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Stiles didn’t notice at first, how removed the Alpha was from his pack. It actually took a good three years, and many talks with Peter about how born pack dynamics work, for him to figure out that Derek not joining in on the pack pile wasn’t some alpha thing, like some sort of need to protect the pack and stand on guard. After that he started paying attention.

Derek would allow little touches, a fist bump from Scott, a slap on the back from Boyd. He would scent all of his betas as well, brush a hand down their backs or ruffle their hair. But he never allowed full body contact, wouldn’t join piles, would choose to sit on a chair rather than on the couch or love seat Lydia had demanded he buy for his loft. Both items of furniture had migrated to the newly rebuilt Hale house, the basement den room of course since they didn’t match any of the upstairs furniture and, to be honest, had a few to many claw or bite marks to be respectable for outside company. They were perfect for snuggling after full moons though.

Stiles noticed the longing in his Alpha’s eyes when he thought none of his beta’s were watching him while they were all piled up, but Stiles was always watching Derek, noticing more and more each time. Creeperwolf Peter even joined in on the piles on occasion, grabbing Lydia or Erica and sitting in the love seat with them, the rest of the pack piled at their feet.

The Lydia and Peter thing was weird. It had taken a while for the pack to trust old Uncle Creeper, Lydia longest of all, but after he had saved their collective asses more times than the pack cared to admit, they had welcomed him into the piles. Lydia refused to touch him for the first few months he was allowed to join, citing his offences against *her* in particular as good enough reason for her to not be expected to cuddle him. To be fair, it was fully within her rights to keep space between them. It all changed one week when the rest of the pack had been hit with some sort of magical something or other and Lydia, Stiles, and Peter were the only ones left unaffected, something about being a Banshee, Spark, and undead (in Creeperwolf’s case) protected them from the spell. They had 24 hours, according to the witch who had cast the spell, to save their pack mates, which required Lydia to get over her hangups over Peter pretty quick. After that weekend the two had been nigh on inseparable. Lydia, ever on the quest for knowledge, had badgered Peter for every piece of information about the supernatural he could remember. Now it wasn’t uncommon to find them lounging somewhere together pouring over bestiaries sent to them by other packs, or just taking naps in the sun. All Peter had to do to win over Erica was not hold back while sparing with her.

Eventually each member of the pack had fallen naturally into certain rolls. Derek, obviously, is Alpha, red eyes, full shift and all. Peter, Lydia, and Stiles are the researchers, strategists, and general oil that keep everything running smooth. The rest, Scott, Allison, Isaac, Boyd, Erika, and Jackson were affectionately dubbed by Stiles, the pups. Their pack was strong, they were comfortable with each other now. It had taken work but the had made it. Now other packs were beginning to reach out to them, to see if Derek intended to become what his mother had been, a common thread connecting all of the North American packs. With Lydia and Peter’s help, Derek was starting to do just that, building a web of trust with the other packs, first in the surrounding states, then farther.

So why, Stiles wondered, was Derek not allowing himself to join in the Pack bonding sessions? He decided to do a little bit of experimenting, recruiting Lydia and Peter to help him brainstorm ideas.

“You want to do what?” Peter had scoffed, arms crossed over his chest, leaning back in the booth seat of the café Stiles had dragged him and Lydia to, under the guise of a ‘Girls day out’ which really was code for a ‘strategy meeting’ the pack had figured out.

“No, no, I think he is right. I’ve never seen Derek relax enough to actually get anything out of our pack nights.” Lydia agrees, her brow furrows as she continues, “I thought it might be an Alpha thing but from the sounds of it Stiles, you’ve already ruled that out.”

“Yes, Red and I have had many discussions about how Alpha’s interact with their packs, especially when they are born wolves.” Peter states in a semi-mocking tone. Lydia kicks his shin under the table and he growls low enough so only his two pack mates can hear. Lydia just shrugs primly and sips at her green tea. “I am not saying that your observations are wrong. Nor am I saying that it is not weird that my nephew removes himself from pack contact. I am just saying that maybe that is not a can of worms you want to open.”

“So you do know why?” Stiles asks, uncharacteristically serious and short on words.

“I have my suspicions.”

“Let me guess, 'It’s not your place to tell?'” Lydia huffs, now thoroughly interested in figuring out this puzzle.

“No, it is not. However, if you would only think a little more critically, you would be able to figure it out, or at least one possibility. Why would Derek be hesitant to get physically, and subsequently emotionally, close to anyone, not just his pack?” Peter sips his coffee carefully after his little speech, allowing his two younger pack mates to sort out for himself what he had known for years.

Stiles and Lydia think it over. Lydia is perfectly still except for the twitch of her fingertips and a light puckering of her lips. Peter knows she is chewing on the inside of her cheeks, he pauses her destructive habit by tapping her lightly on the lips, drawing out the small amount of pain she was causing herself. She nods at him and continues thinking, no longer chewing. Stiles, on the other hand, is bouncing in his seat. There is never a still moment with him, this Peter is used to and doesn't worry about trying to stop. He knows that when Stiles does draw still, he is centering energy and giving himself over to the magic coursing through his veins, becoming the most dangerous creature within a thousand miles.

Stiles stills, Peter does as well, noticing the ozone scent gathering around the trio.

“Kate.” Stiles growls out, he may not be a shifter but being around them so often and for so long, he had adopted some of their characteristics, all of the humans had. Lydia growls as well, the faint scent of sweetly sick decay joining the sharp scent of Stiles’ magic. Peter only nods, if he had not know he was completely safe with his two pack mates, the combined scent of their power would have been enough for his control over his wolf to slip. As it was, tge scent was strong enough that the humans in the Café were shifting in their seats and beginning to look around for their source of discomfort.

“That cunt, if she weren’t already dead I’d kill her again.” Lydia nods in agreement with Stile’s harsh promise. Peter smiles at how fiercely protective the young ones are of his nephew, especially Stiles. Derek’s wolf had chosen well with his little red mate. If only the alpha would pull his head out of his ass and tell Stiles about the damn bond. The both of them were so oblivious to the other’s feelings; it was a running joke amongst the rest of the beta’s. There was even a bet going over how long it would take for the two to figure their shit out.

“Alright, so what are we going to do about it?” Lydia asks, her eyes bright and ready to start scheming. Peter chuckles at her enthusiasm and stands to order them all another drink, it was going to be a long ‘girls day out.’

“Nothing, we can do jack shit. What the actual fuck!” Stiles’ frustration is starting to show. He and Lydia are now realizing what Peter had years ago. There is nothing they can do to help their Alpha except support him. They can’t make him do anything he doesn’t want to, and if he’s not comfortable with being physically close to the Pack, then they can’t make him; or they are just as bad as Kate.

“Yes,” Peter nods sadly. As much as he likes to put on an aloof front, he does care deeply about his pack and would do anything to keep them safe. The fact that he cannot help his nephew has been killing him since the fire. Even in his crazy phase, he had been building a pack to try and replace what they had lost, a pack to be family again.

“Lets go home. We aren’t going to figure anything out today. The puppies said something about a movie night tonight and if we aren’t there to pick the movie, you know Scott and Jackson are going to make Isaac cry again.” Lydia stands and gathers their assorted cups and napkins. They had been sitting in the same café for nearly five hours and it was already nearing the dinner hour. “We’ve got to make sure they’re not just ordering a bunch of pizzas for supper too. We agreed that that was only an after moon treat.”

Peter and Stiles nod, helping her clean up their table and drop their trash in the bin. They quickly exit the café and head back to the Hale house. Its a good 30 minute drive and so they continue talking about the pack along the way.

“I’ve been thinking, we need to update the basement, or at least the den,” Stiles has his chin leaning on his hand and is gazing out the window, not really looking at anything in particular. “The bedding is starting to look like a pack of wolves are living in it and our nest pillows are getting flat and lumpy. I also want to paint the walls a new colour, something darker and warmer than the grey they are now. I don’t care that it won’t match the rest of the house Lydia, the space feels too big, too open.” Stiles anticipates Lydia’s response to his suggested colour change as soon as she draws a that ‘pre-rant’ breath.

“I was just going to say that I agree with you.” Lydia tuts. Peter snorts in amusement as Stiles head whips towards her. Lydia is driving so she doesn’t see how big his eyes are and how his mouth flaps open, but Peter does and he actually laughs. “You’re right, it does feel too open and cold. I think that a nice, deep, warm brown would work, and some more muted lighting.”

“Wow, I was really expecting to have to fight for that one.” Stiles seems to still be surprised, but Peter can smell the happiness wafting off of him. It make him proud of his two human (mostly) pack mates to be feeling the same way a wolf would about their den space.

“I’ll take you both to look at paint and to IKEA tomorrow, we’ll pick some new furniture to match the paint. I think I can have a crew in to paint by Monday and they should be done by Wednesday. I’ll make some calls.” Peter pulls out his phone and dials up the contractor that had done all of the renovations on the Hale property after the fire. They knew about were’s so there would be no questions about the den space, and they would take full advantage scent blockers.

Lydia nods and squints at the road up ahead, noticing something strange partially hidden in the bushes. She figures out what it is just as they pass it and the front tires are blown out of her SUV. At the same time Stiles feels something strange coming through the ties he has to the rest of the pack, Peter and Lydia feel it as well.

“Hunters,” she hisses, controlling the truck’s rapid deceleration quite masterfully. They hadn’t had any huge problems with the hunter society since Gerard Argent had died. Chris and Allison had made a pact with the Hale pack, as they had had nothing to do with Gerard’s plot to end their pack and cure his cancer. There had been a few rogue hunters over the last few years, trying their luck against the famed Hale pack, all had failed spectacularly, underestimating the strength of the young pack.

Stiles’ magic snaps out of his body, keeping the truck from rolling and potentially killing the two squishy, for all intents and purposes, humans in the front seat. Stiles and Lydia look back at Peter once they stop moving and they find that he is already out of the truck and hunting down the people who put his pack mates in danger. Stiles grins and hops out of the truck, he heads to the trunk and grabs out his bat and Lydia’s scythe. Lydia smooths down her blouse and tightens her heals, opens her door and hops down from the drivers seat.

“Thank you Stiles,” she intones, grabbing her scythe as she lets her death mask slip over her beautiful face. Stiles smiles at her and kisses her on her now skeletal cheek. His eyes turn completely white and glowing white markings begin to show through his flannel. The scent of death and lightning is cloying on the air now, their collective magic so thick that the animals in the surrounding forest have stopped making any noise. They both can hear screams coming from the woods to their right and smile. Their zombiewolf seems to be taking care of the hunters on that side.

Stiles casts a quick spell to figure out how many hunters are hiding in woods around them, there are fifteen that he can sense, the number quickly falls to thirteen as Peter takes out two of the slower ones. More than he was expecting, but not too many for the three of them to handle. Stiles mutters a quick protection spell over himself and Lydia to make sure that the bullets he is sure the hunters are firing (not laced with wolfsbane by the sound of Peters annoyed but not pained growls) would not harm them.

The powerful pair stroll side by side into the woods, Stiles dragging his bat on the forest floor, flowers bloom from where it trails along the ground. Lydia has her scythe over her shoulder and when it brushes against the leaves of a low hanging limb, the branches whither and die up the branch to the core of the tree. The banshee walks on in apathy, Stiles sighs and touches his bat to the still living trunk. Immediately the tree regains the life that Lydia’s weapon drained from it.

Stiles hears the quiet click of the safety of a gun being flipped and sends a bolt of power in its direction. The hunter hits the ground before he could even fit his finger over the trigger. Lydia’s skeletal mouth drops open in a gross parody of a grin and she bounds off ahead of Stiles, obviously having caught the scent of someone’s life force. Stiles strolls after her whistling a tune, each of the notes weaving a spell that will quickly put an end to this whole ordeal. When the song and spell are complete, Stiles swings his bat and the five remaining hunters in the woods drop dead. Lydia’s piercing peals of laughter ring through the air, the high of feeling the death of so many at once going to her head. She hadn’t even needed to scream for the hunters, their deaths certain from the very moment they decided to attack her pack.

Stiles could now hear Peter howling for them, calling them back to the now useless truck. Lydia let her death mask slip away and her face returned to normal, fat filling her cheeks, colour coming back to her eyes and lips. She looks around for a moment, taking in the carnage her blade and Stiles’ magic had wrought, she smiles sadly and takes Stiles’ hand. Three years ago Stiles would have been jumping for joy at the chance of holding Lydia Martin’s hand, now he just smiles back and, before he lets his magic fade, encourages the forest to reclaim the bodies of the hunters killed there, not just by him and Lydia, but by Peter as well.

The pair approach the truck near carelessly, Peter would warn them if there was any more danger near by. He is on the phone when they get to him, blood dripping from his face down the front of his shirt and covering him from claw to elbow. There are a few bullet holes in his shirt near his abdomen and his left shoulder so Stiles checks them out. The worst of it is a rapidly healing scar just under his ribs so Stiles only nods and pulls a change of clothes out of the trunk for the wolf. Lydia stashes her scythe and Stiles’ bat in the trunk and strips out of her blood spattered blouse and jeans, slipping into an extra pair of Stiles’ track pants and one of Derek’s shirts. Both of them swamp her but she just rolls the cuffs of the pants and lets the sleeves hang past her hands.

Peter ends the call and quickly changes as well, wiping as much of the blood off as he cares to with the baby wipes (all of the pack vehicles have in them). Shit gets messy way too often for them not to have figured out the quickest way to get sufficiently clean without getting in the shower. Stiles collects all of the soiled clothes and used wet wipes and piles them on the side of the road, lighting the pile with his magic and watching them quickly burn to nothing.

“I loved that blouse,” Lydia complains, she resumes cleaning her nails of blood and gore, muttering about having to get another manicure soon. Stiles hums in sympathy and turns to Peter.

“What was that call about?” He leans against the back bumper of the SUV and waits for Peter to explain.

“That was just Boyd. Apparently this was a two part attack, the rest of the pack dealt with the hunters going after them at the house without much difficulty, Isaac’s arm is broken but Scott set it and as soon as the threat was neutralized he called Melissa and she is on her way over to take a look now. They also called Chris and John to deal with the dead bodies. All three should be arriving at the house soon.”

Lydia nods at his words and starts walking around the truck, “There is no way we are going anywhere with these tires like this, and we only have one spare. Did you happen to tell Boyd that we are going to be needing a ride back to the house?”

“Yes, Boyd is on his way with his tow-truck, and Erica. They should be here in about ten minutes. He also mentioned something about Derek in a full shift running as soon as the hunters at the house were all dead. I assume my nephew is on his way here.” Peter says just as a haunting howl breaks through the air. All three howl back, Peter much more powerful of course. Though, to the untrained ear, both Lydia and Stiles’ howls sound just like a wolf’s.

It takes another minute but soon Peter says he can hear Derek coming. Stiles and Lydia go to stand beside the older wolf and wait for their alpha to arrive.

“How close is he Peter?” Stiles asks, fidgeting now once again as the last of his magic retreats into his body. Both Peter and Lydia know that soon he will start chattering too, but they don’t mind. The pack has grown fond of his endless stream of words and miss it when he is using his magic or it is close to the surface. Before Peter can answer they all see Derek through the trees, his all black body occasionally disappearing into the shadows of the forest. “Never mind. That’s so cool how sometimes you can see him and sometimes you cant and I mean its really cool too how he can turn into a full wolf and how much bigger he is than an actual wolf and why is it that not all alphas can do a full shift?” Stiles pauses to take a breath and before he can start talking again Derek is there pushing his snout into Stiles’ neck and scenting him, looking for damage. Satisfied that there is none he moves onto Lydia and then to Peter before shifting into his human form. Lydia hands him a pair of his track pants and he puts them on quickly.

“Nephew,” Peter greets with a smirk in his eye. It amuses him to no end the blush on both Derek’s and Stiles’ faces over the alpha’s nudity, even though it is normal for a born wolf to be naked around pack. If only the two would pull their heads out of their asses and get together already. He shares a knowing look with Lydia and she rolls her eyes, smile pulling at the corner of her lips.

“Uncle, how many attacked here?” Derek asks, voice softer than it has any right to be, in Stiles’ opinion.

“There were 18 by my count, all dead now. We are fine, they weren’t the brightest bunch, not even using wolfsbane bullets.” Peter explains, Stiles and Lydia nodding along with his words. Derek growls and looks like he still wants to kill something. Stiles notices a speck of blood on Derek's cheek and quickly rubs it off. Derek stills at the contact but doesn’t pull away like he would have if either of them had tried the same thing. Peter and Lydia share another glance and by eye communication, both agree that they might have found a way to get Derek to start letting himself have affection again.

“… don’t think they were expecting a werewolf to be out with Lydia and I today. I mean, most of the time it is just the humans coming out here to have a chat about the wolfy business without prying ears. I mean, they were using wolfsbane at the house right? Oh god, did anyone get shot? I can’t feel anyone hurting through the bond but I mean, I didn’t feel it when Isaac broke his arm and I guess I would have to be an Alpha to be able to feel that maybe?” Stiles shoots off the questions rapid fire and a fond look moves over Derek’s face. Of course, to the casual observer, he still looks like a grumpy sourwolf but his pack mates know him well enough now that they can see the softening of his eyes and the slight uptick of the corner of his mouth. Stiles, of course, is still talking about his theories about pack bonds and other things like that, his hands and arms flailing about, almost smacking the alpha in the face. Peter and Lydia share yet another glance, fond exasperation showing on both their faces.

Just then Boyd pulls up in his tow-truck, Erica in her car just behind him. Before the truck even stops she has her car in park, turned off, and is running right over to Stiles. She jumps into his arms and rubbing her face all over his head and neck. Stiles grunts as he catches the shewolf and chuckles at her overenthusiastic scenting. He sets her down and cleans some blood off of her face, as he had done Derek, and she scoots over to Lydia, approaching more cautiously as Lydia doesn’t always like aggressive scenting. Lydia pulls her into a hug, seeing that the younger girl is still a little high strung from the fight, and allows Erika to scent her as much as she wants. When Erica is done with Lydia she moves onto Peter. The older wolf opens his arms and she jumps into them, climbing up him and settling on his back with her face peaking over his shoulder. She licks a spot of blood off from behind his ear that he missed with the wet wipes and huffs out her contentment. Peter holds onto her legs and accepts the shewolf-backpack now attached securely to him. Boyd hops down from the cab of the truck and walks over to the group as well. He nods to Peter and Derek and touches both Lydia and Stiles on the shoulder, never one for excessive scenting.

Derek and Boyd hook the SUV up to the tow-truck and Peter climbs into the passenger seat, preparing to ride back to the Hale house with Boyd. Erica gets back into her car, Derek in the passenger seat and Stiles and Lydia in the back. Stiles asks questions about the attack all the way back to the house. Mostly asking how many of the pups got hurt and if the wards he put up had worked the way they were supposed to. Much to his delight, both Derek and Erica tell him that they did. The hunters had not been able to lay a Mountain Ash line anywhere on the property and as soon as they got within 500 feet of the house an alarm had been triggered and the wolves were prepared for whatever was coming.

They arrive back at the house and Stiles runs out of the car, shouting for the rest of the pack who come tumbling out of the front door, Allison and the adults trailing behind slightly. Stiles checks on Isaac first, checking to see that his broken arm was healing properly and for any other damage that had been done to his golden pup. Satisfied that he was all right, Stiles moved onto the rest of the pack, checking them each over for any injuries and kissing the ones that he found. Boyd, Erica, Allison, and Lydia all join the huddle around the spark and Stiles moves the crowd up the stairs and into the house. Before the door closes, Stiles flings his arm towards the pile of bodies and they all burst into flames, burning up completely in a matter of seconds. The adults, Melissa, John, and Chris, all watch with amused, slightly bewildered looks on their faces and Peter laughs.

“Isaac should be fine by the morning. Scott did a good job splinting his arm and I don’t foresee any complications with his healing, provided he doesn't injure it again within the next 24 hours. Call me if anything comes up,” Melissa informs Derek. He nods his appreciation and watches her drive away.

“The bodies have all been dealt with. The hunter council has been informed of this rogue group and are probably not going to do anything about it, but your pack shouldn’t face any retribution from other hunters. I want Allison home tomorrow night, we have some business to attend to with the Council and unfortunately, the matriarch needs to be present. Otherwise I think my job here is done. Jackson said that you guys were running low on bullets. I’ll send some over tomorrow. See you later.” Chris said, straight to the point as always.

“Of course. Thank you for your help.” Derek nods as Peter walks inside, obviously following the sounds of happy pack.

“Those kids really are something else. Didn’t even flinch when they were piling up the bodies. I’m strangely proud of them, as sick as that is. I am glad they can look out for themselves and the pack,” John sits down on the step, gesturing for Derek to join him. “They really have grown over these last few years and I wanted to say thank you. For taking care of Stiles especially, he is not easy and loves getting his ass in trouble, but you’ve kept him alive and happy. So thank you,” John keeps speaking even though Derek’s face shows increasing levels of discomfort.

“He has saved me more times than I’ve saved him, he’s saved all of us more times than I can count, Sir.” Derek admits, he doesn’t look at the Sheriff but he can feel the man’s eyes on him.

“We saved each other.”

Both men whip their heads around, neither having heard Stiles standing at the door behind them. He had spoken more quietly than they had ever heard, and continued to do so, “Come downstairs when your ready, Derek. Lydia is getting the movie ready and Peter is ordering pizza.”

Derek nods and both he and John watch him walk back into the house and down to the den. Derek can feel the smile creeping onto his face and the Sheriff’s eyes once again on him.

“You’ve got my permission, not that you need it, but you do. Just so you know,” the sheriff says, a smile playing over his face.

“You’re permission for what, Sir?” Derek asks, choosing to remain oblivious.

“You know what for, or you will, when the time is right,” with that John stands and walks to his cruiser. Derek stares after him, a confused look on his face. Shaking the confusion off he stands and walks into the house, checking that all the doors and windows are locked before heading down to the den.