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Hybrid Learning

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The rancid stench of death and burned flesh hung in the air.  Maybe it was fitting.  The air smelled the same as it had the night his family died.  It felt sort of like he was coming full circle and Derek knew better than to discount Fate.  After all, here he was still standing while the last of the murderers lay scorched and dying at his feet.  He was the one who let Kate in and started all of this, now he would be the one to end it once and for all.

“Go on, take it,” Peter said in between heaving agonized breaths, “let’s see how long you can keep it.”  He laughed drunkenly, falling into hacking wet coughs.  “Look what he did to me,” he wheezed.  “I was right about that boy; he’s going to be magnificent.”  Who, Stiles?  It didn’t matter.  Derek flicked out his claws.  No more distractions, no more lies.  He’d been running for too long.  It was time to take his home back.  As he raised a hand to strike, Peter choked out the words “What immortal hand or eye dare frame thy fearful symmetry?”

For a moment the shock of hearing a line from that poem nearly made him lose his nerve, but his resolve hardened a split second later.  After all, what more proof this was meant to be could he ask for?

None of those rationalizations prevented the sick feeling in his stomach from marring the sense of triumph as his claws parted the cartilage and sinew of his Uncle’s throat.  The red faded from those mad eyes that had invaded the face of the man that had once been his best friend as power surged through Derek.

The rush was incredible.  He turned to look at the others.  There were no friends here, only enemies and allies.  “I’m the Alpha now,” he said.  They should know just what they were dealing with if they wished to remain in his territory.  Dimly, a part of Derek’s mind was screaming that the Alpha power was screwing with his head, but he shut it out.  This part of him was unmoved by the familial blood dripping off his fingertips.  Peter had lost, he had won.  It was the way of things.

He stood there and watched the others pick themselves up and go without a word.  When the last car had disappeared down the road he faded back into the forest that had been his home as much as the ruined house once was.  Sheriff Stilinski would be coming for Kate’s body and Derek wanted to avoid another night in a cell.  He’d had quite enough of restraints lately.

Besides which he didn’t have time for jail.  Peter had been right about one thing; he had a pack to rebuild if he wanted to hold on to his territory.

 

A few hours later the police had finished up and left, allowing Derek to return home.  He had already come down somewhat from the intoxicating sensation of becoming an Alpha and the charred remains of his old bedroom were only speeding up his crash.

What really surprised him was how bored he was.  While he was hardly safe here by any means, his current situation had nothing on the kind of mortal peril he’d been in just half a day before.  New enemies were coming, but these were ones he knew.  These he could prepare for. 

If only he had something he could actually do on that front right now.  His family hadn’t grown as a pack save by birth or marriage in nearly two hundred years, so he had on a vague idea of how to go about finding people he could trust enough to bite without getting to know them properly first.

“I was right about that boy; he’s going to be magnificent.”

Derek wasn’t sure he wanted to know what Peter had meant by that.  The man had always been something of a schemer with a barely hidden malicious streak.  But his cryptic remark did give Derek an idea, although Stiles was exactly the opposite of he wanted.  The kid was too independently minded.  While he was obviously just as fiercely loyal as Scott, he was much more selective about who he gave his loyalty to, almost to the point of seeming blithely arbitrary.

He could see why Peter had liked him, though.  Taking the time out of an epic Boss Battle to mix up firebombs special for a man driven insane by being burned alive was equal parts eloquent, ruthless, and tactical.  Just the sort of thing his Uncle would admire.  Would have admired?  Had admired?  Oh well.  He supposed getting his tenses confused was only natural seeing as he had only finished interring his Uncle under the floorboards ten minutes ago.

The reminder of just how dangerous it was trusting people with his secret pulled him back from his grammatical musings.  So, definitely not people like Stiles, as fun as it might be to imagine the kinds of chaos the hyperactive teenager would cause if he was a superpowered hyperactive teenager.

Scott was a better template to start with.  Peter had failed miserably to coerce the young Beta into joining him, and Derek thought that might be the key.  Scott would probably have accepted the Bite if Peter had actually offered, but even if he had the boy would never have chosen to be pack over Stiles, Allison, and his Mother.  Hell, he’d even claimed Jackson as his even though they were only joined at their mutual love of lacrosse and fervent dislike of each other.

What he needed were kids similar to how Scott had been before the Bite, but without a Stiles or close family relationships.  The outsiders, the chronically ill, the invisible; those were the perfect targets.  He would get a pack that was immediately inclined to unswervingly loyal and they would get everything they wanted.  Human standards would probably consider that predatory; he thought of it more as a fair trade.  Of course, his teenage experience had given him a very different barometer for measuring “fair”.

 

He had more than half expected to hear the sound of the Porsche some time that night, but he was surprised it had taken Jackson that long to work himself up to it.  This was another prime example of People Who Should Not Be Bitten.  The kid was a coward and worse, but he was also a huge liability.  Unfortunately, even when Peter had ordered him to kill the little snot he’d been vacillating between actually doing it and just tying him up in the basement for a few days (though that would hardly have turned out better in the end, considering).  Without his uncle whispering revenge and murder in his ear the sad fact was he didn’t have what it took to deal with this threat decisively.

There was only one thing for it: give Jackson what he was asking for.  With any luck the Bite would kill him. As much as he hated the idea of having to watch that again, this was about survival and besides, the kid knew the score.

 

He indulged himself in a dramatic entrance, leaping down the staircase in a single bound after the putz’s spiel.  Why didn’t the guy get that no one cared what he wanted.  Derek was making a huge commitment here and Jackson was acting like he was owed twenty bucks for a bet.  It’s possible he enjoyed the cry of pain when he bit him a bit more than was seemly.  Whatever, he’d a rough couple of months.

Jackson reacted immediately, staggering away and out the door as a fever started to rise in him from the bite mark on his side. 

Derek heard the familiar rattle of Stiles’s jeep coming up the road.  His night was now complete.  Stiles skidded to a halt a pace away from the steps and threw open the door in a huff, just in time to see Jackson’s drunken meanderings carry him off into the trees.

“Are you fucking insane!?  Tell me you did not give him the Bite!”  Stiles was looking a bit worse for wear after spending some quality time with his late Uncle.  He was clearly exhausted and his torn clothes reeked of blood, fear, and Peter.  “Seriously!?  Jackson fucking Whittemore!?  As if this town, and my Dad, don’t have enough problems already, you thought it would be a good idea to release a narcissistic weredouche on the unsuspecting populous.”  Wow.  The kid even had Peter’s flair for the dramatic.  If Derek didn’t watch out he was going to wind up liking Stiles in spite of himself.

“What business is it of yours who I add to my pack?  Have you been secretly jealous of Scott this whole time?  Is that why you came here?  To ask for the Bite?”  Derek meant it teasingly, mostly, however harshly he said it.  He was expecting a snort of dry amusement or a scathingly witty rejoinder in response.

He was not expecting Stiles to begin laughing hysterically and rubbing at the fuzz covering his head like he was checking to make sure it was still there.  

Derek was at his side in a heartbeat to steady him when the kid started swaying on his feet.  Now that he was close enough he caught another scent hiding under the blood and sweat: Alpha saliva.  His eyes went wide and his mouth dropped open in shock.

“Yep, Uncle Murderwolf already took care of that for you,” Stiles said correctly interpreting his look of surprise.  The boy’s words were joking but Derek could hear the violence bubbling away in his heart.

Derek reached out and pulled aside the lapel of Stiles’s jacket that had hidden the bite mark on his shoulder earlier.

“Don’t bother, it fully healed a couple of hours of ago.”

Derek couldn’t quite get a bead on Stiles’ feelings.  There was anger, certainly, but that was more or less typical for him.  What there wasn’t was joy, or despair, or anything particularly profound, just the nebulous scent of tired.  Or perhaps resigned.  “You didn’t ask for this?” he ventured slowly in a cautious tone.

Not cautious enough.  “Ask.  No, Derek, I didn’t ask.”  His pupils dilated with rage until the whiskey brown was gone.  “Peter offered and I declined.  Then like an idiot I told him it was because I didn’t want to be a psycho like him, that I wouldn’t make a very good wolf.  He agreed.”

Now Derek was really confused “Then why did he bite you?  Why would he want you in his pack?”  He wished he could take back that last sentence as soon as he really heard his words.

“Right, cuz who would?”  Surprisingly Stiles really seemed to believe that about himself, making    Derek felt guilty for thinking the same thing just about him just minutes before.  “He said something before about my potential but I thought it was just sales pitch.  Whoops!  I made him too curious and he just had to see how I turned out.”

The tremor of unease in Derek’s mind had grown throughout Stiles’s story until it was full blown quake of worry.  Turning Stiles against his will was a risky move for Peter if he had wanted to keep Scott.  Then again, if Stiles truly had a greater potential than Scott, Peter wouldn’t hesitate to trade up.  When it came right down to it, Stiles was a lot more willing to play hardball with someone like Peter than Scott ever would be.

But that didn’t explain the other bit.  “Did something…go wrong with the Bite?” he asked with trepidation.

“No.  I don’t think so.  He knocked me around a little, tried to piss me off, apparently to force me to really embrace the inner beast or whatever.”  That got Derek’s attention.  “It healed.”

“Hold still for a second; I’m not going to hurt you.”  Stiles arched a sarcastic eyebrow at him but let him approach.  He leaned in close to Stiles neck and breathed in his scent.  It was…off.  It had the wild spicy element that denoted a large predatory mammal but it definitely wasn’t wolf.

It wasn’t until heady wisps of arousal began curling up through Stiles’s scent that Derek realized he was basically snuggling into the younger man’s neck while he tried to figure out what the hell he was.  Wonderful.  A teenage crush was just the perfect cherry on top of this clusterfuck sundae.  He figured it was best to ignore it for now.  Embarrassing Stiles was a bad idea since they were obviously going to be spending a lot of time together in the near future.  The Argents weren’t likely to raise too much hell over him building his pack, but a rogue were-something-or-other was a different story. 

“You’re not a werewolf,” he said simply.

“Oooookay.   Then what am I?  I thought the bite turns you or kills you.  Um…except for Lydia.  She’s still the same.”

This town was turning into a three ring circus of weird.  “I don’t know about Lydia; I’ve never heard of the Bite having no effect.  But there is a saying about people like you: “Sometimes the shape you take reflects the person you are.””

Stiles mulled that over before his face crumpled in distaste.  “You knew that and you bit Jackson anyway!?”  Derek had to admit he might have a point there.  “So what am I?  Oh my God.  I’m probably gonna be something humiliating like a wererabbit, or a weresquirrel, he moaned.  “I’d maybe go as high as werefox but there’s probably a greater chance of my being a wereferret.”

“I’m pretty sure most of those don’t actually exist.” Derek said drily.

“Says you.  Ugh, any chance we can dig up Peter and ask him?  He said he recognized “that scent”.”

Something clicked in Derek’s brain.  The god damn poem!  He knew what Stiles was; Peter had good as told him.

Before he could tell Stiles both their heads snapped up at the sound of werewolf approaching at a four-legged run.

“Werewolf,” Stiles said.

The breeze was carrying the scent right to them, a scent Derek knew.  “Scott.”

Stiles snorted at that “Duh.  What other werewolf would run downwind to the den of an Alpha that wasn’t his.”  Why couldn’t Peter have bitten Stiles originally.  His Uncle could have been properly flambéed and in the ground weeks ago.

Derek saw Stiles’ eyes change as he strained to find Scott in the trees.  Now that the boy was facing toward the moonlight the color of his eyes was clearly visible.  His pupils weren’t dilated like Derek had thought.  The irises had changed to an indigo-violet so dark it was almost black in the low light.  So much for the red/blue/yellow color scheme, hell they weren’t even glowing at all.  But why that color?  It had been a while since Derek had gotten a good look at the eyes of Stiles’s animal counterpart but he was sure that that was not a normal color.  Of course, expecting Stiles to do anything normal was probably a poor bet.

The neophyte Were blinked rapidly until his eyes changed back, just in time for Scott to bound up to them.  “Stiles!   Man I was so worried about you!  I tried to call you after I dropped Allison off at home but you didn’t pick up.”

“Peter broke my phone.”

Scott continued undeterred.  “Then I went by your house to make sure you were okay but you were gone so I came to get Derek to help track you.”

“It’s always nice to hear you’re a last resort,” Derek quipped.

“I’m fine, Scott.  I just went to get my Jeep after I got the spare key from home and made a little detour here.”

His face went hurt and suspicious “What do you need to see him for in the middle of the night.”

“At some point I am going to get offended, Scott.”  The accusatory glare was explanation enough why the Omega was being such a little prick.  “If this is about not letting you kill Peter listen up.  It’s a myth that killing the one who turned you will turn you back.  I wasn’t going to let my family’s Alpha line end for some desperate hope that Pinocchio can be a real boy if he murders the right people.”

Scott flinched at the implications of that but the petulant look held fast.

“And say it hadn’t worked?  You’d be an Alpha now when you can’t even control yourself as a Beta.  With the Full Moon in less than a week you would have spent the entire time on a blood-crazed rampage.”

“You don’t know-

“Yes, I really do.  And who would be the one to put you down, huh?  Me?  Allison?  Stiles?  Who would you have made wear your blood on their hands for the rest of lives?  That’s assuming you hadn’t already chewed their hands off.”

By the end of his tirade Derek had shifted into his Beta shape without meaning to, and Scott was barely holding his ground in the face of his red-eyed glare.

“Derek,” Stiles said calmly, “please take a deep breath and put the angry eyes away, okay?  We’re all going to have to learn to tolerate each other because we have bigger problems right now.”  His voice may have been calm but his heart sounded like it was humming it was beating so fast. 

Derek realized with a start that while Stiles was afraid, it wasn’t of him, it was all for Scott.  Stiles was completely unaffected by his Alpha presence.  He couldn’t decide if that was cause for celebration or alarm.  While packs generally benefitted from having a neutral third party to mediate disputes that was hardy enough to get in between two fighting werewolves and live, Derek had been counting on Stiles’s submitting to his authority, at least for the first couple of Moons.  He had no idea how he was going to manage the kid now.

“Um…Derek?  You’re staring,” Stiles said not entirely unpleased.  Crap, he to be more careful.  “Sorry, it’s just…you didn’t feel that at all?  No instinct to obey me whatsoever?”

“Uh…no.  Should I?”

“Why would Stiles want to obey you?”  Scott asked confused.

Derek just looked at him significantly while counting in his head.  Stiles must have been doing the exact same thing because just as Derek reached “ten” he said “Because of this.”  He sighed and pulled his jacket off his shoulder, revealing the bloody mark that remained on his shirt if not on his skin.

Scott immediately whirled around “You son of a bitch!” and threw himself at Derek without waiting for an explanation.

Derek was caught off guard by the blitz and didn’t have time to get a defense ready.  In the end he didn’t have to.  Stiles blurred forward and snatched Scott out of the air like a Frisbee, slamming him down and halfway through the rotted planks of the porch.  At this rate Derek wasn’t going to have any house left.

“Calm down!” Stiles snarled.  Those strange eyes were back but this time the irises had expanded to twice their usual diameter, into the proportion they would have in his other shape.  Scott was just lucky Stiles was too new to shift.  Probably.  In any event he couldn’t let this get out of hand.

“Careful, Stiles, you’re new and we don’t know how strong you are yet.” 

Stiles let go of Scott and backed away a few steps looking chagrinned.  “Sorry,” he mumbled.

“Dude what’s up with your eyes?” Scott asked shocked, as he hauled himself up out of the crater he’d made.

“Apparently shouldn’t mix werewolf bites with medication or my general level of awesomeness because I turned into some kind of whacky alterna-were.”

“That’s actually kinda cool.  What kind?”

“I dunno.  Peter did but…”  Stiles shrugged as if to say “what can you do?”

“He’s a werecat,” Derek said.

“What!?” both boys screeched.

“Does that mean you guys are gonna chase me around every Full Moon?”

“Do you think catnip can get you high now?”

“He’s not a housecat.”  Derek Hale, single at twenty-four, and raising someone else’s teenage cubs.

“Then what kind of cat is he?”

“Tiger.”

“Awseome!” Scott yelled.  Derek marveled at the speed of the turnaround.  Teenagers.

“Yep, it’s grrrrrrrreaat!” Stiles said high fiving him.

Shoot him now him, please.

“Wait, can you turn into an actual tiger?”

“Beats me.  Derek?”

“It’s hard to say.  Among werewolves only Alphas can fully transform and even then it’s usually into the wolfman shape Peter used.  It’s extremely rare for even an Alpha to be able to become pure wolf.”

“Oh, I know!”  Scott was practically jumping up and down.  “We should talk to my boss!”

“Why so I can get my shots?  Fair warning: if he tries to neuter me I might eat him, just saying.”

“No, no, no he’s like some kind of voodoo vet shaman guy.  He carried me out of the woods the night Kate got Derek and cured my wolfsbane poisoning without even needing a magic bullet.”

Huh.  Deaton must be the “advisor” his sister had mentioned.  Hopefully he wasn’t the vindictive type.  “Sounds like our best bet,” he said with a sigh.

“Our’s huh?” Stiles asked.  Scott’s suspicious face returned with a vengeance.  It looked like he was sucking on a spoiled lemon.

“Yes ours.  I’m an Alpha who hasn’t made a pack yet.  Scott’s an Omega that doesn’t want a pack.  Stiles is a Tiger, even if he has a pack mentality it’ll probably drive him to make more of his kind.  On top of everything else, which probably includes a fresh wave of hunters by the way, I only have days to train you two enough that you won’t shred half the town without supervision.”

That sobered Stiles up fast.  “You’re right.  Scott, call the Doc at the earliest hour you think is reasonable.  It’s the weekend so maybe we can meet him early before the clinic opens.  That way we can go for training right after and you can still have time later to go stand under Allison’s window and recite the balcony scene form Romeo and Juliet.”

“A little support, not asking for the moon here.” He grumbled.

Stiles went on in an ear piercing falsetto “Oh swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon, that changeth monthly in her circled orb, lest thy love prove likewise homicidal rage inducing.”

Scott gave Stiles a playful punch on the arm.  Derek knew what was coming next but just stood back to watch the show.  Sure enough, Stiles returned the friendly gesture and sent Scott flying back into the crater he’d made earlier with a crunch and puff of dust.

“Wow that does take some getting used to,” Stiles said looking at his still-skinny arms with awe.  “Yeah, definitely need some training over here.”

Derek smiled unguardedly for the first time in years.  This may not be a real pack but it was something real, and it was his.  That was a big step up from the nothing he’d had and he planned to fight fang and claw to protect it.

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

After Scott and Stiles had left to stand vigil over Lydia, Derek was once again at a loss.  He ended up spending the rest of the night trying to figure out his Alpha and wolf shapes.  The experiment was less than successful.  It was looking like he was going to have to wait until he had a crisis-free Full Moon, so he could let go a bit without worrying about the sky falling.

Shit, he was never going to figure this out.  Maybe the enigmatic Deaton had some “advice” he could use.

 

They met up at the clinic a little after eight in the morning.  Derek was the last to arrive.  He went in through the front door, ignoring the closed sign, and found the weird magic gate thing left open for him.  It wasn’t what most people would think of as magic but the rowan wood built into the clinic packed one hell of a punch you knew what do with it.  He was willing to bet that the vet did.

When walked into the back he saw something that was so ridiculously cute his customary scowl sublimated liked dry ice into a cloud of barely restrained awwwwwww’s.

Stiles was sitting on the floor of the exam room absolutely covered in fluffy little kittens that were all trying valiantly to win the center of his attention (to be fair a lot of them were adult cats, but still).

Once he’d come within a few feet, however, cat fancy became Children of the Corn.  When Stiles looked up at him it was with those huge midnight purple eyes of his and every single feline in the place stopped what they were doing and mimicked the move in perfect synchronicity.

“Creepy isn’t it?” Scott asked from where sat Indian style on the exam table, watching kitty time from a safe height.

“They’re just jealous of how big our pride is when no one wants be in a pack with their smelly canine butts.  Yes they are.  Yes they are.” 

Stiles kept on spouting baby talk and cuddling his…pridemates while Derek addressed Deaton “So is this normal for werecats or is it a Willard-type situation.”

Stiles arched and eyebrow imperiously “Who cares?  I’m the ruler of Pride Rock!  Hail to the King bitches!”  A chorus of affirming mewls echoed his enthusiam.

“I honestly don’t know,” Deaton said motioning for Scott to get the hell off his sterile surgical table.  “I’ve never had the opportunity to observe one in person before.  Werewolves are rare enough these days but a werecat, much less a weretiger?”  He shook his head.  “Stiles is probably the only one of his kind in the Western United States, maybe even the whole country.”

“The most wonderful thing about weretiggers is I’m the only one.”The werecat had a surprisingly nice singing voice.

“What does that mean as far as his pack, er, pride goes?” Derek asked.

“It depends.  Tigers are highly social even if they are generally solitary. In this case I imagine Stiles’s human side will be the one driving the urge to form a group unit.”

“How’s that?” Stiles questioned from the floor.

“You’re an exceptionally astute person, you tell me.”  Derek still hated that serene knowing expression even though the vet hadn’t turned out to be the Alpha.

Stiles thought about for a moment before his face fell with a sigh.  “Because I’m the only one of my kind, no one can ever truly understand me, etc. etc.  Basically I’m an angsty teenager with fur.”

“I suppose you could put it that way,” the vet said amused.

“Speaking of fur, can I go full tiger?  How about a man-tiger sort of like Peter could do the Lon Cheney thing.  Can I turn other people?  Why are my eyes this color?  I couldn’t find a single picture of a tiger with these color eyes.  And why don’t they glow?”

Scott snickered “I think his werecat healing is neutralizing his Adderall, God help us all.”  Stiles looked at him in horror.  Derek felt similar.

Deaton just sighed “I have some theories but first we need to return your new friends to their cages and set a few things up.  Scott would you please give him a hand.  Derek, you should probably just hang back.”

He wasn’t about to argue.  Scott had somehow figured out a way to get the cats to accept having him around but he had no idea how.  Then again, humans were a more dangerous predator than wolves could ever be and they’d managed to domesticate cats just fine.  Still, watching someone else drown in cuddly cuteness was plenty for him.  He had a reputation after all.

When all the cats were put away, a few still calling out for Stiles forlornly, Deaton and Scott went around the clinic and turned off all the light sources and closed the blinds against the brightening morning.

“Okay then,” Deaton began, “Stiles’s last question is the easiest.  Scott?”

“Because most cats, in particular tigers, are ambush predators.  Glowing eyes would make it hard to hunt at night.”

“Quite possibly.  As for the rest I think we’ll find they are all really one question.”  He flicked off the last of the lights, sending them into near total darkness.  Derek could see the red glow of his own eyes reflecting off shiny surfaces in the room along with Scott’s yellow, but Stiles’ were as dark as the human’s.  Actually they were darker since he only had half as much white in his eyes at the moment.

“There is an extremely rare mutant color morph in tigers: the black tiger.  There hasn’t been a reliably documented sighting of one since the mid 19th century and even then it was a pelt not a live specimen.  They appear solid black except where the fur on a regular tiger would be orange.  There the residual red pigment gives it a slightly lighter color that reflects dark violet.”

“Red?” Derek asked disturbed by the implications.

Deaton nodded.  “While wild tigers don’t generally have a defined social order per se, they will often form hierarchies.”  The vet turned to Stiles “would you please walk to the far side of the clinic?”  Stiles looked at Scott and then Derek, but neither of them had any idea either, so he shrugged and did as Deaton asked.  “Like wolves, the most dominant individual orders the hierarchy.  However unlike wolves, the rank of “Alpha” is not determined by the ability to maintain order in a pack but by the ability to maintain order in a territory.”

“So Stiles is an Alpha because there’s literally no one else for the job?” Derek asked.

“Thanks for the vote of confidence, ass.”

“You’re the one who called me smelly, putty tat.”

“Boys!” Deaton interjected.  “Perhaps the two of you can hold off on your Alpha courtship ritual until after the test.”  Or perhaps the good doctor need to be tied to a chair and beaten some more.  Derek hoped it was dark enough to hide his blush from Stiles who stood sputtering with embarrassment by the far wall.

“Can we just get on with this already?” he grumbled.

“Certainly,” Deaton said pulling a penlight from his pocket.

“Someone’s eager to get back to all the courtship,” Scott stage-whispered.  Perhaps Derek’s territory could do with one less pesky Omega while he was dealing with the vet.

“Ahem.”  Deaton cleared his throat to silence them.  “The test is really quite simple.  Stiles eyes don’t glow with their own light but they still gather and reflect it.”

“Oh!  You’re going to check the color of his eyeshine!” Scott concluded.

“Exactly.  The pigment density in his irises may be simply blocking the glow.  Now, the moment of truth.”  Deaton flicked on the penlight and slowly swept it back and forth across the dark clinic.  Each time the dim light passed over Stiles there was a flare of warm amber light.  It was somewhat redder than was typical, but without a doubt marked the eyes of a Beta.  Derek let of a breath he’d hadn’t known he’d been holding.  At least if nothing else he didn’t have to worry about being mauled by a five hundred pound feline on the Full Moon.

“So?” Stiles asked, voice tight.

“Mr. Stilinski you appear to be a perfectly healthy Beta, at least until you claim a territory of your own.”

“Wow, thanks, that’s kind of a load off.”  Derek was sure they could all hear the disappointment warring with relief in Stiles’s voice.

“It’s okay, man,” Scott said consolingly, “just remember if you ever want this territory all you have to do is kill Derek!”

“Ha, hee hee ha har.”  So sue him, fake laughing is hard when you’ve forgotten how to do the real thing.

“There are other ways of claiming the territory,” Deaton drawled mischievously, conspicuously looking anywhere but at Derek.

Scott choked on a laugh, for once not so slow on the uptake.  Because the universe hates Derek.

Whatever.  Stiles’s Beta status meant he didn’t have to worry about hammering perfect control into the kid before the Full Moon, which gave him time to find a new Beta of his own before then.  While he sometimes felt kind of skeevy lurking around the high school to keep an eye on things it had given him a head start.  In a flash of inspiration he realized he already knew the perfect person and exactly where he’d be today.

Chapter Text

Violence was a part of life for werewolves.  Derek knew some large human families came close to the kind of roughhousing that was integral to the healthy functioning of a pack, but most of those lived in places that would be excellent for on-location shoots of Justified.  Still, as disturbed as it might sound by human standards, he’d missed it.  It was a trust thing.  Not just being able to trust that your own strength would be able to heal you if something happened to you, but knowing that even though your older sister might shatter a tree trunk with your face, she’d always be there to catch it before it fell and crushed you.

He’d spent days kicking himself after he’d first called Scott his brother; talk about moving too quickly in a relationship.  He’d practically been able to hear Laura laughing at him and calling him “Failwolf”.  But in a weird way it had become true.  They way they fought and backstabbed one another was straight out of sitcom, and Derek couldn’t deny he took comfort in the often adversarial feel to their interactions.

He had to be careful not to enjoy this too much or he might accidentally smile in front of Stiles and Scott.

Finding a place to actually have their training sessions had proved more of a problem than he’d expected.  When he’d gotten home from the clinic there was a surprise waiting for him.  Chris really seemed to get off on being petty son of a bitch (the window of his car, really?), but setting snares all around the house his sister, AKA Satan’s Whore, had burned down was low.  Derek had been cocky at one point in his life, back when his eyes were still yellow, but he’d never had much of a mischievous streak.  So he wound up asking himself a question he would never, ever speak aloud without promptly ripping out his own tongue: WWSD, What Would Stiles Do?

It took a worryingly short time for the answer to come to him.  Half an hour later he’d sniffed out all the paths the hunters had taken setting the traps, and moved them so that anyone coming to check them would get a taste of their own medicine.

Pleased with his work, he gathered his meager possessions and headed out to find a new place to crash.  Maybe it was time to get a place with actual walls.

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Stiles said as he surveyed the abandoned rail depot.  Derek thought it had a By the Waters of Babylon feel to it that was oddly poignant.

“Whatever, it’s a place.  The hunters have taken over mine,” he said.

“Wow.  Scott, your girlfriend’s Dad sucks!”

“I figured that out, thanks.  Remember he shot me?”

“And yet you still think dating her is a good idea?” Derek asked incredulously.

“Allison is worth the risk,” the kid sighed.  Obviously Melissa McCall wasn’t a psychiatric nurse.  It was like he was staring at his younger self.  Scott didn’t even know how grateful he should be that Derek wasn’t using him as a tool for psychotherapy (see: punching bag).

“Aaaanywhoooo,” Stiles drawled, “Derek, how about we get to the training already?  Make this a little more Fight Club and a little less To Catch a Predator.”

It wasn’t funny, not one bit.  He channeled his aborted  laughter into disgusted eye roll. “As you wish.”  He swept out a hand, claws extending, Stiles slipping the purposefully clumsy strike.

“Woo!  Too slow Wesley.  Come on, Scott, I bet together we can whip his Sourwolf ass!”

Derek had been right.  This was going to be fun.  “Fine.  Both of you come at me.”

It went as he expected.  Stiles was too hesitant and Scott had no idea how to fight within a group.  All Derek had to do was stand still until the last second, sidestepping to allow the Betas to slam into each other instead of him.

For a moment they were embroiled in a flurry of claws and snarling before Scott was thrown free, sailing through the air into the train car like a lycan line drive, giving Derek his first look at Stiles’s Beta shape.  Anyone not familiar with werewolves would probably have trouble spotting the differences.  His ears became more rounded instead of growing points, the fur that crept down around them lightened fractionally from jet along the jaw line to that strange midnight purple that had taken over the hair on his head except for a subtle inky rippling pattern.  The nose was a little flatter and broader than you’d see on a wolf and the fangs that extended past his lips were significantly longer and thicker, designed for grasping and holding like heavy ebony claws that curled from his fingertips.  What was shocking were his eyes.  Those huge twilight-colored irises sat in field of pure black.

“Oooooooh, how do I look?  Quick someone take a picture with their phone before goes away!” he exclaimed, lisping comically around his canines.  He held up a hand, watching his claws extend and contract as he curled and uncurled his fingers.  “Dudes check this out; I’m like a giant cat!”

“Yes, Stiles, you’re a weretiger.  Way to pay attention.”

Scott groaned as he stood examining the dent he’d made in the metal siding “Damn you’re strong.  Wow…Man you look so cool.”  Derek silently agreed, much as it pained him

Time to see just how strong he was.  “Stiles, try sparring with Scott.  I want to see if you can pin him.”

“Yeah, come on Scott.  It’s payback time.  Too bad you don’t have a fire extinguisher!”  He tried to drop into a fighter’s crouch but stepped on a rusted old piece of pipe, slipping and going into one of his signature flails with an adorable yowling noise.

“Too bad the Bite can’t transform you into not a spaz,” Scott shot back smiling.

“Oh it’s on.”

The first time they came together it lasted all of two seconds before Scott was slamming Stiles into the floor.

“That was sad,” Derek said as the tiger rose and dusted himself off.  The kid was impressively controlled.  Too much so; his human side wasn’t letting him move like he needed to.  Maybe he’d just spent too much time trying to pull Scott’s ass out of the fire to be able to change gears easily. Either way this was going to take a little creativity.  “Don’t hold back Stiles.  It’s not like you can hurt him.”  He tried to sound as bored and condescending as possible.

Dark eyes narrowed and Derek gave himself a mental pat on the back.  If there was one trigger all werecreatures shared, it was anger.

God bless Scott, who could always be counted on to say the wrong thing “Just ignore him, Stiles,” he shifted, “I’ll go easy on you.  You know I’ve always got your back.”

This was going to be good.

Stiles roared.  Derek wished werewolf eye flare didn’t prevent pictures from coming out, because there should be a record of Scott’s dumbstruck expression when he realized he was in over his head.  The Beta Weretiger was fast.  The teen wolf barely managed to get his hands up before Stiles was on him, hands striking like snakes, snarls erupting out of him at each intercepted blow.  He wasn’t landing any punches, but then Scott hadn’t even managed to throw one yet.

When his opening came Scott tried to end the blitz by throwing all his weight behind a savage right cross.  Which apparently was exactly what Stiles was hoping for when he left himself open.  With a feral smile, the tiger caught the slow, overpowered punch, taking a spinning step into Scott’s guard and flipping his friend over his shoulder.

The wolf went through a full rotation before landing prone, breathe going out in a grunt of shock as Stiles piled onto his back nipping at his neck playfully.  “I’ve got the Eye of the Tiger biyatch!  Stilinski 1, McCall 0!”

“Ow, dude get off.”   Stiles complied laughing.  “Jeez, I forgot you knew how to do that,” he said sitting up and rubbing his shoulder.

Derek was slightly stunned and more than a little impressed.  “Where the hell did you learn that?”

Stiles rolled his eyes and made an exasperated sound.  “Guys, my dad is the Sheriff.  Come on, I’m a trouble magnet.  Do you really think he’d let me out of the house without making sure I knew how to take care of myself?” 

He may have had a point there.  Derek walked over to Scott’s side while Stiles victory danced and offered him a hand up, who actually took it without first staring at it like it was coated in raw sewage.  Progress.  “Do I need to give you the same advice I gave him?  You can’t hold back because you’re afraid of hurting your friend.  Claw marks and broken bones heal, but getting killed because you’re not ready for a fight is permanent.  Understand?”

“Yeah,” he grumbled.

“Fine.  Stiles cut it out,” he snapped at the Beta who was still celebrating his win.  “Go again.  You two brought changes of clothes?”  The two teens nodded, faces turning serious.  “Good.  This time use your claws and Don’t Hold Back.”

 

An hour later the score was tied 4-4.  Stiles as a weretiger was innately more powerful and his skill with locks and throws was greatly augmented by his grasping claws and sinuous feline flexibility, but he was still having trouble committing to his attacks.  But Scott had the advantage of experience, which was everything in a fight.  Besides, Derek didn’t know who Scott was trying to fool but he was no Omega, or Stiles would have taken him apart in seconds each time.  He may not be a part of a pack in the conventional sense but he was definitely maintaining his status as a Beta, and a strong one too.

Both boys were slumped against the train car in their human forms breathing heavily, their torn clothes smeared in blood, dirt, and rust.  Derek hid his pride behind an air of mild disappointment and sighed “I guess that’s enough for today, since you two look pretty much done.”

“Easy for you to say, you just stood there the whole time,” Scott growled.

Oh, Scott, predictable Scott.  Stiles shot him a warning glance as he walked right into the trap.  “Fine.  Tomorrow it’s you two against me, after which we can do some agility drills,” Derek said.

“What, you mean like those obstacle courses they have at dog shows?” Stiles asked while Scott moaned “Tomorrow?”

“Yes tomorrow.  No, not like a dog show, Stiles, like boot camp for Navy Seals.”  Do not smile.  Do not smile.  Do not smile.  “The Full Moon is in less than four days now.  Drilling builds focus, which is what you need if you want to survive it.”

“Gee that’s dramatic,” Stiles said rolling his eyes.  Derek no longer felt like smiling.

“Listen up,” he snarled grabbing Stiles by what remained of his shirt and slamming him back against the car, ignoring Scott’s protests.  “You’re not a werewolf.  When the moon rises I won’t be able to influence you at all and you’re too strong, I’m not sure that I can contain you without killing you.  Understand?”  Stiles nodded mutely, eyes wide and human.  Derek realized his fangs were out and eyes glowing, barely an inch from the trembling teen’s face.  He let go of him and stepped away.  “There’s a shower in back.”  He tuned and started walking towards the exit, wondering if he was insane for going to meet a potential new Beta while he was struggling with just Moose and Squirrel.

“Where are you going?” Stiles asked, recovering his nerve and, unfortunately, his voice, “Secret Alpha Business?”

“Yes.” He said without looking back.

“But tomorrow Allison was going to try to get away from her parents so we could hang out.”

Derek wasn’t getting a migraine.  He was sure because werewolves don’t get migraines, which in no way reduced the throbbing at his temples.  “So bring her,” he snapped, “you can practice getting shot full of arrows, since it’s a skill you’ll obviously need in the future.”

It wasn’t until then, as he left pursued by the echoes of Stiles laughter, that he realized he’d applied the word “adorable” to some of Stiles’ cat noises.

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

The scene playing out in front of him at the cemetery made Derek’s wolf snarl angrily and pace back and forth inside his chest.  He figured that it was a good sign that the Alpha in him was already regarding the kid as his, but it made it hard not run over there and tear the face off the man assaulting his future packmate.  The fact that it was the boy’s own father if anything made it worse.

Even though he could hear the man clearly his furious shouts were largely unintelligible.  The defeated lump in the kid’s shoulders and the scent of clotted blood and quiet, fearful desperation needed no translation.  Derek knew he was losing objectivity by the second, but seeing a teenage boy being abused by an adult hit too close to home.  He was giving this kid the Bite.

Derek waited until after the bastard had slammed his son back against an excavator (in an uncomfortably close re-creation of what had just happened with Stiles) and stalked off before he approached.  “You okay?” he asked showing a precise amount of polite interest mixed with nonchalance.  He had better things to offer than pity.

“Fine,” the boy said standing up straight and wiping the corner of his eyes and sniffling.

“What’s your name, kid?”  “Kid” might be a bit of stretch.  He had to be nearly eighteen and was actually taller than Derek.

“Isaac,” he answered automatically. A look of dismay formed on his face under the weight of Derek’s inquisitive stare “You, you didn’t…?” he trailed off looking slightly panicked.

“He do that kind of thing a lot?”

“No it’s…he just…I’m fine,” the kid floundered.  He took a deep breath and stared down at the ground and whispered “Just please go.”

“In a minute.”  He walked around the backhoe and placed a hand on the huge metal arm.  “It’s a terrible thing isn’t it, feeling helpless?”

“I don’t…what?” Isaac asked confused by the blunt candor of the question.

“What if you never had to feel that way again?”  He ducked under the arm and turned back to look Isaac dead in the eyes.  “What if you could be so strong that just about nothing could hurt you ever again?”

“Listen, man, I don’t know what you’re on but…” he trailed off slackjawed when Derek placed a hand on the backhoe and casually started walking back toward him, forcing the top half of the machine to swing around as he did, hydraulics to scream in protest.  “H-How, how…” he stammered wide-eyed.

“This is what I’m offering you, but it’s not free.  It could kill you outright, and even if you live there will be people out there that want to kill you.  It’s even possible you could lose control and do something to actually deserve it.”  He stepped right into Isaac’s personal space.  When the kid didn’t so much as flinch Derek knew he had him.  “But I promise that will only happen over my dead body,” he said slowly, not needing to fake his sincerity as he let his eyes glow red.  He was the Alpha.

“What are you?” Isaac asked, voice shaking with awe instead of fear.

“I’m a werewolf.”  Derek started backing away slowly.  “Think it over.  If you decide to say yes, I’ll be here later tonight.”

“Wait!  What’s your name?” he heard Isaac call as he walked away.

“It’s Derek.  Derek Hale.”

 

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

He barely had an hour to enjoy his success before Stiles texted him 911 at his house.  Derek tried calling, but the third time it went voicemail he snarled a curse and grabbed his keys.  Stiles had better be in serious danger or he was going to be in serious trouble.

 

When he approached the Sheriff’s house, police cruiser in the driveway, he got another text that simply said “front door”.  From this distance he could hear two heartbeats inside, one elevated and older sounding, and another younger and racing.  Stiles was definitely freaking out about something, although that meant less for the twitchy teenager than it did for other people.

Derek didn’t even make it halfway across the yard before the door slammed open to reveal a frantic looking Stiles smiling like a maniac.  “Hey, Derek!  Hey Dad, look, it’s Derek, here to convince you I’m not tripping on illegal drugs!”  Stiles.

The Sheriff appeared behind Stiles and gave Derek that unnervingly intense stare that seemed to mining his head for illicit secrets and signs of wrongdoing.  Apparently he passed the test because the man just sighed and said “You may as well come in Mr. Hale.  This should be interesting at least.”

Derek trudged forward on leaden feet like he was going to his own execution.  What the hell had Stiles just done!?  How was he supposed to create a pack with the County Sheriff breathing down his neck?

He stopped just outside the doorway where Stiles lingered chewing on his lip and anxiously shifting his wait back for forth so fast he was practically dancing a jig.  That or he really had to pee.  Derek gave him his best glowing crimson death glare and arched an eyebrow.

Stiles paled and gulped nervously.  “I’m sorry,” he hissed.  “When I said I was going back to the hospital after dinner we got into an argument because I wouldn’t tell him where I’d been all day and…I guess my eyes changed?”  Derek growled furiously and cranked up the heat on his glare.  “I-It all just kind of came out after that but he obviously didn’t believe me because I tried to shift and couldn’t and then I could see his brain concocting all kinds of worst case scenarios.”  Merciful Zeus how fast could this kid talk?  “Then I told him that I was with Scott but of course that didn’t help because Scott’s an “unreliable witness when it comes to me” so I said you were there too, which he really didn’t like, so I texted you and now you’re here.  Save me!”

He briefly considered slapping the boy silly.  It would probably piss the tiger off enough to force his shift and would have the added benefit of really brightening Derek’s evening.  Instead he gestured for Stiles to move the hell out of the way and stalked into house to join the Stilinskis in the kitchen.

“So my son tells me you’re a werewolf,”’ the Sheriff said skeptically, diving right in glass of whiskey in hand.

“Yes, sir.”  Respect and diffidence seemed the way to go here.

“And he’s a were-..?”

“Tiger, and yes.”

“And I am to understand you can prove this?” he asked tiredly.

Derek, always a fan of the direct approach, shifted into his Beta shape.  For a long moment the Sheriff just regarded with a critical eye like he was cataloguing data before tossing back his drink and turning to the counter to pour himself another one.  When that too had gone down gone the hatch he turned back to a patiently waiting.  “Well fuck, you’re still there.”  He turned to his son with an expectant raise of eyebrows.

“Who me?  Um, I’m still really new, like twenty-four hours new, I haven’t figured it all out yet.”

Derek sighed “Really, Stiles?  It didn’t occur to you to just…”  Time for a modified Plan A.  He grabbed Stiles’s arm and drew his claws over the skin, leaving four thin parallel cuts that healed a second later.

“Hey!” Stiles yelled.  “Oh wait, healing, yeah that’s a thing.  I forgot, whoops.”

It was the Sheriff that rolled his eyes this time.  “You two have a seat,” he said getting the bottle of Jack and a second glass for Derek, “I have a feeling this is going to take a while.”

“What no glass for me?” Stiles fake-whined.  Stilinski just arched an eyebrow at his son as if to remind him that he’d broken the species barrier today and there would be no breaking any mere laws for the foreseeable future.

“So, werewolves?” the Sheriff, asked settling into his seat and pouring them both a glass.

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

The introduction was looking more like a standoff.  When Isaac had showed up at the cemetery sporting a fresh black eye all it took was one word: “Yes” before Derek gave him the Bite.  If only this part could be so simple.

“You three know Isaac.”  He hadn’t thought Scott would actually bring Allison, but maybe even Derek’s minimal confidence in the Beta’s ability to make sound decisions had been over-generous.

His new Beta stood at his side across from a livid Scott and cautious Allison while Stiles stood halfway between the two groups and off to one side.  It didn’t look like he was having trouble choosing which group to side with so much as he was maintaining minimum safe distance before an inevitable blowout.

“You turned someone!?” demanded the outraged Scott.  

Seriously? It was like Derek had killed his puppy or something.  “Yes, I turned someone.  I offered, he accepted, that’s pretty much how this works.”

“Yeah?  Tell that to Peter.”

“Sorry, can’t.  I killed the crazy bastard before he could slaughter everyone of yours friends.  I thought we cleared this up yesterday?”

“But you can’t just go turning people into werewolves!”

“Yes I can.  Just because don’t like being a werewolf doesn’t mean I lose my right to live and build my pack.  This is about survival you narcissistic twit, or do you think I’m somehow obligated to just stand around waiting for your girlfriend’s family to come kill me and anyone who gets in their way?”

“That’s not what I-

“Save it.  Power is what keeps you safe and we get our strength from numbers.”

Stiles spoke up “We don’t all have to be in the same pack, Scott, but there’s no changing the fact that we’re all in the same boat.”  He let eyes shift, drawing a gasp from Allison.  “How Derek runs his pack isn’t any of our business as long as does his job as Alpha and keeps them in line.”  The tiger arched a brow at Isaac who just smiled back faux-friendly.

“Stiles what…”

He grimaced “Peter.”

“But your eyes? Your’re not-

“A werewolf?  Nope.  I’m Northern California’s one and only weretiger.”

“Hello, kitty,” Isaac drawled around a laugh.

“Unless you want to spend your first day as a werewolf having Stiles mop the floor with your head I suggest you learn to pick your opponents better,” Derek said frostily.  He really didn’t like seeing Stiles standing off without someone with him.  It was far too dangerous to alienate the young tiger.

“You’re kidding me, right?  Stilinski?”

“Is the period of douchbaggery a side effect of the Bite?  Like there’s some kind of adjustment period or something” Stiles asked drily.

“Dude!?” Scott whined affronted.

“Sorry buddy but you kissed Lydia and tried to eat me.  We’ll see if I balance things out on the Full Moon.”

“Which brings us back to why we’re here.  Control requires focus and practice.  Agility requires both.  To work on that we’re going to play a little Follow the Leader.”

“Uh, what’s she doing here?” Isaac asked pointing at Allison, “I thought she was one of those hunters that want to kill us.”

Derek turned to Allison.  “You brought your bow?”  She nodded.  “Good.  Here’s how this is going to work: think of it like a game.  We will play follow the leader with a bit of King of the Hill mixed in.  I’ll run a course and after I finish you’ll follow one at a time, copying whatever moves I make.  When you get to the end you have to get past me to finish.”

“And what game will Allison be playing?” Stiles asked grinning, lobbing up an easy one for Derek.

“Duck hunt,” he said returning the smile as he hit it out of the park.  He did not like the speculative look Isaac and Allison shared, turning their head between Stiles and him.  Why couldn’t he seem to remember to be jerk?  Encouraging the kid like this was all kinds of wrong.  “You up for that?” he asked Allison.

She flashed him her dimples and hefted her bow and quiver saying “Yeah, I got it covered.”

 

The floor of the depot was full of boxes, machines, vehicles, crates, and a lot more things Derek couldn’t even identify.  In short it was perfect for this kind of thing.  Allison had climbed up a stack of shipping crates to roost high in the joint of two of the metal support struts.  From her perch she would fire practice arrows at the Betas as they ran, giving them practice at evasion and her experience with live targets moving through cover.  Derek wasn’t at all comfortable with the idea training with a hunter, but the arrows were blunt tipped and with Scott came Allison.  And as much as he hated it he needed Scott.  The kid was just too damn strong to waste.

Derek ran his first path.  He flipped over a barrel, ran on all fours to bound up off a beam and onto the old train car, which he back flipped off of. 

“Uh…yeah, right,” Isaac muttered.

“I’ve been looking forward to this ever since Scott’s first lacrosse game,” Stiles crowed happily.

The wolf in question sighed “I guess I’ll go first.”

Derek nodded.  “To finish you have to get past me into the car.  Go.”

Scott moved well.  For someone who hated this life he sure seemed to be born for it.  He made the flip over the barrel just fine but lingered too long getting his bearings again and got tagged in the calf by one of Allison’s arrows. He squawked in pained surprise and fell over sideways.

“Sorry, Honey,” Allison’s voice echoed through the rafters.

Derek smiled at the kneeling Scott “And you’re out, Allison 1, Betas 0.”

It was on.  Derek watched closely, occasionally calling out moves to the Betas or shots to Allison.  While the course itself was fairly easy having a master archer play camp sniper added a lot of difficulty.  It wasn’t enough to simply maneuver the course, they had to constantly vary their pace between obstacles and after each turn to throw off Allison’s firing tempo.  By the time the score was Allison in the triple digits, Betas still zero, they were making it to the end every other time.

But not one of the three had made it past him yet.

Scott was the best fighter but relied too much on his strength, which was only a fraction of Derek’s, so that every time he tried to get by just got slammed back into the ground.

Isaac was understandably tentative even though he had a much higher pain tolerance than the others.  He had a gift for misdirection, his long limbs changing the direction of his movements in a blink, but tended not use his to full advantage, varying the level and angle of his attacks.

Unsurprisingly it was Stiles who finally made it past him, winning the game, but by doing something Derek never would have expected.

The tiger had started to get the hang of his shift, the repeated stings from blunt arrows really helping him to tap into the anger he needed to bring on the change without tipping all the way over into an uncontrolled rage.  He moved like a living shadow, the patterning in his hair breaking up his profile in the dim light of the station and helping throw off Allison’s aim.  Derek had watched him watch the others fail time after time trying to force their way past, gears turning almost audibly.  He saw it when the idea clicked in Stiles’s head and could tell from his grin that he wasn’t going to like it.

Stiles blew through the course, at one point catching an arrow mid-somersault while Isaac and Scott cheered.  When it came time for the back flip off the train, he didn’t back flip so much as back fall, barely completing the rotation before landing.  Right on top of Derek.  He caught Stiles by one arm and the opposite leg before he managed to smash his head open on the concrete.

“Thanks,” he said with a smile.

Derek was about to scream “What do you think you doing” but was interrupted by Stiles grabbing his biceps and pulling his leg out of Derek’s grip.  The Alpha had just enough time to realize his mistake before Stiles put his freed foot in Derek’s stomach, dropping his weight down and back using his leg as a lever to send Derek flying through air upside down into a stack of rusty old miscellany with a thunderous crash.

He extricated himself from the wreckage while Stiles sauntered in and out of the car like, well, the cat that ate the canary, shifting back the while the others wolf-whistled and applauded enthusiastically.

Right up until Derek enthusiastically grabbed him by the throat and let out a full throated Alpha howl right in his face before slamming him against a pillar and holding him there.  Undaunted, Stiles slithered out of his grip and used it to sweep his legs out from under him, jumping astride his hips to pin his shoulders to the ground and roar in his face in return.  Derek trapped one of his legs and rolled over so he was on top and in Stiles’s guard, unable to simply pull away where the tiger’s claws had hooked into his shoulders and held fast.

He snarled down at Stiles angrily for a second before he went perfectly still.  There was the strangest expression on Stiles’s face and the number and mix of emotions roiling through his scent did nothing to explain it.  They stayed frozen like that, bodies pressed together and faces bare millimeters apart each staring at the other like a puzzle they couldn’t quite solve.

The sound of Isaac clearing his throat loudly shattered the moment.  Derek was off Stiles and on his feet yards away in a split second.  He saw Scott staring them bristling with disapproval while Allison patted his arm while she turned pink from repressed giggles.  Isaac merely leaned against a support beam and smirked at him.

This was fan-fucking-tastic.  There was nothing going on between him and Stiles, but if he said so out loud they’d probably react like he delivering was as marriage proposal via song.  Allison would have that Lydia girl buying matching outfits for them inside of a week.

“Game’s over.  We’re done here.  Don’t you all have places to be?”

Stiles was still on the floor but propped up on his elbows, head tilted quizzically “Yes we do actually.”  He lowered his torso back down and popped to his feet with a kip-up.  “Ha! Never could get that down before.  I’m gonna go shower and get back to the hospital.”  He traipsed on by and went out up the stairs.

“You know my parents are going to be gone for hours later?” Allison whispered in Scott’s ear.  Derek didn’t know why she bothered trying to be subtle in a room of werewolves; it wasn’t going to happen.

Scott blushed as he realized the same thing “Yeah, we’re leaving.  See ya.”  They departed leaving just Isaac behind.

“Say nothing.  Ever.” Derek warned.

“Sure.  I gotta go too, got a grave to dig.”  Derek who knew who’s grave it was barely managed to refrain from asking Isaac to piss all over it.

 

Once he was alone he put on some presentable clothes and drove to Starbucks.  It was the only place in town with free wifi and he was stuck using his phone to access the internet until he could get a real apartment.  He ordered a venti Earl Grey tea and pulled up the local listings.  While he browsed he sipped his tea and allowed himself a moment to decompress.  God only knew what Wendy and Lost Boys would say if they knew he preferred tea to coffee.  Living in Manhattan had carried a constant risk of catching pretentions, but aside from a few minor things like the tea he’d come away more or less unscathed by is brush with civilization.

He had just finished the tea and bookmarked a few promising ads before his phone buzzed, breaking the spell of the simple private moment.  As he expected, it was a text from Stiles: “Lydia vanished from hospital.  No 1 can find.  Heard her scream.  Plz help,”

It was probably best he didn’t drink coffee.  If he did with everything going on in his life he’d probably have a stroke before he hit thirty.  Stiles.  As he pitched his cup in the trash on the way out an unsettling thought occurred to him: he didn’t feel at all put out by the imposition

Chapter Text

Lydia’s impromptu Spirit Quest through the preserve provided the perfect opportunity to teach the new Betas the basics of scent tracking.  It had gotten interesting when they’d run across the Omega.  He’d been glad that Stiles had gone with Scott and Allison the first night, it would have been difficult to explain why he was in the cemetery at that hour of the night.  The situation was hairy enough with Isaac struggling to explain exactly how the bedraggled homeless man with a hankering for human organs had gotten trapped in an open grave by an overturned backhoe.  Derek felt weirdly satisfied at the macabre coincidence that it should be Kate’s grave that he used to catch a werewolf that was actually dangerous.

He hated to give Stiles any more credit than strictly necessary, but having the Sheriff in the know was a major asset in cleaning up that mess.  Now the Omega was safely locked away, at least until the Full Moon, which should help all of them keep a lower profile.  Derek’s respect for Stiles’s Father had gone up several notches after he’d paid a visit to Mr. Lahey.  Isaac wouldn’t tell him what was said but whatever it was his father hadn’t even dared to look him in the eyes since, much less lay a hand on him.

 

Derek’s WWSD inspired trick of moving the Hunters’ traps around had turned out far better than he’d hoped.  Hearing Stiles’s retelling of seeing Argent hanging upside down in one of his own snares was going to have him suppressing laughter whenever he thought of the man for weeks.

 

If only the second day of the search had gone as well.  He made the mistake of going by the high school to see how Jackson was handling his transition.  Seeing the corrupt black sludge running from his ears brought back memories he hadn’t thought about in years.  Instead of scurrying for the dubious comfort of burned out wreck in the woods, however, he called a realtor and rented the first place that would take cash on the spot, which turned out to be a converted warehouse loft.  It wasn’t going to be featured in Better Home and Gardens anytime soon, but the open air and industrial feel reminded him of New York.  At least he had a defensible location to crash that could double as a place to spend the Full Moon.

When night fell he met up with the others to keep searching for Lydia.  It took most of the night but eventually they found her curled in a shivering ball in his house, of all places.  Stiles, Scott, and Allison were too busy fussing over her to notice that the floorboards under her were loose and bore the marks from Derek’s claws.  She had come to rest directly on top of where he’d buried Peter.  Something about the sight made icy shards of dread form in his gut and he was all too happy to lend the girl his coat and help get her to the hospital to get checked out if it gave him a reason to spend some time in a brightly lit place.

It was there that the Sheriff found them with the news about Isaac’s Father.

“I need you to take a look at this, Derek.  It’s too much like the previous bodies.”  The man’s gaze turned hard.  “Is there anything I need to know?”

He racked his brain for an explanation but none came.  “I don’t know who it could have been.  Maybe there’s another wolf in town I haven’t run across yet.”  He didn’t mention Jackson.  The kid’s body was in rejection.  He’d have a hard time standing much less shifting, breaking into his neighbor’s house and tearing into Mr. Lahey.”

The Sheriff gave him a level look that said he knew damn well that Derek wasn’t telling him everything, but he didn’t back down or lower his eyes.  “Alright then, son.  I’m trusting you with this for now.  Don’t make me regret it.”

“Do you still need me to take a look at-at the body?”

He shook his head “It’s probably best if you don’t.  This case is going to be messy enough and I don’t want anything to happen that could cause it to blowback on the kid.”  He sighed and ran a hand through his hair in tired gesture he’d passed on to Stiles.  It was eerie seeing it on the dour older man.

“Wait,” Derek said thinking of something that could help, “Call Dr. Alan Deaton.”

“The Vet?”  He mulled that over for a moment.  “He knew more than he was saying during the Argent killings.  He might have something on…this?”

Derek nodded, grateful that the man had used the parlance that appeared in the official reports on his late Uncle’s murder spree.

“Since my son is Isaac’s alibi I’ll take him with us for tonight.  You should get some rest.  We all should.  Tomorrow’s going to be…interesting.”

It seemed the Sheriff also shared Stiles’s affinity for dramatic understatement.

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

“Wow, beautiful crack shack you’ve got here Der Bear.”  It was official: Stiles was not surviving his first Full Moon, there was no forgiving that nickname.  “I looooooove what you’ve neglected to do with the place.”  The kid’s voice was dripping venom, which was actually a little unsettling given that his eyes had fully shifted into their purple on black appearance.

Derek ground his teeth but kept himself from responding.  He’d been feeling the Moon’s pull for his whole life but it wasn’t like it didn’t still affect him.  Besides, this was his first Moon as an Alpha and he had idea how that might change things.

“Sorry about Stiles,” Scott said with a grimace, “he’s been impossible all day.  Our teachers had to work out who got to give him detention first.”

“Harris is lucky I didn’t bite his douchey ass,” Stiles grumbled.

“It’s not like you don’t ask for it,” Isaac snarled.  Oh yeah, this was going to be a blast.

“You sure you know what you’re doing with that?”
Derek asked the Sheriff, eyeing the sack of Mountain Ash dubiously.

“It’s not exactly rocket science,” he drawled.  “I think I can manage to pour in a circle and believe really hard that my son should not be free to roam around eating my electorate.”  Dear God there really were two of them.

“Can we just do this already!?” Stiles cried.  “I’m anxious to get on to the crazed howling and scratching part already.”

Stilinski just shook his head and motioned Stiles over to the middle of the open lower floor.  He scooped a handful of the shiny black dust out of the bag and let it fall through his fingers in a rough, narrow circle as he walked around his son, eyes closed and lips moving inaudibly.  When he was done he said “Go ahead and try it Stiles.”

The weretiger tried but couldn’t seem to get up enough momentum in the confined space to even try to breach the barrier forcibly.  “Wow, Dad, grounding me because of my species, campaigning for Father of the year?”

The Sheriff looked to Derek with eyebrow arched in askance “Sure you don’t need me to stay?  That mouth of his is a deadly weapon.”

He shook his head “No.  It’s better if you’re at the station in case something goes wrong or whatever killed Lahey decides to make an appearance.  Allison’s shadowing her Father and Grandfather; she’ll warn us if they plan to come after any of us, and they don’t know this location.”

“You sure don’t need me to put Isaac in a circle of magic fairy dust?”

“Scott and I can manage, his control has actually improved a lot.”  It was hard not to throw the goofy kid a compliment once in a while the way he lit up from the approval.  Somehow he had become the Beta’s surrogate male authority figure.  Magnificent.

“Good luck.  Take care of Derek, Scott.  I’ll be back after my shift to let you out Stiles.”

“Go.  Run away and hide in your work it’s what you’re good at,” he snarled in reply but the Sheriff just shook his head.

“Good luck,” the man said again before leaving, closing the heavy sliding door behind him.

“So what now?” Scott asked.

Derek walked over to the trunk he’d put in the corner and threw open the lid revealing his family’s sigil on the inside.  “We get Isaac ready,” he said pulling out a handful of chains.

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

“So this is the kind of thing you get off on?” Stiles purred from the confines of his Ash prison when Derek finished securing Isaac to the metal railings of the spiral staircase.  “I guess all that kinky shit with Kate in the basement of your old house kinda flipped your switch permanently, huh?”  The tiger was breathing heavily with effort of restraining the change, claws and fangs already out and gleaming in dim light filtering through the windows.

Derek sighed and turned to Scott, having decided to just ignore the increasingly vicious digs “How are you?”

“I’m good.”  He seemed less than confident, but aside from a slight tremble he looked pretty level.

“If you shift now it’ll make it easier to keep control after the moon rises.”  Derek led by example, assuming his Beta shape.  Scott nodded and did the same.

“Awwww look at all the daddy issues, it’s just precious.”

“Just ignore him.”

“I know.  I said some awful things to him last month.  It’s his turn.”

“How generous of you Scott.  You’re so loyal and loving, just like a good dog.  Except for when a new piece of tail walks by then it’s bye Stiles, thanks for the memories, sorry I kept trying to eat you.”

Derek snarled a little involuntarily.  He’d always seen Scott as pack more than a little, and right now his instincts were running high.  The Alpha in him was particularly agitated by having a dangerous rival predator literally in the middle of his own den.

Stiles laughed derisively at his reaction “What have we here?  The Big Strong Alpha?  You spend half your time sniffing after Scott like he’s your One True Beta, and had to put the Big Bad Kitty in the magical kennel to just feel safe.  Do you even have any self-esteem?”

Derek turned his back on Stiles and became engrossed in studying his cuticles.

“LOOK AT ME WHEN I’M TALKING TO YOU!!!” Stiles booming inhuman voice shook dust from the rafters.

Scott sidled up to him and mirrored his position “Um…is he gonna be okay?  He’s starting to go a little Linda Blair.  Look at Isaac.”

Derek tilted his head to bring his new Beta into his peripheral vision.  He wasn’t snarling or struggling like Derek expected but hunched in on himself as far away from Stiles as he could manage.  Crap, he should have thought about how he would react to Stiles.  Derek was too used to thinking of him as the mouthy kid who gave him a place to sleep when he needed it to see him as a deadly threat.

“Fine.  Turn your back, stand idly by, run off to New York.  I did a better job as an Alpha than you or Peter when I was human.”

“Derek, you feel that?” Scott asked nervously.

The Moon was seconds away but Derek knew that wasn’t what he meant.  Stiles presence, the sense of him was intensifying to an alarming degree “Yeah, I do.”

“So many feelings Der Bear.”  Derek chanced a quick look over his shoulder and immediately wished he hadn’t.  The black that had filled the whites of Stiles eyes had spread until it covered every square inch of his skin despite the fact he still hadn’t shifted, the only color remaining was the midnight purple coloring his irises and rippling in his short hair.  “So lost, so alone, and all because you were banging the Kate the murder slut.”  Derek flinched but caught an edge to Stiles’s words that took away some of the sting.  There was an unmistakable note of jealously coloring his barbs.  “You and your family brought this down on all of us.”  Some of the words were nearly lost by the sound of bones grinding and popping as they rearranged.  Damn it, Deaton’s best guess wasn’t good enough.  Stiles was in danger of shifting fully.  Who the fuck even knew how weretigers worked.

“Scott, please go unchain Isaac.  Walk very slowly.  We need to get out of here.” 

The kid walked over to the bound wolf with such deliberation Derek was afraid he was going to trip.  After a couple of minutes he made his way back over, dragging a desperately clinging feral and terrified Isaac.  By then a constant stream of yowls and groans was coming from Stiles.

“I have something,” Scott whispered.  “Deaton said he wasn’t sure if it would work but to use it if the Mountain Ash didn’t hold him.”

“He said there was a chance it wouldn’t hold!?”  Why, why him.  He took back everything nice he’d ever even thought about Scott McCall.  “I’ll deal with you later.”

Stiles’s unearthly, floorboard-rattling laughter sent Isaac into a full on panic.  “Derek help!” Scott cried as he was clawed by the terrified wolf.  Derek got an arm around his Beta’s throat in a sleeper hold and squeezed, ignoring the deep slashes he sustained to his forearms in the process.

It took most of a minute for him to pass out.  “He won’t be unconscious for long.”

“Ummmmm, Derek?” Scott squeaked.

He turned around to see what had driven the Beta’s voice up two octaves.  Stiles was hunched forward, claws scrabbling at the invisible barrier in a flare of violet light.  It took him a minute to make sense of what he was seeing.  “Is he…growing?”  Despite his hunched posture Stiles’s eyes were level with Derek’s and rising.  “What happens if he gets too big to fit in the circle?”

“Uh…”  Scott was looking shifty.

“What is it now?”

“Well, tigers don’t really see humans as food or  threat so if he gets out he probably won’t hurt anyone that doesn’t attack him first.”

“Why do I sense a “but” coming?”

“Maybe because you’re an ass!?” Stiles seethed in a voice that made James Earl Jones sound like he could audition for the Vienna Boys Choir.  He was also about twice his original size at this point, not including the tail.

“They have a very specific way of dealing with other species of predator in their territory.”

“I’m guessing it’s not pretty.”

“They eat them.”

Once more that outrageously threatening laugh boomed out of Stiles’s distorted jaws “MINE!!!”  The seams of his clothes exploded as fur erupted from his skin, his body stretching and packing on mass like a time-lapse video of a tree growing.  With a final flash of light the circle shattered, allowing Tiger!Stiles to fall to all fours.  The cat was massive, as tall as Derek’s sternum at the shoulder, nearly twenty feet long nose to tail, and weighing half a ton if he weighed an ounce.  His fur was an inky black with barely perceptible stripes that broke up into spots like those of jaguar toward the hindquarters.  He opened his massive jaws and roared in triumph, revealing milk white fangs nearly the length of Derek’s hand, and cracking two of the windows with the rumbling basso power of it.  In another setting he might have spent hours staring in awe at this beautiful creature.  Here and now he was wishing he’d brought an elephant gun loaded with solid wolfsbane slugs.  Assuming wolfsbane would even work.

He tried not to move while the giant cat stared at him with those twilight eyes.  “Scott, Plan B,” he whispered out the corner of his mouth.

The Beta fumbled a small wooden box out of pocket and dumped the contents into one hand.   He chucked the box and tossed something to Derek “Catch!”

Derek nearly dropped the glittering object while fumbled with Isaac’s limp form before trapping it between his hand and chest.  Unfortunately the object was a small sphere of spun glass that shattered with a crunch, spilling a slick liquid down his front that gave off a pungent fresh herbal scent he didn’t recognize.

As Tiger!Stiles (he decided to call him TS for short) crouched to spring Scott pitched the other one at his head where it shattered on the heavy ridge of bone just above and between his eyes.

“Go!” Scott yelled.  Derek scooped up Isaac and followed him out the door, slamming it shut behind them with a boom.

For a minute they stood there listening to TS mrowl and sputter.  “What was in those things?” Derek hissed.  Hopefully it wasn’t a slow-acting necrotic toxin or something, since it was soaking into his skin.

“Deaton made it.  Aetheroleum Nepeta Cataria Pura, distilled catnip oil.”  Those were the longest words he’d ever heard leave Scott’s mouth.  If this worked he was giving the Beta his compliments back.  Well, maybe half anyway. 

“Will it work?”

Scott shrugged.

“You didn’t think to swing by Petsmart and pick up some catnip to test it first?”

He laughed humorlessly “Sure, but Stiles wouldn’t go for it.  He did all this research on tigers and it totally freaked him out.”

“What kind of research?”  If there was something dark and terrifying to be found online then Stiles would be the one to find it.

“You don’t want to know, trust me.”  Scott shuddered at the thought of whatever it was.

A certain cat-centric adage came to but Derek asked anyway, he was too curious “What did he find, Scott.  If it’s important I need to know.”

He smiled wickedly as he answered “For example, Big Cats have some…anatomical differences.”  Damn this was going to be one of those things he was better off not knowing.  Evil Scott.  “Stiles has been too afraid to jerk off since he turned and see if anything…changed.”

It was wrong, and disturbing, but at this point he could hardly not ask “Changed?”

“There might be spines, or even some extra bones involved now.”

“You were right, I didn’t want to know that.”  Spines!?  Jesus.  He listened for a moment.  The acoustics in the building distorted it but he could hear the slow even thudding of a giant heart on the other side of the door.  “Let’s see if it worked.”  He laid Isaac down, back against the wall, and opened the door.

TS was gone.

Derek crept forward trying to see where he’d got to.  “How can something the size of tiger disappear in a closed room?” he wondered aloud.

“Liger,” Scott corrected creeping up beside him.

“A what?”

“He’s a liger, the hybrid offspring of a male lion and a female tiger.  It’s the only cat that gets that big or has that pattern of stripes and rosettes.”

“How the hell do you know that?”  Derek was wondering if he knew this kid at all.

“I’ve seen one before, so has Stiles.”

“Where?”

A shadow passed over Scott’s face “I’m not telling that story where he can hear since we probably wouldn’t live through upsetting him like that.  Bottom line: I didn’t get why Stiles would be a tiger, but a liger makes perfect sense.”

“How does that make-

TS (LS? Whatever, he’d been less than a year away from his Masters in English Literature and the original nickname was gonna stick) must have been lurking up in the rafters and dropped down on silent paws behind them after they walked into the loft.  In an instant Derek was pinned to the floor with a thousand pounds of Stiles on his back.

“Derek!” Scott yelled.  The Alpha managed to turn his head enough to see TS raise his head and bare his fangs at Scott, who froze in place.  With a satisfied rumble the cat began sniff at Derek and knead him with paws the size of dinner plates like he was trying to figure him out.  “Uh, what should I do?”

“Do I look like I know?”  Derek hated the edge of hysteria creeping into his voice.  A rumbling started up that felt like an earthquake, until a huge tongue that had teeth like a comb began enthusiastically abrading the skin on the back of his neck and turning his hair into a hilarious mess.

“Awww Derek, I think you made a friend.”

“I’m going to tear your throat out.”

“With your teeth, I know,” Scott rolled his eyes, grinning.  TS had apparently dismissed his existence as unimportant.  Lucky bastard.  “First you have to escape the clutches of Cat Kong here.  At least there’s no skyscrapers in Beacon Hills.”  How had his life led to him becoming Fay Fucking Wray.

The weight lifted off him.  He sighed in relief and tried to rise only to be slammed back down with a paw and an irritated noise.  Scott had given up resisting the power of the moment and was rolling on the ground laughing.  Maybe TS would respond if he talked to him like a person instead of stoned-out-of-his-mind cat the size of a rhinoceros.

“Stiles?  Wanna let me up?  Please?”  Shockingly the restraining paw vanished.  “Thanks,” he said.  This time as he tried to rise, those gaping jaws clamped down on his thigh.  TS wasn’t biting him so much as holding him in a vise grip.  If he’d actually meant to hurt him, Derek would already be running on three limbs.  “I give up.” he said, letting his upper body go limp. The cat purred in approval and began dragging him over the floor by his leg.  This humiliating rock bottom was a new low for Derek.  “Scott, find a way to re-secure Isaac,” he said as he was pulled past gasping Beta.  “I don’t think I’m getting out of this any time soon.”

When they got to the spiral staircase TS dropped him and began nudging him towards it.  “I get it I get it,” he grumbled.

Scott managed to catch his breath while Derek went up the stairs, followed awkwardly by TS.  “You two are finally getting a room?”

“Shut up!  And delete those pictures!” Cackling drifted up from below as they reached the top, the liger nudging him towards the huge bed that took up most of the space.  He’d only gotten to sleep in it himself once and now it was being co-opted by TS.  Jokes, there would be so many when Stiles woke up in the morning.

If Derek was never going to live this down at least he could make sure Stiles didn’t either.

 

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

On the plus side, Derek had finally figured out his Alpha shift.  He’d finally found the necessary motivation in that it was just too weird being manhandled (cathandled?) by the liger when he was in human form.  His catnip soaked shirt had kept TS busy for long enough to strip down and fully embrace the call of the Moon.  It was surprisingly freeing.  The part of his mind that was wolf was stronger like this, despite the fact you had to use your imagination to actually see the wolf in the creature feature visage.  His instincts were strangely comfortable being curled up with TS despite him being a different breed of werecreature, and currently preoccupied with shredding his new bed to make cozy nest for the two of them.  The liger actually seemed to prefer him like this and settled down considerably once he surrendered to the inevitable and just focused on getting comfortable.  Somehow he wound up lying on his stomach with his head resting in TS’s neck with the liger curled around him, forelimbs wrapped under and over him in a great bear (cat?) hug.  That deep pleased rumbling was just so soothing, and Derek hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in months.  He relaxed into wild scent of werecat and was out like a light in seconds.

 

He woke sometime later to the obnoxious click of a cameraphone.  He lifted his head to see the Sheriff standing at the foot of the bed taking video now.  Half asleep as he was his instinctive warning growl slipped out before he remembered just how compromising his current situation might appear, but the man simply raised a sardonic eyebrow and kept filming for a few more seconds before putting away his phone.

“There are a lot of things I could say right now, especially considering the advantage I have of being the only one here that can currently speak.”

Actually, Derek could speak in this shape but he knew the sound of his voice would be moderately horrifying if he did.  The Sheriff was still very new to all of this and Derek could smell the clip of wolfsbane rounds he was carrying.  Best not to overwhelm the man, then.  He nodded in lieu of possibly getting shot.

“To be honest finding my son in bed with a twenty-four year old man in not something I had on my Stiles List.”  Derek snorted in amusement and commiseration for the poor man.  “Technically you are both naked so you’ll understand if my fatherly concern is piqued.  I could make some threat about what will become of you if hurt my son, but that would seem a bit silly since he’s currently using you as a plush toy.”  Derek’s tongue lolled out in a canine grin, making the Sheriff wince.  Right, that sight couldn’t have been much more pleasant than hearing his voice would be.  “Look, my son’s not the only one who can read between the lines and I know you won’t take advantage of him in any way.”  God damn perceptive Stilinskis.  He found himself wishing for the first time that other people were more like Scott.  Scary.

The Sheriff stood there silently for a moment, taking in the creature that was his son.  “He sure is something, isn’t he?  It’s almost dawn; do you think if you woke him up it would be safe?”  Derek considered it for a moment, but if there was one person that he was unlikely to react aggressively towards it was his Father.

He nosed under TS’s chin and licked him behind the ear a couple times to rouse him.  The liger rumbled grumpily, batting Derek’s muzzle away and sending him crashing to the floor wrapped up mummy-style in the shreds of the duvet as the swat segued into a titanic rendition of a lazy feline full-body stretch.  The thud of impact made him raise his head and blink sleepily, those weird extra eyelids remaining half closed for a second.  When he caught sight of the Sheriff the cat’s body language became expressively neutral.

Stilinski slowly approached, palms up, stepping around Derek where he was still trying to extricate himself without making an even bigger mess.  “Morning, Stiles.”  He held a hand out slowly until it was hovering right over TS’s head.  The liger hesitated for a moment before rising up into the contact, purring contentedly.  “This is so fucking weird, kid,” he said voice thick with some emotion Derek couldn’t identify while he scratched behind his son’s ears, but the look on his face was a mixture of awe, love, and worry.  Seeing the two of them like that made the fissures that had opened up in his heart the night his family was taken from him bleed, and he whined desolately in spite of himself.  “The Sheriff looked at him intently for a moment before rolling his eyes and saying “Oh get on up here, but we never speak of this again, understand?”

Derek yipped happily and shook of the last of the constricting tentacles of fabric and clambered up to reclaim his place on the remains of the bed and getting a fur tousle of his own from the Sheriff.  “There is something serious I need to tell you, though.  The Argents sent a man after that Omega we had in holding.”  Fury began radiating from the man like heat.  “I had him sealed in Mountain Ash, he didn’t have a chance.  Wolfsbane injection.  I caught the guy on his way out but…there’s many more where he came from.  They won’t stop, will they? ” Derek shook his head.  “Well then, we’ll just have to find a way to deal with them, won’t we?”

He growled his assent when he saw the dangerous glint in the man’s eye.  Things were going to be different this time around.  If the Argents wanted a war they were going to get one.

 

Chapter Text

Things fell into a routine after the night of the Full Moon.  It should have been a comfort to Derek but instead it felt more like a pressure cooker.  Scott had been first to crack, storming out in a huff when Erica and Boyd, the newest additions to the pack, had taken to werewolf life with enthusiasm and gratitude.  It seemed there was no greater sin according to the Dao of Scott McCall than being happy with what you’ve been given.

Stiles was a whole other kettle of fish.  He still came to training after school, but the formerly hyperactive teen never spoke a word.  The silent ferocity with which he worked out was intimidating to the other Betas, so much so that the former chatterbox had become a void of sound that swallowed up conversation that drifted too close to him.

It was driving Derek nuts, but he couldn’t for the life of him figure out what to say.

He needed some clues as to what was going on with Stiles.  Right now all he had to go on was what the tiger’s body language said when they sparred, and that was a murky mess of anger, confusion, and shame.  His Betas reported that he was much the same at school, even snapping his teachers sometimes, so that was no help.  Scott wasn’t talking to him, and as much he’d developed a rapport with Allison he knew she would side with her boyfriend (Derek suspected it was his presence in Stiles’s life that was the true cause of the Omega’s antagonism).  Eventually he’d had no choice but to call the Sheriff, who had become obsessed with his scheme to take down the Argents, but the man had just said “Idiots, the both of you,” and hung up on him.  Now on top of everything else Derek needed a new phone to replace the one he crushed into splinters out of sheer frustration.  At least it gave him an excuse to set up a family plan for the pack so he could make sure they’d be in contact at all times.

 

He’d just finished activating the last of the burner phones he’d picked up when a call came in over his old number.

It was the Sheriff calling him, which probably meant things were about to start spiraling out of control in short order.

“Hale,” the man said in a grim voice when Derek answered.  So it was business, then.  “I’ve got a body at a mechanic’s shop.  We’re going with “killer in a mask” for the official report but it was definitely non-human.”  There silence on the line for several moments.  “Derek,” switching to his familiar name was a bad sign, “Stiles was here.  The mechanic was killed right in front of him.”  Jesus.  “Scott went to check on him after I had one of my deputies drive him home but he wasn’t at the house.  Just…keep an eye out, would you?”

“Always,” he replied without hesitation.”

“Thank you.  Idiot.”

Derek stood there staring bewildered at his phone long enough to be embarrassing if he’d been out in public.

He was still trying to puzzle out why Stilinski kept calling him that when the metal sliding door of the loft rang like a gong under a series of inhumanly strong blows that more closely resembled a siege than a knock.  He caught the scent as he unlocked the door, throwing it open in a hurry to see Stiles bristling with rage on the other side.

“Hey, Sourwolf, got a minute?”  The boy brushed past him roughly without waiting for an answer, storming over to the hidden alcove that held the meager kitchen supplies Derek owned.  He watched in fascination as Stiles filled two huge mugs with bottled water and stuck them in the microwave, giving the machine death glare while he waited for them to boil.  When they were done he filled two of Derek’s mesh tea balls from a packet of dry leaves he dug out of the depths of his red hoodie and set them to steep covered by the cups’ matching saucers.

“Peppermint, catnip, and lavender?” Derek asked when he smelled the wisps of steam escaping under the edges.

“Good nose.  You better be careful or I might have to change your name to Granolawolf if you keep naming the ingredients of herbal teas by scent.”

“It would be so tragic tarnish my reputation,” he snarked, finally closing and locking the door now that the spell of Stiles’s manic brewing was broken.  “Your Dad called.”

“I’ll bet.”  They remained on opposite sides of the apartment in tense silence until the tea was ready.  “Honey?  Wait what am I doing?” he muttered to himself, hunting down the sweetener with his nose.  “Organic Orange Blossom Honey with Royal Jelly?  Special ordered from McNulty’s Tea and Coffee Co. in Manhattan?  I take it back, your new name is Hipsterwolf.”

“That may be the single meanest thing I’ve ever heard you say,” he said shaking his head deep hurt and disappointment.

That got a ghost of a smile, the first he’d seen in far too long.  “Come, on.”  Stiles gestured him over as he finished the preparing the tea.  Derek accepted his mug with a dubious side-eye.  It smelled nice, sweet, fresh, and floral, with a slight hint of astringency.  He took a delicate sip, savoring the taste.

“Not bad.  Of course, I don’t get high off catnip.”

“Yeah,” Stiles said with a luxurious sigh after breathing in the rising vapors.  “My Dad doesn’t like me drinking it in the house.  Though I think that’s more to do with the “Oh my God my son’s a feline!” than the “Oh my God my son’s questionable use of OTC’s!””  He covered his bitter smirk with the oversized mug.

Derek waited until the werecat was purring contentedly, literally, actually purring, to ask “Stiles’s, why are you so upset?”

Apparently he should have waited a little longer.  Stiles’ eyes narrowed and shifted color “Am I supposed to not be upset after watching a man get crushed to death?” he asked defensively.

In a flash of intuition Derek finally understood Stiles’s behavior since the Full Moon.  And just which button to press.  “I’m more curious as to why you didn’t stop it in the first place.”

That did it all right.  With a furious roar Stiles flung his mug at the brick wall so hard most of the ceramic was reduced to powder.   In a flash he bounded over to the spiral stairs, ignoring them in favor of simply leaping to the second floor through the gap.  It was still amazing the way the liger could jump.  Even in his Alpha shape Derek would never be able to get the kind of air with a running start that Stiles could in his human form from standing.

He found him sitting on the new bed with tears streaming silently from those huge midnight eyes.  Eyes that, in a horrifying twist, were the exact same color as the bedspread he’d bought to replace the one TS had shredded.  It was an understandable quirk of mental associations.  He could have sworn for a moment that he heard faint echoes of whisky-rough laughter and a voice whispering “Idiot”.

He shook his head to clear away the catnip induced hallucination, but didn’t say anything, waiting for Stiles to talk when he was ready.

 

It took almost a quarter of an hour before Stiles wailed “Because I couldn’t, okay!?  It was some kind of giant man-lizard.  It got me with paralyzing goo and I just had to lay there and watch while the mechanic begged for help.”  His claws and fangs were out now, the former making gouges in the fabric of his jeans as they idly flexed and extended in agitation.  “Then the thing came over to me and it just looked at me, like it recognized me, and took off.  Because I was no threat.  Because I was helpless.  Again.  Just like with Scott and Lydia and Peter.”  He unconsciously rubbed the shoulder that had been bitten.  “I couldn’t even stop myself from saying all that horrible crap when I flipped out.  Helpless.”  The scarlet blush that Derek saw creeping up Stiles’s neck out of the coroner of his eye told him the teen was also mortified at having spent the night licking Derek like he was trying to get to the center of a tootsie roll pop.

Derek sat down next to him on the bed, looking straight ahead.  “Stiles, you’re probably the least helpless person I know.  Already you’re as strong as I am, and that’s when you’re not a thousand pounds of Cat Kong  With a little more experience you’ll be mopping the floor with me when we spar, especially if you start building a pride of your own.  You are part lion after all.”

Stiles snorted.  “Yeah, I asked Deaton about that.  Werecats are all really one species, the different subtypes are based on the individual bitten, one of those whacky metaphysical deals.”  He shrugged, somehow managing to infuse the gesture with disdain.

“But still, a liger?  That’s got to be unusual, one of a kind even.”

“Whatever.  Deaton said the Argents have a bestiary that might have more information.  Did you know the lizard thing killed one of their hunters? And I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it’s the same thing that got Lahey.  Allison and Scott are working on getting their hands on the book hoping it has a chapter on this thing.  Hopefully we can deal with it before the Argents snap and go on a supernatural ethnic cleansing, cause Gerard?  Fucking terrifying.  Especially now that he’s principal of the high school.”

“I only know him by reputation.”

“Let me guess, it’s not good.”  Derek shook his head.  The man was infamous, especially in California, for the treaty summit he called between the packs and the hunter families.  He’d slaughtered almost all of the attendees, humans and werewolves alike.  “Best of all, I’m invited to family dinner after the game tomorrow.  I’ve been spending so much time running love notes between Scott and Allison at school he’s gotten the idea that I’m her new boyfriend.  Got the wrong idea from all the whispering and giggling in secluded corners of campus.”

Derek burst out laughing.  Stiles stared at him for a moment like he’d gone insane before joining him.   When they finally calmed down Stiles face became serious again, but nervous this time too.  “Listen Derek, there’s a favor I want to ask you but…It’s sort of embarrassing,” he said with a grimace.

“What is it?  I’ll help any way I can.”  Derek wondered exactly when he’d discovered this seemingly inexhaustible wellspring of sincerity he was showering his Betas with lately.  Of course Stiles wasn’t really a Beta and certainly not his but still.

“I can’t say it out loud.  Could you just go stand in the corner and face the wall for a minute?”

“Okay…”  Derek did as he was asked only to hear the unmistakable rustling sounds of Stiles taking off his clothes.  “Uh, what the hell are you doing?”  The Sheriff was going to straight up murder him.

“Don’t turn around!  I’m almost done!”

He was afraid to ask “Doing what?”  “Stiles?” he called after a minute.  “Stiles?”  When there was no answer he looked over his shoulder through one squinted eye to find TS curled up and blending into the comforter like a chameleon.  “Oh, you want to stay here tonight.”  It took him a surprisingly short time to make up his mind.  He shot a quick text to the Sheriff letting him know Stiles would be staying at the loft.  He replied almost instantly “Fine, but you have to feed him in the morning.”

Derek chuckled and plugged the phone in to charge.  “Your Dad’s a comedian,” he said in answer to TS’s quizzical head tilt.  “Your turn to not look,” he said spinning his index finger in a circle.  TS lifted a mammoth paw and put it over his eyes.  “No peeking.”

He turned around and stripped as quickly and efficiently as possible before falling to all fours, shifting into Alpha shape before his hands touched the floor.  When turned around he saw a single eye twinkling through gaps between the liger’s claws while the giant cat purred like a diesel jet engine with a blown gasket.  Derek growled in mock offense but TS just rolled onto his side, holding his front legs open in a circle for him.  He shook out is fur and hopped up into place like he belonged there, relaxing into the embrace as he was greeted affectionately by that huge rasping tongue combing out his coat.  “Any way I can” he’d said.

And he meant it.

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

“I never would have kissed you if I’d known you were taken,” Erica whispered in his ear.  He was really starting to regret turning her.  It wasn’t uncommon for newly bitten wolves to find an outlet to channel their increased aggression, but digging her claws into the role of Alpha’s Yentyl  was a new one on Derek.  His relationship with Stiles was getting more complicated by the second, as evidenced by the fact that they had now twice slept tangled up with each and already it wasn’t awkward the morning after.  That simple lack of angst was becoming a drug for him, an addiction that was rapidly eroding his reservations about the fact they were not coming from the same place on any level.

Case in point: Derek was watching the game from the shadows because he couldn’t sit in the stands, and was somehow not feeling a like skeevy creeper.  He had no right to feel proud as Stiles took the field for the first time while the Sheriff cheered like every psychotic sports parent ever.  So instead he focused on feeling concerned from Scott, who had been benched for extreme unnecessary roughness, which was all the more alarming given the flock of walking wounded the hormonally challenged behemoth he’d flattened had left in his wake.

Derek left Erica to keep an eye on things from there while he cornered Scott outside the darkened School.  The kid had looked better since losing his Beta status for true.  When he’d rejected Peter it had been different, a declaration for a different pack.  But when he’d stormed out of training it was different, an act of alienation.  He had been acting as an Alpha, leading his human pack, but now his world had contracted down to little more than his relationship with Allison, an increasingly tense one too to hear Stiles tell it.  The loss of strength and focus combined with the craven defensive instincts of an Omega were doing a number on him.

“Saw you on the field,” he said with a mildly derisive edge.   The only thing that would shut the kid down faster than a physical assault would be unasked for emotional support from an authority figure.

“So?  I don’t have time for you, Derek.  I have to search Gerard’s office for the bestiality.”

His brain went offline for a second while the jokes bubbled up, fighting for the spot on the tip of his tongue like rats swarming upward during a flood.  It tickled a little.  “Good luck with that.  We can talk when you’re done.”

“Can’t wait.”  Scott stormed into the school, leaving a hand sized dent in the door where he slammed in open.

Derek settled in to wait, trying to work out what to say to stop Scott’s downward spiral.  There was a reason lone wolves never made it, why the one the Argents had killed had turned into a corpse eating homeless man.  If he couldn’t find some way to reconcile with him the kid was a ticking bomb. 

His brooding was interrupted by the soft sound of a girl crying nearby.  The parking lot.  Curiosity got the best of him, dragging him over to get a look while he desperately hoped he was going to find some teenager dealing with a bad breakup and not someone sobbing over the freshly eviscerated corpse of the lizardman’s latest victim.

He was shocked to find Lydia crying behind the wheel of her car.  Somehow she had fallen through the cracks in the aftermath of Peter’s rampage.  Even Stiles had been too preoccupied to moon over her, leaving her more or less alone to deal with a traumatic event that must have had her seriously questioning her sanity.  Worst of all she had a fire and brilliance that made him think of Laura.  There was really only one thing for Derek to do.

“Who are you!?” she yelped startled when he rapped on the window with his knuckles.

“Derek.  I’m a friend of Stiles, Scott, and Allison.”  That might be overstating things a bit but he needed an in.

“What?  I thought you were Erica’s…and possibly Isaac’s…”  The poor girl looked beyond confused.  Time for the direct approach.

“You also met my Uncle, Peter Hale.”

“P-Peter!?”  Damn, she was panicking a little more than he’d expected.  “Why are you..!?  What!?  How did..!?”

“I’M SORRY,” he said as loudly as he could without actually yelling at her through the glass.  “I never apologized for what my Uncle did to you.  I’m sorry.”

It took a minute for the shock to wear off, but by the time it did she wasn’t crying anymore.  After composing herself as best she could she rolled down the window and gave him the best Queen Bitch face she could manage under the circumstances.  “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.  I know you probably have questions, that things may not be making a lot of sense right now.”

“It happens when everyone involved is lying to you.”  There.  Fire.

He nodded.  “If you decide the truth is what you want, I’ll be in touch.”  As soon as she took her eyes off him for a haughty hair flip he faded back into the shadows, leaving her looking around and cursing under her breath.  At least he’d managed to help someone get back on track.  It was a good warm-up for Scott.  More importantly, there were only two suspects in the potential lizard pool, and now at least one of them would cooperative.  Derek really hoped it wasn’t her.  It was obvious why Stiles liked the girl.  He could do without having to kill her.

 

When he heard Scott trying to avoid him on the way back by cutting through the gym, he texted Erica and moved to intercept him.  “Planning on standing me up?  Without even calling to cancel?  That seems a little hurtful, don’t you think?”

“I think so,” Erica said, joining them.

“Sorry Scott, but we’re having that talk whether you want it or not.”  He grabbed him and steered him through the door marked “Pool”.  The Omega put up a token struggle but they both knew there wasn’t much point.  Derek congratulated himself; the pool had the perfect ambience for a clandestine standoff.  He had to try and work in a drowning metaphor while pitched the idea of being pack for the umpteenth time.

“Let me go!  What do you want?  I have to get back to Stiles.  He’s having dinner at Allison’s house.  Do you get what that means?”  Derek let the kid go, placing him between himself and the pool, incidentally blocking the only nearby exit.

“Stiles can take care of himself.  You are the one in danger.”

“From you?”

“From yourself.  You don’t have a pack and you’re already starting to come apart at the seams.”

“I don’t need to be in a pack, least of all yours.”  Really?  That was just mean.  Scott tried to force his way past him, so he grabbed him by the biceps and shook him.  Hard.

“Hey!  Listen up.  You going off the rails puts all of us in danger.  You don’t want to be a werewolf?  Get the fuck over it.”

“Why?  So I can join your pack of guard dogs?” he sneered.

Derek kept the red out of eyes, but it took and enormous effort.  As an Alpha being this close to a rogue wolf was irritating to say the least.  “Think, Scott, think for a change.  Do you remember what I said right after you turned?”

“You said…”  The Omega frowned thinking about what he’d said in what sometimes felt like a past life.

“I said we were brothers.  That’s what pack means to me.  It’s about more than security, it’s family.”

“Family,” he scoffed, “you’re turning random teenagers into werewolves and you think that’s family?”

“They were hardly random.  I asked people that I knew would say yes and be grateful for it.”  He looked over his shoulder at his Beta “What do you think, Erica?  How’s your life been since we met?”

She smiled wickedly as she stepped up beside him “In a word?  Transformative.”  She raked her painted nails down his shoulder and arm suggestively.  “Now I can get everything I ever wanted but couldn’t have.”  Derek resisted the urge to throw her into the pool to cool off, but she backed off with her hands up in surrender when he glared in warning.

Scott looked slightly nauseated by the display.

“You’re awfully judgmental for someone with a Messiah complex a mile wide.  Guess what?  You can’t save everyone by yourself, it’s why you have a pack: to hold you up when start to…”  He was finally getting to the good imagery and Scott wasn’t even listening to him, just staring over his head wide-eyed at…crap.

He spun around just as the creature dropped down and threw Erica into the wall so hard she fell in a boneless sprawl on the concrete, unconscious.

“Go!” he yelled shoving Scott away as a tiny burning pain appeared on the back of his neck before quickly going numb.  He staggered as the paralysis set in but couldn’t get far enough away from the edge before his legs gave out and he pitched into the pool face first.  Maybe it was Karma.  The literature gods were punishing him for pretentious use of situational irony by literally drowning him in his own overblown metaphor.  And since he had some time to think while plummeted to the bottom he took the opportunity to wonder what the fuck was that thing!?

He was saved from trying to compose some meaningful last thoughts by Scott dragging him up to the surface.  “Damn your ass is heavy” he gasped as they broke the surface.

“Sorry, not all of us have empty skulls for added buoyancy,” he snarled. “Please tell me you called for help before you jumped in the water with your phone in your pocket.”

“Uh…”

“Perfect.”

 

Derek didn’t know how long he bobbed along while Scott treaded water and held him up.  His estimates started at geological epoch and became more hyperbolic from there.  This was a new humiliation for his scrapbook, but maybe a useful one.

“So, still fuzzy on what it means to be pack?” he asked.

“You do realize I can drop you at any time?”

“Noted.  So why don’t you want to be in the pack?  And don’t say Allison, you two better off when we were all working together and you know it.”

“It’s the family thing, alright?”

“And family is…bad?”  Derek was starting to think he’d been a little off base.

“Look I didn’t have a lot of it before.  It was just me, my mom, and Stiles. I wasn’t really in the market for more, you know?”

“Yes, actually,” he replied darkly.  It was a shame that tact wasn’t a side effect of the Bite.  But, he pretty sure he felt Scott wince behind him so maybe there was hope.

“Sorry.”

The lizard-thing was still circling around the edge of the pool.  For some reason it was the translucency of the things teeth and claws that really freaked him out.  “I have an idea,” he said.  “See that thing over there?  That’s why you need a pack.  So join mine until we can take care of it together.”

“And what if I don’t want you as my Alpha?”

Scott was just never going to accept taking direction from him.  Maybe he’d just spent too much time around a certain werecat and caught a nasty case of compulsively independent thinking.  He was Stiles-Lite.  But it gave Derek an idea.

“You know there’s more than one kind of Omega wolf?”

“Wait, what?”  Yes!  Curiosity was progress.

“It’s something you see in really large packs.  Sometimes there’s a wolf that has a special status compared to the Betas.  They have lowest rank and no authority, but they’re also the only one in the pack that can tell the Alpha to go fuck himself when he’s being an idiot.”

“Seriosuly?”

“Yeah.  It’s something I’m willing to try if you are.”

“I never get tired of calling you an idiot.”

“Done then, assuming we don’t drown instead.”  Derek doubted Scott was aware enough to feel connection that formed between them, stronger than the one that had existed when they were skirting the edges of being Peter’s.  It was still very weak, but it was probably going to get more exercise than they could stand with that thing in town.

“Yeah, what are we going to do about-

Stiles’s leonine roar made tiny droplets of water leap up from the surface of the pool before he crashed into lizard.  He must have skipped dessert. The thing slithered back up to slash at Stiles with poison claws but the werecat’s agility was a match for it.  Unfortunately that meant he wasn’t landing any serious blows either.  He wasn’t prepared for the teacher’s tail though, as it whipped around hi leg and hurled him through the air to smash into a mirror.  Stiles grabbed a long shard in either hand as got back up.  The thing hunched down an hissed furiously.

“Yeah, Dual Wield bitch!”

The creature coiled to spring but froze when it saw its own slitted orange eyes reflected in the glittering shards of glass.  It hissed once more before vaulting its way up to the ceiling and smashing through the skylight.

Son of a bitch.  Derek knew exactly what that thing was and was more sure than ever that its human form was one of Beacon Hills High’s recently separated cold-blooded power couple.  Maybe there was a way to discover which and solidify Scott’s new role in his pack at the same time.

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

“Kanima?  What’s that?” Isaac asked from his seat at the McCall dinner table.  Derek had chosen Scott’s house for this meeting of the minds to put him at ease and reaffirm his sense of control.

Surprisingly it was Lydia that answered “A weapon of vengeance.  Sort of like a defective werewolf, I’m still pissed at not being included in that little tidbit by the way, that is bound to serve master and hunt down murderers.”  Stiles had filled him in the night before when Derek came in through his bedroom window so they could sleep at his place for a change.  The “book” was actually a USB drive.  He’d also said it written in Archaic Latin, which meant that his estimation of Lydia was leaving impressed and edging toward intimidated.

“So it only hunts murderers?” Stiles asked, not quite looking at Isaac.

The Beta merely rolled his eyes “Hey it wouldn’t surprise me if he was.”

“But how is he connected to the mechanic?” Boyd asked.

“And more importantly,” Jackson snarled from between Stiles and Erica, “what does any of this have to do with me?”  The petulant ass was somehow oblivious to the grins of pure evil the pair was giving him.  The two of them had formed some kind of dark friendship and Jackson was either too dumb or too self-absorbed to be properly terrified.

Derek took that one since it was admittedly his fault that they were all being subjected to this prick “Two people have been bitten that didn’t turn.  One of you is a freak occurrence, the other is an abomination.”

“I wanted to start a pool,” Stiles quipped, “but everybody bet on the same horse.”

“As I was saying,” he continued, swallowing a laugh, “There is a simple test to determine who’s who.”  Derek had wanted them both held down and envenomated with some of the goo he’d collected from the scene at the pool, but Scott had vehemently exercised his new position until he’d agreed to try Stiles’s plan instead.  “Allison, if you’d do the honors?”  She nodded as Scott gave her hand a reassuring squeeze.

“Up we go Jak-Jak,” Erica crooned.  They all stood and went into the living room.

Allison hefted the bag of Mountain Ash.  “It’s simple idea.  Werewolves and Kanimas can’t cross a seal of Mountain Ash.  I’ll make a ring around each of you.  The one that can’t break it is the creature.”

Jackson looked like he wanted to protest until Stiles put a hand on his shoulder, letting his heavy black claws curl down to prick at the skin through his shirt.

“I’ll go first,” Lydia said with a condescending pout.  She walked into the middle of the room and struck a pose like a model at the end of a runway.  With a smile Allison poured the circle, eyes closed “Is it up?” she asked when it was done.

Derek stepped forward and held up a hand, meeting an intangible resistance about an inch shy of the line.  “It’s solid.  Try to cross it.”

Lydia took a deep breath to steady herself.  He could see and hear she was far more nervous than she let on, more so than she should be.  For some reason that bothered him.  Then again there was just something about the girl.

Whatever it was it wasn’t scales, because she stepped over the line with an anticlimactic lack of fanfare.

“Is that it?” Isaac asked.

Derek rolled his eyes “Half.”

Jackson sighed and made a “hurry along” gesture.

Allison began pouring a second circle.  It wasn’t until she had almost made it back to the starting point that Jackson’s hand shot out and grabbed her wrist hard enough to make her whimper in sudden agony.  The young man’s head had fallen to one side, face gone slack, but the reptilian, glowing orange eyes glittered with alien awareness.

“Iiiii’m gonna go ahead and call that test positive,” Boyd said stepping back.  He wasn’t alone.

The Freak-O-Meter redlined when a rasping double-timbre voice slithered out between the rows of gleaming shark teeth that erupted from the Kanima’s gums “JACKSON.  IS.  MINE.”

Stiles looked just as freaked as the rest, but was the only one other than Derek to flick out his claws in preparation for self-defense.  And there was that damn inappropriate pride again.  “Uh, any chance someone thought to bring some holy water?”

Derek was all for ending this right then and there but Jackson moved like a striking snake, hurling Allison right at him and diving through the living room window in a tinkling of shattering glass that harmonized weirdly with Lydia’s shrill shriek of terror.

“You know this is all your fault,” Stiles told him half-teasingly.

Derek just rolled the kinks out of his neck and shoulders before rattling off instructions.

“Scott, with me on foot.  Stiles, take Isaac with you in the Jeep.  Erica and Boyd follow us but hang back.  Hold it up if it gets past us and warn us if anyone else tries to join the party.  Allison and Lydia, you stay here and make sure the Sheriff is up to speed.”

Well, he finally had everyone working together.  Hooray.  Now he just had to keep them all alive somehow.

Why had he wanted to be Alpha, again?

Chapter Text

The Kanima was fast.  It flowed over the ground with the graceless speed of monitor lizard after a rabbit.  Fortunately like all reptiles the thing couldn’t corner well, allowing them to make up the distance as they raced through town.  Soon they were out of the residential areas and into what passed for a seedy area in Beacon Hills, where the game changed from follow the leader to hide and seek.  Every time they got too close it would stop and use its superior ability to move in three dimensions to try and fade away from under cover.

“Gah!  Why does it keep doing that?  It’s not fighting us, it’s not even running away really, it just keeps trying to lose us!” Scott fumed after the fifth repetition of that pattern.

“That’s because it’s not interested in us,” he replied, “It just wants us out of the way so it can finish its hunt.”  The irony was he had had Stiles demonstrating similar tactics during training, shifting into TS and playing stalker to the Betas’ pack hunter.  He tried not to be disheartened in their current situation by the fact that Stiles had won that particular game every time.  “When it’s not trying to evade us it’s making a beeline for the downtown side of the warehouse district.  I’ll move straight in that direction, you keep circling wide around my flank.  When I flush it out, you pin it down and I’ll come in for the kill.”

“Capture.  You’ll come in for the capture.  We’re not killing Jackson.”  That stupid crooked jaw was set in rigid determination and there was jack he could do about it.  The kid had been impossible before Derek had given him carte blanche to challenge his direction.  So instead of flashing his eyes and shaking the Omega like a magic eight ball until he got the answer he wanted, he decided to pretend that Jackson had actually done anything ever to deserve someone like Scott going out on a limb for him.  “Fine.  But you need to be prepared to do whatever it takes to subdue him and keep him subdued.”  Scott hadn’t really been in this long enough to be casual about repeatedly breaking someone’s femurs every few minutes.

“Deal.”  Shit, the kid looked proud of him.  Obviously their relationship (not to mention his image) needed more work than he’d thought if merely agreeing to not-murder made Scott glow like a kid on Christmas morning.  Sheesh.

While they were talking Derek had kept an ear out, waiting for the Kanima to take advantage of their apparent state of distraction.  Sure enough, it sprang out of the shadowed eaves of an abandoned ware house and was off again.  He just had to hope they could catch him before they re-entered populated areas where a fight between mythological creatures would become a viral video sensation in a hot second.

 

They came close.  The Kanima must have been nearing its target because it finally stopped to fight, dropping onto Derek from the shadows of an overpass.  Then it was time for some payback for the pool.  Or it would have been if they weren’t so evenly matched.  The creature’s strength and speed were easily equal to Derek’s own and it fought with an instinctive ferocity and cunning that he just didn’t have even as a werewolf.  With the added handicaps of avoiding lethal strikes and evading paralyzing claws it was matter of time before the fight turned in its favor.

It was exactly the sort of situation that prompted wolves to hunt in packs.

Scott rushed it from the side, taking its focus of Derek for a second.  Seizing the opportunity, the Alpha grabbed a discarded car door from the ground and threw it like a giant, exceptionally un-aerodynamic Frisbee. He didn’t throw it at the Kanima but to Scott who caught it and spun, slamming its broad surface into the lizard and sending it reeling as Derek charged.  With a snarl the Omega threw the door up high for him to catch this time.  He snatched it out of the air in the middle of a running leap and used it as a shield, crashing into the Kanima with all his weight and momentum behind it.  It flew into one of the concrete supports and cracked it with the force of its impact.

Before they could take advantage of its stunned state a flash bolt filled the air with searing light.  He didn’t wait to see which and how many Argent goons had showed up to the party, but grabbed Scott and booked.  With any luck they’d kill Jackson for him that way the threat would be eliminated and he would still be the good guy.  Right, and then he’d go buy that lottery ticket.

At least his eyes recovered soon enough for him to watch Chris get creamed from a safe distance.  He may have had a grudging sort of respect for the man but he was never getting tired of this.  Besides, Gerard was with him.  Even when the Kanima slithered right up to him he just stood there and looked at it.  It might just have been Derek’s paranoia kicking in but if he were to put a name to the old Hunter’s expression it would be “internally jumping for joy and trying to be secretive about it”.  Soon the little moment between psycho killer and murder lizard was over, the Kanima rushing off into the night.

He cocked an ear.   Stiles and Isaac were only a block away now in the jeep.  As he started running again Scott on his heels he tried to think about what was around here that could possibly have a target so important the Master would risk his pet against Hunters and Werewolves simultaneously.  Whoever it was they had to get there in time.

 

His theory seemed even more sound when the Kanima led them right to, of all things, a gay club.  That Danny kid was waiting in line outside as it scurried up the side of the building and into an open grate on the roof.  If there was one person who might have seen or heard something damning it would be Jackson’s best friend.  The Master had to be having regular contact, after all, and there was no way Danny wouldn’t know if someone had suddenly inserted themselves into Jackson’s life.

The Jeep screeched to a halt beside him, Stiles and Isaac leaping out as soon to join him and Scott.  “I’ll go through the back.  Scott, you and Stiles go through the front.  Isaac, cover the emergency exit on the other side.”  He ignored the curious eyebrow arch at his familiarity with the layout of the place. Jungle had been there when he was in high school too, back when he actually enjoyed soaking up attention like a sponge, and the club was notoriously lax about carding.

The door was right where he remembered.  One shriek of tortured metal and he was in.  Now all he had to do was clear the rabbit warren of back rooms, somehow thoroughly looking for the Kanima while simultaneously thoroughly not looking at the things going on in every vaguely out of the way corner the patrons could squeeze into.  If only it were possible to avert his nose.  He needed to seriously consider getting laid.

Stamping down on that train of thought, he finished his search and moved out onto the main floor. 
The lights, music, and fog were every bit as cacophonous and disorienting as he remembered.  Finding that thing in here would be tricky even without the sea of writhing bodies.  A quick look around revealed Stiles shoving his way the crowd with too much of his strength.  Derek was about to reprimand him mentally until he saw the clubbers creating holes in the air as they fell to the Kanima’s claws.  The tiger reached Danny first.  Even his ears couldn’t make out Stiles desperate plea but his vision was still clear enough to see Danny roll his eyes and yank his arm out of Stiles’s grasp.  The motion spun him around, causing the delicate slash meant for the back of his neck to take him across the throat in a gush of blood instead.

A chorus of screams erupted followed by a half naked stampede for the exits.  Derek saw his window and took it while the Kanima was busy hissing at Stiles, trying to get past him to finish the job.  He slashed low across its back, claws raking over the spine.  It fell to the ground spitting in agony but managed to get its legs moving well enough to skitter into the press of bodies and vanish from sight.

He turned to see Stiles kneeling over Danny, his plaid shirt serving as a compress while he had a gestural argument with Scott and Isaac.  Apparently he won.  Scott stormed over to Derek while Isaac helped the tiger spirit the human’s unconscious form out the back.  “Stiles bit him,” he yelled.

Derek was too stunned think of a reply, so much so his shift retreated.  Instead he just jerked his head at the exit and stated forcing his way out through the panicked bottleneck at the door.

Outside there was just enough of that corrupt black blood to follow.  The trail slowly turned into normal human red, ending at weakly stirring and fully naked human Jackson lying between a couple of parked cars.

“Uh, what do we do with him?” Scott asked.

“I assume killing him is still out?”  A guy could hope.

The Omega glared at him like he had suggested they boil and eat the kid “Yes.”

“The Sheriff should be here any minute responding to calls about dance club monsters and weird paralysis.  I say let him find Jackson as is.”

“Dude that’s kinda cold.”

“He’s cold-blooded, what does he care?”  Okay, so maybe he should leave the humor to Stiles.  “Look, he’ll be held overnight for some misdemeanor or other while he sleeps it off, which will give us enough time to figure out what to do about the Master and Danny.”  Assuming the kid survived, of course.  A bite from a Beta werewolf could turn someone, possibly, but it was extremely dangerous.  Even with an Alpha it was far from certain.  Derek wasn’t even sure what the boy would be if he did survive.  For all he knew he would have a pair of Kanima roaming around town tomorrow night.

“I guess.”  Scott didn’t sound entirely convinced but luckily the Sheriff had arrived and homed in on them like a predator drone.

“You two mind explaining to me what the hell is going on here?”  The man’s eyes widened when he saw Jackson.

“Uh, he did it?” Scott said pointing at the unconscious young man.

Children.  Derek was surrounded by children.

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

Derek wasn’t sure that the Stilinski’s couch was the best place to do the “Surprise!  You just got bit by a Hollywood monster!” thing, but Stiles had been adamant, showing fang, and more than a little hysterical so he didn’t push it.  He wanted to live.

Danny was not looking good.  The Kanima’s claws had only nicked the jugular or he would have died right there on the dance floor.  The wound was closed now but still looked ugly, a livid purple line that would likely scar since his healing hadn’t fully kicked in yet.  The boy was pale, even through his usual deep tan, his chest barely rising with his breaths.  But there was still no sign of rejection, and Derek knew from experience it happened fast.  Neck wounds were tricky, but assuming there was no brain damage it looked like they’d have a brand new were-something-or-other by morning.

Of course that was also assuming Stiles’s didn’t mother hen him to death before then.  Actually it was more Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, since it was TS that was fussing over him.  The Sheriff had stopped by briefly after booking Jackson for drunk and disorderly and public indecency.  He’d simply walked in, taken one look at the bizarre scene laid out before him and said “I’ll deal with you in the morning,” before stalking back out to his cruiser.

Despite the fact that Derek wasn’t going anywhere the others felt the need to set up a shift schedule for standing vigil over Danny.

“What’s going to happen to him?” Scott asked when it was his turn.

“I don’t know,” he answered truthfully.  “He’s turning, but into what is anyone’s guess.  Is there anything in the bestiary about werecats?” he asked Allison, who naturally was also on Scott’s shift.

“Lydia translated the passage,” she confirmed, “but there wasn’t much.  It seems hunters look at them like trophy animals because they’re so rare and hard to catch, as well as dangerously unpredictable.”  Small wonder Stiles became one then.  “It did also reference them as a way of dealing with particularly large or dangerous werewolf packs.”

“How so?”  He was never really sure how much Stiles was in TS, and whether whatever Allison was about to say might inspire thoughts of conquest in the giant feline.

“The grow stronger each time they kill another werecreature.  If you can catch one and drop into a large pack’s territory, by the time it’s done picking off the weaker members it’s usually too strong for the remaining pack to bring down.”

“But why would they stay?  Why not just go home or something if they’re so powerful.”

Derek had a feeling he knew.  This was one of those things that Scott needed to come to grips with about this life, and it was definitely better if Allison told him about it.

“There were…instructions.  For making sure the werecat was running purely on base instinct and ready for a fight.”  Scott looked like he wanted more information.  She just looked faintly green.

“Right now our first priority is to help Danny through his transition,” he said changing the subject, earning a grateful nod from the girl.  “He must know something important to have been targeted since I’m betting he hasn’t murdered anyone lately.”

“No way, he’s awesome.  Everybody loves Danny.”  There was that phrase again.  Derek wondered if the kid had any other significant personality traits or if he was just a walking pile lovable walking around in tight clothes.  Of course, it could have been the tight clothes.

He saw it when the comforting backrub Scott was giving Allison strayed into something else altogether.  That he could live without seeing.  Or especially smelling after the punishment his nose had taken in the club.  “How about you two go on up to Stiles’s room and watch a movie on his laptop or something, I got this.”

Allison’s expression turned wry at the suggestion but Scoot just beamed “Thanks man, we owe you one.”  The two of them tumbled up the stairs leaving Derek alone with the singularly underwhelming challenge of staring at a cat staring at a sleeping guy.

“Have you calmed down enough to change back yet or do I need to go get the catnip?”  Derek had taken to making up translations of Stiles’s feline mannerisms during these one sided conversations.

Eyes narrowed, nose twitch: “You can get the catnip and I’ll go get the wolfsbane.”.

“What happened wasn’t your fault.  It’s not your place to hold yourself responsible for everyone and everything.  We already have a Scott, we don’t need two.”

A chuff followed by a short rumble: “Hey, back of the best friend, buddy, and touché.”

“At least we’re getting along.  Ish.”

Huge yawn with tongue extended: “I am sooooo bored with that old ditty, sing me a new one,” or maybe just “I’m sooooo tired.”

Either way his answer was the same “Yeah I know.  C’mon, scootch I want to get comfortable too.”

TS moved so he was laying down on his belly more or less in front of the couch where he could rest his head on Danny’s lower abdomen.

“You sure you won’t smother him like that?” he asked teasing.

Sharp chuff: “Dumbass.”

“Whatever, you like me anyway.”

Silence:  “Holy crap is he flirting with me?  I thought the sleeping together thing was totally platonic, not even any awkward first thing in morning issues are coming up!  I’m projecting again aren’t I?  He’s Lydia 2.0: The Hot Werewolf Guy Edition.  I’ll just play it cool and hope I don’t have any more of those nightmares where I find him and Lydia having sex in my bed and laughing about me.”

Derek sighed.  He was way too in Stiles’s head if he could spin off neurotic rants like that easy as breathing.  Nonetheless he didn’t hesitate to sit Indian style on the floor, laying his torso back over the cat’s midsection and resting his head on Danny’s legs.  That deep rumbling purr started up.  It was getting to the point where he couldn’t sleep without it.  If he was a better guy he’d run for the hills and spare the both of them the pain of having this runaway train of a friendship jump the rails into the “relationship” quagmire waiting just over the horizon.  The thing was he was selfish, and he knew it.  And he fit so perfectly here.

 

Derek started awake but didn’t move a muscle or change his breathing, for all the world appearing to snooze on.  It was a habit he’d developed while on the run with Laura.  He sorted through is sleep-muddled perceptions for the thing that woke him but it identified itself first.

“Sorry, Miguel, but my little brothers and sister have been pulling the “I’m still sleeping” trick on me for years and they’re way better at it than you.”

“My name’s not Miguel it’s-

“Derek Hale, yeah I know, I read the newspaper.  It’s full of fun facts and current events, and by the by, why is there a ginormous black tiger drooling on my stomach?  Better question: why am I completely okay with the fact that there’s a ginormous black tiger drooling on my stomach?”

“Technically he’s a liger,” he drawled rubbing his eyes and stretching.

“Ah yes, that makes all the difference.”  How were this kid and Stiles not closer friends?

“He’s a werecat.  Stiles specifically.  A lizard creature called a Kanima slashed your throat in the club last night and Stiles turned you to save your life.”

The key turned in the lock on the front door as the Sheriff naturally chose that moment to return.

“Oh look, Scarecrow, the Tin Lawman’s here.  Now if we can just wake up Lion, sorry Liger, we can be off to see the wizard.”

It was too early for sarcasm. Especially since he was going to get a second dose when TS woke up and turned back into Stiles.  He decided to push the kid’s buttons in retaliation, at least until someone brought him caffeine.  It was one of the few privileges he claimed as Alpha.  “Actually, Sir, he’s right.  We probably should call the Druid.”

“So I assume your pack has grown by one more?”  For some reason he always felt a tiny bit miffed when the Sheriff didn’t include himself when referencing the pack.

“Wait, your pack?” Danny asked.  “What like werewolves too?”  Derek shifted into Beta form and back as a demonstration.  “Okay then, Scarecrow is also Toto.  Now that this dream sequence is complete I think I’ll just go back to sleep.  Wake me when I’m back in Kansas.”

“Sorry Dorothy, this is Beacon Hills and you went over the rainbow months ago, you just didn’t know it.”

“Derek, try not to traumatize the kid any more than he already has been, okay?” the Sheriff reprimanded him gently.  “Behave and I’ll put on the coffee.”

“Right.”  He looked at Danny.  The guy seemed to be taking everything in stride.  Derek could hear his heart and smell his mood and he was definitely freaking, just not letting it bother him somehow.  It was really very impressive.  “So Danny, unless you want to literally poke a sleeping tiger we’ve got some time to talk.”

“Well since we’re both here I am curious about a couple of things.”

“Oh?”  He had missed this subtext-free catty banter.  But if Danny was the New Stiles then who exactly was the Old Stiles to him now?

 

 

 

***

 

Time slowed as Stiles watched Peter’s fangs sink towards his wrist.  It wasn’t like he hadn’t thought about this.  Speed. Strength.  Senses.  He bet werewolves never had to watch their loved ones die a slow death from cancer.  On the other hand he might have to watch them die quickly from bisection.  And Jackson had a point about Scott.  It was more than a little painful watching his best friend flounder around making a mess of things instead of making the most of what he’d been given. 

And there was the problem right there.  If he accepted this here and now he wouldn’t just be betraying Scott, he’d be pitching in with Peter and Jackson, basically validating their sociopathic lust for power.  Stiles had spent so much time lately feeling like everything he’d thought he’d known was slipping away from him, but at least he still knew who he was and the kind of man he wanted to be.  He wouldn’t mind being a werewolf.

But he’d be damned if he let this psycho turn him into a monster.

“I don’t want to be like you,” he said jerking his arm back.

“You know what I just heard?  You’re heart beating slightly faster over the words “I don’t want”.”

“I-I don’t.”  He hated the stammer in his voice; he was done being intimidated by this nutbar.  “I could never be like you.”  This time Peter narrowed his eyes understanding his emphasis.  “Besides, I’ve never been much of a pack animal.”

The rising anger vanished from the Alpha’s eyes as he tilted his head quizzically, like something Stiles had said had piqued his curiosity.  That fanged maw stretched into a wicked grin that froze his blood.  He knew he’d somehow said exactly the wrong thing.  If he lived through this he was getting his Adderall dosage adjusted.

“You know what, Stiles?  I think you may be right.”

He didn’t even have time to blink before Peter’s jaws were clamping down on the slope of his left shoulder.  A line from Kill Bill Vol. 2 drifted through his mind “However, a bite to the face or torso can bring death from paralysis within twenty minutes.”  He rather doubted he had that long.

“I’m afraid I don’t have time to wait around and see how you turn out,” Peter said in his ear.  “But I can spare a few minutes I we hurry things along a bit.”

Stiles barely had time worry about how ominous that sounded before he was flying through the air.  He’d never been more grateful for lacrosse.  He was an expert at getting slammed into the ground and knew how to take a fall.  Of course the parking garage was concrete instead of grass.

He lost a bit of skin (who cared it would grow back now) but managed to land without breaking anything.

“Not bad.”  Peter punctuated his compliment with a knee to the face.  Stiles scrambled over to a nearby car, pulling himself up by the bumper and squinting through the tears brought on by his stinging nose.  A red and black blur surged toward him, backhanding him across the face and sending him into the next car over.

“Maybe I was wrong about you after all,” the Alpha mused.  “Where’s that fire, that defiance?”

“Fuck you,” he said spitting out a mouthful of blood.

“Better, but still underwhelming.”  Peter grabbed him by the throat and slammed him back against the car the couple times.  “Maybe you’re right about Scott.  He really doesn’t seem cut out for this life.  Once I’m finished with Argents I’ll slash his throat.  But only after I make him watch while I bleed his little warrior princess dry and give his mother the Bite.  Then when your father shows up to investigate I’ll tear his heart out.  No of this will matter to you, of course, because you’re not leaving this garage alive.”

Stiles blinked away the moisture to see the red-eyed man giving him that insufferable smarmy grin.  Getting the tar beat out of him?  Painful but bearable.  Listening to an archvillain wannabe monologuing about slaughtering his friends and family?  Horrifying, if a touch cliché.  But that goddamn smirk was just too much.

He lashed out with a foot catching Peter just below his belt buckle, forcing a surprised exhalation from the Alpha.  Before the werewolf could recover he brought his elbow up in an arc ending at the underside of Peter’s chin and sending him reeling.  He took two quick steps and put all his weight behind a right hook that threw his opponent to the ground.

The searing pain from the Bite was singing in his veins and he was all too happy to give a little back.  “Like I said.  Fuck You.”  He hauled back to kick the prone Peter in the ribs for good measure when a hand shot out and yanked the leg that was holding all his weight out from under him.

“Yeah, I knew that was way too easy,” he groaned up at Peter who was smiling down at him like the cat who ate the canary. Or would it be wolf that ate the sheep? Who even ate mutton nowadays anyway? He just might have a concussion.

“Magnificent.”  He leaned down and inhaled deeply.  His eyes widened as a delighted laugh burst out of him.  “Now that’s a scent I haven’t encountered in a long time.  You were right; you’re not a pack animal.  Goodbye , Stiles, I’ll be seeing you soon.”  Peter turned and swept away leaving Stiles there to try and unscramble his brains alone.

What the hell was all that was all that about?  He could worry about it later.  Right now he had to get to the hospital, to Lydia, and then to pick up something special just for Peter.

So he wanted to see some fire, did he?

Chapter Text

Danny unsurprisingly took to being a werecat with the same the relaxed focus he seemed to apply to everything.  With the moon so new it took him nearly a week to shift for the first time, but afterward he got the hang of it within a day.  His Beta shape was similar to Stiles’s but with bright golden eyes and no particular identifying marks.  Deaton’s theory was that any Betas the tiger could make would be generic werecats instead of specific varieties while they were subordinate to him.  He was taking that little bit of wisdom with a huge grain of salt.

The intricacies of pride dynamics aside, the new Were turned out to be a surprisingly harmonizing influence in their unconventional pack.  Helping another kid through the shock of being turned without consent turned out to be therapeutic for Scott, giving him a chance to work through his own issues on the subject.  Between Danny and Allison they also managed to secure Lydia’s place among them.  The girl was scary smart with a biting wit that somehow brought the disjointed band of teenagers into a single social unit that danced around her like she was a queen bee.  Isaac already knew Danny from lacrosse so they simply continued their amiable coexistence.  If there was a holdout it was Boyd, but the stoic young man was so reserved to begin with it was hard to say how he felt about the newest addition.

The only potential problem among his original Betas was Erica.  Derek couldn’t help but preen a little when the objectively gorgeous young man sighed wistfully staring at his bare chest during training.  It was obvious though from the pointed looks when Stiles was around that it was because the werecat thought he was unavailable as opposed to a lost cause.  Super.  Amusingly, Danny’s appreciation of his body paled I comparison to the way Erica was leering at the tanned youth’s sculpted physique.  If Danny wasn’t careful he was going to find himself having his horizons broadened at the hands of the bold young werewolf.  It wasn’t exactly an innocent flirtation in the strictest sense but it was more likely to be a source of amusement for the pack than a cause of conflict.

As it turned out the only one with a problem was Stiles.  Derek had expected the young Alpha(?) to be a little bit Tiger Mother, but was caught off guard when he went full on Mother Hen instead.  If Danny hadn’t been instinctively inclined to defer to the one who turned him he might have shredded the tiger out of sheer frustration from the constant hypervigilance.  Stiles’s behavior was understandable.  He had seen how hard things had been for his best friend and now he had gone and done the same thing to someone else.  His guilt over biting Danny was clashing badly with his drive to protect his Beta, leaving him tense and moody.

Derek’s usual solution for angst was physical activity, so he had started setting aside the last block of time in every training session to spar with the tiger in the hopes of working some of it off.  Pretty soon the pack was placing bets while they watched the two of them wail on each other even though their matches always ended in a draw.  Now that Stiles and Danny were more solidly integrated into the pack the tiger was reaping a significant power boost.  If the young man hadn’t been so distracted Derek suspected most of their fights would have ended in solidly Stiles’s favor.

 

As much as Derek wanted to help his co-Alpha they had bigger problems, namely Jackson.  Things came to head when the Kanima claimed another two victims, one of which was a pregnant woman.  The Sheriff finally reached the limit of how much supernatural mayhem he could tolerate and called them all together to discuss options.

“How did he get past you?” the Sheriff demanded, shouted really.

Isaac flinched “He had help, okay?  Someone set off a bunch of fireworks in my front yard.  By the time we put them out he’d slipped away.”  The Lahey house had become their base of operations for Jackson Watch.

“It’s not your fault,” Derek said with a pointed look at the Sheriff.

Chagrin washed over Stilinski’s face as he realized he’d been shouting at an abuse victim.  “It’s all right, son, I shouldn’t have lost my temper.  So he had help?  How certain are we that it’s this Matt kid?”

“Totally,” Danny answered, “Jackson filmed himself on the Full Moon and Matt was the only person who could have seen the footage and doctored it to hide the truth from him.  It was his camera.”

“What I still don’t get is the whole murderers angle,” Stiles said, his tone tight with frustration, “The victims all have too many things in common for it to be random, but none of them have ever been linked to a murder so it’s got to be personal too.” 

“And no one’s seen him since that night?” the Sheriff asked.

Scott fielded that one “No.  We kept a watch on his house for the first couple of days but he never showed.  All we saw was his parents freaking out.”  They had been the subject of a contentious debate among the pack about nature versus nurture.  Derek would have found the obvious werewolf subtext amusing if the whole thing wasn’t so grisly.  Supernatural species changes aside, for his part Derek doubted the kid had become a crazed serial killer overnight.  There must have been signs.

“And Jackson?”

“He stopped coming to school,” Lydia said quietly, eyes downcast as Danny rubbed her shoulder consolingly, “I talked to his mother.  She said he’s taking time to recover after his “trauma”.”  That was an interesting way to describe waking up naked outside a club after partying too hard.  At least that was the Kanima-free version of the story.

“Can’t we just kill him?” Erica asked flippantly, “He wanted the Bite and he couldn’t handle it.  It’s not like he didn’t know he could end up killing someone.  It’s like a werewolf DUI.”

“Werewolf “crime” only has one sentence.” Boyd agreed solemnly.

“It’s not the same thing,” Scott growled, “He never had a chance, Matt is the one using him.”

“So it’s all right to kill him?  At least he’s human,” Stiles put in. 

“What about the Argents?  They don’t care who or what they kill,” Erica sneered at Allison.  Maybe Derek had overestimated the pack’s newfound coherence.

“Back off,” Scott growled.”

Allison put a hand on his arm “It’s okay, Scott.  I told my Dad about Matt and Jackson.  I don’t know what they’re planning.”

“From the way Gerard was looking at the Kanima it’s not anything good,” Derek said.

“All the more the reason to handle this on our own now” Erica said getting to her feet and rounding on Allison and Scott.

Everyone began talking at once, half a dozen different arguments breaking out at once.  The Sheriff looked at Derek in askance.

He nodded “Enough!” he barked, putting enough Alpha into it to make the Betas flinch and Stiles arch an eyebrow at him.  “For now all we can do keep watching.  If Matt wants to use Jackson again he’ll have to help him shake us again first.”

“A trap, then?” Stiles asked.

“Yeah!” Scott piped up, “Matt’s just a guy; we can catch him easy if he shows up.”  Derek had a feeling “easy” would not be good way to describe what was going to happen even if this actually worked.

“So we have a plan, such as it is,” the Sheriff said tiredly.  “I’ll have cruisers increase patrols on Jackson’s street, you all work out a shift schedule.  And Stiles?”

“Yes, Dad?”

“Don’t think you can get away with taking every shift.  Sooner or later someone’s going to notice a thousand pound cat hanging around in the trees.”

“I’m fine.”  He so was not fine.  There were huge dark circles under his eyes and he was so exhausted all the Weres could smell it without trying.

“Uh huh.”  The Sheriff wasn’t buying it either.  “Derek, please hang back after the others go, we need to talk.”

The whole pack save Stiles broke out in giggles and knowing smirks.  Oh yeah, nothing about this situation was easy.

 

 

Soon the pack was gone, off to put in face time with their mostly oblivious family.  The meeting ended with a less than decisive air.  It was the helplessness about the whole mess that had everyone so on edge but there was jack Derek could do about it with turning the cracks between them into canyons.  When it was just the three of them left Stiles looked between him and his Father before dashing up the stairs with a call of “Good luck.”

After the door slammed the Sheriff got right to the point “You’re not sleeping with my son.”

He made a choked noise in his throat “No I’m not.  You know Stiles can hear us right?”

“I’m aware,” Stilinski replied drily, “And you know what I meant.  You two stopped your Wild Kingdom slumber parties.”

Clearly the Sheriff intended this to be a covert conversation with his son, Derek was here to be the foil.  “Hard to sleep next to someone who doesn’t sleep.  He thinks it’s his fault Jackson withdrew instead of letting us help him.”

“Because he turned Danny?”

“Yes.”

The Sheriff raised his voice a little “That’s ridiculous.”  They were of the same mind, then.

“He’s sixteen,” he said with a shrug.

Stilinski’s eyes narrowed over a predatory smile “Yes, he is.”  Crap, Stiles wasn’t the only one the man wanted to box into an uncomfortable conversation.  “The two of you are putting me in an awkward position; my son is a minor and you are a walking disaster.”

“I always appreciate your candor,” he said flatly.

“I’ve thought long and hard about how to handle this and have decided to stay out of it.  Completely out of it.”

“Meaning what, exactly?”

The Sheriff molded his expression into a picture of polite confusion “I’m sorry, were we discussing something?”  Ah, out of it.

“No Sir.”

“You look tired, Son, probably shouldn’t drive.  You can crash in the guest room if you want.  Just make sure you close the door, I snore like a freight train.”

“I appreciate your consideration.”  He might as well play along; the man was clearly enjoying the exchange.

“I left something back at the station.  Stiles can show you where the clean sheets are.”  With that the man departed, leaving Derek to what was sure to be an interesting confrontation.

 

 

 

“So…that was weird,” Stiles said.  Derek let him fidget in his desk chair for a minute.  “Look, I’m sorry for being such a basket case, alright?”

“Stones and glass houses here.”  He was leaning against the door to give him some space, and to make it easier not to go over there physically stop the frantic foot tapping.

“I’m not insane, I know not everything is my fault but…”

“You still feel responsible.”

“Yeah.”

“It’s part of being a good Alpha.”

“Is that what I am?  Sometimes I miss just being Stiles.”  The tiger sounded bitterly tired.

“What’s a Stiles?” he asked with a grin.

“I knew putting you and Lydia together was a terrible idea.”

“Eh, you’ve had worse.”

“Like framing you for murder?”

“Just as a for instance.”

“Good times.”

They couldn’t seem to find anything else to say for several minutes.  Stiles seemed to be working himself up to something.  Derek was afraid he knew exactly what it was.

“Listen, Stiles, about what your Dad said…”

Apparently addressing the elephant in the room was all the push the tiger needed “Fuck it,” he snarled, sending the rolling chair flying into the bookcase as he launched himself out of it.  Derek had still been struggling with how to handle talking about their relationship when Stiles lips smashed into his own.  Mentally unprepared as he was, his body decided to take free reign, returning the kiss with wild abandon.  He shrugged out of his jacket while the younger pulled them both down onto the bed.  Neither tried to take things any further than vigorous making out, but by the time they finally came up for air it was well after midnight.

Stiles lifted up Derek’s arm so he could slide up along his side and rest his head on his chest “So that happened,” he said sleepily, finally out of the nervous energy he’d been running on for over a week.

“Sleep.  You can obsess in the morning.”

“M’kay, night, Sourwolf.”

For the first time since he’d come home to Beacon hills Derek spoke the words that had carried him off to sleep every night for years after the fire.  “Tiger, Tiger, burning bright, in the forest of the night, what immortal hand or eye could frame thy fearful symmetry,” he whispered in Stiles’s ear.

There were so many reasons why this was a bad idea.  That’s what he’d been telling himself for weeks at any rate.  With Stiles snuggled into his chest he ready to admit that they were a load of crap.  There was nothing wrong about this at all.  He didn’t even manage to toe off his shoes before sleep took him.

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

The tension in the pack seemed to evaporate now that he and Stiles were…whatever they were.  It mostly involved lots and lots of making out.  While Derek certainly wasn’t comfortable with PDA it didn’t make any difference when the P in question was a bunch of werewolves.  It seemed the universe as a whole had decided to give him a break.  There were no more murders, Jackson had returned to school, and while the sometimes lizard was generally frosty with all of them (and still wrapped in an industrial strength cocoon of denial) he wasn’t clawing the Betas up between classes.  All in all it made him inclined to enjoy the rose-tinted state of affairs while he could, because everything going right was a sure sign that an epic clusterfuck was brewing just over the next hill.

In fact it was only a week before they were all back in Stiles’s living room for another war council.

“So you called all of us over here because Jackson was acting creepy?” Isaac asked incredulously, “How could you tell the difference?”  Erica swatted him on the arm playfully.

“Just trust me on this,” Scott sighed, “He was still human-looking but he was definitely in Kanima mode.”

“But why just to buy concert tickets?” Boyd wondered aloud.

“Maybe Matt’s sick of hanging out in whatever hole he’s crawled into and wants a night out to party,” Danny suggested, “Also it’s a rave, not a concert.”  Between his thwarted crush on the presumed psycho and the whole best friend murderslave thing, the werecat was ready to butcher the creep himself if he ever got his claws on him.

“Whatever.”

“The point is he’ll have to show if he wants to make sure we don’t stop Jackson,” Stiles interjected, “Which means this our chance to catch him.”

“Any idea how exactly we’re going to do that?” Isaac asked.

“Tell them what you told me, Scott,” Derek said.

“Oh, right.  Deaton thinks that the bond between the Kanima and its Master is so strong that Mountain Ash can trap both of them if they’re in the same place.”

“So you want to seal the whole warehouse in?”  Erica sounded dubious at best.

“Allison and I will handle that,” Lydia offered, “I’ve been studying the bestiary and some of Deaton’s books and I’m confident that I can manage to walk in a circle and pour dust on the ground.”

“And what will the rest of you be doing?” The Sheriff asked, understandably uncomfortable with this plan.  They were going way outside the law with this gambit and possibly sealing in hundreds of innocent people with a serial killer and his pet monster.

“Erica, Isaac, Danny, and Scott will be at the rave itself while Boyd and I keep watch outside the seal,” Derek explained.  “At that time of night there won’t be anyone around except of the ravers so Stiles will run the outer perimeter as TS.”

“I really don’t like the idea of waiting on the outside while they take all the risk,” the tiger muttered.

“I’m thinking there will be enough risk to go around.  Allison?”

“He’s right, Stiles.  Scott wasn’t the only one that tracked Jackson to the warehouse.  It’s safe to assume my Dad will be there.”

“Is there any chance they just want to catch him?” Danny asked worried.

Allison shook her head sadly “I doubt it.  The Kanima is too strong and Jackson is always surrounded by civilians.  If this is their only chance they’ll hit him as hard as they can.”

Derek shared a conspiratorial smile with the Sheriff “That might be a good thing.”

“Uh, how?” Boyd asked, guessing correctly that being assigned to watch the outside with his Alpha would put him between the Hunters and their prey.

“Because it gives us a chance to take them out of play without resorting to violence,” Stilinski explained.

“You know, Dad some people might call that police entrapment,” Stiles mused with a smirk.

Scott looked confused “Wait what?  I don’t get it.”  The rest of the pack looked just as lost except for Allison and Lydia.

The redhead spoke up “They want to set up surveillance cameras.  If they can get footage of the Hunters threatening or even shooting at unarmed men, one of whom is a minor, we can use it as leverage to get them to back off.  Sorry honey,” she added, squeezing Allison’s hand.

“It’s okay.  We can work something out with my family after this all over.  Once the killings stop hopefully I can convince them to agree to a truce or something.”  If only.  Derek doubted she knew about what happened the last time Gerard had organized a “truce”.  The was peace for a while afterward alright; he hadn’t left enough people alive for there to be much of a conflict.

“And where will you be Sheriff Stilinksi?” Stiles asked with dangerous emphasis.

“I don’t know what you’re implying,” the man said loftily, “I’m an elected law enforcement official.  It would be improper for me to attend a rave, much less what amounts to a street brawl between armed gangs.”

His son was not put off by the deflection “And if an emergency call should come in involving gunfire and mass hysteria?”

“Well, I suppose I’ll be obliged to perform my civic duty.”

“Jeez, Dad, if the Sheriff thing doesn’t work out you have a promising career as a defense attorney ahead of you.”

“That was a low blow.  You do know I carry a gun, right?”

“As psychologically fascinating as your bizarre parent/child dynamic is to watch perhaps we should get back to the matter at hand,” Lydia said with Danny nodding along beside her.  “So far we’ve glossed over the part about how we get Jackson out of there after we trap him.”

“Oh, right.  That’s me again, sorry.” Scott said blushing in embarrassment.  “Deaton’s supplying us with Ketamine.  It should be enough to knock him out.”

“But for how long?” Lydia asked.  “That might give us a window to act but the key here is Matt.”  Derek usually imagined the sound of gears grinding when Stiles had his scheming face on.  Lydia on the other hand sounded the whirring of a supercomputer.  “If I understand correctly werewolf powers are subject to disruption by electric current.  Derek?”

He had an abundance of truly miserable memories attesting to the fact “Yes,” he said not wanting to delve into them in order to elaborate.

“You want to stun gun him.”  Stiles was never slow on the uptake.

“On the cervical spine.  If I’m right that should disrupt the connection long enough to render him unconscious.  This way the Kanima won’t receive any orders even if the psychic link operates at a subliminal level.

“You’re kind of scary,” Isaac said half awed, half afraid.

“Thank you.” Lydia replied primly.

Stiles stood and clapped his hands “So, we have a plan.”

“Correction,” Erica countered, “We have a collective form of insanity.”  The joke brought on a round of weak chuckles that quickly fell flat as the reality of what they were going to attempt set in.

“Well this just got all doom and gloomy,” Stiles said in the heavy silence that followed.  “Since we’re all finished planning D-Day I say pizza party on Derek.”

He growled at his…whatever but it was for show.  Mostly.  The pack needed a chance to just hang out and bond outside of training, especially now.  It was obvious from the way they began arguing about toppings with just a little too much heat that Derek wasn’t the only one afraid they might not all come out of this in one piece.

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

“Didn’t anyone ever tell you not to bring claws to a gun fight?” Chris Argent asked as his gaggle of goons cocked their weapons.

Everything was going exactly according to the plan.  The Betas inside were surrounding Jackson and sniffing out Matt, Lydia and Allison had to be nearly done with the seal, and Derek and Boyd were looking down the barrels of half a dozen large caliber firearms laced with wolfsbane in the hands of anti-werewolf zealots.

Derek should never be allowed to plan anything ever again.

He and Boyd went for cover as the Hunters let loose a barrage of gunfire.  They’d been in just the right spot for the camera stuck on a nearby utility pole to catch the action without revealing the werewolves’ faces.  It would however, have a beautiful recording of Argent and company pursuing them like a hit squad from a drug cartel.  The Sheriff was going to be thrilled.

Before they could celebrate their success they had to survive.  Once they’d pulled far enough back that they were out of frame they laid into the Hunters with everything they had.  With all the training they’d been doing it was just too easy, at least at first.  Since they couldn’t risk killing or seriously injuring any of them, the Hunters kept getting back up and there seemed to be an endless supply of reinforcements to replace the ones knocked unconscious.  Ultimately it didn’t matter as long as they held them there until the others succeeded in capturing Matt and Jackson.  That didn’t make the tasers hurt any less, funny as it was when he used the wires to slam two of the goombas together.

It was going well until Boyd took a wolfsbane round in the stomach.  Derek knew Stiles wouldn’t be far so he told Boyd to fall back while he covered his retreat.  The weretiger had to be going out of his mind sitting back and watching this, but the teenager’s anonymity was his greatest defense against the Hunters and possibly the pack’s greatest weapon, but it was a card they could only play once.

As soon as there was a break in the gunfire he bolted from his cover, disappearing into the deep shadows between the abandoned buildings at a speed the Hunters’ superior arms didn’t do diddly to help them match.  Run, hide and heal, werewolf 101.  As soon as he got close enough to the main building his progress was halted by an intangible barrier.  Lydia and Allison had pulled it off!  He met them at a loading dock on the far side of the warehouse.

“You did it,” he observed, impressed.

“Of course,” Lydia replied haughtily, but the night did nothing to his the flush of pride in her cheeks from a werewolf’s eyes.

“It was amazing,” Allison gushed.  “We ran out before we finished but then we looked at each other across the gap, closed our eyes and made it work with what we had left.”

Derek’s eyebrows tried to escape into his hairline.  Making a seal was one thing, but one of them had to have some real talent to pull off some kind of miracle of plenty.

“What about the others?” he asked.

Allison bit her lip “I’m not sure.  Isaac and Erica gave Jackson the Ketamine and got him somewhere out of the way and last I heard Danny was after Matt.”

“And Scott?”

Allison’s worried look began to approach real fear.  “We haven’t seen him in a while.” Lydia answered for her.

That was bad.  If they’d gotten separated it wasn’t by accident.  He was just about to ask if they’d clocked any Hunters inside the seal when Scott’s agonized howl of distress confirmed his worst fears.

“Break it,” he ordered.

“No.”

“Lydia, you-

TS’s battle roar made the corrugated metal siding on the buildings hum like violin strings.

“Is that?”

“Stiles.”

“Can the seal keep him out?” Lydia asked, her confident veneer strained by instinctive fear.

“Scott’s dying, a bank vault won’t keep him out.”  No sooner had the words left his mouth than Lydia flinched and a scent of ozone curled up from the line of dust between them.  “Damn it it’s over, find the others and get the hell out of here.”

He took off in the direction he heard the howl.  When he got close he picked up a faint blood trail, human, female, but with faint traces of TS’s mixed in.  Around the corner he found the giant cat pulling a barely stirring Scott out of room belching noxious clouds of wolfsbane, blood dripping from his whiskers.  Derek could also smell a perfume he recognized from the lingering traces that clung to Allison.  That meant the blood belonged to Victoria Fucking Argent and TS had Bitten her.  They were so massively fucked.

“Stiles, you need to let go of Scott so I can carry him.”  The liger snarled at him around Scott’s thigh in his jaws. “Listen to me!  I need to get him to Deaton so get a grip, get your clothes, and help me save your best friend’s life.”

TS crouched for a second like he was getting ready to pounce, but took a deep breath and nodded instead, releasing Scott and bounding way on silent paws, nearly invisible even to Derek’s eyes.  By the time he’d gotten the Beta up into a fireman’s carry the others rushed forward to crowd around him.

“Oh my God, Scott!” Allison cried.  “What happened!?”

“Wolfsbane, he inhaled it, a lot of it.”

“Is he going to be alright?” Danny asked, looking a bit worse for wear.  From the state of his shirt Derek guessed the boy had been clawed, bled on, and hit with his own stun gun a couple of times to boot.

“His lungs are damaged.  Boyd was hurt too.  We need to get him and head to the clinic.”  He wavered for a moment on whether or not to tell Allison about her mother.  “You should probably go home, Allison,” he said deciding on the truth.  This was going to destroy her relationship with pack no matter what, but honesty was the best form of damage control right now.  “Victoria did this to Scott.  TS got there in time to stop her but…she was hurt, I don’t know how badly though she left under her own power and there wasn’t much blood.”

“She…she what?”  The poor girl was shaking as tears welled in her eyes.  “No.  She wouldn’t.  She wouldn’t.”  Even she didn’t sound convinced of that.

“Come on, I’ll take you home,” Lydia offered, putting an arm around Allison’s shoulder and hurrying her away.

Stiles hadn’t come back yet despite having had plenty of time to throw on his clothes and return.  He couldn’t wait.  “Come on,” he said to the Betas as he shifted Scott into a more comfortable position over his shoulder.  Run, hide, heal.  Run, hide, heal.  Over and over in a waltzing mantra, repeat until insane.  If Boyd or Scott died, or if biting that poisonous bitch broke Stiles Derek was adding a new beat to the phrase.  Fight.

Chapter Text

Deaton had Scott and Boyd patched up in short order, leaving Derek to deal with Stiles.  Fortunately he’d come up with a plan.

The tiger was slumped against the side of the building when he walked out of the clinic, arms hanging limply, hands in his lap, legs sticking straight out like a broken doll.  The look on his face was so haunted, so horrifyingly desolate that he had to suppress a very real urge to drag him off to a cozy den somewhere and nuzzle him so thoroughly that forlorn expression would never find its way back onto the boy’s face.

There was no point denying it, or even trying to make light of it, Derek knew he had it bad.  But as it so happened, that fit perfectly.  “Get up,” he barked, “I’m taking you out.”

Stiles just kept staring off into space.  “I understand.  I’d rather it be you than the Argents anyway.  Can you not cut me in half though?  This gonna kill my Dad as it is and I’d like for him to at least be able to bury me in one piece.”

Somehow he managed not to snarl and gnash his fangs or worse, whimper in terror at the rush of unbearable images that flat, lifeless voice dragged screaming across his mind in a stampede of nightmarish vignettes.  Stiles on the ground, guts pouring out while Chris Argent stood over him with a grinning skull leer and a naked blade dripping crimson.  The Sheriff ashen-faced as he stood over his son’s coffin, who could be asleep but for the cloying stench of chemicals to ward off decomposition.  Scott snapping and having to put down like a rabid dog by Derek’s own claws.

Somehow he managed to shut all of that away behind an eye roll and a derisive snort.  “I’m not taking you out, dumbass.  I’m taking you out…to eat.”

Stiles finally looked at him and he felt just like he had that night outside the school when they’d been hunting for the Alpha.  Seeing the utter emptiness staring out of those still-shifted eyes, midnight purple in a field of solid black, put the sensation of having Peter eviscerate his lungs to shame.  “A last meal?”

Derek sighed theatrically; he so deserved an Oscar for this performance.  “A date.”

The tiger’s face scrunched up in shocked disbelief, eyes regaining their normal whiskey brown tone and flickering with annoyance.  “Are you kidding me with this?  Now?  Of all the times to pull the superior stick out of your ass and deign to be seen eating with me in public you pick now?

His shock and awe grief counseling initiative was working already, although he needed to do some major work Stiles’ self-esteem.  And maybe slap Lydia for systematically undermining it in the first place.  “No time like the present,” he said, grabbing his arm and hauling him to his feet. 

The guy had been so invested in trying to abandon the will to live it took him a moment to recover his fight.  “Let me go!.”  He didn’t.  “Argh, what the hell is wrong with you, you stupid…cavewolf?”

“Really, Stiles?”  He opened the passenger side door and unceremoniously threw him inside, slamming the door after.

The tiger’s eyes shifted again as he glared at the Alpha through the window, holding up a hand that sprouted heavy black claws, curling out to full extension.  The threat was clear: “Release me or the leather interior gets it.”

The threat was empty, Stiles spent more time cooing over the Camaro than the rest of the pack combined.  Derek ignored it and walked around to the driver’s side, opening the door and sliding in with a deliberately inhuman amount of fluid grace, garnering him a derogatory eye roll.  The plan was coming off without a hitch.

 

 

 

The Beacon Grill was the only place open at that time of night but it was the perfect place anyhow.  The Stilinski men esteemed their curly fries with religious fervor.  It might be a wolf thing, but in his family disputes had always been mediated over and frequently resolved with food.  The tiger looked slight in his human form but he ate like the half-ton of monstrously overgrown feline that Derek had come to think of as his true shape (although when he did he hastily quashed that line of thought before it could go someplace weird, just, no).  The aim here was distraction and if a couple of pounds of fried potato could give him a chance to hammer some sense into Stiles while his guard was down it was well worth enduring greasy odor slithering through the air from the kitchen.

The place wasn’t exactly crowded when they got there but it was far from empty.  Good, they could talk without bored wait staff lurking around hearing things they shouldn’t.  He frog marched him to a booth in the back corner that was near an emergency exit, as far as possible from the nearest patrons, and gave him a good view of every ingress and egress as well as through the windows.

Stiles knew as a cop’s kid exactly what all looking and evaluating was about and gave him a level look.  “Relax, License to Claw, nobody who looks like you has their story end in a diner.  Even I know the Fate’s aren’t that cruel.”

“Sometimes I wonder if your eyes are broken.”  Okay, so maybe the self-esteem thing needed major, major work.

“Sometimes I wonder if your brain is broken.”  At least the snark was back now.  Derek took it as a good sign, despite the waves of woe still rolling off Stiles.

“Did I ever tell you I was almost finished with my Masters before I came back here?”

Boom goes the dynamite.  “I…what…you…went to college!?

Well that stung a bit, and he let it show.  “Yes, Stiles, I went to college.”

The tiger couldn’t resist taking the bait; this was just too easy.  “What did you major in?  Brooding 101?  Advanced Eyebrow Emoting?  Honors Leather-clad Lurking?”

“None of those are Majors,” he growled (mostly) fake-hurt.  It wasn’t like there weren’t reasons why he was so terse all the time.  Stiles himself accounted for several.

The tiger smirked gloatingly, enjoying the ribbing.  His expression faltered a bit.  “Wait, did you say you were working on a Masters Degree?” he asked, tilting his head curiously like he was trying to figure out if the Alpha had been replaced with an evil scholarly clone or something.

“In English Literature.  The focus of my thesis was the political underpinnings of the juxtaposition of religious and classical imagery in the poetry of William Blake.”

Stiles was still staring at him dumbstruck with his mouth hanging open when the waitress came to take their orders.  “What can I get you boys?” the plump matronly woman asked in a tired voice that said they better hurry it up if they wanted their food without a garnish of saliva.

“Three orders of curly fries, two orders of mozzarella sticks with ranch dressing on the side, and one extra large chocolate shake,” he answered quickly.

The waitress let out a beleaguered sigh. “Coming right up,” she said before waddling off with a put upon air.

Stiles was still staring at him like he’d announced he had decided to have a sex change and move to Kentucky to open an ostrich farm.  “Who’s brain is broken now, kitty?”

“That’s…uh…that’s surprising,” the tiger stammered when he finally unfroze.  Recognition bloomed across his face “That poem you whisper before bed and think I don’t hear you is Blake’s.  Gah!” he exclaimed, face-palming.  “Peter quoted it the night we…yeah.  I knew it sounded familiar.  That’s how you knew I’d be a tiger.”  Glee at figuring it out was quickly replaced by nervous confusion after he pulled out his phone and quickly looked up the familiar stanzas.  “Um, this poem seems like an odd choice for you to say before going to sleep considering…you know.”

Derek shrugged.  “It was my mother’s favorite.  After the fire I made Laura recite it to me every night; their voices were almost identical.”  Using the very core of his wellspring of guilt and self-loathing as bait was brazen and weirdly cathartic; he just had to set the hook.  Although, for a moment he wondered if the ruse was as much for his own benefit as for Stiles’

The boy looked intensely uncomfortable as he struggled to phrase his next question.  Derek could guess why.  “So…who’s the tiger for you,” he asked hesitantly

“You’re the tiger for me, dear.”

The tiger in question made curiously feline growl-snort sound.  “That’s sweet,” he said sardonically but his tone didn’t cover up the way his heart had sped at being called “dear”.  “I meant does it make you think of…anyone in particular?”  Stiles looked like he was afraid of getting his face clawed off.  Derek looked at his hands and, yep, they were out.  “Sorry I asked.  You don’t have to talk about…her.”

Now it made more sense.  But the extra heavy emphasis on her clearly relayed the fact that Stiles knew exactly how Kate managed to catch his family unawares.   Because of course he figured it out.  Shame boiled in Derek’s gut until he realized the tiger didn’t look disgusted with him, scandalized, or even pitying.  Instead he looked like he was beating himself up inside because he had hurt Derek with his question.  It was a struggle not haul the boy onto the table and make out with him right there.  “It’s me,” he said quietly instead, “I’m the tiger, Kate was, is my immortal.  I used that poem to build my anchor after I lost my family, my pack.  Every night I focused on my anger at myself for what I’d done.  It became what keeps me grounded, the promise that I will never let anything like that happen again.”

Stiles displayed some of that wisdom he apparently hoarded for rainy days and soul wrenching confessions by not trying to console or absolve him.  Being understood like that meant more than anything the boy could have said anyway.

They waited for their food in a not uncomfortable silence.  Even though they didn’t at look each for a long while at some point their legs ended up pressed together under the table, the small gesture more comforting than it should be.

When the fries came Stiles vamped onto them with a vengeance.  It was mesmerizing.  Like Shark Week.  Derek idly twirled a mozzarella stick around in the dipping sauce, waiting for his date’s mouth to be too full to argue.  “The point, Stiles, is that you shouldn’t blame yourself for Victoria.  What happened with me and Kate was different.  I made the choices that got my family killed just like she set out to murder a werewolf without even bringing a gun with her.  She was the monster tonight, not you.  So suck it up and enjoy the free food.  We can deal with the fallout later.”  After delivering his speech in a rush he leaned back, breaths heaving like he’d just run a marathon while Stiles tried to swallow the enormous blob starch stuck in his throat.

Once it had gone down he opened and closed his mouth a couple times like he was going to speak, hands making abortive little angry gestures while frustration turned his face red.  In the end he grunted in surrender and just said “Whatever.”   Victory!  Maybe even more than one.

“Damn straight.”  He smiled at Stiles who rolled his eyes but grinned back at him reluctantly all the same.

The disappeared behind a horrified grimace as the tiger really looked at what Derek was eating.  “Holy crap dude!  What’s wrong with you?  Mozarella sticks with marinara and ranch dressing!?”

“It’s delicious.  I tended bar in while I was at Columbia, got addicted.”

“Ewwwww, why couldn’t you be an alcoholic like a normal person.  This!?  This is a deal breaker Derek Hale.”

“Lies,” he said tossing a sauce drenched stick into his mouth whole, trying not to choke on it when Stiles’ disgusted expression made him chortle around it.  “What about your plans for college?” he asked once he’d swallowed down the delicious fried cheese he had perfectly seasoned.

“Well, I wanted to go to Berkley or Stanford, somewhere competitive but close to my Dad.”

Holy shit all three baskets of fries were gone and Stiles’ tongue was feeling around for the straw in his milkshake.  It was a mite distracting.  He blinked his eyes a couple times to get the red out while the tiger smirked at him, and honest to God purr rumbling barely audible in his chest.  He was screwing with Derek on purpose.  “And now?”

“Now.  Now I’m thinking that I might do online classes or maybe BHCC.”

That was some surprising news.  “Why?  Aren’t you in the top ten percent of your class or something?”

The top.  Lately Lydia’s been acting very un-Lydia-like.  At this rate I’ll beat her out for Valedictorian easy.” 

This was becoming disturbing on multiple levels.  He would have to ask Deaton about the girl if she had really been studying with him.  His problem, however, was Stiles.  “And you’re thinking about BHCC?” he asked incredulously.

“Kinda stuck here now with the whole…grrr deal.” He mimed pawing at something.  It was precious.

“I think you mean meow.”

“Funny.  Stop being funny, my world is askew.”

“Terribly sorry, now tell my why you think you’re stuck here.”

“Dude you know why.”

“Stop calling me “Dude”,” he growled.

Stiles rolled his eyes.  “Fine, Cuddlewolf.”

Stiles…”

“Knock it off with the growling already.  I’m staying here because of the pack and don’t bother telling me I’m not in it or did you think I just hadn’t noticed I’m already stronger than you.  This is my territory as much as it is yours, has been ever since TS gave you a tongue bath the first time I turned.”

He should be feeling threatened at having another ‘were lay claim to what was his so casually.  Instead he just felt fond exasperation at being reminded for the billionth time about his run in with a catnip-blitzed tiger (liger, whatever, actually that reminded him of something).  “And the pack?” he asked tabling the topic he’d just remembered for the moment.

Stiles shrugged.  “Don’t even get me started.  Your Betas are nuts, Scott’s an Allison-addled basket case, and Danny is just Danny, now with bonus claws feature.  But somewhere along the way they started treating me like I was Pack Mom and I let them.  Hell, as embarrassing as it is, I enjoy it.”

Derek liked the idea of Stiles looking after his Betas.  As saccharine and domestic as the scenes playing out in his mind were he found himself wanting it.  “Never Again,” his earlier words echoed, but the pulse of anger that followed on their heels was too muted to stop the daydreams completely.  At this rate he was going to need a new anchor.  “Anything else?” he asked with a flirty eyebrow.

Stiles looked at him like he was an idiot and killed his shake before saying “Duh.  Even if I do go I’m taking you with me.  I thought you were clear on that by now, Cuddlewolf.” 

The Alpha stared at him in shock because he’d meant it.  Really meant it.  Derek did lean across the table and give him that kiss.  It was quick and closed mouthed but they both shuddered with the electric intensity of the contact.  There was a reason he’d managed to control himself around the much younger man.  As long as their kissing felt like that he could live with not rushing things.  Maybe giving up his old anchor wouldn’t be so bad after all. “Can I ask you something?”

“Can it please be “Will you take me home and screw my brains out?”?” Stiles queried with an innocent look on his face.

There was nothing innocent about the rich, dark scent of arousal curling in Derek’s nose.  Control.  Jailbait.  Emotional baggage.  Sheriff Dad.  It wasn’t working as well as he might like, especially since he’d been given tacit permission by the boy’s father, which was just too weird.  “No,” he managed to grunt out without displaying his inconveniently extended fangs to the whole diner.  At least he had the table to hide the less subtle signs of what Stiles did to him.

“Darn,” the tiger said smiling, perfectly able to smell Derek’s own arousal and enjoying it immensely.

He cleared his throat and surreptitiously found a slightly more comfortable position for his hips, regretting the tightness of his jeans.  “Scott said something once about not being surprised your shape was a liger instead of a normal tiger.   When I asked why he said it wasn’t a story he felt right telling.”

The flirtatious demeanor was instantly snuffed out like a candle in a sudden gale. Part of Derek whimpered at its loss.  “It was kind of a big deal for both of us.”

“You don’t have to tell me…”

“No.  I don’t.  But I want to.  You…shared something with me and I want to too.”

He bit his lip nodded for Stiles to continue.  It didn’t feel right forcing any more of sense of obligation on Stiles than he already had.  He resolved to tell his Betas to back off; a resolve he knew would crack in all of five minutes.

“It was right after my Mom died.  My Dad was a mess trying to take care of work and me and…everything…after.  So one weekend, Scott’s parents took us down to San Diego to see the zoo.  You never met Scott’s Dad but trust me, a car trip with Mr. McCall is rough enough when one of the kids isn’t acting out out of grief.  He ended up screaming at me most of the way there.  When we finally got to the zoo I kicked him in the balls and ran.”

“Seriously?”

Stiles grimaced.  “Yeah, not one of my brighter moments.  Still it was better than what I did next.”

This was going to be good “What did you do?” he asked mildly.

I found what I thought was a nice tunnel to hide in but it wasn’t.  It was one of those partitions they use to feed the dangerous animals.”

He found that hard to believe.  Not that Stiles would crawl into a polar bear’s food dish or whatever, but that he could get there in the first place unless…  “And it was just standing open and unlocked?”

The tiger’s cheeks went a little pink.  “It may have had some help getting that way.”

“Bet you got into trouble for that one.”  He could just see ten year old stiles trying to look contrite to Zoo Security while plotting how best to raid the stuffed animals in the gift shop.

“Not really.  I don’t think the McCalls ever told my Dad about my lifetime ban.”

“Lifetime ban?”  There was no way he was making it to the end of this story without laughing.

“Yeah.  So I’m in the tunnel and this giant cat just walks in, takes a look at me walks back out.  I followed it…”

“Of course you did.”

“…and it stretched out in a patch of sun and growled at me until I went over and started petting it.”

“Despite the fact that it was a giant predator literally twenty times your weight.”

“It was a big kitty, okay?  I was ten.  And it just…looked so free.  Like it didn’t have to worry because it was so big and strong nothing was ever even going to try to hurt it but at the same time it was so beautiful and rare that people came from all over to see it.  I wanted to be that way too.”  Stiles looked down at the bottom of the empty glass like he wished he could crawl in.

It made sense that the boy would have idealized the liger so soon after losing his mother.  It wasn’t enough for him to be strong enough survive he wanted to be able to do it on his own.  The kind of mark left by such a pivotal moment wasn’t the sort that faded over time, which Derek knew all about.  Scott was right not to be surprised by Stiles’ shape.  “How did you get caught?” he prompted.

The dour expression morphed into a cagey grin. “Well when I followed the liger out into that lovely little patch of sunlight it happened to be smack dab in the middle of the exhibit.  People were pointing and taking pictures and stuff, right up until Melissa saw me and started screaming at her husband to run in there and save me?”

“And did he?”

Stiles shook his head.  “Nope.  I just curled up next to the thing and let it lick me until one of the handlers came and got me.”

“You’re lucky you weren’t eaten.”

“Please,” the boy scoffed, “I know it’s a small sample size but so far every liger I’ve encountered is more like an overgrown teddy bear than a vicious kill…” the tiger trailed off and all ut had “Victoria Argent” inked onto his forehead.

Time for an emergency redirect.  “And how was that a big deal for Scott?”

“What?  Oh, well for one thing leaving me to be mauled by the vicious licking machine was the last straw for Melissa.  She filed for divorce right after that.”

“Ouch.”  Derek didn’t have anything like a normal understanding of how married couples interacted.  When your Mom is your Dad’s, and everyone else’s, Alpha it makes for a decidedly non-human family dynamic.

“The best part is that after seeing his Dad finally be scared off by the liger Scott decided he wanted to become zookeeper.  Eventually that turned into veterinarian.”

“And now he gets his medical care from one, and you are a liger.”

Stiles grunted and looked philosophical.  “Huh.  Guess our wishes came true then, in a Monkey’s Paw sort of way.”

“If you could give it up, would you?” Derek asked somberly, not sure he wanted the answer.

“No.  You’d miss your TS cuddles too much; it would be wrong to deprive you.”

He could get on board with that, and ignore the giant flashing neon lights screaming that there was a lot more to it.  For now.  “That’s certainly true.”

“Can I get some of those?” Stiles asked pointing at his mozzarella sticks.

“Why do think I got two?  Wanted to make sure I’d still have my fingers if I came between fried food and the human garbage disposal.”

“Hey!  That’s…fair.”

“Indeed,” he agreed with a serious nod and a playful widening of the eyes.  The food was gone in seconds.  Only a few sanguine streaks of marinara remained to attest to its grisly murder.  All the same, his inner Alpha was glowing with pride at having fed his…Stiles so well.  “You wanna do the dressing like a shot too?”

“Gross.  Ranch dressing is the devil.  If evil were to take semi-liquid form, it would be ranch dressing.”

“You are so bizarre.”

“You like it.”

He did.

 

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

Derek paid cash including an exorbitant tip.  Maybe Sourwaitress would use it as a turning point in her approach to customer service.  He could dream.  The loft wasn’t safe anymore. Nowhere was, really, so he drove him back to the Stilinski house.

The Sheriff wasn’t back yet, no doubt still processing another messy scene at the rave.  At least Derek had managed to recover some portion of the evening with his ambush date.  Stiles’ freak out over biting Mrs. Argent wasn’t done by any means but at least he wasn’t looking for a literal sword to fall on anymore.

“Come on, bed, it’s late.”

The tiger yawned expansively, fangs showing as he followed Derek up the stairs.  When they got to the bedroom Stiles hesitated just inside the doorway.  “I was wondering..?”

“What?”

“Could we sleep you know, human, tonight?”

Bad idea.  Bad idea.  Bad idea.  “Okay.”  Maybe he should scare up sword of his own.  The younger man’s eyes were the size of saucers as he watched him undress, striping down to his tight black boxer briefs.  Like it was something they did all the time, Derek lay back on the bed with his arms behind his head.  He was actually displaying himself for Stiles, and if his own heart wasn’t busy racing with a ridiculous amount of nerves he would have had to break a couple of his fingers on general principle.  The only thing that stopped him was the fear of rejection writhing around in his gut, which somehow made it, while not okay, less like he was taking advantage or something.  It was irrational; he knew what he looked like, could literally smell, see, and hear how people reacted to his body.  But Stiles wasn’t people.  This boy could break him with a simple “Pass”.

The tiger seemed to be having an aneurysm.  Up until this point they’d gone with locker room rules when they shifted to sleep together, never actually allowing themselves a chance to look at one another.  Stiles began pawing at his own clothes, nearly falling twice in his rush to strip down to his Batman boxers.  Derek considered making a quip about the whole Marvel versus DC debate but decided against it.  He wanted to keep the mood right where it was.

The younger man gingerly settled atop him, straddling him but being very careful not to bring anything into contact that would accelerate things beyond what they were ready for.  The Alpha knew why he was holding back and thanked his lucky stars his partner felt the same.  Stiles just looked at him for a moment before he started slowly tracing the lines and planes of Derek’s chest with his fingers like he was trying to memorize every detail.

“You just be shirtless, like all the time.  Angels weep when you put shirts on.”

The idiot sounded so forlorn, like envy was so unrealistic he’d given up on it.  “You really need to invest in a mirror, Stiles.”  He slid his own hand slowly over the hard ridges of muscle on the tiger’s stomach.  A month of daily training had put a considerable amount of muscle on the lithe frame.  He wasn’t anywhere near as big as Derek, at least not yet, but had picked up a degree of definition that turned his pale, mole speckled body into a work of fucking art, vulnerable, fragile, and smooth with terrible strength held just below the surface.  “You have no idea how amazing you are to me,” he whispered huskily.

Stiles lowered his body until their torsos were flush together, joining him in a lazy, unhurried kiss despite their mutual state of arousal.  Derek could feel the young man’s energy flagging, emotionally drained by the night’s events, and gently repositioned him so he was on his side as the little spoon.  The tiger vey considerately kept his wriggling to a minimum while he got comfortable with the Alpha’s arms wrapped around him tightly.  “Sleep.”

“M’kay.”

He was so perfect, and he was all Derek’s, at least until he woke up and came to his senses.  The werewolf fully intended to keep him so high on kisses and adoration that day would never, ever come.  “Never again.”  After all, violence wasn’t the only way to lose someone you loved; cowardice would get the job done just as well, and he was too overcome to be afraid of this. 

He had almost fallen asleep when his phone buzzed on the nightstand.   “Mrn grrn nuh,” Stiles grumbled irritably.  Derek wholeheartedly agreed but scrabbled for the phone anyway.  Nobody texted him unless the world was actively ending.  When he saw the message on the screen he cursed his hyperbole for inviting disaster.  It was from the Sheriff.  They had found not one but two bodies at the rave.  One was a club promoter who was the same age as the other victims but not on their list of suspected targets, which was frustrating. 

But the other was Matt Daehler, and the implications of that were fucking terrifying.

Chapter Text

Derek decided to let Stiles sleep; there was no sense in rushing to send him into the inevitable guilt spiral when he learned about Matt.  What Derek wasn’t expecting was to actually get any sleep himself, but the warm glow of security and comfort and filled his chest whenever he was in bed with his liger could not be ignored.  Sometime during the night his protective streak had asserted itself, moving him to cover the smaller man’s body with his own like he was trying to shield him from an explosion.  If Stiles hadn’t been a werecreature he would have been smothered.

Derek sighed and carefully levered himself off, ignoring the sleepy noise of protest the boy made at the loss of his body against him.  He forced himself not to look at the sleeping liger lest he melt into a warm gooey puddle; Stiles was irresistible when sleeping, likely because he couldn’t talk.  The clock on the nightstand read an unbelievable 12:38.  He couldn’t remember the last time he’d slept so long, but instead of surge of anger at himself for letting his guard down all he got was another pulse of warm fuzzies as his hand started stroking Stiles’ hair unbidden.  It looked like he had a new Immortal and anchor.  Derek was so fucked.

He shuffled downstairs to the kitchen in search of caffeine, so wrapped up in his contented reflections he completely missed the sound of the Sheriff’s heartbeat, nearly colliding with him as he leaned against the counter drinking a cup of coffee despite the hour.

“Good morning, Son,” the man said without so much as flinching, despite the fact that there was a mostly naked twenty-four year old man walking around in his house like he owned the place.

“Morning, Sir.  I’m…uh…we didn’t…” he stammered.

“Breathe, you look like you’re about to have a panic attack.”  Which he probably would if the man told him he had to stay away from his son. 

“I just..I don’t want to think I’m taking advantage or…or something.”  God it sounded feeble even to his ears.

“Relax, I know you two didn’t get up to anything you shouldn’t.”

“You do?”

“I got in about five minutes after you and I’m a light sleeper.  My son has never been able to learn how to do anything quietly his entire life.  I doubt the first time he’d finally manage to figure it out would be in the middle of having sex with an Alpha werewolf.”

Derek was speechless as a scarlet blush swept over his entirely too visible body.  The man was teasing him about Stiles.  He should get a noble prize for uncovering proof positive that evil was hereditary.  The Stilinskis were obviously demons in human form sent to torment him.  He tried to choke out an apology, a denial, anything, but all that came out was a small whimper of distress.

“Relax, I’ve had spent a lot of time thinking about this and I’m trusting you; until you give me a reason not to.”  If Derek had been dressed he would have hugged the man.  As it was he grinned like an idiot, the expression painfully foreign feeling.  “On that note,” the Sheriff said, face turning serious, “I want to walk me through everything that happened last night.  I got a quick rundown from Scott, but I want to hear the details from you and I mean everything, no omissions.”

So Derek told him, taking a moment to get dressed first while a still sleeping Stiles pawed at the covers like he was still trying to find him in the bed.  He went through every moment from the time he left for the rave in as much detail as he could recall.  Inexplicably he found himself continuing on to tell the Sheriff about their date, about what was Stiles was coming to mean to him, and about Kate.  He couldn’t seem to stem the tide once he’d started even though the man’s face continued to darken with each confession.

Stilinski regarded him in silence for several agonizingly long minutes once he’d finally finished before speaking.  “That’s a lot to take in.”

“I know,” he acknowledged grimly.

“I’m glad you were honest with me but frankly nothing you told me makes me feel better about this…relationship you’ve developed with my son.”  He sighed tiredly and went over to refill his mug.  “Coffee?”

“Please.”

The Sheriff poured him a cup, black and waited until he started drinking to go on.  “We can talk about Stiles later.  Right now what concerns me is this situation with the Argents.  I was hoping to solve this through legal channels but I’m not sure that’s an option now, especially when all I want to do is gather my deputies and run them out of town on a rail.”

“What about the video footage?”  Blackmail was a desperate man’s gamble and if there was ever a time…

Stilinski snorted.  “Oh yeah, we’ve got the footage alright.  I think I may have missed my calling a as a cinematographer.  There’s a lovely wide angle shot of Chris and men bearing down on two unarmed men with illegal automatic weapons.  Given that Boyd is a minor it’s about as damning evidence as it gets.  I could put those sons of bitches away for life; at the very least blacklist them with law enforcement and bankrupt the Argents.”

“Why can’t we then?”

“Because Matt Daehler’s cause of death was a stab wound to the lower back.  Bruising around his mouth and throat suggests some came up from behind, wrenched his head to one side, and severed his renal artery with surgical precision.  It was done with a blade too, not claws.”

“It wasn’t us.”

“Oh I know, I’ve already narrowed down my list of one subject.”

Derek felt a little chagrined that he’d somehow forgotten the man as actually an extremely competent investigator.  “Who?” he asked, fairly certain he wasn’t going to like the answer.

“Gerard Argent.”

“Why him?”

“Because he’s the only one of them that never showed up on camera.  Because even though the Daehler kid managed to con his parents well enough that they never reported him missing someone noticed his absence, say from class?”

“Gerard is the principal at the high school,” he snarled.  “But why wait until last night?  And why not tell Chris that Matt was the Master sooner?  Allison said that her Father still didn’t have a clue.”  He had exactly zero respect for the psychotic bastard but knew enough of his reputation to fear him.  Still, the idea that any Hunter, even Gerard, would stand by and watch humans get slaughtered was hard to wrap his head around.

The Sheriff gave him the ghost of a smile.  “I read the translation of the Bestiary.  The Kanima seeks out a Master by homing in on the desire for revenge.”

Gerard with a Kanima under his control was about the most terrifying thing he could imagine.  “Kate?”  The Sheriff nodded.  “Peter’s dead,” he said flatly, “Unless “revenge” means slaughtering any werewolf he can find, and…it just doesn’t work that way.  Gerard would know better than to break the rules like that.”  The metaphysical laws that governed the supernatural were nearly nonsensical at the best of times, but fucking around with them carried the kind of consequences that people dumb enough to bring them down on themselves are forever remembered in myth.

“What if he was desperate?”  The Sheriff pulled out his phone and showed him a picture of some kind of sales record with a lot of medical jargon on it.

“What am I looking at?”

“Pharmacy records for one Gerard Argent, highlights include prescription painkillers, anti-nausea medications, and whole lot of things I can’t pronounce.”

“Cancer?”

“Seems to me there’s a possible cure running around town, provided he can get it to stand still long enough to get his hands on it.”  Derek felt his stomach turn at the very idea.  The Bite was a gift.  Having it forcibly taken by a hunter was…unthinkable.  The Sheriff watched the horror and disgust play over his face.  “That’s why we can’t come at him directly.  So far we still have no way of neutralizing the Kanima and if this crazy fucker’s already this far off the reservation there's no telling what he’ll make Jackson do if he’s backed into a corner.”

“There’s no way we can get to him before the Full Moon tonight.  Since Stiles…I mean, after Victoria the Argents will be on the warpath; they’ll never listen to us in time either.”  Damn it he was supposed to be an Alpha, the one with the power.  Tonight when the moon rose his pack was going to be vulnerable and an enemy he knew he couldn’t beat was going to come for them.  It made him want to howl with rage.

“Speaking of Victoria, what are her odds?”

“Zero,” he muttered.

“I was under the impression it wasn’t that predictable,” the Sheriff said confused.

“Hunters get bitten; it happens.  When it does they commit suicide on their first Moon to keep from turning.  The woman was already a lioness; the Bite will take but it won’t matter.”  He chuckled under his breath mirthlessly.  “It’s probably for the best.  She was hard core enough before, and werecats are stronger…”  He trailed off as an icy hand wrapped around his heart and squeezed.

“Derek?  What’s the matter, Son?”

“Stiles,” he choked out.  “I’m not the one he wants, not anymore.”

“Why?  If he can cure himself either way…”

“Did you read the Bestiary entry on werecats?”

“No, Stiles was afraid I’d run off and shoot the Argents in the face if I read about their “experiments” on weretigers.”

Derek shook his head.  “Stiles is a liger, he’s unique.  At first I thought it was a just a superficial difference, but the way he and Danny integrated into my pack is not normal for tigers.”

“So?  I thought he was half lion or whatever, they form…prides, is it?”

“Yes, but it’s the tiger half that’s the problem.  Alpha werewolves can gain power by killing their own Betas; it’s an abomination but it’s been done before.”  Now was not the time to bring up the inbound Alpha Pack Clusterfuck, as much as he knew keeping it to himself was going to bite him on the ass sooner rather than later.  “Supposedly when a weretiger kills another shape shifter, any shape shifter, there’s a similar transfer of power.  It’s why the Argents have used them in the past as weapons.”

“So if Gerard…”

There was no need to finish the thought aloud.  With help of the Kanima Gerard could easily take out their pack, adding their strength to his own before moving on to the next, and so on until not even Deucalion would be strong enough to fight him and win.

Derek felt defeated before the fight had even begun.  He’d never imagined he’d become an Alpha, and now that he was he would get to have the privilege of being partly responsible for the fucking werewolf apocalypse.  “I don’t know what to do,” he whispered, slumping limply against the countertop.

The Sheriff put a supporting hand on his shoulder.  “What we have to, son.  This bigger than just us, or even this town.”  He took a deep breath, face settling into a mask of grim determination.  “I’m making the call.  We’re going to have a talk with Argents down at the station tonight.  I just want you to promise me one thing.”

“Name it.”  The ease and conviction with which those words came was staggering, but the Sheriff just like his son and had systematically won Derek’s trust and admiration, something that still shocked him and that he might never really get used to.

“I want Stiles out of this.  I want him to have a normal happy life, go to college, get married, and make me a grandfather.  I realize that none of that is going to come without a fight now, but the one thing I can still do for my son is keep him from having to bloody his own hands.”

The man may not have been an Alpha, a shape shifter, or even a Hunter, but as he held out his hand no one could see the wrath burning in Sheriff Stilinski’s eyes and mistake him for anything but formidable.  “Understood,” Derek replied shaking it.  Maybe “evil” wasn’t quite the right word for whatever it was that ran in this family.  It didn’t matter; he couldn’t let anyone or anything tear it apart, not when he was just starting to feel the faint glimmer of hope he might one day be accepted into it.

 

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

“Does anyone else feel different today?” Boyd asked while flexing his arms like he wasn’t sure what they were for.

“It’s your first Full Moon and you were shot last night.”  Dissembling was the key to successfully lying to a werewolf.  What he said to Boyd was true but entirely irrelevant to the real answer to his question.

Erica pouted at him.  “I think he’s talking about this.”  Her hair became a golden blur fanning out behind her as she darted around the old warehouse performing aerial cartwheels, flips, handsprings, finishing with a mighty leap with a somersault that returned her to her starting point.  “See, not even winded.  The sun’s still up and don’t feel any more homicidal than usual…”

“There’s an achievement,” Isaac quipped.”

“…so it’s not the moon.”  She gave him a thwap upside the head and slunk over to a stack of mover’s palettes, lounging on it like it was an overstuffed couch.  Whenever Derek wasn’t restraining the urge to rip her tongue out of her head he was glowing with pride (inwardly) about how far she’d come.

“Isn’t it obvious?” Danny asked, “Derek’s got little cartoon hearts floating all around his head.  We’ve all got a contact high.”  That was…possible and really very astute.  He wasn’t sure when exactly he’d forgotten that the werecat was theoretically Stiles’ Beta instead of his but he felt that annoying glowy pride nonetheless.  Derek decided not to strangle him just yet.

Erica rolled over onto her stomach and folded her hands under her chin in a classic posture of innocence that spoiled by the wickedly lascivious grin she turned on him.  “Are you saying Derek’s rubbing off us because Stiles is rubbing off on him?”

He threw a crate at her but she danced out of the way laughing.  “Told you so,” she sang.

“Ignore her,” Isaac said putting a hand on his arm. If Derek had laser vision it would have been seared off at the wrist, but his Beta just rolled his eyes.  “Put away the Eyebrows of Doom.  We’re happy for you.  It weird but it feels like I have to be almost.  Like it’s…”

“Instinct,” Derek finished.

“Yeah.”

“It’s nice that we’re all happy and high on Alpha feels but how exactly does that make us stronger?” Boyd pressed.  Derek really didn’t have an answer.  Packs led by an Alpha pair were always stronger but not like this.  He could feel a heady sensation of power humming in his limbs that was nothing he’d ever felt.  It looked like his Betas were even stronger than he and his siblings had been before the fire despite being half as many in number.

“It’s a result of Hybrid Advantage,” Lydia chimed in absently from the inflatable chair she’d brought with her.

“Explain.”  She shot him a glare over her String Theory textbook (seriously, what the hell).  “Please,” he growled.  The Betas weren’t the only ones getting trained it seemed.

She closed the book with a weary sigh and spoke in a voice suitable for lecturing a particularly slow class of first graders.  “Hybrid Advantage is a genetic principle that applies to the offspring of two different but reproductively compatible species.  The absence of complementary suppressor genes frequently results in an increase in the robustness of the offspring, which is why Stiles in his full shift could crush someone just by sitting on them.”

“That’s fascinating,” he drawled, “but how does that answer the question.”

Her eyes narrowed dangerously.  “There was a special notation about Hybrid Packs in the Bestiary recommending they be eliminated with extreme prejudice.  I theorize that having a mated Alpha pair of two different…”

“Hold up, mated pair?”

“Lydia!” Derek barked in reproof.

She rolled her eyes and looked at Danny questioningly, who shook his head.  “Nope, I can still smell the UST.  It’s adorable.”  Derek was rethinking his earlier stance on strangulation.

“Bonded, then,” she amended.  “The point is now that the two packs have fully merged all of the Weres in it are essentially reaping the benefits of belonging to a pack and pride simultaneously.”

“I don’t understand.”

Lydia gave him a look could have frozen a polar bear.  She seemed to be only one who was having rage issues despite being the one non-Were present.  “A mated Alpha pair is a single entity in terms of pack hierarchy, but Stiles is not a wolf.  The pack follows his lead by choice instead of out of instinct, which makes them his pride as much as your Betas.  Now that you two have…gotten closer you’re sharing the ties you made to the pack separately through the tie you’ve made to each other.”

That…came close to making sense.  “Is this like another one of Deaton’s theories?” he asked dubiously.

“Please!” she scoffed and buried her nose in her book once more.

“Speaking of Deaton,” Isaac said looking curious, “Wasn’t he closing up early tonight?”

The vet-advisor-emissary-whatever was coming to the meeting with Argents at the station to mediate or something.  Derek was less than comfortable with the notion but was willing to do just about anything to increase their chances of getting out of this mess alive, even if it meant trusting Deaton.  Probationally.  “Yes, and?”

“Shouldn’t Scott be here by now?”

Derek froze.  He hadn’t expected Stiles to show up until the last second (he was more than a little pissed at him and the Sheriff for closing ranks and keeping him out of the meeting) but Stiles and Scott being conveniently absent at the same time could only mean the dynamic (disastrous) duo was Up To Something.  “Damn it!” he snarled taking out his phone.  He tried Stiles first but it went straight to voicemail, Scott too.  “I don’t have time for this bullshit.”

“It’s okay, relax,” Danny said.  The aura of jovial calm that always seemed to surround the kid started snaking its way past his fear and frustration as the Beta comforted his Alpha.  Lydia’s theory may not be entirely harebrained after all.  “I have catnip essence, which is seriously trippy by the way, and Lydia’s got the Mountain Ash ready.  Go diplomat, no one knows about this place and we’re ready.”

“Fine,” he snarled.  “Danny’s in charge until I get back.”

“Ooooh I like the sound of that,” Erica purred as he stalked out of the abandoned warehouse.  He pulled out his phone and called the Sheriff (speed dial 2).  “Sir, I think we might have a problem.”

 

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

It probably wasn’t the first time a meeting like this had happened but Derek was willing to bet it wasn’t anything close to commonplace either.  He sat at the table in the interrogation room across from a tired looking Chris argent.  The Sheriff sat on his left opposite Gerard, leaving Deaton to stand at the head of the table in the position of mediator.

“We are here to discuss the cessations of hostilities between the Hale Pack and Clan Argent,” the man began only to be immediately interrupted by Chris.

“Can we skip the formalities?  I need to be back with my wife and daughter before moonrise.”  Pale blue eyes bored into Derek but the look was mostly just…intense.  No burning hatred or icy rage just focus, and exhaustion.

“So the Bite took then?” he asked.

That brought some heat to the man’s glare. “You mean the Bite you gave her?”

Derek covered his shock by flashing his eyes and snarling, which while less than politic was necessary.  If Chris didn’t know about Stiles he wasn’t going to be the one to enlighten him.  Gerard’s poker face was too good to give away whether or not he knew what really happened at the rave.  “It wasn’t intentional.”

“Admitting you’re not in control doesn’t exactly equal an apology, it just adds an item on my to do list.”

“She was murdering Scott with wolfsbane gas in violation of your Code,” he sneered in reply.  “I got a lungful of it when I ran in to save him, forcing my shift.  She attacked me from behind with a knife; I reacted.”

From the look of flat denial on Chris’s face it seemed that not telling him important things was more the rule than the exception.  “No, Victoria wouldn’t do that.”

Derek glanced at the Sheriff who opened his laptop and pulled up the video.  Chris paled as he watched his wife mow Scott down with her car and drag him off. 

“There’s another video I think you should see,” the Sheriff said pulling up the incriminating footage of Chris and his A-Team impersonators.  The man’s face became opaque.  “I can bury you with just this.  But after I did a little digging into you and your “friends” I found a very disturbing pattern of murders and disappearances.  It’s nothing that would hold up in court just yet but in the hands of the U.S. Attorney General’s Office it’s probably enough to link every member of your little hunting lodge to multiple unsolved homicides.”

Deaton raised his hands.  “I think we can all agree that that’s not in anyone’s best interest.  The Hunters,” he said nodding to Chris, but ignoring Gerard, “Perform a vital function.  The excesses of the Argents is a separate issue.”  Derek growled subaudibly.  If the vet wasn’t careful there was going to be excesses of his vital organs on the floor.

“What is it exactly that you want?” Chris asked the Sheriff.

“You and yours out of my town for good.  Your Father will confess to the murders of the Omega and Matt Daehler and live out the remainder of his life in a prison hospital.  Jackson Whittemore will be released from his control and contained until he can be cured of his condition.”

Chris looked flabbergasted, staring between the Sheriff and his Father like he couldn’t decide which was the crazy one.

“Way to drop the bomb, Sir.” Derek stage whispered.

“Thank you.”

“Oh I’m afraid I’ll have to decline your terms,” Gerard said with a laugh, “but I’ll make you a counter offer.  Sheriff Stilinski, give me Derek and his pack.  Once he’s gotten me what I want from Stiles I’ll let the boy live, Scott McCall too.  I’ll even take care of Jackson myself.”

“What are you doing?” Chris demanded.

“Whatever it takes to survive,” Gerard answered with gleam of madness shining in his eyes.

All the lights went down at once.

Derek didn’t hesitate, grabbing the Sheriff and lunging for the door as he heard two soft whumps of compressed air being let out.  He didn’t stop until they had made it down the hall and around the corner.

“Son of a bitch,” Stilinski snarled. It was impressively wolf-like.  “I can’t move.  Tranq dart.  Crazy bastard must have milked Jackson for his venom.”

Derek’s focus was nearly shattered by the disturbing images that statement inspired, but he was able to place the sound of half a dozen heartbeats breaching the station at different points, more soft sighing of tranq guns as the deputies were dropped one by one.  “There’s too many.”  A familiar heartbeat joined the rest as one of the Hunters head’s made a dull cracking sound as it contacted a wall.   Scott.

“This is humiliating,” Stilinksi grumbled as Derek hefted over a shoulder like a sack of meal.

“I’ve got him,” Scott said meeting them at the end of the hall, “Go help the pack; they can’t defend themselves inside the Ash.”

Derek nodded, impressed.  He’d been right about the kid.  Scott was doing exactly what an Omega should: placing the needs of the pack first and taking care of the details so his Alpha was free and ready to fight.  It wasn’t going to last forever; the kid had too much Alpha in him to remain in the position indefinitely, but Derek was surprisingly happy at the idea of mentoring the kid until he was ready to start a pack of his own.

He’d only made it a step out the door before he was hit in the face by a fine powder that reeked of wolfsbane and just the slightest hint of a familiar perfume.  He was unconscious before he hit the pavement.

Chapter Text

Having been born a werewolf Derek had never had the pleasure of waking up in a strange place with a killer hangover and some awkward morning aftermath.  If pop culture was to be believed it was a seminal human experience.  Mankind could fucking keep it.

The hideous stench in the air yanked him back to consciousness.  A human nose might only have detected the faint echo of ash and decay but to his senses it was a fingerprint and fire alarm all in one.

He was home.

Lydia.  The girl had popped up like a jack in the box in the middle of Gerard’s raid on the Sheriff’s station (Derek had seriously underestimated how shit balls crazy the old Hunter was) and somehow dragged him off into the middle of the woods despite the fact he had nearly a hundred pounds on her.  He tried to move, to at least relieve some of the awkward pressure on his shoulder as she pulled him over the ruined floor by one wrist, but his limbs refused to cooperate.  Inhaling wolfsbane like that wasn’t nearly as bad as getting the actual substance of the plant into the flesh where it would eat away at it like gangrene, but absorbed through the lungs it had a direct path to the brain.  If he didn’t feel like every nerve in his body was on fire the loopiness might actually be somewhat pleasurable.

“Lydia.  Lydia stop.”  He knew it was no use as soon as he saw the torn up floorboards.  Besides, he could smell the crazy coming off of her even over the cloying putrescence of his uncle’s corpse.  And under both was she one scent that he would always be able to pick out no matter what.  Stiles.  He could smell his liger on her, mixed with motor oil and the crumbling essence of long spoiled French fries.  Lydia had driven him here in Stiles’ jeep, which made less than no sense since it hadn’t even been at the warehouse with her when she left.  On the off chance he wasn’t about to be sacrificed on a pagan altar in some profane ritual, he resolved to have a serious discussion with his pack about running secret missions on the side without informing him.  He’d never regretted becoming Alpha more.  If only Stiles had been the one to finish Peter then maybe…No.  As much as he might like to rewrite history he and Stiles would never have found each other like they had if they hadn’t been able to relate as equals, as Alphas.  But as Lydia placed his arm in the body’s withered hand it occurred to him that that was a past issue.  At this point becoming a Beta again might be a blessing.

He changed his mind when his uncle’s claws dug into his flesh.  It was like fiery pull of the Full Moon was being sucked out through the five tiny punctures.  It burned, more than any purely physical pain ever could.  The Alpha in him shrieked in rage and terror as his own power followed that of the Moon.  He may have screamed; it was hard to tell distracted as he was by the cold darkness flowing up towards his heart from his extremities.  There was a faint sound of cracking wood as a spark kindled in his awareness, almost like he’d gained a new member of his pack but at the same time…not.  Peter.  That smooth voice was saying something but the cold had already stolen over his head, dulling his senses.  As his eyes darkened he caught the faint scent of Mountain Ash.

 

 

The blackness was really quite soothing, especially compared to the last couple of months.  Derek had more or less resigned himself to the overwhelming likelihood of meeting an undignified end, but shuffling off the mortal coil via getting the life sucked out of him by his deranged undead uncle was a humiliating low beyond even his most cynical expectations.  Somewhere in the distance of soft white glow was calling to him but he hung back.  There still things he had to do.  He had a pack to take care of, he had Stiles, and he couldn’t go to his grave without giving them the opportunity to say something crass about the creepy-uncle-sucking fiasco; he wasn’t a monster.  A sudden pain in what used to be his chest gave him something to orient on so he focused on it.  The sharp twinge blossomed into a flame that snapped him back to full awareness with a roar.

“Easy!  Derek, relax!” Deaton commanded.  There was a subtle power in the man’s voice that begged attention, if not obedience, and he felt himself still as his senses returned in a burst of light and sound.

“I’m sorry!” Lydia wailed.  “He…he…I couldn’t.”

“Shhh, he’s gone now.  You’ll be fine Ms. Martin.”  Lucky her.

“Peter,” Derek gasped as he sat up, getting his first ever taste of motion sickness.

The emissary knelt beside him holding a giant syringe and looking chagrined.  “Sorry, I tried to contain him but even weakened he’s…slippery.”

Right, the Mountain Ash.  Undead relatives.  Just another Saturday night out on the town in Beacon Hills.  “Gerard!” he snarled when his brain finally kicked into first gear.  “The pack.”

Deaton looked him dead in the eye.  “You cannot let him get what he wants.  I gave you an injection straight to your heart to kick-start the healing process but it won’t last long.  Lydia and I will explain everything later but you need to run.  Now!”

He ran.  He ran like a man possessed, falling to all fours to bound across the forest floor at a speed that no bipedal creature could possibly match.  Whatever Deaton had given him had not only seared away the lingering effects of the wolfsbane but countered whatever Peter had done as well.  He knew the high he was running on was unnatural.  There was an empty heat growing inside him as his body began drawing on its reserves to feed the rage propelling him onward.  He would make it on time.  He would find Stiles and together they would rip anyone foolish enough to threaten their pack into quivering scraps of meat.  His howl of challenge tore through the night as the red returned to his eyes.

 

 

 

Gerard’s scent was thick in the air around the warehouse, all decay, ambition, and madness.  The corrupt odor of his dark exultation mixed with the stench of pain and aconite, sending a surge of icy fear through Derek.  He was too late.  It took more strength than he’d known he had to walk through the door and possibly come face to face with his worst nightmare: his young pack strewn out across the filthy floor broken, bleeding, dead. 

The old Hunter had arranged them en tableau, laid out like cordwood in neat row, obviously paralyzed but thankfully still breathing.  “Derek!  I was beginning to worry that you’d decided to cut and run again, but it looks like your sense of self-preservation was no match for your instincts.”  The man’s gloating smile was drawn and cadaverous, utterly empty of anything human.  “Scott, please help him get comfortable while we wait for the guest of honor.”

Motion in the corner of Derek’s eye pulled his attention to the Omega who was standing in a cloud of acrid guilt.  “Scott, what are you doing?” he demanded.  “Where’s the Sheriff?”  Betrayal wasn’t exactly a new experience for him, but even though his relationship with the reluctant wolf was strained most of the time he never had imagined they would come to this.

“Oh, don’t be too hard on him, I was very persuasive.”  Derek felt an all too familiar slice of pain on the back of his neck, because of course he had completely forgotten about the giant murder lizard with venomous claws.  He heard Gerard laugh as the Kanima toxin sent him face first into the concrete in a boneless sprawl.  “Put him with the others; Stiles should be here any minute.” 

Scott grabbed him by the wrists and pulled him over next to Isaac, who seemed to have gone past terrified into a bone-dry amusement.  “Hey, Derek.  I was afraid you were going to miss out on all the pack bonding time.”  There was black blood staining the Beta’s shirt around his midsection, sure evidence of wolfsbane wound.  From the blood staining Boyd and Erica’s claws Derek guessed he’d tried to get in between them and Gerard and gotten slashed from behind and gutshot for his trouble.  At least there was no worrying about the new wolves escaping and wreaking havoc; instead his only concern was escaping period.

“Perish the thought.  God only knows what you five would get up to without adult supervision.”  Isaac chuckled weakly, flecks of black spraying into the air as it turned into a series of wet hacking coughs.  He didn’t have a lot of time left to get the antidote.  “Scott,” he snarled at his ex-pack member, “You don’t know what you’re doing.  If Gerard gets the Bite from Stiles he’ll kill us all.”  The Omega didn’t respond or even look at him, just retreated off to one side with his head hung in shame.

“I’m not going to kill all of you,” Gerard corrected.  “I agreed to let the McCalls and Stilinskis go free.  After I take your pack’s power I won’t need them.  Scott can to keep his family as well as the real prize: Allison.”  Derek hadn’t known the kid all that long, maybe there’d been a severe head trauma sometime in the past, but how anyone could look at Gerard’s vulpine smile and find it trustworthy was beyond him.  The man clearly had no intention of letting any of them out of here alive.

“And what about Jackson, Scott?  After everything you did to make sure he made it out of this alive you’re just going to stand there and watch him die?”

“I’m sorry,” Scott replied listlessly.  “Something that dangerous can’t be allowed to survive; I see that now.”

Derek froze, wheels turning in head.  Scott saw nothing that didn’t fit in with own world view, especially not mass murder.  He added in other tidbits of odd behavior: Lydia driving the jeep, Stiles being conspicuously absent and not even arguing earlier when they went to the meet without him, Deaton showing up with a remedy ready to go after Peter’s resurrection.  Somebody here was getting played; he just couldn’t tell if it was him or not.  “You really think Stiles will agree to bite you, Gerard?  He’s not like Scott.”

“You think he’d choose you and your pack over his family?”  The Hunter shook his head, somehow imbuing the gesture with condescension.  “He’s a tiger; he’ll covet what’s his and run at the first opportunity.”

Derek smiled in spite of himself.  Gerard didn’t know.  Didn’t know Stiles was a liger and didn’t know about the unusual hybrid pack they had built together.  He looked over at Danny for confirmation and saw the glassy shine in the boys’ eyes.  Catnip.  He must have taken a massive dose of the stuff to suppress his shift on a Full Moon, but Gerard had put him with the rest of the Betas, probably thinking he was just another wolf.  The sense of a black ball of fury approaching with impossible speed jolted him out of trying work out the implications of the Hunter’s ignorance.  Stiles was coming.  Derek started laughing.  “Don’t feel bad, Gerard.  Everyone underestimates him.”

He had wondered about the significance of the liger’s full shift given his ambiguous status, the ability being so rare among wolves and not inherently part of being an Alpha.  Stiles had told him what Peter had done the night he bit him, how he tried to encourage the Bite to react differently.  The man was going to be insufferably smug when he learned what he had birthed.  A section of wall the size of a mobile home was torn away in a shriek of tortured metal, giving Derek his first look at Stiles’ Alpha shape.  The beast was every bit as massive as the liger but on two feet instead of four, standing a good ten feet tall at its hunched shoulders.  It opened its jaws and roared in a flood of sound that was almost tangible.

“Jackson!” Gerard shrieked.  The Kanima hissed and launched itself at the liger, claws gleaming with prismatic venom.  “You!” Gerard snarled at Derek, “What have you done!?”

The fight was brutal, elemental, and went at a pace even Derek had trouble following.  For all Stiles’ bulk he moved like a shadow, using his longer reach to keep Jackson from closing on him, paw-hands the size of trashcan lids and tipped with shining black claws that were practically talons.  Every time the liger landed a blow the Kanima went flying like a rag doll but it always slithered back into the fray within a second.  Stiles’ inky fur and thick hide were providing some protection from even Jackson’s claws, but even though the lizard was only leaving nicks the size of shaving cuts it got a little more venom in each time.  Soon the liger was slowing despite having torn up one the Kanima’s arms with his jaws so badly the abomination was having trouble healing it.

Derek chanced a look at Gerard only to find the man watching him instead of the fight, expression speculative.  He hadn’t thought to keep the pride and terror off his face as Stiles fought, realizing his mistake only when the Hunter nodded to himself and drew his gun and put a round in his chest.  The pain of the wolfsbane was unreal but nothing compared to the agony that tore through him when Stiles roared furiously and tried to throw himself at Gerard.  The Kanima jumped on the liger’s exposed back and sunk its claws into his neck, riding him down to the ground with a thunderous impact. 

“Really, Derek?” Gerard mocked.  “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that you’d take an underage boy as a mate.”  The accusation stung almost as much as the poison burning towards his heart.  Actually it wasn’t moving along his veins the way it should for all that it hurt more than anything he’d ever experienced.  Just what had Deaton given him?  “Scott, please fetch the Sheriff.”  The Omega nodded, brining the bound and unconscious man out from behind a stack of old crates and placing him on the ground next to Gerard.  “You’re a clever boy Stiles; I’m sure you’ve figured out what I want and what I’ll do if I don’t get it.”  He kicked the Sheriff savagely in the ribs by way of demonstration.  “Help your friend up, Scott.”

The Omega rushed to Stiles’ side, heaving his torso upright and bracing his jaws open.  “Just get this over with.”  Gerard smiled and sauntered over, the Kanima shadowing his steps.  He carefully placed his forearm in the liger’s mouth, avoiding the massive fangs, screaming in pain when Scott forced the jaws closed.  The Hunter pulled his arm free, holding it up in triumph. 

Seeing the gloating satisfaction on the man’s face broke something in Derek.  Rage boiled his blood, burning through the effects of the paralyzing venom in a single searing instant.  His clothes tore as he shifted, vision going red with bloodlust that morphed instantly into revulsion when he caught the scent of the oozing black that was snaking its way down Gerard’s arm from the bite mark.

“What have you done!?” the Hunter demanded while Scott smiled at him.  He pulled a meatl box out of his pocket and dumped a bunch of pills into his hand.  “Mountain Ash!” he screamed in denial, crushing the capsule in a puff of black powder.  The man fell to his knees vomiting a fountain of corruption into the air.  “Kill them all!”

The Kanima shrieked as it turned on Stiles’ prone body.  Derek rushed forward, slamming it aside and hunching over his mate protectively.  “Down!” Scott yelled as he tackled him, brining the both of them down to cover Stiles as gunfire filled the warehouse.

Chris Argent stood in the hole in the building’s side, guns blazing in either hand while he calmly advanced on the Kanima putting round after round into it.  Arrows whistled through the air as Allison peppered its back from a vantage point in the shadows overhead.  Stiles was starting to move again but Derek couldn’t leave him and even Chris’ marksmanship wasn’t enough to stop Jackson from dropping him with a slash across the chest.

“Dad!” Allison screamed, dropping from the rafters and drawing knives in either hand.

Scott jumped off of Stiles and rushed to her side.  “Don’t, Allison,” he pled.

She didn’t have to.  The Omega barely managed to pull her and her father out of the way as headlights flared in the gloom of the warehouse.  Stiles’ jeep caromed through the gap in the wall, slamming into the Kanima with a screech of braking tires.  Deaton sat in the passenger seat taking in the scene in front of him with a mixture of shock and what almost seemed to be amusement playing on his face.  Lydia, meanwhile, scrambled out of the driver’s side and flung herself in front of the Kanima’s claws as it prepared to strike Scott.  “Jackson!” she cried holding up a…key?  Derek had no idea what the hell that was about but Jackson froze in place, scales retreating as he accepted the small piece of metal with a gutted expression.

He saw his opening.  It was time to end this once and for all.  His lunge was cut short as one of Stiles massive hands caught his ankle and hauled him back down to the floor.  “He’s mine,” the liger rumbled in a terrifying parody of a human voice.  The half-shifted Jackson nodded gratefully as Stiles struggled upright and lumbered over to him clumsily.  Scott wrapped his arms around Lydia’s waist retraining her as Stiles clamped his jaws down at the junction of neck and shoulder and shoved his claws into Jackson’s abdomen.  Scales vanished completely as he fell to the ground dead, wounds hardly bleeding.

“Scott get Danny and bring him over here,” Deaton ordered getting out of the jeep.  The Omega hauled the stupefied werecat over and put him on the ground next to the body of his best friend.  “Watch.”  Stiles began nuzzling Jackson’s head and licking at the bite which began to heal right before they eyes.  When the boys eyes snapped open once more the slitted Kanima orange was gone, replaced with huge glowing green-gold of a Beta werecat.  He rose to his feet sinuously as he shifted and let out a leonine roar as Stiles did the same.  Derek added his own howl to the mix as the Alpha pair welcomed a new member of their pack.  Jackson returned to human form gasping and looking around confused, nearly being taken down again by Lydia’s sobbing tackle-hug.

There was a sharp clicking of heels on concrete as a cat-eyed Victoria Argent sashayed into the warehouse holding Gerard’s head in one clawed hand.  “Let’s find these boys some clothes.  We have a lot to discuss.”

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

While Derek had made peace with possibility that he might end up “dining in hell” that night he never imagined that he would find himself in the Argents’ living room devouring half a dozen extra pizzas with his pack while they recounted the actions of their conspiracy. 

“I scented the cancer on Gerard that night I had dinner here,” Stiles explained.  “When I went over Scott’s later and smelled the blood on his clothes he told me about being threatened outside the hospital.  We went and saw Deaton the next day and came up with a plan.”  The liger met Derek’s accusing stare with guilty eyes and an unapologetic expression.

“I supplied them with the Mountain Ash.”  The vet was beaming at the young weres.  “The clinic was still reeking of the catnip I distilled for Stiles’ first Full Moon when the Hunters brought in the body of the man the Kanima killed.  Werecats are rare enough that the younger men either didn’t realize the scent or realize the significance, but Gerard has been doing this almost fifty years and I feared what he might be planning.”

“So you helped them come up with a plan of their own?” Derek asked.  “And what about the plan not to tell me about any of this?  Or how about not telling me about Peter’s plan?”

“We couldn’t,” Scott said defiantly.  “Gerard had to believe I was following his orders and you would never have been able to play along without going all gung ho Alpha getting us all killed.”

“He has a point,” Isaac mumbled apologetically while Boyd and Erica tried and failed not to snicker at the look on Derek’s face.

The fact that that assessment was completely fair only made him angrier.  “But you could tell Lydia?”  The girl arched a brow at his tone from her perch in Jackson’s lap while the Beta rumbled a warning and tightened his arms around her.  Derek was definitely going to let Stiles deal with the new werecat.

“I became concerned about Ms. Martin as soon as she began studying with me,” Deaton explained.  “When I realized what Peter had done to her I had no choice but make sure the ritual went forward.  There was no other way to end the possession safely.  Besides, he will be weak for some time if you decide it’s necessary to put him down again.”

“If it comes to that it will be our job,” Victoria declared.  “It was our mistake that created him and Gerard’s actions that allowed him the opportunity to return.  My…condition will cause enough of an uproar if it gets out.  I want this business resolved and buried where it belongs.” 

Derek’s guess about her had been right on the money.  The woman had always been a lioness, she just had literal claws now.  “And you?  I know how Hunters customarily deal with being bitten.”

Chris gave him a level look.  “Stiles managed to convince my wife and daughter to side with you against my Father.  At this point custom has more or less fallen by the wayside.  Now that the Full Moon has passed if the time comes to make a decision it will be my family’s business and none of yours.”

Stiles scowled at him.  “I might have something to say about that.  Anyone who wants to harm one of mine will have a hell of a fight on their hands.”  Allison nodded along, giving her mother a steely, determined stare.  Victoria and Chris were going to have a hell of time playing out their Greek Tragedy with those two and undoubtedly Scott keeping an eye on them.  Derek didn’t really think it would come to that though from the way the husband and wife had remained glued to each others’ side since they left the warehouse.

“I think what my son is trying to say,” the Sheriff interjected, “Is that there’s been enough pointless death.  We have an opportunity here to make sure this never happens in our town again.  I expect everyone here to take advantage of it and cooperate.”  From the man’s tone he fully expected to be obeyed.  Even Derek was impressed by the aura of authority he was projecting.

“So we’re just supposed to forget about getting shot repeatedly?” Erica asked incredulously taking Boyd and Isaac’s hands in hers.

“You healed,” Stiles said dismissively, but the look he shot at Derek said he wished Gerard was still alive so he could shred him into confetti with his own claws. 

“Everyone here will have to make sacrifices if this alliance is going to work,” Deaton added.  “A hybrid pack this powerful is going to draw a lot of attention.  We need to be ready.”  The man shared a look with Derek.  They both knew Deucalion would be interested but silently agreed not to make an issue out of it until they knew for certain the Alpha Pack was coming for blood.

“So…,” Stiles barked with a clap of his hands, “That’s all good and ominous but right now we have pizza and a reason to celebrate.  In the interest of strengthening diplomatic ties I propose Pictionary: Werewolves versus Werecats Special Edition.”

The pack booed and pelted the grinning liger with crumpled up napkins.   Stiles still owed him one hell of an apology, but despite the hurt he felt Derek couldn’t help but smile.  They were going to work through because the liger had given him a future, and that was something worth fighting for.

Chapter Text

“Any lingering effects from the injection?  Pain or tenderness around the site?” Deaton asked.

“No,” he answered pulling his Henley on.  “What was that stuff anyway?  It burned like a mother.”

“It’s called “Hunter’s Delight”.  Lydia found the recipe in the Argent Bestiary.”

“Seems like an odd name for something that saved my life.”

“Yes, well, it’s normally used to keep werewolves alive and conscious during interrogation.  It freezes the spread of wolfsbane temporarily without alleviating its effects.  Often they would inject it into a poisoned wolf and release it to track it back to its pack.”

Derek’s gratitude at not dying was warring with his disgust of having something so vile running through his veins.  “Maybe next time I’ll just not get shot,” he muttered.

“A fine goal but probably not a realistic one,” the vet said with a sad smile.

“Will it really be that bad?  I’m the last person to trust the Argents but I don’t think they’ll call in other Hunters.”

“Maybe not, but these things have a way of getting out.  You’ve become a much better Alpha than I feared.”

“Thanks,” he said drily.

Deaton gave him patient little smirk.  “You can hardly blame me for having misgivings.  Turning a bunch of isolated teenagers, not mention making a Kanima; it doesn’t exactly instill confidence.  All the same, you and Stiles have acquitted yourselves rather well.”

“Is he in danger?”  They had barely survived the fight and his relationship with the liger was already on the rocks despite the fact they were barely dating.

“Yes,” Deaton replied, for once not mincing words.

“From the Alphas?”

“Potentially.”

“It’s hard to imagine “Uncle Duke” leading a pack of mass murdering psychopaths.”  More like impossible.  Deucalion had been one of his Mother’s best friends and one of the most compassionate and humane Alphas he’d ever encountered.  That he could have become this was one hell of a cautionary tale.

“Scott and Victoria may have finished Gerard but I fear his legacy will live on for long time to come.”

“Do you think Deucalion wants Stiles for his pack?”

“It depends.  A werecat, even an Alpha, isn’t much use to him.  Unless of course he wants to establish the same kind of connection with him that you have.

He managed not to vocalize the feral snarl of “MINE!” that roared through his head at the idea but it was a near thing.  “That is not going to happen.  Stiles would never accept someone like him anyway.”

Deaton’s pitying look was maybe the most terrifying thing Derek had ever seen.  “Not right away.  But the shape Stiles took is worrisome or did you think it was merely chance that he’s solid black in his liger form?”

“So what, are you saying Stiles is wrong somehow?” he snarled.

“Not at all.  But I’m more worried about whether or not he thinks so.  He may be the first liger in history, certainly the first bitten one.  His shape reflects his strength of will, his fierce desire to protect the ones he cares about, as well as his ruthlessness or did you forget how he dealt with Peter?”

“Not in this lifetime.”  He didn’t like looking at the things that had made Stiles so captivating in this light.

“Deucalion is powerful, but consuming the strength of his own pack like that has corrupted him and those that follow him.  Stiles is strong, but in order for Deucalion to take advantage of his ability to form hybrid pack bonds they would have to be equals.”

“Then what’s the problem?  Stiles would never kill his own pack.  Not to mention that if Duke wants to form a link with him he has to get rid of me first.”

That is the problem.  Stiles doesn’t need a pack bond to catalyze the transfer of power.”

“Because of his tiger aspect.”

“Exactly.  If Deucalion decides he wants him badly enough he could simply force Stiles to kill his current pack; there are plenty of other Alpha werewolves out there that can replace them after all, but only one Alpha wereliger.  What do you think Stiles would choose if it came down to killing four “monsters” and going with Deucalion if it meant that you and the pack would be safe?”

Derek felt sick, appropriate since this was the very room in which he’d puked the first and only time in his life.  “No,” he said firmly, and it sounded only half a lie.  “Stiles is a fighter; he wouldn’t let us go that easily.”  He wanted to say “me” but was afraid of tasting his own doubt.  “There has to be something I can do,” he whispered whishing he could claw the helpless, empty feeling out of his chest.

“Deucalion has enemies of his own to worry about; he won’t want to weaken himself unless he has to.  He’s coming for you, Stiles, and Scott.”

“And you’re not going to explain any of that are you?”  Deaton merely arched an eyebrow at him.  The man lived for withholding vital information.

“No.  But I will say this: Scott is your biggest asset.  You knew that already or you wouldn’t have taken him on as your Omega.  Let him fulfill that role, trust that he can keep you and Stiles from falling victim to your darker natures.”

“Relying on Scott McCall will never not be strange,” he muttered humorlessly.

Deaton smiled brightly at him.  “These are strange times.”  Derek snorted in annoyance.  “There’s a quote I’ve always been rather fond of: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.””

“Churchill?  How about: “If you want peace, prepare for war”?”

“It’s not a bad idea.  Your pack is very young and the ties between you are not as strong as they could be.  Take what time you have, try to become more than pack, try to become a family.”

Pain lanced through him at the thought.  “And if I lose them, what then?”  The unspoken “again” hung heavy in the air.

“Love is risk, Derek; you should know that by now.”

“But is it worth it?”

Deaton gripped his shoulder and leaned in to softly say “I think you know the answer to that too.”  The man released him and walked over to a cabinet, rooting around in it for a moment before coming out with a bottle of amber liquid.  “Now if I’m not mistaken you are late for a party.”  He handed over the bottle.  “You didn’t get this from me, and go slowly; you don’t have a lot of experience with this kind of thing.”

Derek eyed the liquor dubiously.  “Thanks, I guess.”

“I’ve advised your family for a long time and werewolf, human, or otherwise there’s one thing I’ve always found to be true: the trick to making it out of life alive is knowing when to break the rules.  You and Stiles need to have an honest conversation.  Consider this a truth potion.”

“This will end well,” he deadpanned.  Deaton just grinned and shooed him out the door.

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

The Martin home was the epitome of a graceless cookie cutter upper-upper class residence, complete with spacious deck and pool area, and nearly an acre of land.  Most of it was currently crawling with drunk high schoolers, which made him more than a little uncomfortable.  Lydia had informed him that his attendance at her birthday party was mandatory upon pain of getting a face full of whatever demented concoction she’d dreamed up in chemistry class that week.  It was better not to risk it.  Bottle of mysterious booze in hand he went swimming through the hormone sea to find his pack.

They had set up in the basement which had been converted in a rumpus room, probably by Lydia’s father if her mother was anything like her.  The pack was piled on a huge sectional sofa facing a flat screen the size of a ping pong table.  A faint scent of beer, corn chips, and chicken wings clung to everything and screamed Superbowl.  Currently a different contest played out on the TV as Jackson and Scott kicked the tar out of each other digitally in one of the Soul Caliber games.

“Derek!” Stiles screeched, abandoning human pretenses and making a ten foot leap from sitting that brought him right up in Derek’s face.

“Holy shit, Stiles, how much of that stuff have you had?”  The liger smelled like he’d been steeped in catnip green chai.   At least he’d chosen a decent tea as a vehicle for his fix.

“Thank God you’re here,” Jackson growled mashing buttons frantically.  “Stilinski’s been a total cuddle slut all night.  If he rubs up against me one more time I’m gonna claw his geeky ass.”  The brief glance the new werecat threw at Stiles held enough adoration to give away the lie.

Meanwhile, the liger crawled up Derek like a jungle gym to perch on his upper back.  “I missed you,” he purred, “Still mad at me?”

“Yes.”

“Hey what’s that?” Erica asked with a lascivious twist of her bright red lips.

There wasn’t much point beating around the bush, especially if Derek was going to make it through the evening without throwing someone into a wall out of sheer frustration.  Without further ado he pulled the cork out of the bottle and took a giant swig, finding the burn in his throat as it went down surprisingly pleasant.  He re-corked it and threw it to the girl.  “Take it easy with that stuff, I don’t know how strong it is but it will affect you.”

“Sweet!” Isaac cheered.

Scott’s threw the fight on screen.  “Gimme!” he cried while Jackson exulted his victory.

“Providing alcohol to werewolf minors?  Tsk tsk, loverwolf,” Stiles whispered in his ear.  Derek took several long pulls from the bottle when it made its way back around to him.  He was going to need the fortification for this.  Besides the fluffy pink tendrils of warmth spreading out from his belly were gently caressing the knots out of his muscles.  It was quite soothing really.

The mystery beverage was gone in a matter of minutes, transforming the pack into a gaggle of giggling puppies.  Danny and Jackson, not wanting to be the only sober ones, had drained the remainder of Stiles’ teapot before falling into a tangle of limbs for some thoroughly methodical cheek rubbing and scent marking.  From a Were’ perspective it was sickeningly adorable, but if the hungry glow in Erica’s eyes as she watched them was any indication, treaded on the edge of soft-core porn from a human standpoint.

At a significant glance from Derek Boyd said “Hey, Isaac, I think I saw some chips and dip upstairs.”

The curly haired boy looked at him in confusion for a moment before following his gaze to where his Alphas were wrapped up leaning against a pool table.  “Oh!  Right, yeah, I’m totally hungry.”

Allison caught on immediately.  “You know I think Scott’s had enough; I’ll take him home.”  She elbowed her boyfriend in the ribs.”

“Huh?  Sure.  Home…bed,” he said burying his face in the Huntress’ neck, making her giggle.

“I’ll take these two upstairs to sleep it off,” Lydia offered.

Erica dove right in.  “Let me help you with that.”  Lydia frowned at her pensively for a moment before breaking out a small, knowing smile and nodding.

The pack staggered their way out up out of the basement leaving him and Stiles alone.

Derek got them settled more comfortably on the couch with the younger man settled atop him.  It took the liger a good five minutes to notice they had the room to themselves.

“Where’d ev’ryb’dy go?” he slurred curiously.

The warm haze across the werewolf’s senses wasn’t quite enough to distract him from his goal.  “They left so we could talk.”

Stiles pouted, a bit more awareness finding its way into his eyes.  “Shit,” he said succinctly, “I’m in trouble now.”

“Loads.”

“I’m sorry, okay?” he whined.  “I should have trusted you.”  That hurt.  Derek had assumed he was just trying to keep him and everyone else safe.  It must have showed on his face because Stiles immediately backtracked.  “Not that I don’t trust you.  It’s just that…damn I’m high.”  The liger nearly fell backwards off his lap.  “What was I saying?  Oh, yeah.  I’m sorry I was such a douchnozzle but Gerard threatened my Dad and Scott’s Mom and I have this pack now and you and I’m used to being on my own and now I’ve got so many people to worry about it’s like I’m being pulled in a hundred directions at once and…” Stiles trailed off with tears in his eyes.

“Shhh, it’s okay, we won.”

“Did we?  I feel like there’s something worse just waiting to pounce the minute I let my guard down.”

Trust.  Truth.  Time to face the T words.  “There are.  Things are coming for us, for you, and I don’t know if I can protect everyone,” he admitted painfully.

Stiles pulled back and gave him a level look.  “Duh, you can’t.  Besides, did you see me?  I was all Kat Kong with the grr and the arrg and the bringing Jackson back from Kanima-ness.”

Derek shook his head.  “But it’s my job, I’m the…”

The liger snarled at him as he drew a claw down the side of his face careful not to break the skin, eyes shifting purple on black.  “If you start with that “I’m the Alpha” crap I’m going to kick your stupid martyr!wolf ass.”

“You left me,” he countered.  “You took off and did your own thing and I had no idea if I’d ever see you again.  Do you have any idea what that was like for me after everything I…”  He clenched his eyes shut before the moisture building in them could spill over.  Fucking spooky magic alcohol.  He was going to kick Deaton’s ass for this.

Stiles’ face twisted up in horrified realization.  “God, Der, I’m sorry.  I didn’t think…Fuck.  You know how I…I mean you’re my…You know what?  Fuck you and your stupid gorgeous sourwolf ass making me all crazy.  It’s not like I asked for this, you know?  I didn’t want the Bite and I certainly didn’t want to fall in love with an emotionally constipated, unnecessarily violent, broody, fail!wolf jackass like you!”  It took a couple of seconds for the liger’s brain to catch up with his mouth.  “Whoa, did I just say…Eek!” he squealed as Derek flipped them so that he was pinning the younger man underneath him.

“You love me, huh?” he asked staring down at the perfect infuriating creature.

“I’m under the influence; it doesn’t count,” Stiles mumbled refusing to meet his eyes.

As much as he’d like the blame the booze the dizzy wheeling in his head was all Stiles.  “Tough, and I love you too Putty Tat.”

The liger groaned, trying to hide his beaming smile behind a mask of distaste and failing spectacularly.  “You did not just call me that while saying that you…you moment ruiner!”

Derek captured those perfectly full pink lips in a deep, passionate kiss.  “You’ll get over it,” he said as he reversed positions so Stiles was on top.

“Oh, is the this how you like it?” the liger asked with a wicked smirk.  “Wait, was Gerard right?  Are we mates or whatever.  Oh my God, my Dad is going to shoot you.”

He laughed at the look of dismay on Stiles’ face.  “We can discuss it in a couple of years when you’re legal.”

“A couple of…Evil, that’s what you are, dangling all of this right in front of me.”  Black claws delicately traced the outlines of his muscles through the thin fabric of his shirt.

“I’m just a little nervous is all.  I hear there may be spines and extra bones and things.”

Stiles blushed crimson and buried his face in Derek’s neck.  “Ugh!  Scott McCall is a dead man.  I don’t, you know, have…things.  At least when I’m human.”

“Relax.  Like I said it’s not an issue just yet.”

“Yet? So you’ll be keeping me around then?”

Derek pulled him for another kiss, keeping it going until he had thoroughly quashed every trace of vulnerability and self-consciousness from Stiles’ body.  “Try and stop me.”

The liger’s pupils dilated until his eyes were pure black.  “Stop?” he asked, rolling his hips down.

Derek growled as the sudden friction sent a shiver through him.  “Your Dad is the Sheriff.”  It took all of three seconds for the combination of the liquor and Stiles’ pout to shatter his resolve.  “Fine.  Pants on, hands above the waist.”

“PG-13, huh?  I can work with that.”  Sometimes it was easy to forget the strength in that lithe body, but he got a reminder when the smaller man lifted him up off the couch like he weighed nothing and carried him over to the pool table, setting him on the edge before stripping off their shirts in a flurry of limbs and cotton.  Derek hissed and jerked when Stiles slowly drew his raspy tongue over one of his nipples.  “You’re really responsive, huh?  Good, I want to see how long it takes me to get you to third base.  I’ll give it a week.”

“You’re on.”  He grabbed him, pulling the liger up onto the table and pinning his wrists, reveling in the desperate mewl he got as he licked a stripe up the side of Stiles’ neck.  “This is how I like it,” he whispered huskily, settling his body so as much them as possible was flush together.

“We’ll see,” Stiles said before using one of his Judo grappling maneuvers to reverse their positions sending billiard balls flying as he somehow rotated them one-eighty as they flipped.  Like I said before: we’re both Alphas.  If I have to I’ll shift and sit on you to; I’m a lot bigger than you after all.”

“We have yet to establish that,” Derek replied with a tortuously slow upward roll of his hips.  He grabbed the back of his future mate’s head and pulled him for a searing kiss.  They were going to have plenty to keep them occupied for the next two years.

 

 

Derek woke with his second hangover in as many days. He figured it was Instant Karma in action, the universe exacting its poetic justice for him becoming the creepy older guy that buys the teenagers alcohol.  Whatever, he was ready to ask penance or beg for mercy from any deity he could name if it stopped the pounding I his head.

“I’ve never been more grateful for being immune to the Bite,” Lydia drawled from nearby where the enticing aroma of strong coffee wafted.  “The two of you reek of sex even to my nose.”

He opened his eyes, wincing at the fiery lances of light that bored into his retinas.  Stiles was still on top of him snoring into his chest where they’d passed out on top of the pool table.  Derek layed him down on the green felt surface as gently as possible and hauled himself off it, bracing himself against the vertigo as he stood and accepted the mug the girl held out to him.  “We’re not the only ones,” he snarked back.

Lydia’s cheeks colored slightly but her haughty carriage didn’t change a hair.  Her self-possession was impressive considering she stood there wearing only a silk kimono with her hair tousled up like the strawberry blond Medusa.  If Stiles woke up and smelled her before she showered his head was going to explode; she was covered in Jackson, Danny, and Erica.  “There’s no point being shy when you could get your throat torn out at any time.”

“Hmm.”  He took a sip of the coffee.  It was bitter, earthy, and bursting with some sour-sweet flavor he couldn’t identify.  “What’s in this?”

“It’s my mother’s special morning after blend: dark roast, licorice, dandelion root, and schizandra berry.  The combination is effective for humans so I imagine you should feel the effects almost immediately.”

Loathe though he was to put himself at the mercy of another one of her recipes it only took a few sips before the pungent brew began soothing away his symptoms.  “Thanks,” he said grudgingly.

“Do you have any idea what you’re doing?” she asked gesturing at Stiles with her mug.

“Not really,” he mumbled.

“I wanted to take this opportunity to make a few things clear.”  Lydia’s eyes took on a dangerous glint.  “Stiles saved my life, saved Danny’s life, and brought Jackson back to me.  If you hurt him the next injection you get will make Hunter’s Delight look like a shot of B-12.”

“Understood,” he said with a grin.  There were worse people to have in his corner than the formidable Ms. Martin.

“I’ll leave you to wake him up…however.  Isaac and Boyd are about to start breakfast.  It’s your job O Venerable Alpha to keep them from burning my house down.”  She turned and sashayed up the stairs without another word.  Unbelievable.

“Wuzzat Lydia?” Stiles asked with a sleepy mrowl.  They were going to have to have a talk about the adorable cat noises.  Derek just couldn’t deal with all the warm gooeyness they inspired in him.

“Breakfast.”

It was the magic word.  The liger sprang up with a fluid motion, flipping in midair to land on Derek in piggy back with no sign of a hangover.  Jerk.  “What are you waiting for?”

“To wake up from this nightmare.  Or at least for you to get off me so I can put a shirt on; it’s bad enough the others will be able to smell what we did last night.”  They’d taken turns cleaning up in the bathroom but it wasn’t enough to make the situation in his pants comfortable.

Stiles flew off him like a frog on a hot skillet.  “I forgot,” he said with a grimace, retrieving his shirt and pulling it on.  “You’re the one who came up with the dumb pants on rule.  Plausible deniability my fuzzy black tail.  Seems to me like you got what you deserved.”

Derek couldn’t agree with that.  “No.  I got a hell of a lot more.”  He grabbed the front of Stiles tee and yanked him into his chest.  “I got you.”

The kiss lasted until stench of burning eggs and Lydia’s furious shrieking forced them upstairs to deal with the ornery hungover pack.  Their pack.

Chapter Text

Stiles’ jeep was back in the shop again.  Allison could theoretically have driven him home after lacrosse but Derek didn’t trust her or Scott to operate heavy machinery within one hundred yards of each other so it fell to him.  Not that it was such a hardship; it gave him a perfectly reasonable excuse to be at the Sheriff’s house on a weekday afternoon with his underage son.  He wasn’t sure exactly what kind of power Deaton was actually concealing but maybe the vet could whip up a time accelerating spell to shorten the period he had to feel like a lech whenever he wanted to see his mate.  Today, however, it was convenient for another reason.  This way all the Sheriff had to do was linger in the driveway looking grim and wait for them both to show up so he could obliterate the illusion of peace they’d been living under for the last week.

“You two need to take a look at this,” Stilinski said jerking his head toward the house.

Stiles clapped his hands over his eyes but followed obediently.  “Maybe if we don’t look it won’t real.”

Derek trailed after them resigned.  “Whatever it is we’ll…” he trailed off in conclusion as the Sheriff waved “ta-da” at the mangled surface of the front door.  “Stiles?”

The liger’s air of dark comedy became just dark as he registered his tone and looked at the scene in front of them.  “What the hell?”

Derek agreed with that assessment wholeheartedly.  A giant Greek letter, and Omega, had been carved into the wood.  No, not carved, clawed.  Six precise gouges ran parallel, drawing together at the letter’s rising arms and pulling apart to form the flared curve at the top.

“Well?” the Sheriff asked, “Any thoughts?”

Stiles sniffed at the mark.  “Werecats, a bunch of them, and I think there were several different kinds at least.”

“Like maybe six different kinds?”  Stiles looked at his Dad and shrugged helplessly.

Derek moved closer and ran his hand over the marks.  “The lines are all slightly different widths and depths.  Whatever they were there were six of them.”

“Or maybe fewer used more than one claw?” Stilinski suggested.

“Maybe.”

His phone started ringing, sounding like a death knell instead of its usual cheery digital chirrup. “What?” he snarled into it.

“Um…sorry if this is a bad time…” Isaac began hesitantly.”

“Speak.”

“Right, okay.  Jackson convinced some of us to go for an extra run ‘cause of State tomorrow and, uh, our route went by your old house in the preserve.  There’s something here you’re really gonna want to see.”

He could guess well enough.  “We’re on our way.  Call the others; there are some things I have to tell the pack.”

“Oh…sure.”  He hung up.

“What is it now?” the Sheriff asked wearily rubbing his eyes with his fists.

“I don’t think your door was the only one marked.”

“We knew people would be coming,” Stiles said making an attempt at nonchalance.  The liger flicked out his curved black claws on one hand and started using them to clean under the nails of the other.  “This time I vote we skip the secrets and plots and skip right to the finale.”

“Much as I hate to condone felony acts of violence I have to agree with my Son.  If there’s a new threat I want it dealt with decisively before it spills over into the general public.”

“Agreed.  Let’s go have a look.”

 

 

His family home was as run down and collapsing as ever.  At night the place looked haunted but by daylight it just seemed dilapidated, sad.  Or at least it had.  Now that he and Stiles were together and the pack was growing closer it reminded him of the crumbling trunk of a fallen tree returning to the earth so something else could grow anew in its place.  The stark red sign of the Alpha Pack on the door marred the illusion somewhat.  “I was afraid of this.”

“Huh?  Afraid of what?” Stiles asked suspiciously.  “Does this have anything to do with the Omega carved into my house?”

“I don’t know.”

“Derek!” Isaac called from inside the ruin.

“I see it, Isaac.”

“Yeah the weirdo Nazi symbol is creepy but that’s not why I called.”

“What now?” the Sheriff asked unsnapping his sidearm.

An errant stir of air brought a scent to Derek that nearly brought him to his knees.  He was in the house before he knew he was moving, Stiles cries to hold up barely registering as he stared at the blood smeared figure being tended by his Beta.  It was a girl maybe Stiles age dressed in rags and bearing two bodies’ worth of unhealed slashes that could only have been left by an Alpha or five.  But that wasn’t what took his breath away.  Her face and scent had changed a lot since he’d last seen her the morning before the house burned all those years ago.

“Derek?  Are you in there?” Stiles asked shaking his shoulder gently.  “Who is she?”

“She’s my sister.”

“Son, I thought you said you buried her…”  The Sheriff was giving him Sorry For Your Loss Face which was almost hilarious it was so bleakly ironic.

“My younger sister, Cora.”

“Shit.” Isaac said looking down at his charge like she’d suddenly mutated into a giant squid.

“What does this mean,” Stiles wondered aloud in a reverent whisper.

“I don’t know.”

His sister started stirring weakly.  “Derek?”

He snatched her out of his Beta’s arms holding her close as gently as if she was made of spun glass.  Right now he really didn’t give a damn what it meant.  His sister was alive, and not Undead Uncle Peter lurking off somewhere alive.  He had family again along with his mate and their pack.  Come Alphas and Werecats and Hunters Oh My; anyone that tried to lay a hand on them was getting it torn off.  With his teeth.

“Let’s get her home, I’ll call Alan,” the Sheriff offered.

Home.  That sounded nice.  More than that, it sounded right.