek follows, already resigned to die of liver failure at the ripe age of twenty-four.

 

Stiles perks up suddenly, abandoning his sad crouch over his glass, and turns to look at Derek with an impressively focused expression, considering the amount of alcohol in his organism.

 

“You should get a dog!” he shouts in Derek’s face.

 

After giving this remark the amount of thinking it deserves, Derek decides to point at Fluffy with some variant of a ‘duh’ sound. Stiles grips his hand on the table in his excitation and the noise dies swiftly in Derek’s throat.

 

“Let’s give a puppy to Derek! For humanity’s sake!” proclaims Stiles to the entire table, taking Derek’s absence of protest as clear consent. Derek is too busy staying as still as possible to care, worried of any movement reminding Stiles of their still interlocked hands.

 

“We are not giving a murder dog to Derek. I’m still not convinced he’s not an assassin in stripper-skin,” objects Isaac with the wide gestures of the completely smashed. He tries to squint suspiciously in Derek’s direction, and ends up looking distrustfully at the beautiful plotted plant against the wall behind him.

 

Derek isn’t really affected by the current topic. Fluffy’s head is a comforting weight on his thigh, heavy and familiar. The scotch is burning his throat and warming his stomach, the scent reminding him of his mother’s favorite drink. He now has the proof that Stiles’ fingers are longer than his own, and his hazy mind is blown by the myriad of scenarios this just opened.

 

He doesn’t have one susceptible bone in his body at the moment.

 

Stiles squeezes his hands reassuringly. “It’s because of all the eyebrows,” he laments.

 

He looks at Derek with a considering look of sympathy, as if pondering petting his eyebrows to comfort them. Derek tilts his head closer, hopeful. The idea sounds really nice.

 

Scott destroys his plan, as always, because he’s the worst.

 

 

“They are not murder dogs!” he yelps, all rosy cheeks and unaltered outrage.

 

“Yeah, yeah. We know,” Isaac dismisses him with a distracted wave of his hand. Erica takes advantage of his distraction and pounces, filling his glasses to the brink again. Old scotch spills over the edges, staining the white tablecloths. Lydia smiles proudly at Erica, her expression more frightening than a loaded gun. “They are all precious baby unicorns,” continues Isaac, unaware of the danger, “it’s only tragic they also suffer from a severe case of resting murder-face from hell.”

 

Scott splutters dramatically, releasing his mother to clasp both hands in front of his mouth to express the full extent of his horror. Stiles looks at this perfect rendition of Victorian outrage and dissolves in a pile of small hiccupping laughs.

Derek kind of wants to bite his jaw and feed him olives for the rest of their lives.

 

Of course, Stiles then almost falls down from his chair and everything turns blurry with adrenaline for a while. Somewhere, Melissa sighs loudly and Lydia screeches a warning, but Derek is too busy trying to keep them both upward to listen, only helped by dulled reflexes and half the legs of his chair touching the ground. For long seconds, they stay suspended, threatening to topple headfirst in the lush jasmine behind them.

They finally settle back safely in their chairs with a relieved sigh, terrified by the idea of crushing Lydia’s beloved plant.

 

Erica applauds them admiringly, her glass held between her teeth to free her hands. Allison praises their stunt, giving them a flattering score. She mimes the number eight with her fingers and Kira giggles in her neck. Boyd doesn’t react.

 

To be fair, Boyd hasn’t shown any type of expression since his sixth glass of scotch.

But after weeks of working side by side with him, and a forced transition from beer to scotch at the beginning of dinner, Derek is able to read the spark of admiration in Boyd’s eyes anyway. It’s his new superpower.

It’s still not as cool a superpower as Stiles’ way of smiling, with all the moles and the dimples and the wrinkled nose,  making the world go fuzzy around the edges, but still. Useful.

 

Fluffy licks his hand, and Derek’s realizes that one of his arms is now stuck between Stiles’ back and the chair. Fluffy seems to approve this new development.

Fluffy is the best dog.

 

Stiles is still laughing, but he’s slowly sliding toward Derek, relaxed and trusting against his biceps. Stiles, with the eyes and the collarbones and the everything.

Stiles is the best Stiles.

 

Derek, because he has this very important mission of protecting Stiles, curls his arm around him and let his fingers anchor themselves on a sharp hipbone for more safety. Skin to skin.

Derek’s life is the best life.

 

“I’m not giving him Fluffy!” is yelling Scott in the background, evidently not deterred by their acrobatic interlude. Derek smiles magnanimously at him because well, Stiles, and hipbone, but also, he knows Fluffy loves him more anyway. Scott is the strict parent in their relationship, all work and training. Derek is the one with all the treats, naps and belly rubs.

 

“Scott!” Stiles straightens up, “I can’t live in a world where a dogless Derek exists! Have you seen him clean the tiny paws Scott? Have you? Erica!” he points at her imperiously.

 

“It’s like softcore porn for housewives,” admits Erica, waving her glass in the air, “it’s all kneeling and muscles and kisses on the dog’s nose. It’s sickening in its perfection.” 

 

“See?” crows Stiles, “a dogless Derek Hale is heresy. I’m the boss! From now on, no puppy for Derek, no puppy for you. You will have to do with…hm…stuff. Flamingos!” he yells triumphantly.

 

Derek doesn’t really listen, but Scott seems to start wailing right away that he can’t, that flamingos are too pink to hide behind bushes and that they only have one leg. And how can they give their paw if they only have one leg? Are they going to fall with their only leg in the air? Is he going to have to hurt them all, even the baby flamingos?

 

Stiles wavers at the mention of tiny flamingos but he keeps his head high. Lydia, in whom copious amounts of wine, rum and scotch have only lowered her tolerance for stupidity, throws a rolled napkin at Scott’s face and hits him in the nose.

 

“I’m better than a flamingo,” points out Derek. Stiles seems too invested in them, so it needs to be said. “They have a stupid beak. And they eat shrimps.”

 

“You don’t?” asks Stiles, suddenly only focused on Derek, which is always a good development.

 

You don’t,” corrects Derek. Stiles always takes them off his food when Isaac orders Chinese. Isaac may be a dick who doesn’t bother to remember everybody’s order, but the girl from the shop has the biggest crush on him and they always have lot of free stuff when he’s the one calling. For a family whose net worth is flirting with the billions, Stiles knows how to pinch a penny.

 

Stiles whole face melts, soft and almost shy. After long seconds of Derek trying not to preen at Stiles’ awed look, Stiles starts looking around frantically. His fist finally closes around something small on the tablecloth and he brightens up.

 

He turns back and hands a tiny golden star to Derek.

 

The sequin is one of the hundreds thrown all over the place by an overenthusiastic Scott earlier, trite and almost tacky in contrast with Lydia and Melissa’s elegant decoration.

 

Derek takes it with utmost precautions, his own hand seeming huge all the sudden, too clumsy to handle the delicate star. It shines in his palm. One of its branches is bent and streaking golden light all over his fingers.

 

“Because you are the best” Stiles explains, closing Derek’s hand around his gift with the solemnity of an oath.

 

Derek looks back up slowly at Stiles. He’s rumpled, hair in disarray and waistcoat hanging limply at his sides. His cheekbones are painted a deep pink by alcohol, his pupils huge and devouring the amber of his eyes. He’s beaming at Derek, happiness spilling everywhere.

 

Derek stares and stares, helpless.

 

He never had a chance.

 

 

He closes his free hand around Stiles’ wrist, thin and bony under smooth skin. With Stiles delicate blue veins pulsing against his skin, his pulse alive beneath his fingers, Derek finally understands.

 

There is something ineluctable in this man’s gravity, a loyalty taking roots in softness and laughter and love. A loyalty born to protect the life singing beneath Derek’s fingers, more important to all of them than any other.

 

He understands, and Derek has not been a good person for a long while. His own devotion is born with teeth and claws, possessive and fierce. He knows, like an evidence, that he could slaughter the people sitting around this table without hesitation, one after the other, if they tried to pry him away from Stiles.

 

And he knows that he will defend each and every one of them with everything he is to protect Stiles’ smile.

 

 

Xxx

 

 

"Derek? …Holy fuck it's four in the morning. Are you on fire or something?"

 

Laura’s voice is gravelly, grumpy and honestly worried. Derek wants to cling to it and maybe weep a little.

He doesn't because he is drunk but he’s still a grown man. Also, Lydia made him drink so much alcohol he isn't sure his body has enough water left to produce even one teardrop.

 

"I just... I wanted to talk with you a little bit”

 

Because he hasn’t seen her in weeks. And she’s Laura. And she kicks people in the face for him, and she was the only one that never left him even after the fire and Kate and Peter. She has their mom’s laugh and their dad’s bad singing voice and young Peter’s sarcasm and their grandma’s eyes and she’s Laura. He should miss her like a limb and he does, sometimes he misses her like he would miss his lungs.

But more and more often he forgets, and he doesn’t miss her for hours, and he’s happy even when she’s so far away. He is an awful brother.

 

“Okayyyyy,” she answers, bewildered and still not entirely awake, “and what do you want to talk about at this perfectly normal hour of the night?”

 

“I don’t know…How’s life?” he asks casually, being very careful not to slur his words.

 

“How’s…” the silence is audibly gobsmacked. “…Der. Are you drunk calling me?”

 

“I’m not drunk.”

 

“You are!” She shouts, jubilant.

 

“I’m not drunk,” Derek repeats obstinately.

 

“Yeah baby, you are! Embrace it,” she says, laughing gleefully, “this is the best thing to ever happen to me. Jackson lost a bet last week and had to go all over the city on my old pink bicycle, with the little basket and the unicorn helmet. This is still better.”

 

Derek’s brain breaks a little trying to wrap itself around this picture.

 

“Don’t worry, being the best sister ever, I took ample photographic evidences. It’s filed by degrees of humiliation; you will be able to browse it as much as you want when you’ll come back home.”

 

Derek flinches like a beaten animal. He folds himself in two, falling heavily on his bed.

 

“Yeah, about that…” He starts slowly, hesitant.

 

“Oh, is that bothering you? Don’t worry bunny, I sent Deaton to cash in an old debt from a family in Brazil. Things should go back to normal soon,” she reassures him, voice kind.

 

After a long silence from Derek, she whispers quietly “Der? Is everything really okay?”

 

Derek startles, surprised “Yes, why?”

 

“You called me. You always answer, but you never call. Also you are drunk. I sent you to them because they are the Stilinskis, and they were very important to mom and dad. And us. And I wanted to know if well…if Peter hadn’t killed any chance to repair that link I guess? But if they made you in any way uncomfortable or unhappy, you race back home as fast as you can and I will beat this stupid kid’s ass so hard his descendants will feel it.”

 

There is something almost savage in Laura’s tone and Derek laughs, painful but genuine.

 

“God, no, please don’t. Stiles would love it so much he would tattoo the bruises you gave him as trophies.”

 

“Masochism? That’s a new one.”

 

This time, Derek’s laugh is a simple thing, a little drunk and a lot fond. “No, it’s more of the worshipping variety. I’ve definitively seen drafts of a comic book of your greatest battles in the margins of very boring papers and contracts. They were a lot of beaten foes, a disturbing number of hearts and a distinct lack of artistic talent”

 

“Stiles, hu?” She finally picks up, too casual not to be suspicious. “So. How is Stiles?”

 

“I’m not sure he can be put into words” Derek answers carefully, wary of the emphasis she used on the name. Laura has always been the master at turning words into minefields of hidden meanings. She’s silent again. Derek fidgets.

 

“Try for me would you?” She asks at last, slow and coaxing.

 

Derek takes his time thinking over his answer, braving the static noise sizzling all over his brain.

 

“Well. He is dorky and sarcastic and smart. He drinks too much coffee, never stops talking, and I still kind of want to strangle him on a daily basis,” he stops. Hesitates. Breaks. “He is kind. Vibrant. Beautiful.”

 

“So,” Laura starts after an astonished silence, “someone basically stole the blueprint for him in one of your wet dreams. Can’t fight the genetic Stilinski’s crush baby bro.”

 

Derek stays quiet for a long time, looking at his fingers playing with the golden tinsel in his palm.

 

“He’s so soft. Someone is gonna kill him for it one day,” he whispers hoarsely in his phone, feeling gutted.

 

Laura sighs sadly.

 

“God, bunny. You never do things the easy way, do you?”

 

 

Derek doesn’t answer.

 

He falls asleep not long after, Laura’s soft and loving voice in his ear and a tiny, tiny sequin in his hand.

 

 

xxx

 

 

 

Waking up the next morning is excruciating. Derek has been stabbed, several times, and he’s pretty sure it was more tolerable than that.

 

He crawls inside the shower and prays for the sweet relief of death.

 

 

After a swift walk in the garden for Fluffy, spent sprawled against a pillar and glaring at the too luminous grey sky, Derek crawls through the corridors. He finds the office empty and, with a pained sigh and a few seconds of rusty reflection, he turns back toward the library.

 

He opens the door on a modern version of the Raft of the Medusa.

 

Scott is prostrated sideways on the huge armchair, head in Allison’s laps and Kira rolled in a ball on his hips and ribs like a cat, face hidden in her elbow. Scott’s puppy eyes are blood-shot and tragic, contrasting with the peaceful, deep breaths of Kira, obviously asleep.

 

Boyd is sitting on the left of the obscene leather couch, his usual stoic expression crumbled in a pathetic attempt at blankness. Lydia is sitting sideways besides him, toes buried under his thigh. She is graceful as always, hair up in a messy bun, without make-up and clad in silk pajamas. She is working, paperwork braced against her legs. Erica is laying on top of the couch, stretched all along the wall, blond hair falling all over Lydia’s shoulder and calf resting on Boyd’s. She’s only wearing a sports bra, socks and Boyd’s underwear. Dog tags dangle from her neck and Derek knows for a fact they were Boyd’s mother’s.

 

Isaac is on the ground near the table. He lies on the carpet with his arms crossed over his chest, huge sunglasses on his face.

He looks dead.

 

Scott’s groan alerts the group to his entrance, followed by Allison’s bright smile, startlingly fresh-faced compared to the others. Boyd and Lydia grace him with a small smile of their own, but Isaac, Kira and Erica don’t react at all.

 

Stiles appears over the arm of the last armchair, half eaten by the soft padding. He is paler than usual, dark circles under his brilliant eyes, the effect made almost violent by the big, knit corded black sweater swallowing his body. He is crouching in the armchair, one knee tucked against his chest under the sweater distending the fabric obscenely over one shoulder. His only apparent leg is branded “sex symbol” in glitter on bright pink sweatpants, possibly belonging to Erica.

 

Derek wants to wrap himself all around him and never let go. He is not alive enough to be appalled at himself.

 

Upon seeing him, Stiles lights up and start making grabby hands, the long sleeves hiding his hands and only showing the tip of his fingers.

 

“Dereeeek,” he whimpers.

 

Derek, who stopped fighting weeks ago, goes to him with all the free will of a woodland creature in a Disney movie.

Once the coffee table reached, he hesitates for a second, not wanting to join Isaac on the floor but too exhausted to cross the library to find a new chair. The decision is stolen from him by Stiles’ hand pulling on his shirt. He sits with precautions on the arm of the chair, arguing with himself that if Erica and Lydia can pull it off, so can he.

 

Fluffy sprawls all over Isaac, who grunts but doesn’t move.

 

“You ok?” asks Stiles, voice low and tired. His hair is completely crazy, flat on one side and defying gravity on the other.

 

“I hate everything. Especially Scott. And the concept of Lydia with alcohol. And Scott,” says Derek.

 

“I hate Scott too. So much,” groans Scott from his wife’s laps. Allison giggles and starts petting him.

 

“Lydia is the devil. Beautiful but evil,” mumbles Erica.

 

Lydia tilts her head back with a smile, “Nobody forced you to drink shots with Isaac love.”

 

Despite her disapproving tone, she frees one of her hand from the paperwork to smooth Erica’s hair away from her face. Erica wrinkles her nose and hides in her palm.

 

“Isaac is a wuss. It’s my duty in life to make a man out of him,” she mutters against Lydia’s skin, trying to point at Isaac with her sock-clad foot. She only succeeds in hitting the back of Boyd’s head.

 

“That’s misogynistic,” points out Stiles.

 

From the ground, Isaac lets a weak rale escape in what could be a protest or an agreement. Or his soul escaping his body. Fluffy huffs, licks his chin, and lets his head drop back on his paws.

 

A warm silence falls. Stiles, exhausted, gravitates slowly toward Derek until his head thuds softly against his ribcage. Derek tries not to look down because the sweater is revealing collarbones and abs drawn in shadows, and this way lies madness. He crosses Allison’s gaze and she smirks at him before softening, ending on an amused grin.

 

“So. No work today?” Derek asks quietly, not wanting to disturb the quiet atmosphere.

 

Erica glares at Derek between Lydia’s fingers. Stiles’ laugh is more breath than sound.

 

“I’m the boss. I’m decreeing a day off for each person that survived last night. We found Jordan still under the table this morning, only wearing his underwear and a sock. He almost puked on Scott when we woke him up.” Scott whines in misery, high and weak.

 

Derek's hums, because it seems more appropriate that calling Parrish a hussy. Slyly, he lets his hand slide along the top of the armchair, high enough to pass over Stiles' head, before curling the tips of his fingers against Stiles’ shoulder. The chatter carries on lazily, but Derek stops following quickly. He's drowsy and comfortable, dragging the tip of his fingers in lazy circles over Stiles’ biceps, pleased by the feeling of soft fabric over warm skin and lean muscles.

 

Stiles yields against the light pressure, sinking against Derek, body loose and head snuggled in Derek’s shoulder. There is so much faith in his unguarded sprawl that Derek’s breath hitches for a second.

 

Scott is wailing in the background and warm laughter sprinkles all over the room. Derek doesn’t bother to listen. He cradles the back of Stiles’ head, a steady pressure while his body slightly curls over him, trying to draw him always closer.

His hand is buried in soft hair, Stiles’ skull cautiously held in his palm. He rubs his thumb against the soft skin behind Stiles’ ear and grins, awed of his welcome. 

 

Stiles’ head slowly slides back to look up at Derek, nose wrinkled and eyes soft. They gaze at each other for long seconds. A smile is curling Stiles’ lips, slow and syrupy, as heady as Lydia's precious scotch.

 

With the crazy bed hair, the luminous eyes, the sharp cheekbones and the alcohol-smile, he's almost unbearable to look at.

 

The next instant, Fluffy, obviously getting bored with Isaac's corpse, jumps on the armchair. Stiles' lungs empty with the squeaky sound of a chew toy being stepped on. The dog starts licking shyly Stiles's chin, eyes begging forgiveness with the efficiency of a weapon of mass destruction.

 

"The respect is dead in this household. Dead," Stiles grits, squirming to find a more comfortable position. He ends up completely plastered against Derek's left pectoral, nose squished and half his face hidden in Derek's shirt. Despite his complains, he doesn't even try to dislodge Fluffy, his long fingers scratching him blindly on the side of his muzzle.

 

“Let's be real. It was never really born to begin with,” comments Erica, her hand waving vaguely in the air. Stiles gapes at her with his only visible eye. 

 

“Derek. Channel your inner Laura and go kick this miscreant’s ass,” he mumbles against Derek, loud enough to make Erica cackle. Lydia rolls her eyes and keeps writing with her usual efficiency despite having only her left hand free. Derek is brave enough to admit that she frightens him.

 

“No thanks. I have this weird fondness for my body parts staying in their original place. I’m eccentric like that,” Derek drawls.

 

Erica sends him a blind lazy kiss. Stiles squints his left eye at Derek.

 

“As my favorite hostage, you are bound to realize all my wishes.”

 

“I don’t think you know the meaning of this word. Also, I’m not a genie.” Derek’s answer is distracted, attention focused on Stiles leaning contentedly against his hand when Derek resumes stroking behind his ear.

 

“You are a little bit my hostage,” Stiles argues grumpily, voice vibrating against Derek’s collarbone.

 

“I’m only here for the free food and the good dogs,” Derek answers gravely. Fluffy’s tail starts waving wildly at hearing the ‘good dog’ part and Derek bites off a laugh.

 

“Also, there is this trivial matter of several millions of dollars. But who’s keeping tracks, hum?” Adds Allison, her smile sharp but her voice sweet.

 

On the couch, Lydia raises a hand and an eyebrow “I do.”

 

“Is nobody going to defend my honor?” deplores Stiles out loud, “Scott?”

 

Scott’s whimper of pain is answer enough.

 

“I appreciate the feeling buddy. Boyd? Chocolate bear? Our love is the stuff of legends; please save me from this atrocious mutiny.” The drama in Stiles’ requests is threatening to reach Shakespearean proportions.

 

“Bitch, please.” Boyd’s rebuttal is flat and immediate. Everybody turns to stare at him.

 

On the back of the couch, Erica groans and kicks him with a socked foot.

 

“Come on. Stop being perfect when I’m in no state to act on it,” she complains. Boyd chuckles and kisses her ankle.

 

“This is the hottest thing I have ever seen,” breathes Stiles, eye huge and smiling. Boyd bats his eyelashes coyly at him.

 

“Well, there was also the whole half-naked and dripping oil bit with Derek weeks ago, to be fair,” remarks Allison, her head tilted.

 

“Yes,” agrees Stiles with fervor. Derek hides a smile in his hair. “Wait. You were not there! I distinctly remember you abandoning me to go frolic in the tropics with Scott and Kira in my time of needs!”

 

“Stiles, we have security camera all over the place,” says Erica, her eye-roll audible.

 

Allison laughs at him. “Half-naked gifts can’t be called ‘time of needs’.”

 

“Oh my god. You totally planned a movie night to watch Derek’s arrival didn’t you?” whispers Stiles, horrified.

 

Allison nods. Lydia grins at her paperwork.

 

“I should upload the footage online. We would be rich,” muses Erica.

 

You didn’t invite me?” wails Stiles, shocked.

 

“We are rich,” cuts in Lydia absently.

 

“Richer,” answers Erica, her grin big enough to overflow from under Lydia’s hand.

 

“Nobody ever invite me for the fun stuff,” laments Stiles.

 

“I feel objectified,” finally interrupts Derek.

 

“So this is why you chose to make him a bodyguard. The inhuman detective skills,” says Erica with her usual biting snark.

 

“You totally are. In a positive way,” explains Stiles, patting his thigh consolingly.

 

 

On the ground, Isaac lets a dramatic rale escape. Derek hums, agreeing with the sentiment.

 

 

xxx

 

 

Derek is in his bed enjoying a good book when the door opens violently, bouncing back against the wall. Erica storms in with a low string of swears.

 

Her hair is tied up in a messy ponytail, strands falling all over her grim face. There is blood smeared on her forehead and fingers.

 

Derek jumps out of his bed.

 

“Stiles?” he barks harshly, getting closer to inspect her for injuries.

 

Erica immediately shakes her head sharply, allowing Derek to take her hands with absent docility. “Allison and Kira.”

 

Derek let her go when he realizes that the blood is not hers. “How are they?” he asks softly. He thinks of Kira's throaty laugh and Allison's teasing grins and clenches his fists.

 

“Kira took a bullet to the shoulder and Allison some shards of glass, but nothing too severe. They are safe,” she smiles at Derek obvious relief, strained but honest. “Greenberg was driving them. Dead.”

 

“Do we know what…” he starts. Erica’s hand grips his wrist and he stops, surprised. It’s the first time she has ever touched him.

 

“Derek. They were using Stiles own car and the windows were tinted,” she looks at him from under her hair, her eyes shining with cold fury, “They were targeting Stiles.”

 

Derek’s body freezes for an endless second.

 

“He is safe,” he checks, voice hollow. He needs to hear it.

 

“He is.” she confirms, “in the office with Boyd and Isaac, getting ready.”

 

Derek's brain restarts and he immediately starts planning exit strategies and hideouts. “Is the manor compromised? Are we retreating somewhere else?”

 

“Not this kind of preparations,” she cuts him off with a raised hand, “They were shot just two streets away from our parents’ murder.”

 

“You think…”

 

“Melissa took a bullet out of Kira. Same type of weapon. And Allison caught one of the tugs and made him talk. She’s convincing like that,” she squeezes Derek wrist, looking him straight in the eyes, “they were paid to finish the last Stilinski. They are back.”

 

Her tone is hard, burning steel thrown in cold water. Somehow it’s her calm that finally makes him realize.

 

“You know who they are,” he whispers.

 

She smirks at him. “We had our suspicions for a long time, but no proof. We do now. We are going after them. Tonight.”

 

 

The sensation of John’s hugs is suddenly like a ghost on Derek's skin, memories trying to crawl back into the present. He can almost hear him laugh at his dad's stupid jokes, see the absolute justice on his face when he shot Kate, draw the horrific pictures of an alley painted in blood and familiar bodies.

 

He takes Erica’s hands between his, carefully. Erica studies him for a long time.

 

Slowly, she smiles at him, toothy and razor-sharp. Derek smiles back, and there is nothing human in what’s dancing in the air between them. It’s the excitation of predators on the hunt finally finding the smell of blood.

 

“Give me a name,” he says simply, and the phrase rolls on his tongue with the rush of absolution.

 

Erica beams, blooming at the idea of violence. 

 

“Deucalion.”

 

 

When they leave, Derek’s phone lays forgotten on his desk.

 

 

xxx

 

 

Claudia Stilinski was a legend.

 

She came from Eastern Europe, a wan beauty that should only exist in old movies, with long blond hair, pale eyes and the grace of a bird in human skin.

 

Derek was too young to remember her early visits with perfect clarity. The memories are a fog of light perfumes, kind voice and colored gifts. He remembers bouncing on Claudia’s knee and watching his mom smile at them over a teacup of precious china filled with aged bourbon. His dad making Claudia and Talia swirl under his arm in the hallway, badly singing pop songs stuck in his head. His mom tucking Claudia’s blond, blond locks of hair behind her ear and kissing her cheeks fondly.

She used to call her Donna sometimes, always with wriggling eyebrows and a chuckle.

 

Claudia spoke with her hands and laughed with her soul, and the infectious note of her laughter would have stopped wars.

 

As a kid, Claudia was to Derek and Laura a presence giggling on John’s arm, sunshine wrapped in cold beauty and flowing summer dresses. She gushed about her baby boy and gave them advices on making friends and bought Derek amazing books. As young teenagers, she was a kind ear, always eager to perch on the edge of their bed to listen to an exploit or help mend a broken heart. At Laura’s eighteen birthday, their mom and Claudia drank too much wine and hugged everyone and laughed until they cried. Derek’s life felt soaked in happiness for days.

 

Then Derek grew older.

 

She didn’t.

 

 

Derek was fifteen when he found his mom sobbing in the kitchen, the phone in her hand. The floor was covered in shards of precious porcelain tea cups and smashed bourbon bottles.

They said the disease ate her brain. They said she didn’t suffer. They said she died loved.

They said she died laughing.

 

 

From there on, visits from the Stilinskis were reduced to a dissonant routine of John gentle voice and quiet jokes, reverberating in the emptiness where open laughs and excited words used to live.

 

During Derek’s adolescence, Claudia Stilinski became the wrinkle between his mother’s eyes some days, the sadness crawling out of John voice, the crystallization of everything unfair in the world clawing at him some nights when he thought of stories that would never have the chance to have a proper ending. 

 

 

At eighteen, Derek’s family was deep in the ground and Laura and him had not been kids for a long while. They were trying, again and again, to buy Peter’s love with obedience and loyalty, only to realize slowly that grief had devoured too much of their uncle for that to ever happen.  

 

A few months after his own eighteenth birthday, Derek met three hired muscled on an extraction job. Big and rough, Derek had met hundreds of their type and Derek would have forgotten them immediately. But on this day, they spoke of Donna Stilinski in whispers.

 

And for the first time in a long time, Derek smiled. And he tried to share with them, his words too clumsy for these pretty stories painted in bright laughters and precious teacups.

 

They laughed at him.                         

 

And at eighteen, Derek heard for the first time the beginnings of a story that would follow him his whole adult life, that he would learn to complete by following the shifting eyes or trembling voices of strangers.

 

-

 

Claudia was a legend.

 

A legend with a wan beauty that should only be found in old movies, born in a little village lost in the middle of Poland.

 

She landed in the US with a smile and a trail of blood welling in her steps.

 

At twenty-four years old, clad in a summer dress and girly perfume, she rose outside of Eastern Europe as the most ruthless contract killer of her generation.

 

The rumors say that her first contract on American soil was for the second in line of a sick, dying boss. A twenty-six years old unknown ex-cop, wearing an unknown name. Her fees were astronomic but the man was despised by many, jealousy taking roots in his own clan and contempt brewing in old blood families.

 

John Stilinski disappeared for three weeks. He came back.

 

Claudia came back with him as Claudia Stilinski.

 

And when the time came for the small clan to take the Stilinski name, she stood right next to John. She smiled and laughed in happiness, stunning in a beautiful green dress. One by one, they all fell in love a little.

 

None of them saw the blades glinting between her fingers. They forgot to be scared. They forgot to see how she loved him and loved him and loved him.

 

That same night, she purged each of the names that once paid her contract in a sea of blood. She trimmed their clan from any seed of disloyalty with the glint of a blade.

 

She chose people from all over the country, all over the world. For John, whose life had already been given away once like an unwanted dog, she chose only the best.

 

The Hales were the first, cautious associates swiftly turned life-long friends. They gave her there most precious men, Georges and Ethel Reyes, a deadly couple, both runaways from Iceland.

From the Argent family, she stole Chris and Victoria Argent, because they were artists with weapons.

She saw the mugshot of the proud Sylviane Lahey, pregnant and emaciated, and broke her out of jail.

Jeff and Natalie Martin, the bored conmen, met her out of curiosity one day and never left.

Melissa McCall, the soft nurse with the abusive husband, she found on a children playground and brought back home with a little Scott peaking behind her robes.

 

One by one, they came, these whispered names in a world of whispers. And one by one, they fell in love with John’s fairness and his brutal justice and Claudia’s laugh and her ruthless revenge. One by one, she stitched them in her family with shards of bones and threads of love. She turned them into legends.

 

She died, but she won her bet. Her chimerical family held, and they never left John.

 

And when things took a turn for the worst, they proved that she had chosen them well. In that alley, years later, ennemies came for John and they found them all.

They found her.

 

They met her in Victoria’s growls, who kept hitting them in the face with a gun that had no more bullets. She slashed in a man’s throat, her name engraved deeply in the handle of Sylviane’s knife. She was the fury in a dying Georges Reyes, still throwing his body over and over at them, and she was the glint in Ethel’s bloody smile, her knuckles split open. She endured with the Martins, standing proud and blocking the way on shattered spines. She purred in Dylan Boyd’s voice, almost bloodless from a hole in his belly but draping his huge frame around John, babbling as fast as possible because John should never be left alone in silence.

 

They died in this alley, because History is never kind toward legends.

 

But Claudia won, because they ran and jumped and crawled over the other, trying again and again to protect the family she created for them to love and protect. She won because none of them ever betrayed the man she taught them to adore.

 

And she kept winning, when every single one of their children woke up the next morning and looked at their new boss, only eighteen and freshly orphaned.

 

And one after the other, they came forward and stood right next to him when he officially took control of his parents’ legacy. They were beautiful and they loved him, and loved him.

 

From his sides, they looked at the world and smiled the echoes of Claudia’s smiles, picked up from their parents.

 

-

 

But at the time, Derek was only eighteen.

 

The men laughed at his clumsy stories of softness, and told him about Donna, with her knives and beauty and power.

 

At eighteen, Derek looked at three burly, jagged men, and saw love in their eyes when they talked about the flower that bloomed inside the Stilinski family, stunning in light dresses and wicked smiles, and with death dancing in her core.

 

At eighteen, Derek heard reverence roll from their tongues when they called her Belladonna.

 

 

xxx

 

 

Six years later, and Derek has heard every whisper existing about her in their world, has seen the flame of terror and fascination reflected in dozens of eyes.

 

He has spent weeks living alongside the people that chose to protect Claudia’s son with their parents’ fierceness. To protect Stiles with the strength of their own devotion. The people that love him, and love him, and could burn the world for a laugh that was more important to them than wars.

 

And somehow, Derek has been so blinded by his search for John in the gaps between Stiles’ quirks. Because it was so easy to find John’s kindness, his justice, his ability to give everyone a fair chance in Stiles.

 

So easy that somehow, Derek forgot.

 

 

And tonight, the Stiles that slides out of the car seems to belong to a whole other species.

 

Stunning under the ghastly light of a lamppost, all pale skin and sharp cheekbones, clad in simple black clothes, thigh holsters and leather gloves. Behind him, his men spread out like hounds ready for the chase, shadows in bloodthirsty smirks and rolling shoulders.

 

Stiles turns to Derek with luminous eyes and two knives dancing fluidly between his fingers. He grins, a savage thing slashing his face.

 

For the first time, Derek remembers that this man is Claudia Stilinski’s son.

 

 

From there, it’s the easiest thing in the world. Because there is a space for him at Stiles’ side, a blood-right paid by his mother’s tears and his father’s unshakable admiration. A role carved by memories of a gorgeous laugh and gentle hands hugging him tight.

A need to protect born from his love for a beautiful man.

 

 

Derek slides next to Stiles, his hand brushing his; Erica’s perfume in his nose, Isaac’s shoulder bumping into his own, Boyd quiet approval on his left.

 

Derek smiles.

 

 

xxx

 

 

The Deucalions are some of the oldest in the country, leviathans of their world, ancient, huge and powerful. They own the entire valley where their estate stands, surrounded by mountains.

 

They are welcomed by miles and miles of fenced walls, barbed wires and warning signs. The only opening is a forbidding iron gate, standing proudly with its tortuous metallic arches reaching for the sky.

 

The whole thing looks like the worst idea.

 

But Derek seems to be the only one worried about that. Danny is sitting sideways on one of the limos’ backseat, computer on his knees and fingers flying over the keyboard. He’s chatting quietly with Chris while frying up all security cameras inside the property, deactivating the alarms and shutting down all communications with the outside world. Leaning against the car, Boyd is on the phone with Parrish, checking that everything is locked down tight enough to keep the cops out of it for as long as needed.

 

The gates open with the sinister grinding of metal on gravel and Lydia smirks back at them all, satisfied.

 

 

Allison, face pale but determined, is already perched in the highest tree near the entrance. From there, she has a perfect view over the wall on the gardens. Her balance is perfect and she stands still, half-hidden by the foliage. At the bottom of the trunk, Kira is watching her with focused eyes and a soft smile. There is gauze peeking from under her shorts and she has to brace herself against the tree to keep upright. Despite that, she is standing, and very obviously armed to the teeth.

 

Scott steps up to the gates, Stiles’ hands on his shoulders. There is something flat in his eyes and the line of his mouth, completely alien in his usually jovial face. Something like determination, but wrathful, and craving blood.

 

When he turns toward the tree, it lurches, anxiety and worry shining through for a second. Kira winks at him and Allison waves slightly with her free hand. Scott smiles, dim but earnest. Stiles kisses his cheek, squeezes his shoulder and backs off.

 

When Stiles proposes a kiss to Chris, standing next to Scott, the man only looks blankly at his pursed lips. The next second Chris sneaks inside the garden, his numerous weapons gleaming once under the light of the portal before dissolving into the night.

 

Scott breathes slowly, cracks his neck and follows. He has no weapon on him. He doesn’t need to.  

 

Eleven of his dogs shadow him, their feet silent on the grass. They wear their heads low, growls rolling from their open jaws; their eyes all focused on Scott.

 

One whispered order from him and they jump forward, nightmares in blood-curling snarls and fangs.

 

 

Somewhere behind the wall, somebody screams. It ends quikly in a wet gurgle.

 

 

Up on her branch, Allison shoulders her riffle with the grace of somebody born to the hunt. Her body is a study in angles and patience.

 

Two guards appear in the gates’ light, guns raised and eyes wide in panic. Allison's fingers twitch, twice. They are both thrown backward, dead before touching the ground.

 

Silent and still, they all wait for the signal, listening to the yells of terrors tearing through the night.

 

None of them last.

 

 

xxx

 

 

The inside of the manor is a strategical nightmare. It’s gigantic, at least twice as big as the Stilinski’s house, created for efficiency and protection with no concession made to any type of aesthetic. The narrow passages seem endless, turning round and round in circles, doors opening up on new Deucalion men every few feet. They had to leave men behind all over the place to jugulate this unending flow of people.

 

They are only six of them left now.

The Deucalion pack is old, and wealthy. They are many.

 

Which is why Derek is so surprised to see that they are progressing almost easily through the manor.

 

 

Boyd has always seemed impressive to Derek, not so much due to his size but to his ability to suddenly devour the space around him. Now, in the narrow and gloomy corridors, he looks like some kind of mythological titan. He progresses forward, inexorably, pure strength and reflexes crushing through any obstacle.

A man runs out of a room on his path and Boyd stops him short, gripping his face in his hand. With a grunt, he tosses him like a toy against the wall. The man crumbles on the floor, broken, and Boyd only steps over him.

 

Spinning around him, Erica is a forest fire, all wildness and utter destruction. She dances and jumps and obliterates.

 

A man grips her by her ponytail and she curls around him, wraps her leg around his knees and yanks. They fall, entangled, and his own weight impales him on her knife, easy and inevitable. The man trashes on the ground but Erica has already rolled away, prowling toward a security man approaching Isaac in his blind spot. She shoots him almost delicately in the back of the head, the muzzle of her Glock kissing his hair. She tuts at him, disappointed, before sidestepping the mess on the floor with an annoyed pout.

 

Lydia is behind her, sending a look inside a room, her gaze cool and only vaguely curious. People curse at her and she smiles, saccharine, letting something escape from her hand with mocking delicacy. A little sphere rolls inside, catching the light and projecting a kaleidoscope of color on the somber walls. Lydia closes the door sharply and the explosion sends the world in sharp definition for a second, all of them dark outlines against the brightness. Heavy tendrils of smoke crawls from under the door, but not a word from Deucalion's men inside.

 

Isaac waggles his eyebrows at Lydia, his smile thrilled. Derek still hasn’t caught him fighting, the man slinking in and out of the shadows like a ghost. But there are people left on the ground following his path, many of them. None of them bleeds. None of them breathes.

 

 

This whole operation is insane. Derek has never been part of something like that, so different from the perfectly planned extractions or the gritty alley fights that he has known all his life.

 

This is primal, raw. This is just a family taking its own justice back in pounds of flesh and bones, crawling in the darkness like the monsters from children’s imagination.

 

 

Derek only stops for a second to angle his body, his hand instantly adopting the perfect shooting form his dad taught him as a kid. He fires. The body hasn’t even hit the ground that he’s already running, jumping over it. Fluffy yelps in excitation, looking up at Derek and butting his head against his knee.

 

Derek wants to laugh and snarl, euphoric as if blood-lust could be airborne.

 

 

Derek looks around for Stiles and, despite the poor lightning, finds him easily at the end of the hallway. First in line, and alone, of course.

 

The smiling shepherd leading his pack of rabid wolves.

 

Derek tries not to look directly at the two thighs holsters strapped just under Stiles' ass, afraid of getting distracted and taking a bullet to the head. He obviously fails because he can clearly see the muscles Stiles’ thighs bunch against the leather when he crouches low on the ground; Derek sprints toward him.

 

The next instant Stiles goes up, his body a liquid line of strength ending in the double glint of blades. The two men slinking around the corner collapse silently in sprays of arterial blood. The whole scene barely takes a fraction of second, as deadly and effortless as a finishing move in a video game. 

 

From somewhere behind Derek, Erica laughs, feral and bloodthirsty, and takes the time to applaud. Stiles bows slightly, smirking.

 

 

Derek stares at him. There is blood all over his black clothes, making the angles of his body shine stickily in the low light. The knives are twirling between his fingers because even this sleek and lethal version of Stiles is unable to stay still for even a heartbeat.

 

Stiles is stormy and terrible and beautiful and Derek can’t help but love him. Can’t help but adore his cold-blooded kindness, showing in knives never missing the deathblow, never looking for pain. Can’t help but crave the strength of his blood soaked fingers and his chuckles sparkling in the air like bubbles popping, sharp and lovely and bright.

 

He’s sweetness and violence interwoven; the firefly beauty of a star seen from afar and the destructive burn of a supernova up close.

 

Never in his life has Derek wanted something to be so utterly, entirely his.

 

 

Stiles catches the hunger on his face and his eyes darken. When he smiles back, it’s languid, a shiny thing where fangs should be. An answer from one starved predator to another.

 

Derek, endorphins singing deep in his veins, dreams for an instant of this smile inked on every inch of his skin, inside his bones, on one vital organ or two.

 

 

Erica passes between them in a cloud of blond hair.

 

“Kill now, eyefuck later,” she grunts, jumping high in the air. She falls feet first on the chest of some poor unsuspecting fellow just turning the corner. The man drops like a stone in a sickly crunch of bones.

 

Stiles rolls his eyes but starts rushing ahead again.

 

“You do this kind of things often?” asks Derek, panting but catching up to him easily. He grabs Erica when they run past her, his hand huge around her waist and gathering her close to him. She giggles at the manhandling, raising her feet up to fly for a few steps, light and vibrating in glee against Derek’s side.

 

“Nah. Paintball training.” Stiles’ smirk is full of teeth and Derek wants to bite it. “It’s usually much more violent. And Erica ends up killing her team nine times out of ten in her enthusiasm so, you know. Keep an eye on her.”

 

Erica laughs throatily before kissing Derek’s cheek, kitten-soft. She tears herself out of Derek’s arm before swirling back toward Boyd with the elegance of a ballerina.

 

 

They climb a new flight of stairs and open the door on a new wave of gunmen.

Derek doesn’t even slow down, using his momentum to crash into one of them, shooting him straight in the temple and immediately turning to another trying to crowd Lydia. Something buzzes in the air next to Derek’s head, delicate as a silver hummingbird. It ends up in a man’s neck, the handle of the knife jutting out and vibrating. The target is thrown back by the impact, hitting the ground with a heavy thud.

 

Stiles skips by, barely bending down to tear his knife out of the already still body before diving headfirst in the melee with a whoop of delight. Boyd follows on his heels, shaking his head but smiling. For an instant, jagged brass knuckles gleam near Stiles’ cheekbones and Derek’s breath freeze. But Stiles dodges them easily, balancing on the ball of his feet like a boxer. Boyd catches the arm responsible and breaks it calmly in two.

 

The grunt is Derek’s only warning and he barely avoids the fist aiming for his nose. He takes the brunt of the chock on the tip of his chin. He blinks, stepping back to get out of the man’s range. He’s smiling at Derek, dumb and mean, and Derek ponders his option. His gun is too dangerous now that the small stair hallway is swarming with people he can’t hurt with a lost bullet. But the man is big, bulging muscles over heavy bones, and the fight may turn long and ugly.

 

The monstrous shape of Indiana suddenly jumps straight at Deucalion’s man, his sheer weight making him vacillate. Up on his two paws, the dog is as tall as a human. They struggle for few seconds, the man trying to throw the dog off by kicking him in the ribs. But Indiana doesn’t move, growling and flinging his huge head at the man again and again. His jaws finally find the man’s neck and clamp down in a sickening sound. The man caves in and Indiana gets back down on four paws, his muzzle coated in blood. Derek represses a shiver and briefly pets Fluffy, who’s whining low in his throat.

 

They are swiftly making a dent in Deucalion’s men, the last ones standing cornered by Lydia and systematically thrown over the guard rail by Boyd, when something catches Derek’s gaze. There is a human-shaped shadow slinking along the hallway on their right, black on black, only betrayed by a cold twinkle of steel. It passes in front of a window and the grey light materializes it in a woman with dark hair and a brutal smile. The name ‘Kali’ immediately assaults Derek’s mind, followed by dozens of warnings flashing all over his brain.

 

 

Stiles is on the ground, crouched over a man, and Derek steps in front of him on instinct. There is a gurgle and Stiles rises questioning eyes on him, hands and wrists drenched in blood. Derek only jerks his chin toward the corridor, where the sight of Erica hurling herself at Kali seems answers enough.

 

Erica misses her target, her blade only ripping into Kali’s biceps, but her body still crashes into her heavily, sending Kali back several steps. Kali hisses, off balance and all the more dangerous for it. She arches her body, shoulders rolling and blades glinting over her hands. Erica mirrors her posture with a smirk. They gauge each other, sidestepping slowly in half circles without breaking eye contact.

 

Finally, Kali is the first one to strike, jumping, her body a harsh arc. She stops halfway in the air, her head thrown back violently backward. Her hands scrambles frantically to her throat, letting go of her knives to try to scratch off the thin wire biting into her skin.

 

Behind her, Isaac's hold is unmovable, his pretty face unruffled despite her hysterical trashing. His leather clad hands tighten implacably their grip on the wire. He kicks the back of her knees and sends her to the floor. Kali tries to claw at his arms but he doesn’t budge, stoic and relentless. Erica leaps on her with the flash of a blade.

 

Erica and Isaac get up. Kali doesn’t.

 

 

The rest of the manor is quieter, the number of Deucalion’s men decreasing sharply near the heart of the manor.

 

“Paranoia,” explains Derek, “the bigger the family, the more afraid they are of their own.” He kicks the last man standing in the hallway with one of Laura’s most cherished kick, straight in the solar plexus. The man topples against the wall.

 

“You are excessively attractive. It’s distracting as all hell,” comments simply Stiles in answer.

 

Derek turns to look at him over his shoulder. Stiles shakes his head at him, falsely aggravated, betrayed by his lips twitching and his eyes fixated on Derek’s ass. Derek smirks back, taking the time to let his leg down as slowly as possible. Stiles let out a little sigh of contentment and Derek preens.

 

“We can’t open that,” intervene Isaac, ignoring them. He’s caressing the door to the main office, a frown on his forehead, “this is hardened steel. I think you are onto something with the paranoia theory.”

 

Lydia knocks him out of the way with a shove and Isaac limply follows the movement, not even trying to resist. For a long while, Lydia studies the door and the walls around it in silence. In sensible shoes and sober clothes, she almost looks out of character, small and unassuming. But when she grins and buries her hand in her leather bag, Derek has enough instinct to immediately step back.

 

 

The rest of the group hasn’t even hesitated, and they are already trotting in the other direction. Stiles grabs Derek’s arm and drags him around the corner with them.

 

After long minute of silence, there is a delicate noise of glass crushing against something and resonating like an delicate bell in the empty silence. Then, the air starts sizzling.

 

When they rush back at Lydia’s signal, the armored door is vacillating on his hinges, drops of liquid metal crying all over the floor only to hiss and start devouring the wood.

 

Lydia is taking off a huge protective mask over her face, snapping her hair free of her ponytail. She turns toward them and her smile is white, white between crimson strands, like a broken bone ripping through flesh.

 

Boyd kisses the top of her head, swallowing her slender silhouette in the crook of his arm. Without letting her go, he sends the door flying with a rough push. Bullets start whizzing immediately from the inside of the mangled doorframe and Boyd curls around Lydia. She only has the time to send a fragile looking vial inside the room before disappearing behind Boyd’s broad back.

 

The shooting stops and people start screaming.

 

When they run inside, the huge room only contains four people. Two of them are currently clawing at their own clothes, not even looking at them. Something is sizzling menacingly and the air smells like burnt flesh. Isaac slithers along the wall in their direction and it only takes a few seconds before the yelling stops abruptly.

 

The third one is another guard, hired muscles in an ill-fitting suit, using his weapon with the precision of someone swearing by quantity over quality shots. Erica rushes him, faster than everyone else, but gets clipped in the shoulder by a stray bullet. Pissed off, she swears and swings the muzzle of her gun straight in his face.  

 

 

The last person in the room is sitting and Derek immediately recognizes him. He used to come ask for his parent’s advices and favors until they cut all ties with him; his parents always despised human traffickers of all kinds.

 

Deucalion.

 

 

“Stiles Stilinski,” Deucalion croons, his knuckles white against the wood of his desk, “what can I do for you?”

 

Stiles approaches with a bounce in his step. Derek fights the need to jump between them, to break the man in two and bring his head to Stiles himself.

 

“Yeah, no. We are not gonna play this game,” indicates Stiles, a mocking tilt in his voice and his hand dancing back and forth between them. Drops of blood are flying everywhere with every movement of his knives. “I know. I don’t care for your Bond villain monologue. I don’t care about your reasons. I don’t care about your excuses.”

 

 

A man irrupts in the room, gun cocked in Stiles direction and yelling something in an unknown language. They don’t have the time to react.

 

The next second he’s reaped by two hundred pounds of muscle and rage, Indiana jumping on him fangs first. When he comes back at Stiles’ heels, the man is a mangled form on the ground. Stiles pets the dog behind the ear.

 

Stiles turns back to Deucalion with a smile full of challenge and ice, knives dancing between his fingers.

 

 

“So. We were saying?”

 

 

xxx

 

 

Leaving the manor is easy. They cross the empty corridors and their morbid silence, collecting back their lost members on the way, one after the other. They lost two people, and five more are hurt badly and need help to walk out.

When they approach the exit, Derek start seeing Stilinski’s men carrying huge cans on their shoulders and dozing everything in gasoline. The smell is strong enough to make Derek flinch back instinctively.

 

 

They pass the iron gates and Erica instantly throws Stiles inside the first limo she finds. She hurls the keys at Boyd blindly, and he catches them before climbing obediently behind the wheel.

 

Derek is standing there, blinking at nothing and trying to shake off the odor of gasoline, when Erica grips his shirt and pushes him inside. Derek falls back on the backseat in an inelegant sprawl of legs. She bends down and Derek lowers his eyes to avoid the obscene view of her corsage.

 

“Watch him for me would you,” she asks him softly, brushing her knuckles against Derek’s hair in a light caress.

The next instant she slams the door and Derek’s reflexes are the only reason he keeps all his toes. The limo jumps forward in a screech of tires on gravel.

 

 

The silence in the car is almost overwhelming after hours of screams and anxiety. Outside, morning is already clawing at the night, painting the sky in hues of red and blue.

 

From up high in the mountain, Derek can see columns of black smoke starting to rise above the tree, slow and viscous, burning ashes dancing around it in the wind.

 

Derek knows all about cleaning a crime scene with fire.

He’s still insanely grateful that they shielded him from seeing another house going up in flames.

 

 

Long fingers curl over his cheekbone, encouraging him to tear his gaze from the smoke contorting outside the window. He follows them and his eyes encounter the inspiring view of a post-fight Stiles.

 

There is blood all over him, his clothes and hair coated in it, a long stripe drying over his forehead where he tried to wipe his brows. His pupils are immense, dilated and eating the brown of his eyes. His whole body seems suspended in a state between relief and vibrating excitement.

 

His second hand comes up against Derek’s face, his thumbs now softly stroking his cheeks. He is tender and smiling quietly, but Derek can feel the power in his hands and the calluses on his skin. One of his hands is still half-clutched around the handle of a knife and the tip is scratching ever so lightly Derek’s collarbone.

 

Derek turns his head and kisses one of his palms. His eyes flutters shut and he opens his mouth slightly, tasting salt and skin. There is a sharp intake of breath then Stiles’ hand presses harder against his lips, his other hand sliding to get a grip on Derek’s jawline. The movement brings the blade tighter against Derek’s chest and he wants to press against the cold steel, to mark himself.

 

They stay in stasis for long seconds, the air syrupy and too warm, until Stiles let out a little whimper.

 

Derek’s hands reach for Stiles and twist in the thigh holsters that have been taunting him all night, his patience finally shot to hell by the adrenaline drop. With a sharp tug he hauls Stiles on his laps. Stiles lets himself be manhandled with a thrilled grin, only grunting when the top of his head bumps against the roof of the car. He lets go of the knife and the weapon glints dangerously in the air before bouncing back harmlessly on the ground.

 

 

Stiles squirms on Derek’s lap, getting comfortable with infuriating rolls of his hips and Derek stares at him.

 

The lights and shadows from outside are playing on the angles of his face, sharpening and blurring details. Moles appear and vanish, a little scar over his eyebrow shines silver for a second, his eyelashes cast long and dancing shadows over his cheekbones. There is a bruise blossoming on his chin, his hair is flattened by sweat and blood. His whole face seems incandescent with joy but is also drawn tight over his bones by deep exhaustion.

 

He’s a study in contrasts and Derek tightens his grip on the holster’s straps, reveling in feeling his fingers trapped between tight leather and hard muscles. He brings him closer, and closer, Stiles thighs parting obediently, his knees sliding over the seat with a squeaking noise of protest.

 

Once settled as close as humanly possible, Stiles smiles at him, dripping in amusement and excitation and bumps their foreheads together. There is something pulsing in the space between them, visceral as a heartbeat and tasting like hunger.

 

They stop again like that for long seconds, breathing against each other. Derek closes his eyes back, grateful, and drinks in the simple evidence of Stiles against him, trusting and happy in his arms.

 

Then, because it’s Stiles and he’s so beautiful and finally there, Derek kisses him.

 

 

The kiss starts as a chaste little thing, chapped lips and simple warmth. Then Stiles laughs against his mouth, because of course he does, just an enchanted shard of breath. And Derek loves him so much he would split himself in two to hide him from the world, so he presses harder, nips at the corner of his mouth then turns the whole thing filthy and ferocious.

 

Stiles rumbles his approval and buries his hand in Derek’s hair, his grip imperious. Derek revels in the strength of his fingers against his scalp, the sting of pulled hair pulling him closer and closer.

 

 

One of Derek’s hands reluctantly leaves the fascinating holster to run under his shirt. He slides up against the stunning arch of his back, a masterpiece of skin slick with sweat over muscles made liquid by trust. The curve there is perfect and his fingers slide off the dip of his spine to grip the broad planes of his sides. His thumbs are ghosting over his ribs, and he can feel each breath press him more in his hands, Stiles’ heart pulsing against the bones.

 

Such a weak jail of bones and skin for the storms brewing inside, for the destruction and the laughs and the kindness, a whole universe that only burns here, and Derek’s hands are framing it all between his simple fingers. The thought is mind blowing.

 

Derek mouths at his jaw, follow a trail of moles like breadcrumbs toward his neck. Stiles encourages him with a scratchy groan, low, heavy with intent, and a slow roll of his hips. Derek grunts and bites down.

 

 

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m really glad that you got your heads out of your respective asses, but don’t fuck on the backseat. I really don’t need to see that,” comes Boyd pained voice from the front seat.

 

Stiles splutters. “Erica and you are naked on so many security cameras I have enough found footages to create a porn movie longer than the extended version of The Lord of the Rings.” His hand tightens on Derek’s skull to keep him in place. Derek smiles and kisses his collarbones, the white skin and the clusters of beauty mark over sharp bones looking particularly tempting.

 

Stiles pets his face blindly, still glaring at the back of Boyd’s head. His fingers draw tiny circles near Derek’s eyes, caress his cheekbone then come back to scratch at Derek’s stubble.

 

“Not in the limo,” repeats Boyd, merciless, “Lydia would kill me for letting you mess the leather. Erica would kill me for not being there to ogle. My subconscious would try to kill me with atrocious flashbacks for years.”

 

Stiles whines, high and pitiful, and deflates, his forehead bumping against Derek’s shoulder.

 

“I am the boss of them,” he complains in a mumble, the sound tickling Derek’s throat.

 

“You are,” agrees Derek, tone placatory, still mouthing at his skin.

 

“This is my car,” adds Stiles, chagrined but exposing more of his neck hopefully.

 

“Yes it is,” nods Derek, threading his fingers in Stiles’ hair. It’s a mess, and he could not care less.

 

Stiles buries himself deeper against Derek, pliant under the caress. The sky is turning red outside, minutes away from sunrise. The heat between them from hot and electrifying to sluggish and drowsy.

 

“You should both sleep,” suggests Boyd, looking at them with a small smile through the mirror, “the next hours and days are going to be hell.”

 

Stiles sighs and makes a half-assed attempt at getting up, propping himself against the back of the seat. Derek’s tightens his grip on him, not ready to let him go. They struggle for a moment, trying to settle without moving away from each other. They almost fall down at one point and Stiles’ elbow catches Derek painfully in the ear.

 

Derek ends up with his legs stretched along the seat and leaning against the window. Stiles is curled sideway on his laps, his long legs dangling over the seat. His forehead is resting against Derek’s cheek, his breath crashing on Derek’s neck. He yawns loudly and rubs his face languidly against Derek’s.

 

Behind Derek’s back, the tinted glass is warming with the first rays of sun. Against him, Stiles is an anchoring weight.

 

 

Derek smiles and closes his eyes.

 

 

xxx

 

 

A few hours later, the library in the Stilinski’s manor is buzzing with activity.

 

Erica and Isaac have requisitioned the main table, papers spread all over it. They point angrily at different details, two seconds away from just flipping the table in frustration. Melissa is following Erica’s pacing with thinned lips, trying to dress the bullet wound in her arm.

Danny is bent like a pretzel in a chair, his computer resting on the top of his knees and a monstrous cup of tea stuck between his thighs and chest. He’s typing quickly, ignoring everybody.

Kira, Scott and Allison are piled up on the couch, Kira’s damaged leg curled around Allison’s belly. Scott is clinging to them both, silent and something terrified still shining in his eyes.

Lydia is striding all over the room, threatening people on the phone with a voice soft as velvet. When she passes the couch, she let her fingers trail over Kira and Allison’s hair.

Derek, Stiles, Chris and Boyd are talking quietly, sometimes stopping to listen to the police radio droning in the background. Fluffy and Indiana are sleeping deeply on the carpet, not concerned by the agitation.

 

The energy in the room is tense, all of them tired to the bones and hurt. Chris is limping low, Isaac favors his left hand, Boyd’s hands are already showing deep hematomas all over the knuckles, Lydia’s neck is still bloody.

 

Stiles is leaning against Derek’s side, showered and in clean clothes. He seems almost fragile, his skin pale, his hair still wet from the shower and the circles under his eyes dark. He has been drinking coffee almost compulsively since their return, his hands starting to shake with caffeine. He looks exhausted.

But Derek knows how to look at him right now, and he can see the unmovable core of steel inside him, the fierceness of his eyes despite the veil of lethargy.

 

Derek now knows that he may want to protect Stiles, but that Stiles doesn’t need to be protected.

 

 

Lydia’s phone rings again but this time, she frowns after answering.

 

“Stiles,” she calls from the back of the room. Stiles raises his eyebrows and gets up.

 

They whisper together, too low for anybody to hear. Finally, with a wave of his hand and a sigh, Stiles concedes something. Isaac joins them when they throw a look at him and then immediately leaves the room after a murmured order.

 

When Stiles sits back, he’s tense, and he downs his coffee in one big gulp. Derek squeezes his knee, trying to appease him, but Stiles only answers with a forced, crooked smile.

 

 

A few minutes later, there is a polite knock at the door followed by Isaac’s return.

 

Behind him enters Laura.

 

 

“Laura!” Derek jumps out of his chair, running toward her when he sees the grimness of her face and her tense shoulders.

 

Laura sees him and her face crumbles for an instant, terror and relief, before crushing him against her in a bear hug. Her fists dig in his shoulder blades, shaking. Derek immediately reciprocates, clinging to her. She is so thin in his arms, light, and she smells like their dad perfume, woody and airy. Derek feels choked by how much he missed her.

 

“Are you okay?” he asks against her hair, not wanting to let her go. She jerks her head back, and Derek knows this look, wide-eyed and thunderous. He winces when she starts shoving her finger against his chest repeatedly.  

 

“Am I okay. Am I okay?” she repeats, voice low and spiteful. Derek let her go, stepping back to protect himself from more physical harm. “Yes I am good baby brother, and how are you this morning? Do you have something to tell me?”

 

“I am…ok?” he answers hesitantly, looking around for help. Stiles’ face is totally blank, Lydia’s somber. Isaac and Erica are smirking at him.

 

“It’s so good to hear,” hisses Laura without losing steam, advancing on him. Derek takes another step back, wary. “Thank you for providing me this precious information spontaneously. I would have hated to be woken up during the night only to hear that the Stilinskis had decided to kill themselves by visiting the Deucalions, then spent the morning calling my brother. Only to be answered by his fucking. Voicemail. Thirty. Seven. Times.”

 

Instinctively, Derek pats his pockets. No phone.

 

“Oh.” He stares at her, wincing, “I must have forgotten it in my room when we left.”

 

“You think?” She grits.

 

Derek looks down, contrite. Her hands are clenched and fingernails bitten. She told him just last week that she was celebrating her two months without biting them. Derek feels a stab of guilt pierce his stomach.

 

“I’m so sorry Laura. So sorry,” he apologizes sincerely, engulfing her hands in his. She looks at him and for a second her anger disappears and leaves in its wake the remains of hollow panic. She gulps, breathes profoundly.

 

“Okay. Okay.” She breathes again. “You are okay” she repeats as if to convince herself. She calms down for a second, looking Derek straight in the eyes, before nodding decidedly. She sidesteps him and advances in the room, chin held high and her expression cold. Her eyes are blazing.

 

“Stilinski,” she greets frostily, “this stops right there.”

 

“Excuse me?” answers Stiles politely, straightening up in his chair abruptly. His body is tense like a wire, his knuckles white against his coffee cup.

 

“When I made this deal, my only condition was for Derek not to be hurt. My only condition. No exception.” She approaches him, her steps sure and without fear. From the back of the library, Erica does the same, draping herself against Stiles’ back. Boyd unfolds his gigantic frame. Lydia drops her phone on a nearby table. Isaac frowns. Laura stops only a few feet from Stiles.

 

“I thought you were your parents’ son. I fucking trusted you,” she spits.

 

Stiles flinches, obviously hit. Erica growls, raising up and teeth almost showing. Boyd steps closer. On the couch, Kira, Scott and Allison disentangle themselves discreetly, eyes focused on Laura.

 

“Laura!” snaps Derek. She doesn’t turn toward him, staring down at Stiles, her head held high, unafraid and enraged.

 

“You are going to take your money –” she jerks her head up and Derek finally remarks Jackson, standing quietly at the door with briefcases in his hands. Jackson steps forwards cautiously, wary of the electricity in the air “— and then forget my family ever existed,” she orders, her voice cold steel.

 

Stiles raises an eyebrow and Laura’s hand hits the table in front of him, pissed off.

 

Indiana jumps from the ground snarling, fur raised all over his spine, and Erica strikes, her fingers clamping around Laura’s wrist and crushing her hand against the wood. There is the sinister sound of Allison taking the safety off a gun.

 

“Indi,” barks Stiles without looking away from Laura. The dog stops growling but he curls around Stiles’ knees protectively. “Everybody is going to calm down,” he orders with a reproving glare, “we all had a long night. Let’s talk about this peacefully.”

 

Laura yanks her hand out of Erica’s grip.

 

“I’m not one of your obedient puppy Stilinski, happy to bark when you whistle,” she responds with a condescending look. “You take your money back, I take my brother back. There is nothing more to discuss.”  

 

Stiles cocks his head and smiles at her. It’s a smile Derek has never seen, thin and liquid and bright, that makes Derek’s reptilian hindbrain yell at him about power and blood.

 

Derek wonders if Laura is able to see it for the shark’s jaw it really is.

 

“I fear this is not your call to make miss Hale,” Stiles finally replies flatly, “And if you think you can remove Derek by force from our home, you are welcome to try. You may not like the result.” 

 

“You asked for four million, here they are. Derek against four million dollars. This was our deal.” Laura doesn’t back down but her voice is now mild, controlled.

 

Derek is not surprised. Of the both of them, Laura was always the one with the best instinct for danger. 

 

“I don’t care about the money,” brushes off Stiles, his voice hardening a second in irritation, “Derek saved my life and the lives of my men several times over last night. Your uncle’s debt is already paid in full. We are beholden to him now.” He smiles at Derek this time, tender and earnest and terribly sad. Derek wants to wipe this horrible expression from Stiles’ face forever.

 

“I don’t understand. He’s free to go?” Laura asks, destabilized.

 

“He was always free to go,” rectifies Stiles, rolling his eyes, “at which point did you think we made him prisoner? I’m becoming quite tired of people treating me like some kind of feudal lord.”

 

“You would look good in tights” mumbles Derek reflexively. Stiles’ head falls backward, looking at him with a smirk.

 

“I would look fantastic in tights,” he corrects, eyes dancing.

 

 

“I don’t understand,” finally blurts Laura after long seconds of Stiles and Derek staring at each other in silence, “Why can’t he leave?”

 

Stiles shakes his head and looks back at Laura.

 

“I never said he couldn’t leave. I just told you it was not your choice to make. It’s his.” He smiles at Laura, gentle. “You have to understand that Derek became very dear to all of us. There is a place here for him, as a family member, a friend or—well, more. And he will only leave us when he decides to.”

 

Everybody in the room is avoiding Derek’s gaze, except Laura who stares at him looking thunderstruck. Derek stares back before sighing.

 

He walks closer and uses the time to wonder if he should feel guilty for how easily he took his decision. When he is close enough Laura touches his cheek with her cold fingers. Her own smile is an unhappy, watery line.

 

“So Derek. How is the life at Stilinski?” she whispers, bittersweet and eyes defeated already. She knows him so well.

 

Derek hugs her again, tight, breathing her in. She clings to him and Derek suddenly wants to remind her of being nine and cooking in his fake oven, and of Laura, fourteen, eating everything even if she was allergic to half of it and the other half was mostly grass and dirt.

He wants to tell her that she laughs like mom and dances like dad and that she is the explanation for all the best parts left in him after the fire.

That he loves her so, so much, and that the idea of leaving her makes him feel raw and sick.

 

But he also wants to explain all about Stiles and his origami heart of folded soft tissue and loyalty. How he’s funny and kind and beautiful and breath-taking with a knife in his hand. That he has chaos and wilderness running in his blood and hidden in the marrow of his bones, and Derek wants to spend the rest of his life witnessing every drop of it all.

 

But Derek was never good with words, so he just kisses her forehead.

 

“I guess you were right. It’s a genetic obsession,” he murmurs back. She laughs against his chest. They stay silent and clinging to each other for a long while. “I hate the idea of not seeing you anymore,” finally admits Derek.

 

Laura breathes deeply, once, before shaking her head and tearing herself out of Derek’s arms.

 

“Bunny, I know that you operate on the basis that life is just one disaster after the other, but this is not how the real world works. We live half an hour away. Somehow, modern technology should prevent us to cut all ties forever.” She leans on the side, looking at Stiles around Derek, “Oi Stilinski!” she shouts happily.

 

Stiles blinks, not used to Laura’s changing moods. The surprise makes his tired face looks painfully young. “Yes?”

 

“Can you remind our little ball of tragedy here that he’s not signing his body to a life of slavery imprisoned between four walls? The sad cow eyes are killing me.”

 

Stiles snorts loudly. “Still not a feudal lord, sorry. But Derek if you really insist, I could make a beautiful collar for when you wander outside. We wouldn’t want other families to take liberties with you thinking you are free game.” Derek splutters and Stiles leers at him, satisfied of his effect. When he turns back to Laura, he’s smiling openly. “Also, you are more than welcome here as often as you want. I love being surrounded by women able to destroy the world with their little pinkie. I blame it on my untreated oedipal complex.”

 

Laura gazes at him, arms crossed.

 

Derek wonders what she sees when she sees him like this, disheveled, pale, with bags under his eyes and a bruise on his chin. If she can see how incredible, how important he is. If Laura only sees the tired kid painted in John’s colors and forgets to look for Claudia purring deep inside his bones.

 

 

“I want my own room for my stays. And since I gave you my precious baby bro and since I know that you are filthy rich, I expect my room to be decadent,” she declares.

 

“Please. I’ve written odes to your glory for weeks. It will be indecent. I’m talking mattress in handpicked goose feathers and gold in useless places and a mini bar full of alcohol older than this city,” cajoles Stiles.

 

After a second of reflection, Laura nods. “You amuse me.” She decides, “We are keeping you. Derek, don’t fuck up. He has good tastes.”

 

Stiles beams, pleased and rose-cheeked. Derek sighs but nods weakly. Then, he falls heavily in a chair, suddenly drained of strength. Stiles’ fingers immediately start massaging his neck and he grunts, grateful.

 

 

“I am Lydia Martin.”

 

Lydia’s clear voice tears Derek out of his doze and he raises his head back. When Stiles takes that as a clue to stop touching him, Derek pushes stubbornly his head against his palm to encourage him to keep going.

 

 

“I know, we already met. You came asking for the money?” Laura reminds her, looking vaguely crushed at being forgotten.

 

“Yes. Do you want to meet more?” asks Lydia smoothly, her smile sharp enough to cut.

 

She has a gash high on her collarbone closed by butterfly strips, her hair is tied messily and she still smells like chemical products. She’s absolutely gorgeous.

Derek can see Laura fold like wet paper.

 

 

“You have no shame,” whistles Erica, highly appreciative.

 

“I have a weakness for beautiful women with four million in cash to spend,” answers Lydia, all playful bite. Erica barks a laugh.

 

“I see. You only want me for my money,” jokes Laura, leaning obviously closer in open invitation. Lydia smirks.

 

“Please. I have total control over our family fortune. I could buy a small country for the fun of it and nobody could do anything. Stiles doesn’t even know how to operate his checks.”

 

“True,” admits Stiles to Derek with a shrug, “but it’s okay. Once she conquers the world, she will put me in an easy and comfy position of power.”

 

“So. That means you will be able to pay for coffee?” flirts Laura, all sparkling smiles and dimples. Derek has learned to fear the dimples.

 

Lydia smiles at her, slow and promising.

 

 

“Somewhere, sometimes in the future, people are building time machines to prevent this exact instant from ever happening and thus save all mankind from total domination,” groans Isaac in the background.

 

Jackson tilts his head, pensive, before raising a hand for a high five. Isaac complies, bewildered.

 

 

 

“Well. Somehow I feel like things won’t be boring for a long while around here,” concludes Stiles with a shrug.

 

 

FIN