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Divided We Stand

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Stiles stares at the clock in the library, wondering when his detention will be over so he can get the hell out of school. It annoys him when he gets detentions these days because he’d much rather be over at the Hale house, and, well, cooking for a family is a lot of work. If he deserved the detentions, that would be one thing, but he doesn’t. Well, sometimes he does. But this one is for being late to class, which happened because someone stole his clothes out of the locker room while he was at gym, and he had to wait while Scott ran to his house to bring him extras. Scott had gotten a detention, too, but Harris had let him go half an hour ago.

Fortunately for Stiles, Harris is preoccupied with grading, so he can at least use his phone. He’s been dithering over a question he wants to ask Derek for several days, since the group hug in the kitchen. He knows it’s something they should discuss face-to-face, but he doesn’t think he would ever get up the nerve. He’s uncomfortable with what it implies about their relationship, but feels like it’s something he needs to know. So finally, he buckles down and sends it by text. ‘Do you want kids?’

The reply is a minute in coming. ‘I don’t know.’ Another moment passes. ‘I refused to think about it for a long time.’

Stiles examines that from several angles, sneaking a glance at Harris and then licking his lips nervously. ‘It’s just that you talk about why your mom wants to rebuild the pack so badly, but don’t you want that, too?’

‘no one’s ever asked me that before,’ is Derek’s reply.

‘oh,’ Stiles sends back, not sure what else he can say. Then he says, ‘well, do you?’

‘No. I guess I don’t.’ There’s a pause. ‘I don’t mind the pack growing again, but . . . I can’t do it. It would always feel like I was trying to replace the people who died.’

Stiles lets out a breath. It’s a little shaky, but full of relief. It’s not like he’s ever thought a lot about whether or not he wants kids. He can take them or leave them. Frankly, between his mother’s BRCA mutation and his father’s history of heart disease, he thinks maybe it’s better if he doesn’t pass his genes onto unsuspecting offspring. But he couldn’t stand the idea that the idea of not being able to provide Derek something he desperately wanted. Talia, yes. Derek, no.

His hands are trembling a little as he texts back, ‘So it’s ok then? You and me?’

‘Absolutely.’ This time the reply is prompt. ‘As long as you’re okay without any.’

‘yeah, I am,’ Stiles texts back. ‘I mean, I’m not against the idea, but I’m not for it either. I’m neutral. Like Switzerland.’ For some reason, his fingers go on to text, ‘I just hated the idea of disappointing you. Of not being right for you.’

There’s a long pause while he wonders what’s happening to him, if it’s Evil Hand Syndrome or what. He can hear the commotion of lacrosse practice finishing up in the hallway, as the jocks leave the locker room and head for the parking lot. Finally, Derek replies, ‘I can’t not say this, ok? You are right for me. For the pack. You’re a puzzle piece we didn’t know was missing. And nothing about you is a disappointment to me.’

Harris glances up as he hears the noise from the corridor. He gives Stiles a smirk and then says, “You may as well go.”

Stiles gets up from his seat with a silent sigh. Of course Harris is going to let him go at the moment that half the lacrosse team is in the hallway, worked up from practice and smelling of testosterone. This is just his life now. He tries to dawdle while packing up his things, but Harris shoos him out the door. He doesn’t even let him text a reply to Derek, and threatens to keep him until midnight if he doesn’t get moving.

“Hey, whorewolf!” someone shouts as he enters the hallway, and Stiles thinks that this is going to go about as well as usual. He realizes his mistake a few moments later when his phone is snatched out of his hand.

“Hey!” he says, grabbing for it. “Give that back!”

Several of the boys laugh. “Texting your werewolf?” Jacksons asks. He smirks. “You know why he only texts you, right? It’s because he doesn’t want to be seen in public with you. He probably can’t stand to even touch you.”

Stiles knows for a solid fact that that isn’t true, which means it makes absolutely no sense when his eyes sting and a knot forms in the pit of his stomach. “Give it back,” he snaps, showing teeth. Maybe he’s been spending a little too much time in the Hale house lately.

“Come and get it,” Jackson says, passing the phone to a friend.

Stiles knows that he should walk away. He knows. There are three weeks of school left before he’ll be free of these assholes for the summer. He should let it go. He can get a new phone, somehow. There are five of them and one of him. He’s going to get his ass kicked. He should let it go and walk away but he can’t, and not only because the idea of Jackson having access to his text history with Derek makes his skin crawl. There are a lot of underhanded uses his phone could be put to, and he’s not interested in experiencing any of them firsthand.

But that’s not what bothers him most. What bothers him is the thought of Derek having sent that honest, heartfelt, amazing text, and sitting there, waiting for an answer that isn’t coming. Waiting for Stiles to reply and wondering what he did wrong.

“Give it – “ Stiles says, and launches himself at the bully holding the phone. Jesus, what if one of them decides to reply? What if one of them thinks to look at the phone, sees the text Derek just sent, and sends something awful in return? That thought carries him through his launch, and he tackles the other boy with enough strength to knock him back a few paces. But the phone has already been passed away.

Okay, it’s keep-away, he thinks. He can play this game. He played this game as a kid. His mother would play it with him. Keep away the chocolate cookie, keep away the dinosaur book. She would hold it out of his reach until he finally grabbed it and then she would laugh and shower him with kisses. He moves around for a minute, making half-hearted grabs, watching the way they move and how they pass it amongst them. Who tosses it and who does it behind their back, who holds it above his head and who moves down low.

Then, in one quick move, he jabs Jackson in the gut, stomps his foot down on another bully’s instep, and grabs the phone when it clatters to the floor between them.

He’s just gotten his hand on it when Jackson’s foot lands on it hard. There’s the sharp noise of something breaking, and sharper pain in his fingers. “Son of a bitch,” he says, and reacts instinctively from where he’s in a crouch, slamming his elbow up into Jackson’s groin. Jackson lets out a wheezing grunt that’s very satisfying, really. If nothing else goes right today – and it looks like nothing will – at least he’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that he caused Jackson Whittemore immense pain. The thought comforts him as two of the others drag him up, pinning his arms, holding him while Jackson punches him across the face. He can taste blood in his mouth.

“You little shit,” Jackson grinds out, and hits him again. Pain flashes through his cheek and his jaw. Another blow makes his head start spinning. He can taste blood in his mouth.

“Hey, Jackson, maybe we should – “ It’s Danny’s voice, Jackson’s one non-douchebag friend, who obviously thinks that beating the shit out of Stiles in a school corridor is a bad move for a variety of reasons.

“Shut up, Danny,” Jackson says. “I’m going to keep hitting him until he apologizes.”

Stiles struggles as another fist lands in his solar plexus, then another, then another. He gags, trying to catch his breath, and forces himself upright enough to spit a mouthful of blood and saliva into Jackson’s face. Jackson reels backwards, one hand up to shield his eyes. “There’s your fucking apology,” Stiles says, voice rough. “Take it or leave it, asshole, because it’s all you’re getting out of me.”

He sees Jackson’s face darken with rage, and thinks that maybe he really is going to die, but then Harris says mildly, “All right, boys, that’s enough.” Stiles hates him even more than he hates Jackson, because he’s obviously been standing there the entire time, watching the show. “Stiles, come with me,” he adds, as the two thugs drop him to the ground and the group of them stalk off. Danny casts one look over his shoulder, but then allows Jackson to pull him along.

Stiles presses his face against the floor of the school, spits out more blood, and wonders vaguely how he’s going to explain this to his father.


~ ~ ~ ~


Derek waits for a reply, then he waits nervously, then he waits in some weird sort of suspended panic state. Eventually, he can’t take it anymore, and texts a simple, ‘Stiles?’ but this gains no reply. A phone call goes to voice mail. He thinks about asking a coworker to borrow their phone and call him, but stops himself because that’s creepy and stalkerish. He just needs to man up and go apologize. “Though how I’m supposed to slow my roll when you ask about babies is beyond me,” he snarls. He stalks off to find his boss and explain that he knows he’s the worst employee ever, but he really, really has to go.

Much to his relief, his boss lets him go without argument. He checks his watch and sees that it’s just after four o’clock. Stiles will be out of school by now. He’s been going to the den on most days after but Derek has a feeling that he won’t today, that he won’t want to face Derek after that text. To make sure, he calls Laura and asks if Stiles is there. She says he isn’t and that she hasn’t seen him today. He hangs up on her queries about what’s wrong and heads for the Stilinski house.

The Sheriff’s cruiser is in the driveway, but the Jeep is not. Derek hesitates, then goes up to the door and rings the bell. Sheriff Stilinski answers it, looking a little surprised. “Hey. Are you meeting Stiles here?”

“I wasn’t supposed to, but . . .” Derek shakes his head and jumps directly to, “Where is he?”

Tom arches an eyebrow and says, “Believe it or not, I don’t keep tabs on him twenty-four/seven. If he’s not here, and he’s not at your place, I would assume he’s probably at school or at Scott’s. Why do you ask?”

“We were talking, texting, and then he just stopped replying.” Derek is clearly flustered and off kilter. “I think maybe I pissed him off, but usually he tells me when he’s pissed.”

“Oh, boy.” Tom sighs. “Come on in and tell me what in God’s name you said. Like a beer?”

Derek steps inside as invited and accepts the offer of a beer, but shakes his head at the request to share. He has no idea how much, if anything, Stiles has told his father about the possibility of grandchildren. “It was personal. I can’t share it without his permission.”

“That bad, huh?” Sheriff Stilinski shakes his head a little. It looks like he’s about to say something else when Derek’s head jerks around as he hears the Jeep pull into the driveway. By the time he hears the door of the car open and shut, he’s already on the front porch. Stiles is out of the car, looking at the Camaro with a tight, nervous expression. It’s obvious that he wasn’t expecting Derek to be there. He looks up as Derek comes down the house’s front steps with Tom behind him. He looks terrible. One side of his face is badly swollen; his left eye won’t open all the way. His lip is split, and blood liberally decorates the front of his T-shirt, which has been twisted and warped.

There’s a brief moment where Derek tries desperately to suppress the animal instincts that come roaring to the surface at the sight of Stiles in this condition. He knows that it’s not acceptable behavior; at least, that it might make Stiles uncomfortable. A low growl escapes his throat despite himself, but before he can lose control, Tom pushes past him. He gets a hand on the back of Stiles’ neck and demands, “What happened?”

“Nothing, just, some kids – ”

“Who? I want names, God damn it, I’m going to go down to that school and pistol whip those little bastards – ”

“Dad, I’m okay, I – ”

“No, this is not okay.” Despite Derek’s efforts, it comes out as a snarl. He moves closer, already able to smell the blood and pain on Stiles, as well as the upset and anger. All of those things very much concern him, but he’s also trying to detect the scents of the people that had dared lay hands on him.

Stiles stares at him for a long moment, then shakes his head and says, “Dude, what are you even doing here – get off me, Dad, I’m fine, just get me some ice or something.”

“We were talking, and then I said . . . and you didn’t reply, and I thought I had fucked things up and I came over to find you and fix it.”

Tom says at the same time, “Don’t try that ‘I’m fine’ crap with me.” He lets go of Stiles, but doesn’t stop hovering. “I’ve taken victims of domestic abuse to the hospital for less.”

“Well, it’s a good thing I’m not a victim of domestic abuse, then,” Stiles says, giving up on the rest of them and heading into the house so he can get some ice for himself, since they’re obviously too busy freaking out. But he does look a little guilty as he says, “Yeah, uh, sorry that I didn’t reply. My phone, uh, well.” He swallows and takes out the remains of the device, dumping it onto the kitchen table and then immediately making a beeline for the freezer so he doesn’t have to see their reaction.

Derek glances at the phone and grimaces, but pulls a chair out. “Sit down. I’ll make you an ice pack.” He starts rustling around for a towel, then heads for the freezer. “What happened?” he asks, and then, proving how well he’s getting to know Stiles, he tacks on, “In detail.”

Stiles sighs and goes where Derek puts him. He winces a little as he sinks into the chair, folding an arm over his stomach where some of the worst bruises are, hidden underneath his shirt. “A kid grabbed my phone, I tried to get it back, we got in a fight, my phone got broken, now I’m suspended. Ta da.”

Tom rubs his hands over his face. “Who is ‘a kid’?”

“Just some kid at school,” Stiles says.

The ice cubes in Derek’s hand practically powder, he clenches his fist so tightly. He shakes his hand out over the sink and goes to get new ice. “Some kid. And how many of his friends?”

Stiles gives him a wary look. “I don’t think I want to answer that question.”

“If you won’t answer it from him, you’d better answer it from me,” Tom says flatly. “Some kid and how many of his friends?”

Stiles’ gaze drops. “Four.”

Derek brings the icepack over. “Give me their names so I can beat the shit out of them.” Despite his angry words, his touch is gentle when he puts the makeshift icepack in Stiles’ hands.

Stiles presses it against his face. “What are you going to do, beat up every kid in my school?” he snaps.

“Yes!” Derek says. “Yes, I’m going to line up every kid at your school and give them a punch to the face. Except Scott. Scott’s okay.”

Stiles’ fists clench at his sides. “Is this some kind of, of fucking joke to you?” he snarls. “Are you seriously that fucking naïve to have not realize that this has been going on for months, and that this is by far not the worst of what’s happened to me? To have not realized that you coming in here and being all growly and wolfy like ‘I’ll beat up the people who hurt you’ means you should really start by nailing yourself in the ‘nads because everything about this is your fault?”

Derek flinches, but then rallies. “What do you want me to do, apologize for choosing you? I won’t, okay? Because I’m not fucking sorry. I’m sorry for a lot of things, like, I’m sorry that your school is fucked up and your peers are assholes and that my mother screwed this six ways from Sunday but I’m not sorry I chose you!”

“You should be sorry!” Stiles shouts back. Tom rubs both hands over his face and then turns to leave the kitchen, giving them room to hash things out on their own. “Because if you really cared about me, you’d be at least a little sorry that you fucked over my life!”

“I’m sorry that your life is fucked over,” Derek retorts, “but I’m really having trouble seeing how that’s my fault. If you hate the fact that I chose you that much, why didn’t you refuse me?”

“Oh, you say that like it would help! You really are that dense! If I refused you, all I would get is beaten up for different reasons, like, of the ‘you think you’re too good for Derek Hale’ variety. I thought I could put up with it, you know, that after a few months you’d dump me and everyone would laugh and then it would be like ‘oh well, joke’s over’ and everyone would move on.”

“Well, joke’s over,” Derek snarls, “because I’m not dumping you.”

Stiles sits down abruptly, one hand clenching down on the ice pack. “Why not?” It’s meant to come out as a shout, but the words are strangled, close to tears.

“Because, because a lot of reasons. Because you’re ballsy as hell, because you make me laugh, because you’re smart, and you’re twitchy, and you have a smart mouth and you aren’t afraid of us, and I could write a pornographic sonnet about your hands, because you make my pack better, because you don’t think I need to have children. Because you love books and you make really good ginger molasses cookies and you throw popcorn at the television while you’re watching bad movies. Because . . . I could keep going, do I need to keep going?” When he had started, he was yelling, but in the middle his voice had changed, become softer, so he was pleading more than anything else. He just wants Stiles to believe all these good things about himself, for once. Even quieter, he says, “I had my suspicions about what was going on at your school, but you didn’t want me involved and I was trying to respect that. But I just don’t have it in me to keep watching you get hurt.”

Stiles wipes the back of his hand over his eyes. “You . . . you’re fucking serious about all of that, aren’t you.”

“For the love of God, yes, I’m fucking serious,” Derek says. He pulls another chair out and sits down facing Stiles. He’s sick of towering over his mate like this. It feels unnatural.

“None of it makes sense,” Stiles says. “You have the worst taste in mates, I swear to God.”

“And who am I supposed to pick instead?” Derek asks, his eyebrows hiking up. It’s clearly a rhetorical question.

“I don’t know, anybody,” Stiles grumbles. Derek just judges him with his eyebrows for a minute while they both think about how lame a comeback that was. “They said . . . the reason we text each other so much is because you can’t stand to actually be around me,” Stiles finally says, studying his hands. “That you can’t stand to touch me.”

“You know that’s not true, right?” Derek asks.

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Stiles says, but he won’t look at him, and Derek can hear the thud of his heart, hear the lie underneath the words. He reaches out and puts his fingers underneath Stiles’ chin, tilting it up so the teenager has to look at him. Stiles blinks over at him, nervous and upset but just a little excited, his pulse speeding up even more at Derek’s touch. Derek just stays there for a minute, close, running his fingers over Stiles’ cheekbones, his jaw, his lips.

There is a specific scent, he learns in that moment, that comes when someone desperately wants to be kissed. He can’t say how he recognizes it, but he does. He leans forward, giving Stiles ample time to pull away, and then presses his lips against the teenager’s mouth. It’s gentle, tender, completely chaste. But Stiles draws in a shaky breath as Derek pulls away.

“Listen to me,” Derek says, still holding onto him. He’s done with these stupid games. Time has proven that he’s not a particularly adept player, anyway. “I want you. In every way. As a mate, as a partner, as a friend. I don’t care why you think I don’t or why you think I shouldn’t. I don’t care why anyone else thinks I don’t or shouldn’t. I want you, and I will happily spend every day, every minute of the rest of our lives proving that to you, if that’s what I need to do.”

“Oh, Jesus,” Stiles says, his voice trembling. “Okay, I give, I give, nobody could say no to that, you magnificent asshole, now get over here and kiss me like you mean it – “

Derek can’t resist that; he surges forward, sealing his mouth to Stiles’ and kissing him slow and deep, one hand cupping the side of Stiles’ face. Stiles makes a little noise in the back of his throat, one hand getting a handful of Derek’s shirt and tugging him closer. But then he makes a noise that’s less excitement and more pain, and Derek tastes blood. He pulls back and Stiles presses a hand against his mouth. “Ow, fuck, ow,” he says. “Maybe kissing a lot when I have a split lip isn’t the best idea.”

“Shit, sorry.” Derek pulls back, looking a little embarrassed. He reaches out again but stops himself before making contact. “If we move this to somewhere more comfortable, I can at least help with how much it hurts.”

“Dude,” Stiles says, laughing. “That’s the worst pick-up line I’ve ever heard.”

“God, I hope people never get laid with material like that,” Derek says with a snort. “I was being entirely factual.”

“Sure, uh huh,” Stiles says. “You know what I was thinking? I was thinking that I’m actually not injured right here.” He touches the right side of his jaw where it meets his ear, running one finger down his neck. “So, you know, theoretically, you could kiss me there without any painful repercussions.”

Derek can take direction. Happily. First he buries his nose there, scenting Stiles, enjoying the novel scent of overwhelmed joy and clean lust under the pain, blood, and fading anger of their argument. Then he follows with lips and tongue. After a moment he says, right next to Stiles’ ear, “Are we going to try to find out how many places aren’t hurt?”

Stiles gives a breathy little moan which Derek takes as an affirmative. However, before he can start making suggestions, he hears Sheriff Stilinski clearing his throat.

“Oh my God!” Stiles says, flailing backwards so quickly that he starts to fall out of his chair.

Derek catches him and sets him back upright. He keeps himself from growling at the other man only by firmly reminding himself that the Sheriff has been very helpful overall, and can legally cut him off from Stiles for at least one more year.

“As happy as I am that you two have worked things out – and believe me, I am happy about that – before you two start celebrating in ways that will have me cleaning my shotgun, we have some things to discuss.” Tom pulls out a chair, sits down across from Stiles, and says, “I want the names, Stiles.”

Stiles looks away, nervously licking his lips. “I don’t want Derek to go hurt someone and then get in trouble.”

“I wouldn’t. Get in trouble, I mean,” Derek says calmly. He’s fully prepared to go injure someone.

“Yes, you would,” Stiles says. “Because I’m not officially your mate. I can’t be until I’m eighteen. What the hell do you think I’ve been reading these past three months? You can’t go hurt anyone to protect me and get away with it. Dad, back me up on this.”

Tom rubs a hand over his face. “In the terms of the law, Stiles is correct,” he says.

“It’s not quite that cut and dry,” Derek says. “If it were, the Searching Ceremony wouldn’t allow people to be on the list until they were eighteen. You can join a pack as a minor, with parental approval. Are you . . . accepting me as your mate?” Almost hesitantly, remembering how it went last time he did this, Derek holds his hand out to Stiles, palm up.

Stiles folds his fingers into Derek’s and smiles almost goofily at him. “Yes. But I’m still not telling you who beat me up.”

Derek’s fingers close around Stiles’, curling their hands together, and tension that he’s been carrying for months starts to drain out of him. “You’re a complete ass, you know that?” But that tiny smile that seems reserved for Stiles blooms into the real thing. “But fine. If you won’t let the pack handle it, you handle it.”

“I suspect,” Stiles says, “that my father plans to handle it.” He tilts his head to where his father is sitting with his arms folded over his chest, that so-very-done-with-your-bullshit expression on his face. “To a point that includes . . .” He sighs. “Taking me to the hospital to document my injuries, having me make a formal statement, and charging some people with assault and property damage.”

“Sounds good to me,” Tom says, getting to his feet.

“Hey, I haven’t agreed yet,” Stiles gripes.

“Is that going to stop it?” Derek asks.

“We’ll see,” Stiles says, with a shrug.

Tom rests his hands on Stiles’ shoulders. “Okay,” he says. “I’m going to call Melissa and let her know we’re on our way to the ER, so hopefully we won’t have to wait too long once we get there.” Stiles slumps a little at these words, but doesn’t protest. “Derek, why don’t you run up to Stiles’ room and grab a change of clothes for him? That way he can go straight to your place afterwards . . . which is something that I assume you two plan on doing.”

“Uh, yes sir, it is.” Derek stands, reluctant to let go of Stiles but willing, because he does want him looked over. “Is it okay?” he asks, directing the question to Stiles. “For me to be in your room? Finding you clothes?” He’s never been invited into a lot of the house, and bedrooms are off limits without permission. Always. Derek and Cora have granted that to each other, and Peter seems to like having the scent of pack in his room if it isn’t too overwhelming, but still, he needs to ask.

Stiles doesn’t seem to share his opinion. “Seriously? You just had your tongue in my mouth,” he says, and his father winces. “Yes, you can go to my room and get me some clothes.”

“My tongue in your mouth and my hand in your underwear drawer are two entirely separate things,” Derek retorts, and with that parting shot, he leaves on his assigned task.

“I don’t wear underwear!” Stiles shouts after him, and hears Derek trip up the stairs.

Tom just shakes his head as he gets a plastic bag out from underneath the sink to hold Stiles’ dirty clothes after he changes, then calls Melissa. He shepherds Stiles out to the cruiser as soon as Derek returns, and he opts to follow them in the Camaro. “You can wait out here,” Stiles says to Derek, as they’re heading into the ER. “I don’t need you seeing all my bruises and losing your shit. Again. More.”

Derek nods, his gaze shifting between Stiles and the hospital entrance. His shoulders are tense. “I don’t . . . like it inside anyway.” He looks away for a moment. “If you need me, I’ll come in, but . . . I’d rather stay out here.”

“Nope, I’m good.” Stiles lets his father steer him into the hospital. He has to admit that one good thing has come out of this: painkillers. Of course, first they have to get x-rays and take pictures and poke and prod and generally make him uncomfortable. But then they give him a prescription for some wonderful, amazing narcotics and Melissa gives him the first dose.

While they’re doing that, Tom takes notes on what had happened. Stiles doesn’t leave anything out, but he refuses to reveal the identities of the people involved until Melissa has gone to make sure that Derek is still waiting outside and can’t overhear. “Okay, you’re clear,” she says.

Stiles nods and meets his father’s gaze. “Jackson Whittemore.”

Tom blinks at his son. “As in, the DA’s son,” he says, and Stiles nods. Tom’s face scrunches up in anger. “I knew someone should have . . . never mind,” he finishes, not wanting to finish the sentence where someone might overhear. He’d clearly like to call some parenting skills into question, preferably with his size ten boot. He pulls a chair up to the edge of the gurney his son is sitting on so they can face each other. “That does complicate things.”

“Yeah. And I . . . I may have been the one to throw the first punch. Not because I was attacking them or anything, but because . . . they took my phone, and I . . . was just trying to get it back. But he’ll say I hit him first and everything after that was self-defense and everyone will back him up. Even if you can get charges to stick. Whittemore will be all pissed off about it, and . . . you have an elected position, Dad. I don’t want you to lose your job over this. There’s only three weeks of school left. I’ll be okay.”

“Now wait just a minute,” Tom says. “If you think my job is more important to me than my son then I have been doing something very wrong. I can get another job. There’s only one you.” He reaches out and takes a hold of Stiles’ wrists, one in each hand, and gives him a little shake to be sure he has his son’s attention. “If I need to nail this kid and his friends to a wall over this, then that’s what I’ll do.”

“Ugh, Dad,” Stiles protests. “Don’t get all sappy on me. It’s been a hard enough day. Your job should be important to you. It’s important to me. But I just . . . is it okay not to want to put either of us through what it would actually take to get Jackson and his lackeys in trouble? Because you know his dad will fight us all the way.”

“He will.” Tom pinches the bridge of his nose. “And I understand your reluctance. But I also don’t feel comfortable doing nothing. To hear you tell it, they arranged this. And by ‘they’, I mean that even the adults seem to be in on it. The last three weeks of school seem terrifyingly long.”

“Can’t argue with that.” Stiles opens his mouth to tell his father about some of the other things that have been happening, but then shakes his head a little. “But unless you plan to arrest every kid at my school, it’s really likely that arresting Jackson will make things worse for me, not better.”

“So we’re back to Derek’s plan of punching people in the face.” Tom sighs. “Let’s let it go for tonight. I’m having a hard time being rational right now.” He doesn’t think he’s the only one. Melissa’s reaction when they walked in made him think she was going to reach for a baseball bat and start smacking people with it.

“Yeah. Okay.” Stiles nods. The pain has subsided somewhat, and he finds himself smiling. “But, you know. I’m okay. Because, you know. Derek.” His smile becomes a somewhat goofy grin. “He, like, likes me.”

Tom reaches out and ruffles Stiles’ short hair, ending the motion with his hand on the back of Stiles’ neck. “Kid, he does more than like you. He’s so in love with you that he’s stupid with it. I’m glad you found someone like that.”

“Ugh, Dad,” Stiles says again, turning pink. “Whatever. Can I stay the night at his place? I don’t, you know, think we’ll get up to anything too nefarious – honestly I don’t think my ribs would let me – but I just, kind of, you know.” His cheeks flush an even darker shade of pink. “Want to be near him right now.”

“I think he’d chew my hand off if I tried to keep you from him,” Tom says. He’s not even sure he’s joking. “Just . . . promise me that you’ll consider what you’re doing before you do it. I know that this isn’t some teenaged fling for either of you, but that doesn’t mean that things can’t move too fast,” he adds, shifting from foot to foot uncomfortably.

Stiles nods solemnly and says, “I promise that I won’t feel pressured into anything before I feel ready for it. Which will actually be pretty easy because I’m ready for all the things right now, so, you know, there’s that.”

Tom stands up, wraps an arm around Stiles’ shoulders, leaving the other hand on his neck and pulling his son against his chest for a hug. “Stiles, you’re the most important thing in the world to me, but please, for the love of God, shut up.”

“Okay!” Stiles shoots to his feet, but then winces as the bruises on his abdomen pull. “Good talk. Let me get changed and we can go see if Derek is climbing the walls.”

As it turns out, he isn’t. In fact, he’s lying on the hood of the Camaro, curled up on his side in a position that would be natural on a wolf but looks odd on a human. His head is pillowed on one arm and the other is tucked up close to his body. His eyes are half closed and fixed on the emergency room door with patient, unwavering, sleepy attention.

He hears them before he sees them but only twitches, running over his skin like a ripple of fur. But then they clear the door, and Derek uncurls and launches from the hood of the car in a heartbeat. He hits the ground moving and barely stops himself from wrapping around Stiles protectively and possessively. He hates the smell of the hospital clinging to both his mate and the sheriff.

“Hi,” Stiles says, grinning foolishly through his bruises. “You’re gonna kiss me now, right?”

Derek nods to Tom in greeting and then carefully wraps his arms around Stiles, rubbing his cheek against Stiles’ unmarred one. “I think I can do that.” He works his way up to Stiles’ lips and kisses him, although he’s more careful this time around. Stiles responds enthusiastically, discovering that closed-mouth kissing is actually pretty fun, slow, small kisses that make him ache for more in an entirely pleasant way. He lets his eyes close, lets Derek run a hand through his hair and over the back of his neck. This goes on for so long that Sheriff Stilinski finally clears his throat again and says, “Boys. You’re blocking the entry to the ER.”

Derek makes a noise to show that he had heard and understood. It’s something of a hum against the underside of Stiles’ jaw. He thinks about pulling away but then decides against it. So instead, he encourages Stiles to wrap an arm around his neck, then slides a hand down to Stiles’ thigh, curling underneath it and lifting up, slow enough for Stiles to get the idea. Then he picks Stiles up and moves to the side, out of the way.

Stiles pulls away enough to gasp for breath, eyes already glassy, as Derek traps him against the wall. “Oh my God,” he says.

“Derek,” Tom says, in that firm tone of authority that demands attention. “If I’m leaving my son with you for the night, you’d better let me get a final word in.”

It takes Derek a moment, but he turns to face the sheriff, his cheek resting against Stiles’ shoulder and rubbing a little.

“I will be seeing you tomorrow,” Tom says, pointing his index finger at them. “And if I hear that you have touched him in any way that he did not specifically ask for, I will break your fingers over and over again until they stop healing. Is that clear?”

“Yes, sir.” After a moment, Derek adds, “We’ll look forward to seeing you.” He’s been over before and gotten along with everyone, but it’s different now. Stiles is his mate now, for real. He’s pack now. That changes things. Tom is more than a friend now; he’s family.

Tom claps his son on the shoulder, shakes his head once, and then heads for his cruiser.

Derek watches the sheriff leave as he turns his nose and lips back to Stiles’ skin and shirt. Soon he’ll be able to let go and take Stiles to the den, but not yet. Right now, the thought of letting him go hurts, and Stiles still smells like hospital and Derek hates that. The smell still haunts some of his nightmares, memories of the long days after the fire. But more than that, he feels like he’s trying to make up for days and weeks of lost time.

“Mmmm,” Stiles says, a little dazed, as Derek nuzzles the crook of his neck and shoulder. “We gonna stay here all day?” he adds, one hand idly rubbing up and down Derek’s spine. “‘Cause I’d . . . be totally okay with that. Yep. This is me. Being totally okay right where we are.”

Derek huffs a laugh against Stiles’ lips. “No. But I just . . . I just need to breathe and have you to myself. For a little while. When we go home, I’m going to have to share you.” He pulls back enough to look at Stiles. “But you’d get a sofa. So that’d be nice.”

“I don’t wanna share,” Stiles says, his tone that of mock petulance, one hand winding through Derek’s hair. “God, you smell good. That probably sounds funny coming from a human, but I just wanna roll in it.”

Derek licks at his ear. “We’ll only have to share for a few hours.” Then he adds, “Remember when you asked if we picked someone who smelled good?” He doesn’t wait for an answer, doesn’t want to risk making Stiles unhappy right now. “You smell amazing.”

“Rawr,” Stiles says, and then snickers a little. “Sorry. They gave me drugs.”

“I know,” Derek says. “I can smell them.” He could even tell what kind Stiles is on, but he doesn’t really think that’s relevant right now.

“Of course you can,” Stiles says, biting at Derek’s neck. “You should give me a hickey. A big one. That way no one will think you don’t like to touch me.”

“We wouldn’t want them to think like that at all.” Derek pulls back, pressing his forehead against Stiles’ for a few moments, looking him in the eyes. “And where would you like this mark?”

“How about . . . right here?” Stiles asks, tapping one finger to where his shoulder meets his neck, on the side that isn’t bruised. “Don’t want it getting mixed up with the other injuries.”

“I think I can manage that.” He noses and licks at the spot. “If you want, that is.” He’s clearly teasing. He can tell that Stiles wants.

“Nnnngh,” Stiles replies eloquently. One hand clenches down on the back of Derek’s shirt as the werewolf teases and worries at the skin of his neck. He makes a whimpery noise in the back of his throat as Derek nips at him, biting down a little harder each time until a red-purple bruise starts appearing.

“Better?” Derek murmurs, low in his throat, right into Stiles’ ear.

“Nnngh hn,” Stiles replies, which sounds like an affirmative through the trembling of his voice.

Derek gives him another slow kiss on the mouth and then pulls him away from the wall. “Come on. The sooner I’m willing to share you with the pack, the sooner I can stop sharing you for the night.”


~ ~ ~ ~